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Political Wire logo Trump on Brink of Defeat on Border Emergency
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Wisconsin Governor Pulls National Guard from Border
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Sanders Raised $10 Million In a Week
Tillis Opposed to Trump’s Emergency Declaration

Schiff: I Will Have Mueller Testify

Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) did what we have long expected him to do, namely announce that if AG William Barr does not make special counsel Robert Mueller's final report public, he will subpoena the report and will also subpoena Mueller to testify about it.

The question of getting the actual report itself will most likely end up in the Supreme Court. The government will probably argue that the report is an internal Justice Dept. document and that Congress is not entitled to have every scrap of paper that any Justice Dept. employee produces. It's hard to predict what the Court would decide if faced with this issue. On the one hand, a majority of the Court consists of conservatives, who instinctively support the Republicans, but on the other hand, making a decision that is bound to be very unpopular will not improve the Court's standing with the public, something that the Chief cares about.

Mueller is different. Once the case is wrapped up, he goes back to just being a private citizen. As such, he probably won't have much of a defense against answering any of Schiff's questions, such as: "What did Barr's summary leave out?" Or worse: "Did your investigation produce any evidence that Donald Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor while in office?" Assuming Mueller is willing to testify, it is hard to see how Trump could stop him. And Trump certainly couldn't block Mueller from testifying if Schiff serves him with a subpoena. Furthermore, Justice Dept. employees don't normally sign nondisclosure agreements, even in the current administration. Besides, it is hard to imagine that any court would allow an NDA to override a congressional subpoena.

While waiting for the report and Mueller's possible future testimony, Schiff has nothing else to do, so he invited Trump's former fixer and now convicted felon, Michael Cohen, to have a chat behind closed doors on Thursday. Cohen should be in good form by Thursday since he is going to testify in private before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday and in public before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

We don't know what Schiff and the others will ask Cohen, but it is likely to be far ranging and include Trump's businesses and possible money laundering he did for Russians before being elected. For what it is worth, former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, who knows Trump well, told MSNBC's host Alex Witt: "There is no question that the big red line for Donald Trump is his children, particularly Ivanka, and once Michael Cohen starts sharing details that may actually implicate them, you will see him truly become unhinged." As Trump's fixer, Cohen probably knows where a lot of skeletons are buried and may also know a fair amount about first son-in-law Jared Kushner's business dealings. Trump has slammed Cohen as a "rat," but that is not going to deter Schiff. (V)

Trump Picks Billionaire GOP Donor for U.N. Ambassador

Nearly every other advanced country chooses its ambassadors to other countries based on their foreign affairs knowledge and experience, in particular their knowledge of the country they are being sent to. In the U.S., however, ambassadors to popular countries are frequently big donors to the president's party. This is equally true for Democrats and Republicans. However, the job of U.N. ambassador has not—until now, at least—been for sale. It has generally gone either to someone with foreign policy experience, or at least to a serious politician who is probably up to the job of simultaneously dealing with 192 countries.

Once again, Donald Trump has made good on his promise to upend the system. Instead of using the usual criteria for picking the replacement to now-former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who resigned in December, he has selected the wife of a billionaire coal baron who donated $2 million to his campaign and inaugural.

Kelly Craft, whose third husband, Joe Craft, runs the third-largest coal company in the eastern U.S., was the favorite of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). With McConnell's backing, her confirmation by the Senate is assured. Craft is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Kentucky, which may explain McConnell's support for her. He's also been known to be very...friendly with major coal barons.

Craft does have some diplomatic experience. She has been ambassador to Canada—a plum posting often reserved for major donors— for about a year. However, the folks there sometimes held her at arm's length, in part because her view on man-made climate change ("both sides are accurate") is not popular up north. It probably won't be popular in the U.N., either. (V)

Dozens of Former National Security Officials Denounce Trump's Emergency

In a 13-page statement, 58 former high-ranking national security officials have denounced Donald Trump's emergency declaration, issued so that he can build a wall on the Mexican border despite Congress' clear refusal to fund it. The group of signers include two former secretaries of state (Madeleine Albright and John Kerry), two former secretaries of defense (Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta), a CIA director (John Brennan), a DNI (James Clapper), and 52 other former high-ranking officials. Both Democrats and Republicans are well represented among the 58 signatories.

