Dem 47
image description
Ties 1
GOP 52
image description
New polls: AZ FL IN MO ND TN TX
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NV
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IN ND

Trump Signs Order Allowing Sanctions on Countries that Interfere with U.S. Elections

In a surprise move, Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring the intelligence community to report within 45 days after an election whether any foreign governments attacked the election's integrity in any way. Then the report goes to the Depts. of Homeland Security and Justice, which have 45 days to determine if sanctions are needed. Note, however, that the damage will have been done by then. From the point of view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, getting his favored candidates elected at the price of having a couple of Russian banks sanctioned is probably a worthwhile tradeoff.

Trump's order, while close to meaningless, is basically an attempt to head Congress off at the pass. Bills have been floating around the Hill for months that would actually have far more effect. One of them would impose mandatory sanctions on Russia and strip the president of the power to remove them until the Director of National Intelligence has reported that Russia did not interfere in two consecutive election cycles.

DNI Dan Coats has indicated that Russia isn't the only player. He said that China, Iran, and North Korea are also trying to disrupt the elections. Each one has its own agenda, of course. Russia wants to undermine Americans' faith in democracy. China is interested in electing free traders who oppose tariffs. Iran's focus is on the Middle East, and presumably would prefer candidates who aren't with Israel 110%. North Korea, well, who knows? (V)

Rhode Island Goes to the Polls

Clearly, there is something in the water in the mid-Atlantic states, because yet another one of them decided to have a non-Tuesday primary. Up this time were the good people of Rhode Island who held what could well be the most boring primary of the year.

Why, exactly was it so boring? Well, for every single statewide or federal office save one, the Democratic incumbent was running for, and received, renomination. The only office that is definitely going to change hands is the Attorney Generalship, because current AG Peter Kilmartin (D) is term-limited. And even that race was free of drama, as Democrat Peter Neronha faced no primary opponent, and will face no general election opponent.

To the extent that there was any storyline on Wednesday, it's that establishment Democrats easily pushed aside challenges from the left. Most notably, Gov. Gina Raimondo easily outpaced Matt Brown, a progressive who was backed by Our Revolution, 57% to 34%. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse beat his lefty challenger, Patricia Fontes, even worse—77% to 23%.

There have been a couple of polls of the governor's race, both conducted by WPRI/Roger Williams, that suggest that Raimondo could have a real fight on her hands on Election Day, with each giving her just a two point edge over GOP challenger Allan Fung. It's true that Fung was the most electable of the GOP candidates on the ballot Wednesday night, and that he easily brushed aside his opponents. It's also true that the too-centrist-for-some-Democrats'-tastes Raimondo has middling approval ratings (mid-40s). However, we are a little skeptical of these two polls for the following reasons:

  • Incumbency matters
  • Raimondo already beat Fung once, in her first run for the governor's mansion in 2014
  • Rhode Island is a deep blue state that went for Hillary Clinton by 15 points
  • WPRI and Roger Williams have been doing polling only since March of this year. Ann Selzer, they ain't.
  • Despite competitive races on both sides of the ballot, Democratic turnout on Wednesday outpaced GOP turnout by a margin of 5-to-1

In short, absent a better reason to believe otherwise, the assumption should be that Rhode Islanders will be led in 2019-2020 by all the same folks who lead them now, excepting AG Kilmartin. (Z)

What Have the Democratic 2020 Candidates Learned from the Primaries?

The four small states that go first in the 2020 presidential primaries all held primaries this year. Can Democratic presidential candidates learn anything from this year's results? According to Politico, yes they can. Briefly summarized, the message to the candidates is: Democratic voters have had enough of ideology. They want to win—badly.

In particular, they don't want a rerun of the 2016 Bernie vs. Hillary contest. They want a candidate who can win, not a candidate who can pass some sort of litmus test (see above). In the primaries, that means focusing on the state. Although Iowa Democrats are generally fairly liberal, this year centrist candidates who are better positioned to win the general election triumphed in the Hawkeye State. For the governor's mansion, for example, moderate Fred Hubbell beat the candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supported. In IA-03, Cindy Axne clobbered Sanders' campaign adviser, Pete D'Alessandro.

