Dem 50
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Ties 1
GOP 49
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ NV TN
GOP pickups vs. 2012: ND

Trump Administration Considered Helping Overthrow Venezuelan Leader

The U.S. government is none too fond of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Many high-ranking officers in Venezuela are apparently none too fond of Maduro. And, with folks on both sides thinking that there may be room for some sort of partnership, there were several meetings held, some of them in the White House, about a possible U.S.-supported coup, according to reporting from the New York Times. Clearly, since Maduro is still in power, nothing came of the talks.

This sort of thing is not too common these days. There was certainly a time when the U.S. was comfortable clandestinely overthrowing other countries' leaders (see Iran, South Vietnam, Chile, etc.), but that era largely came to an end when President Gerald Ford announced the country would stop doing that. Now, the U.S. either attacks foreign leaders openly (Panama, Iraq, Libya, etc.) or else stays out of it (with Reagan and Nicaragua an obvious exception).

Donald Trump, of course, loves shows of strength, particularly those that he can execute on his own authority, without having to trouble himself with irritating things like...Congress. Odds are pretty good that he's going to have regular need of something to boost his approval ratings and/or create a distraction in the next two years. And the administration has already gone far enough down this path that they were holding meetings in the White House. The upshot is that it would not be the least bit surprising to see this kind of thing happen in the near future, maybe in Venezuela, or possibly in Syria (another leader Trump wants dead), or in any of a half-dozen other countries. Of course, it's also possible that Trump will order a hit on Maduro, or Bashar al-Assad, or Kim Jong-Un, and the "resistance" within the White House will countermand the order. Strange days. (Z)

Apparently, There's Money in Fighting Climate Change

There is a new report out from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. If you are not familiar with that entity, it's a joint project of seven nations—Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom—and its mission is to draw on the expertise of both political leaders and scientists to understand how climate change and the economy interact. The new report reaches some stunning conclusions, namely that a vigorous fight against climate change would generate $26 trillion in economic benefits in the next 12 years, create more than 65 million new jobs worldwide, and—by the way—avoid 700,000 premature deaths.

Anyone who follows politics knows that when it comes to climate change, the GOP is the party of "What? Me Worry?" and the Democrats are the party of "The sky is falling." The latter stance keeps the environmentalists happy, but has clearly not had much impact on blue-collar voters, many of whom have been told that climate change is a trick, or that it will take away their jobs. If the blue team latches onto the findings of this report, and can somehow craft a message that is concurrently about environmentalism and about economic growth and job creation, that could be a potent combination, indeed. (Z)

Maybe the Author of the Op-ed Was...Jon Huntsman

We're four days in, and everyone inside the White House and out, excepting a half-dozen or so New York Times editors, is trying to guess who wrote the op-ed slamming Donald Trump. Mike Pence remains a popular guess, with insider-until-recently Omarosa Manigault Newman coming out on Friday and adding her vote to his tally. Others have made the case for Jared Kushner, Larry Kudlow, John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway, James Mattis, Kelly and Mattis, or even a team of authors. The Washington Post has a pretty good rundown of all the possible candidates, along with "why it is" and "why it isn't" for each.

That said, the most compelling of the whodunnit pieces is definitely the one written by Slate's William Saletan, who thinks the author is Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman. It's really worth reading the whole thing, but here are the main arguments:

  • Like Huntsman, the anonymous author loves conservative policies, but hates low character
  • The op-ed spends much time on the intricacies of Russia policy, which is, of course, Huntsman's area
  • Similarly, there are details about Trump's interactions with Vlad Putin that not everyone would know
  • Huntsman and Trump have definitely dueled over the administration's approach to Russia
  • Huntsman's denial (which every suspect has issued, by now) leaves a lot of wiggle room
  • The Ambassador is very establishment, and was never a Trump guy
  • The author loved John McCain, and so does Huntsman, who considered the Senator his mentor
  • There are linguistic clues aplenty, particularly in several of the unusual word choices, like "malign" instead of "malignant," "amoral" instead of "immoral," "worst inclinations" instead of "worst tendencies," and a handful or others. Saletan documents that each of the unorthodox word choices are a regular part of Huntsman's public record. Further, unlike Mike Pence's "lodestar," they are subtle enough that a copycat would not likely catch on to them.

Overall, it's a very impressive analysis.

