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Political Wire logo What Harris Tells Wealthy Donors About Medicare-for-All
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Biden Is Having Trouble Raising Money Online

The day Joe Biden announced that he wanted a promotion from his former job, he raised $4.6 million online, a respectable amount. However, 60% of his current $13 million online total came in the first week of his campaign. In other words, as far as online donations go, he is a bit of a flash in the pan, not unlike Beto O'Rourke, and in contrast to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), for whom the money continues to roll in. However, Biden is not broke by any means, as he continues to pull in money from major donors.

The significance of Biden's lack of online donations is that he doesn't have much grassroots support. For any candidate, having a large number of active supporters who are willing to give you money (often multiple times), is much better than having a handful of wealthy donors who are willing to write very large checks, but who quickly bump up against the limits proscribed by law. As of June 30, Biden's median online fundraising day pulled in $67,000, far below Pete Buttigieg's $186,000 or Sanders' $127,000. Warren was slow to get started, but by June she was pulling in six-figure sums every day. One Democratic consultant said of Biden's fundraising: "Biden has an enthusiasm gap that is making that difficult for him online." In the end, the enthusiasm gap could be Biden's Achilles' heel in the primary, which ultimately is about votes, not dollars. (V)

Foreign Diplomats Expect Trump to Be Reelected

Generals are always refighting the last war. Diplomats don't want to fall into that trap. Politico talked to about 20 foreign diplomats privately and all of them thought Trump would lose in 2016. Now, none of them think he will lose in 2020. Their arguments are:

  • He is the incumbent
  • The economy is roaring along
  • The Democrats don't have a clear frontrunner

Of course, just because you were wrong expecting him to lose last time doesn't mean he is going to win again. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were incumbents who lost reelection, and the economy might not be so strong a year from now (see below). Further, the Democrats will eventually have a nominee and the primary campaign will be forgotten.

Nevertheless, the diplomats' view that Trump will win does affect how they deal with him now. If they believe they will have to deal with him for 5 more years, they can't just stall for a year and then plan on dealing with someone else. Some embassies are trying to predict who will be on Trump's team post-2020. However, one diplomat said in the understatement of the day/week/month/quarter: "But Trump is very hard to predict."

On some issues, Trump has set a pattern that Democrats would pretty much have to follow, such as getting better trade deals. Also, Trump's isolationist tendencies have rubbed off on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and would certainly affect their administrations, should they win.

China, for one, is adopting a wait-and-see attitude, and is unlikely to make any deals with Trump, hoping to get better ones from a Democratic president.

Some governments are actively rooting for a Trump win in 2020. These are the authoritarian governments in countries like Hungary and Poland. Russia is probably also on Team Trump, probably more literally than figuratively. North Korea's Kim Jong-Un loves Trump, probably because despite his youth, he is far more in control of the U.S.-North Korea relationship than Trump is. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bet the farm on Trump's reelection. If Netanyahu is still the Israeli prime minister on Jan. 20, 2021, and a Democrat is sworn in as president, he is going to have a lot of explaining to do about his overt partisanship. Even some Brits seem to be enthusiastic about a Trump win, since Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson get along swimmingly and Trump has already said he wants a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.K.

Of course "once bitten, twice shy" is hardly a fundamental principle of diplomacy and diplomats need to be careful about overcompensating for their 2016 miscalculations. (V)

Stephen Miller Is Trump's Most-Trusted Adviser Other Than His Family

Donald Trump is famous for not trusting anyone except his family. Probably his closest adviser is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. However, there is one adviser who comes close to Kushner in influence: Stephen Miller. Miller's fixation is immigration and that has become Trump's fixation as well.

Miller's influence is behind the scenes, but it is enormous. Just as one example: when Trump holds a rally or gives a speech, he generally has a teleprompter, although he often veers from it and ad-libs. Most of the time, Miller is backstage with the teleprompter operator, telling the operator where to scroll forward or backward so that when Trump finishes his current ad-lib, he will pick up the speech at the point Miller wants him to.