The statement says that they "are aware of no emergency that remotely justifies" the President's invocation of emergency powers. It goes on to say that they have all lived and worked through national emergencies and this isn't one. They didn't quite paraphrase Potter Stewart's famous remark and say "I can't define a national emergency, but I know it when I see it," but they came close.

Tomorrow, having delayed slightly from the Friday vote that was originally announced, the House is expected to pass a resolution invalidating the national emergency, which will force the Senate to vote on it within 18 days. If it passes the Senate, Trump is certain to veto it. In principle, Congress can override his veto, but the votes probably aren't there for an override. Still, the vote itself is important because it puts all members of Congress on record on whether the president can manufacture an emergency to take the power of the purse away from Congress. If it works, a future Democratic president will surely be tempted to try it again to get funding for something Congress doesn't want. (V)

Pompeo Contradicts Trump on North Korea

It's not just former government officials that are poking Donald Trump in the eye these days (see above). After meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un last June, the President said that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat to the U.S., despite its arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range rockets. Apparently Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn't get the memo, since yesterday he told CNN's Jake Tapper that the Hermit Kingdom is still a nuclear threat. After all, it has yet to eliminate a single nuclear weapon or rocket, let alone all of them.

Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi to discuss denuclearization. First on the agenda might be trying to define what that means. Trump thinks it means North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. Period. In return, it might get some relief from the sanctions currently imposed on it. Kim thinks it means that in return for its giving up its nuclear weapons, the U.S. will remove all its nuclear weapons from South Korea and from ships and submarines in the surrounding waters.

Trump might agree to this, thinking he would then get the Nobel Peace Prize, and not understanding the military or geopolitical consequences. If he did, the Dept. of Defense, which currently does not have a confirmed secretary, would be very unhappy, and so would the governments of South Korea and Japan, which count on the U.S. to defend them, not only from North Korea, but also from China. All of them would be worrying about North Korea cheating by hiding weapons and rockets deep in mountains all over the country, making them impossible to find. It is even possible that Japan would feel it necessary to develop its own nuclear weapons, which China would certainly regard as a threat. In other words, if Trump were to decide to agree to denuclearization on Kim's terms, he could in one handshake completely destabilize the entire region.

If that's not bad enough, there's also the fact that although Kim might agree to get rid of all of his nuclear weapons, there is almost no chance he would actually do it. He knows very well that if he did, shortly thereafter NSA John Bolton would call for regime change in North Korea, and absent nuclear weapons Kim wouldn't have any way to prevent it. He may be a nasty dictator, but he is not a fool and will not give up his security blanket so Trump can win a Nobel Prize. (V)

Harris Announces Her Plan

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has now revealed her not-at-all-secret plan to win the Democratic nomination. It begins on March 3, 2020 and ends on March 3, 2020, also known as Super Tuesday. Stating the plan is easy; carrying it out may not be so easy. Harris' idea is to sweep a large chunk of the 416 pledged delegates that California will award that day and also win in the Southern states of Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Each of the pieces of the plan has a different complication. In California, 272 of the 4,532 convention delegates will be chosen by congressional district and 144 will be chosen at large. California has 53 congressional districts, so each one averages about five delegates. Delegates are awarded proportionally, so the rules for rounding are very important. A candidate with, just for example, 30% of the vote is theoretically entitled to 1.5 delegates, but since California does not have half delegates, the candidate might get 1 or 2 delegates, depending on how the rest of the vote went. The at-large delegates are easier to compute. If Harris gets, say, 30% of the statewide vote, she gets 43 at-large delegates. Clearly Harris, as the only California candidate, is hoping to clean up in the Golden State, but the rules make that a bit complicated.

The South has a different issue: race. Typically, half the voters in Democratic primaries in much of the South are black, so Harris will have an edge here. However, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is also black and will compete very hard for the same votes. If race dominates, as it often does in the South, the black candidates could get half the delegates and the white candidates could get half the delegates. The four Southern states named above have a total of 325 delegates. Suppose for a moment, that the two black candidates get half that total and the white candidates split the other half. Also suppose that Harris and Booker do equally well in the South. This gives Harris about 81 delegates there.

