Dem 47
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Ties 2
GOP 51
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New polls: MN MO MT MN-special NM
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NV
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IN ND
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Goes Public
      •  What Happens Next?
      •  Gubernatorial Map Is the Reverse of the Senate Map
      •  Decision Is Expected Today on Whether Georgia Can Use Electronic Voting Machines
      •  Democrats Focusing on Black Voters in Ohio
      •  Newsom Focusing on Republican Voters in California
      •  Cruz Is Getting Desperate
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Goes Public

Once Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) revealed that she had a confidential letter from a woman who said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her while they were in high school, it was virtually certain that the name of the woman would leak out. At that point, the woman would have to confirm or deny the incident. Well, it happened. The woman is Christine Blasey Ford and she has decided that since the story is going to be told, she wants to be the one telling it. So yesterday she went public, identified herself, and said, yes, when she and Kavanaugh were in high school, he sexually assaulted her while he was stumbling drunk. According to her, he pinned her to a bed in a locked room, groped her, and tried to take off her clothes. She managed to escape and told no one until she and her husband were in couples' therapy in 2012. She also released the therapist's notes, which describe attempted rape.

Ford knew that if she came forward she would be called a liar—which is precisely what Kavanaugh has called her—so in August she took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent. The agent concluded that she was telling the truth. Also noteworthy is that in his senior-class yearbook, Kavanaugh claimed to be a member of the "Keg City Club." His friend, Mark Judge, who was also present in the room where the incident occurred, later wrote a book entitled Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk in which he describes the culture of drinking at the high school he and Kavanaugh attended. There is a passage in the book about a "Bart O'Kavanaugh" who "puked in someone's car the other night" and "passed out on his way back from a party."

While none of this is hard and fast proof that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford years ago, it is solid circumstantial evidence. Further, it is one thing when an accuser is anonymous, even if her accusations are credible. It's another thing entirely when people have a name and a face to put with the accusations, as human beings are a very visual species. So, Kavanaugh's nomination is certainly in some trouble; how much trouble should become clearer sometime this week (more below). (V)

What Happens Next?

That is one of the $64,000 questions of the upcoming week (with the other being the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, once it recedes). And, in turn, there are really two aspects to that question: (1) What happens in the next few days, and (2) What happens after that?

Starting with the first question, Kavanaugh is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and that has not changed yet, at least not officially. However, the odds are pretty slim that chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will actually move forward on that timetable. In fact, he is already working to set up phone calls with Ford and Kavanaugh, so that the whole matter can be looked into before a decision is made. And a phone call may not be enough to satisfy Grassley's colleagues. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) yesterday called for the vote on Kavanaugh to be postponed until Ford's allegations can be investigated. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were more specific, calling for the vote to be postponed until Kavanaugh and Ford can be interviewed by the FBI under oath. While Grassley may not care too much about what his Democratic colleagues think, there are also three Republicans who want to know more: Jeff Flake (AZ), Bob Corker (TN), and Lisa Murkowski (AZ). Flake's concerns will be taken particularly seriously because while he may be leaving the Senate in January, he is currently a member of the Judiciary Committee. If he were to vote no, and his 10 Democratic colleagues on the Committee were all to join him, then that would mean a "no" vote on moving Kavanaugh's nomination forward. Not fatal, necessarily, but not good.

So, the gears are turning in the halls of Congress. At the same time, Team Trump is trying to rally around the President's nominee. Trump himself has labeled the whole thing a "conspiracy" against him (yet another one, apparently), and people in his orbit are preparing to go on the attack, and expect him to do the same. Breitbart, in fact, has gotten off to a running start, trying to dig up dirt on Ford. Thus far, they have a story that she once signed a letter opposing the President's immigration policies, and another reporting that she participated in last year's women's march while wearing...make sure there are no children who can see this...a hat designed to look like a brain:

Brain hat

Shocking stuff, indeed. Obviously, since Breitbart can't come up with any actual dirt, they are trying to portray her as a partisan hack who is just doing the Democrats' bidding. That will certainly work with the base, but maybe not so much with anyone else.

Of course, Trump & Co. have dug their heels in on an issue before, only to reverse course 180 degrees when it became clear that public sentiment had turned against them. So, the fact that the administration is pledging to stay the course right now does not mean that is their final decision. Maybe they will stick with the nomination, maybe they won't. Meanwhile, Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are also going to have to make a decision pretty soon (possibly in consultation with the White House, possibly not). FiveThirtyEight, Axios, and Roll Call all have pieces exploring the politics of the situation, which are certainly going to give the Majority Leader a real headache. Here are the three basic options, with the downsides of each:

Option 1: Full Steam Ahead: McConnell and Grassley (though McConnell has the final call) could conclude this is much ado about nothing, and could move forward as planned (perhaps with a few days' delay caused by Grassley's phone conferences). The problems:

  • What if more accusations come to light, as happened with sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and Les Moonves? If Kavanaugh was already confirmed by that point, he would become an ongoing, high-profile symbol that Democrats would use to persuade women that the GOP is not the party for them.

