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

Four States Are Holding Their Primaries Today

Yesterday, we gave a rundown of the four states that are holding primaries today. Indiana and West Virginia have hotly contested Republican senatorial primaries. Ohio has that, as well as a bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary. North Carolina has some important House primaries for Democrats. Here is a quick summary of the key statewide races:

State Senator Governor
Indiana Todd Rokita (R) vs. Luke Messe (R) vs. Mike Braun (R) (none)
North Carolina (none) (none)
Ohio Jim Renacci (R) vs. Mike Gibbons (R) Richard Cordray (D) vs. Dennis Kucinich (D)
West Virginia Evan Jenkins (R) vs. Patrick Morrisey (R) vs. Don Blankenship (R) (none)

The results of the primaries could have a big influence on control of the Senate next year. In particular, a victory by Don Blankenship in West Virginia will mean that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is probably safe. Donald Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) understand very well that an ex-con who was responsible for the deaths of 29 miners is not the ideal candidate to run against a popular former governor and current senator. Yesterday, Trump intervened in the race and tried to convince West Virginia voters that Blankenship is bad news. His approach? Electioneering by tweet, of course:

Blankenship immediately fired back, attacking the two other Republicans in the race for failing to solve the opioid epidemic plaguing the state, aligning themselves with abortionists (which is a flat-out lie), and never having created a job. He also said the President doesn't know him and also doesn't know how flawed the other candidates are. Another thing Blankenship has been doing of late is attacking McConnell, who is very unpopular in West Virginia, and is viewed as the prototype of all swamp creatures. He has also attacked Mrs. McConnell, also known as Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and her Taiwanese father as "China people." When called out on that term, Blankenship declared that "China people" is not a race; and that the only races are "Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian." Apparently, he did not notice that certain terms for black folks fell out of favor around the same time that wing-tip shoes and poodle skirts did.

Two polls show Blankenship slightly ahead in the race, but within the margin of error. Any one of the three could win today.

Of course, we have been down this road before. In Alabama, Trump campaigned against Judge Roy Moore in the primary and it didn't work. If Blankenship wins anyway, every Republican in the country is going to take note of the fact that having Trump campaign against you isn't fatal. That weakens Trump's power. A president gets power when members of his party worship him or fear him and in Trump's case, no Republican in Congress worships him. If they don't have to fear him either, they don't have to do what he orders them to do. Trump is playing with fire in this race.

In both Indiana and Ohio, Republican voters have to choose between a sitting congressman and a wealthy businessman. Generally wealthy businessmen don't do well in the general election, especially if Democratic turnout is high, but this year, all bets are off. (V)

Ohio Is Also Holding a Special Election Primary Today

Former Republican congressman Pat Tiberi (OH-12) resigned from Congress in January, even though he wasn't involved in a sex scandal—or any scandal at all, for that matter. He just didn't like being a congressman any more. He will be replaced in a special election in August. The winner will serve until the end of December of this year, so it is not a great prize. Still, the primaries are today. Ten Republicans signed up for the 5-month gig, including two state senators, a county prosecutor, a conservative activist, and more. Also running is a fellow named Tim Kane.

Actually, "running" is the wrong word. "Swimming upstream" would be a better characterization. He has a Ph.D. in economics, served in the Air Force, helped start two companies, wrote four books, and describes himself as a nerd. He supports free trade and immigration. He is also proud that he has been an expert witness before Congress and showcases endorsements from establishment Republicans. In short, he is a terrible match for the current incarnation of the Republican Party, but he is not a bad match for the OH-12 district, which is chock full of well-educated, affluent suburbs outside of Columbus.

Although Kane is an oddity in the current climate, he is by no means the only interesting candidate. The establishment is in favor of state senator Troy Balderson, who is also Tiberi's personal pick. He has been in the state Senate since 2011. He is no moderate, though. He wants to build Trump's wall and defends Christian values. Archconservatives, however, have lined up behind someone even further to the right: Melanie Leneghan. One recent poll has Balderson at 17%, Leneghan at 11%, Kane at 10%, and state senator Kevin Bacon also at 10%. That leaves a lot of other votes split among the other six candidates or undecided.

On the Democratic side the favorite is Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor. He also has the most money. Other candidates are former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and progressive local farmer John Russell. (V)

Trump Will Announce His Decision on the Iran Deal Today at 2 p.m.

At 2 p.m. this afternoon, Donald Trump will announce if he wants to keep or kill the deal with Iran in which Iran has agreed to forego building nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of sanctions. Hard liners in his administration want him to kill the deal. Most foreign governments want him to keep it. Trump's new foreign policy advisers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NSA John Bolton, are much more anti-agreement than were their predecessors, Rex Tillerson and Herbert McMaster.

If Trump goes the for "kill" option, the logical consequence is he then reimposes sanctions on Iran's central bank and also on Iranian businesses. However, if U.S. allies refuse to go along, the Iranians might be able to live with U.S.-only sanctions. And if all countries reinstitute sanctions, then there will be nothing to stop Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear program, something the U.S. (and Israel) would like to stop at all costs. If all countries reimposed sanctions and Iran restarted its nuclear program, the U.S. wouldn't have a lot of options short of war, except maybe giving Israel permission to bomb Iran, which would effectively be the start of a war in the Middle East. From Trump's point of view, somebody else's war is fine. The only downside is that the stock market tends not to like wars and Trump cares a lot about the stock market since it would be hard to blame a crash on Obama or Hillary Clinton.

