Trump’s New Chief of Staff Self-Quarantined
Pence ‘Not Sure’ If Trump Has Been Tested
Trump Says He’ll Ask for Payroll Tax Cut
Bloomberg Fires Staff Despite Promises
Gohmert Refusing to Quarantine Himself
Trump Expected to Speak on Coronavirus
• New Rules Announced for the March 15 Debate
• Harris Endorses Biden
• The Race for Veep Has Begun
• Biden Scales Up
• Close Trump Associate Is Recruiting Former Spies to Infiltrate Liberal Groups
• U.S. Officials Warn of Virus-Related Disruptions Ahead
• Romanoff Beats Hickenlooper in Colorado Caucuses
• Romney Is His Old Self Again
This week (and next) will be critical for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Tomorrow, six states vote: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington. All are primaries, although the North Dakota one is called a "firehouse caucus," which is simply a primary run by the Democratic Party.
In 2016, Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in Idaho and North Dakota, and he will probably crush Joe Biden this year, but only 34 delegates are at stake in those two states. Mississippi has the largest proportion of black voters in the country, and they are virtually all Democrats. Clinton beat Sanders by 56 points there in 2016, and Biden is expected to perform similarly well. Since Mississippi has 36 delegates, a huge Sanders victory in Idaho and North Dakota will be canceled out by a Biden blowout in Mississippi.
The other three states are more interesting. Michigan, with 125 delegates, is the big prize this week. In 2016, Sanders won it by only 17,000 votes out of more than a million cast. If he can win it again, it may help revive his flailing candidacy. But a loss here, especially a big one, is going to cause more Democrats to call for him to drop out (which he most certainly will not do).
Sanders understands that Michigan is a make-or-break state for him. He canceled a speech on race and justice in Mississippi to attend a rally in Detroit on Friday. That was a wise move, because Mississippi is a lost cause in more ways than one. In Michigan, he has a chance, what with its large working-class population, strong unions, and many college students. But he also has to contend with the reality that college-educated Democrats in suburbia propelled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) to a 9-point win in 2018, and she has now endorsed Biden. So have two of the state's first-term representatives from swing districts, Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens. Neither Slotkin nor Stevens wants to have to defend Medicare for All to their constituents, and with Biden they won't have to.
Sanders held four rallies in Michigan this weekend. His favorite theme was the NAFTA trade agreement, and how it shipped manufacturing jobs to Mexico, thanks to Joe Biden's vote for it. On the other hand, Biden has been emphasizing the 2009 bailout of the automobile industry done by the Obama/Biden administration, and how he and Barack singlehandedly saved thousands of Michigan jobs.
The candidates' choices for their respective Michigan headquarters is also part of the story. Biden picked Detroit's north end, a formerly grand neighborhood that had fallen into decay. Now it has been gentrified due to the Obama administration's efforts to rebuild it after the city's 2013 bankruptcy. Biden was the administration's point man on the reconstruction efforts, and is not shy in talking about that. The gentrification of a once-down-and-out area is sure to play well with voters in suburban Detroit.
Sanders' headquarters is across town along Grand River Avenue, a once-storied neighborhood that has fallen on hard times and hasn't come back. Rick Martin, a black activist and former local UAW president, said of the neighborhood: "For so many people in these areas, they don't turn out because they feel like their lives are not going to change, no matter who is in office." All things considered, upbeat probably wins over despondent.
Also of note is that Michigan is an open primary state. Any voter can vote in either primary, and since the Republicans aren't holding one, it is possible that never-Trump Republicans will cross over and vote for Biden because he might be acceptable to them in November, whereas Sanders is probably 20 or 30 bridges too far. If exit polls show that many Republicans voted for Biden, the reactions from the campaigns are predictable. Sanders: "It's not fair that Republicans are foisting Biden on the Democrats." Biden: "I can get Republicans to vote for me in November; Bernie can't." It is also possible, of course, that Michigan Republicans will try to do some ratf**king, and will vote Sanders because they think he's the more beatable candidate. Such efforts have not worked out thus far this cycle, however (see South Carolina), and there is no reason to believe that they will work out until we are given evidence to the contrary.
