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GOP 53
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PW logo Trump May Answer Mueller Questions Post-Election
Quote of the Day
Many In Pittsburgh Want Trump to Stay Away
Trump Goes All In on Florida
White House Struggles to Balance Attacks and Empathy
McAdams Widens Lead Over Love In Utah

Fallout from Synagogue Shooting Continues

The big story of the day, and the week, is the terrorist attack on Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by white supremacist Robert Bowers, who told police on Sunday that what he really wanted was for all Jews to die. He now faces 29 charges, and won't be seeing the outside of a jail cell for the rest of his life. His part in the story is all but over, except for the sentencing (surely his state-appointed attorneys won't let this go to trial). The political fallout, on the other hand, is just beginning.

To start with, the White House is in full damage-control mode. That, in and of itself, implies an awareness of guilt, since they have not responded in this way after other mass shootings. In any event, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is using the same line she used after it turned out the MAGA Bomber was, indeed, a MAGA bomber. That line is that "The president is certainly not responsible for [sending suspicious packages]/[a shooting at a synagogue], any more than Bernie Sanders was for a supporter shooting up a baseball practice." Perhaps that seems reasonable on the surface, since it is true that Bernie Sanders cannot reasonably be blamed if one of his supporters goes postal. The difference, of course, is that Sanders did nothing to encourage the shooting. He's not even particularly strident in his anti-GOP rhetoric (inasmuch as he was running more against the Democratic establishment), and he certainly never embraced violence of any sort, particularly directed at his opponents. Trump, on the other hand, has regularly embraced violence in general, and also violence directed toward specific people (most obviously the Clintons). The line between his rhetoric and the actions of Cesar Sayoc (MAGA bomber) and Bowers is straight and clear.

It is very unlikely, of course, that any president would accept blame for violence that he might have helped to foment (in part because presidents are generally pretty careful not to say things that might foment violence). It is particularly unlikely—and we're talking looking up in the sky and seeing a flock of flying pigs, unicorns, dragons unlikely—that Trump would ever accept any responsibility. What is at least possible, however, is that he might tone it down a bit, maybe until after the elections, or maybe even permanently. But even that is pretty unlikely, and—of course—it has not happened. After Democratic donor (and possible presidential candidate) Tom Steyer sat for an interview with CNN on Sunday, Trump ripped into him:

This would be the same Tom Steyer who was a target of one of Sayoc's bombs. So, not only is Trump not going to tone it down, he's not even going to give the actual victims of the various acts of violence a temporary free pass.

Trump isn't the only one who saw no need to cool it, despite recent events. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sent out, and then eventually deleted, this tweet:

McCarthy tweet

As you can see, the tweet was sent last Wednesday, by which time it was already known that Soros had been targeted by the MAGA bomber. And McCarthy didn't just send it, he pinned it to the top of his timeline. Soros isn't even in the top five Democratic donors this year, but he has long been a Republican bugbear. It wasn't until the synagogue shooting that McCarthy deleted the tweet, probably because one of his staffers pointed out to him that Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg are all Jewish. Kissing up to Trump (and to the less-than-enlightened elements of the base) is nice, but McCarthy has aspirations of replacing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the leader of House Republicans, and he probably concluded the tweet will do him more harm than good on that front.

Meanwhile, the blowback against Trump and the Republicans is also underway. The usual suspects (e.g., Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer) have already issued critical statements. On Sunday, the leaders of Pittsburgh's Jewish community joined the chorus, penning a letter that reads, in part:

Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday's massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.

They also suggested that Trump follow the example of former resident and local hero Mr. Rogers, and advised that the President is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism. Which means, presumably, that he will never again be welcome in Pittsburgh.

And finally, the really bad news is this. As CNN's Stephen Collinson points out, violence against Jews is often just the opening act for acts of violence against other minority groups. In just the last week, in addition to Jews, it's been black folks and the politicians that Trump does not like. Nobody will be surprised if a Latino community, or a Muslim mosque, or a gay pride parade is up next, and in close order. (Z & V)

Half a Dozen Cabinet Officers Could Leave after the Elections

Politico is reporting that sources have said to expect up to half a dozen departures from the cabinet after the midterms. This is in addition to the eight officials who have already left the cabinet, making it the least stable cabinet in history. The expected departures include:

  • U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (already announced)
  • AG Jeff Sessions
  • Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis
  • Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke
  • Sec. of Commerce Wilbur Ross
  • Sec. of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen

Allies of Donald Trump have said that the replacements will not be chosen for their expertise with respect to the work they are supposed to do, but for how valuable they will be for Trump's reelection campaign. One source said: "Trump wants the strongest possible A-team going into 2020." The only catch here is that installing cronies rather than competent administrators in so many cabinet slots is likely to lead to more scandals as the cronies take advantage of their new powers.