Miller is one of Trump's longest-tenured advisers and certainly the most devoted to Trump. He is the driving force behind Trump's focus on immigration. He says he sees U.S. citizenship as sacred and regards immigration as the defining element of the country's future.

Last week, Miller saw one of his main policy goals become U.S. policy. It consists of new rules that disqualify legal immigrants from getting green cards if they are poor or have received public assistance in the past. He doesn't want people who might become public charges to be on a pathway to citizenship. He pretty much singlehandedly got Trump to push for this change in policy, although it is being challenged in the courts.

Miller believes that immigration affects all other issues, including health care, public safety, national security, education, the economy, and the financial system. His colleagues on the White House staff look at him with a mix of admiration, fear, and derision. They respect his knowledge, though, and admit that he reads every economic analysis, think tank white paper, and editorial in the Wall Street Journal on immigration.

Miller is obsessed with words and how an issue is presented and what precise phrases defenders of the President's policies must use. He also is sufficiently vindictive that when people leak things to the media, they are very careful to tell the reporters to use certain words when quoting them since Miller will read all leaks with forensic focus to try to determine who the leaker was.

Miller's allies among the immigration restrictionist movement say that he has done more for their cause than anyone else in recent memory. His complete devotion to Trump and Trump's consequent complete trust in him have played a huge role in his success. As a result of this mutual arrangement, Miller can talk to Trump for a few minutes to gauge his views on something, and then craft a speech that expresses these views in clear language.

Not everyone in D.C. loves Miller, however. A number of Republican senators, including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have criticized Miller and told Trump what they think of him. So far, it hasn't had any effect. With immigration looming as Trump's most important campaign issue, Miller's power is only going to rise during the next year. (V)

How a Recession Could Start

If a recession happens in 2020, it will have a dramatic impact on the election, and not in a good way for the Republicans. Among other things, people who like Donald Trump's racism and Supreme Court appointments may be in a bad mood if they lose their jobs, houses, and health care. If Trump campaigns on building his wall and trying to reduce the flow of legal immigrants, and the Democrats campaign on bread and butter issues, people who have been whacked by the recession may decide the blue team's (likely) plan to create millions of jobs all over the country in infrastructure sounds like a good idea.

But the economy is humming along now, despite the occasional tweet-driven blips in the stock market, so how might a recession start? The New York Times has an interesting piece on the subject. First, there is that pesky on-again-off-again trade war with China. If Trump goes through with his plan to put tariffs on everything the U.S. imports from China, it will raise prices for businesses and consumers alike. Their reaction will be to buy less, which reduces demand and forces companies to lay people off.

A trade war that increased prices would lead to inflation and might cause the Fed to raise, rather than lower, interest rates. High interest rates tend to choke off the economy and lead to recessions. Once a recession got going, the Fed might decide to lower interest rates. Or maybe not, depending on how bad the inflation was. All of this monetary uncertainty makes it difficult for companies to plan expansions. The default is "do nothing."

International economic developments could also hit the U.S. The economy is definitely slowing in China, Germany, and other countries. If that causes them to buy less from the U.S., that directly hits jobs at the companies whose products are no longer much in demand.

Then there is the biggest uncertainty of all: Brexit. Will the U.K. leave the European Union? Will it do it absent a deal with the E.U.? What are the consequences of all this for the U.K., Europe, and the world? No one knows, but few economists think it will be good. Brexit could easily push Europe into a recession, and from there it could quickly spread everywhere.

Trump's economic advisers are actively downplaying the risk of a recession next year. Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow and Trade Representative Peter Navarro appeared on the Sunday political shows to pooh-pooh the idea that there are any clouds on the horizon. Kudlow said: "I don't see a recession at all." In response to a question about tariffs on CNN's "State of the Union," Navarro said: "They're not hurting anybody here...They're hurting China." Tariffs are taxes on imports that raise their price, something Navarro knows very well. They certainly hurt the buyers of the tariffed products who pay more for them than if there were no tariffs.