If she can win 2 delegates in each California district and 30% of the at-large vote, she will pick up 106 + 43 + 81 = 230 delegates in those five states. This is 10% of what she needs to clinch the nomination. Five other states (Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Texas, and Vermont) also vote on Super Tuesday, but those are likely to go for favorite sons and daughters Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, and Bernie Sanders, respectively. Whether Warren does well in Oklahoma remains to be seen, of course, but she was born and raised there and Oklahoma Democrats may appreciate that.

As mentioned above, Texas also votes on Super Tuesday, and if Beto O'Rourke is in the race, he may have the same home-state advantage there that Harris has in California. But Texas has only 228 pledged delegates because the allocation of delegates among states takes into account how well the Democrats did there in the past three presidential elections. If you are really into the math of convention delegates, check out this page.

Beyond the challenges of dominating Super Tuesday, Harris has a problem prior to March 3, 2020: Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. The first two are nearly all white and if she does badly, the news story will be she can't get white people to vote for her. In an election in which Democrats have clearly prioritized winning over everything else, that's not a great start. Furthermore, if Booker beats her in the early states, the black voters in the South might gravitate to him rather than to her, thus messing up half of her plan. And of course, a lot can happen between now and a year from now. (V)

Colorado Is Poised to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

The Constitution clearly states how many electoral votes each state gets, but leaves it up to the state legislatures to determine how to choose its presidential electors. If a state passed a law saying that elections are expensive, so they will be scrapped and henceforth the speaker of the state House will pick all the electors, that would probably be legal. All but two states award all of the state's electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote. Maine and Nebraska award one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district and two electoral votes to the statewide winner.

Eliminating or changing the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment, something the smaller states are unlikely to support because it would diminish their power. Nevertheless, a number of states have gotten together to make an end-run around the Constitution by agreeing to award all their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner, not their state's winner, provided that states with 270 or more electoral votes sign up. The mechanism for doing this is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Article 1, Sec. 10 of the Constitution specifically mentions interstate compacts and the Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue, so the NPV compact is probably constitutional.

So far, 11 states and D.C. have signed up for the NPV compact. Together they have 172 electoral votes. Now Colorado, which has 9 electoral votes, is about to join. The state legislature has approved the required bill and Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) is expected to sign it. This will bring the total EVs in the compact to 181.

In addition, similar legislation has already cleared the New Mexico state House and is awaiting consideration in the state Senate, which the Democrats control. If it passes, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) is likely to sign it, raising the total EV's in the compact to 186.

In both Colorado and New Mexico, Republicans have strongly opposed their states joining the compact because had it been in effect in 2000, Al Gore would have become president, and had it been in effect in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have become president. Consequently, Republicans realize that the Electoral College favors Republicans because they dominate the small states with many buffalo and few people. Since those states get at least three EVs, it gives them more influence in the Electoral College than in the national vote.

Despite the likely admission to the compact of Colorado and New Mexico, the chances that the compact picks up another 84 EVs is small. The only states the Democrats control that aren't members are Oregon (7 EVs), Nevada (6), and Maine (4). If all of them join, the total will still be 67 shy of what is needed. In New Hampshire (4 EVs), the Democrats control the state legislature, but the governor is a Republican (who is up in 2020). Minnesota has the potential to join, since the Democrats control the governor's mansion and the state House, but they are three seats short in the state Senate. If the Democrats were to pick up the New Hampshire governor's mansion and the Minnesota state Senate in 2020, they would still be 53 EVs short and it is hard to see where they might come from. (V)

Bennet Visits Iowa

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has been campaigning in Iowa of late. Iowans don't get to vote in Colorado Senate elections, and besides, Bennet isn't up in 2020. This is a sure sign that he is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2020. After all, hardly anyone is running, and he figures it would be a shame for the Democrats to lose just because they didn't have a candidate.

