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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Kavanaugh Is Confirmed
      •  Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part II
      •  About Those Unemployment Numbers
      •  Trump Administration Pulls Out of Iran Treaty
      •  This Week's Senate News
      •  Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Avenatti

PW logo Team Kavanaugh Thanks Michael Avenatti
White House Preps for Democratic Legal Storm
Bonus Quote of the Day
McConnell Fact-Checked on Merrick Garland
Quote of the Day
GOP Operative Raised $100K to Find Clinton Emails

Kavanaugh Is Confirmed

It was all-but-inevitable once Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced her intention to vote for confirmation, and now it is official: Brett Kavanaugh was approved 50-48 by the Senate, and was quickly sworn in as the 114th justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. It's the narrowest confirmation in over a century; even Kavanaugh's new colleague Clarence Thomas will have bragging rights (having been confirmed 52-48, and thus with an actual majority of the senators supporting him.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the day on Saturday witnessed many Republicans taking victory laps, with Donald Trump—who has never heard the term "gracious winner"—leading the way. Rallying in Kansas on Saturday evening, the President declared, "I stand before you today on the heels of a tremendous victory for our nation, our people and our beloved Constitution." He also added that, "Since right from the moment we announced, radical Democrats launched a disgraceful campaign to resist, obstruct, delay, demolish and destroy, right from the beginning." It would seem that he's already forgotten that the GOP party line for the last two weeks has been that the blue team waited until the last minute to raise their concerns, as opposed to bringing them up at the start.

One Republican who did not take a victory lap was Collins, who did an interview with CNN that will air on Sunday. In that appearance, the Senator said, "I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant." and that "I do believe that she was assaulted. I don't know by whom. I'm not certain when." In an effort to walk both sides of the street, and to be all things to all people (well, to all Mainers), Collins has spent the last few days perfecting the art of being disingenuous. In her speech before the Senate, she listed all of the arguments that broke in Kavanaugh's favor (extensive experience, family man, etc.), but neglected to address any of the concerns about him (temperament, evasiveness, possible perjury). In the CNN interview, she said that both Kavanaugh and Ford said they were "100 percent certain" they were telling the truth, and so she had to use the FBI report as the tiebreaker. No mention, however, of the slapdash nature of the report, or of the fact that in an actual criminal case, the behavior of the witnesses while testifying is a major part of reaching a verdict. Anyhow, Collins is undoubtedly hoping this will all be forgotten when she stands for reelection in 2020. It won't be, and she is going to be in the race of her life, as Democratic donors nationwide (and Democratic voters in Maine) look to punish her for "saving" Kavanaugh. It is possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is also up in 2020, will come in for some of the same treatment. However, unlike Collins, nobody has as yet raised nearly $4 million in small donations to defeat him.

The next big question, now that the confirmation process is over, is how this will affect the midterm elections. As Vox's Dylan Scott explains, the crystal ball is currently a little cloudy on that point, as there are data suggesting that the GOP is going to get a boost, and also data suggesting that the Democrats will get a boost. Generally speaking, it looks—at the moment—that the whole drama will help the GOP keep the Senate (primarily by making red-state Democrats, particularly Heidi Heitkamp, ND, and Claire McCaskill, MO, more vulnerable) and will help the blue team retake the House (primarily by encouraging educated, suburban women to get out and vote). Of course, there are still a little more than four weeks to the midterms, and so time for lots of movement in the polls. As we have already pointed out, angry voters tend to be more motivated than happy ones, so it's within the realm of possibility that the enthusiasm surge the GOP has enjoyed in the last week or so is actually a dead cat bounce and will fade away.