White House staff insist that they are close to ferreting out the mole, so maybe we will find out sometime this week who it is. On the other hand, this is the same staff who insisted that record-breaking crowds showed up for Donald Trump's inauguration, so maybe we won't. Meanwhile, for those who do not like a mystery, The Onion has also published an anonymous op-ed on Trump. The author of that one is a little more guessable. (Z)

Roy Moore Sues Sacha Baron Cohen

British actor, comedian, and provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen earned great fame from conducting awkward interviews with real people (often politicians). His shtick was that he was playing a character—moronic chav Ali G, naive-but-bigoted Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev, or flamboyantly gay fashionista Brüno Gehard—but the interview subjects did not know it was a character, and so became the butt of the joke when they grew flustered (or angry) as a result of Cohen's outlandish questioning. All three characters, in turn, became the subjects of feature-length movies, the most successful (and outrageous) of which was 2006's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Thereafter, the three characters were so famous they had to be retired, because it was not possible to fool interview subjects any more.

For five or six years, Cohen cooled his jets and worked mostly on projects using his own name and identity. Recently, however, he invented new fake characters, and started a new show for Showtime called "Who Is America?" And for that show, former judge and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore was booked to be interviewed and given an award by "Gen. Erran Morad," who is ostensibly an Israeli anti-terrorism expert, but is really—of course—Cohen in heavy makeup. The central gag of the interview involved "Morad" showing Moore some of the new gadgets that have been invented by the Israeli military, including a "pedophile detector," and then becoming confused when said detector kept going off whenever placed near Moore. Here's the clip:

Eventually, Moore stormed off the set. And this week, he sued Cohen, Showtime, and Showtime's parent company CBS for slander and $95 million in damages. There is, of course, no chance that Moore will win. In fact, there is almost no chance this even goes to trial. Among the reasons: (1) Cohen is a veteran at this, and has people sign extensive waivers before being pranked; (2) The show is a work of satire, which affords broad First Amendment protections; (3) Moore is a public figure, which also broadens the First Amendment protections; and (4) Truth is an absolute defense against slander, and if Moore were to actually take this to court, opposing counsel may cross-examine him in great detail about his relationship with Debbie Wesson Gibson, attempting to establish that he is indeed a pedophile.

Given that Moore is not in office now, and figures to be out of office for the rest of his life, why do we mention this story? It's not to illustrate that Moore is dumb, even though he clearly is if he thinks there really is such a thing as a pedophile detector. Nor is it to try to answer the question that apparently still lingers in Donald Trump's mind, namely why Moore lost his Senate election.

No, the purpose in pointing this out is this: Moore and Trump have much in common, personality-wise. That includes a tendency to make enemies, an inability to ignore slights, an itchy trigger finger when it comes to filing lawsuits, and a love of attention. At the moment, the President's penchant for using lawsuits to avenge himself against those who anger him is being checked by the fact that, well, he's the president. But once he's out of office, that will no longer be true, and there's every reason to expect that he is going to behave just as Moore has, firing off lawsuits as a way of venting his anger and frustration (and, as a benefit, keeping his name in the headlines). In other words, this seems to be a pretty good preview of what an ex-president Trump will behave like. (Z)

This Week's Senate News

The Senate news is coming fast and furious these days. Here's our roundup of this week's big stories:

  • Kevin de León (D) thinks that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was too nice to SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and is trying to score some points with Democratic voters by pointing that out.

  • Chris Murphy (D-CT) wants to grill Betsy DeVos about exactly what she thinks when it comes to arming teachers. Given her "deer in a headlights" posture when being cross-examined, she presumably would not do well under such scrutiny.

  • Murphy's challenger, Matthew Corey, has little hope of victory, and even less money. So, he's trying to use the same playbook that GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis used in Florida, and persuade conservative media to give him lots and lots of free publicity.

  • A conservative group has filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) declaring that the Senator lied when he said the Russians got involved with Florida's elections, and that he should be punished.

  • Nelson's opponent, Gov. Rick Scott (R), starts a 10-day bus tour through Florida today. The campaign created a minor controversy when it tried to hide the first stop on the tour, a visit to a donut shop. The shop is located in Walton County, where the governor is not very popular due to having signed a law that makes it easier to restrict access to public beaches. Keeping the media in the dark was an attempt to forestall protests.

  • VP Mike Pence is doing everything he can to help Mike Braun (R) unseat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IA), which includes holding campaign rallies, and recording a new ad that hammers Donnelly.

  • Geoff Diehl (R) is making his love of Donald Trump the centerpiece of his campaign (and, indeed, the only thing he talks about). That is a winning strategy in some states, but not in Massachusetts, where even the Republican officeholders (e.g., Gov. Charlie Baker) hold the President at arm's length.

  • Karin Housley (R) thinks she's run a good enough campaign against Sen. Tina Smith (DFL-MN) that the GOP muckety-mucks should send some money her way. It's looking like the muckety-mucks don't agree.

  • Housley, who has the good luck to be married to a hockey hall of famer (Phil Housley) in a state where hockey is very popular, is now using him in campaign ads.

