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Political Wire logo Exchange of the Day
Trump Mulls Diverting Billions More for Border Wall
Carson Made Dismissive Transgender Comments
Whistleblower Complaint Involves Ukraine
Dead People May Make the Difference In 2020
Judge Blocks Law to Require Disclosure of Tax Returns

Note: Starting today there will be a link in the map legend, Full primary schedule, which lists all the primaries (and caucuses). That includes Democrats Abroad, Puerto Rico, Guam, etc., all of which send delegates to the convention (in addition to the 50 states and D.C.).

Polls: Warren and Biden are Neck and Neck in Iowa

A new Iowa State University/Civiqs poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers has Elizabeth Warren on top. A poll from Focus on Rural America has Biden a tad ahead of her. Here are the numbers for all candidates scoring 1% or more in at least one of them.

Candidate IA State U. FoRA Average
Elizabeth Warren 24% 23% 23.5%
Joe Biden 16% 25% 20.5%
Bernie Sanders 16% 9% 12.5%
Pete Buttigieg 13% 12% 12.5%
Amy Klobuchar 3% 8% 5.5%
Kamala Harris 5% 5% 5.0%
Tulsi Gabbard 4% 1% 2.5%
Andrew Yang 3% 2% 2.5%
Tom Steyer 2% 2% 2.0%
Cory Booker 2% 2% 2,0%
Beto O'Rourke 2% 1% 1.5%
Marianne Williamson 1% 0% 0.5%
Tim Ryan 1% 0% 0.5%
Unsure 8% 6% 7.0%

The Iowa State poll was an online poll, so it needs to be take with a barrel of salt, since a whole lot is riding on how good the model of the electorate is. Still, the results are roughly consistent with other indicators we have seen. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) keeps rising, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is struggling. Sanders' worst nightmare is that we reach a tipping point and most of the progressive Democrats jump ship and back Warren. Any one poll doesn't mean that much, but we are starting to see a trend. For Joe Biden, fending off Warren may be harder than fending off Sanders. He can gently chide Sanders as "your crazy uncle," but that doesn't work at all against Warren.

In contrast, the Focus on Rural America poll was a traditional telephone poll in which landlines and cell phones were called. Here, too, Warren is way ahead of Sanders. Also noteworthy here is that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), who is from a neighboring state, has moved up to fifth place, ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Notice also that only 6-8% are unsure. Stuff changes, of course, but once opinions solidify, it is harder to get people to change their minds unless something important happens. (V)

Poll: Biden Leads in Florida

While Iowa is looking a bit iffy for Joe Biden, Florida looks better, and Florida has a lot more delegates (219) than Iowa (41). Here are the Florida numbers, from pollster Florida Atlantic University:

Candidate Pct.
Joe Biden 34%
Elizabeth Warren 24%
Bernie Sanders 14%
Pete Buttigieg 5%
Kamala Harris 4%
Wayne Messam 3%
Andrew Yang 2%
Beto O'Rourke 2%
Michael Bennet 1%
Tim Ryan 1%
Steve Bullock 1%
Tulsi Gabbard 1%
Bill de Blasio 1%
Cory Booker 1%

However, not everything is peaches and cream (oranges and cream?) for the former veep. While he is leading Warren by a healthy 10 points, in the Florida Atlantic University poll for May his lead over her was 27 points. That's not moving in the right direction for him.

That said, Biden is ahead with both men and women. He is especially strong with older voters, a key advantage in a state full of seniors.

The poll also ran some general-election matchups. Trump beats all the leading Democrats, but the margins are thin: 0.2% over Warren, 1.0% over Biden and Sanders, and 4% over Kamala Harris. (V)

Trump's FEMA Nominee Is a Disaster

The first person to lead FEMA under Donald Trump was Brock Long, who had to resign when his habit of using government vehicles for personal travel came to light. Long's replacement was supposed to be Jeff Byard, whose nomination lingered for more than half a year. However, it won't be him after all, as he dropped out on Wednesday night.