Bennet is an easy-going guy and rarely raises his voice. Nevertheless, he is a strong progressive, just not a firebrand. He is especially critical of the role of money in politics and would presumably try to fund a campaign by getting small donations. However, he is barely known outside Colorado, so that will be easier said than done.

Our profile of him is here. (V)

Sanders Leads in New Hampshire

A poll by Emerson College of New Hampshire voters shows that Bernie Sanders is preferred by 27% of the Democrats. Joe Biden, who is not yet in the race, is the favorite of 25%. Kamala Harris is far behind at 12%. No other candidate is in double digits. Sanders' strength lies entirely with voters 18-34, where he gets 44% of the vote. Among all older groups, Biden is ahead. The poll has a margin of error of 4.8%, so Sanders' lead over Biden can't be taken too seriously.

But there is nevertheless a bit of real information in the poll. Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are in direct competition for the same voters, and both are from states that border on New Hampshire. If one of them crushes the other one in the Granite State, it may be hard for the loser to recover. Warren was at 9% in the poll, barely ahead of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) at 8%. Still, it is a year until the primary, and that is a very long time in politics. (V)

Hickenlooper: I'm Not Cut Out to Be a Senator

Former two-term Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) is currently trying to decide if he is going to make an (almost certainly futile) attempt to grab the big brass ring in 2020. He is a moderate, but there are plenty of better known moderates trying to get the Democratic presidential nomination already. On the other hand, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is up for reelection in 2020 and Hickenlooper would be an extremely strong candidate against Gardner. So, the DSCC would dearly love for him to forget all this president stuff, which is probably unattainable, and run for the Senate, where he would probably be the favorite.

While campaigning in Iowa Saturday, a reporter brought this subject up and Hickenlooper said: "I'm not cut out to be a senator." In some contexts, "no" means "no," but in politics, "no" often means "maybe." In particular, Colorado's Senate filing date is March 17, 2020. By that date, more than half a dozen debates will have been held and 18 states will have already held their caucuses or primaries, so he should have a pretty good idea by the filing date if he has a chance of getting the presidential nomination.

If Hickenlooper had said something like: "I'm currently thinking about running for president, but if it is clear in a few months that my campaign is going nowhere, I'll look at other options," he might have kept other potential Democratic Senate candidates from announcing. Now they will see this as a green light, and there is likely to be an overcrowded primary, as Colorado is trending blue and the Democratic nomination is worth having.

Among other potential candidates are Crisanta Duran, Mike Johnston, and Ed Perlmutter. Duran is a young Latina and Colorado's first Latina speaker of the House, as well as a forceful critic of Donald Trump. Johnston, a former state senator, came in third in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, during which he visited all of the state's 64 counties, giving him wide name recognition. Perlmutter is a popular Congressman from Arvada, which gives him an edge in the state's biggest swing county, Jefferson. In short, if Hickenlooper really wants to give up an excellent shot at becoming a senator for a long shot at becoming president, no doubt other Democrats will gladly sign up for the Democratic Senate primary. (V)

Monday Q&A

The questions we get are an intriguing barometer of what subjects are of interest to folks at any given time. This week, it's Donald Trump's tax returns, it would seem.

Why haven't the Democrats gotten ahold of Donald Trump's tax filings as yet? Have they even sent a request to the IRS, as they are entitled to do? I would have thought this would be done in the first week of taking over the relevant House Committee. Z.H., Karachi, Pakistan

At least part of the reason is, for lack of a better way to describe it, because House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) is not Donald Trump. The powers afforded to government officials are not unfettered, and pretty much all of them are potentially subject to court challenge. Trump, as we know, tends to impulsively exercise his powers, and then to worry about court challenges later. He (and sometimes his underlings) often undermine themselves in between (1) exercise of power and (2) court challenge. The obvious example of this from recent weeks is the national emergency declaration. Presidents do have this power, generally speaking; the question is whether or not Trump has used the power appropriately (see above). And when he publicly announced "I didn't have to do this" and that he only issued the proclamation because he was getting impatient, that certainly did not help his case. Other instances of the Trump administration exercising power in ways that were impulsive or haphazard, thus increasing the chances of a court challenge, include the Muslim travel bans, the citizenship question on the census, the separation of families at the border, and the ban on transgender soldiers.

