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Trade Deficit Balloons to a Record $891 Billion

One of Donald Trump's main promises on the campaign trail in 2016 was that he would get the U.S. trade deficit under control. Guess what? He didn't deliver. Last year it hit $891 billion, the largest trade deficit ever. Trump's tariffs were supposed to fix the problem by making foreign goods imported into the U.S. more expensive, thus deterring Americans from buying them. It didn't turn out that way. In particular, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the trade deficit with China, and that, too, soared to a record $419 billion. So Trump has once again failed to deliver on a key promise.

In truth, most economists believe that a president has only limited control over the trade deficit. Currency rates, interest rates, the strength of various economies, and more have a bigger effect than what presidents can directly control. The problem here is that Trump made a clear promise to reduce the trade deficit and he didn't. If he had campaigned by saying either "Trade deficits don't matter," or "Presidents have little effect on trade deficits" he would not have taken any blame here. But when you promise something over and over and then don't deliver, it makes you look weak.

On the other hand, most Americans have no conception of how high a stack of $891 billion in pennies would be. Are we talking the height of the Empire State Building, the distance to former planet Pluto, or what? Actually, it would reach almost to the sun, assuming it didn't melt, which it most certainly would. As a campaign issue for the Democrats it might have some value in suburban areas that are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, but it is hard to see it being a major factor in 2020. Still, it is a bit of an embarrassment for Trump and certainly removes it from his list of promises fulfilled. (V)

New York Is Investigating Trump's Insurance Policies

The New York State Dept. of Financial Services is now investigating whether the Trump Organization committed insurance fraud, something Michael Cohen alluded to in his congressional testimony.

For starters, the agency issued a nine-page subpoena to Aon, a large insurance broker, to start collecting information. The subpoena requests information going back to 2009. Aon is not an insurance company, though. Its job is to help clients, like the Trump Organization, determine how much insurance it needs and then connect it with the underwriters who actually provide the insurance. Aon said that it was cooperating with the authorities, as it always does. There is no suggestion that Aon itself has done anything illegal.

The investigation is likely a direct consequence of a question Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked Michael Cohen at his congressional hearing last week. She wanted to know if Trump ever inflated his assets in documents given to an insurance company. Cohen replied: "Yes." The issue here is that commercial insurance companies often give lower premiums to companies with large assets, as they are considered less risky. If Trump gave false data to Aon in the hope of getting lower premiums, that would be insurance fraud.

This isn't the first time "Trump," "insurance," and "fraud" have been in the same sentence. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck Florida and caused a lot of damage in some places. Whether Donald Trump's club Mar-a-Lago was one of them is a matter of some dispute. What is not a matter of dispute is that Trump claimed and received $17 million for damages to his club. However, no one recalls seeing any damage done to the place. Just 2 weeks after Wilma hit, Donald Trump Jr. got married there, and with 370 guests present, a lot of photos were taken. None of them show any damage. Needless to say, if there really were $17 million in damages, it would have taken scores of workers months to repair it, not 2 weeks.

A huge problem for Trump is that the Aon investigation is being done not by special counsel Robert Mueller, but by an agency of New York State, and firing Mueller (or the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York) won't have any effect on the investigation at all. The agency is headed by Linda Lacewell, a former state and federal prosecutor who has a reputation for being quite aggressive. Her agency is not authorized to prosecute wrongdoers, but if it finds evidence that a crime has been committed, it will turn that over to the state attorney general for prosecution.

Although Cohen is a convicted perjurer who is going to prison in May, the real value of his testimony may not be so much in the allegations he made, as in the bread crumbs he dropped, which may get numerous other New York State agencies to start digging into Trump's finances, the area he is said to be most worried about. (V)

Trump's Strategy: Stonewall the House

Donald Trump has a strategy in place to handle the dozens of requests from a dozen House committees, and he got it from Nancy. No, not Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Reagan. Briefly summarized, the strategy is: Just say no. Of course, Reagan was talking about using illegal drugs, not refusing to honor congressional subpoenas, but the concept is applicable to many situations.

