Dem 47
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GOP 53
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New polls: MI OH PA
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IN ND

PW logo Tentative Deal Reached for Thursday Hearing
Democrat Leads for Iowa Governor
Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
Inside the GOP Effort to Save Kavanaugh
Pompeo Suggests Rosenstein Is In Danger
Bonus Quote of the Day

NYT: Rosenstein Wanted to Wear A Wire to Record Trump

The New York Times is reporting that just after Donald Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein seriously considered wearing a wire to record Trump, so as to convince cabinet members that it was time to consider invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to declare that the president is unfit to serve. Rosenstein knows that unless he vigorously denied the report instantly, he would be a goner, so he vigorously denied the report instantly. Although Rosenstein saw the chaos around him in the White House close up, in the end, nothing came of his plan.

The context here is important. Rosenstein wrote a memo justifying the firing of Comey, saying that he (Comey) didn't prosecute Hillary Clinton for her e-mail server, something he knew Trump would like. But he didn't expect his memo to become the main cover story for the firing, especially since he knew very well it was false. He became concerned that his reputation would suffer as a result, so he was not an entirely unbiased person at that point. Still, he observed Trump's erratic behavior while searching for a replacement for Comey, and that is what got him thinking about the 25th Amendment. According to the report, he thought about conducting a straw poll of cabinet officers to see who was on board with the idea, but ultimately decided it was too risky, since the idea could leak and everyone involved would be fired immediately.

Of course, now that this has leaked, Rosenstein's head could roll at any time. Trump has been wanting to get rid of him anyhow, and this would certainly provide some cover. At his Missouri rally last night, the President declared:

I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice, we have great people. These are people, I really believe, you take a poll, I got to be at 95%. But we had some real bad ones—you see what's happened at the FBI, they're all gone, they're all gone, they're all gone. But there's a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too.

Rosenstein wasn't identified by name, but that's surely who was on Trump's mind. Maybe AG Jeff Sessions too, who could also be terminated for this, on the theory that he's responsible for his underlings' actions. Special counsel Robert Mueller is probably awake all night now thinking of plans B, C, D, E, and F. (V)

We Should Know Sometime Today if Ford Will Testify...Maybe

For the last several days, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford (and her lawyer, Debra Katz) have been engaged in a dance over when (and whether) Ford would appear before the Committee. That dance picked up speed on Friday, with the result that there were new developments almost hourly, with proposals and counter-proposals, and deadlines being set and then changed and then changed again. As it currently stands, Grassley wants Ford to commit to a Wednesday appearance, before Kavanaugh re-appears, and to decide today whether or not to accept those terms. Unless, of course, the deadline changes again.

Grassley's motivations here are clear. He wants this out of the way, ASAP, so he and his colleagues can get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court with as much time before the elections as is possible. At the same time, he doesn't want to be too pushy with Ford, as women voters might not take too kindly to that. Ford's motivations are less clear. That's not to say she doesn't have her reasons, merely that they are not as easily discerned as Grassley's. She wants to make sure she has proper security, and she's undoubtedly anxious about having the nation's eyes upon her. The new term at her school, Palo Alto University, starts this week, and that could be a factor, too. While 98% of Americans would not understand if Ford said so openly, missing the first week (and especially the first day) of the quarter/semester is really difficult.

In other Kavanaugh-related news, National Review writer Ed Whelan spent much of the week promising that he had proof of the Judge's innocence of all charges. Here's the tweet that started it all:

Whelan is well respected enough that conservatives began drooling in anticipation of whatever it was he had cooked up, while even non-right wingers (e.g., the New York Times' Maggie Haberman) retweeted the announcement.

Late Thursday, Whelan unveiled his detective work and it was, in a word, laughable. He put together a bunch of maps from Google maps, and house layouts from Zillow, and old yearbook pages from Classmates, and declared that these things proved Kavanaugh was innocent and that Ford had confused him with a similar-looking classmate. If Whelan had stopped there, it would have been bad (and stupid) enough, but he went further, posting pictures of his "suspect" and also publishing the man's name, current address, and phone number. That's pretty close to a slam dunk case of libel, and Whelan should expect to hear from the fellow's lawyer sometime early next week. Meanwhile, the conservative media ran for the hills, with Fox News, American Conservative, and the Daily Wire, among others, denouncing Whelan. He was also forced to offer a public apology for his "appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment." Needless to say, it does not help Kavanaugh's case if his friends feel the need to cook up phony alibis for him.