Some of the departures will be because the president fired them, but others will go of their own free will, especially if the Democrats win the House. Few are enthusiastic about being hauled before House committees and grilled relentlessly on television about their policies, missteps, and ethically questionable moves.

One consequence of so many departures, especially involuntary ones, is that the departee may share his or her views of the administration with the media. Some may even try to cash in by writing a tell-all book. While there have been numerous books about the administration already, a cabinet officer has more insight into what is actually going on than a reporter, and also more credibility.

Trump will (probably) nominate new people for the ensuing vacancies, but confirmation is far from certain. If the Democrats take the Senate, getting anyone confirmed will be a task right up there with Hercules cleaning out the Augean stables. But even if the Republicans hang onto the Senate, especially if they hold only 51 or 52 seats, there could be monumental battles if Republican senators up in 2020 don't want to be seen as Trump's toadies. (V)

Whatever Happens in the Midterms, GOP Is Going to Get More Extreme

New York magazine's Jonathan Chait has written a piece that makes an interesting observation, albeit one that is pretty obvious when one pauses to consider it for a moment. Namely, that whether the GOP gains or loses ground on November 6, the Party is going to become more extreme.

The first scenario is that there is no blue wave, and the Republicans hold their current majority or pick up seats. In that case, the result will be interpreted, from Donald Trump on down, as a vindication of Trumpism and the current GOP approach to governance. There will be even more end runs around democratic norms, more attacks on the media and on key left-wing figures, and an even fuller investment in "alternative" facts.

The second scenario is that the Democrats gain ground on November 6. In that case, most of the Republicans who are sent packing (or, who have already sent themselves packing by virtue of announcing their retirements) will be old guard GOP types and/or moderates. The folks who will survive will be in red to deep-red districts and/or states (i.e., Trump country). Many of those will owe a debt to Trump, having been aided by him on the campaign trail (or, at very least, having adopted his political program and rhetoric). Meanwhile, a Congress run by the blue team will be a constant target for Trump, et al., on Twitter and television, just as many of his other targets (e.g., Barack Obama) have grown a little stale.

The article speaks in broad terms, and does not delve into any specific circumstances, but there are at least a couple of those worth noting. First, Paul Ryan is sailing off into the sunset on January 3. Although he's pretty far out of the mainstream on taxes and fiscal policy, he has otherwise been a moderating influence. His likeliest successor, as either speaker or minority leader, depending on what happens, is Kevin McCarthy, who long ago booked first-class passage on the S.S. Trump (see above). Also, the loss of some or all of the moderating cabinet members (see above) will also serve to enable Trump's worst tendencies. In short, if you think the last two years have been ugly, it's possible you ain't seen nothin' yet. (Z)

Voter Enthusiasm Is Sky High

The closer we get to the election, the more voters who decide that they might just want to pay attention to what happens on November 6. Consequently, it is not too surprising that NBC News' latest poll shows that we are reaching historic levels on that front, with nearly two-thirds of voters saying that they have "high interest" in the midterms. NBC also notes that early voting is up, too, with 8,156,995 people having cast ballots so far, compared with 7,924,753 at this point in 2016 (a presidential year, which would typically far outpace a midterm year).

Generally speaking, we would expect this trend to favor Democrats, since they historically have more difficulty getting people excited, and to the polls, in midterm season. For what it is worth, the closest recent parallel to this year, enthusiasm-wise, is 2006. In that year, about 60% of voters had "high interest," and a significant blue wave swept a sizable number of GOP members of Congress out of office, and netted the blue team 6 seats in the Senate and 31 in the House. The former isn't going to happen this year, but the latter is well within the realm of possibility. (Z)

Democrats Raise More in October, but Republicans Have More Cash on Hand

The parties have now filed their initial reports for the period of Oct. 1-17 with the FEC. The DNC, DSCC, DCCC and related super PACs raised $83 million in the reporting period, compared to $74 million for the RNC, NRSC and NRCC. On the other hand, the Democrats are burning through their money faster than the Republicans. The blue team had $108 million for the final 3 weeks compared to the $140 million the red team had. Of course, fundraising is still continuing, and tends to pick up in the final stretch.