Meanwhile, if Kavanaugh thinks he's in the clear for the rest of his career, he's got another think coming. Already, a dozen complaints have been filed with the Washington D.C. circuit (the one that Kavanaugh will be departing), alleging judicial misconduct. All of them are based on his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson has deemed some of them substantive enough that she's forwarded them to Chief Justice John Roberts. And this, of course, is just the appetizer for whatever the Democrats might do if and when they retake control of the House (with the accompanying investigative and subpoena powers). Anyhow, the upshot is that this story is far from over, and will linger not only throughout the midterms, but beyond. (Z)

Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part II

Yesterday, we discussed how not all Supreme Courts are created equal, and in circumstances where the Court's credibility takes a hit, its power and its effectiveness can take a big hit. Today, we'll take a look at that same basic dynamic, except on an individual basis.

Let us begin by once again quoting CNN's Chris Cillizza, who wrote, "There are no asterisks next to the names of the members of the Supreme Court. Whether you got there on a unanimous Senate vote or barely survived, your vote still counts the same." The specific point and the larger argument are both so questionable that it's hard to believe that this actually came from Cillizza's pen (or keyboard). It is true, mathematically-speaking, that each justice's vote has a value of "1." However, it is also the case that some justices' influence far exceeds that of their colleagues. One thinks of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, William Brennan, or Joseph Story, who were all giants in their respective eras. And if some justices are unusually influential, it follows that there must be a few who are at the other end of the spectrum. Here, in fact, is a list of five justices who were unusually lacking in effectiveness and influence (in chronological order of service):

  • Chief Justice Roger Taney, 1836-64 (Biggest issue: Legislating from the bench): It is really very quaint that some partisans today believe that judges used to rule strictly based on the law, and that it is only recently that politics began to enter into the equation. In fact, the Supreme Court of the antebellum era was stacked with pro-slavery Democrats, and that included Chief Justice Roger Taney, who not only was pro-slavery, but was himself a slaveowner. Eventually, he took it upon himself to "solve" the debate once and for all, steering the Court to make a grossly overreaching decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Taney and the Court could easily have dismissed the case, on the basis that a black man (Scott) had no legal standing to sue as a non-citizen. However, they also ruled that any Congressional law forbidding slavery anywhere was unconstitutional. This cut the two compromises that had kept the peace (the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850) off at the knees, and significantly helped pave the way for the Civil War.

    It is not easy for a Chief Justice to render themselves irrelevant, since they essentially set the Court's agenda, and assign opinions, and the like. The only way to do it is to render the entire Court irrelevant, which is what Taney did. For the rest of his tenure, Northern governors (and eventually President Lincoln) felt perfectly entitled to ignore the Court, something that voters did not punish. The Taney Court's rulings may have still carried some sway in the Southern states, except that they left the country not too long after the Dred Scott decision. Taney died at his post in 1864, a bitter and much-reviled man. As chance would have it, on the same day he expired, his home state of Maryland outlawed slavery.

  • Associate Justice James Clark McReynolds, 1914-41 (Biggest issue: Bigotry/Misogyny): McReynolds was something of an Archie Bunker figure; a product of one era who rebelled at the trappings of the era that came after. The Justice hated pretty much everything, including wristwatches on men (too effeminate), red nail polish on women (vulgar), and drinking and smoking (un-Christian vices). He also hated pretty much everyone who was not exactly like him (a single, white, Protestant man). He refused to hire clerks who were married, or were women, or were black. He was openly contemptuous of women lawyers who appeared before the Court, pointedly reading a newspaper as they presented their arguments. He was also infuriated on each of the three occasions during his time on the Court that a Jewish justice was appointed. He refused to sign opinions written by Brandeis or Benjamin Cardozo, and when Felix Frankfurter was appointed, McReynolds said, "My God, another Jew on the Court!" He also refused to appear in the customary annual photograph of Supreme Court justices alongside his Jewish colleagues.

    Not surprisingly, all of McReynolds' fellow justices loathed him. Even the two who agreed with him ideologically and politically (Pierce Butler and Willis Van Devanter) eventually joined a different country club to avoid having to talk with him. Each of the three chief justices under whom McReynolds served, but particularly William Howard Taft, went to great pains to avoid giving him important opinions to write, and often tried not to give him any at all. McReynolds was not unhappy with this arrangement, as he preferred to go pheasant hunting, anyhow.