And finally, in predictable fashion, Donald Trump's ability to hold his tongue is weakening. On Friday morning, he sent out a couple of tweets on the matter, including this one:

Trump, of course, knows nothing about sexual assaults (except, perhaps, how to commit them). The vast majority of incidents are never reported, for a host of reasons, among them: (1) shame on the part of the victim, (2) fear that nobody will believe them, (3) the belief that authorities will not or cannot do anything, (4) fear of reprisals, and (5) lack of evidence. The further back in time you go, the more likely non-reporting becomes, given the "boys will be boys" attitude that held sway until fairly recently. In any event, Trump was roundly condemned for the tweets, including by some right-wing outlets. If his goal is to alienate suburban women voters, he's certainly giving it his best shot. (Z)

With Tax Cuts Fizzling, Republicans Return to Culture-War Ads

Republican House candidates were planning to run on their tax cut, but the issue doesn't seem to be getting much traction, mostly because most of the cuts went to the already wealthy and to businesses. As a consequence, ordinary voters aren't getting excited about tax cuts they never got. And so, Republicans are returning to their old standby, the culture wars. A favorite is attacking black football players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Older white men resent young black millionaires not being respectful to the flag and it riles them up. Whether it will make any more of them vote than was otherwise the case is far from clear, but the Republicans have to do something.

Ironically, some Republicans are attacking Democrats for being insufficiently supportive of law enforcement. They may not have noticed that Donald Trump attacks the FBI almost daily, calling it hostile to the American people, and saying it is completely corrupt. (V)

Moore Film Opens

Republicans aren't the only ones who know a thing or two about the culture wars. Michael Moore is, to fans, the nation's foremost documentarian. To enemies, he's its foremost propagandist. Both sides are probably right. On Friday, his latest film, "Fahrenheit 11/9," opened nationwide. It is being marketed as "a provocative and comedic look at the times in which we live," and is focused on the election and presidency of Donald Trump.

The film is getting good (but not great) reviews thus far. We shall see if it has the impact that Moore is hoping for. Unlike the Bob Woodward and Omarosa Manigault Newman exposés, it will be easy for conservative-leaning folks to avoid any awareness of the film's content. In other words, Moore is preaching to the choir, and only to the choir, in hopes of lighting a fire under them and rousing them to action (i.e., getting to the polls). The various folks who predict box office takes for films have it pegged for something between $5 million to $10 million in ticket sales this weekend, which is a range of "pretty good" to "excellent" for a documentary. (Z)

Ratings Changes from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball

Election prognosticator Kyle Kondik, at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, has changed his House ratings on seven races, all moving toward the Democrats. Here are the changes:

District PVI Member Old rating New rating
AZ-09 D+4 Open [was Kyrsten Sinema (D)] Likely Democratic Safe Democratic
CO-06 D+2 Mike Coffman (R) Toss-up Leans Democratic
FL-15 R+6 Open [was Dennis Ross (R)] Likely Republican Leans Republican
MN-03 D+1 Erik Paulsen (R) Toss-up Leans Democratic
NC-02 R+6 George Holding (R) Likely Republican Leans Republican
NM-02 R+6 Open [was Steve Pearce (R)] Leans Republican Toss-up
NY-27 R+11 Chris Collins (R) Likely Republican Leans Republican

In short, two of the toss-ups (Colorado and Minnesota) are leaning Democratic and the Republican seats are becoming more competitive. In a strong blue wave, all of them could flip.

The big picture is that Democrats are favored in 208 House races to 199 for the Republicans, with 28 toss-ups. Democrats need to win only 10 of the toss-ups to take control of the House. Given the energy on the Democratic side, there is a better than even chance they can win 10 of the 28, probably appreciably more. One thing to keep in mind is that toss-ups tend not to be independent. Most of the time, one party wins the lion's share.

Kondik also has changed his ratings on two gubernatorial contests. Jared Polis (D) is now the slight favorite to be the next governor of Colorado and Gretchen Whitmer (D) is the strong favorite to be the next governor of Michigan. (V)

Ratings Changes from Politico

Politico has also been tracking the competitive House races. It is now changing nine of its ratings, seven towards the Democrats and two towards the Republicans. Here is the list:

District PVI Member Old rating New rating
FL-15 R+6 Open [was Dennis Ross (R)] Solid Republican Likely Republican
FL-27 D+5 Open [was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R)] Leans Democratic Toss-up
IL-06 R+2 Peter Roskam (R) Leans Republican Toss-up
KY-06 R+9 Andy Barr (R) Leans Democratic Toss-up
ME-02 R+2 Bruce Poliquin (R) Leans Republican Toss-up
MN-03 D+1 Erik Paulsen (R) Toss-up Leans Democratic
MO-02 R+8 Ann Wagner (R) Solid Republican Likely Republican
NC-02 R+6 George Holding (R) Leans Republican Toss-up
OH-10 R+4 Mike Turner (R) Solid Republican Likely Republican

