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)
      •  Mississippi Governor Appoints Cindy Hyde-Smith to Cochran's Seat
      •  Five Takeaways from Illinois Primary
      •  Trump, Kelly Furious Over "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" Leak
      •  Ex CIA Director: Putin May Have Kompromat on Trump
      •  Corker Explains Why Senators Won't Oppose Trump
      •  Post-Bannon Breitbart Faring Poorly
      •  Saccone Concedes

Mississippi Governor Appoints Cindy Hyde-Smith to Cochran's Seat

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is resigning from the Senate in about a week, and yesterday Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) appointed Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Secretary Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) to fill his seat until Jan. 2019. Hyde-Smith said she will run in the November special election to complete Cochran's term, which ends in January 2021.

Hyde-Smith was not the #1 choice in D.C. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wanted Bryant to appoint himself. Other Republicans wanted Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman (R) or Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R). Worst of all, Donald Trump is extremely unhappy with the pick. He said he won't endorse Hyde-Smith or campaign for her (which, given recent history, may help her). Trump's problem with Hyde-Smith is that she is a recent convert to Republicanism (which is not unlike the pot calling the kettle black). Before becoming Ag. Commissioner, she served three terms in the Mississippi state senate—as a Democrat. She only switched to the GOP in 2011. Furthermore, she is going to face a bitter primary with Chris McDaniel, who is definitely a life-long Republican.

Everyone who understands the dynamics of this race already knows that McDaniel is going to hit her over the head with the accusation that she isn't really a Republican. McDaniel ran in the primary against Thad Cochran in 2014 and got 49.6% of the vote in the first round, beating Cochran, but not clearing the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. And in that runoff, Cochran narrowly edged out McDaniel. Cochran was then a beloved six-term senator with a genteel manner and no enemies. If McDaniel could do so well against a popular and universally respected long-time incumbent senator, many Republicans are afraid he will crush Hyde-Smith. If the Democrats can find a solid conservative Democrat, such as Mississippi House Minority Leader David Baria, McDaniel and the Democrat could come in first and second in the nonpartisan primary in November. In the December runoff, we could get Alabama, the sequel: a moderately conservative Democrat beats a crazy right-wing Republican in the December runoff.

Baria has already announced a Senate run, but against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). If he switches to the race for Cochran's seat (as McDaniel did), all of a sudden this becomes a huge problem for the GOP. So far Baria has not made a decision about switching races.

At the start of this election cycle, all but one of the incumbent Republican senators looked safe. Now four seats are in play, namely Nevada (Dean Heller), Arizona (Jeff Flake), Tennessee (Bob Corker), and Mississippi (Thad Cochran). And if John McCain steps down, another Arizona seat could join the list. If the Democrats can hold all of their own seats and win two of these, they will take control of the Senate. What originally looked impossible is now merely very difficult. When Trump was elected, people had certain expectations of what he would do (e.g., try to build a wall on the Mexican border). What absolutely no one expected was that he would manage to turn Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi into swing states. (V)

Five Takeaways from Illinois Primary

Quite a few outlets have lists of takeaways from Tuesday's elections in Illinois. Politico's list is probably the best of them:

  • The J. B. Pritzker steamroller: The Democrats' newly-minted nominee for governor has some serious liabilities, like having cheated on his taxes, but he crushed the competition. Given that he can raise unlimited funds for his campaign by just getting out his checkbook, he's going to be hard to beat.

  • Rauner's in big trouble in November: He did win, but barely, and against a political unknown whom he outspent by a mile. His party's divided, enthusiasm is low, and his approval ratings are sub-Trump bad. For him to win another term would require a near miracle.

  • Dan Lipinski's ace in the hole: Pro-life groups rallied in the final days of the campaign, donating money, knocking on doors, and doing everything they could to save one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress. Given Lipinski's razor-thin victory, this was probably decisive. Now he will face off against an amateur opponent who also happens to be a Nazi and a Holocaust denier. So, he can breathe easy, at least until the 2020 primaries.

  • The Chicago machine is still humming: Chicago was the last major city to dispense with its political machine (in the 1960s), and—as with Russia and communism—the echoes of that past are still palpable. Put another way, the Daley machine doesn't exist any more, but the Chicago political organization powered by Democratic Party Leader Mike Madigan bears a striking resemblance in many ways. And the candidates that Madigan supported—Pritzker, Lipinski, AG nominee Kwame Raoul—all won.

  • Democratic energy is surging: Any way you slice the numbers, Democratic turnout was way up—almost 200% over 2014, 30% over 2010. Meanwhile, despite the very competitive GOP gubernatorial primary, Republican turnout was down 30%. This does not bode well for the red team.

