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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Expands Scope of FBI Probe of Kavanaugh
      •  Immovable Object Meets Irresistible Force?
      •  Poll: More Americans Believe Ford than Kavanaugh by Small Margin
      •  Trump, Rosenstein Will Meet...Eventually?
      •  2020 Conventions Are Coming into Focus
      •  Congress Might Reject NAFTA 2.0
      •  California Passes More Gun Control Laws
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo White House Tells Candidates to Stick Close to Trump
DeVos Will Spent Nearly $8 Million on Security
FBI Expands Interviews In Kavanaugh Probe
Trump Mocks Christine Blasey Ford
Senate GOP Coy on Final Kavanaugh Vote
Kavanaugh Letter Admits He and His Friends Were Drunks

Trump Expands Scope of FBI Probe of Kavanaugh

Two sources told the New York Times on Monday that Donald Trump has authorized the FBI to interview anyone it deems necessary in the probe of Brett Kavanaugh. Earlier he wanted to limit the probe, but there was a strong blowback to that. Of course, he could change his mind one or more times later today and again tomorrow. One point of contention is whether the Bureau should interview Julie Swetnick, who claims she was gang raped at a party in which Kavanaugh may have put drugs in the punch. If she is, her lawyer Michael Avenatti will no doubt announce it.

At a press conference, Trump said he wanted a comprehensive investigation, but it has to be over fast. Those two wishes are in direct conflict, of course, and fast is likely to win.

On the subject of Kavanaugh's possibly lying to the Senate, Trump went after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) yesterday, calling him a liar for saying he served in Vietnam, when he didn't. He was in the Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam war, but served in the United States. Trump didn't exactly say: "They all do it," (i.e. Democrats) but that was the intention.

Whether or not the FBI is done, the Senate is going to vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation this week according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell also said that Kavanaugh was rightfully angry at the hearing. McConnell can schedule the vote whenever he wants to, but if his whip tells him the votes aren't there, he will likely postpone it. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME) have not yet said how they will vote. If two or more vote "no," the nominee won't be confirmed. (V)

Immovable Object Meets Irresistible Force?

As we are fond of pointing out, nature abhors a vacuum. Brett Kavanaugh is the story of the week, the month, and maybe the year, and so is on the mind of anyone and everyone who follows politics. However, the real developments on that front are largely hidden from view, as the pros at the FBI know a few things about keeping things from leaking. In the absence of that information, the void is being filled by dirt-digging and analysis/re-hashing of last Thursday's hearings. Both types of coverage, in general, are not breaking in Kavanaugh's favor.

In the former category, Tuesday brought us a number of new revelations, most of them small- to medium- in significance. Probably the biggest was CNN's discovery that Kavanaugh was party to a bar fight in 1985, enough so that he was questioned by police afterward. According to the police report, Kavanaugh and Yale friend Chris Dudley had a disagreement with a fellow bar patron, culminating in Dudley's allegedly throwing a glass at the other man, while Kavanaugh allegedly hurled ice at him. The cops did not reach any conclusions on whether the ice-throwing took place or not, but they did arrest Dudley and took him to jail. Needless to say, this story certainly doesn't do much to affirm Kavanaugh's assertions that he has no drinking problem and that he's very even-tempered. Also not helping things is that Dudley has been one of the few people to declare that he never saw Kavanaugh behave badly under the influence of alcohol. If that's even true (which is pretty dubious at this point), it may be because Dudley couldn't see the bad behavior from, you know, the back of a squad car.

In the latter category, meanwhile, are the litany of pieces accusing Kavanaugh of being dishonest, a liar, deceptive, etc. We already linked to a dozen or so of these on Saturday; here's a partial list of the new ones that came out on Monday:

It's true that many of these outlets are left-leaning, but nothing like this happened during Neil Gorsuch's confirmation. That said, this is just one day's worth. And it doesn't even include the large number of stories about individual folks who have come forward with their own recollections of past events, in nearly all cases confirming Kavanaugh's reputation for extreme drunkenness and/or bad behavior. In other words, a narrative that was first built on Thursday of last week is just getting bigger and stronger: Brett Kavanaugh is an inveterate liar who likely perjured himself under oath. That alone will make it effectively impossible for him to function effectively as a Supreme Court justice. One can imagine, if he is confirmed, people saying things like this: "Oh, that's a Kavanaugh-authored opinion. Never mind."

