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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Well, That Didn't Take Long
      •  Sanders May Enter the Race Today
      •  Biden's "Strength" in Polls May Be an Illusion
      •  Elections Board Hears About Shady Behavior in NC-09
      •  John James Reportedly the Favorite to Replace Nauert
      •  Trump at Odds with SNL Again
      •  Stone Shoots Himself in the Foot

Well, That Didn't Take Long

The ink was hardly dry on Donald Trump's proclamation of a national emergency before the first lawsuit was filed on Friday. Two of them, in fact, prepared in advance by watchdog groups in Washington. There was no doubt that more were coming, and so they did on Monday. With California AG Xavier Becerra taking the lead, 16 states filed suit against the President in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The AGs of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia joined Becerra in the filing, but they let him take the lead because he was able to file in a district with 19 Democratic appointees against just 3 Republican appointees, with appeals to be heard by the famously liberal United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In other words, the President's prediction from Friday was spot on (not that it was all that hard a prediction to make). He's going to lose and lose and lose until the case gets to the Supreme Court, and then he will hope that they agree to hear it and they rule in his favor.

Until that time, Trump does have some other things to worry about on the national emergency front. To start, the administration is already threatening a veto of any resolution declaring an end to the emergency. Clearly, they think such a resolution is coming, and that it's going to pass both houses. Whether the majority is veto-proof is the big question.

There's also another "national emergency" poll out, this one from HuffPost/YouGov, and it's not great for the President. 37% of respondents approve or strongly approve of the declaration, while 55% disapprove or strongly disapprove. Among Republicans, 60% strongly approve, and another 19% somewhat approve. In short, it's not as bad as the CNN poll from over the weekend, but it still suggests that even the base is not particularly enthusiastic about this course of action. And Democrats (7% approve) and Independents (30% approve) are even less enthusiastic.

Finally, as Michael Conway—who served as counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings—points out, one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon was abuse of authority. He thinks that this is a slam-dunk case of abuse, and he believes that since the Supreme Court tends to defer to executive power, impeachment is the best and only remedy available here. Of course, that does not matter one whit until approximately 20 GOP senators agree. But if that time comes, they should have no shortage of charges to work with. (Z)

Sanders May Enter the Race Today

Take this with at least a few grains of salt, as it is from a secondhand source, and the only outlet that has it is a local station in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, WMUR is reporting that a "key" (but unnamed) supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that a 2020 campaign announcement is imminent, and will come via e-mail sometime today. It's unclear whether this means the formation of an exploratory committee or a full-blown declaration of candidacy, but either way it certainly appears the Senator is going to run for president again. This is consistent with reporting from The Hill and Politico this weekend, which suggested that an announcement would be made sometime this week, and that Sanders had already made a video for posting to the Internet.

In 2016, the progressive lane might as well have been a progressive five-lane highway, as Sanders had it all to himself. Now, he finds himself pitted against several genuine progressives, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and others who are trying to claim that mantle, like Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). He also won't have a sizable "please, not Hillary" vote that flows to him pretty much automatically; he's going to have to work a fair bit harder to win the kind of support he got in 2016. On top of that, at 79 on Inauguration Day, he's getting kind of long in the tooth for what is very possibly a grueling 8-year commitment. He does have the mother of all donor/e-mail lists, very high name recognition, and some built-in support from those who carried his banner two years ago and want to do so again. Still, add it all up, and he's probably a longer shot in 2020 than he was in 2016.

If you wish to read our profile of him, it is here. (Z)

Biden's "Strength" in Polls May Be an Illusion

Thus far, the various polls of the Democratic field (both declared and anticipated candidates) have put former VP Joe Biden at the front of the pack, with 25-30% of respondents favoring him. The tricky question is whether this status reflects his popularity with Democratic voters, or merely his greater name recognition as Veep (and long-time U.S. Senator, and two-time presidential candidate). Two new national polls, one from Bold Blue Campaigns, and the other from ABC/WaPo, make a strong case that it's the latter.

In nearly all of the polls that have been conducted of the Democratic hopefuls, respondents were given a list of names from which they had to choose. These are the surveys that tend to put Biden's support in the 30% range (and, for that matter, Bernie Sanders' in the 25% range). However, Bold Blue Campaigns allowed respondents to answer with "undecided," while ABC/WaPo asked respondents to volunteer the name of the candidate they supported. In both polls, Biden still led the field, but his support dropped to around 10% (with Sanders finishing in second/third with 7%-8%).

The obvious conclusion here is that Biden and Sanders both have a small cadre of loyal supporters, but that the rest of the folks who supported them in the earlier polls are essentially "free agents," available to be won by other candidates who make a good pitch. And if that is true, then it's actually pretty bad news for the two men. They already have very high name recognition and are known commodities. There isn't a whole lot more they can do to win over new supporters. On the other hand, the Kamala Harrises and Cory Bookers of the world have room for their name recognition and their support to grow.