Democrats benefited from a $20 million donation that former New York City mayor and perennial not-quite candidate Michael Bloomberg gave to the Senate Democrats. They also got a nice $3 million from Bain Capital co-chairman Joshua Bekenstein. Bain Capital is Mitt Romney's old firm. Times change. On the Republican side, Charles Schwab and his wife gave $10 million. Stephen Schwarzman, Paul Singer, and Paul Foster also gave the GOP large donations.

Bloomberg News has collected the cash-on-hand numbers for the most contested Senate and House races. Here are the Senate numbers:

Senate cash on hand

In the nine races Charlie Cook lists as toss-ups, Democrats lead in Florida, Indiana, Montana, and Texas. Republicans have more in the bank in Arizona, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee. The article linked to above also gives the financial leader in over 100 House races. (V)

Factors that Could Determine Who Wins the Missouri Senate Race

One of the closest Senate races, and very possibly the closest, is the one between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Missouri AG Josh Hawley (R). The race is too close to call and could be determined by these five factors:

  • Is McCaskill too liberal for increasingly conservative Missouri?
  • The Trump factor
  • Can McCaskill maintain a strong lead among women?
  • Hawley's lawsuit to repeal Obamacare
  • Education and race

All of these are important, but poll after poll has said that health care is the #1 topic for most voters. Hawley has joined a lawsuit filed by over a dozen Republican attorneys general to have the Supreme Court declare that Obamacare violates the Constitution. McCaskill is pounding him on this, and it is the kind of kitchen table issue that could motivate working-class whites who like Trump, but like having health insurance even more, to pull the lever for her. The race has been very tight all along, as you can see here, with McCaskill having a tiny lead much of the time, but always well within the margin of error.

Missouri Senate race

In the end, it could go either way. (V)

Monday Q & A

Today, it's a diverse group of questions. Let's jump right in:

I am curious, when did the colors red and blue become so commonly tied to the two major American political parties? Particularly, when did it become common in American culture to not only label a state as red or blue (with phrases like "that's a red state")? And when did awareness of the political leanings of a particular state become common knowledge? S.S., Walnut Creek, CA

Let's start with the last question first, since that is the one whose answer stretches furthest back in time. In short, there has never been a time since the United States was formed that people who followed politics were not aware of the political slant of each state. Recall, for example, that the "Federalist Papers" were written specifically because the three authors (John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton) were worried that New York (which was left-leaning, even then) would not ratify the Constitution.

As to presenting states in red vs. blue, there's a certain underlying logic there. Namely that you want two colors that are pretty far apart from each other on the color wheel (for maximum visual effectiveness), and red and blue is the pairing that fits the description while also both being among the national colors of the United States (and of some other Western democracies). So, as soon as color printing became technically feasible (in the 1860s and 1870s), red and blue state maps soon followed. They were particularly common during what was probably the most closely-contested presidential election of the Gilded Age, namely Stephen Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

Because red is the color of communism, European countries developed the habit in the 19th century of using red to mean "liberal/left-wing" and blue to mean "conservative/right-wing," and the habit quickly made its way across the pond. In the 1940s and 1950s, however, the red-communist association meant that some news outlets became concerned with encouraging bias against the Democrats. So, some of them adopted the convention that red meant "the incumbent" and blue meant "the challenger." Once the red scare had waned a bit, some outlets went back to the red/Democrat, blue/Republican convention, others stayed with red/incumbent, blue/challenger.

The current situation took hold over a very short time in November of 2000. In that fateful year, it was necessary for news stations to display the map for many days in a row, thanks to Bush v. Gore, as opposed to just on the night of the election. That noted bastion of hard-hitting reporting, "The Today Show," decided that they would use red for Republicans and blue for Democrats on their map as they discussed the ongoing situation each day. They are on in the morning, of course, and other stations and programs followed their lead so there would be consistency throughout the day. That means that it was in the 2002 midterms and 2004 presidential election that "red state" and "blue state" came into use as everyday terms in political discussions.