In New Hampshire, establishment candidates won two key races. Molly Kelly captured the gubernatorial nomination and Chris Pappas got the nod in NH-01, defeating Bernie Sanders' son and nine other candidates.

In South Carolina, the message is that the Democratic Party is broke and needs money, according to South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. If you want to make friends there, send money, as two 2020 contenders, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), recently did.

In Nevada, it is clear that although former senator Harry Reid is no longer in office, his machine is well oiled and humming along smoothly. He pushed Steve Sisolak for governor and got his man. In addition, his candidates won their primaries in both open House races.

In summary, Politico has six takeaways from the primaries in the four early 2020 states:

  • South Carolina Democrats are sending out an SOS
  • Run women
  • Iowa Democrats would rather win than nominate a ideological pure candidate who will lose
  • Nuts-and-bolts campaigns matter
  • Don't overlook down-ballot races
  • The Democratic establishment isn't going down without a fight

In short, it looks like Democratic candidates for 2020 ought to be thinking about how to convince voters that they can beat Donald Trump, rather than thinking about what the minimum wage should be. There are several ways candidates can approach this, with the two most obvious themes being: (1) I can win back blue-collar white men in the Midwest or (2) I can reassemble the Obama coalition and win states like North Carolina and Florida. (V)

Mitch McConnell is Worried about Losing His Job

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke to reporters on Tuesday and sounded a less-than-optimistic note, telling them: "I hope when the smoke clears, we'll still have a majority." In other words, 50 is the new 60. Rather than dreaming about a fillibuster-proof majority, McConnell is worried about having half the Senate and a functioning vice president. One leading strategist described the situation as a #@!%@!! shipwreck. McConnell and most Republican strategists concede that Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are lost causes, and West Virginia isn't far behind. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) was supposed to be the most vulnerable Democrat, but the GOP nominated a weak candidate, so Donnelly has a good chance of surviving.

What really worries McConnell, though, is Texas. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), was supposed to cruise. Instead, he's limping. It will take a lot of precious money to save his neck. This is doubly painful for McConnell because not only will it mean less money to fight Donnelly and other red-state Democrats, but McConnell can't stand Cruz (who once called McConnell a liar on the Senate floor). Pulling money from potentially winnable states to support a guy whose guts he hates is no fun at all for the Majority Leader.

Not only is red Texas potentially in play, but so are Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, and maybe even Thad Cochran's old seat in Mississippi if right-wing firebrand Chris McDaniel (R) beats Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) in the state's jungle primary on Nov. 6. Former Clinton administration Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (D), who is black, is expected to get essentially all of the black vote, which is about 35% in Mississippi, and only the top two finishers advance to the December runoff.

McConnell and Republican strategists are keeping a close eye on suburban areas, where Donald Trump could drag the Party down. And Republicans are even starting to talk about a comparison with 2006, which was a disaster for the GOP. Still, the election is 2 months away and a lot can happen between now and then. (V)

Trump vs. the Hurricane, Day 2

Looking at Donald Trump's tweets, it's clear that he is petrified about the damage Hurricane Florence might do. Six of his nine tweets on Wednesday were hurricane-related, making it a rare day in which his primary Twitter subject was not Russiagate/collusion denials (though he did still get two of those in, in between the hurricane stuff).

Trump's problem is that there are really only two things that are within a president's power to do in these situations, and he's ill-equipped for either of them. The first is to oversee an effective response once the hurricane has passed and the damage has been wrought. But the fact is that, despite his repeated promises to hire the "best people," Team Trump is absolutely terrible at dealing with crises like this. In case we needed a reminder of that, it was reported on Wednesday that in Puerto Rico—where some folks are still without a reliable supply of water—there are 20,000 pallets of bottled water sitting on a road on the eastern side of the island, unused. It is unclear how the water never got distributed, but it has now sat for so long that it may have become tainted.