There is some overlap between the two lists above. Both prognosticators see FL-15, MN-03, and NC-02 moving toward the Democrats. For the rest, the focus is on different races. Still, if we combine the two lists, 13 races are rated and 11 moved toward the Democrats and 2 moved toward the Republicans. That suggests there is some momentum towards the blue team. Nevertheless, five or six races are toss-ups. (V)

Ratings Changes from the Cook Political Report

While we are on the subject of election gurus and rating changes, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report has updated her ratings on three Senate races. Two of the changes favor the Democrats and one favors the Republicans as follows.

State Senator Old rating New rating
Montana Jon Tester Likely Democratic Leans Democratic
Texas Ted Cruz Leans Republican Toss-up
West Virginia Joe Manchin Toss-up Leans Democratic

Of the 10 Democratic incumbents in states Donald Trump won, Democrats are now favored in six of them, in some cases, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, very heavily. The Toss-ups are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Here's a quick run-down of them:

  • Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) has buried Sen. Bill Nelson (D) on the air, but the race is still a toss-up. Scott was twice elected governor, but each victory was by less than one percent. Everything will come down to whether Scott can turn out rural whites and white transplants from the Midwest on the Gulf Coast better than Nelson can turn out Puerto Ricans.

  • Indiana: This ought to be an easy one for the GOP, but it isn't. Republican Mike Braun basically wasted the summer while the Democrats were pummeling him on the air. Braun wasn't the establishment's first—or even second—choice, and for good reason. Democrats feel good about where Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is now.

  • Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) has to get many rural Republican votes to pull this off. Now that she has definitely come out against confirming Brett Kavanaugh, she might lose some of them. The big question: Does she pick up enough suburban women to make up for it? She is lucky that her opponent, AG Josh Hawley (R), is not a great campaigner. Still, this could be a cliffhanger.

  • North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) has run a very strong campaign, but her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), has also won statewide. Given how red the state is and how popular Donald Trump is, expect many visits from him, which should help Cramer. This is the Republicans biggest pickup opportunity, though Cramer probably didn't do himself any favors on Friday when he declared that Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are "absurd" because both were drunk, and the attempted rape "never went anywhere." There is no evidence that Ford was drunk, and Cramer's understanding of the laws regarding sexual assault reminds us that, unlike many of his colleagues, he doesn't have a law degree.

Four Republican seats are now in play, some of them unexpectedly: Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas. Here is a brief run-down:

  • Arizona: Two female representatives are duking this one out. Both are good fundraisers and both have good personal stories to tell. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) is going to attack Rep. Martha McSally (R) for cozying up to Donald Trump, who is popular with the Republican base, but not so popular with everyone else. If McSally wants to get down in the gutter, she will point out that Sinema is bisexual. It is expected to be very close.

  • Nevada: Conservatives have never been happy with Sen. Dean Heller (R) while the Democrat, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) contends that he votes the GOP party line all the time. If Rosen can get a big turnout in Las Vegas, especially from Latinos and union members, she might be able to unseat Heller.

  • Tennessee: Republicans nominated right-wing firebrand Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) and she may be a bit much for some of the state's Republicans, especially well-educated ones in the suburbs. The Democrat, Phil Bredesen, was twice elected governor of the state, so he is well known and regarded as a business-friendly centrist. This is a state where appearances by Trump will probably hurt rather than help the Republican candidate.

  • Texas: It is almost unthinkable that an incumbent Republican senator, and one with a national profile no less, is only 50-50 in Texas, but that's where we are. The problem both parties face here is that Texas is a very expensive state. The Republicans are going to have to pour money into the race, which takes funding away from all of the above races. Big Democratic donors and the DNC are probably not going to gamble on Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and spend their money elsewhere, so he will have to raise his own money, although he's very good at doing so (he raised $9 million in August). In the end, Cruz will probably have more and that could pull him across the finish line first, albeit by a nose.