In any event, the FBI may have only a week to work, but it's inconceivable at this point that they don't come up with something. If this many outlets can find this many falsehoods to dissect, and this many skeletons in the closet, Christopher Wray and his team would look either incompetent or deeply compromised if their report says, "Looks good to us, didn't find anything." Especially since there are literally so many people wanting to talk to the Bureau that the agents can't keep up. Also since it came out on Monday that Team Kavanaugh apparently knew Deborah Ramirez's complaint was coming, and prepared for it in advance of it becoming public. That certainly suggests that she didn't make it up out of whole cloth. Further, among the folks who is trying to talk to the FBI is Yale alumna Kerry Berchem, who says she has texts that confirm Kavanaugh's attempts to spin the story, and also that she has information that supports Ramirez' narrative.

In short, Kavanaugh's position—already tenuous after Ford's testimony, and after the various missteps he's been criticized for—is almost certainly going to get weaker, and perhaps much weaker, once the FBI produces its report at the end of the week. Maybe they will focus on undercutting a few falsehoods, maybe they will conclude that Ramirez and/or Julie Swetnick are likely telling the truth, or maybe all of the above. That's the immovable object alluded to in the headline. Can the GOP really commission an investigation, have it come back unfavorably against their candidate, and say, "Well, we've heard everything we need to hear. Let's vote!"?

But this is when we run into the irresistible force part of the equation. Time has effectively run out to get a new nominee confirmed before the midterms; there are 40 days left and among the nine justices currently on the Court, only one got approval in less than that (John Roberts, at 19 days, in a much less polarized climate). The GOP does not want Democrats to be able to spend the next month saying, "get out to vote, and we may be able to get Merrick Garland's seat back." On top of that, the Republican Party has already hitched its wagon to Kavanaugh. The repeated attempts to get the vote done, to skip the investigation, etc. make clear that most GOP senators (not to mention their fellow Republican in the White House) don't care one whit about what Christine Blasey Ford or any of the other accusers said. In other words, whatever damage is going to be done with women voters (particularly suburban women voters) is already done whether Kavanaugh is confirmed or not. So, it's hard to imagine what might cause Republican leadership to back down, regardless of what the FBI finds. Even if Mitch McConnell isn't sure he has the votes, there's just not much to be gained by jumping ship on Kavanaugh at this point, as the Party leadership really has passed the point of no return. (Z)

Poll: More Americans Believe Ford than Kavanaugh by Small Margin

Quinnipiac University ran a poll asking about the hearings last Thursday. Forty-eight percent of Americans believe Christine Blasey Ford's story and 41% believe Brett Kavanaugh's denials. Similarly, 48% of Americans think Kavanaugh should not be confirmed and 42% say he should be. There is probably a fair amount of overlap in those numbers.

Women believe Ford by a 15-point margin and men believe Kavanaugh by a 12-point margin. Whites with a college degree believe Ford (51%); whites without a college degree believe Kavanaugh (59%). Only 7% of black voters think Kavanaugh is honest and 77% think he is not.

Male resentment, especially that of noncollege men, is likely to become a hallmark of the midterms and beyond. GOP pollster Frank Luntz said that among Republicans "There is a feeling of being guilty until proven innocent." They believe that any woman can destroy any man just by making a (false) accusation and they are very angry about this situation. Jennifer Palmieri, a former Hillary Clinton staffer came back with: "A lot of white men don't know what it's like to feel threatened, powerless and frustrated." She added that there is going to be a lot more of this.

To the extent that the Republican Party hitches its wagon to angry white noncollege men, that is a Faustian bargain. It worked in 2016 and might work in 2018, but down the road, driving women, nonwhites, and college-educated white men into the Democratic Party in droves is not a winning strategy. (V)

Trump, Rosenstein Will Meet...Eventually?

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein was supposed to meet with Donald Trump last week, and it was postponed. They were supposed to meet this week, but the meeting is likely to be postponed again. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the reason for the probable postponement is, "all of the other things that are going on with the Supreme Court."

That excuse makes very little sense. It's true that as Deputy AG, Rosenstein is above FBI Director Christopher Wray in the chain of command, and so is nominally in an oversight role of the one-week investigation that is currently underway. However, unlike Russiagate, AG Jeff Sessions has no need to recuse himself here, so he can provide all the oversight that is needed. In other words, Rosenstein is in no way essential to the Kavanaugh situation. Meanwhile, he is also not the one who keeps postponing, it's Trump. So the question is: Why? It's pretty clear at this point that Trump doesn't want to pay the price of firing Rosenstein before the midterms, so the meeting is basically perfunctory. The best explanation would seem to be that the President doesn't think he can just cancel the thing entirely, but that he really doesn't have the fortitude to face the Deputy AG, either. As we've seen time and again, for a fellow who made "You're fired!" his catchphrase, Trump is actually very leery of one-on-one confrontations.