The other thing a president can do is be the empathizer-in-chief, and try to lend some comfort to victims through his words and actions. But this is another area where Trump is unusually poor; he just doesn't do empathy. As noted, he issued forth with six tweets, but only one of them contained any information that might actually be useful to those affected (a link to a government website about hurricane preparedness). All of the rest of the content fit in one of two categories. Either it was ominous statements about how devastating the hurricane is probably going to be:

Or else it was declarations of how amazing his administration's response to other hurricanes has been:

Trump conveniently overlooks that the A-pluses were awarded by one Donald John Trump, which is not unlike buying a trophy for yourself. In any event, doomsday proclamations and braggadocio do nothing to help anyone in the path of the hurricane, and for any other president such tweets would be considered absolutely beyond the pale.

Incidentally, he who lives by the Twitter dies by the Twitter, and the President is taking a particularly vicious beating right now. This, for example, has already been retweeted over 30,000 times:

There's also a stealth meme making the rounds that encourages Trump's supporters to lend their support to the notion that the president of Puerto Rico is incompetent and should be impeached immediately. The gag, of course, is that with Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory, its president is Donald Trump.

The bitter irony of this situation, at least from the vantage point of Trump, is that the hated Barack Obama was way above average when it came to things like dealing with hurricanes. Every president has his weaknesses of course, but while Trump has struggled mightily to build an effective bureaucracy, Obama was better at that than any chief executive since career bureaucrat George H.W. Bush (and, before him, JFK or Dwight Eisenhower). Similarly, like a Bill Clinton or a Ronald Reagan, Obama did empathy very well—it's just something that either you have or you don't. No amount of tweeting is going to change that. (Z)

The Trump Administration's Priorities Are Clear

Yesterday, we noted a report that $10 million that had been earmarked for FEMA was rerouted to ICE by the Trump administration. It turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, over $200 million was redirected to ICE from many of the different agencies that make up the Department of Homeland Security. That is to say, not only FEMA, but also the Coast Guard, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, and the Transportation Security Administration, among others.

Governing, of course, is about making choices. And, in this case, the choice had to do with exactly what poses the greatest threat to America and Americans. Starting with the speech announcing his candidacy, Trump made absolutely no secret of his view that the single biggest threat to the U.S. is undocumented immigrants. And he and his team are putting their money (well, the government's money) where their mouth is. Among the results of this, as we just learned on Wednesday, is that the government now has a staggering 12,800 immigrant children in custody across 100 facilities. That is a 500% increase since May of last year.

The President presumably knows that he's never going to get his wall, so he's doing what he can to deliver on his signature campaign promise through other means. No right-thinking person seriously believes that undocumented immigrants (particularly undocumented immigrant children) pose a greater threat to Americans than, say, terrorist bombers or large-scale natural disasters, but if Trump hopes to stay in power, he's got to have the base, and they fear and dislike immigrants. If nothing disastrous results in other areas due to a lack of money, then the President will undoubtedly be happy with his budgetary choices. But if someone sneaks a bomb past some overworked TSA agents and onto a plane, or a gaggle of South Carolinians die of disease or dehydration for want of emergency supplies, there will be hell to pay. (Z)

Woodward's Book Is Selling Like Hotcakes

Michael Wolff's tome about the Trump White House sold fairly well, as did Omarosa Maingault Newman's. However, it would seem that their credibility issues served to tamp down sales a bit, because now that dean of American political reporters Bob Woodward has issued forth with his own tell-all, it's flying off the shelves. Booksellers report that they haven't seen a book sell this quickly since Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" was released in 2015.

Obviously, this is not a great development for Donald Trump. Clearly, his efforts to undermine the book as "fake news" were not very successful. Now, it's just a matter of how much damage Woodward's account does. Nobody is going to read something like this and jump on the Trump bandwagon. The only question is how many people there are who will read it and jump off.

Meanwhile, the Trump family certainly has a talent for taking a bad situation and making it worse. This time the culprit was the President's son Eric, who appeared on "Fox and Friends" (naturally) on Wednesday morning to trash the book. Young Trump took his usual position that anyone who writes a book like this just hates his dad and wants to make him look bad, and that the best way to do that (and make money) is by making outrageous claims:

Don't you think people look through the fact, you can write some sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president. It'll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country, that's doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric. Is that really where we are?