  • Associate Justice William O. Douglas, 1939-75 (Biggest issue: Temperament): Douglas was one of the youngest justices ever appointed to the Court (40), and for many years was one of its luminaries. This despite the fact that he was a notorious jerk, described by one colleague as "rude, ice-cold, hot-tempered, ungrateful, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed." His law clerks, for whom he reserved special abuse, hated him so much that for years and years they called him "shithead" behind his back. A contrarian by nature, he wrote more solo dissents than any other justice in history, by a large margin.

    Douglas' "quirks" were generally tolerated as long as he was clear-minded and productive, but eventually he suffered a stroke that made his grating characteristics even worse, and at the same time left him incapable of doing his job. Since he refused to resign, the other justices made a secret deal behind his back that they would no longer allow him to be the deciding vote in any case. He finally threw in the towel a year later.

  • Associate Justice Abe Fortas, 1965-69 (Biggest issue: Corruption): While Fortas was certainly a competent enough legal mind, serving for years as a professor at Yale Law School, his primary "qualification" for the Court was that he was tight with President Lyndon B. Johnson (to the point that, for example, Fortas wrote several of LBJ's State of the Union addresses). In other words, he was basically the Harriet Miers of his day, except he worked for a president who knew how to bend Congress to his will. Johnson specifically appointed Fortas to the Court to be a yes-man for Great Society legislation, creating the necessary opening by leaning on Justice Arthur Goldberg to resign to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

    Fortas was a capable justice, and was well liked by his colleagues, but they never particularly trusted him given his closeness to the president. This, plus general animosity between Chief Justice Earl Warren and LBJ meant that Fortas was generally left on the outside when it came to writing important or semi-important opinions. The isolation became even more pronounced when it was learned that Fortas accepted large payments from American University and the foundation of wealthy financier Louis Wolfson. While the money was not necessarily illegal (depending on the circumstances, which were hazy), it did not look good. When Warren resigned, Johnson tried to get the Senate to elevate his buddy to the chief justiceship, but they rebelled. Deeply enmeshed by then in the Vietnam War, even the "Master of the Senate" could not change their minds, and the nomination was withdrawn. That, plus the mounting questions about Fortas' finances, finally caused the Judge to resign after less than four years on the Court.

  • Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, 1991-present (Biggest issue: Sexual misconduct): Clarence Thomas had legitimacy issues from the beginning. Because he replaced Thurgood Marshall, who was compelled to resign when his health took a sharp downturn, the George H. W. Bush administration felt they needed to nominate a black man. And being a Republican, Bush wanted a conservative, of course. It turns out that the supply of conservative, black judges was not too large in 1991, and so Thomas was nominated with just one year's service as a judge under his belt. Then the Anita Hill scandal hit. While Thomas weathered that storm, he began his time on Court significantly damaged.

    Things have largely not gotten better from there. Thomas is infamous for not asking questions during oral arguments. He sometimes says this is because it is not useful, other times he says he does not like to speak in public because English is not his first language (Gullah is). If it's the latter, that has not stopped him from accepting millions in speaking fees, but whatever the reason is, his silence has given him a reputation (fair or not) for being disengaged and uninterested. It also does not help that Thomas' wife was discovered to have received almost $700,000 in payments for acting as a lobbyist for the Heritage Foundation. An unfriendly analyst might even call those bribes. And then, on top of all that, Thomas has a very unorthodox understanding of the law, pretty far outside of even the conservative mainstream. Add it all up, and Thomas—like the others on this list—generally gets skipped over when it comes time to write key opinions. This is part of the reason that he's the least-cited justice currently on the Court (on a citations per year basis). Noted Thomas critic Jeffrey Toobin describes the Justice's tenure as "Twenty-five years without footprints."

