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Dem 47
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GOP 53
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  • Strongly Dem (182)
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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
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Political Wire logo O’Rourke Stays Away from TV
Perry Will Leave As Energy Secretary
Democrats Slam Barr Over Rollout of Mueller Report
Mueller Report Will Be ‘Lightly Redacted’
White House Aides Brace for Mueller Report
McAuliffe Won’t Run for President

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Barr Announces Major Change to Immigration Policy
      •  Both Trump Fed Picks Are in Trouble
      •  Sanders' Town Hall Was Apparently Quite Successful
      •  Democrats' Q1 Fundraising Totals Are In
      •  Trump's Fundraising Is In, Too
      •  Green New Deal Has Solid Bipartisan Support
      •  Guess Who Is Atop the Senate Polls in Alabama?

Barr Announces Major Change to Immigration Policy

Just in case William Barr's name isn't going to be in the headlines enough this week, in view of Thursday's scheduled release of the redacted Mueller report, the Attorney General made major news of a non-Mueller sort on Tuesday. Taking advantage of the fact that whoever is AG has near-dictatorial control over some parts of the immigration system, particularly the immigration courts, he announced that even if a person has established a credible case for asylum, it will be at the discretion of the Dept. of Homeland Security (rather than immigration judges) whether or not to release them from detention while their situation is resolved.

If there was any remaining doubt that Barr is embracing the role of Donald Trump's hatchet man, this pretty much removes it. No asylum recipient who is already in DHS custody is going to return to the situation they left behind. Even an American prison is presumably safer and more pleasant than whatever it is that they fled. The purpose, then, is to give future asylum-seekers pause, since they will be at risk of spending months or years in prison, guilty of the crime of being refugees. In view of the fact that the nation's detention centers are already terribly overburdened, this will necessarily take an inhumane (and possibly illegal) situation, and make it more so. It's exactly the kind of policy that has Stephen Miller's fingerprints all over it.

Of course, it is still the handling of the Mueller report that is doing the most to earn Barr a reputation as a hatchet man. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, weighed in on that very subject on Tuesday. Though the Judge denied a request by BuzzFeed to release the report immediately, he declared that "The Attorney General has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the be concerned about whether or not there is full transparency." Once the (redacted) report is out, Walton will consider whether Barr released enough of the report to the public, and also whether or not he will be required to release additional records from Robert Mueller's inquiry. Given the views Walton expressed on Tuesday, it's clear that the AG is already treading on thin ice. Presumably there are other judges who feel the same, so Barr is likely headed for some adverse rulings very soon. (Z)

Both Trump Fed Picks Are in Trouble

Herman Cain, nominated to the Federal Reserve board of governors a little over a week ago by Donald Trump, is a dead man walking. He's got no meaningful qualifications for the job, plus a history of sexual harassment allegations. Oh, he's also 73, and would be accepting a term that would last until he's 88. Four GOP senators (Kevin Cramer, ND; Mitt Romney, UT; Cory Gardner, CO; and Lisa Murkowski, AK) have already signaled they are 'nay' votes, which effectively sinks the nomination.

The White House gave Cain an out on Tuesday, with National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow telling reporters that while the nomination still stands, "I think at the end of the day it would probably be up to Herman Cain if he wants to stay in that process or not." Translation: "Herman, this will look better for all of us if it looked like you voluntarily chose to withdraw, as opposed to being forced to do so."

Meanwhile, Stephen Moore isn't in much better shape. He's a bit more qualified than Cain, in that he at least has a degree in economics. But, it's not by much. He has no advanced degrees in the field, and has never worked as an actual economist. What he has done, however, is work as a lobbyist and activist, peddling politically-charged economic ideas, most obviously variants of trickle-down economics. There may be some Republicans who still think trickle-down can work, but there are very few of them who want the Fed to become politicized through the appointment of someone with such a clear-cut partisan agenda.

On top of that, Moore has quite a few skeletons in his closet. The latest come from the numerous radio and print interviews he's done over the years, which reporters have been going through with a fine-toothed comb. He's expressed some...unorthodox points of view. For example, Moore regards the 16th Amendment (income tax) as "evil," and would like to see all income and corporate taxes repealed. Naturally, he also wants to eliminate the minimum wage and welfare, and is not much a fan of Social Security, either. Oh, and he also concedes he is "not even a big believer in democracy," preferring an as unfettered and pure a system of capitalism as is possible. Someone has been reading far too much Ayn Rand.