In practice, Trump's strategy is two-pronged. First, he will refuse or delay turning over documents Congress subpoenas, claiming executive privilege. This will trigger court battles that could take years to resolve. Second, he is starting a public relations campaign to convince voters, especially his base, that the House Democrats are simply out to destroy him and not to conduct legitimate oversight.

One specific area where the administration has refused point blank to turn over any requested documents to Congress is the matter of Jared Kushner's security clearance. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wants to know more about why the intelligence agencies refused to grant Kushner a top-secret security clearance and why the President simply overrode their decision and granted it anyway. Cummings said that he will give the administration until next week to turn over the documents. If it doesn't, he will subpoena them, setting up a direct confrontation about what Congress' oversight power actually means, if anything.

In addition, six administration officials have refused to appear before House committees. In principle, Congress could find them in contempt of Congress and haul them into court, but historically Congress has been hesitant to go nuclear like that. The administration is going to defend their actions by citing a long-standing Justice Dept. policy, used by presidents of both parties, that states that top White House officials are immune from testifying. In the end, the Supreme Court is going to make the final call. This could have huge implications for the future if the Court rules that the president can shield anything he wants to from Congress by claiming it is covered by executive privilege. Richard Nixon couldn't get SCOTUS to say that, but maybe Trump can. (V)

The Other Mueller Report

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for Robert Mueller's report. But as it turns out, Mueller is required by Justice Dept. rules to write two reports. The first one is to Attorney General William Barr giving the results of his investigation. That's the one everyone knows about. But the rules also require Mueller to write a report to Congress detailing the times when his superiors at the Justice Dept. (over time, Rod Rosenstein, then Matthew Whitaker, and then Barr) refused to let him do something he wanted to do, such as subpoena the president or indict a member of Trump's family.

That report is likely to become public quickly and could prove to be explosive if Mueller claims that Rosenstein, Whitaker, or Barr impeded him in any way. They had the authority to do so, but only if they felt he was going against established departmental practices or outside the scope of his charter. And if they did, Mueller is required to list that in his report to Congress.

The report to Congress could be a two-edged sword, though. If the report to the AG says that Trump did not commit any crimes and the report to Congress is blank (i.e., Mueller says nobody ever stopped him doing anything), Trump will claim that he is totally vindicated. On the other hand, if the report to Congress says that Mueller's supervisors blocked him at every turn, all hell will break loose. But by all indications, Mueller and Rosenstein got along well, so it seems unlikely Mueller will flag Rosenstein in the report to Congress, and Rosenstein was in charge during most of Mueller's investigation. (V)

Poll: Americans Think Trump Committed Crimes before Taking Office

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that 64% of registered voters believe Donald Trump committed crimes before taking office and 45% believe that he committed crimes while serving as president. The partisan breakdown is as expected: 89% of Democrats, 65% of independents, and 33% of Republicans believe Trump committed crimes before he was sworn into office.

Quinnipiac also asked whether voters believed the testimony of Michael Cohen or else Donald Trump's denial of everything Cohen said. The score: 44% think Cohen told the truth and 36% think he lied (again) to Congress. However, when asked directly to choose between the Cohen version of the events he described or the Trump version, 50% believe Cohen and 35% believe Trump.

Finally, respondents were also asked whether they approved of Donald Trump's declaring an emergency so he could redirect funds approved for other purposes to build his wall. Among all voters, 31% approve and 66% disapprove. Republicans approve by a margin of 59% to 29%, which probably pleases Trump, but is not actually a great number when speaking of one's theoretical supporters. (V)

Poll: Florida Voters Don't Want to Reelect Trump

A new Bendixen & Amandi poll of Florida voters has nothing but bad news for Donald Trump. The pollsters didn't want to pair him off against two dozen or so possible Democrats, so they asked a simple question: "Do you want to see President Trump reelected?" The results: 40% said yes and 53% said no. His approval ratings were similar, at 40% approve and 52% disapprove. What may be even worse for Trump is that 23% of Florida Republicans don't want him reelected. That means Trump will have to throw more red meat at his base, further alienating independents.