As noted above, Sanders is likely to enter the race today (or, possibly, later this week). But he's never been a guy who worried too much about specifics and details. Biden, on the other hand, is very attuned to polls and numbers and data-crunching. So, he and his people are going to be thinking very hard about what this all means in the next week or two or three, because he's going to have to make a decision pretty soon. (Z)

Elections Board Hears About Shady Behavior in NC-09

The newly-constituted North Carolina State Board of Elections heard testimony on Monday, as they tried to figure out what to do about the contested election in NC-09. If they were not already inclined to invalidate the result, then what they heard on Monday certainly must have them thinking that way now.

To start, there was testimony from Lisa Britt, who was a part of, and intimately familiar with, the operation being run by convicted felon and political dirty trickster Leslie McRae Dowless. In fact, he is, as it happens, her ex-stepfather. Among other things, Britt admitted that she collected absentee ballots illegally (at the rate of $3/each), signed many of them fraudulently as a "witness," and forged her mother's signature on others in hopes that fewer signatures from any one "witness" would reduce suspicions among election officials.

This is, of course, very damning. And what it meant was that the "winner," Republican Mark Harris, had to stop thinking about being certified the victor of election #1, and had to start thinking about keeping himself eligible for election #2 (and, for that matter, keeping himself out of prison). So, he expressed shock and horror about what he'd heard, but insisted that he knew nothing about any of it. That seems a little like hiring a bank robber and then being shocked that a bank got robbed, but maybe Harris could have made it work. Well, until Sandra Dowless—who is both Britt's mother, and Leslie McRae Dowless' ex-wife—testified, that is. She said that she heard her ex-husband and Harris discussing the scheme on the phone on multiple occasions. So much for the candidate's "I didn't know."

The hearing is expected to last one to two more days. And maybe Harris' counselors will mount a brilliant defense in which they argue that Britt and Sandra Dowless are a jilted ex-stepdaughter and ex-wife who are telling a vicious pack of lies in order to get back at Leslie McRae Dowless. But even in that unlikely event, Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats have surely heard enough that they won't seat Harris. So this one has gotta be heading for another election at this point. (Z)

John James Reportedly the Favorite to Replace Nauert

Heather Nauert was supposed to be Donald Trump's pick to succeed Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador. However, this weekend, Nauert got Nannygated, as it turned out that she was getting childcare from an immigrant woman not legally allowed to do that work in the United States, and was also not paying payroll taxes on that woman's wages. This is exactly what happened to would-be AG Zoë Baird, who was compelled to withdraw her nomination, which led to Bill Clinton's nominating Janet Reno instead.

It would seem that Trump already has a new nominee in mind, in the form of John James. Here are the highlights of James' résumé:

  • He graduated from West Point
  • He did multiple tours in Iraq
  • He works for his family's company, which manages international supply logistics
  • He lost a closer-than-expected U.S. Senate race to Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Impressive, but none of those things really suggests "ambassador," much less the most significant ambassadorial posting in the United States government. We are thus left to conclude that James' candidacy is at least partly related to his being black. That is to say, Donald Trump's cabinet includes so many white men, it could practically have come from the 19th century. Or, in Mike Pence's case, the 14th century. Of the 23 cabinet-level posts, 16 are held by white men. There are only five women, and only three people of color (with Elaine Chao in both categories). Having lost Haley, who is also a woman of color, Trump needed to replace at least some of the diversity she brought. And when his #1 female candidate, Nauert, did not work out, he moved on to his #1 candidate of color. Actually, more like #2, as Herman Cain was also (allegedly) interviewed for the job, and apparently did not impress.

If Trump does make the pick, we will see how the Senate feels about someone with so little relevant experience. The RNC may also be unhappy, as they were really hoping to recruit James to take on Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) in 2020. (Z)

Trump at Odds with SNL Again

Saturday Night Live has been on the air for four decades and eight presidents. Sometimes, their portrayals are basically affectionate (Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama). For other chief executives, they are a bit sharper with their satire (Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush). And then there is SNL's take on Trump, which is currently performed by Alec Baldwin, and is a scorched-earth take-no-prisoners takedown of #45. The show trots Baldwin out for another flaying of the Donald any time the President makes big headlines. This weekend's national emergency, for example:

It is hard to understand why Trump watches SNL's sketches about him. They are always brutal, and this invariably drives him into a rage. But watch he does. And that generally leads to tweets; this weekend's were particularly alarming:

Only the President knows if he really believes this, but it would be hard for him to get much more authoritarian than calling for the producers of satire to be investigated and punished. And while one certainly hopes that anyone and everyone ignores his ill-considered words, we know that does not happen, and that some take them as gospel. This led Baldwin, quite reasonably, to note late Sunday that he is potentially in danger due to Trump's verbiage. That may seem outlandish, until one remembers that the utterly ludicrous Pizzagate conspiracy theory caused Edgar Maddison Welch to attack the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor with an AR-15-style rifle, firing three rounds before he was subdued.