In any event, Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll have a poll out that affirms that firing the Deputy AG would be a bad idea, politically, as 60% of voters would like to see him keep his job. More specifically, about two-thirds of Democrats and independents support keeping Rosenstein, and 48% of Republicans feel the same way. So, getting rid of him would antagonize a lot of swing voters, and wouldn't particularly gin up the base. That's not the kind of math Trump likes. He's still likely to lop Rosenstein's head off after the midterms (well, he'll order Chief of Staff John Kelly to do it), though with numbers like these, it's not certain. (Z)

2020 Conventions Are Coming into Focus

Both parties are working hard at nailing down the details of their 2020 nominating conventions. The Republicans are further along than the Democrats. They have a date and a place. It will be Aug. 24-27, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a state that is expected to be a swing state. Barack Obama won it in 2008, but the Republicans won it in 2012 and 2016.

The Democrats will hold their convention earlier, July 13-16. The city hasn't been determined yet. The three finalists are Houston, Milwaukee, and Miami Beach. Houston combines terrible weather with a state the Democrats have no chance of winning, not a great duo. Miami Beach also has terrible weather in July, but it is in the mother of all swing states, so a serious candidate. On the other hand, if the Democrats want to make a big effort to win in the Upper Midwest, Milwaukee would be a good choice. Of course, other (nonpolitical) factors also play a role, including the availability of enough hotel rooms, transportation options to get there, security, costs, size and suitability of the venue, and so on. Miami Beach hosted both the Democrats and the Republicans in 1972. Milwaukee has never hosted either major party, but the Green Party held its convention there in 2004. (V)

Congress Might Reject NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump is already crowing about the trade agreement he forged with Mexico and Canada, but it is far from a done deal. Both chambers of Congress must approve it, and Democrats don't like it. If they win either chamber, it could easily be voted down. For procedural reasons, it won't come up for a vote until January, at which time the new Congress will be installed. If the Democrats kill it, it will take away a key policy victory from Trump. That alone might be sufficient reason to kill it, although few Democrats will admit that. In addition, some Democrats feel that Trump didn't follow the rules required to fast track a deal. Among other things, those rules require the administration to keep Congress continually informed about progress. Trump didn't tell the lawmakers anything until it was done. Many Democrats resent that.

In terms of content, Democrats want stronger labor and environmental guarantees written into the agreement. They don't want companies moving their operations to Mexico to evade laws that protect workers' rights and protect the environment. They want a guarantee that Mexico will pass its own laws to address these concerns, something the Trump administration has little interest in. These areas would give Democrats cover to shoot the agreement down.

Yet another issue is turf. The Constitution gives Congress, not the Executive Branch, the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Many Democrats feel that Trump has completely violated this provision and kept Congress in the dark, to boot, and they don't like it one bit. It is possible that to pressure Congress, Trump will withdraw from NAFTA 1.0 when he sends 2.0 to Congress. However, many members of Congress maintain that the president does not have the power to withdraw from NAFTA, and that only Congress can do that. It could get dicey. All in all, if the Democrats win either chamber, NAFTA 2.0 is not likely to be approved in its current form, a big slap in the face to Trump. (V)

California Passes More Gun Control Laws

California already had the toughest gun laws in the United States, and now things in the Golden State have gotten even stricter. After Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a series of bills into law on Monday, Californians will have to be 21 years old to buy a shotgun or rifle (instead of 18), people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses will (in most cases) be banned from getting a gun for life, people who have been institutionalized more than once in a calendar year will be similarly banned for life, people who get concealed gun permits will need to have eight hours of special training, it will be easier for police officers to get anti-gun restraining orders, and law enforcement will be required to stay on top of databases that track missing weapons.