Florida, of course, is the mother of all swing states, and with 29 electoral votes, by far the most important swing state. If Trump were to hold every state he won in 2016 but lose Florida, he would get 277 electoral votes, just 7 more than he would need to be reelected. But if he were also to lose any one of Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, all of which just elected a Democratic senator and a Democratic governor, he would lose. So Florida is a state Trump really can't afford to let get away.

The poll asked those people who identified as Democrats whom they would like as their nominee. Joe Biden topped the list, but got only 11% of the votes. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT? See below) was second at 5%, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) came in third at 4%. Everyone else was at 1% or less. In other words, there is no frontrunner in Florida, and probably not in many other states either (except when a favorite son or daughter from the state is running).

However, before breaking out the champagne, Democrats should remember that the GOP won both the gubernatorial and senatorial races in Nov. 2018, so winning the Sunshine State is anything but a done deal. (V)

Fox News Will Not Televise Any of the Democratic Primary Debates

Democrats are going to hold a dozen primary debates, largely as a reaction to ferocious criticism in 2016 from the supporters of Bernie Sanders that if only there had been more debates, their man would have become better known. However, Fox News will not be given the opportunity to televise any of the 2020 debates. DNC chairman Tom Perez explained his decision by saying: "Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration, and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates."

The article Perez referred to revealed that Trump may have been tipped off to some of the questions in the Republican primary debates by then-chairman of Fox News Roger Ailes. Also, Trump was and is in regular contact with several of the Fox News hosts, who could also give him inside information. So far, only CNN and NBC have been granted the rights to debates. It is almost certain that (at least) one of the large Spanish-language networks, Telemundo and Univision, will get a debate because Democrats want to reach every Latino citizen they possibly can. (V)

Bernie Is Now a Democrat--Sort of

Bernie Sanders finally bit the bullet and joined the Democratic Party. On Tuesday, he signed and had notarized a statement that reads: "I am a member of the Democratic Party." Sanders, who ran for the Senate in 2018 as an independent has long been criticized for wanting to lead a party he is not even a member of. Now he finally is.

Or maybe not. He also filed to run for reelection to the Senate in 2024—as an independent. The whole matter is a bit murky, because Vermont is one of the few states that does not register voters by party. Consequently, Vermonters can vote in any primary they wish to vote in. Nevertheless, Sanders might have silenced his critics once and for all if he had also filed to run for reelection in 2024 as a Democrat. But he chose not to, so people are still going to question his allegiance to the Democratic Party. (V)

Thursday Q&A

We're still working on some DW-Nominate stuff, so those answers will come next week. For now, however, we've gotten a good mix of questions in the inbox.

Has there ever been as crowded a field as what we are seeing this time around? And when was the last time there was no frontrunner heading into a convention? Did it hurt that party in the general election? S.B., Hood River, OR

To start, identifying which candidates are "in" and which candidates are "out" is not always binary. Is Joe Biden running, as of this moment? Beto O'Rourke? Similarly, the list of which candidates are "serious" and which ones are not is not a cut and dried affair, either. Are folks like Michael E. Arth, Harry Braun, Ken Nwadike Jr., and Robby Wells a part of the Democratic "field"? They've all declared, and filed their paperwork with the FEC, so technically they are. However, all of them are also perennial candidates for office who have no chance of winning, and will only be at the Democratic debates if someone gives them a ticket.

All of this is to say that we cannot conclusively declare one field of candidates to be larger than another, because it's not black and white. What we can say is that there are something like a dozen serious Democratic candidates, and that a field of that size is fairly unremarkable under certain circumstances. Namely:

  1. There is a clear leadership vacuum at the top of the party
  2. The other party's sitting president/presumed candidate seems especially vulnerable

This was the situation, for example, for the Republicans in 2016. They didn't have an obvious nominee-in-waiting, and there was a sense that Hillary Clinton was beatable, with the result that the GOP field that year was roughly as large (Trump, Fiorina, Carson, Kasich, Christie, Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Bush, Gilmore, Paul, Huckabee, Walker, etc.) as the Democratic field is right now. There was also an unusually large Democratic field in 1976, because the Party had no clear frontrunner, and Gerald Ford was left badly damaged by the Richard Nixon pardon.