If there is a recession next year, there is one thing we know with 100% certainty: Trump will blame it on someone else. He may first try blaming Barack Obama, then Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). If that doesn't stick (and it probably won't), he will blame Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, which will only cause the Democrats to point out that (1) Trump picked Powell and (2) Trump promised to hire only great people. If blaming Powell doesn't work, Trump could try to blame China, Europe, or other countries. Most likely none of that will work. Harry S. Truman used to have a little sign on his desk showing where the buck stopped. He had it for a good reason. If there is a recession, Trump is likely to understand better why Truman had that sign. (V)

Judge Orders Georgia to Switch to Paper Ballots

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg, an Obama appointee to the federal bench in Georgia, has ruled that Georgia's voting machines are "unsecure, unreliable, and grossly outdated." They have to go, she decreed. However, she further wrote in a 153-page opinion that removing them for the 2019 local elections in Georgia would be disruptive. But she forbade the state from using them in 2020. In particular, she ruled that if they haven't been replaced in time for the March 24 presidential primary, the state must use paper ballots.

Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he was pleased with the decision since the state is already in the process of replacing the machines with new electronic machines that allow the voter to pick candidates, after which a paper ballot is printed for optical scanning. Unfortunately, cybersecurity experts are not put entirely at ease by the ruling. The problem is that some voting machines, including the ones Georgia is considering, print a barcode that encodes the voter's choices on the ballot. It is the barcode that is scanned, not the printed names. So a hacker could arrange for the printed names to be the ones the voter picked but the barcode to contain the hacker's choices. The voter would think everything is fine, when in fact the ballot has been tampered with. Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group that works for election security, has been arguing for months that a barcode system is inherently unsafe.

In addition, some voting machines offer an option to just shoot the ballot into the optical scanner directly. Voters in a hurry might choose this option, thus eliminating any chance that the voter could examine the ballot at all. In short, it is not clear what impact the judge's ruling will have. In the best-case scenario, the state can't get its act together and is forced to go back to paper ballots, but after spending $100 million on (possibly insecure) voting machines, Raffensperger is not likely to give up without a fight. (V)

Poll: Americans Support Free Trade

Historically, both Democrats and Republicans have supported free trade, although Republicans somewhat more so than Democrats (especially union members). A new NBC News/WSJ poll asked the question: "Is free trade good for the U.S.?" The result is that 64% see it as good and only 27% see it as bad.

The poll is important because Donald Trump doesn't believe in free trade at all, which puts him at odds with a majority of Americans. It also means that starting (continuing?) a major trade war with China is not likely to be popular.

The poll also asked about Trump's approval rating. It is now at 43% approve and 55% disapprove. Trump's net rating is now 12 points under water, the lowest from the McInturff/Hart polling series in over a year. However, the leading Democrats are also under water. Joe Biden is at -4%, Bernie Sanders is at -3%, and Elizabeth Warren is at -1%. Pollster Bill McInturff expects that next year, both major party candidates will be under water, leading to another "lesser of two evils" election. (V)

Sanders Is the Clear Favorite of Democratic College Students

Bernie was the kids' favorite in 2016 and that is still largely true, at least among college kids. A new Chegg-College Pulse poll has Sanders on top. Here are the results for the candidates polling above 1% among Democratic college students nationally:

Candidate Pct.
Bernie Sanders 29%
Elizabeth Warren 22%
Joe Biden 10%
Pete Buttigieg 9%
Kamala Harris 6%
Andrew Yang 5%

College students could be an important voting group in 2020. Voter participation jumped 80% among students between 2016 and 2018. Clearly, many students are motivated to vote. Winning their votes in the primaries is going to depend largely on candidates' views on issues of concern to them, such as free tuition at state schools and student debt. (V)

Republicans Want to Beat Ocasio-Cortez

Republicans seem to come in two categories: Those who love Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and those that hate her. The former group loves her because they can use her to paint the entire Democratic Party as a bunch of pie-in-the-sky unrealistic dreamers who are way out in left field, far from the mainstream. The latter group is afraid of her because she could actually move the Democrats far to the left, and because she symbolizes an American political future that is not good for a party that primarily appeals to white men. This latter group wants to get rid of her. Among them are seven Republicans who have already filed to run against her in Nov. 2020. It's a free country, so they are welcome to try. The only problems here are:

  1. The PVI of her NY-14 district is D+29
  2. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by six to one in her district
  3. The population of NY-14 is half Latino and 82% minority
  4. Ocasio-Cortez got 78% of the vote in 2018, with the Republican getting 14%

In other words, in such a heavily Democratic district, even if the Republicans can find a Latino sacrificial lamb, beating an extremely high-profile and popular incumbent congresswoman is about as likely as Donald Trump sweeping the district.