It isn't known, of course, whether turnout Tuesday will be lower than usual on account of voters fearing the COVID-19 virus. Nevertheless, Michigan officials are preparing to sanitize voting booths, touchscreen machines, pencils, and other voting equipment to minimize the chances of anyone being infected while voting.
Moving along, Missouri, like Michigan, was very close in 2016, with Hillary Clinton winning by a scant 1,600 votes out of about 625,000 votes cast. If Sanders can win Michigan and Missouri, it will definitely breathe new life into his campaign, but if he loses both, he is in deep doodoo.
Finally, we come to Washington, which held both a binding caucus and a nonbinding primary in 2016. Sanders won the caucus in a rout, but narrowly lost the primary. This year there is only a primary. If Biden wins the primary by a large margin, that will demonstrate even more clearly how undemocratic caucuses are, since the demographics of Washington haven't changed much from 2016; only the election format has changed. It will also be worth noting how big Sanders' margin in Idaho will be compared to 2016, since it was a caucus last time and a primary this time. But no matter what happens on Tuesday, Sanders will stay in the race, bracing himself for next week, when four big states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 will hold primaries. (V)
The next Democratic debate will be March 15 in Phoenix, 2 days before Arizonans go to the polls. It will be a man-to-man battle—literally— since the only woman left in the race, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), didn't make the cut. There is only one way to qualify for this debate: Have 20% of the 1,385 delegates already allocated. That would be 277. Gabbard has two delegates, both from American Samoa, the territory where she was born. As an aside, people born in American Samoa are American nationals, but not American citizens, and certainly not natural-born citizens. However, both of Gabbard's parents are American citizens, so she qualifies under a section of the law that makes children of citizens also citizens (usually). Her father, Mike Gabbard, a Democratic member of the Hawaii state senate who fought against same-sex marriage, was also born in American Samoa, but his father, Benjamin Harrison Gabbard, Jr., was also a citizen. Tulsi's mother was born in Indiana, so that eliminated any need for a complete Gabbard genealogy back to the 1899 Tripartite Convention, which ended the Second Samoan Civil War and awarded Eastern Samoa to the United States.
Anyway, the March 15 debate will just be Joe Biden standing up there against Bernie Sanders. Or maybe sitting down with Bernie Sanders. The two candidates disagree on whether to stand or sit. Sanders wants the candidates to stand, probably because he is worried about some viewers misinterpreting both candidates sitting as a sign that after his heart attack, he isn't able to stand for a couple of hours. Although Biden (77) is almost as old as Sanders (78), he hasn't had any health-related incidents lately, so his health has not been an issue, as Sanders' has.
The debate will be hosted by CNN, Univision, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The format will be different from the earlier ones, no matter whether the candidates are sitting or standing. Questions will come from the audience. The moderators will be CNN's Dana Bash and Jake Tapper and Univision's Jorge Ramos. (V)
Yesterday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the sixth former presidential candidate to endorse Joe Biden since his win in South Carolina. The others are Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Deval Patrick, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN). Harris' endorsement is a complete turnabout since the first debate, in which she said she didn't believe that he was a racist—and then proceeded to skewer him for being a racist because he, like an overwhelming majority of Americans, once opposed forced busing of school children to achieve integrated schools.
The endorsement wasn't entirely out of the blue. Ever since Harris dropped out, Biden has been heaping praise on her and saying what a wonderful person she was. He didn't exactly say: "Look, honey, if you want to be AG, you need to speak up fast," but that was the subtext. It took a while, but she got the message, and the timing before the Michigan race, with Detroit's large black population, is convenient. (V)
Now that it is virtually certain that the Democrats will nominate a white man who is pushing 80 (sorry, Tulsi, but that's the way it is), Democratic leaders are starting to chatter about the #2 slot on the ticket, and all of them want a woman there. Women are the core of the Party and both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have said that they are fine with a woman as running mate, so it is practically a done deal. Biden has even said he is considering multiple women. He may not have binders full of them, as Mitt Romney did, but there is no shortage of candidates. A female vice-presidential candidate would not be historic. The Democrats nominated Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and the Republicans picked Sarah Palin in 2008. But a female vice president would be historic since neither Ferraro nor Palin won.