  • Similarly, what if there are no more accusations, but more proof of Ford's claims come to light? For example, Mark Judge could turn on Kavanaugh, or someone else who knew him at that time could come forward to corroborate Ford's story. It is clear, at this point, that Kavanaugh will be compelled to answer some questions about this in an official way; either on the phone or in person. If he turns out to have lied in his sworn testimony (again?), that would be a felony, and if the Democrats capture the House, they could impeach him for it after he is confirmed.

  • Even if there are no more accusations and no more proof, Democrats will still wield Kavanaugh as a cudgel in the midterms, observing that the party led by the pu**y grabber apparently has no problems putting a person accused of attempted rape on the nation's highest court, because they are so desperate to take away a woman's right to choose. This could make a lot of women, especially college-educated suburban women, become disgusted with the entire Republican Party.

  • There is no guarantee that Kavanaugh would be approved by the full Senate at this point. Far from it, in fact. Given that the accusations are credible, red-state Democrats now have cover to remain in solidarity with their party, if they choose. After all, it is easier to say to the voters: "I don't want a guy who attempted rape on the Supreme Court" than it is to say: "I don't like Trump's choices in justices." Meanwhile, any or all of the six GOP female senators could defect, and so too could Corker and/or Flake. If the nomination fails, then the GOP would be left with the baggage that would come with trying to confirm Kavanaugh without the actual reward of getting him onto the Court.

Option 2: Wait Until After the Midterms: Senate GOP leadership could decide this potato is too hot to handle right now, and could delay until after November 6. The problems:

  • Failing to confirm or reject Kavanaugh outright sends a message along the lines of, "We believe the allegations are true, and we just don't want to be punished for ignoring them."

  • Democrats would still use Kavanaugh as a cudgel, not only hammering the GOP for failing to reject a man accused of attempted rape, but also telling voters, "You've gotta get to the polls and elect a Democratic Senate, so we can stop this guy."

  • McConnell is drooling about the possibility of having Kavanaugh in place for the SCOTUS' new session, which begins October 1. In this scenario, he would miss at least two months.

  • As with the first scenario, there is no guarantee Kavanaugh would be approved. Red-state Democrats (the ones who survive the midterms) would have even fewer worries about maintaining solidarity with their colleagues, and any Senate Republicans who are leery now would likely remain so. Further, McConnell might find himself staring down the barrel of a Senate where he has a diminished majority, or no majority at all. He would theoretically have about two months to try to get something done with his current caucus, but the Democrats would pull every move in the books to deny him that chance before January 3.

Option 3: Kill the Nomination: McConnell had already been losing enthusiasm about Kavanaugh due to the Bush-era paper trail, and the possibility that he already lied to Congress. This new revelation could prove to be the final straw, and he might decide to tell Kavanaugh "thanks, but no thanks". The problems:

  • If Trump was not on board, he would be furious, and it would sour an already poor relationship.

  • Much of the base would be furious, too, and they might express that during the midterms by staying home, not making donations, or voting for third-party or write-in candidates.

  • Time is running out. It is nearly impossible that a new nominee could be chosen, vetted, examined by the Judiciary Committee, and voted on by the full Senate before the midterms, and it is unlikely that the job could get done before the new year. And, as noted, if it lingers past January 3, it will be a new Senate in which Democrats might be in the majority. There is a serious risk that, if the Democrats take over, no nominee would be approved before 2020. "We really think we should wait until the American people weigh in during the presidential election," they would say, giving the GOP a taste of their own Merrick Garland-flavored medicine.

The executive summary is this: There is going to be a lot of maneuvering this week. Nobody knows what will happen, but the one thing that is fairly certain is that Kavanaugh's accuser isn't going to get less credible. And so, GOP leadership is going to have to decide pretty soon if they want to stick with him, either by voting on him or by putting him in a holding pattern, which will make him a major issue in the midterms (almost certainly to their detriment). Or they can cut him loose, which would anger the base and run the risk that the Party loses the SCOTUS seat they pilfered from Barack Obama. It is situations like this that make one wonder why anyone would ever want to be Majority Leader. (V & Z)

Gubernatorial Map Is the Reverse of the Senate Map

The Democrats have a terrible Senate map. They are defending 26 seats while the Republicans are defending only 9 seats. But the gubernatorial map is the exact opposite, with Republicans defending 26 seats to the Democrats' 9. So while the Democrats are forced to play defense in the Senate, they are playing offense in the battles for governors' mansions. Political guru Charlie Cook is now predicting that Democrats are clearly favored to flip three of them (Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico) and Republicans are favored to flip only one (Alaska, where the current governor is technically an independent). In addition, eight races are toss-ups. In a blue wave, the Democrats could net 10 new governorships.

