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Select Committee to Show Evidence That Trump Knew There Would Be Violence Jan. 6

Today, the Select Committee investigating the coup attempt will hold its next (and probably last) hearing It is expected to reveal more footage demonstrating that Donald Trump knew there would be violence at the Capitol and had no interest in preventing it. Put in different terms, he knew that the law was going to be broken and made no effort to uphold the law, even though he swore an oath to do precisely that.

In June, Cassidy Hutchinson testified at length that Trump had been briefed that his supporters were primed for violence in order to prevent the electoral votes from being counted. Trump denied this. Now, there are e-mails that corroborate what Hutchinson said. There is also surveillance video showing heavily armed Trump supporters refusing to pass through the mags, which would have resulted in their weapons being confiscated. There is also at least one USSS internal e-mail showing that the agency was very worried that Trump would indeed succeed in getting to the Capitol to lead the angry mob. There may also be recorded testimony from USSS agents. In short, it will be crystal clear that Trump knew very well that his supporters wanted to stop the counting of the electoral votes by force and not only did he not want to stop them, he wanted to lead them.

The Committee is also planing the kind of "closing arguments" that a prosecutor would give at a trial. They will summarize the various crimes Trump committed in furtherance of staying in office even though many of his aides and staff, as well as multiple governors, told him that he lost. He wanted to stay in power at all costs, no matter how many laws he had to break to do so.

Will the new hearing affect the midterms and, if so, how? The most obvious thing is that it puts the hundreds of Republican candidates who "claim" that Trump won in a difficult spot. The more people realize that Trump lost, knew he lost, and was prepared to use an armed mob to overturn the election results, the harder it is to defend him. Hard-core Trumpists won't be fazed and will just brush it off as fake news, but in many races election deniers need votes from independents to win. And it is precisely those independents who might be affected by the final hearing. (V)

E. Jean Carroll's Defamation Lawsuit Can Move Forward

The Select Committee isn't Donald Trump's only headache today. Writer E. Jean Carroll has publicly said that Donald Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. He denied it and called her a liar, so she sued him for defamation. Trump is using his standard strategy for lawsuits: delay, delay, and more delay. Yesterday, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that he has had enough delaying and ordered Trump to sit for a deposition under oath on Oct. 19. If the former president lies during the deposition, it will be perjury, although that is very hard to prove. Still, when questioned by an aggressive and competent attorney, Trump has a tendency to blurt out things that don't help him. He once said he couldn't have raped Carroll because she wasn't his type. If he says that under oath, it is certain to be repeated at the trial. We suspect some of the jurors will not take that as an irrefutable defense.

Kaplan further said that Trump's endless delaying was inexcusable, especially since Trump's attorneys had produced no documents or evidence even though they have had years of delay. Trump's lead attorney, Alina Habba, said: "We look forward to establishing on the record that this case is, and always has been, entirely without merit." She's looking forward to having Carroll's attorney grill Trump under oath with a judge listening? We suspect she has been smoking a whole bunch of the substance Joe Biden is working to decriminalize and inhaling very deeply. Or she is lying through her teeth. It's one or the other.

And this development is not the only one relating to Carroll. A new New York State law allows people who claim they were sexually assaulted decades ago to sue their alleged assailants during a one-year period starting Nov. 24. Sure enough, Carroll is going to file that suit on Nov. 24. Well, actually, she'll probably have to wait until Nov. 25 to try to spatchcock Trump, since the 24th is Thanksgiving and the courts are closed. She can spend the 24th giving thanks for the new law. Thanksgiving is after the midterms, of course, but if Trump is running for president by then, we guess that serious charges of rape aired in courtrooms will lose Trump more votes than it will gain him. Just a guess, of course. (V)

New Poll: Abortion Is a Big Motivator for Voting

Democrats are hoping that the biggest issue for voters in 2022 will be abortion. Republicans are rooting for inflation. A new poll suggests that the Democrats may have the better of it. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that 59% of women 18-49 are more motivated to vote on account of Dobbs. In all, 76% of respondents plan on voting for candidates who want to protect abortion rights vs. only 17% who plan on voting for candidates who say they are pro-life. That's a gap of nearly 60 points. You don't see 60-point gaps so often in polling. Of course, there's a month and a couple of billion dollars worth of negative ads to go, but this doesn't appear to be an issue where millions of people are likely to switch sides,