Neal, meanwhile, recognizes that a massive legal challenge is likely coming. He also knows that a lot of Democrats, both within Congress and without, are counting on him to get this right. So, before he requests the returns (which he has not done yet), he is taking his time and getting his ducks in a row. That actually means that he's working on two distinct tasks. The first is establishing a legitimate reason that he needs to see the returns, one related to his oversight role as Chair of Ways and Means. The second is putting together the relevant case law that he will need to draw on when and if this goes to court.

It is also possible that there's another dimension here. From a nakedly partisan standpoint, it is best for the Democrats that any bombshells from the tax returns come as close to Election Day 2020 as is possible. It's also probably best that they come in the form of a 1-2 punch, with Robert Mueller's report being the first punch and the tax returns being the second punch. There's no evidence that Neal's extreme prudence is, in part, about timing things in this fashion. But it's certainly possible.

In any event, we can be confident of two things. The first is that Neal is definitely going to request the returns from the IRS, sooner or later. The second is that the process will move very slowly. Even if Trump's court challenge doesn't happen, or is not successful, Neal will probably review the returns all by himself, to start. Then, he'll share with the members of his committee. And then, if there's something problematic, it will be shared with the rest of Congress, followed, presumably, by the general public.

You mentioned the possibility of New Jersey and other states controlled by Democrats passing laws requiring candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the ballot. Chances are that any state where Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor's office is a lost cause for Trump in the general election, but could this benefit a primary challenger? If Trump can't get on the ballot in the 13 states with Democratic trifectas, it would seem to make it a lot harder for him to get enough delegates to win re-nomination. Or would the Republican Party decide to pick its delegates in some other way in those states? D.R., Elizabethtown, PA

This is, of course, getting several steps ahead of where things stand right now. Your question presupposes that a great many blue states will pass such legislation (no guarantee; California's legislature passed it, only to have then-governor Jerry Brown veto it), and that the legislation will survive a court challenge (no guarantee, either; see below).

But if these things do come to pass, we don't think it will hurt Trump all that much in terms of securing renomination. First, because in most states, the parties themselves control the primary election ballots (and so, the newly passed state laws would affect only the general election). Second, because, as you point out, it's possible the RNC would just change the rules for states where they don't control the primary ballots. Actually, they would probably just take away those states' delegates, as the Democrats did in Florida in 2008, to punish the Sunshine State for trying to jump the calendar. Third, because the Republicans (like the Democrats; see above) give far fewer delegates to states that do not vote Republican in presidential elections.

In the end, if any Republican is going to mount a meaningful primary challenge to Trump, he or she must defeat the President head-to-head. Delegates obtained in any other manner would not be enough to win, and would not give that challenger any meaningful "momentum."

I was under the impression that the qualifications of federal office candidates were specified in the Constitution. Term limits, for example, would not be constitutional. If that is the case, how would the New Jersey tax disclosure law be constitutional? K.S., Chicago, IL

This would be a significant part of the plaintiffs' argument; that such requirements are tantamount to establishing a new qualification for the presidency. The defendants would counter by arguing that they are not changing the requirements for the office, since nothing in the returns would be disqualifying, they are merely establishing standards for ballot access. States clearly have that right, whether it comes in the form of requiring a certain number of signatures, or a filing fee, or a particular set of paperwork, or all of the above, invariably by some deadline. A presidential candidate could not claim, for example, that they had been unconstitutionally disqualified from office because of their inability to meet filing deadlines.

How the Supreme Court would rule on this is anyone's guess. However, it is possible that the matter could be decided by laws that have nothing to do with elections or qualifications for office. Federal law grants privacy to taxpayers and their returns. It is very possible that a state law requiring the release of a candidate's returns would run afoul of that, and so would be struck down under the delegated powers clause of Article I, which gives precedence to federal law over state law.

Much has been written about a Democrat packing the Supreme Court with liberal justices. Couldn't Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, if he becomes president) do the same as he is leaving office? Couldn't he add five justices and not worry about the political cost? F.H., St. Paul, MN

No, this is not possible under current circumstances.