These are largely extreme cases; Brett Kavanaugh probably won't evince problems quite so severe as these (though he's certainly not off to a good start, particularly vis-a-vis the Clarence Thomas precedent). Even if he doesn't sink to the Taney or McReynolds level, though, it is clear that there is already a well-established history of specific justices being marginalized, for any number of reasons. It is very likely that John Roberts, who as chief justice must take a special interest in the Court's reputation, will avoid assigning important or controversial opinions to Kavanaugh for several years, or maybe longer. Roberts may even avoid controversial cases altogether for a term or two or three. The point is that Kavanaugh will begin his service on the Court in a hole, whether he realizes it or not.

Now, in the interest of completeness, let us also note the most significant case of a justice who got off to a bad start, and then managed to bounce back:

  • Associate Justice Stanley Matthews, 1881-89 (Biggest issue: Too friendly with the president): If you thought Kavanaugh's confirmation was close, well, it was a breeze compared to Matthews', whose 24-23 margin is the narrowest in history, and was only managed because a bunch of Senate seats were vacant (due to deaths), and a bunch more were occupied by senators who were not in town that day. And even that may not have been enough; the vote was held while one potential opponent was in the bathroom. The concern was that Matthews was too close with the president who nominated him (Rutherford B. Hayes), since they had gone to college together, practiced law together, served in the same unit during the Civil War (with Hayes as Matthews' commanding officer), and served in the Ohio legislature together. This was enough to stop the nomination from proceeding until the next presidential inauguration (maybe that's where Mitch McConnell got the idea), at which point James A. Garfield renewed the nomination. Garfield and Matthews were also tightly connected, but not so closely as Hayes and Matthews, which was just enough to allow Matthews to eke by.

    Once he was on the Court, Matthews established a reputation as a skilled and fair-minded justice, and wrote a number of significant opinions. That said, his "recovery" was helped by the fact that the first president he was too close with (Hayes) was out of office, and the second one (Garfield) got assassinated just a year in. There were no questions about Matthews' relationship with newly-elevated president Chester Arthur, who as a spoilsman from New York had no connection with party movers and shakers in Ohio.

So, there you have it. Maybe Kavanaugh will follow in Matthews' footsteps, although if he follows them exactly, it would require Donald Trump to leave office. That is probably a deal that a lot of Democrats would take, particularly at this point. (Z)

About Those Unemployment Numbers

This week, the United States' unemployment rate reached its lowest level (3.7%) since December 1969. Needless to say, Donald Trump could not wait to fire up Twitter to brag:


That certainly seems very impressive, to have driven unemployment to a level not seen since the year a man first walked on the moon. But is it actually all that much of an achievement? Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of moving parts here, making that a pretty tough question to answer. Among the issues:

  • When Trump took office, unemployment was at 4.8%, so 3.7% is a moderate improvement, but not a major one. There's a case to be made that Barack Obama actually achieved more in turning 7.8% unemployment into 4.8% in 8 years despite inheriting an economy in recession.

  • Similarly, disentangling the effects of the Obama presidency from those of the Trump presidency is not an easy thing.

  • Unemployment figures are not quite as precise as the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes them seem. In fact, they are essentially a form of polling. The Bureau contacts a small subset of employers, asks them some questions, and extrapolates from that. That technique means that crowing over tenths of a percent (or even halves of a percent) is not necessarily justified.

  • More significantly, there is a strong argument to be made that unemployment rate is an outdated statistic, one that maybe should be retired. To draw a rough parallel, baseball fans (and teams) used certain statistics for years (like pitcher wins, or batter RBIs) that we now recognize are ham-fisted and imprecise, with the result that those stats have been supplanted by things like WAR (wins above replacement) and RC (runs created). Unemployment statistics were first compiled almost 100 years ago, long before the so-called "gig" economy existed. If someone, desperate for some cash, starts driving for Lyft or GrubHub or DoorDash or Uber 20 hours a week, doing a job that comes without benefits or, really, a living wage, are they now employed? Certainly, they are not nearly as employed as someone with a full-time job and health insurance, and yet both situations are treated the same by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Beyond that, unemployment rate has always had a problem accounting for people who grew so disheartened (or so old) that they simply gave up and stopped looking for a job. This is one of the major reasons that unemployment figures for the Great Depression are ballpark figures, at best.