Politics-watchers will have plenty of time to chew—or stew—on what happened on Tuesday, because the next primaries are not until May 8, when Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio all go to the polls. (Z)

Trump, Kelly Furious Over "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" Leak

As we noted yesterday, Donald Trump was advised by his staff to avoid congratulating Vladimir Putin during the two leaders' Monday phone call. The President was even given note cards with "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" written on them. So, of course, Trump promptly congratulated the Russian President. This made a rather troubling statement about how little The Donald cares about sham elections, and at the same time raised new questions about his pillow-soft handling of the Russians.

Not surprisingly, both Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly are furious that this information has leaked out, as well they should be. Trump should have been more circumspect, but 95% of the damage that was done only happened once his error became public. And only a small number of people had access to this particular set of information, all of them folks whom Trump should be able to trust implicitly. The leak is more evidence of the dysfunction and the infighting that goes on in the White House on a daily basis.

According to news reports, Kelly is looking into the matter, and trying to figure out who would have wanted to embarrass Trump and NSA Herbert McMaster, who was present during the phone call. Given how McMaster has been treated in the past few weeks, and given that he knew everything that was ultimately leaked to the press, perhaps the Chief of Staff should be taking a long look at the NSA himself. That said, just as Dick Nixon never figured out who Deep Throat was, it's highly unlikely that Team Trump will figure out exactly where the loose lips in the White House are. (Z)

Ex CIA Director: Putin May Have Kompromat on Trump

John Brennan was serving as CIA director when the Steele dossier surfaced. Possibly, he had access to information about it then that may not be public. A few days ago he sent out this tweet:

It is not a terribly friendly thing to say about the president of the United States, especially not from a former high-ranking official. Yesterday, Brennan speculated that Trump's behavior suggests that the Russians have something on him, that is, kompromat. Brennan is not one to shoot off his mouth idly and given his background and contacts, he may know more than he wishes to disclose.

If Brennan is right, the kompromat must be very powerful indeed to have Trump cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin so much, given that Republicans have hated Godless Commies for decades. It is hard to imagine a dirty movie would be enough. Besides, nothing in such a movie would be a crime. Money laundering, on the other hand, is a serious crime. (V)

Corker Explains Why Senators Won't Oppose Trump

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is not running for reelection, so he has little to fear from Donald Trump. Still, he only occasionally criticizes Trump. Most other senators almost never criticize Trump. Surely the majority of them realize that what Trump is doing is not normal and that he is tossing decades of core Republican principles out the window on immigration, trade, Russia, and more. Why don't they stand up to him?

In an interview yesterday, Corker let the cat out of the bag on why the senators are letting Trump get away with everything and why they are unwilling to pass a bill taking away his power to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Corker said that he has talked to many senators who have been out campaigning. They are reporting that their constituents don't care about taxes or trade or the debt or any issues. All they want is a yes/no answer to a simple question: "Are you with Trump or against him?" Most Republican voters are with Trump, so any senator who voted for a bill protecting Mueller would be in deep trouble at home. Most of them don't want Mueller to be fired, but they are scared witless of making that known by voting for a bill to protect him. Of course, if Trump does fire Mueller, voting for anything to reinstate him will be even harder, and is thus unlikely to happen. Trump knows this very well, which may give him the courage to order someone (or ultimately, many people) to fire Mueller. (V)

Post-Bannon Breitbart Faring Poorly

Web traffic can be difficult to account for, but by nearly any measure, the once-ascendant Breitbart News is now in serious decline. As recently as last October, they were attracting 15 million unique visitors a month. By February, that number had dropped by nearly half, to 7.8 million.

There's no way to know, for certain, what has gone wrong for the site, but several possible explanations do present themselves. Facebook has revised its newsfeed algorithms, specifically to give less circulation to bomb-throwing, conspiracy theories, and the like—aka Breitbart's bread and butter. The loss of Steve Bannon is another issue; whatever his strengths or weaknesses might be, he knows how to stir the pot and get people talking. Perhaps most important, however, is that the site doesn't have a clear niche any more. For those who want to know what the President is thinking, Fox News has assumed the mantle. For those who want "serious" commentary (in other words, 50% less foaming at the mouth), there is the Daily Wire, which has siphoned off a fair chunk of the Breitbart crowd. And for those who want full-bore nuttiness (in other words, 200% more foaming at the mouth), there's Infowars.

Of course, Fox is in the midst of its own mini-crisis right now; reportedly the "nuclear" resignation of Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters (Ret), in which he accused Fox of being a "propaganda machine" for Trump, hit the staff of the cable channel "like a bombshell." By all accounts, the colonel said what an awful lot of Fox staffers are thinking, namely that their talking heads have climbed too fully into bed with the President.