  • Donald Trump headed to Montana this week to try to help Republican Matt Rosendale unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D), and also to North Dakota to try to help Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D). He will visit Missouri next week to try to help Republican Josh Hawley unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), and Mississippi to try to help Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R).

  • Meanwhile, Jim Renacci, who is in much worse shape than Rosendale, Cramer, Hawley, or Hyde-Smith as he tries to knock off Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), couldn't get the President and had to settle for Donald Trump Jr.

  • Conservative media are having a field day with the fact that Hillary Clinton (who has been the subject of unending accusations of corruption) will be campaigning this week for New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez (who is legitimately corrupt).

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who is (probably rightly) convinced he's got this in the bag, is now spending much of his time campaigning for Democrats running for Congress in Virginia's Republican districts.

  • Some Senate candidates are not quite sure what the main theme of their campaign will be, even at this late date. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is not among them; his pitch is going to be health care, health care, and more health care. In a state where many coal miners have lung diseases related to their work, this could be a winner.

  • Manchin's opponent, Patrick Morrisey (R), has also picked his main theme: Businesses should be allowed to discriminate against gay people.

  • It is now generally understood in Arizona that if Martha McSally (R) is defeated by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the race for Sen. Jeff Flake's seat, placeholder Jon Kyl (R) will step down, and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will appoint McSally to the seat. That could aggravate voters who find that arrangement a little swampy: The governor appointing a senator the voters have just rejected.

  • (Usually) conservative columnist George Will penned a piece this week suggesting that Democrat Mike Espy could possibly win in Mississippi, and giving support to that outcome.

  • Democrat Jane Raybould, whose flagging campaign against Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) is reaching "desperate times call for desperate measures" status, implied this week that the Senator's net worth is on the rise because she is on the take.

  • In a closed-door meeting with Republican pooh-bahs, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney declared that "likability still counts," which is why Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) might well lose his reelection bid. Ouch.

There you have it. Good night, and good luck. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Elizabeth Warren

This week, it's another one of the presumed favorites for the Democratic nomination. Of course, with a field this large and this amorphous, there are quite a number of presumed favorites.

Elizabeth Warren
  • Full Name: Elizabeth Ann Warren

  • Age on January 20, 2021: 71

  • Background: Born and raised in Oklahoma, Warren grew up quite poor, and witnessed firsthand her parents' setbacks. Most notably, her father had a heart attack when she was 12, and the resulting medical bills and lengthy period of unemployment nearly broke the family, during which time their car was repossessed by the bank, and their house almost got the same treatment. Nonetheless, Warren became a star student and a champion debater. She won a scholarship to George Washington University, but dropped out after two years to marry and start a family. Moving around the country as a result of her first husband's job transfers, she eventually completed her undergraduate education at the University of Houston, and then took her J.D. at Rutgers. After practicing law out of her home for a few years, she transitioned into a very successful academic career that culminated in a tenured position at Harvard Law. During her time there, she was the only member of the law school faculty to have a degree from a public law school. She published widely, but was particularly known for her work on bankruptcy.

  • Political Experience: During her years as an academic, Warren was an activist and an advisor to various politicians and political committees, most notably serving as chair of the Congressionally-appointed committee that oversaw TARP. In 2010, the death of Ted Kennedy triggered a special election, and the idiosyncratic electorate that showed up to vote chose Scott Brown (R), a fairly poor fit for Massachusetts. Warren emerged as a prominent Brown critic, announced her intention to challenge him, and came to national attention thanks to a viral video in which she declared that the rich benefit enormously from things like roads and educated workers, and so it is apropos for them to pay their fair share in taxes. She easily unseated Brown in 2012, and is now in the midst of her first reelection campaign.

  • Signature Issue(s): Warren is one of the foremost anti-Trump leaders in the country, and that will be the centerpiece of any campaign she runs from now until the end of time. In terms of policy, however, her signature issue is financial regulation. She is a vocal critic of Wall Street's excesses and bad behavior and played a key role in the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Instructive Quote: "You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads that the rest of us paid for. You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for."

  • Completely Trivial Fact: Warren's refusal to be silent during Jeff Sessions' AG confirmation hearings aggravated Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and caused him to issue a statement explaining that she had been told to take her seat, and "nevertheless, she persisted." This ill-considered turn of phrase caused Warren to become something of a feminist icon, along the lines of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka, the Notorious RBG). Consequently, you can buy your Elizabeth Warren action figures here.

  • Recent News: After the publication of the anonymous New York Times op-ed this week, Warren was probably the loudest voice insisting that the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment. She is not on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and so was undoubtedly disappointed that she didn't get a chance to take her shots at SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but she did issue a statement approving of Sen. Cory Booker's (D-NJ) decision to leak confidential Senate documents that reveal some of the Judge's views on race.

