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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump: Pompeo Will Not Run for the Senate
      •  Some Democrats Want to Be White Knights
      •  Washington Post Ranks the Democratic Presidential Candidates
      •  Third Parties Don't Do Well in Presidential Elections
      •  Poll: Schultz Could Elect Trump
      •  A Brief History of the Mexican Border
      •  RedState Caves
      •  Monday Q&A

Trump: Pompeo Will Not Run for the Senate

Yesterday on "Face the Nation," Donald Trump announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not going to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) in 2021. Most likely, Trump doesn't have a clue what Pompeo plans to do. Pompeo may not either. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pulling on Pompeo very hard to announce quickly because he is probably the only Kansas Republican well known enough to clear the field. Before his current cabinet gig, he was a representative from Kansas. Although the filing deadline is in June 2020, if Pompeo waits too long, other Republicans will file and there will be a nasty primary.

From Pompeo's point of view, his current cabinet job might last 1 or 2 years at most, whereas as a Republican senator from Kansas, he could stay there for the rest of his life if he so desires. Further, McConnell really wants him, which puts Pompeo in a strong negotiating position. He could say to McConnell: "If I run, I want an ironclad promise that I will be put on the x, y, and z committees" and probably get "yes" for an answer. In view of that, Trump's declaration on Sunday could very well turn out to be—brace yourself—not true. Trump has a fair bit of motivation to try to undermine McConnell here, given the President's difficulty finding people to appoint to high-level office. And, of course, he is unconcerned about the rest of Pompeo's career, as Trump only cares about his Secretary until he no longer has a use for him. (V)

Some Democrats Want to Be White Knights

While half a dozen Democrats are formally running for president already, a number of other likely candidates are intentionally holding out and don't plan to announce any time soon. Their strategy is to wait and hope that the front runner, whoever that is, stumbles, and then they can jump in and "save" the Party. Anyone who is already in will come under the microscope very quickly and the longer opponents and reporters spend looking for dirt, the greater the chance they find some. Also, after the announcement, a candidate gets momentum and attention, but it is hard to maintain that until the Iowa caucuses, which are a year from now.

At least one strategist who has ties to an as-yet-unannounced candidate has admitted to Politico that once the attention to the initial candidates dies down, an announcement in the summer could have a lot more impact than yet another candidate right now.

However, in recent cycles, candidates who came in late did not do well. Think of Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) in 2004 or Fred Thompson in late 2007. In truth, this cycle, with a president whose supporters will never leave him but whose opponents will never join him, and a massive Democratic pool, is unprecedented. No one really knows what the best strategy is. But strategists do know that the announced candidates can go to donors, consultants, operatives, pollsters, and the rest now and try to sign them up. For unannounced candidates, that is much harder. What pollster wants to say "no" to an actual candidate who wants to hire him in the hope of getting to work for someone who might not even run? So while the real primaries are a year off, the invisible primary is in full swing right now. (V)

Washington Post Ranks the Democratic Presidential Candidates

Although we have been profiling the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, we have demonstrated that we are capable of learning from experience. We didn't see Donald Trump coming in 2015, or for much of 2016, so we don't dare rank the 2020 challengers to Donald Trump at this point in the process. In contrast, the Washington Post knows no fear and has ranked the top 15 potential challengers. Here is the list:

  1. Kamala Harris
  2. Joe Biden
  3. Elizabeth Warren
  4. Sherrod Brown
  5. Beto O'Rourke
  6. Bernie Sanders
  7. Amy Klobuchar
  8. Cory Booker
  9. Kirsten Gillibrand
  10. Michael Bloomberg
  11. Howard Schultz
  12. John Hickenlooper
  13. Julián Castro
  14. Pete Buttigieg
  15. Oprah Winfrey

We are willing to go out on a limb and say that any one of the top nine could end up as Democratic nominee, although in our view it is impossible to rank them this early because the ranking is largely driven by name recognition. Many of the candidates have flaws that are not well known, but after a few months of nasty primaries, they will be better known.