Trump was not the only player in the shutdown drama to be targeted by SNL this week. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also came under the microscope:

It wasn't as harsh as the Trump sketch, but it still had some bite. Like the President, Schumer also decided to respond via Twitter:

Perhaps if Trump cannot stop himself from watching the show, he will at least learn that this sort of response is not only classier, but it also deprives SNL's takedowns of an extra day of oxygen. (Z)

Stone Shoots Himself in the Foot

Newly-indicted former Trump insider Roger Stone was apparently feeling a bit frisky, and so decided to hop on Instagram to share an image of the judge who is overseeing his trial:

Roger Stone wants Amy Berman Jackson dead?

The part that is getting all the attention is the crosshairs above Amy Berman Jackson's head, which implies that she is being (or should be) targeted by someone with a rifle. Also not too good is the text that says the whole trial is a put-up job, with Jackson as a willing "show trial" participant. Neither of these are wise things to communicate publicly. Beyond the fact that threatening a federal judge is a crime, there is the small matter that Jackson could soon be in the position of deciding exactly how much time Stone gets to spend in the pokey.

The post was up for an only hour before Stone took it down and issued an apology, claiming that it was the work of a "volunteer." It is very hard to believe that is true; not only that Stone has "people" who handle his Instagramming, but that they feel empowered to post something so provocative.

If we assume that it was indeed Stone's handiwork, and we further assume that Stone is not stupid, that leaves us with two explanations. The first is that he's really trying to convince himself and/or the world that this is a big conspiracy, and posting that message was a form of chest-thumping to sell that line. The second is that he's trying to set up some sort of mistrial; to create a future case that Jackson could not have been impartial and that she should have recused herself. If it is indeed either of these things, the outcome is not likely to be the one Stone is hoping for. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb18 Schiff: Evidence of Collusion with Russia Is in Plain Sight
Feb18 Republicans Complain about Trump's Emergency
Feb18 Two Witnesses Told Congress that Rosenstein Considered Recording Trump
Feb18 Putin Gets His Wish
Feb18 Nauert Has Been Bairded
Feb18 Wisconsin Will Get More Attention This Time
Feb18 Could a Vegan Bring Home the Bacon in Iowa?
Feb18 Election Board Will Meet Today to Decide NC-09 Race
Feb18 Monday Q&A
Feb16 Houston, We Have an Emergency
Feb16 Trouble for Two Russiagate Figures
Feb16 Weld Prepares a 2020 Run
Feb15 Trump Will Sign Bill, Then Declare National Emergency
Feb15 Barr Confirmed
Feb15 FBI Officials Discussed Removing Trump
Feb15 The Democratic Frontrunners, According to the Trump Campaign
Feb15 Democratic Candidates Work to Tame the California Tiger
Feb15 The Next Justice to Go?
Feb15 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Bennet
Feb14 Bloomberg Will Spend $500 Million Trying to Defeat Trump in 2020
Feb14 Judge Throws the Book at Manafort
Feb14 Klobuchar Raised $1 Million in First 48 Hours
Feb14 Trump's Approval Is Way Up after Government Reopened
Feb14 Cohen Will Testify before Three Congressional Committees
Feb14 McCarthy Blames Freedom Caucus for Loss of House Majority
Feb14 House Democrats Are Planning a Vast Probe of Trump's Russian Connections
Feb14 Nate Silver Says O'Rourke Has the Best Chance--at the Veep Slot
Feb14 Might Mexico Pay for the Wall after All?
Feb14 Thursday Q&A
Feb13 WWDD: What Will Donald Do?
Feb13 Senate Channels Its Inner Roosevelt
Feb13 McConnell to Bring "Green New Deal" Up for a Vote
Feb13 Barr Is in the Clear
Feb13 Mark Kelly Is In
Feb13 Will Another Amy Run?
Feb13 Today in Terrible Analysis
Feb13 Booker Wants a Woman
Feb12 Let's Make a Deal
Feb12 GOP Could Get Burned By Tax Cut
Feb12 Trump, Senate Republicans Spar Over Khashoggi
Feb12 Klobuchar's Abusive Treatment of Staff Has Been Going on for Years
Feb12 A 2020 Preview?
Feb12 Cohen Postpones Again
Feb12 John Dingell Bids Farewell
Feb11 Shutdown Talks Have Deadlocked
Feb11 Poll: Virginians Split on Northam
Feb11 Schiff and Waters Will Work Together Investigating Deutsche Bank
Feb11 Democrats Are Already Digging for Dirt
Feb11 Klobuchar Is Running
Feb11 Warren Makes It Official