  • And finally, and possibly most importantly, unemployment figures tell us nothing about wages and/or the wage gap between high-earning individuals and those who aren't earning nearly as much. In fact, the Trump tax cut (which is often presented by the President as the "cause" of low unemployment), has flowed mostly to the upper echelons of the corporate ladder, not to the blue-collar folks. The result is that someone who gets a job today is likely to be earning less money, adjusted for inflation, than someone who got a job in the last year of the Obama administration.

These are all, to a greater or lesser extent, mathematical problems. And so, the list does not even include the fact that Trump called the unemployment numbers "fake news" when they were reported under Obama's leadership, but then embraced them as truth as soon as he was president.

In any event, it does not matter when Trump brags about the unemployment numbers, or when we say "wait a minute." What matters is the question that Ronald Reagan asked during each of his successful presidential runs: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" The numbers suggest that, for the majority of Americans, the answer is "no" rather than "yes." This may help explain why the ostensibly booming economy does not appear to be translating into GOP gains in the polls, forcing the Party to turn instead to Supreme Court dogfights and kneeling football players. (Z)

Trump Administration Pulls Out of Iran Treaty

It slipped under the radar—probably not coincidentally—due to the drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh. However, this week, the International Court of Justice ordered the Trump administration to make certain that sanctions against Iran did not stop the supply of food and medicine to those in the country who need it. The administration responded by withdrawing from the 1955 treaty that normalized relations with Iran, and which served as the basis for the Iranians' lawsuit.

The administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking the lead, argues that the treaty was entirely symbolic, and that the U.S. will continue to send aid to Iran, anyhow. If both of those things are true, one wonders why it was necessary to withdraw from the treaty. Folks who do not work for the administration, and who have some expertise in the matter, say that this is another step in the administration's strategy to isolate Iran from the rest of the world. Who knows what long-term impact this will have, but it seems safe to say that it will not increase Trump's odds of taking home that Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. (Z)

This Week's Senate News

As was the case last week, something like two-thirds of all the Senate-related news this week had to do with Brett Kavanaugh, as partisans on each side of the aisle attacked their opponents for their positions on the matter. Here is a rundown of the non-Kavanaugh stories:

  • Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been talking about how he said so many nasty things about Fidel Castro, he's been banned from Cuba. This is an obvious attempt to curry favor with the state's Cuban residents, most of whom hate Castro and vote Republican. The problem is that Nelson has a history of saying things that are a little hard to believe, and a lot hard to prove.

  • Meanwhile, Nelson's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) has embraced a potentially unwise talking point of his own: Poking fun at Nelson's age. Perhaps the Governor has not taken notice, in his eight years in office, that Florida has a very large population of, well, old people.

  • Scott is also being hurt by the poor timing of an environmental disaster, namely an outbreak of "red tide" in Southern Florida—an outbreak of toxic algae that is badly polluting the state's waters. It's not really the Governor's fault, but you know where the buck stops when you're in the big chair.

  • Former VP Joe Biden, who is beloved by blue-collar voters, is campaigning for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). That probably won't hurt in case Biden makes a run of his own in the near future, say, for president.

  • Geoff Diehl (R), in the midst of a longshot bid to unseat Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), is trying to get some mileage out of the fact that the Senator is clearly planning a presidential run in 2020. Anyone in Massachusetts who did not already know that presumably fell off the turnip truck recently.

  • Montana is getting a lot of visits from high-ranking Trump administration members, as they try to help Matt Rosendale (R) knock off Sen. Jon Tester (D). The President has already held several rallies, and VP Mike Pence is there this weekend.