As to the final six in the list, pigs will likely fly before any of them gets the Democratic nomination (and Schultz isn't even trying). (V)

Third Parties Don't Do Well in Presidential Elections

With former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz toying with the idea of running for president as an independent, there is suddenly a lot of attention being paid to previous third-party candidates. So, FiveThirtyEight has a nice piece on how well they have done historically. The short answer: Poorly. The reason is simple: A presidential election isn't about winning votes. It is about winning states (or in the case of Maine and Nebraska, congressional districts). That is generally the undoing of third-party or independent candidates.

In 2016, the Green Party and Libertarian Party both fielded a candidate in most states, but didn't even come close to winning a single electoral vote. The most-recent third-party candidate who mounted a large-scale, well-funded, campaign was Ross Perot in 1992. He got 19% of the popular vote and 0% of the electoral vote.

Before him was John Anderson, who ran as an independent in 1980. He thought he had a good chance because many people regarded then-president Jimmy Carter as weak and then-candidate Ronald Reagan as incompetent. Anderson got 7% of the popular vote and 0% of the electoral vote.

Before him we get George Wallace in 1968, who ran on a platform of "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." He did better than Perot and Anderson. He got 14% of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes because his popularity was concentrated in five states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia), all of which he won against Richard Nixon (R) and Hubert Humphrey (D). Due to the need to win electoral votes, a candidate who has regional appeal might actually win a few of them, but Schultz doesn't have strong appeal in any region or group of states, so the Wallace model doesn't really apply to him.

Wallace wasn't the first third-party candidate to run on the basis of regional appeal. In 1948, Strom Thurmond ran on the Dixiecrat ticket and won four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and his own South Carolina) and 39 electoral votes. He also won one electoral vote from a faithless Tennessee elector. Thurmond's run, like Wallace's, was all about segregation. The Democrats, under Harry S. Truman, put a plank on civil rights in their platform, which caused Thurmond to leave the Democratic Party and form the Dixiecrat party. Despite Thurmond's efforts, Truman won the election easily. In fact, it's generally understood that Thurmond's bid helped Truman by making Harry S. look like a moderate on race.

If we go back further, we come to 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party got 27% of the popular vote and carried six states (Washington, California, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania), worth 88 electoral votes. Of course, Roosevelt had the advantage that he had already been president, so he was already very well known. Although Roosevelt, who had previously been a Republican, didn't win, he was able to suck enough votes away from William Howard Taft to allow Thomas Woodrow Wilson to win the White House with only 42% of the vote.

This brings us back to Schultz. He has approximately zero percent chance of being elected president, but he could be a spoiler, pulling enough votes from one major party to elect the candidate of the other one, as did Roosevelt in 1912. A more recent spoiler candidate was Ralph Nader, who got over 92,000 votes in Florida in 2000, a state that ultimately went to George W. Bush by 537 votes. If 1% of Nader's voters had gone for Al Gore instead, Gore would have won Florida and the presidency. Nader, of course, was an ideological candidate, in some ways the forerunner of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He had a vision of what he wanted for America and tried to achieve it by running for president. In contrast, if Schultz has some compelling vision for America (other than drink more coffee), he's kept it well hidden so far. So the bottom line is that while Schultz has no chance at all of being elected president, he could still have a major effect on the election if he runs (and see below). (V)

Poll: Schultz Could Elect Trump

As discussed above, Howard Schultz has just about zero chance of being elected president, but a new poll from Change Research shows that Schultz could definitely be a spoiler. The poll pitted Donald Trump against five potential opponents [Elizabeth Warren (MA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Kamala Harris (CA), Beto O'Rourke (TX), and Joe Biden (DE)]; both with and without Schultz. Here are the results

Democrat Result without Schultz Result with Schultz
Elizabeth Warren Warren wins by 1 point Trump wins by 2 points
Bernie Sanders Sanders win by 2 points Trump wins by 2 points
Kamala Harris Harris wins by 1 point Trump wins by 2 points
Beto O'Rourke O'Rourke wins by 1 point Trump wins by 3 points
Joe Biden Biden wins by 7 points Biden wins by 5 points

As you can see, against any Democrat except Biden, the effect of a Schultz campaign is to turn a Democratic win into a Republican win. In all the matchups, Schultz gets 6-7 percent of the vote, but more of it comes from Democrats than from Republicans. The poll didn't get down into the weeds, but most likely Trump's supporters are so solid that it doesn't matter who his opponent(s) are. By contrast, centrist Democrats and Independents might be forced to hold their noses and vote for a progressive Democrat if there is no choice, but if someone who supported most of the Democratic platform (except the part about new taxes on billionaires) was on the ballot, they could go for that.