In short, the challenge that Donald Trump has posed for more traditional media, from CNN to the New York Times, has attracted a lot of attention and commentary. It would seem that it's not been much easier for the right-wing media, even those that Trump likes. (Z)

Saccone Concedes

It was clear to 99% of observers that Democrat Conor Lamb won last week's election in PA-18, and would succeed disgraced representative Tim Murphy. Among the 1% in denial, however, was Lamb's Republican opponent Rick Saccone, who was holding out hope that somehow he and the GOP's lawyers could find a way to nullify the Democrat's margin of 600-plus votes. Now, Saccone has thrown in the towel; he conceded defeat to Lamb on Tuesday.

Saccone's decision was undoubtedly based, in part, on the realization that he had no procedural or legal path forward, and that any further challenges to the result would be Hail Mary passes. However, it is likely that the main consideration was Saccone's plan to run again in November's elections. Continued resistance to Lamb's victory comes with the bad optics of appearing to be a sore loser, and only for the privilege of spending six months in Congress before the district is redrawn. Saccone has not made it clear exactly where he will run the next time, but he's going to have to work hard to find a district more friendly to his politics than the (currently) R+11 PA-18. Oh, and the next time, he won't have an all-star team of Republicans, including the President, campaigning for him, nor will he have $10 million in GOP money. Maybe he should have stuck with trying to overturn Lamb's victory. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar21 Illinois Goes to the Polls
Mar21 Trump Staff: "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" Putin; Trump: "Congratulations, Putin!"
Mar21 Judge Assigned in Stormy Daniels Case
Mar21 Karen McDougal Sues to Break Nondisclosure Agreement
Mar21 Judge: Summer Zervos Harassment Lawsuit May Go Forward
Mar21 Republicans Are Worried about West Virginia
Mar21 Fox News a "Propaganda Machine"
Mar21 Don't Show Trump the Amazon Bestseller List
Mar20 Illinois Voters Go to the Polls Today
Mar20 Trump Will Campaign in Senate Races
Mar20 Supreme Court Makes Two Decisions Favorable to the Democrats
Mar20 Dozens of Business Groups Oppose Trump's Proposed Tariffs on Chinese Goods
Mar20 Shutdown Looms; No Deal on Dreamers
Mar20 GOP Members of Congress Talk Out of Both Sides of Their Mouths
Mar20 Trump Hires Fox News Analyst for Legal Team
Mar20 Cambridge Analytica Used Bribes and Sex Workers to Influence Elections
Mar20 Americans Oppose the Deep State, but Don't Know What It Is
Mar19 Trump Continues to Attack Mueller
Mar19 Could Trump Replace Sessions with Pruitt?
Mar19 Trump Decides It's High Time His Administration Had a Drug Plan
Mar19 Democrats Expand Lead in Generic House Poll
Mar19 Democrats May Contest 100 House Seats
Mar19 New Republican Megadonor Surfaces
Mar19 Trump Required Staffers to Sign NDAs
Mar19 Kushner Filed False Paperwork in New York City
Mar19 Six More Years
Mar18 The McCabe Saga: Day 2
Mar18 Trump Lawyer Calls for Mueller Investigation to End
Mar18 Today's Trump Staffing Updates
Mar18 Trump Data Firm Harvested Facebook Data Without Permission
Mar18 Russians Head to the Polls Today
Mar17 McCabe Fired in "Friday Night Slaughter"
Mar17 Trump Claims Daniels Violated Hush-Money Agreement 20 Times
Mar17 Trump Wants More Tariffs
Mar17 Russia Could Have Turned Off the Electricity in the U.S.
Mar17 Tarkanian Dropping Out of Nevada Senatorial Primary
Mar17 Pennsylvania GOP Asks for Investigation
Mar17 Cook Moves Nine More Races Towards Democrats
Mar17 Louise Slaughter Dies
Mar16 Trump Imposes Sanctions on Russia for the 2016 Election Meddling
Mar16 No More McMaster of Trump's Domain
Mar16 Trump's Lawyers Are Preparing for an Interview with Mueller
Mar16 Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization Records
Mar16 Public Confidence in Mueller is Mixed
Mar16 Republicans Suspect they Blew It on Russia Report
Mar16 Democrats Are Expecting Big Problems in California
Mar16 Democrats are Feuding Over Lamb Win
Mar16 Trump Jr., Wife Split
Mar15 Pennsylvania Confirms: Saccone Got Lambasted
Mar15 Possible Consequences of a Blue Wave