  • A group of prominent black pastors are trying to rally the black vote on behalf of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), by highlighting Republican Bob Hugin's less-than-stellar record when it comes to racial equality.

  • Gary Johnson, who is running as a Libertarian in New Mexico, said that he did not feel cake bakers should be able to discriminate against customers they don't agree with. Republican Mick Rich twisted that into "Johnson would force Jews to bake cakes for Nazis." In short, a poor move by Rich.

  • Jim Renacci (R), who is flailing badly in his campaign against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), got into some trouble this week when it was discovered that the private plane he used to travel to a meeting with religious leaders is the property of...a strip club owner. Jesus did say that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart, but he never clarified if that extends to the jet that the lustful intent paid for.

  • Donald Trump has largely limited his rally appearances to solidly red states. This week, however, he will take a purple state for a spin, when he heads to Pennsylvania to try to save Rep. Lou Barletta (R), who is badly trailing Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in polls.

  • State Rep. Leah Vukmir (R), who is lagging behind Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), may be in hot water for using funds raised for her state campaigns to pay the bills of her federal campaign.

  • A Jewish community center in Virginia was vandalized by people who painted swastikas all over the walls. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) denounced the culprits. His opponent Corey Stewart (R), who has been accused of being anti-Semitic, pointedly chose not to comment. At least he did not say there were good people on both sides.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has his own election in the bag, will be in Iowa campaigning for J.D. Scholten, who is running against Rep. Steve King (R). Perhaps the Senator is deeply concerned with making sure the good people of IA-04 get the right kind of representation, or perhaps he's got some other reason he wants to spend as much time in Iowa as is possible.

  • Arizona has its own version of the Keystone Pipeline debate, with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) and her supporters slamming Rep. Martha McSally for her support for uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which they say will cause un-family friendly pollution and will also disrespect Native American lands.

  • L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti has endorsed Mike Espy (D) in his race against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS). Because if there is one thing that voters in Mississippi ask themselves before pulling the lever, it's "What does the mayor of Los Angeles think?"

  • Phil Bredesen, who has discovered that Tennessee moved to the right since the last time he won a statewide election, is now making clear that if he's elected, he'll be as right-leaning a Democrat as you've ever seen. Strom Thurmond, look out.

Good night, and stay classy, San Diego. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Avenatti

We can't have a frontrunner every week, so this week it's a dark horse. As always, the pros and cons refer to the general election and not the primaries.

  • Name: Michael Avenatti

  • Age on January 20, 2021: 49

  • Background: Born in California, Avenatti's family moved around a fair bit before settling near St. Louis, Missouri, where he went to high school and started his undergraduate education at Saint Louis University. He transferred to Penn as a sophomore, and got his BA there, which means he has the same alma mater as Donald Trump. His law degree is from George Washington, and after graduating from there he joined the high-profile firm O'Melveny & Myers. Throughout his career, Avenatti has represented high-profile and/or celebrity clients, first on behalf of O'Melveny and other law firms, and then on behalf of his own firm, Eagan Avenatti, LLP, founded in 2007. He has spent his entire career based in Los Angeles.

  • Political Experience: None. The closest thing he has is that during his law school years, he worked for The Research Group, an oppo research firm run by future Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

  • Signature Issue(s): Avenatti came to political prominence thanks to his representation of porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford). However, if he were to try to build a campaign around sexual misconduct and/or women's issues, he would be crushed by some of the women candidates (e.g. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) who are doing the same. The area where he actually has distinctive expertise is the proper balance between transparency and national security, having worked with renowned expert Professor Jonathan Turley on the matter while in law school. In other words, if Avenatti actually runs, he might very well spend a lot of time talking about Edward Snowden.

  • Instructive Quote: "When they go low, we hit harder."