The poll can be criticized for many reasons, however. First, it didn't pit Trump against some of the possible moderate Democrats, such as Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN). Second, it didn't factor in the effects of the Green and Libertarian Parties, which also provide an outlet for people dissatisfied with both the Democratic and Republican candidates. Third, it is well established that people are much more willing to "cast" a protest vote when talking to a pollster than when they are submitting their actual ballot. Fourth, and most important, it is very early in the cycle and many people really aren't paying much attention to 2020 yet. (V)

A Brief History of the Mexican Border

While Donald Trump's insistence that a concrete (or possibly steel) wall be built along the border between U.S. and Mexico is getting a lot of attention, his demand is actually not in line with most of U.S. history. The Week has a good history of the border, which is quite enlightening. Here is a brief summary:

The U.S. acquired 525,000 square miles of land from Mexico after the 1848 Mexican-American War. This included (part or all of) California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and even Wyoming. Five years later, in 1853, the U.S. bought the rest of Arizona and New Mexico (the Gadsden Purchase) from a cash-strapped Mexican government that decided it was better to sell the land to the U.S. than have the U.S. Army just seize it. Until 1882, there were no legal restrictions on immigration at all, and anyone coming into the U.S. from Mexico was welcome. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first immigration restriction in U.S. history. But, as you may surmise from the title of the Act, it wasn't targeted at Mexicans, so the southern border was undefended.

In 1911, Congress authorized a small amount of fencing at the border—to keep tick-infested cattle carrying Texas fever disease from entering from Mexico. It was not intended to stop people, just cows.

In 1924, Congress created the border patrol—primarily to stop the flow of illegal booze coming in from Canada during the Prohibition Era. The southern border was lightly patrolled by a few hundred agents on horseback.

During World War II, Mexicans were actively encouraged to enter the U.S. to work on farms because so many farm workers were at war and the farms desperately needed labor. Five million Mexicans came in under the bracero program.

In 1979, Jimmy Carter proposed building a fence along parts of the border, but during the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan strongly opposed the idea, saying: "You don't build a 9-foot fence between two friendly nations." In 1986, as president, Reagan increased the number of Border Patrol agents and gave them better equipment than just horses, but he also provided amnesty to 2.7 million undocumented immigrants. Many current Republicans worship Saint Ronnie of Reagan, but have conveniently forgotten about his views on immigration and amnesty (they would be none-too-pleased about his views on stem-cell research, or reaching across the aisle, either).

The first physical barrier aimed at stopping people consisted of 14 miles of fencing near San Diego, constructed during the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Only after the Sept. 11 attacks (which are not thought to have been perpetrated by Mexicans) did more fencing (548 miles of it) get built. Barack Obama built another 137 miles of fences.

In short, even fences, let alone a wall, have never been a priority in U.S. politics, and even fences only began to be built in a serious way after Sept. 11, presumably on the theory that building fences in California and Arizona would somehow stop Saudis from hijacking airplanes.

The reality of illegal immigration is that very few people swim over the Rio Grande. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants come in legally and overstay their visas. If undocumented immigration is to be stopped, that is the problem that has to be solved. (V)

RedState Caves

For over a decade, the online news site RedState has been a fierce defender of conservative ideas. The writers there defended conservative principles, such as free trade, lower taxes, reducing the federal debt, and allowing a substantial number of people to legally immigrate to the U.S. Now RedState has caved on its principles and become yet another Trumpist mouthpiece. After all, who needs conservative principles when you have The Donald?

Two women, Kimberly Ross and Andrea Ruth, who previously wrote for RedState and defended conservative principles, have now quit and written a blistering critique of RedState's abandoning its mission. The Bulwark was happy to publish the piece, since it has become one of the few remaining news sites that still supports conservative principles, as they were understood B.T. (Before Trump).

Among other points that Ross and Ruth make is that the company that owns RedState now, Salem Media, targets audiences "interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values." But in practice it has now thrown its full support behind "a thrice-married lying philanderer who utilized bankruptcy laws and debt to con tenants and contractors out of their money."