There is some evidence, incidentally, that the Trump administration tried to find a way to kill the deal in a way that allowed the President to avoid taking responsibility. Specifically, The Guardian (UK) is reporting that presidential aides hired the Israeli firm Black Cube to dig up dirt on Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, the two negotiators who hammered out most of the agreement with the Iranians. If true, that would be Nixon-level sleaziness, and would also make Trump a coward who was unwilling to take responsibility for his decisions, as well as a hypocrite, given how much he's ranted and raged over the Steele dossier. The New Yorker is reporting, however, that the person who hired Black Cube is a private citizen, and that his link to the President is unclear. In other words, one outlet is saying Team Trump is definitely behind the dirt digging, while the other is saying only that Team Trump might be behind it.

In any event, the timing of Trump's announcement—on the afternoon of several key primaries—surely is not a coincidence. Clearly, he wants his decision—presumably to withdraw, but controversial no matter what he chooses to do—to get buried in among all the stories about Tuesday's elections. Which, truth be told, is more evidence of a lack of courage. Obviously, the President would prefer that the buck stop anywhere but here. (V & Z)

Schneiderman Resigns

For much of the last two years, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) looked in the mirror and saw future governor Eric Schneiderman. In service of that goal, he became a leading anti-Trump crusader, probing the Donald on just about any matter under the AG's auspices, and signaling to Robert Mueller that he was happy to take any lead handed off to him. However, that's all over now. Four women accused Schneiderman of physically assaulting them, and so he tendered his resignation, effective at the close of business on Monday.

Undoubtedly, Democrats across the nation—particularly those who like seeing Donald Trump get poked in the eye—will be disappointed to see Schneiderman ride off into the sunset. However, it is better for the anti-Trumpers that this come to light now, rather than in the midst of an anti-Trump investigation of prosecution. The question is whether Schneiderman will be replaced by someone who has his...enthusiasm for going after the President. The job of choosing a replacement falls to the two houses of the state legislature, which will decide with a joint ballot. Since the state senate is essentially evenly divided (31-31, with 1 Democrat who caucuses with the GOP), while the state assembly is dominated by Democrats (105-41), that means the new AG will presumably be a Democrat. Indeed, candidates will likely be asked, one way or another, "Exactly how much do you hate Donald Trump?" So, the President probably just traded one thorn in his side for another. (Z)

Haspel Tried to Withdraw from Consideration as CIA Director

Gina Haspel has been tapped to replace Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA, since Pompeo left that post to take over the State Dept. from Rex Tillerson. In her 33-year career, Haspel has acquired some baggage, most obviously overseeing torture of detainees in Iraq and then destroying the footage. It's not likely any Democrat will vote for her, and quite a few Republicans have serious reservations. In other words, she faces an uphill battle, at best. And in view of that, she reportedly tried to withdraw from consideration on Friday of last week, only to be talked out of it over the weekend.

Donald Trump thinks he's got it figured out, in terms of what the problem is:

Nothing gets by him. One wonders if there is any amount of bad behavior that would cross a line for him. One also wonders if he realizes that he is implying that women should be allowed to torture more freely than men. In any event, if Haspel was already ready to withdraw, it will probably only take one or two GOP senators coming out against her to jump ship again, this time for real. (Z)

Melania Trump Announces Platform

First Lady Melania Trump is a fair bit more popular than her husband. In the latest CNN poll, she's got a 57% approval rating, which is 16 points above The Donald's, and represents an improvement of 10 points over the same poll in January.

Given that she's on the upswing, Monday was certainly an opportune time for her to officially announce the major themes of her platform as First Lady. Under the general heading of "Be Best," she wants to focus on three main points: well-being, fighting opioid abuse, and positivity on social media. She is particularly interested in these things as it comes to children. "As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today's fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide," she explained.

The President was there for the big reveal, of course. And it was a rare observer, indeed, who did not note the obvious incongruity of the fact that he is literally the most famous case study in the world when it comes to people who turn to bullying when they can't manage their emotions. Perhaps people will forgive Melania for this seeming hypocrisy, on the theory that nobody else can control Donald's behavior, so she can't be held responsible for it, either. Although she could say something publicly about it, and yet has chosen not to do so.

The First Lady also released a handsome booklet on bullying to accompany her announcement. And it took roughly 30 minutes for folks to figure out that it had been...that's right, plagiarized. Here, for comparison's sake, is the cover of a 2014 FTC publication on cyberbullying next to the cover of "Melania's" booklet:


The interior pages are equally...familiar.

Again, given the First Lady's personal popularity, perhaps people will forgive this sin. On the other hand, given that this is the second time she's been caught red-handed plagiarizing from the Obama administration, maybe not. At a certain point, one begins to wonder if there is anyone in this administration who is not a liar, or a spousal abuser, or a robber baron, or a philanderer, or a plagiarist, or a xenophobe, or in bed with lobbyists, or prone to violent outbursts or temper, or a hypocrite, or some combination of the above. Barron Trump, you may be our only remaining hope. (Z)

Poll: Trump Is Doing Better on the Issues

A new CNN/SSRS poll shows that 41% approve of Donald Trump and 53% disapprove, the same as in March. But on specific issues, he is doing better than in March. In particular:

  • The economy: 52% approve (was 49%)
  • Trade: 43% approve (was 39%)
  • Foreign affairs: 42% approve (was 38%)
  • Immigration: 40% approve (was 36%)

Of course, approval in the low 40s is not great, but it is better than approval in the high 30s. What might really help the Republicans is that 57% say things are going well in the country, up from 49%.

Most of the people who approve of Trump (71%) say it is due to the issues, whereas among those who disapprove, 54% say it is due to his personality. Trump's worst numbers come from his handling of the cabinet. Just 30% approve while 55% don't. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May07 Conway: Trump Didn't Know about Payment to Daniels
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May07 California Republicans Are Afraid of Being Shut Out Statewide
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