Not surprisingly, just about everyone took that "shekels" reference as either an anti-Semitic slur (though Woodward isn't Jewish), or at very least as a dog whistle for white nationalists. It's certainly an odd word choice, and a little hard to understand how he would have made it if his intent wasn't defamatory. He could have said "three extra bucks" just as well. He has not explained himself, as yet, which probably means that he and his dad are working hard to come up with something plausible. (Z)

Stormy Daniels Will Release a Tell-All Book on Oct. 2

We're now in the midst of back-to-back months in which a tell-all book about Donald Trump topped the bestseller lists (see above), and it's looking like there's a good chance of a triple play. Yesterday, adult actress Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford), announced that on Oct. 2, her book Full Disclosure will be released. When she was asked if the book will contain more details about her one-night stand with Donald Trump, the answer was "yes." If she really gets down into the weeds with (anatomical?) details and the book is as negative as the other ones, we could get some, er, interesting, tweets next month and the late-night comedians will go into overdrive. The book will cover her entire career, however, not just that one fateful night.

She did sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding her from discussing her "interactions" with Trump, but fixer Michael Cohen has offered to cancel the agreement if she gives back the $130,000 she was paid to keep quiet. Neither she nor her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, have any intention of accepting the offer. Her lawsuit to get out of the NDA is certainly not going to be decided by Oct. 2, so she is taking a risk by publishing the book. Probably she and Avenatti have made an educated guess that Trump won't have the guts to sue her for violating the agreement. Besides, he might well lose the case on a technicality: He didn't sign the NDA himself. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 46% Martha McSally 49% Sep 05 Sep 06 OH Predictive Insights
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 47% Martha McSally 44% Sep 08 Sep 11 Fox News
Florida Bill Nelson* 44% Rick Scott 46% Sep 07 Sep 09 SurveyUSA
Indiana Joe Donnelly* 43% Mike Braun 45% Sep 08 Sep 11 Fox News
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 44% Josh Hawley 41% Sep 08 Sep 11 Fox News
North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp* 44% Kevin Cramer 48% Sep 08 Sep 11 Fox News
Tennessee Phil Bredesen 44% Marsha Blackburn 47% Sep 08 Sep 11 Fox News
Texas Beto O`Rourke 44% Ted Cruz* 47% Sep 06 Sep 09 Crosswind Media

* Denotes incumbent

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep12 Two Former Administration Officials Dispute Woodward's Book
Sep12 New Hampshire Votes
Sep12 Hurricane Season Is Upon Us
Sep12 Anti-Kavanaugh Forces Are Still Fighting On
Sep12 New York State Going after Michael Cohen
Sep12 Some TV Talking Heads Are Contractually Bound to Be Nice to Trump
Sep12 Appeals Court: Koch Group May Not Shield Donor List from Law Enforcement
Sep12 Today's Senate Polls
Sep11 Trump's Approval Continues to Drop
Sep11 Trump Desperately Wants Credit for the Economy
Sep11 Rogue Billionaires Driving Both Parties Up a Tree
Sep11 Omarosa Plays Another Trump Tape
Sep11 Beto O'Rourke Is a Pain in the ... Bank for the Republicans
Sep11 House Races Are Tight in Bellwether Districts
Sep11 Florida Should Be an Interesting Case Study
Sep11 Today in Defamation
Sep10 Top Republicans Are Worried about the Midterms
Sep10 Bring on the Lie Detectors
Sep10 The Time Trump Almost Started a War with Twitter
Sep10 Trump: Deal with Stormy Daniels Was Not Valid
Sep10 Endangered Republicans Don't Want a New Tax Bill
Sep10 Cruz Becomes a True Trumper (For a Couple of Months)
Sep10 Trump May Well Draw a 2020 Primary Challenger
Sep10 Today's Senate Polls
Sep09 Trump Administration Considered Helping Overthrow Venezuelan Leader
Sep09 Apparently, There's Money in Fighting Climate Change
Sep09 Maybe the Author of the Op-ed Was...Jon Huntsman
Sep09 Roy Moore Sues Sacha Baron Cohen
Sep09 This Week's Senate News
Sep09 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Elizabeth Warren
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