The nomination was scuttled by a "personal issue" that came up during Byard's background checks. Did he once go to a Halloween party in brownface makeup, like Canadian PM Justin Trudeau? Was it a drug offense or a DUI? Did he tug on Superman's cape, pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and then mess around with Jim? Only a small number of people know what the issue is, and they aren't saying, although given how leaky this administration is, we'll probably find out as soon as Ronan Farrow checks his voicemail. The new nominee is expected to be acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor; we'll see if he can survive the background check. Fortunately, Trump promised to hire only the best people, so Gaynor should whiz through the confirmation process. (Z)

Whistleblower Targeted Trump

It's been known for a while that House Democrats would like to talk to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, and that Maguire has steadfastly refused. Now, we know a bit more about what it is that the Democrats want to discuss. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that an unknown member of the U.S. intelligence community filed a whistleblower complaint against Donald Trump, reporting that the President made a "troubling" promise to a foreign leader during a phone conversation.

Nothing is publicly known about what promise Trump made, or what leader he made it to, but it doesn't take much imagination to come up with some pretty unpleasant possibilities. It is known that the President chatted with Vlad Putin at least once around the time the complaint was filed. It is also known that Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson deemed the complaint to be "credible" and a matter of "urgent concern," which would normally trigger automatic Congressional involvement, and which makes Maguire's stonewalling even more problematic. Atkinson will be on the Hill today for a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, and Maguire has grudgingly agreed to show up next week. Given the secretive nature of all of this, there is a spectrum of possible outcomes, ranging from "nothing more becomes publicly known for months" to "by the end of next week, even Republicans will be calling for impeachment." So, this bears keeping an eye on. (Z)

NSA #3 Blasts Trump

One of these days, a former member of the Trump administration is going to write the mother of all tell-alls, and is going to collect an absolute jackpot in royalties. Maybe that will happen while the Donald is still in office, and maybe it will happen afterward. Whichever it is, one of the prime candidates to do this is John Bolton, who is hot-tempered, now hates Trump, and has a habit of lashing out against those who he feels have disrespected him.

Adding credence to that assessment is the news that during a private lunch meeting on Wednesday, Bolton teed off on Trump's foreign policy, specifically slamming the attempt to meet with Taliban leaders at Camp David, and also declaring that any negotiations that Trump attempts with North Korea or Iran are "doomed to failure." It should be noted that the former NSA did not actually use Trump's name, but it's not like there are any other Americans who have an Iran policy, or who schedule meetings at Camp David. Anyhow, if Bolton is willing to speak in a public-enough forum that his remarks were in print within 12 hours, then why would he hesitate to write a book, or a series of op-eds? In short, to borrow a line from LBJ, Bolton was on the inside of the tent pissing out, but now he's going to be on the outside of the tent pissing in. (Z)

Trump Picks Robert O'Brien as NSA #4

Donald Trump is hoping for better luck with his new NSA pick than he had with his FEMA pick, or his last NSA pick. After narrowing it down to a list of five on Tuesday, the President on Wednesday selected the State Dept.'s chief hostage negotiator, Robert O'Brien, as his fourth National Security Adviser (if we don't count interim NSAs). He follows Michael Flynn, Herbert McMaster, and John Bolton, none of whom lasted even 18 months. The job entails running the National Security Council, collecting information from a wide variety of intelligence sources, and distilling the results into concrete options for the president, with the pros and cons of each one. Then the president can carefully weigh all the options and make the best choice. Alternatively, he can ignore the NSA and the intelligence community and just go with his gut. Trump seems to prefer route #2 most of the time, which is why the NSAs don't last: they sometimes give him information he doesn't like. Flynn is a special case, though, because he lied to just about everyone in the administration about his talks with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

O'Brien is a lawyer from Los Angeles. Trump barely knows him, but O'Brien wrote a book entitled: While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis that is basically a giant critique of the Obama administration's foreign policy. That's obviously enough of a recommendation for Trump. Another plus for O'Brien is that he has often lavishly praised Trump. The one small fly in the ointment is that O'Brien, like Bolton, is a hawk, and wants to stand up to dictators and bad actors around the world, precisely the people Trump sees as his friends.