What is unusual this time is that geography no longer plays the leading role. In 1960, John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson, whom he detested because he viewed Johnson as a boorish oaf, because he knew he had to win Texas. This time, gender, age, and ideology are the main factors, although a few of the potential candidates also could strengthen the ticket in one or more key states as well. It is no secret that Kamala Harris is an ambitious politician and it is also no secret that having a young black woman on the ticket will help turn out the Democratic base, so she is a possibility for both Biden and Sanders. However, she is in direct competition with Stacey Abrams. For Biden, Abrams as veep and Harris as AG makes more sense than the reverse because although Abrams has a law degree from Yale, she has never been a state AG, whereas Harris was California's AG. For Sanders, neither Harris nor Abrams is a good fit for AG because he wants someone who will go after billionaires and big corporations, and that is not something either one of them really cares about deeply. But both are plausible veeps for him.
Also widely mentioned is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She makes sense for Biden because some progressive voters who might otherwise stay home or vote for the Green Party candidate might then decide that Biden is acceptable because he is old and might die soon. Warren doesn't bring in a new state or region, however, since Biden would sweep New England even with a yellow dog as running mate. For Sanders, picking Warren is extremely risky because the Republicans would then paint the ticket as being way to the left of Mao Zedong. That doesn't mean he wouldn't do it, though.
Despite it not being dominant, geography does play some role in the selection process. The Democrats dearly want to win back the Midwest, so a woman from that region might help a bit. Two candidates stand out: Amy Klobuchar and Gretchen Whitmer. Both are moderates, which means they will not help much with progressives, but they will help with blue-collar men and with never-Trump Republicans. Also, both are white. Still, Whitmer, especially, virtually guarantees that Biden will win Michigan, a state that Hillary Clinton lost by only 11,000 votes. There are other possibilities, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) (a Latina) and Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR) (a bisexual woman), but Abrams, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, and Whitmer seem the best choices for Biden, each with different strengths and weaknesses. For Sanders, having a black woman on the ticket is essential because black voters really don't like him. Abrams and Harris are his obvious choices, but unlike Biden, he is capable of surprises and could pick someone not currently on the radar. (V)
Two good things have happened to Joe Biden in the past week, both of which are bad news for Bernie Sanders. First, Biden raised $22 million just in the first 5 days after the South Carolina primary, with money still pouring in. He is also starting to spend it fast, too, with a $12 million ad buy in the March primary states.
Second, dozens of talented staffers who used to work for Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren have suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves unemployed and in need of a job, pronto. Naturally, with all of his new cash and more on the way, Biden is scooping up top talent from the other campaigns in every area, from top campaign aides to communications staffers to state campaign chairs.
The downside for a person with the basic decency of Biden is that he realizes that due to financial limitations and the many job opportunities available to campaign experts, he didn't always have the best people on his staff. Now he can have every top Democratic campaign expert who hasn't already signed up with Sanders. It's a very large pool. This means that some of the people who saw him through thick and thin and helped pull off the South Carolina and Super Tuesday miracles are now going to be demoted or fired as the A-team shows up.
Another interesting wrinkle is how Michael Bloomberg can help. Bloomberg, of course, has more money than Uncle Scrooge McDuck and is prepared to spend a tidy bit of it to help Biden. The problem is those pesky campaign finance laws. Candidates are allowed to spend unlimited funds on their own campaigns but may donate only $2,800 to another candidate's primary campaign plus an additional $2,800 to the candidate's general election fund if the candidate is nominated. Bloomberg was thinking more in terms of seven-, eight-, and maybe nine-digit numbers, not four-digit numbers. He has been spending some time of late with his lawyers to figure out how to do this legally. One way is to use his super PAC to spend unlimited funds both attacking Donald Trump (and potentially Sanders) and helping Biden. The main problem there is that he is not allowed to coordinate with Biden. In practice, that probably means no private meetings with Biden or his top staff. However, if Bloomberg wants to help Biden in the primaries, he probably can figure out on his own that Michigan is more important than Idaho this week and make similar calls until the convention. Also, Biden can give him hints by giving interviews to major media outlets and saying things like: "I think Georgia is really in play and I'm going to fight hard for it." Bloomberg's folks probably can get the hint, open an office in Atlanta, and get to work making ads appropriate for the Peach State. (V)
Erik Prince, a close associate of Donald Trump and the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is up to dirty tricks, but on a scale that would impress even Roger Stone or Lee Atwater. Prince is a cofounder of Blackwater International, a firm that provides security services and mercenaries worldwide. His latest endeavor, as part of the right-wing dirty-tricks group Project Veritas, involves hiring former American and British spies to infiltrate liberal groups, labor unions, and other groups he considers hostile to the Trump administration, to try to gather damaging information for campaign use.