So it seems that Donald Trump has not only taken control of the Republican Party, lock, stock, and barrel, but also the conservative media, which is clearly willing to sell its soul for a few clicks. Free trade? Tariffs? What difference does it make, anyway? (V)

Monday Q&A

There was much interest in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), and a slew of questions about it, so we will start there.

V.N. from Colorado wrote in a question regarding the NPVIC. My question involves the approach Maine and Nebraska have taken, where electors are chosen based on the presidential winner in a congressional district, as opposed to winner-take-all for the state. Wouldn't this approach address most of the problems where the popular vote winner might lose the Electoral College? States wouldn't have to wait for the 270 electoral vote threshold for that to take effect. In addition, electoral votes would better reflect the actual popular vote tally, because the NPVIC method would give the entire state's electoral vote to the popular vote winner, even if the popular vote was won by a slim margin. Why haven't more states taken this approach? R.B., San Jose, CA

To start, consider the following states:

  • California, which has a Democratic-controlled legislature, and a Congressional delegation that is 46 D/7 R
  • Texas, which has a Republican-controlled legislature, and a Congressional delegation that is 13 D/23 R

In both of these cases (as well as many other deep blue/deep red states), the majority party in the state legislature would be giving away sizable numbers of electoral votes to the other party in exchange for...not much. It is hard to see why they would do this.

Now, consider the following states:

  • Ohio, which has 18 EVs, but only 3 competitive congressional districts (PVI of D+5 to R+5)
  • Florida, which has 29 EVs, but only 6 competitive congressional districts (PVI of D+5 to R+5)
  • Michigan, which has 16 EVs, but only 5 competitive congressional districts (PVI of D+5 to R+5)

Right now, presidential candidates fall all over themselves to kowtow to swing states like these, visiting them for campaign events and the like, and giving them lots of patronage and pork if they win the White House. However, the value of these states would be reduced dramatically if all the campaigning/pork/patronage in the world might only net 3 or 5 or 6 electoral votes. So, in these cases, the state legislature would be ceding enormous amounts of political power in exchange for...not much. It is hard to see why they would do this.

Anyhow, because it seems more fair or democratic, there have been a number of states that experimented with splitting their electoral votes (usually, smaller states that are pretty evenly divided between parties). For example, California used to do it (when the population was much smaller), and so did Kentucky. However, for the reasons outlined above, most states eventually abandon the experiment.

On top of that, if the goal is to be "fairer," this system would likely not achieve that. In fact, what it would do is encourage even more gerrymandering, since control of two major pieces of the government would be at stake (the presidency and the House), instead of just one (the House). At the moment, of course, there is more gerrymandering that works to the benefit of the Republicans than there is that works to the benefit of the Democrats. This is indicated by the fact that Donald Trump won 230 house districts, compared to 205 for Hillary Clinton. Including the two EVs from the Senate seats (which go to the winner of the statewide vote), Trump would have won 290 EVs to Clinton's 248. So, it would have been closer than the actual result (306-232), but not by much.

I've got a follow up question regarding the NPVIC. You mentioned that with the addition of Colorado the NPVIC would have 181 electoral votes. 270 are needed for the NPVIC to take effect. Is there a path for that? Are there enough states left that realistically could pass the NPVIC and get it over the finish line, or is the whole thing a pipe dream? Also, once a state signs on, are there limitations to when and how a state might then change their mind and back out? Could a state change their mind on Election Day when they realize their preferred candidate isn't going to win and send us back to the Electoral College at the last minute? S.S., West Hollywood, CA

If we include every single state and District of Columbia that has gotten the compact through at least one house of the legislature, the total number of EVs is...262. In most cases where the proposal died, it was in the upper house of the legislature, where it did not come close to passage. And, of course, we do not know what the state governors would have done in, say, Arizona or Michigan, if the bill had landed on their desk. However, it's improbable that 100% of them would have signed it. So, we are going to have to say that no, there's no viable path right now.

The way in which the NPVIC is set up is that states can withdraw at their discretion, but they have to give six months' notice. So, it would theoretically be impossible for a state to decide at the last minute that they did not like the way the winds were blowing, and that they were taking their ball and going home. If they tried it, they would not only look very bad, they would also get sued. And they would probably lose that lawsuit, since the NPVIC is a contract.