This White House, of course, never shows weakness. And so, there will be no direct admission that Cain and Moore are in trouble until one or both nominations are killed. However, in a very clear sign that the administration knows the truth, they are interviewing additional candidates for the Fed. Since there are only two seats open, that would be necessary only if Trump & Co. expected at least one of the current nominations to fail. (Z)

Sanders' Town Hall Was Apparently Quite Successful

We noted yesterday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) Monday Fox News town hall got rave reviews. The praise continued to roll in on Tuesday. For example, Vox's Dara Lind writes that, "Sanders was sincere with the audience, gracious to his Democratic opponents, and as prickly as ever to his Fox News hosts." The Hill's Niall Stanage concurs, and declares that the Vermont Senator is now the Democrats' clear-cut frontrunner.

The single-biggest sign of Sanders' success, however, might be the criticism he got from one specific reviewer. Normally, one person's opinion wouldn't matter much, except that this reviewer lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He tweeted:

And clearly, the subject lingered on the President's mind, because he returned to it twice in the next half hour:

Donald Trump does not bother with the personal attacks and the nasty nicknames unless he's feeling threatened, and so the best Democratic tracking poll in country just told us that Bernie Sanders is now a Democratic frontrunner, overtaking Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who hasn't merited a slur in the President's twitter feed since February 9. (Z)

Democrats' Q1 Fundraising Totals Are In

The deadline for formally announced candidates to file their fundraising totals with the FEC has arrived, and so we now know how much the various Democratic contenders collected. Here's the complete rundown:

Name Total
Bernie Sanders $18.2M
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) $12.0M
Beto O'Rourke $9.4M
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) $7.1M
Elizabeth Warren $6.0M
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) $5.2M
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) $5.0M
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) $3.0M
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) $2.3M
John Hickenlooper $2.0M
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) $1.9M
Andrew Yang $1.8M
Marianne Williamson $1.5M
Julián Castro $1.1M
John Delaney $0.4M

A few things stick out here:

  • The totals for the top six are quite impressive, either because they are quite large in and of themselves (Sanders, Harris, O'Rourke), or because they are quite large by the standards of a politician from a relatively small state (Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar).

  • In particular, the clear "winners" of this cycle are Sanders, who has shown that his money machine is still running at peak efficiency, and Buttigieg, who is the only candidate on the list who did not begin the cycle with a big-time fundraising apparatus already in place.

  • On the other hand, there are also some candidates who should be very worried. Gillibrand and Castro both had national stature prior to the campaign, and come from big, rich states. Their totals are not only underwhelming, they also not enough to keep a campaign viable for another year, until the primaries. And a lack of fundraising success begets a lack of fundraising success; any candidate who starts to look like a bad investment will be treated accordingly by donors.

  • Consistent with the previous point, Gillibrand, Castro, and the others near the bottom of the list are really going to need a stellar debate performance at the first Democratic debate in six weeks. It is strange to say that a presidential candidate could face a "do or die" situation nearly 18 months before the actual election, but that is pretty much the size of it.

  • There are some people missing from the list. Joe Biden isn't there, of course, because he hasn't declared yet. And Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) declared late enough, and collected so little money, that he did not need to file. The same is presumably true of Mike Gravel.

  • Most of these folks are depending largely, or entirely, on small donors. Clearly, that approach is working so far. Whether it keeps working when the price tag reaches nine figures is unknown.

  • Democratic enthusiasm is clearly quite high right now. The total for the list above is $82 million, which is a great deal more than Donald Trump collected over the same time (see below). And it's not like all the blue team money is going to the presidential race. Nearly three dozen of the Democrats' freshmen members of the House, who will need to defend their swing districts, collected at least $300,000. That's very good for a House race, particularly almost two years out.

The filing deadline for Q2 is June 30. By then, every one of these candidates will have had a full quarter to raise money, and most or all of them will have participated in the first Democratic debate. So, the next time we write a piece like this, it should be pretty interesting, and also very instructive. (Z)

Trump's Fundraising Is In, Too

Donald Trump's reelection campaign was also required to report its fundraising totals for Q1 this week, and while the President doesn't always follow the rules (ahem, tax returns), he made a point of following this one, since it allowed him to brag that he collected nearly $31 million. That is, as you can see above, considerably more than any Democrat. The President naturally interpreted this as great news for him, and evidence that he's the most popular politician in the country.

