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Political Wire logo My Reaction to Tonight’s Democratic Debate
Another GOP Lawmaker Announces Retirement
Second Democratic Debate – Night One
GOP Lawmaker Demands Info on UFO Sightings
Trump Says He Wants to ‘Rein In’ Intelligence Agencies
Trump Says ‘Everybody Is Called a Racist Now’

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Feels Threatened...
      •  ...And So Does McConnell
      •  Time for Democratic Debates, Round Two
      •  Polls Are Mostly Good News for Biden
      •  Another Republican Is Leaving the House
      •  DCCC a Mess Right Now

Trump Feels Threatened...

Last week, just about everything seemed to be coming up roses for Donald Trump. Robert Mueller testified before Congress, and did not deliver anything close to a death blow. Trump BFF Boris Johnson took over as British PM, and the two leaders started working on a trade deal. The Trump administration and the Democrats agreed in principle on a two-year budget deal. His new Secretary of Defense was approved by the Senate with minimal opposition. The Supreme Court said he could start spending DoD money on his border wall. The President was on Cloud Nine, his mood described as "euphoric" by some insiders. A number of outlets published pieces like this one, about what a great week he was having.

There are few things we remind readers of more often than this: "In politics, a week is a lifetime." If ever you doubt it, just remember the last 72 hours or so (which isn't even a full week, or even half a week). Just about all of the stories listed above turned a little, or a lot, in a negative direction for the President. The trade deal with the British, on closer examination, may just be smoke and mirrors. The budget deal with the Democrats could crash and burn over wall funding, just like the last one did. Just a day after gaining a new cabinet-level official, Trump lost one, as DNI Dan Coats was sent packing. Given the engineering, environmental impact, and eminent domain issues, the administration might not get any wall construction done at all before the election, especially if the Ninth Circuit rules against them.

Worst of all for the president is that Mueller's low-key appearance before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees appears to have done very little to slow the impeachment train. In fact, it looks like the train has sped up. Not only is House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) moving forward with his impeachment investigation, but more than a dozen Democratic House members came out for impeachment this weekend. The total number of Democratic representatives who support impeachment proceedings is now 107, which is close to half of the Democratic caucus. So, momentum continues to move in a direction not favorable for Trump. Further, roughly 80% of Democratic voters want impeachment, so the political winds are likely to cause that 107 to grow.

In response to all of this, the President spent much of the day on Monday lashing out in many different directions. Following his racist tweets directed at The Squad two weeks ago, and the racist tweets directed at Baltimore and at House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) this weekend, the President doubled down. He continued to attack Cummings and Baltimore, while also looping Al Sharpton into it:

Following that, and undoubtedly parroting Fox News, Trump went after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):

What Trump is referring to is remarks the Senator delivered after walking through part of Baltimore in 2015:

Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you were in a wealthy nation, you would think that you were in a Third World country. What we're talking about is a community in which half of the people don't have jobs. We're talking about a community in which there are hundreds of buildings that are uninhabitable. We're talking about a community where kids are unable to go to schools that are decent.

It is hard to believe that Trump and Fox News really do not grasp the difference between a blanket statement about an entire city, utilizing thinly-encoded words like "infested," and not based on any personal experience versus a specific characterization of a specific experience that a person just had. In any case, if the President is accusing Sanders of racism, then he is tacitly admitting that his original tweets were racist. He probably didn't think of that, though.

Cummings, Sharpton, and Sanders were not the only presidential targets on Monday. Trump slammed the Federal Reserve Board, and said they're not cutting interest rates enough. He threatened to have Antifa characterized as a terrorist group. And if all the slings and arrows were not enough, the President also suggested that he took an active part in search and rescue efforts on 9/11, despite the fact that he spent the day in his office making phone calls, including the particularly notorious one in which he humble-bragged that the collapse of the World Trade Center meant his building was now the tallest in New York.