  • Completely Trivial Fact: Although the Stormy Daniels matter is the one that everyone knows about, it's not actually the first time Avenatti has sued Donald Trump. Several years ago, Avenatti sued the producers of "The Apprentice" (Mark Burnett and Trump) for stealing the idea for the show from his client. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

  • Recent News: The Democratic Party is none too happy with Avenatti. They regard his "unveiling" of Julie Swetnick as having played right into the Republicans' hands, as her claims were the most dramatic (and difficult to prove), and since he specifically used her to create as much drama as possible. This did not help to affirm the claims made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, and it may have undermined them in some people's eyes.

  • Three Biggest Pros: (1) As Chris Christie demonstrated a little bit (before deciding he needed to start kissing up), there is no kind of opponent that leaves Donald Trump more flummoxed than a street brawler; (2) Avenatti has won over $1 billion in judgments, which means he must be doing something right; and (3) No Democrat is more likely to squeeze a billion dollars' worth of free publicity out of the media, as Trump did in 2016, than Avenatti.

  • Three Biggest Cons: (1) The blue-collar voters who jumped to Trump in 2016 are not likely to see Avenatti as a better version of Trump, but as Trump Lite; (2) Avenatti would be trying to build a very strange kind of coalition—there's a reason nobody has ever used the phrase "Thinking man's populist"; and (3) In over two centuries, Americans never elected a president with zero political or military experience. Are they really likely to do it twice in two elections?

  • Is He Actually Running?: He has certainly said he is thinking about it, though that could just be an effort to drum up publicity for his law practice.

  • Betting Odds: Most books are giving 25-to-1, which means a 4% chance of him getting the nomination.

  • The Bottom Line: Part of the reason that Donald Trump succeeded in 2016 is that he was the black sheep in a field of folks who ended up canceling one another out. If Avenatti somehow gets the Democratic nomination, which is surely much less likely than the betting odds suggest, then it would be the result of a similar dynamic.

You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct06 Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to a Vote
Oct06 Trump Jr. Slams Manchin
Oct06 Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part I
Oct06 No Nobel for Trump
Oct06 Charlie Cook Changes Gubernatorial Ratings in Four Races
Oct05 Senators Begin Processing the FBI Report
Oct05 Kavanaugh Critics Mount Final Push
Oct05 Heitkamp Will Vote against Kavanaugh
Oct05 Kavanaugh Is Closing the Enthusiasm Gap
Oct05 Democrats Will Use Republican Tactics If They Win the House
Oct05 Keith Ellison May Step Down from the DNC
Oct05 Cook Political Report Changes Ratings in 12 Races
Oct05 Today's Senate Polls
Oct04 Swing Senators Condemn Trump over Ford Remarks
Oct04 Right-Leaning Media Work to Discredit Ford
Oct04 Today's Kavanaugh Revelations
Oct04 McConnell Moves Forward With Kavanaugh Vote
Oct04 Trump Probably Won't Be Punished for Tax Offenses
Oct04 Almost Nobody Votes
Oct04 Nobel Peace Prize to Be Announced Today
Oct04 Today's Senate Polls
Oct03 Trump Makes an Explicit Pitch to Men
Oct03 Ford Wants the FBI to Interview Her
Oct03 NYT: Trump is a Tax Cheat
Oct03 Two Attorneys Depart Mueller's Team
Oct03 House Republicans Need Split Personalities to Win
Oct03 The Most Important State Legislature Elections
Oct03 Nelson-Scott Debate Gets Down and Dirty
Oct03 Today's Senate Polls
Oct02 Trump Expands Scope of FBI Probe of Kavanaugh
Oct02 Immovable Object Meets Irresistible Force?
Oct02 Poll: More Americans Believe Ford than Kavanaugh by Small Margin
Oct02 Trump, Rosenstein Will Meet...Eventually?
Oct02 2020 Conventions Are Coming into Focus
Oct02 Congress Might Reject NAFTA 2.0
Oct02 California Passes More Gun Control Laws
Oct02 Today's Senate Polls
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