I have heard about the NPVIC for a long time, and am gobsmacked at why Democrats are so enamored of this proposal to tilt the presidency to Republicans. So far, while some GOP-leaning states have entertained the idea, it has failed in every single case, leaving only Democratic-leaning states to pass the monstrosity. They are: MD, NJ, IL, HI, WA, MA, DC, VT, CA, RI, NY, and CT. But what this compact means is that if a Republican wins the popular vote, even if these states vote Democratic, their EVs will go to the Republican instead of the Democrat. I realize that Democrats can't imagine the popular vote going to a Republican, but they also were convinced Hillary was going to win in 2016. In my opinion, for this measure to be truly fair, all states need to be on board, or no states. Simply a majority of the EV's is going to hobble the Democratic party for generations. Am I missing something here? Or are they? B.G., Los Angeles, CA

Let us point out, first of all, that if all (or most) states are on board with a change, the NPVIC would no longer be needed—the states could just amend the Constitution. Also, consistent with the previous answer, the NPVIC might hurt the Democrats once, or maybe twice. But there is no way the impact would be generational, since one or more blue states would just withdraw if it became clear that is how things were unfolding.

Moving on, there are two primary realities that dictate support for the proposal (or lack thereof):

  • The Democrats do not have an impenetrable, 270-EV blue wall (if they did, then President Clinton would have delivered her SOTU last week)

  • The Democrats have a built-in advantage in terms of the popular vote right now, and that advantage figures to get larger over time

Looked at in this way, the NPVIC is, for lack of a better word, something of a trap. The blue states that have signed on are hoping that a few purple states sign on, such that those "swing" states become much more reliably blue. Those states are not eager to cede the power that being a swing state gives them (see above), so they are unlikely to fall for it in large enough numbers for the NPVIC to come into force.

And finally, note that the only way the NPVIC could backfire on the Democrats is if a GOP candidate wins the popular vote, but loses the electoral vote. Not only has that never happened, but it's inconceivable under current circumstances. This isn't just "Hillary can't possibly lose" inconceivable, or Fezzik "inconceivable," it's "the sun didn't come up today" inconceivable. The only way to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote is to win a bunch of big states and lose pretty much all the small states (as Clinton did). Right now, the big states are so blue and the small states are (mostly) so red that a Republican couldn't possibly put together a map like that. If a GOP candidate somehow wins New York or California, then it will surely be in a landslide that would render the NPVIC irrelevant.

Thursday's NPVIC question led me to another. Let's say that sometime in the next ten years, the requisite EV's worth of states signs on to the compact. What happens in 2030 if the census changes enough EV's to put the total back below the 272 EV threshold? H.P., Fletcher, NC

In the various states, the NPVIC is "signed" by the state legislature adopting a bill that enacts some or all of the compact's terms. So, the answer varies, to some extent, on a state-by-state basis. That said, the compact contains this provision:

This article shall govern the appointment of presidential electors in each member state in any year in which this agreement is, on July 20, in effect in states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes.

So, a state that follows the NPVIC folks in terms of suggested verbiage would indeed be free of its commitment if the total fell below 270.

Looking at the ratings for previous Presidents, what is the best political or other experience for a candidate? Barack Obama had a partial Senate term, John F. Kennedy had one term plus one reelection to the Senate. Donald Trump has no political experience and a questionable business history. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a successful general. Which of the current potential candidates has the most impressive experience? D.K., Iowa City, IA

One of these days, we are planning to do a much more exhaustive breakdown of this question. For now, however, we will say that it is very hard to judge a candidate by their résumé. In theory, a man who graduated college with honors and served as a state legislator, representative, senator, ambassador to both Russia and the U.K., and as U.S. Secretary of State should have been a great president. However, James Buchanan was a train wreck. Or, a man who had less than a year of formal schooling, a handful of terms in a rinky-dink state legislature that met only a few months a year, and less than two years' Washington experience should have been overmatched by something as major as the Civil War. And yet, Abraham Lincoln won that war and is rated as the greatest president of them all. We looked at this issue in 2008. Here is the link to that discussion. However remember that the qualities that make for a good president (e.g., being truthful) may not make for a good candidate.