Why do third parties such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party put so much effort and money into winning higher-level offices like the presidency, governorships, and Senate seats? Wouldn't they have more success at the local level, especially in places where Democrats or Republicans are barely active at all and sometimes don't even bother to field a candidate? And why don't two or more minor parties team up to work on shared issues? Even Greens and Libertarians presumably agree on some issues such as ballot access and marijuana legalization? E.W., Cazenovia, NY

The answer here may sound a little snarky or dismissive, but it really is the correct answer.

Anyhow, evidence shows that when people join third parties, they do not do so because they hope or expect to win elections, but because they wish to make a statement. Statements are loudest when made in high-profile elections, not in the race for county dogcatcher.

As to various third parties working together to achieve their goals, 3% of the voting public plus 3% of the voting public still only equals 6%. Further, the kinds of folks who are willing to subordinate some of their goals in order to achieve others generally just join one of the major parties.

If Trump is impeached by the House but the Senate fails to convict, can he be re-tried by the House on the same charges in hopes of conviction the second time around (say, if he's reelected in 2020 but the Democrats gain control of the Senate). Or does double jeopardy also apply to this situation? D.B., Kirkland, WA

Since only two presidents have been impeached, and none have been convicted, and since the Constitution is pretty vague on the matter, this is one of the fuzziest areas of law extant. So, there is no clear answer to your question.

That said, if the Democrats tried to impeach Trump on the exact same charges twice, the matter would certainly go to the Supreme Court, which would probably decide in Trump's favor, 5-4. The folks running the Democratic Party are clever enough that, to avoid even the possibility of being shut down, they would just impeach him for something different. It's not like they have a shortage of things to choose from.

Assuming she ran, what would Michelle Obama's chances be of (1) winning the Democratic presidential nomination, and (2) winning the presidency? D.B., U.K.

She would be an overwhelming favorite to take the Democratic nomination, since no person eligible for the presidency can more reasonably claim the mantle of Barack Obama and can hope to rebuild his coalition more than his wife. Further, she's been under the microscope for eight years, so there are no skeletons in the closet to turn up and complicate matters. If she were to declare, most of the field would likely drop out and turn their eye toward 2024 or 2028.

Would she win? The odds are very good, although Trumpism was and is very much prompted by a backlash against everything that an educated black man represents. An educated black woman would generate an even stronger backlash, presumably. So, it would be an ugly election, which is certainly part of the reason she says she's out.

Now, has the wife of a former president ever run for the top job herself? Actually, amazingly enough, one once did and got more votes than anybody else running, but she didn't get enough electoral votes.

With regards to our "Founding Fathers," who among them had the greatest influence in shaping how the government was created? Did any of them anticipate that the country would expand so much both geographically and population-wise in 200 years? What would they think in general of the United States nowadays? K.H., Finland

The easy answer to that question is James Madison, who arrived in Philadelphia having spent months in the study of governments, present and past, and of political philosophy in general. He took a leading role in the discussions, and was responsible for drafting more of the Constitution than anyone else, such that he is generally regarded as its author. Give a tip of the cap to Thomas Jefferson, who had nothing to do with the Constitution (he was in Paris the whole time), but whose primary authorship of the Declaration of Independence and whose "Notes on the State of Virginia" exerted a profound influence on the fellows who did work on the Constitution.

That said, in the Constitution the Founding Parents actually spent most of their time on the legislative branch and how it would work. They provided the bare outlines for the executive branch, and trusted that George Washington would figure everything out. He did, so he should also be on the list in terms of the Parents with the greatest influence.

And then there is the judiciary, which was the ugly stepchild of the other two branches until the early 1800s, and was not a particular area of concern for Madison, Washington, or any of the others in Philadelphia. It was John Marshall, chief justice from 1801-35, who made his branch coequal with the others, thanks to a number of assertive decisions (some would call them power grabs). Most notable among these was Marbury v. Madison, in which the Court claimed the power of judicial review, and nobody said "boo." John Marshall was not a part of writing the Declaration or the Constitution (though he did play a role in persuading Virginia to adopt the latter), so he's not always considered a Founding Father. But that's a somewhat arbitrary distinction, and he's certainly Founding Father-adjacent, if he wasn't one himself. Both figuratively and literally, actually—Tom Jefferson was his cousin (even though they hated each other).