And speaking of Ford, the 1976 Republican Convention is one of three, since the emergence of primaries and caucuses as the preferred manner of choosing candidates, that was in doubt going into the convention. The others were the Democratic conventions of 1972 and 1984. It would likely have happened to the Democrats in 1968, too, if not for the assassination of RFK. Anyhow, in all four of these cases, the frontrunner heading into the convention took the nomination on the first ballot, and then went on to lose the general election. A sample size of three (or four) isn't much to work with, but it suggests that it is not a good sign if a candidate cannot button things down before the convention begins.

What will happen if Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, but calls it a sham, declares himself the winner, and refuses to leave office? M.F., Baltimore, MD

There are really two aspects to this question. The first of these is: "What would happen with Trump?" That part, we have already answered, pointing out that none of the president's powers mean anything unless others play along. He can't bomb other countries, issue executive orders, sign laws, appoint people to office, or do anything else of consequence without the cooperation of other people. And since we do not believe the military, the Congress, and the bureaucracy are prepared to commit high treason and participate in a coup, then Trump's refusal to leave office would simply make him the highest-profile trespasser in American history (at least, until he was arrested by U.S. Marshals and escorted from the White House).

The other aspect of this, however, is: "What would Trump's loyal supporters do?" This is a question worth considering, since the President has spent the week "proactively" working to de-legitimize the 2020 election results, should he happen to lose. While the President is not exactly a master of United States civics, surely he must know that he cannot hope to remain in office if the election results go against him. If so, then by proclaiming any loss by him to be fraudulent, he is consciously laying the groundwork for a violent response from his base. Why anyone would want that is hard to imagine. Ego? Anger? Amusement? In any case, if the President keeps at it, there is certainly a risk of rioting on the part of the base.

Meanwhile, Trump's not thoughtful enough to realize it, but he is playing with a double-edged sword here. If he spends the next two years peddling the notion that election results are subject to fraudulent manipulation, and can't really be trusted, then he also undermines his own legitimacy, should he be reelected. Particularly if that win should be by another razor-thin margin, and only in the electoral college while losing the popular vote badly. Under those circumstances, it could easily trigger riots in the streets from anti-Trump Americans.

In short, whatever happens on November 3, 2020, it's possible things could turn ugly. A good old-fashioned blowout would probably be helpful. Failing that, the good news is that riots almost always happen on unusually warm days, and Election Day tends to be chilly.

Since pollsters have tracked presidential approval numbers, which president garnered the most approval from the opposing party? I'm thinking it might be Bush 43 after 9/11. C.R., Smithfield, NC

For much of the "polling era" (1940 or so to present), we do not have party identification data for presidential approval polls. Consequently, we are left to presume that any president who pulled a particularly high approval rating must have been getting significant support from the other party. For example, right after bringing WWII to a successful conclusion, Harry S. Truman had an 87% approval rating from Gallup. To get that number, even if every Democrat in the country was with him, he would have also needed at least 60% of the GOP's voters. The same is true, except with the parties flipped, for George H.W. Bush, who was at 89% approval right after the Persian Gulf War reached a successful conclusion, and—as you surmised—for George W. Bush, who had a 90% approval shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Given the lack of more specific data, not to mention the margin of error present in any poll, we're going to have to award a three-way tie for first place to these three gentlemen.