There are also additional factors that complicate things even more. For example, personality matters a lot. Richard Nixon came to the White House with as distinguished a résumé as anyone (representative, U.S. senator, and vice-president), and performed well in some ways, but was eventually brought down by his venality and his paranoia. Barack Obama's résumé was almost as slight as Lincoln's (add a college degree, and swap two years in the House for four years in the Senate), and yet his innate qualities allowed him to overperform compared to what might have been expected.

A second complicating factor is, for lack of a better term, context. The greatest presidents tend to be made by the greatest crises, and so too do the worst presidents. Herbert Hoover was a brilliant man and a skilled administrator, and if he had swapped places with Calvin Coolidge, he would have had a fairly successful presidency. Not legendary, mind you, but successful. However, the Great Depression was beyond his experience and his imagination, and it ruined him. Franklin D. Roosevelt was an "ideas" guy and was great at inspiring people, but was not suited to being a "caretaker" president. He was also willing to play fast and loose with the rules when it suited his needs. If he had been elected in, say, 1920, he might be as semi-anonymous as Warren Harding is today. And if he had been elected in, say, 1968, he might have ended up being impeached.

So, it's somewhat tough to evaluate, in a meaningful way, the current Democratic candidates' qualifications. To the extent that the past can help identify the best candidate to vote for, we would offer these three general suggestions:

  • Political experience matters: As noted above, the specific type of political experience doesn't seem to matter too much, nor does the quantity of political experience, as long as there is at least a few years of experience in elective political office on the résumé. The failure rate for candidates who did not have such experience—Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Hoover, etc.—is quite high. Indeed, the only truly successful president with no elective office in their past was Eisenhower. And he barely counts, since the task he handled in Europe was very similar to being a state governor or a prime minister. Note, incidentally, that George Washington was elected to, and served, several terms in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

  • Personality matters: There are many aspects of the job that require people skills, and many others that demand integrity. Being strong in those areas does not guarantee success (see Carter, Jimmy and Ford, Gerald), and it's also possible that a candidate could fake it. However, the presidential candidates who had an established reputation for having crummy people skills (Benjamin Harrison, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, etc.) or being sleazy (Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, etc.) generally tended to live up to those reputations, and to leave the White House in disrepute (well, except for Harding, who left in a coffin).

  • Policies matter: While it is not worthwhile to pay attention to ridiculous promises ("Mexico will pay for the wall!"), it is also the case that candidates who are tentative during campaign season rarely find a firmer backbone once they are in office. If a candidate does not commit to a few clear, concrete policies that a voter likes a lot, that voter should probably stay away. This rule would have spared the U.S. from Franklin Pierce, Buchanan, and Harding, among others.

In short, we would suggest staying away from folks who have no political experience at all (Howard Schultz), those who have a reputation for being personally prickly or shady, and those who seem to have no real platform, or whose platform is disagreeable. Beyond that, you casts your vote and you takes your chances.

I have discussed this with friends and can't figure out why Democrats can't sit at the table with Donald Trump and tell him, "There's $5.7 billion here for your wall if you give us a giant pile of concessions for it." I feel like there is actually a deal that could get enough votes from both sides to actually get something done, even if there is a physical wall (that won't start construction for years anyway). D.R., Lancaster, PA

We do not have a pipeline into the Speaker's office, of course, so we are left to guess as to what is happening here. However, we think we can speculate with a fair degree of precision.

To start with, it is likely that Donald Trump already knows that this option is available. And if he doesn't know it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) certainly does. Even if the Democrats have not communicated this through backchannels (which they probably have), this is how politics works: "You scratch my back, I scratch yours."

The real question, then, is: Why haven't the Democrats been more vocal about putting this proposal out there? There are likely a few answers to that question, but the biggest one is a concept from Negotiation 101 called anchoring. What this means, in brief, is that the opening offer in a negotiation tends to become the baseline for the final deal. In this case, if the Democrats openly pitch a deal like the one you propose, then $5.7 billion for the wall essentially becomes a starting point (i.e., an anchor) from which Trump and the GOP can demand more. On the other hand, if the Democrats keep their options open, and their anchor is "no wall funding," then the $5.7 billion is available as a final concession as opposed to an opening bid.