In order to engage in court packing, it would be necessary to pass a new law that supersedes the Judiciary Act of 1869, which sets the number of justices at nine. Obviously, the Democratic-controlled House is not going to do that. And if Pelosi & Co. lose their minds, the Democrats in the Senate would filibuster such a law.

Since the 2016 election, you've frequently discussed the two paths available to the Democrats in 2020—either trying to win back the Midwest, or expanding the map into trending purple states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida. Your analysis always seems to assume that Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are a package deal. However, as a native Pennsylvanian, I need to say that Pennsylvania is not a Midwestern state, only about half of it is. Everything west of say, Harrisburg/Carlisle, has a tinge of the Midwest (they do say "pop" there, after all), the eastern part of the state is decidedly Northeastern in its sentiments and culture. The greater Philadelphia area is by far the largest population center of the state and is the only region that is really growing in population while the rest is stagnant or shrinking. I think it's entirely likely that a Democrat that now realizes PA can be lost will not take it for granted (like so many of us did in 2016 as well). If you return the Keystone State's 20 EVs to the Democrats in your analysis (like the rest of the Northeast), there are considerably more pathways to 270 than without it. Picking up Florida alone would win the election, even if the Democrats also lost Minnesota. S.R., Wyomissing, Pennsylvania

First, let us use your "pop" reference to put in a link to this excellent New York Times page (subscription not needed) that lets you test what part of the country you talk like. We highly recommend it, and (Z) even uses it in his California history classes to illustrate regional differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

Moving along, though, you're right that as a convenient shorthand, we have been lumping the rust belt states together (as has everyone else). But clearly there are some big differences between Pennsylvania, on one hand, and Michigan/Wisconsin/Minnesota/Ohio, on the other. In particular, among the states that went for Trump, no Midwestern state (besides Ohio) has anything comparable to the urban and suburban population centers of Philadelphia plus Pittsburgh. And so, it's entirely possible that a Democrat (particularly one from the Northeast, like Cory Booker) could win the Keystone State without winning back the Midwest. Winning the former and not the latter, as you point out, would not necessarily be fatal.

In general, it is wise to remember that any "Democrats' path to the presidency" pieces should be taken with buckets of salt right now. Consider, for example, the latest from CNN's Harry Enten. He correctly observes that Trump is in trouble in Pennsylvania and Michigan, but suggests that if he can hold on to Iowa and Wisconsin, he could pull off another Electoral College miracle. The conclusion:

If the Democratic nominee does, in fact, lose Iowa and Wisconsin, she or he will have to win in a state that hasn't voted to the left of the nation in the past few cycles in order to win the Electoral College. That may not be such an easy task.

The key is: "state that hasn't voted to the left of the nation in the past few cycles." This clumsily-worded phrase is clearly designed to leave one with the impression that the Democrats either must have Iowa and Wisconsin, or else they're going to have to win one of the states that has gone Republican for the last several elections. Presumably, Enten wanted his piece to be interesting or shocking or who knows what in order to generate page views.

The truth is that there are many states that were not "to the left of the nation," in that they were closer than the national popular vote was, but that nonetheless went for Barack Obama twice (Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania) or once (North Carolina, Indiana), and yet did not go for Hillary Clinton. And there are many plausible combinations of these states that, along with the Clinton states, would return a Democrat to the White House, including "win the purple states of the South" (NC and FL), "rally the minority vote" (any three of AZ, FL, NC, and PA), "get the urban and suburban voters to the polls in huge numbers," (OH, PA, and MI), "win back non-college, blue-collar, white voters" (MI, IA, WI, and OH or PA or IN), and "win the three states decided by a grand total of 78,000 votes" (MI, WI, and PA). We cannot know which path the Democratic nominee is trying for, until we know who that person is. And given that the Obama coalition existed as recently as 2012, it's also possible that the right nominee actually wins back most or all of the Obama states, and renders the "which path?" conversation moot.