As to your final questions, there is zero chance they could have foreseen the 2018 version of America. Just to give one piece of evidence, when Jefferson secured the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, he predicted it would be more than enough land for 75 generations of Americans. We are approximately 11 generations past that, having added an even larger piece of land after Louisiana (the Mexican cession plus Texas and the Gadsden Purchase), so he was way, way off.

And trying to figure out what the Founding Parents would think today is more a task for the writers of alternative history than it is for historians. Certainly there is much that would blow their minds, from the Internet to women voting to the fact that the largest state today was, for them, almost as remote and inhospitable as the moon. In fact, it's possible your question was prompted, at least in part, by this tweet that has achieved meme status this week:

Why do you not have very much on the House of Representatives in terms of data, graphs, polls, and the like? It seems like you don't follow those elections as closely. G.C., New York

Our model is based on polling data, and polling data is sporadic or nonexistent for most of the races. We tried it once, and it just didn't work very well. And because we are a two-man operation (aided by a small supporting cast), doing a more focused seat-by-seat analysis (like Charlie Cook does) is not really viable. Besides, Cook and Larry Sabato and a few others are already doing a fine job at it.

If you have a question you'd like to ask, please send it to For more explanation, and an archive of Q & As, click here.

Today's Senate Polls

Kyrsten Sinema probably has a small lead in Arizona, but Florida and Indiana continue to be nail biters. Mike Braun is up 3 points in Indiana today, but that is probably just noise as previous polls have shown it to be closer, usually with Donnelly up ever so slightly. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 47% Martha McSally 44% Oct 23 Oct 26 YouGov
Florida Bill Nelson* 46% Rick Scott 46% Oct 23 Oct 26 YouGov
Indiana Joe Donnelly* 43% Mike Braun 46% Oct 23 Oct 26 YouGov

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct28 Terrorist Attack on Pittsburgh Synagogue
Oct28 CNN, Cook Political Report Update House Ratings, Mostly in Democrats' Direction
Oct28 Keith Ellison Is Flailing
Oct28 Gas Tax Hail Mary Is Falling Flat for California GOP
Oct28 This Week's Senate News
Oct28 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Terry McAuliffe
Oct27 Bombing Suspect Arrested
Oct27 Trump Is Worried about a Florida Wipeout
Oct27 Trump to Hold Rallies in Eight States before Election Day
Oct27 Newt Gingrich Says What Everyone Was Thinking
Oct27 There Are Obstacles to Voting in Many States
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Oct27 Today's Senate Polls
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Oct26 China May Be Ready to Play the Long Game
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Oct26 Voting Against Brett Kavanaugh, for Fun and Profit
Oct26 Alaska Gone Wild
Oct26 Avenatti Runs Another Play from the Trump Playbook
Oct26 Today's Senate Polls
Oct25 American Politics Almost Turns Explosive
Oct25 When Trump Calls His Friends, the Phone Rings in Russia and China, Too
Oct25 Takeaways from the Georgia Gubernatorial Debate
Oct25 Rick Scott against the Pollsters
Oct25 The Races That Will Determine The Democrats' 2020 Strategy
Oct25 Oprah Is Running for President...on Facebook
Oct25 Thursday Q & A
Oct25 Today's Senate Polls
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Oct24 New House Poll of Battlegrounds Shows It to Be Very Close
Oct24 What Happens the Day After?
Oct24 Trump Quietly Prepares for Bad Election News
Oct24 Virginia Is the Election-Night Bellwether
Oct24 Iowa Democrats Fume at Ballot Change
Oct24 Pro-Trump Farmers Are Being Sorely Tested
Oct24 Today's Senate Polls
Oct23 Trump Says U.S. Will Increase Nuclear Stockpile
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Oct23 Secret Service Broke up Kelly-Lewandowski Fight
Oct23 Gubernatorial Polling Shows Democratic Gains
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Oct23 Avenatti Ordered to Pay $4.8 Million
Oct23 Today's Senate Polls
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