  • Three Biggest Pros: (1) Unlike many leading Democratic candidates (ahem, Sherrod Brown and Amy Klobuchar), Warren is extremely telegenic; (2) She has a progressive outlook, but is also pragmatic and has managed to get things done, so she just might be able to unify the Sanders and Clinton wings of the Democratic Party; and (3) The suburban women who helped power Trump to victory may find it easier to jump ship to Warren than to a Bernie Sanders or a Joe Biden.

  • Three Biggest Cons: (1) If the Democrats nominate a feminist, pointy-headed academic from liberal Massachusetts, the white, working class men aren't coming back; (2) Donald Trump thinks she's going to be the candidate, and so has spent a lot of time poisoning the well against her (most obviously with his oft-repeated "Pocahontas" slur); and (3) When the Democratic rank and file learn she used to vote Republican, it could surprise and upset some of them.

  • Is She Actually Running?: Warren said she is committed to serving out her full second term in the Senate if reelected, but folks who are focused on "this" election often say such things and then conveniently forget them in time for the next election. Given her age, and her outspoken anti-Trumpness, it's either 2020 or bust for her presidential hopes, and she knows it. So yes, she's running.

  • Betting Odds: She's getting between 15/2 and 9/2, which implies a 12% to 18% chance of securing the nomination.

  • The Bottom Line: Those odds may be underselling Warren a little bit, actually. Both Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are getting better odds, and yet that pair each seem to have considerably more serious liabilities than Warren does. In any event, she's taken Trump's best shots, and hasn't faded, so she's going to remain among the frontrunners going into 2020 primary season.

The list of candidate profiles can be accessed 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
Sep08 President vs. President
Sep08 Trump Wants Sessions to Find the Author of the Times Op-ed
Sep08 Trump-Mueller Situation Likely to Reach its Denouement Soon
Sep08 George Papadopoulos Gets a Sentence of 14 days
Sep08 By All Indications, Trade War with China Is a Go
Sep08 Kavanaugh Looks to Be in the Clear
Sep08 Trump Makes a Strange Endorsement
Sep07 The Molehunt Continues
Sep07 Who Was It? (Day 2)
Sep07 Soft Coups in American History
Sep07 Delaware Goes to the Polls
Sep07 Booker's 2020 Strategy: When They Go Low, We Go Lower
Sep07 House Republican Leadership Wants to Punish Members Who Buck Them
Sep07 Trump Could Hit China with New Tariffs Soon
Sep07 Today's Senate Polls
Sep06 Anonymous, Insider New York Times Op-Ed Slams Trump
Sep06 Witch Hunt Becomes Mole Hunt
Sep06 Delaware Votes Today
Sep06 How Are the Endangered Senate Democrats Doing?
Sep06 Politico Predicts Every House and Senate Race
Sep06 The Republicans' New Weapon: Football
Sep06 Today's Senate Polls
Sep05 We Are Going Live Today
Sep05 What We Have to Offer
Sep05 New Woodward Book Is Brutal for Trump
Sep05 Massachusetts Goes to the Polls
Sep05 Former Senator Jon Kyl Appointed to McCain's Seat
Sep05 Kavanaugh Hearings Even More Theatrical Than Expected
Sep05 North Carolina Will Use Gerrymandered Map in November
Sep05 Generic Poll: Democrats Up by 14 Points
Sep05 Today's Senate Polls
Sep04 Trump Lashes Out at Sessions
Sep04 Giuliani Is Already Well-Prepared for Mueller's Report
Sep04 Kobach to Be Investigated By Grand Jury
Sep04 New Yorker Tells Steve Bannon to Join, Get Lost
Sep04 Kavanaugh Hearings Get Underway Today
Sep04 GOP Candidates Hit Democrats on Tax Votes
Sep04 Democrats Hit Back on Pre-Existing Conditions
Sep03 Trump Proclaims Himself to be Pro-Labor, Labor Advocates Disagree
Sep03 Trump to Rally for Cruz
Sep03 Obama Gets Ready to Hit the Road
Sep03 New York to Sue Trump
Sep03 Mollie Tibbetts' Father: Stop Politicizing Her Death
Sep03 Nunes, Denham Can Call Themselves Farmers, Says Judge
Sep03 John McCain Laid to Rest
Sep02 McCain's Memorial Service Is All About Trump
Sep02 Steele, Ohr Tried to Flip Deripaska
Sep02 White House Denies 100,000 Pages of Kavanaugh Records
Sep02 Gillum Targeted by Racist Robocall
Sep02 This Week's Senate News