Dem 47
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Ties 1
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Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ NV
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Alan Dershowitz: Mueller Report Will Be Devastating
      •  Farm Bankruptcies Are Up
      •  Poll: Public Is Worried about Pre-existing Conditions
      •  Sessions Is Not a Shoo-in for His Old Seat
      •  New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner Is a Goner
      •  Fox's New Bugaboo: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
      •  Monday Q&A

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Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Pleading Guilty
Incoming Freshman Joins Anti-Pelosi Group
Trump Threatens GM

Alan Dershowitz: Mueller Report Will Be Devastating

Harvard Law Prof. emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who is a staunch defender of Donald Trump, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos yesterday that he predicts that Donald Trump is not going to like special counsel Robert Mueller's report. In particular, Dershowitz said: "I think the report is going to be devastating to the president and I know that the president's team is already working on a response to the report."

Dershowitz also said that it will have a strong political impact, but he doesn't expect it's going to make a criminal case. It is not clear where Dershowitz is getting his information—probably not from Mueller—but the tidbit that Trump and his lawyers are already working on a rebuttal is presumably from a source inside the White House. Which, in turn, calls into question Dershowitz's oft-repeated stance that he has no dog in this fight, and that his frequent pro-Trump opinions are solely based on his interpretation of the law. (V)

Farm Bankruptcies Are Up

This is not the sort of story that generally finds its way into the pages of the Wall Street Journal, but farm bankruptcies are on the rise across the upper Midwest. A total of 84 farms filed for Chapter 12 protection in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana during the fiscal year that ended in June. That's double the number from the previous year, and experts think the worst is yet to come. The lower Midwest is having issues, as well. A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which covers Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming and parts of Missouri and New Mexico, reveals that farm income in the region is down this year, and is trending even further downward.

Analysts are in universal agreement that farmers were already overproducing before Donald Trump came into office, and so were already in a precarious position. Then came the trade war, which pushed many of the farmers close to, or over, the edge. The hardest-hit sectors have been soybeans, corn, and dairy, which are exactly the products targeted by the Chinese for higher tariffs. In quite a few of the states listed above, the Democrats had a notable success or two, winning governors' mansions in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Kansas, and Senate races in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, and New Mexico. Presumably the votes of folks who are feeling the pinch of Donald Trump's trade war had something to do with that. And if he sticks to his guns, the rust belt electoral votes that powered him to victory could very well be gone with the wind. (Z)

Poll: Public Is Worried about Pre-existing Conditions

A large majority of Americans are worried about their health insurance, particularly the issue of people with pre-existing conditions having to pay more (or being unable to get insurance at all). The issue is still relevant, even with the Democrats about to take over the House. The reason is that Republicans have filed several lawsuits in an attempt to get the courts to throw out the law or at least make sure people with pre-existing conditions aren't covered in the same way as healthy people. The lawsuits are pending in various courts.

A new poll shows that a whopping 88% said that it is important that the protection of people with pre-existing conditions remain the law of the land. A slightly smaller 74% said that they are worried that their own health-insurance costs will go up if insurance companies can charge sick people more than healthy people. No doubt this is because 67% report having someone with a pre-existing condition in their household. Here is the breakdown by party identification:

Pre-existing condition poll

Republicans say that they are against the ACA because they don't want the government taking over health care. But their opposition to having pre-existing conditions being covered is somewhat different and twofold. First, if they were to gut that provision, the insurance companies would no doubt be very grateful and show it with their campaign donations.

The second point is more insidious. What the Republicans really want is to have two separate insurance pools, one for healthy people (which is about 80% of the population) and one for sick people (the other 20%). Since the first pool wouldn't have any sick people in it, the actuarial premium would be low and those 80% would be thankful to the Republicans for lowering their insurance costs and might vote for them. The other pool would face sky-high premiums (possibly slightly offset with a small amount of government funding) and the people in it would be hopping mad. Republicans can do arithmetic and would be very happy if 80% of the population loved them, even if the other 20% hated them bitterly. They seem to have overlooked, however, that many of those 80% have one or more of the 20% as friends, family members, employees, etc. Those folks are not likely to say, "Well, my insurance is just fine. Too bad you can't afford yours, grandma." (V)

Sessions Is Not a Shoo-in for His Old Seat

Every Alabama Republican is already salivating at the prospect of taking on Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020. However, there is one potential problem: Jeff Sessions, who used to sit in that seat, may want it back. If he were to announce that he is running for it, he would probably be the front runner simply due to name recognition.

However, Politico has interviewed over a dozen Alabama Republican operatives and potential candidates, and reached the conclusion that Sessions would not be a shoo-in. The main reason is Donald Trump, who strongly dislikes Sessions. Trump remains very popular in Alabama, and if he were to endorse and actively campaign for someone else in the Republican primary, that person might well win the primary (and general election, of course).