Trump wears his emotions on his sleeve, and his now-three-day bender makes clear that he's feeling very vulnerable. The feeling is probably made worse by how high he was riding late last week. In any event, although he's trying to project strength and to create a distraction, there is just no question that what he's really projecting is weakness, and that the distractions aren't working anymore. (Z)

...And So Does McConnell

Donald Trump isn't the only one who is feeling a little defensive right now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is taking a lot of heat right now over his unwillingness to consider Democrats' election-security bills, or to put forward any GOP proposals on the subject. His utter lack of concern about the fact that Russia is going to try to interfere with the 2020 elections has inspired quite a bit of unflattering coverage, like this piece headlined "Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset." On Monday, the Majority Leader lashed out (albeit in a more muted fashion than Trump), declaring that he is a victim of "modern-day McCarthyism."

The point that McConnell is trying to make is that he is being falsely accused of working for the Russians, just as McCarthy's targets were. The difference, of course, is that McCarthy's accusations were invented out of thin air, while the criticism of McConnell is evidence-based. One can certainly debate whether it's fair to call him a Russian asset, but that charge is not entirely without basis. If one wants to be picky, a more accurate description would be useful idiot, that is, someone who does Russia's bidding without even realizing it.

In any event, just as Trump communicates weakness when he lashes out, we would argue McConnell does as well. The question is: Does he actually have anything to be worried about? And the answer is: maybe. Keep in mind that when it comes to representing his constituents, he doesn't actually do all that much. He does bring a bit of pork home, and he is certainly willing to pull strings on behalf of prominent and/or wealthy Kentuckians, but the next time he sponsors an important piece of legislation (or even a trivial piece of legislation) will be the first time. It is a rare six-term senator who has a record of achievement as undistinguished as McConnell's. When he runs for reelection, as he will do once again in 2020, his basic pitch is "I'm a Republican!" and "My opponent is worse than I am!" His dismal approval ratings, which are easily the worst in the Senate, speak to the extent to which his constituents are dissatisfied with him.

Meanwhile, there has been just one poll of Kentucky this cycle, but it does show something interesting. To start, here is how Donald Trump stacks up against the main Democrats with Kentucky voters:

Opponent Trump Democrat
Bernie Sanders 57% 35%
Joe Biden 57% 37%
Elizabeth Warren 60% 28%
Pete Buttigieg 60% 28%
Average 58.5% 32%

So, Trump is basically running about 26.5 points ahead of the Democratic field. Meanwhile, in a hypothetical matchup against former Lexington mayor Jim Gray (D), McConnell leads by just 8 points, 49% to 41%. That means that the Senator is lagging the President by close to 20 points. In other words, there appear to be a sizable number of Trump-but-not-McConnell voters. And that was with Gray as McConnell's opponent; since that poll was taken in June, the much stronger Amy McGrath has entered the Democratic race. In short, then, the answer is: yes, McConnell does have something to be worried about, as presidential coattails and the redness of Kentucky might not save him if McGrath runs a strong campaign. (Z)

Time for Democratic Debates, Round Two

Tonight in Detroit, the Democrats will commence the second round of candidates' debates. This time, CNN will host, with the network's Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper serving as moderators. This evening's festivities will feature Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend), John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), Beto O'Rourke, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Marianne Williamson.

As soon as this lineup was announced, just about everyone noted that the two leading progressives in the field will be on stage, along with five of the blue team's most moderate candidates. While it is possible that Sanders and Warren could take shots at each other, with an eye toward gaining the upper hand as "the" progressive standard-bearer, both Senators say that they have an informal armistice, and that their jobs will be to sell left-leaning ideas to the American public. So, instead of Sanders vs. Warren, it looks like the dominant dynamic will be progressives vs. moderates. Expect Hickenlooper, in particular, to deliver ominous warnings about the Democrats becoming the party of socialism, although Bullock, Delaney, Klobuchar, and Ryan may also have some thoughts along those lines. Where O'Rourke and Buttigieg will fit in with all of this is anyone's guess. Williamson, for her part, rejects silly things like policy discussions, and will presumably spend her time reminding us that love will conquer all.

Sanders and Warren can afford to play nice right now, as they can tread water and still be ok in terms of fundraising and polling. Buttigieg is in the same position, so he may just sit back and let the others duke it out. Among other candidates who might plausibly be in this for the long haul, Klobuchar, O'Rourke, and Bullock (participating in his first debate) really need to make a splash, or the end could come sooner than anyone thought. Delaney, Hickenlooper, Ryan, and Williamson are likely making their last debate appearances, so they better make it count.