We're actually not so sure that it's great news, though, and we mean that in two different ways. First is the question of exactly how that money will help Trump. He's already got Twitter, not to mention Fox News to tote his water 24/7, so there isn't all that much value for him in TV advertising, which tends to be a nine-figure expense for most presidential campaigns. There are his rallies, of course, but they don't cost all that much to stage, relatively speaking. He's going to have a serious data operation this time, as opposed to the fly-by-night operation he had last time, but even a top-notch data team costs tens of millions, not hundreds of millions. Turning donations into votes is a wildly inefficient proposition in the best of circumstances ($20 spent for every vote collected is common); it seems like the President will have particular difficulty finding effective ways to spend his donations.

Beyond that, we are also not so sure that the total demonstrates what Trump thinks it does. Generally speaking, presidents don't get started on their reelection fundraising quite so early, instead devoting their time to raising money for other candidates. So, we don't exactly have direct comparisons available. Barack Obama did not start collecting money until Q2 of the year before his reelection (2011), but he managed to pull in nearly $47 million then ($53 million adjusted for inflation). George W. Bush didn't get serious about fundraising for his reelection until Q4 of 2003, but he also pulled in $47 million ($65 million adjusted). So, to the extent that we can make a judgment, it appears that Trump is actually lagging his predecessors a bit.

Another thing that makes Trump's haul a little less impressive, perhaps, is the means by which it was raised. The campaign is primarily using e-mail blasts sent to supporters right now, and they are constant. In March, for example, it sent out 28 different solicitations, using all of the following to try to get some money: Trump's approval ratings, the defeat of ISIS, the witch hunt, the "exoneration" provided by the Mueller report, the opportunity to have breakfast with the President, the opportunity to have lunch with the President, the opportunity to have dinner with the President, socialist Democrats, late-term abortions, the border, the border wall, MS-13, fake news, and the upcoming FEC filing deadline. All candidates use e-mail blasts these days, of course, but the general impression is that the Trump campaign is hitting up the base, over and over, using every tool at their disposal. If so, $30 million seems a tad on the meager side, particularly given the numbers for Bush and Obama noted above.

It is also true that Trump outraised any individual Democratic candidate. However, if we consider the entire Democratic presidential field, he got crushed by more than $50 million. In these days, where money can go to individual candidates, or to state party committees, or to national committees, or to super PACs, it is rather difficult to get a precise handle on which party is actually raking in more cash. However, if limiting ourselves to presidential fundraising as a proxy for enthusiasm, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is more enthusiasm on the left side of the aisle than on the right.

In short, then: This money may not be as useful to Trump as it would be to other candidates, and it may not be as positive a sign for his reelection chances as he thinks. (Z)

Green New Deal Has Solid Bipartisan Support

A team of researchers from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has published the results of a survey they conducted that found that there is broad, bipartisan support for the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Here are the numbers, by party:

Group Strongly Support Somewhat Support Total Support
Democrats 59% 33% 92%
Independents 36% 52% 88%
Republicans 15% 49% 64%
All Voters 40% 41% 81%

So, good news for the Democrats, right? They've got a popular issue to run on that will unify nearly their entire base, attract a lot of independents, and maybe even some Republican votes? Maybe, maybe not. See, the folks at Yale deliberately hid any clue as to the party backing the proposal. In other words, respondents were not told this was the Green New Deal, nor that it is a Democratic proposal.

Abundant research, along with past experience, makes clear that many voters will oppose the Green New Deal and its specific proposals just as soon as the connection to the Democratic Party is made. This is the exact same thing that happened with Obamacare, where support for the ACA was always 10-15% higher than support for Obamacare was, despite their being the same thing. So, if the Democrats do run on the Green New Deal, or something like it, this is the dynamic they're contending with. Maybe they just have to be happy with a proposal that excites Democrats and Independents. Or maybe they can get some prominent Never Trump Republicans to come out for it, so that it appears "bipartisan." Whatever the answer is, this is where all those highly paid Democratic political consultants are going to earn their paychecks. (Z)

Guess Who Is Atop the Senate Polls in Alabama?