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R) is interested, for one, and has taken some steps in the direction of a campaign. State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) is also actively considering a run. Rep. Mo Brooks (R), who ran in 2017, might go for it again. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) has no doubt noticed that being lieutenant governor of Alabama is worth much, much less than a pitcher of warm piss, since at least the veep has a shot at becoming president, while he only has a shot at becoming governor of Alabama. In short, the candidates are ambling over to the starting line already and there could be more before long given how unlikely it is that Jones can pull off another miracle, even with incumbency on his side. (V)

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner Is a Goner

Bill Gardner (R) has been New Hampshire's secretary of state for over 40 years, outlasting 11 governors. Through thick and thin, he has vigorously defended New Hampshire's position as the first state to hold a presidential primary, even threatening to move it into the autumn of the year before the election if need be to make sure New Hampshire is first. Together with former governor Hugh Gregg (R), he even wrote a book entitled "Why New Hampshire?" defending the early primary.

Now it appears that Gardner's days in office are numbered, and the number is around 10. His problem is that the secretary of state is an elective office, but not by the people of New Hampshire. The secretary is elected by the state legislature, which the Democrats just captured. In a vote within the incoming Democratic caucus, Colin Van Ostern (D) was the overwhelming winner. This surprised a lot of people, since Gardner has been chosen by both Republican and Democratic legislatures in the past. However, Gardner made the mistake of holding Donald Trump too close in a state where the President is none too popular (43% approve, 53% disapprove). Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, summed the situation up by saying: "One of the great ironies is backlash against President Trump is likely to cost Bill Gardner his job. Talk about a ricochet shot."

The straw that broke the camel's back is Gardner's agreeing to serve on Trump's now-shuttered panel to examine voter fraud (and presumably conclude there is a lot of it). That rubbed Democrats the wrong way and they want to get rid of Gardner. Van Ostern said: "On everything from town meeting rules to website design, we really need to modernize that office, have more accountability." The election is Dec. 5. (V)

Fox's New Bugaboo: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

As the de facto media arm of the GOP in general, and the Trump administration in particular, Fox News finds it very useful to have a handful of regular targets who symbolize everything their viewers don't like about the Democratic Party. For years, that role has been filled, in no particular order, by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) too, at least sometimes, although as an older white guy who is basically ok with guns, he doesn't get the viewers steaming quite as much as someone of a race or gender different from Sanders'. The problem for Fox—particularly the talking heads, although the "news" division is guilty, too—is that Obama and Clinton are both reaching their expiration dates. After all, you can only beat a dead horse for so long, and because both of them are largely out of the public spotlight, they are not providing new "outrages" for the Fox folks to chew on each day.

These things being the case, it comes as no surprise that Fox has found a new bugaboo: Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As CNN's Dean Obeidallah points out, she's pretty perfect for their purposes: young, Latina, very liberal, female. In other words, pretty much the opposite of Fox's viewers. And, given her already high profile, she's constantly saying things that get national attention, and that can be dissected, disapproved of, mocked, and so forth. The Foxies had a field day last week, for example, when Ocasio-Cortez mixed up the three parts of government that can change hands during an election (presidency, Senate, House) with the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judiciary). Even Sarah Palin, who doesn't even work for Fox anymore, and who is not exactly known for her encyclopedic knowledge of, well, anything, piled on:

What's interesting is that Ocasio-Cortez knows how to give as good as she gets. For example, she has used social media to lament Fox's "obsession" with her, and has sometimes done so in Spanish. There was a time when it was seen as gauche for politicians to counterpunch, but now we're in the age of Trump. So, this could get very interesting. (Z)

Monday Q&A

Speaking of civics, this week's questions are pretty heavy on the subject. Read on:

It is my understanding that newly-elected members of Congress are generally required to spend a lot of time making cold calls to constituents and donors for fundraising purposes. How much time can they actually devote to writing legislation and other job duties as described in the Constitution? And with the all the fundraising they have to do, how does an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gradually become someone more prominent like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) or Nancy Pelosi, other than 'grit and determination'? A.H., Atlanta, GA

This is absolutely correct, and it's a real problem. Several outlets did stories on this subject recently; here is one from CBS. Members are expected to raise about $18,000 per day, so as to build up a war chest of $2 million over two years. To that end, each party has set up call centers right around the corner from the Capitol, so that members can rush over and play telemarketer for 2-3 hours after they finish their day job.

If a new member wants to rise up the ranks, then, they definitely need to be able to sell, sell, sell. It helps to have certain built-in advantages. For example, being independently wealthy, as Pelosi is. Or coming from a wealthy district, as Pelosi and Schiff both do (one has San Francisco, the other Burbank, where much of the film industry is located). Or being a prominent name helps, too—a member of the leadership, chair of an important committee, or someone with fame from some other source (like, say, former football coach Tom Osborne, who represented Nebraska for three terms). Ocasio-Cortez is already very prominent, which works to her advantage. Personally wealthy and/or rich district? Not so much.

If Robert Mueller issues a report that proves beyond any reasonable doubt Trump won the election illegitimately—for example that vote totals were illegally manipulated—and he is impeached and convicted and removed from office, is there any process by which his actions can be nullified or reversed? A.K., San Francisco, CA

With the caveat that we are unlikely to ever have that kind of ironclad proof, there is no chance that any actions Trump took while president would be overturned. That is too slippery a slope. Like, for example, is the budget he signed not legitimate? If so, do all the checks the government issued need to be reversed? Is every action undertaken by one of his appointees not legitimate, either? Would hundreds of court cases heard by his judges have to be retried?