The debate begins at 8:00 p.m. ET and runs for two hours. In addition to the broadcast on CNN itself, viewers can also watch the channel's website or app, free of charge. The debates will also stream on fuboTV, which is a paid service, although one can sign up for a free trial and then cancel after. Some of the other news stations (like CBS) will also be offering free streams. (Z)

Polls Are Mostly Good News for Biden

In anticipation of this week's debates, there have been lots of polls of the Democratic field of late. There were national polls from Fox News, Quinnipiac, and The Economist/YouGov, along with state-level polls in Ohio (Quinnipiac), Nevada (Morning Consult), and South Carolina (Monmouth). Here's everyone who polled above 1% in at least one of the six polls:

Candidate Fox News Quinnipiac YouGov Ohio Nevada S. Carolina
Joe Biden 33% 34% 25% 31% 29% 39%
Elizabeth Warren 12% 15% 18% 13% 12% 9%
Bernie Sanders 15% 11% 13% 14% 23% 10%
Kamala Harris 10% 12% 9% 14% 11% 12%
Pete Buttigieg 5% 6% 7% 6% 6% 5%
Andrew Yang 3% 2% 2% 1% 3% 0%
Beto O'Rourke 2% 2% 2% 1% 3% 1%
Cory Booker 2% 1% 2% 1% 3% 2%
Amy Klobuchar 3% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1%
Tulsi Gabbard 0% 1% 2% 1% 0% 0%
Julián Castro 1% 0% 2% 1% 2% 0%
Tom Steyer 1% 0% 1% 1% 1% 2%

If the former VP suffered any slippage after the last debate, he appears to have recovered. Meanwhile, he should be particularly thrilled about that South Carolina poll, which suggests he remains solid with black voters.

To the extent there was any bad news on the polling front for Biden, it was a CBS/YouGov poll of all the early primary/caucus states (up to, and including, the Super Tuesday states). One of the questions they asked was: "Which of these current Democratic candidates are you considering supporting?" (respondents were allowed to choose more than one). Here is how that turned out for candidates who are being considered by at least 5% of voters:

Candidate Percentage Considering
Elizabeth Warren 55%
Kamala Harris 53%
Joe Biden 50%
Bernie Sanders 40%
Pete Buttigieg 32%
Cory Booker 19%
Beto O'Rourke 19%
Julián Castro 17%
Amy Klobuchar 12%
Kirsten Gillibrand 7%
Andrew Yang 7%
Tulsi Gabbard 5%
Jay Inslee 5%
Tom Steyer 5%

Biden is doing fine, but he's not on top of the list. This suggests, at least a little bit, that once the field thins, the no-Joe faction could exceed the yes-Joe faction in size. Of particular interest is that Kamala Harris is doing so well, since her name recognition is lower than Warren's, Biden's, or Sanders'. In any event, this is a pretty good snapshot of the state of the race heading into the debates. (Z)

Another Republican Is Leaving the House

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) said last week that he was going to retire from the House. Then, he said he might change his mind. On Monday, however, he decided that yep, he's done. He wants to serve in a leadership position on a committee, and since GOP rules require members to rotate in and out, so that everyone gets a chance, his current term as the ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources would be his last. So, he's out. Given that Utah is very red, and that his district (UT-01) is even redder (R+26), Bishop will be succeeded by another Republican.

That makes eight Republican retirements this cycle, and four in just the last week. Undoubtedly the list will keep growing. In general, being a member of the House these days is often unpleasant, as it involves endless fundraising, and lots of vitriol from voters (and even colleagues). Being a member of the minority party is even less fun—unlike the Senate, the House operates by rules that basically muzzle the members who aren't part of the majority party. And being a Republican right now adds even more to the misery. There are some (or many) Republicans right now (and a Utah Republican like Bishop would almost certainly be among them) who see what the President is doing to the Party and the country, and they are horrified. However, they have no power to rein him in, and if they do anything other than show public support for him, he will crush them. One is reminded of the "Charge of the Light Brigade": "Theirs is not to question why, theirs is but to do and die." Thus far, only one or two of the GOP retirements have potentially put a seat into play, but there are 24 Republicans who represent districts that are R+6 or less, and some of those folks will surely throw in the towel, too.