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), centrist as he may be, basically has no business representing such a ruby-red state in the Senate. He got the job only because the GOP candidate he faced was Roy Moore. Some Alabamians were repelled by Moore's history of trampling on the Constitution, and many others were put off by the very credible allegations that he molested more than one underage girl in his younger years. Now, a new poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy reveals that Alabama Republicans' preferred candidate to face off against Jones in 2020 is...Roy Moore. He's got the support of 27% of GOP voters, followed by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) with 18%, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) with 13%, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) with 11%, and no other candidate breaking 5%.

Undoubtedly, Moore is benefiting, in part, from the fact that he has higher name recognition than anyone else in the field. The other candidates on the list are largely known only in their home districts, and on top of that, only one of them (Byrne) has actually declared a Senate run. Still, Moore is reportedly strongly considering another campaign against Jones, and poll results like this could encourage him to pull the trigger. If so, that would be a very nice Christmas present for Jones. Moore is a very Trump-like candidate, in that he has a very loyal base, but also a very firm ceiling for his support. That is precisely the sort of person who can win a primary election, but would then be working with a very thin margin in a general election. That's not to say Jones would be a lock if Moore got the nod (again), but the Senator did win last time, and now would have the advantages of incumbency and a presidential-year electorate. Put another way, if there is any possible candidate against whom Jones is even odds, or maybe even a slight favorite, it's Roy Moore. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr16 Mueller Report Coming on Thursday
Apr16 Let the Subpoena Wars Begins
Apr16 Sanders Releases His Tax Returns
Apr16 Tax Cuts Apparently Not What the Doctor Ordered
Apr16 Buttigieg Officially Declares
Apr16 So Does Weld
Apr16 It's Trump vs. Omar
Apr15 Trump Told CBP Head He Would Get a Pardon If He Broke the Law
Apr15 Sanders Woos Trump Voters--by Attacking Trump
Apr15 Harris Releases 15 Years of Tax Returns
Apr15 Neal Gives Mnuchin More Time to Produce Trump's Tax Returns
Apr15 Democrats Are Already Thinking about Super Tuesday
Apr15 See Dick Run. But Why?
Apr15 Gillibrand Raised $3 Million in Q1
Apr15 Joe Manchin Invades Susan Collins' Personal Space While Endorsing Her
Apr15 New Mexico Secretary of State May Run for the Senate
Apr15 Rep. Dave Loebsack Will Not Run for Reelection
Apr15 Monday Q&A
Apr12 Miller-initiated Policy Was a Bridge Too Far for Nielsen
Apr12 Assange Arrested; Trump "Forgets" What Wikileaks Is
Apr12 Cain Is Dead in the Water
Apr12 McConnell Pushes Back against Cuccinelli
Apr12 Even if Trump Loses, He Wins?
Apr12 Former Obama Counsel Indicted
Apr12 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Mike Gravel
Apr11 Barr: Government Spied on Trump Campaign
Apr11 Democrats Are Preparing Their Response to the Redacted Mueller Report
Apr11 Warren Raises $6 Million in Q1
Apr11 How Democrats Could Get Ahold of Trump's Taxes
Apr11 Sanders Unveils Medicare-for-All Bill
Apr11 It's Now Miller vs. Kushner
Apr11 House Passes a Net Neutrality Bill
Apr11 Benjamin Netanyahu Won a Fifth Term as Israel's Prime Minister
Apr11 Thursday Q&A
Apr10 Fight over Trump's Tax Returns Is about to Heat Up
Apr10 Undocumented Immigration Way Up
Apr10 Republicans Push Back Against Trump
Apr10 Pelosi Cancels Budget Vote
Apr10 Barr Says Mueller Report Is Coming Soon
Apr10 Gravel Enters the Democratic Presidential Race
Apr10 Israel's Next Prime Minister Is Probably Benjamin Netanyahu
Apr09 It's a Bloodbath at DHS
Apr09 Trump Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Organization
Apr09 Trump Administration Kills Baseball Deal
Apr09 Swalwell Announces Presidential Run
Apr09 Alabama Senate Race Just Keeps Getting More Crowded
Apr09 Trump and Nadler Have Been Fighting Each Other for Decades
Apr09 Israel Heads to the Polls
Apr09 India, Too
Apr08 Nielsen Meeting with Trump Becomes Nielsen Resignation