There are many posts by you that run along the lines of "Terrible week for Trump" or "Really bad news for Trump," but there never seem to be any tangible repercussions from such bad news. His poll numbers stay the same and the 2020 election appears, from yours and others' reporting, to be a toss-up. So when objectively bad stuff happens from Trump's point of view, is it really bad news, per se, if there is no resultant fallout? O.Z.H., Karachi, Pakistan

We have repeatedly noted our fondness for the idea of the tipping point, as discussed by Malcolm Gladwell and others. The prediction is that Trump's support will erode, slowly and surely, until it experiences a sudden and swift collapse. So, the weeks and weeks of adverse news may well be chipping away at his support in a manner that will not become clear until we have the benefit of hindsight.

Whether it happens like that or not, however, there is no knowing how those middling approval numbers will translate at the polls until—at the very least—the Democrats have a candidate. Once it's Trump vs. an actual person, as opposed to Trump vs. a giant question mark, then we will get some amount of clarity. And even if the President's approval is the same on November 3, 2020, as it was on November 8, 2016, that does not tell us how enthusiastic those voters are. If someone is still with Trump, but is no longer excited enough about him to get out and vote, that's a win for the Democrats.

I was a bit surprised when your Monday Q&A response to a question about the recent Georgia gubernatorial election referenced Article I of the Constitution, which specifically discusses Senators and Representatives and not Governors. I agree that the equal protection clause has some applicability here but the relevance of Article I to non-congressional state elections would seem to require a stretch of "Trumpian" proportions. L.V.A., Idaho Falls, Idaho

A little bit of a stretch? Maybe. A "Trumpian" stretch? We're not so sure.

We only mentioned Article I because it makes clear that the framers gave Congress pretty broad authority when it comes to elections. However, it's really the equal protection clause that matters, in our view. We do not believe that Congress would actually assume responsibility for running elections, merely that they might establish some sort of basic standards by which elections on all levels would have to be run. Things like "no voter ID required" or "no use of voting machines without a paper trail." The current Democratic-led House has already put some of these kinds of ideas into HR-1. It will never pass the Senate, but Pelosi & Co. clearly feel they're on solid legal ground. And if and when it got before SCOTUS, the Democrats' lawyers would argue that Congress is merely protecting the right of everyone to vote, per the 14th Amendment. That would likely stand up (although, given John Roberts' views on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, you never know).

I live in Georgia, and your item about voting machines was spot on. The Republicans want the machines with the bar code and the Democrats want paper ballots. My question is: Why is this a partisan issue? Is it because Georgia is a "red" state and because Republicans are in control of the electoral process, they think it would be easier to manipulate? It seems to me that if that's true, it's a short-sighted view. For example, Georgia and the South used to be Democratic-controlled (before the Voting Rights Act) and could switch again, as demographics change. Is there an example of a "blue" state where Democrats would want ballots with bar codes? M.S., Alpharetta, GA

Fundamentally, what most Republican politicians want is low taxes and correspondingly low government services, as well as little to no regulation of industries that pollute the air and water, put harmful chemicals in food and other products, etc. The majority of the voters don't want these policies, so the best strategy Republicans have to win elections is to spend vast amounts of money on negative ads, cooperate with willing propagandists (ahem, Fox News), engage in voter suppression, and, as a last resort, cheat (such as manipulating the ballots, as they did in NC-09). Most Democrats, for better or worse, would rather lose than cheat. That was not always true (LBJ was a cheater par excellence), but it is the basic culture of the Party today. Consequently, Democrats want to eliminate the bar codes because they know they would never use them to cheat and don't want to give the Republicans that option. In contrast, Republicans would like to keep that possibility as a last resort. They are not worried about its blowing up in their faces, because they also know that the Democrats just don't have a taste for that kind of Machiavellian behavior.

I have a follow-up question as to who presides over the Senate during an impeachment trial. You stated that, "the Senate has to begin considering the matter immediately, and the Chief Justice (if it's the president being impeached) or the Vice President (if it's anyone else) preside over the hearings." Isn't that statement somewhat incomplete? What happens when the Veep himself is impeached? Also, I don't see in Article I of the Constitution, nor in the Senate rules, any explicit mention of the Veep as presiding officer for those other impeachment trials. So can this duty—as often is the case with presiding in the Senate during normal business—be delegated to a senator? F.D., Bruges, Belgium

We wondered if anyone would notice that. We did not make an error, in that we were fully aware of the strange circumstance that our answer implied, namely that if the letter of the Constitution is followed, then the Veep would indeed preside at his own impeachment trial, were he to be impeached.