Privately, House Republicans are griping that they haven't had a pay raise in 11 years, which coupled with the burden of having to maintain two households (one back home and one in D.C.) is a strain on those representatives who are not wealthy. Republican leaders are worried that even if the red team manages to eke out a small majority in 2020, the Freedom Caucus will prevent it from actually governing. Some of them are speculating that if the Republican loses the special election for a vacant House seat in NC-09 on Sept. 10, that could be the signal for a massive wave of GOP retirements, which would make gaining control of the lower chamber even harder, thus triggering even more retirements. (Z)

DCCC a Mess Right Now

The Republicans are not the only ones with something to worry about when it comes to next year's House campaigns. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is in turmoil right now, so much so that one of its top functionaries, Allison Jaslow, abruptly resigned on Monday. The issue is that the senior leadership of the DCCC is overwhelmingly white and male, and quite a few members of the House are angry about that lack of diversity.

That's the bad news for the blue team. Now, the silver lining. This controversy is flaring up well in advance of election season, giving DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos (D-IL) plenty of time to do damage control and to fix the underlying problem. In fact, she returned to Washington on Monday in order to get to work. So, it is unlikely this will have a significant impact in 2020. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul29 Trump's Attacks on the Squad and Cummings Are No Accident
Jul29 Good Economy May Help the Democrats in the Midwest
Jul29 Black Democrats Want a Public Option
Jul29 Nadler: No Deadline for Impeachment
Jul29 Government Shutdown in the Fall is Still Possible
Jul29 Axios: Trump Will Nominate Texas Representative as DNI
Jul29 Trump and Johnson Are Working on a Trade Deal
Jul29 Mueller's Testimony Didn't Increase Demand for Impeachment
Jul29 Monday Q&A
Jul27 Trump Can Start Building His Wall
Jul27 This Weekend in Trump Racism
Jul27 America Will Get Less Safe This Week
Jul27 Democrats Aren't Giving Up on Impeachment
Jul27 Another GOP Representative Throws in the Towel
Jul27 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Jul27 Saturday Q&A
Jul26 Who Needs Election Security?
Jul26 Judge Blocks Asylum Rule
Jul26 Federal Government to Resume Executions
Jul26 Governor of Puerto Rico Resigns
Jul26 Today in Schadenfreude
Jul26 Good Polls for Biden
Jul26 Two GOP Representatives Won't Run for Reelection
Jul25 Mueller Appears Before the House, Everyone Comes Off Badly
Jul24 All Eyes on Mueller
Jul24 Brits Choose BoJo for Next PM
Jul24 Trump Sues to Protect His Tax Returns
Jul24 Senate Confirms Esper to Lead Department of Defense
Jul24 Afghanistan Wants Answers
Jul24 Trump Thinks Villainizing Omar Will Win Minnesota for Him
Jul24 House Democratic Candidates' Fundraising Is Brisk
Jul23 Budget Deal Is in Place
Jul23 Trump Administration to Exercise Broad Immigration Enforcement Powers
Jul23 Everyone Is Jockeying for Position Prior to Mueller's Testimony
Jul23 Pence Mystery Explained...Maybe
Jul23 A Skeleton from Biden's Closet
Jul23 Cumulus Media Buries Pete Buttigieg Interview
Jul23 Tuesday Q&A
Jul22 Trump Goes After "The Squad" Again
Jul22 Nadler Goes After Trump
Jul22 And So Does Iran
Jul22 You Might Not Want to Work for the Progressive Presidential Candidates
Jul22 Trump Could Win!
Jul22 An Unusual Number of House Seats Should Be Competitive in 2020
Jul22 Russian Meddling, Yesterday and Today
Jul19 Trump, GOP Respond to "Send Her Back!"
Jul19 U.S. Downs Iranian Drone
Jul19 Daniels Payment Was All Cohen and Trump...and Hope Hicks
Jul19 Trump Nominates Scalia to Lead Labor Department
Jul19 House Votes to Raise the Minimum Wage