One of the former spies, Richard Seddon, has been at this before. In 2017, he infiltrated the Michigan AFT union. They found out and sued him for $3 million. The case is still pending in the courts. In 2018, Seddon infiltrated the campaign of now-Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), a former CIA spy.
The head of Project Veritas, James O'Keefe, calls his group a proud independent news organization. He said that numerous sources were using hidden cameras and microphones to provide confidential information to expose corruption and misconduct. He compared his work to the muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair. He did not mention that Sinclair did his work to protect the public, not to protect the president's political party.
Prince himself is under investigation by the Dept. of Justice for lying to Congress about Russian interference in the election. However, it is unlikely that AG William Barr will regard this as a priority.
It is going to be a long and very nasty campaign. (V)
Despite Donald Trump's pooh-poohing the dangers of the COVID-19 virus, a key member of his administration, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, appeared on "Fox News Sunday" to prepare people for expected disruptions in daily life. He warned people, especially elderly people and people with health problems, to avoid travel, large gatherings, crowds, and above all, cruise ships. He also advised those people to hoard supplies, medicine, food, and household necessities, and stay at home.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb went on "Face the Nation" and said: "The next two weeks are really going to change the complexion in this country." He said that theaters might be closed and events canceled. He also said that public schools may have to close in some places. That will not be popular in families in which both parents work and staying home might mean losing enough income that they can't pay the rent. That holds in spades for single-parent families. When a parent who is a health-care worker has to stay home to take care of the kids, it is a double whammy. Also significant is that many poor children get breakfast and lunch at school, and losing this nutrition could hurt them.
Convincing people to take these warnings seriously is going to be difficult while the president is busy undercutting the experts by sending out tweets like this:
We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus. We moved VERY early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2020
Maybe Trump is right and all the experts are wrong, but recent history suggests otherwise.
One group that is taking the experts' warnings seriously is Congress. After all, members travel a lot and meet large numbers of people every week. If one representative gets sick, he or she could threaten the other 429 (five seats are currently vacant). And in addition to the actual members, there are thousands of aides who talk to multiple members every day. Then there are the thousands of tourists who visit Congress every day.
House and Senate leaders met last week to discuss what measures they might have to take, other than positioning a bottle of Purell every few feet, which has already been done. Of particular concern is what happens to security if multiple members of the Capitol Police Force get sick and can't work. Some members are working out their own contingency plans, such as making sure key people can read their email from home if need be.
Although the nature of the threat is different from previous ones, Congress has faced threats before. On Sept. 11, 2001, members fled the Capitol after planes hit the World Trade Center. That might have been a wise move, because one of the hijacked planes might have been heading to the Capitol before passengers stormed the hijackers and brought the plane down in a Pennsylvania field. After the anthrax attacks in 2001 and ricin attacks in 2004, members worked remotely. In Aug. 2011, an earthquake struck Virginia not far from the Capitol, forcing members to set up makeshift offices elsewhere. Nevertheless, 9/11, the earthquake, and the other threats weren't really contagious the way a virus is, so Congress doesn't have a lot of experience to go by. (V)
Colorado has a peculiar way of picking Senate candidates. It had precinct-level caucuses on Saturday. These caucuses determine which delegates go to the county-level caucuses in a few weeks. From there, delegates are chosen for the state-level caucus. A candidate who gets 30% of the votes at the state-level caucus qualifies to be on the ballot for the June primary. However, a candidate can also bypass the whole process and get on the primary ballot by submitting enough signatures of registered voters.
In Saturday's caucuses, progressive favorite Andrew Romanoff won 55% of the vote in the 55 counties reporting as of this morning (of 64 overall), with 31% going to former governor John Hickenlooper. Turnout at the caucuses was low because (1) turnout at caucuses is always low, at least compared to primaries, and (2) many people are trying to avoid crowds on account of COVID-19.