Foreign policy-wise, Trump has been incredibly lucky so far. He hasn't really faced a domestic or foreign crisis where he had to take action and none of the choices were good. Other presidents weren't so lucky. Think about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Dec. 1941. Think about the Berlin Wall going up in Aug. 1961. Think about the Cuban missile crisis of Oct. 1962, when the Soviet Union began the process of installing nuclear missile silos in Cuba. Think about the 52 American hostages Iran took in Nov. 1979. Think about the 9/11 attacks. What would Trump do under similar circumstances? Listening to the NSA probably wouldn't be one of the options he'd consider. (V)

Trump May Face a Domestic Crisis: A General Motors Strike

Crises can also be domestic. Almost 50,000 General Motors workers are on strike right now. General Motors has done well after the government bailed it out and the workers want a piece of the pie. The union also wants to prevent the company from cutting the workers' health plans. Management is not interested in these proposals. However, the work stoppage is going to cost GM tens of millions of dollars a day, so there is a lot of pressure on the company to do something.

The future of the auto industry is very much up in the air. Will self-driving cars take over? How about electric cars? What about self-driving electric cars? No matter what happens, disruption is likely. Will General Motors build new factories to make the new cars? Where? And will they employ blue-collar workers, or just 100 mechanical engineers, 100 computer engineers, and a lot of robots? The workers want certainty and the company wants flexibility. This strike is not like the old fashioned ones, where the workers were demanding $20/hour and the company was offering $16/hour and everyone could see that eventually they would get to $18/hour.

Trump has called for a quick resolution of the issues, but that is not likely. A long strike could hurt the economy, so Trump doesn't want that. Pretty much all the Democrats are lining up behind the workers, so Trump may eventually have to decide where he stands. His natural instincts favor big companies, but coming down on the side of GM, which is located in Michigan, a state he won by only 11,000 votes in 2016, many of them blue-collar, means kissing its 16 electoral votes goodbye. And maybe those of other states in the rust belt as well. Doing nothing doesn't get him off the hook, as the workers will see just about every Democrat supporting them while Trump sits on the fence. They're not stupid. They see who is 100% for them and who isn't. It puts Trump in a real bind of the kind he hasn't seen yet. (V)

Americans Are Not Keen on Impeaching Trump

Many House Democrats are champing at the bit to impeach Donald Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to do that (yet). She has her ear to the ground and knows what Americans are thinking. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll confirms that she knows what she is doing. Only 37% of Americans want to begin impeachment hearings, while 50% do not. Among Democrats, the sentiment runs high, with 70% supporting impeachment, but only 6% of Republicans and 31% of independents want to go down that road. Pelosi's view is that Trump needs to be defeated at the ballot box in 2020, and not in the Senate, since she knows the latter is not going to happen, even if he wins and the Democrats take the upper chamber.

However, Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are increasingly at odds over the matter. In a closed-door meeting last week, Pelosi took a swipe at Nadler and his Committee, saying the votes aren't there on the House floor for an impeachment. Pelosi is concerned that the 40 first-term representatives, mostly from red districts, would vote against impeachment to save their seats and the schism within the Democratic caucus would hurt the party.

Nadler's original strategy was to call witnesses in hopes of getting them to admit that Trump has committed crimes. But since all the witnesses have either refused to show up, or they show up and refuse to answer questions, that strategy has fallen apart. Sooner or later, the courts will rule on whether the House can subpoena members and former members of the administration, but that is likely to be later rather than sooner, and Nadler is getting frustrated waiting. Where things go from here is unclear. (V)

Fed Lowers Interest Rates Again

The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates yesterday by 0.25% in a contentious meeting. Donald Trump has ordered the Fed to cut rates drastically, and Chairman Jerome Powell met him part way by cutting rates, but not as much as Trump wanted. Three members dissented from the decision: Two wanted to hold rates steady and one wanted deeper cuts.

The Fed is supposed to be apolitical, but that is hard when the president gives it orders very publicly and expects obedience. Former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin once described the Fed's job as "to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going." If the new normal is that the president orders the Fed to cut or raise rates and it obeys, that would be a huge increase in executive power and probably wouldn't be a good thing, because what is in the president's short-term political interest is not always what is in the country's long-term economic interest. (V)

Sanders Unveils "Housing for All" Plan

Building on his "Medicare for All" idea, Bernie Sanders yesterday unveiled a new "Housing for All" plan. It guarantees every American a safe, decent, and affordable place to live. It would be financed by a wealth tax on the top 0.1%. He expects the tax to raise $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

The plan would also end homelessness by prioritizing 25,000 housing units to house the homeless (which would still be far short of what is needed to house all of the 600,000 or so homeless people in the U.S.). Sanders noted that there is no place in America where a minimum wage worker can afford a decent two-bedroom apartment.