Kaiser also broke it down by state lean. In states where abortion has been banned, 51% of adults (N.B.: not "likely voters") said the abortion issue has made them more likely to vote. Given the above numbers, probably three-quarters of them will vote for pro-choice candidates. All that said, the economy and inflation are also big issues. Still, if abortion comes to dominate the campaigns in the next month, it could help the Democrats overcome the usual historical edge the president's opponents have. (V)

Biden Says a Slight Recession Is Possible

On Tuesday, Joe Biden had a chat with CNN's Jake Tapper and told him that he didn't think a recession was likely, but if it did happen, it would be a slight one. This is technically known as "happy talk right before an election." A poll of economists showed that 72% of them do expect a recession next year. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who loves to be in the news (and who is at least nominally a Democrat), has said he expects a recession in the next 6 to 9 months. A Bank of America spokesman said that the bank expects the economy to start shedding tens of thousands of jobs a month. The stock and bond markets are certainly acting like a recession is just over the horizon. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said he will do whatever it takes to beat down inflation even if that causes pain. This is Fed-speak for "If the only way to stop inflation is to cause a recession, so be it." Maybe Biden is right and the economists, bankers, markets, and Fed are wrong, but the odds of a recession are pretty high. All Biden can hope for is that it doesn't really start before Nov. 8.

Biden also told Tapper about the administration's efforts to deal with the economy such as the Inflation Reduction Act (nee Build Back Better). Will that impress anyone? Probably not anyone who is not already impressed.

Most economists define a recession to be two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. There isn't enough time left between now and Nov. 8 for headlines to blare: "We're in a recession." So, have Joe Biden and the Democrats dodged the bullet? Well, maybe. If the recession hits in 2023 and lasts into 2024, the Republicans are going to blame the Democrats and this could hit them badly in 2024. Remember 1992, when incumbent president George H.W. Bush ran for reelection against a guy nobody outside of Arkansas had ever heard of, except in the context of "Womanizing?" And remember that Bush had just won the war in Kuwait, made Saddam Hussein turn tail and go hide in a spider hole, and then watched his [Bush's] approval rise to 90%? And then a recession hit and Bush lost. Oops. Recessions are not good to have on your watch, even if your approval rating is up near the moon, as Bush's was.

Does this mean that Biden is doomed if a recession hits in 2023 and he runs again? Not necessarily. Right now, the biggest problem with the economy is not unemployment, but inflation. If Powell gets it right and inflation comes down, the Democrats will talk endlessly about how they beat inflation (which is not true, of course). Republicans will talk about soaring unemployment. Who will win this? It's hard to say, but if unemployment hits 8% or even 10%, the vast majority of workers will not lose their jobs but will notice the end of inflation. So if 2023-2024 is marked by both a big drop in inflation and also a steep rise in unemployment, the Democrats might be able to survive in 2024, even on the issue of the economy. (V)

Ian Votes No

Hurricane Ian made a real mess of southwest Florida, but that's all over now, right? Well, not exactly. Florida started sending out absentee ballots on Sept. 24 to the mailing addresses on record for those voters who requested them. But some of those addresses are no longer valid because the houses that they correspond to are now piles of rubble and the former residents are now somewhere else. Furthermore, many of the polling places in the areas Ian visited are also piles of rubble, making in-person voting there impossible. The Ian effect may have a partisan impact because the areas wiped out skew Republican.

Earlier this week, a coalition of nine groups asked Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to do something to help the displaced citizens vote. DeSantis could set up temporary voting centers that would allow people in the affected counties to vote there. However, there is a wee problem with that: It would violate state law, which says voters may cast their ballots only in their home precincts. This is something Republicans have long demanded in order to fight "election fraud." So if DeSantis did this, the votes so cast would be largely illegal, except for the small number of people who happened to live very close to the voting centers.

Of course, an obvious thing DeSantis could do is ask the state legislature to change the law to give the governor or secretary of state special powers in a declared emergency. Would the legislators do it? In 2018, Hurricane Michael whacked the Panhandle and the same issue came up. The governor asked the legislature to modify the law to deal with future hurricanes. The legislature refused.