What if Donald Trump refuses to accept defeat in 2020? (See this CNN op-ed.) T.H., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

We have answered a variant of this question before, but that CNN piece (another clunker, in our view) was bound to raise them again. For those who do not wish to read the link, it's a list of steps the author thinks that various actors in the federal government should take right now in order to make sure that Donald Trump does not attempt to remain in power if he loses the election.

The reason that it is a clunker is that it is Chicken Little-level fearmongering. There are no presidential powers that, when exercised, do not require the willing participation of other people. If Trump wants to nuke North Korea, he needs the military to execute that order. If he wants to spend money, he needs the Treasury Dept. and the Federal Reserve to actually transfer the funds. If he wants to sign a bill into law, he needs people to actually follow that law. If he wants to fly somewhere on Air Force One to meet with Xi Jinping, he needs the assistance of Secret Service personnel, and military pilots, and support staff.

If none of these actors is willing to play along with Trump, then his refusing to accept the result of the election would merely—to use a phrase we've used before—make him into the highest-profile trespasser in American history. He could sit in the White House and pout and make phone calls to Sean Hannity, but he wouldn't actually be able to do anything. That is, until he was arrested by U.S. marshals. And if these actors were willing to play along (and it would require a vast number of them, not just one or two), then the country would have a much bigger problem on its hands than Donald Trump's petulance.

Now that a new election must be held in NC-09, when will this take place? Are there any laws regarding this? If not until next year, can the U.S. House select a representative in the interim? A.O., Pearl City, HI

When a seat comes open due to resignation or death, as is the case with NC-03 right now (due to the death of Rep. Walter Jones), then Section 163A-721 of the North Carolina statutes spells out the rules. In short, that the governor decides when to call a new election, and that he has to allow at least 30 days between the seat's becoming officially vacant and the primary election. There is also a general expectation of "timely" elections mentioned several other places in the statutes, so while a governor might be able to delay things for an extra month or two, it is unlikely that he could drag it out for an extra year.

Of course, NC-09 is not open due to resignation or death, but due to the election results' having been invalidated. In this case, it's up to the State Elections Board to call a new election. The statutes are even less specific for this scenario than in the circumstance outlined above, but again, there is an expectation of "timely" elections. So, now that they know a new election is needed, the Board can't sit on their hands too long, or they would be sued. There is some speculation that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and the Board will coordinate, so that the NC-03 and NC-09 elections happen at the same time. That probably doesn't save that much time or money, since they are different districts that don't even border each other, but maybe it makes things a little easier, logistically.

It is not within the power of the House to appoint an interim representative. They get to decide, with some limits, whether or not an elected member's credentials are legitimate. But they cannot choose their own candidate, even as a temporary placeholder. One can only imagine what, say, Newt Gingrich might have done if that option was on the table.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb22 House Will Vote on National Emergency Resolution Today
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Feb21 Sanders Raises $6 Million in One Day
Feb21 CNN: Mueller May Wrap It Up Soon
Feb21 Trump Creates a Corporate-style Campaign Structure for 2020
Feb21 Will Democrats Nominate the Next Guy in Line?
Feb21 Are Coats' Days Numbered?
Feb21 Majority Opposes Emergency Declaration to Build a Wall
Feb21 Polls: Northam Should Stay on as Governor
Feb21 Are Never Trumpers Like the West African Black Rhino?
Feb21 Thursday Q&A
Feb20 Sanders Is In
Feb20 Trump Behind the Scenes, Part I: The Scales of Justice
Feb20 Trump Behind the Scenes, Part II: The Telephone
Feb20 Adventures in Corruption, Part I: Mr. and Mrs. McConnell
Feb20 Adventures in Corruption, Part II: Paul LePage
Feb20 Amy Berman Jackson Is Not Amused
Feb20 Democrats Release List of 2020 House Targets
Feb19 Well, That Didn't Take Long
Feb19 Sanders May Enter the Race Today
Feb19 Biden's "Strength" in Polls May Be an Illusion
Feb19 Elections Board Hears About Shady Behavior in NC-09
Feb19 John James Reportedly the Favorite to Replace Nauert
Feb19 Trump at Odds with SNL Again
Feb19 Stone Shoots Himself in the Foot
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