The problem with the plan, as well as Elizabeth Warren's various plans, is that the Supreme Court is likely to say that the Constitution forbids a wealth tax. After all, it took a constitutional amendment to enact an income tax. Sanders now has three very expensive "X for All" plans and if the financing can't be arranged, they are not going to happen.

Sanders keeps expanding his "X for All" repertoire. So far, he has:

  • Medicare for All
  • Housing for All
  • Free College for All

While these ideas poll well in the abstract, as soon as people are told that their taxes will have to go up to pay for them, support plummets. This is the nature of politics. Politicians promise all kinds of goodies, but it turns out there are no free lunches. (V)

Warren Took 4,000 Selfies in New York

Elizabeth Warren has a plan, and it involves photography. After her New York rally on Monday, she stayed for 4 hours, until midnight, to allow anyone who wanted a "selfie" with her to get one. About 4,000 people did. So far, she has posed for photos with 59,000 people.

It is an unusual tactic, but perhaps a smart one. Many people who don't normally go to political rallies might now go to hers because they know they can get a selfie with a potential future president. This, in turn, increases the size of her crowds. Furthermore, many people post the selfies to social media, which increases her reach. Suppose a dozen people see a posted selfie. That means 700,000 people now have a direct connection to Warren and can ask their friend or relative about her. That is worth many minutes of paid ads on television and costs her nothing except her time. By appearing directly with so many voters, it also makes Warren look like someone close to the people, something important for a former Harvard professor and a U.S. senator. It's a clever strategy and one the other candidates would be wise to emulate. Joe Biden would just need to be careful he doesn't announce that he'll take a daguerrotype with anyone who wants one.

Warren has the process down to a science, to get as many selfies per hour as possible. If you do the math above, 4,000 photos in 4 hours is 1,000 photos/hour or one photo every 3.6 seconds. Here are the steps:

  • A staffer takes your bag to get it out of the way
  • Another staffer takes your phone
  • That staffer passes the phone to Warren's staff photographer, Nora Kate Keefe
  • Keefe shoots the photo
  • The photographer passes the phone to another staffer
  • As you exit the stage, the other staffer returns your phone
  • Yet another staffer thanks you for coming
  • Finally, you get your bag back

So, if you want to get picky, the photos aren't selfies because Keefe takes them all. On the other hand, photos taken by someone who has taken 50,000+ photos recently are likely to be better than the ones you take.

Of course, there is a downside. Warren has less time to beg for donations. On the other hand, money is pouring in, so maybe she can afford the time. Also, people who have a selfie with her are more likely to donate. (V)

Nine Democrats Will Take Part in an LGBTQ Town Hall on CNN

The DNC has declared that no candidate may appear in any unsanctioned debate, but that interviews are fine. CNN is taking advantage of this policy by inviting Democrats to spend half an hour being interviewed on LGBTQ issues on Oct. 11. All the leading Democrats except Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang have signed up. Here is the schedule:

Time Candidate Interviewer
7:00 p.m. Tom Steyer Dana Bash
7:30 p.m. Cory Booker Dana Bash
8:00 p.m. Joe Biden Anderson Cooper
8:30 p.m. Kamala Harris Anderson Cooper
9:00 p.m. Elizabeth Warren Chris Cuomo
9:30 p.m. Pete Buttigieg Chris Cuomo
10:00 p.m. Beto O'Rourke Don Lemon
10:30 p.m. Amy Klobuchar Don Lemon
11:00 p.m. Julián Castro Anderson Cooper

If additional candidates qualify for the fourth debate, they will be invited to be interviewed as well. This scheme is a compromise with people who wanted a full-fledged debate on LBGTQ issues. They didn't get it, but CNN will devote at least 4½ hours to the subject, so it won't go unnoticed. (V)

Joe Kennedy Is In

Democratic leadership would probably be happy with either of the top-tier candidates they have for the Massachusetts Senate seat that will be contested in 2020. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the incumbent, is a reliable footsoldier for the blue team who knows how to win elections, having won 23 of them in his life. Rep. Joe Kennedy III is young, charismatic, a member of the most famous political family in the land (sorry, Clintons, Bushes, and Roosevelts), and a possible future presidential candidate.