These races have clear national implications, because 48 of the 50 governors (with New Hampshire and Vermont the exceptions) serve 4-year terms. This means they will still be in office after the 2020 census and will be able to veto partisan congressional maps drawn by Republican-dominated state legislatures. If Republicans aren't able to gerrymander the maps, they will probably lose a number of seats in the House in 2022 compared to what they could have done with Republican governors. (V)

Decision Is Expected Today on Whether Georgia Can Use Electronic Voting Machines

In August 2016, cybersecurity sleuth Logan Lamb discovered that it was easy to pull up a list with the names, birth dates, drivers' license numbers, and partial Social Security numbers of Georgia's 6.8 million voters. He also found the passwords that the election supervisors use on Election Day to read out the results. His discovery of an appalling weakness in Georgia's election system is now a legal and political battle. Virtually all cyber security experts say that electronic touch-screen voting machines, which Georgia uses for all elections, are completely unsafe and that the state should switch to paper ballots for the midterms. On the other side is Brian Kemp, the state's attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate who pooh poohs all the security researchers and says that electronic voting machines are just fine and dandy.

A federal judge is expected to rule today whether the state's 28,000 touch-screen machines have to be put into storage and paper ballots have to be printed for the midterms. Judge Amy Totenberg said last week, after a 7-hour hearing, that voters want to be sure their vote is secure. On the other hand, judges are hesitant to order states to change voting procedures so close to an election.

Just recently, the National Academy of Sciences issued a 180-page report stating that states must get rid of their electronic voting machines and switch to paper before the 2018 elections. Given the difficulty of changing the election system on such short notice, the judge might rule that changing it in 2018 is impractical but that it must be done by 2020. If she were to make such a ruling, there would be time for appeals before 2020 and the state or U.S. Supreme Court would probably get the last word. (V)

Democrats Focusing on Black Voters in Ohio

In his two presidential runs, Barack Obama got 97% and 96% of the black vote in Ohio, and won one of the swingiest of swing states. In her 2016 run, Hillary Clinton got 88% of the black vote, and lost the state to Trump. Looking at this, Democratic muckety-mucks have concluded that mobilizing the black vote is key to winning the Buckeye State, both in 2018 and going forward, and have been taking strong steps in that direction, including a speaking tour by Obama himself last week.

For nearly two years now, observers have been looking for clues about the Party's future plans. Is the blue team going to try to re-create the Obama coalition (lots and lots of black and other minority voters), or is it going to try to win back working-class whites? Ohio is just one state, of course, but it's possible that it is serving as a test case for the overall thesis (we can rebuild the Obama coalition!). If so, then the results there on November 6 could be considerably more momentous than just one state's worth of election returns. (Z)

Newsom Focusing on Republican Voters in California

At the same time that Barack Obama and other Democratic movers and shakers are trying to bring as many minority voters back into the fold as is possible, California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is trying to win over defectors from the GOP (most of them, of course, are white). He feels comfortable enough that he's going to win (with good reason) that he is traveling the red and purple areas of the Golden State ("Reagan Country," as he calls it), trying to persuade Republican voters to give the Democrats a try, and to turn California into the epicenter of the Trump resistance by sending a very blue delegation to Congress.

Although Newsom's efforts may seem to be at odds with what is happening in Ohio (see above), maybe they're not. He's not focusing so much on people who are angry about or threatened by so-called identity politics. No, his target is folks who lean conservative, fiscally, but also lean liberal, socially. California has many such people, and a sizable percentage of them found a home in the GOP. Now that the party has fallen under the thrall of people who aren't bothered by white supremacists, or separating brown families, or letting brown-skinned Americans die due to inadequate hurricane aid, and who think nothing about adding another trillion or so to the deficit, Newsom thinks they may be ripe for the picking. So, California's results could also be particularly momentous on November 6.

Cruz Is Getting Desperate

At this point, everyone knows that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who expected to cruise to reelection, has a real fight on his hands thanks to Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). And as the fundraising gap widens, and the Senator's polling lead narrows, he's throwing everything at the wall, to see what will stick. This includes some sleazy trickery that could come back to bite him in the rear.