What would happen in the event that Trump was removed is that the courts/Congress would conclude that he was duly elected, but that in that process he committed a crime. The crime would disqualify him from keeping his office, and probably from holding future office, but would not nullify anything that happened before he was convicted and removed.

To the extent that there's any precedent here, it's Richard Nixon, although he resigned before he could be impeached and removed. Still, nobody seriously talked about undoing any of his actions. And don't forget, Watergate was also about winning an election by underhanded means.

I've gotten into a few debates about this before with my colleagues, and feel my answer is likely correct. Namely, could a former VP (like Joe Biden or Dick Cheney) be on the ticket as Vice President again although he served two terms in that office already? R.M., Providence, RI

You may tell your colleagues, on our behalf, that they are wrong. The 22nd Amendment, which places limits on how long a president may serve, imposes no limits on the vice presidency. In fact, the amendment does not even mention the Veep. So, not only could Biden or Cheney serve again, they could serve until the cows come home, and there is nothing prohibiting it.

The amendment that does place limits on the Veep is the 12th, which says, "[N]o person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." This raises the interesting question of whether or not Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could serve as vice president, if they so chose. Some would argue that the 22nd Amendment merely prohibits them from being elected to the presidency, and not from serving. So, if they were to serve as VP and then succeed to the presidency, they would be legally allowed to serve out the term they were assuming, they just couldn't stand for re-election. Others argue that if you cannot be elected to the presidency, you are not eligible, and so cannot serve as VP, either. This is presumably an academic point, since anyone who has been the big cheese would not be too interested in being second banana, particularly under legally-questionable circumstances.

What exactly does the term "Midwest" mean to Americans? When I first heard it, I assumed it meant "middle of the west"—say, about halfway between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Then I found out it includes Ohio, which on my maps is in the eastern half of the (contiguous) U.S. Lately, I've heard it even includes Pennsylvania, which is on the Atlantic coast! So what does it really mean? P.C., Ontario, Canada

250 years ago, give or take, "the West" was anything beyond the settled portion of the 13 colonies. So, that included western Pennsylvania, the western part of the Carolinas, the western part of Virginia, the western part of Massachusetts, French North America (aka Lousiana), etc. Eventually, as Americans moved across the continent, "the West" got bigger and bigger, until Americans spoke of the "Midwest" and the "Far West." Depending on your source, the Midwest might well include anything as far east as western Pennsylvania/Massachusetts/New York, and as far west as Wyoming and Colorado (although the South was generally excluded).

There is also formal definition, per the U.S. Census Bureau: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Understanding that Donald Trump's base is approximately 30%-40% of mostly Republican or independent voters, if a single candidate opposed the President in the 2020 primary (for example, John Kasich), wouldn't she or he have a reasonable chance of winning the primary? M.S., Ft. Lauderdale, FL

You're actually mixing figures here. Trump's base is 30%-40% of the overall voting population. However, it's about 85% of registered Republicans. So, barring a change of fortune, a Republican challenger would be slaughtered if he or she tried to take on Trump.

What is the process for increasing the number of Supreme Court judges from nine to eleven (or any other number)? Do you think this could be a campaign issue for Democrats in 2020? S.S., St. Louis, MO

All that has to happen is that Congress has to adopt an update to the Judiciary Act of 1869, which set the current membership of the Court.

It certainly could be a campaign issue, although the Democrats would have to decide if this would do more to gin up their base, or to motivate Republicans to get to the polls. Given how concerned Republicans have been about judges in the last 40 years, running on this issue could be playing with fire for the blue team.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov25 Mexico Will Reportedly Hold Refugees
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Nov23 Trump Threatens to Close the Whole Border with Mexico
Nov23 Schiff Will Follow the Money
Nov23 Goodlatte Subpoenas Comey, Lynch
Nov23 "President" Bolton Better Watch His Back
Nov23 Billion-dollar Politics
Nov23 Trump Calls Troops, Visits Coast Guard
Nov23 Crooked Politicians Are Thankful for Partisanship
Nov23 Soybeans Are Fungible
Nov22 Chief Justice John Roberts Hits Trump and Trump Hits Right Back
Nov22 Trump Defends Ivanka, Wanted to Prosecute Hillary
Nov22 Trump Twitter Feed Is a Pre-Thanksgiving Cornucopia
Nov22 Opposition to Pelosi as Speaker Collapses
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Nov22 Thursday Q&A
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Nov21 Bye Bye Love
Nov21 Fudge Is Out
Nov21 More Trouble for Hyde-Smith
Nov21 The Blue Wave Was Black
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Nov21 Trump Submits Answers to Mueller
Nov21 Poll: Trump Beats All Rivals in 2020 Republican Primary
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Nov20 Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Trump
Nov20 Troops at Border Are Headed Home
Nov20 Acosta Wins
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Nov20 Pelosi Opposition Comes into Focus
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Nov19 Nelson Concedes
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