Here is the relevant passage from Article I:

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

You are right that this part does not put the Veep in charge of impeachments. However, just two sentences prior, the holder of that office is named as the President of the Senate. The clear meaning was: "The vice president presides over the Senate, including impeachments, unless the subject of the impeachment is the president, in which case the Chief Justice takes over." They created this exception, obviously, because in a presidential impeachment the vice president might have a serious conflict of interest. He could be biased in favor of a close friend and colleague (e.g., Joe Biden and Barack Obama) or he could be biased against the guy who is standing between him and the Oval Office (e.g., LBJ and JFK).

So, since it is the purview of the Veep to preside over impeachments, and since the only exception to that specified in the Constitution is a presidential impeachment trial, then a literal reading of the document means that—as we said—a vice president would preside over his own impeachment trial.

However, as you (and others who wrote in) suspect, that is not what would happen in reality. Clearly the fellows who wrote the Constitution screwed up (probably because they intended the job to be so powerless that nobody would ever get removed from it by impeachment—which, in their defense, has been a correct prediction thus far). Anyhow, there are two legal precepts that would come into play if this circumstance ever were to come to pass, and it was necessary for the courts to get involved. The first is one of the fundamental notions of English common law, namely that no man may be his own judge. The second is what is known as the "absurdity rule"; the courts have recognized that sometimes the framers did make mistakes, and that obviously absurd situations must be rectified. In this specific circumstance, the courts would certainly rule that the Veep is unable to preside at his own trial, that the Constitution delegates the Veep's powers to the Senate pro tempore whenever the Veep is unavailable, and that therefore the responsibility would fall to the Senate pro tempore to do the job. That happens to be Chuck Grassley (R-IA) right now, so if Mike Pence plans to do anything shady, he better first be sure he's steered a goodly number of corn subsidies in the direction of the Hawkeye State.

It is also unlikely that it would even reach that point. If a Veep was impeached, surely he would recognize the need to step aside, and would do so. At that point, it would still be cleanest, from a Constitutional standpoint, to let the Senate pro tempore preside. Politically, too, since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is already perceived as someone who bends the rules to his own advantage.

In your answer to T.S.'s and my question concerning the Senate's timeline for dealing with a House resolution of impeachment, you cite Senate Rule XI as defining the process (that the Senate must take up the issue immediately and not do anything else until they finish). That raises the question: When and how does the Senate establish its rules, and can it change them at any time? We saw how the "nuclear option" was used by both Democratic- and Republican-controlled Senates in changing the rules around how many votes it took to confirm appointments (or more accurately, I think, to close debate on such appointments). Could Mitch McConnell do something similar to delay an impeachment trial? S.C., Mountain View, CA

To start, a handful of folks wrote in and noted that when Bill Clinton was impeached, there was a gap of about three weeks between the impeachment vote (December 19, 1998) and the start of the Senate trial (January 7, 1999). We should have been clear, first of all, that it's not the House vote that compels the commencement of deliberations in the Senate, it is the delivery of the articles of impeachment to the Senate. As a practical matter, the delay was because of the Christmas holiday, the changeover in Congresses, and a terrorist bombing in Iraq. As a legal matter, it is likely that the House sat on the articles of impeachment for a few weeks before formally delivering them, though that is difficult to confirm. In any event, there is a clear expectation that the matter will be handled in a timely fashion. And so, if McConnell tried to do some feet dragging, he wouldn't be able to get away with it for very long (a week?) before he would get sued and would lose.