To start, Cruz used a time-honored GOP tactic last week, holding California out as the embodiment of all that's wrong with America, liberals, the world, and so forth. Observing that O'Rourke has gotten quite a few donations from the Golden State, the Senator declared that Californians want to take over Texas and make it theirs, "right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair." Stereotyping and slurring millions of Americans is not always the best look for a politician (even though California politicans sometimes give Texas the same treatment, albeit with cowboy hats, country music, and executing people for jaywalking instead of tofu, silicon, and dyed hair). Further, it was a particularly curious comment from a fellow whose wife is from Silicon Valley, and who colors her hair, and who is a vegetarian.

It gets more tacky, though. Cruz's campaign also dusted off an old favorite of theirs, sending donation requests in the mail that look a lot like a jury summons:

Cruz fake jury summons

Cruz did this exact same thing in 2016, except back then it was envelopes that read "VOTING VIOLATION." He got all sorts of blowback, and almost certainly did himself more harm than good. But here it is again. He might want to recall that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

And finally, the sleaziest move of the week is probably this:

For those who do not care to watch, someone of Cruz's staff clumsily edited some footage of O'Rourke from one of his many town halls in order to make it look like the Congressman is a big fan of flag burning (he is not). This is a very old trick (though generally used by comedians, not serious politicians), and is shockingly unsophisticated. As a demonstration, one of us (Z) knocked this out in 15 minutes:

And that is without spending any money or serious time on the matter. In any case, nobody who is not already a Cruz supporter could possibly watch the O'Rourke video and think it is legitimate. And so, the only possible effect it could have is to alienate fence sitters by reminding them of Cruz's reputation for dishonesty. And if stunts like these are all he's got, he really could lose this thing. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Minnesota Amy Klobuchar* 60% Jim Newberger 30% Sep 10 Sep 12 Mason Dixon
Minnesota special Tina Smith* 44% Karin Housley 37% Sep 10 Sep 12 Mason Dixon
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 45% Josh Hawley 45% Sep 10 Sep 14 YouGov
Montana Jon Tester* 47% Matt Rosendale 45% Sep 10 Sep 14 YouGov
New Mexico Martin Heinrich* 47% Mick Rich 26% Sep 07 Sep 13 Research and Polling

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep18 Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Goes Public
Sep18 What Happens Next?
Sep18 Gubernatorial Map Is the Reverse of the Senate Map
Sep18 Decision Is Expected Today on Whether Georgia Can Use Electronic Voting Machines
Sep18 Democrats Focusing on Black Voters in Ohio
Sep18 Newsom Focusing on Republican Voters in California
Sep18 Cruz Is Getting Desperate
Sep18 Today's Senate Polls
Sep16 Here Comes the Next Round of Tariffs
Sep16 What Does Manafort's Plea Mean?
Sep16 Primary Turnout Good for Republicans, Great for Democrats
Sep16 Feinstein in Hot Water
Sep16 This Week's Senate News
Sep16 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Andrew Cuomo
Sep15 Manafort Flips
Sep15 Kavanaugh Letter Leaks
Sep15 The Primaries Are Over: What Have We Learned?
Sep15 CNN's New Ranking of the 2020 Democratic Field
Sep15 Avenatti: Time to Indict Trump
Sep15 Ohio's Wealthiest Person Isn't a Republican Anymore
Sep15 Texans and their Textbooks
Sep15 Today's Senate Polls
Sep14 Trump Claims Only 6 to 18 People Died in the Puerto Rico Hurricane
Sep14 New Yorkers Headed to the Polls
Sep14 Senate Might Not Confirm a Replacement if Trump Fires Sessions
Sep14 Kavanaugh May Not Be in the Clear Yet
Sep14 House and Senate Reach a Bipartisan Budget Deal to Prevent a Shutdown
Sep14 Gillum Leads DeSantis in Polls
Sep14 Inside the Mind of Donald Trump
Sep14 Today's Senate Polls
Sep13 Trump Signs Order Allowing Sanctions on Countries that Interfere with U.S. Elections
Sep13 Rhode Island Goes to the Polls
Sep13 What Have the Democratic 2020 Candidates Learned from the Primaries?
Sep13 Mitch McConnell is Worried about Losing His Job
Sep13 Trump vs. the Hurricane, Day 2
Sep13 The Trump Administration's Priorities Are Clear
Sep13 Woodward's Book Is Selling Like Hotcakes
Sep13 Stormy Daniels Will Release a Tell-All Book on Oct. 2
Sep13 Today's Senate Polls
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