Only one Republican primary candidate has reported campaign contributions so far. That is a medical writer from the Bronx, Ruth Papazian, who has raised $10,600. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez raised $1.9 million in the first half of 2019 and will surely continue at that pace going forward. Another candidate is Miguel Hernandez, a building superintendent, who says that his experience with broken boilers and leaky pipes has prepared him well for politics. Bronx entrepreneur Antoine Tucker is running on a platform embracing far-right theories of the "deep state."

Given that no Republican has any chance of winning, why are so many of them trying to get the nomination? Some of them don't even live in the district (which is legal as long as they live in New York state). The main reason is that whoever gets the Republican nomination will be welcome to appear on Fox News and other conservative outlets any time of the day or night he or she so desires. The free publicity could be helpful to the nominee if that person is planning a run for some other office in the future in a friendlier environment, or has something else they're selling. With so many people coming after her, Ocasio-Cortez is no doubt quaking in her sneakers. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug16 No Israel Visit for Omar, Tlaib
Aug16 This Is What Corruption Looks Like
Aug16 Trump's Folly?
Aug16 Trump Made Me Do It!
Aug16 Team Biden Works on Solution to Gaffe Problem
Aug16 Hickenlooper Exits the Presidential Race
Aug16 O'Rourke Does the Full Sherman
Aug16 King Embraces Incest, Rape
Aug16 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Aug15 The Stock Market Is Nervous (Again)
Aug15 Biden Tries to Recover from Another Gaffe
Aug15 Trump Gets a Minor Win in Court
Aug15 Hickenlooper Is Having Second Thoughts about This President Thing
Aug15 Trump's State-by-State Approval Ratings Are Dismal
Aug15 California's New Tax-Return Law Could Hit Republicans Downballot
Aug15 Pelosi Calls McConnell "Moscow Mitch"
Aug15 Political Tourism Starts to Take Off
Aug15 Thursday Q&A
Aug14 Trump Blinks on China
Aug14 Abrams Announces 2020 Plans
Aug14 Epstein Story Isn't Going Away
Aug14 A Tale of Two Terrible Candidates
Aug14 This Week's Polling News, Part I: Trump vs. the Democrats
Aug14 This Week's Polling News, Part II: Trump vs. Himself
Aug14 Gabbard Takes a Two-Week Hiatus
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part I: Immigrants
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part II: Mobility
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part III: Regulation
Aug13 Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain, Part IV: Conservation
Aug13 Reid: Abolish the Filibuster
Aug13 Trump Could Goddamn Well Lose the Evangelicals
Aug13 Could Texas Go Blue in 2020?
Aug12 Epstein Opts for the Expedited Track
Aug12 What Is the Second Amendment Really about?
Aug12 It's Party Time in Iowa
Aug12 The Gaffe Machine Rolls On
Aug12 What Do the Democrats Want?
Aug12 The Mooch Turns
Aug12 Not an Organized Party
Aug12 DHS Official Calls for Paper Ballots in 2020
Aug12 Monday Q&A
Aug09 A Day of Ill Omens for Trump
Aug09 Trump Administration Turnover Remains Brisk
Aug09 Operation Wetback, v2.0
Aug09 The State of the State Polls
Aug09 Gabbard for VP?
Aug08 Trump Visits Toledo and El Paso
Aug08 Biden Eviscerates Trump
Aug08 Big News on Social Media
Aug08 Quinnipiac Poll: Biden, Warren, Sanders