Romanoff's victory does not mean that Hickenlooper will not be on the ballot. He could easily go the signature route, in which case the two will face off in the June primary. Or, he could still clear 30% when the state-level caucus is held. One thing we see again here, as we have seen repeatedly in Democratic caucuses, is that progressive candidates do very well, since caucuses tend to draw mostly activists who are very committed to a candidate. But in primaries, which typically draw 10x or even 40x as many voters, more moderate candidates do much better. Given this, Romanoff's victory is not surprising and is not an indication that he will get the Colorado senatorial nomination. (V)
After his voting in favor of one of the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, many media outlets were looking at high-resolution photos of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), to see if any previously dormant body parts had suddenly been activated. But on Friday, Romney demonstrated that his vote was apparently a fluke and he is back to his usual self, following the party line, despite knowing very well that it is wrong. Specifically, the Senate Republicans want to make the presidential campaign about Hunter Biden, who is not actually running for the job. Consequently, they intend to subpoena him and then force him to testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Romney has said that he will vote for the subpoena, even though he knows very well that Hunter Biden's activities in Ukraine have nothing to do with the mission of the Homeland Security Committee.
Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) has insisted that the investigation has nothing to do with the election. If House Democrats want to play this game, they could subpoena Eric Trump to ask about whether his father has violated the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause. If he refused to show up, Hunter Biden could also refuse to show up and we would have a kind of symmetry. But Democrats generally don't go for things like that. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar07 "Mick the Knife" Gets Cut
Mar07 Saturday Q&A
Mar06 A Million Selfies, All for Nothing
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part I: Biden vs. Clinton in Words
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part II: Biden vs. Clinton in Numbers
Mar06 Where Do Things Go From Here?, Part III: The Polls
Mar06 Where Do We Go From Here?, Part IV: Sanders Game Changers
Mar06 Trump Gives Democrats a Late Christmas Gift
Mar05 Biden Has More Delegates Now
Mar05 Bloomberg Calls It Quits
Mar05 What Happens Next?
Mar05 Takeaways from Super Tuesday
Mar05 Who Voted for Whom?
Mar05 What Happens to Delegates When Candidates Drop Out?
Mar05 Other Key Races
Mar05 Bullock May Run for the Senate after All
Mar05 New York State Cancels Republican Primary
Mar04 A Whole New Ballgame
Mar04 In New National Poll, Biden Leads
Mar04 Fed Slashes Interest Rates, Markets Tank
Mar04 Some Election Websites Are Running Unprotected, Obsolete Software
Mar04 Los Angeles County Used an Insecure Voting System
Mar03 Klobucharge Runs Out of Electricity
Mar03 Everybody Is Endorsing Biden
Mar03 What to Watch for on Super Tuesday
Mar03 Supreme Court Will Hear Obamacare Case
Mar03 Dow Rallies
Mar03 Will Trump Drop the Mike?
Mar03 Another Israeli Election, Another Hazy Result
Mar02 Buttigieg Bows Out
Mar02 Sanders Raises an Incredible $46.5 Million in February
Mar02 Why Do the Kids Love Bernie?
Mar02 Would a Large Turnout Help Sanders?
Mar02 Super Tuesday is Tomorrow
Mar02 Could COVID-19 Impact the Election?
Mar02 McGahn Skates
Mar02 House Judiciary Committee Wants to Interview the Stone Prosecutors
Mar02 Trump Nominates Ratcliffe as DNI
Mar02 Americans Are Worried about Election Integrity
Mar01 Biden's South Carolina Firewall Holds—and Then Some
Mar01 Sunday Mailbag
Feb29 Saturday Q&A
Feb28 Coronavirus Gives Trump Administration a Headache
Feb28 Prepare for Another Trump 2020 Photo-op
Feb28 A Candidate Like No Other, Part II: Bernie Sanders, Socialist
Feb28 Polls Have South Carolina Results All Over the Map
Feb28 Today's Ratfu**ing News
Feb28 Buttigieg Is Still Your Winner in Iowa
Feb28 Trump May Not Be Able to Pardon Stone