Beyond that: (1) Trump has proven himself untrustworthy when it comes to following through on his deals, (2) The Democrats don't want him to conclude that his current approach is a good one, and (3) Democratic voters hate the wall. For these reasons, in addition to Negotiation 101, it behooves the blue team to commit to very little until Trump basically has pen in hand and is ready to sign. If the Democrats do any more than hint at a proposal through backchannels (which, again, we suspect they've done), then they risk aggravating their voters, while at the same time persuading Trump that his approach is working, and encouraging him to negotiate in public (probably via Twitter). There's just no upside for the Democrats here.

Regarding New York's new third trimester abortion law, and VA Gov Northam's comments this week that imply support for infanticide or near infanticide: I'm an evangelical who used to be a conservative Republican, but now I'm appalled at the GOP and usually vote for Democrats. I'm still pro-life, but have come to terms with voting for pro-choice candidates when necessary because 1) ending abortion isn't a near term possibility, and 2) there's plenty of evidence that progressive economic policies result in fewer abortions than just making it illegal. I've also been thinking of getting more involved to try to bring more evangelicals around to this way of thinking. But these recent aggressively pro-abortion words and actions from Democrats seem to be a bridge too far, and might force me back in the direction of the GOP. So the question is, are Democrats aware of people like me and do they care at all? Is it a fool's errand to try to make them care? I feel that in addition to evangelicals who might be persuaded to vote for them, some of their core constituencies, such as minorities, might be appalled at this too. What are they thinking? M.Y., Windcrest, Texas

We must begin here by noting that this is a very complicated issue, and one that is very fraught. We have only a limited space in which to answer your question, so there will necessarily be less nuance than would be ideal. (Oh, and as long as we're noting things, it's very unlikely that anyone will ever again think of Northam's position on abortion when his name comes up in conversation.)

Moving on, we would suggest that the crux of the issue, as regards New York and Virginia, is this: The word 'abortion' is used to refer to two very different kinds of medical procedures. The first is the type of abortion that evangelicals and other pro-life activists primarily concern themselves with, when a viable (or potentially viable) fetus is aborted because the parents don't want to have a child. The second is the type of abortion that Northam and other folks were thinking of, namely that of a fetus that is not viable, or that poses a risk to the life of the mother. Although the (soon-to-be-former?) Governor's words were ill-chosen, we are confident he was not imagining the murder of a perfectly healthy baby that has already been delivered. He was imagining a situation where a fetus has significant developmental issues, the parents try to abort, the fetus is delivered anyhow, and the parents then have a change of heart.

The numbers largely back up Northam, et al., here. Just over 1% of abortions are performed in the third trimester (between 1.2% and 1.4%, depending on whose stats you look at), and nearly all of those are of fetuses that are non-viable or are a danger to the mother. This also comports with common sense; though neither (V) nor (Z) is female, we know that in many ways, it's exceedingly difficult to carry a baby. While not unheard of, it would be unusual for someone to bear those burdens for 6 or 7 or 8 months, and then to decide they've changed their mind. Anyhow, the upshot here is that if there were distinctive, widely-used, value-neutral terms for the two different types of abortions we describe above, we suspect there would be far fewer misunderstandings about where people stand (and what particular bills would do).

As to the latter portion of your question, every politician wants every vote that they can get. So, there is no doubt that Democrats would love to connect with folks like you and make sure everyone is on the same page, as much as is possible. That said, there is only so much time in the day, and the evangelical community has not given much indication they are open to nuance on this issue. So, it is understandable that a politician might not want to expend too much energy on finding common ground, thinking that it might be a fool's errand. Further, there are certain activists who tend to seize upon a single misstatement, or to take something out of context, to permanently tar a politician as a baby-murdering zealot. For example, do you think that, if his political career miraculously survives the next week, Northam would ever be invited to speak to the National Right to Life Convention for a respectful discussion of the issue?

In short: Politicians really need to watch their words, particularly since they know they are engaging with, perhaps, the most contentious issue in modern American politics. However, it would also be helpful if there were more pro-life folks like you, who disdain abortion, but are willing to see that it's a gray issue, rather than a black and white one. The other side might also need to do some thinking about exactly when a fertilized egg becomes a human being. (Z)

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