What the pooh-bahs would not be happy with, however, is if these two A-listers face off against each other in a primary next year. And yet, that is exactly what will happen. Markey isn't going anywhere, and this weekend, Kennedy will officially announce his bid. Then he will begin an extensive campaign tour, shaking hands and kissing babies up and down the Bay State. This is pretty bad news for the Senator. The handful of publicly released polls of the race all give Kennedy a comfortable lead in the 10-point range. You can also bet that the Representative has internal polls telling him the same thing.

Is it possible that a bloody Democratic primary could put the seat in play for the GOP? Maybe; the state does have a Republican governor in Charlie Baker, and it did elect a Republican to the Senate as recently as 2010, in the person of Scott Brown. That said, 2010 was a wonky special election, and the GOP bench in Massachusetts is quite thin, except for Baker, who says he's not interested in going to Washington. Thus far, the only Republican to declare is perennial candidate Shiva Ayyadurai, who is no real threat to either Kennedy or Markey. So, the odds are good that, unless Baker changes his mind, this seat remains safe for the Democrats. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep18 Lewandowski Speaks a Lot, Says Little
Sep18 About that Wall Construction...
Sep18 List of Candidates to Replace John Bolton down to Five
Sep18 Trump Administration Throws Down the Gasoline Gauntlet in Battle with California
Sep18 Sanders Campaign Hits a Rough Patch
Sep18 Rep. Paul Cook to Retire
Sep18 Bye-Bye for Bibi?
Sep17 Things Looking Pretty Rosy for Warren These Days
Sep17 Oops, They Did It Again
Sep17 When Trump Said "Locked and Loaded," Did He Mean "Locked and Loaded"?
Sep17 White House Blocks Testimony from Lewandowski, Dearborn, and Porter
Sep17 Chao Being Investigated
Sep17 Trump Making a Play for New Mexico?
Sep17 Israelis Head to the Polls
Sep16 This May Be the One
Sep16 Warren Gained the Most from the Debate
Sep16 Washington Post Ranks Warren as Most Likely to Be the Democratic Nominee
Sep16 Democrats Are Calling for Kavanaugh's Impeachment
Sep16 Why Don't the Democrats Who Have No Chance Drop Out?
Sep16 Fourth Debate Is (Almost) Set
Sep16 Trump's Challengers Are Not Happy Campers
Sep16 No More Pie in the Sky
Sep16 Romney Praises Trump for Doing Nothing
Sep14 Saturday Q&A
Sep13 Warren Is the Lone Star in Democrats' Texas Debate
Sep13 Judiciary Committee Approves a Resolution to Move Forward on Impeachment
Sep13 Federal Charges Recommended for McCabe
Sep13 Democratic Group Will Spend $50 Million on Swing-State Rural Voters
Sep13 Warren Releases Social Security Plan
Sep13 Trump's Advisers Are Trying to Block His Tariffs
Sep13 Cruz Will Oppose a Trump Judicial Nominee
Sep12 It's Time for the Third Debate
Sep12 All Major Democratic Candidates Lead Trump
Sep12 Biden Is Slipping in the Primary Polls
Sep12 SCOTUS Allows Asylum Limitations to Take Effect
Sep12 Nadler and Hoyer Are Not on the Same Page about Impeachment
Sep12 Why Bolton Was Fired
Sep12 Senators Give Trump's Judicial Nominee a Hard Time
Sep12 Mulvaney Ordered Ross to Back Trump on Sharpiegate
Sep12 9/11 Day, the GOP Way
Sep12 Shaheen Leads Lewandowski by 10 Points
Sep11 Bolton Gets Broomed
Sep11 Trump Doesn't Like Foreign Assets
Sep11 Trump Administration Targets Homelessness in California
Sep11 Who's Really to Blame for America's Crummy Election Security?
Sep11 It's the Economy, Stupid
Sep11 Latinos Prefer Biden, Sanders
Sep11 GOP Goes 2-for-2 in North Carolina
Sep11 The End of Democracy?
Sep11 Wednesday Q&A