The NRA—brace yourself—is not happy about the new rules. We mention them primarily because at least one Californian (Sen. Kamala Harris, or Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, or LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, or maybe even Brown) is likely to be among the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination. And now, whether they like it (or deserve it) or not, that person (or those persons) is/are going to be seen as the anti-gun candidate(s), and are going to be a special target of the NRA (no, not that kind of target). On the other hand, the momentum on the anti-gun side of things is strong right now, and who knows these days if a candidate is helped by the endorsement of Parkland survivor David Hogg more than they are hurt by condemnation coming from newly-minted NRA President Oliver North? We are almost certainly going to find out in 2020. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

New polls confirm that Florida, Missouri, and Montana are very close and that West Virginia is beginning to look like a lost cause for Patrick Morrisey. What is new are polls showing Kevin Cramer way ahead in North Dakota and a statistical tie in New Jersey. North Dakota is a very red state, but so is West Virginia, and that doesn't seem to be hurting Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) much. New Jersey is more complicated because Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was put on trial for corruption and escaped due to a hung jury. Some of the voters may think he is guilty, despite the lack of a conviction. Still, this is just one poll and from a newbie pollster at that. It's a bit early to write Menendez off. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Bill Nelson* 47% Rick Scott 47% Sep 29 Sep 30 St. Pete Polls
Florida Bill Nelson* 48% Rick Scott 44% Sep 28 Sep 30 PPP
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 47% Josh Hawley 44% Sep 25 Sep 29 SSRS
Montana Jon Tester* 49% Matt Rosendale 45% Sep 28 Sep 28 PPP
North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp* 41% Kevin Cramer 51% Sep 17 Sep 27 Strategic Research Assoc.
New Jersey Bob Menendez* 45% Bob Hugin 43% Sep 19 Sep 27 Stockton U.
Nevada Jacky Rosen 47% Dean Heller* 43% Sep 25 Sep 29 SSRS
New York Kirsten Gillibrand* 61% Chele Farley 29% Sep 20 Sep 27 Siena Coll.
West Virginia Joe Manchin* 46% Patrick Morrisey 38% Sep 17 Sep 26 Strategic Research Assoc.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct01 Kavanaugh May Help House Democrats and Senate Republicans
Oct01 Even If He Is Confirmed, Kavanaugh May Not Be Home Free
Oct01 Everyone Weighs in on Kavanaugh
Oct01 New NAFTA Looks to Be a Go
Oct01 California Passes Net Neutrality Law, DoJ Sues
Oct01 Preview of the 2020 Senate Races
Oct01 Democrats Will Examine Trump's Tax Return If They Win the House
Sep30 Kavanaugh Investigation Begins to Take Shape...Maybe
Sep30 "Saturday Night Live" Pokes Everyone in the Eye
Sep30 Under the Radar No. 1: Democrats Can Sue Trump Over Emoluments
Sep30 Under the Radar No. 2: Michael Lewis Book
Sep30 Under the Radar No. 3: Meeting with Trudeau
Sep30 This Week's Senate News
Sep30 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Gavin Newsom
Sep29 Flake Demands--and Gets--FBI Investigation into Kavanaugh Allegations
Sep29 Kavanaugh-Ford Coverage Roundup
Sep29 Security Experts: Flaw in Popular Voting Machine Could Tip an Election
Sep29 Steyer to Spend $5 Million for Gillum
Sep28 Up First: Christine Blasey Ford
Sep28 Up Second: Brett Kavanaugh
Sep28 So, What Does It All Mean?
Sep28 Takeaways from Thursday's Hearings
Sep28 Rosenstein Meeting Rescheduled
Sep28 Today's Senate Polls
Sep27 And Then There Were Three...or Four...or Five
Sep27 Hearings Will Move Forward as Scheduled
Sep27 Democrats Prepare Hail Mary Passes
Sep27 Trump Gone Wild
Sep27 Rosenstein's Fate to Be Determined Today...Unless It's Not
Sep27 House Passes Spending Bill
Sep27 Democrats' Lead in Generic Ballot Is Growing
Sep27 Today's Senate Polls
Sep26 The World Laughs at Trump
Sep26 Kavanaugh's College Roommate Supports Ramirez
Sep26 Murkowski Warns Senate to Listen Carefully to Ford
Sep26 Mystery Questioner's Identity Quickly Leaks
Sep26 Trump Slams Ramirez
Sep26 Nelson Trails Scott Badly among Older Latinos in Florida
Sep26 Candidates Are Ignoring Cyber Security
Sep26 Today's Senate Polls
Sep25 Rosenstein Might Quit
Sep25 Kavanaugh Will Not Withdraw
Sep25 More Kavanaugh Accusations Coming Soon
Sep25 Trump Goes to the U.N.
Sep25 China Goes to Iowa
Sep25 GOP Favorability Reaches Seven-Year High
Sep25 Florida Congressional Candidate Passes Away
Sep25 Today's Senate Polls
Sep24 And Then There Were Two
Sep24 Ford Will Testify Thursday