The bottom line is that the parties may swap a couple of seats, but there is a good chance the Republicans end up with 50 or 51 seats, which is just enough for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to keep his job. (V)

Cruz and O'Rourke Debate

Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke have agreed to debate three times, and the first of those was last night. Each candidate's themes were on full display, as might be expected. O'Rourke was focused on racial injustice as the great problem of our time, and also on making sure everyone knows that he's been to every county in Texas to meet with voters (as contrasted to Cruz, who only finds time to visit every county in...Iowa). Cruz wanted to paint O'Rourke as an extreme leftist who wants to open the borders, abolish ICE, impeach Donald Trump, and abolish the second amendment. Needless to say, O'Rourke has taken none of those positions.

Neither candidate scored a knockout blow which, in and of itself, is a win for O'Rourke. He has lower name recognition than Cruz, and so if he and the Senator duel to a tie, then he wins because he gets needed publicity. And at the very end of the debate, O'Rourke likely pulled a little bit ahead of Cruz (or maybe even a lot ahead), thanks to the last question. Taking a cue from the second of the 2016 presidential debates, the two men were each asked to say something positive about the other. O'Rourke went first and complimented his opponent for "how hard he works," and concluded that, "I have no question that Sen. Cruz wants to do the best for America." Cruz, in turn, said (with an obviously disdainful tone of voice):

I think Congressman O'Rourke is passionate, he is energetic. I think you are absolutely sincere like Bernie that you believe in expanding government and higher taxes and I commend you for fighting for what you believe in.

Although Cruz and Donald Trump loathe each other, they have in common that neither seems to have learned that there is sometimes more benefit in looking classy for a minute than in getting in yet another jab. The Senator's snotty remark did nothing to advance his cause, and meant that the final thing viewers were left with was a reminder of his tendency for pettiness and backbiting. Or, to put that another way, a lot of folks undoubtedly turned off their TVs with the thought, "Ah yes, I see why pretty much all of his Senate colleagues hate him." (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Today we have three polls in states Donald Trump won. In all three, the incumbent Democrat has a huge lead and is probably unbeatable. This means neither party will spend any money on these races and the status quo will remain as it is until election day. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Michigan Debbie Stabenow* 56% John James 33% Sep 05 Sep 07 Glengariff Group
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 53% Jim Renacci 42% Sep 18 Sep 20 Triton Polling and Res.
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 53% Lou Barletta 35% Sep 13 Sep 19 Muhlenberg Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep21 Cohen Has Been Talking to Mueller for Weeks
Sep21 Christine Blasey Ford Wants to Testify, but Not on Monday
Sep21 Kavanaugh Preferred Clerks That "Looked Like Models"
Sep21 Kavanaugh Battle Could Affect the Supreme Court Itself
Sep21 Heller Eats Crow, Embraces Trump
Sep21 Trump Rallies, Can Barely Contain Himself on Kavanaugh Situation
Sep21 Another Day, Another Racist Incident for De Santis
Sep21 Today's Senate Polls
Sep20 GOP Is Increasingly Confident Kavanaugh Will Be Confirmed
Sep20 GOP May Get Kavanaugh, But May Not Get Its Wish
Sep20 Trump: I Don't Have an Attorney General
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Sep20 You'll Probably Be Disappointed on Election Night
Sep20 A Tale of Two Polls
Sep20 Today's Senate Polls
Sep19 Judge Won't Testify before the Senate on Monday
Sep19 How to Tell the Strength of the Blue Wave
Sep19 Why Are the Russians Visiting Mariia Butina in Prison So Much?
Sep19 National Debt Reaches post-WWII levels
Sep19 Polish President Proposes "Fort Trump"
Sep19 Stormy Daniels Hits Trump Where It Hurts
Sep19 Ronan Farrow May Have the N-Word Tapes
Sep19 Democrat Tony Evers Is Leading Scott Walker in Wisconsin
Sep19 Today's Senate Polls
Sep18 Both Kavanaugh and His Accuser Are Going to Testify in the Senate
Sep18 Pro-Kavanaugh Forces Settle on Their Strategy
Sep18 $200 Billion in Tariffs Are a Go
Sep18 Trump to Declassify Text Messages, Other Documents Related to Russiagate
Sep18 Senate Passes Opioid Bill
Sep18 Flynn to Be Sentenced in November
Sep18 DeVos Says Universities Have "Abandoned Truth"
Sep18 Today's Senate Polls
Sep17 Brett Kavanaugh's Accuser Goes Public
Sep17 What Happens Next?
Sep17 Gubernatorial Map Is the Reverse of the Senate Map
Sep17 Decision Is Expected Today on Whether Georgia Can Use Electronic Voting Machines
Sep17 Democrats Focusing on Black Voters in Ohio
Sep17 Newsom Focusing on Republican Voters in California
Sep17 Cruz Is Getting Desperate
Sep17 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?