As to changing the rules, that's a pretty tricky question. Senate rules currently require 60 votes for a rule change and 67 to end a rule change filibuster. Obviously, the votes aren't there for either of those. McConnell could try to use the "nuclear option," which is a backdoor means of changing a Senate rule with only 51 votes. But that road would be fraught with peril. Could he really get 51 votes on such a move? Doubtful. He can't even get that many to sustain Trump's national emergency, so how is he going to get that many to protect the President from impeachment proceedings? And even if McConnell did get the votes, it's not entirely clear that the nuclear option is legal. The Democrats and Republicans have each used it once, and in a similar way (to grease the skids for judges), but using it to try to kill an impeachment would be a whole other ball of wax, and would probably trigger a court challenge. There's also the problem that the nuclear option has been used to change the text of a single rule, not to supplant 19 pages of rules. And finally, there are the political risks that come with aiding and abetting a president's efforts to be above the law. Clearly, a lot of GOP voters have a lot of tolerance for bending and breaking longstanding traditions and rules, but that might be a bridge too far, even for them.

Our conclusion, then: It's possible that McConnell could try some rule-changing shenanigans, but he would be taking a big risk, and there's a very good chance it wouldn't work.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar06 House Enthusiasm for Investigating Trump Matched by Senate's Lack of Enthusiasm
Mar06 Trump Rammed Through Ivanka's Security Clearance, Too
Mar06 Mueller Is "An American Hero"
Mar06 Stone Likes to Live Dangerously
Mar06 ACA Premiums Getting Out of Reach for Many
Mar06 Merkley and Bloomberg Are Out
Mar06 Many Democratic Frontrunners Got Money from the Trumps in the Past
Mar06 Is McConnell Triangulating for 2020?
Mar05 Trump Is Headed for Certain Defeat in the Senate
Mar05 House Judiciary Committee Is Going to Talk to Everyone
Mar05 Trump Will Sign Executive Order Requiring Colleges to "Support Free Speech"
Mar05 GOP Activists Are Worried Trump Has No 2020 Strategy
Mar05 Hickenlooper Is In
Mar05 Clinton Is Out
Mar05 O'Rourke Is High
Mar04 Fourth Republican Senator Will Vote against Trump's Emergency Declaration
Mar04 House Judiciary Committee Will Start Investigating Trump
Mar04 Schiff: There is Already Evidence of Collusion
Mar04 Plurality of Voters Believe Michael Cohen
Mar04 CPAC Attendees Are Worried about Biden
Mar04 Voters Don't Want a Socialist President
Mar04 A Ranking of the Democratic Candidates
Mar04 A First Look at the Electoral College
Mar04 Three States Replace Vulnerable Voting Machines--with New Vulnerable Voting Machines
Mar04 Roger Stone's Trial Will Take 5 to 8 Days
Mar04 Monday Q&A
Mar02 All Kinds of Trouble for Trump
Mar02 Washington Governor Is In(Slee)
Mar02 Saturday Q&A
Mar01 Following Cohen Testimony, Members of Congress Make Their Next Moves
Mar01 GOP Senators to Trump: Drop the Emergency
Mar01 Trump Sides with a Strongman Again
Mar01 RNC Chair Tacitly Threatens Potential Trump Challengers
Mar01 Wheeler Confirmed to Lead EPA
Mar01 Netanyahu Indicted on Corruption Charges
Mar01 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Jeff Merkley
Feb28 Cohen Channels His Inner Dean
Feb28 Collateral Damage from Cohen's Testimony
Feb28 Takeaways from the Cohen Hearings
Feb28 The View from the Right
Feb28 Summit Ends with a Thud
Feb28 O'Rourke's Plans Come Into Focus
Feb27 House Votes to Kill Emergency Declaration, 245-182
Feb27 Cohen Testifies
Feb27 Background Checks Bill on Deck
Feb27 Trump Meets with Kim Today
Feb27 2020 Won't Be 2016 Redux for Democrats
Feb27 Hogan Clearly Prepping for a 2020 Primary Challenge
Feb27 Harris Is Out in NC-09
Feb27 Next Mayor of Chicago Will Be a Black Woman