DeSantis is not a big fan of obeying the law when he doesn't like it (see: Importing undocumented migrants into Florida for the purpose of exporting them a few minutes later). So DeSantis could create voting centers even if the legislature refused to make it legal. The problem is that if the law is still on the books, Democrats will file lawsuits claiming election fraud and this time they might be right. Would the courts throw out whole counties of votes just because they were actually illegal? We might find out. (V)

Why Republicans Are Sticking With Walker

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday said: "I think we're going to stick with Walker...we're going take it all the way to the end." Does McConnell, who strongly opposes abortions, really think all the stories about how Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) paid for at least one abortion and offered to pay for more are false? McConnell has been called many things over the years. Stupid is not one of them. Of course he believes the stories are true but he has no choice but to support Walker.

For an old codger, he's pretty good at math. He wants his caucus to have 51 or more seats come January. He has 50 now. Where is #51 coming from? He probably assumes Mehmet Oz is going down in flames (see below) in Pennsylvania. That's -1. He hopes Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) can hang on, and is counting on Ohio and North Carolina being red enough to hang onto those seats. He prays daily that Adam Laxalt (R) can defeat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). That gets him back to 50. Where's #51 coming from? It won't be New Hampshire, as Don Bolduc is a total disaster and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) could fly off to the Bahamas on a 4-week vacation now and still win. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) could take his 4-week vacation in Hawaii or go look at the pretty leaves in Vermont and still win. So where's #51 coming from? No matter how much money he pours into Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) will still be Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) on Jan. 4.

McConnell has clearly concluded that Georgia is his only chance, no matter how flawed the candidate is. So he keeps alternating supporting Walker and going to church to pray for Walker. Barring some miracle, that's the Minority Leader's only shot at getting his old job back. All the other Senate Republicans understand this full well. If they thought Oz was going to win in a landslide, that would be enough (if Laxalt can win, which is far from certain), and Georgia wouldn't be the keystone state (for a month, anyway). But here we are. McConnell and the rest simply can't dump Walker, no matter how horrible they think he is and how bad a candidate he has proven to be. They are stuck with him, even it turns out he also kills puppies (see below). Hell, he could kick a bunch of puppies on national television while simultaneously urinating on the American flag and they still would support him. (V)

Senate Races Have Become Exceptionally Negative...

All political campaigns are nasty and they are getting worse and worse. But some of the Senate races this year are going beyond anything we have seen before. This is due to both the increasing partisanship in the country and the feeling that almost all voters have that a victory by the other side would mean the end of America. So more and more, nothing is off limits anymore. This is especially true of the Senate races

As we mentioned on Tuesday, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) saying the Democrats are pro-crime takes the vitriol and racism to a new level, but he's not alone. The Club for Growth is now running an ad in Nevada saying that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is "so weak on crime it's dangerous." Note that this does not relate to any bill she has supported or opposed. It's just a generic attempt to scare voters. She is not taking this lying down. She is attacking her opponent, Adam Laxalt, for assaulting a police officer decades ago when he was a teenager, for flunking out of college, and for being a child of privilege. So far she hasn't called him an actual bastard but she could yet (Laxalt is the result of an affair his father, then-senator Pete Domenici, had with the young daughter of then-senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada).

Even Pennsylvania, which started out more positive, has gotten very negative. Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) is harping on the stroke Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) had. He is using snippets of video in which Fetterman mispronounces a word to demonstrate that he can't function. Fetterman is firing back by openly calling Oz a quack who lives in New Jersey. Policy is nowhere. It is all personal attacks.

While we're on the subject of animals beginning with the letter "d," Fetterman is really hitting Oz hard with ads about the animal experiments Oz did while at Columbia University. One of them shows Oz in a lab coat while the narrator intones: "It's a story of unimaginable abuse. Mehmet Oz ran experiments on puppies, killing over three hundred dogs. They were subjected to extreme suffering. Puppies struggling to breathe, leaking blood, vomiting, paralysis; their screams horrifying." Take that, the great and terrible Oz, torturer of puppies. No doubt there are some people in Pennsylvania who aren't terribly political but might not be big fans of torturing puppies to death. Oz started it, though. At first Fetterman was just running gentle ads featuring famous New Jerseyans pleading with him not to leave his wonderful home state. Then he began talking about Fetterman's stroke and bam, now he is dealing with torturing puppies to death.

There haven't been any focus groups on this yet, but it is very easy to imagine a Trumper in a Pennsylvania focus group saying: "I am a dog lover. I believe Oz tortured and killed puppies in a horrific and inhumane manner. He is a disgusting and despicable person. The scum of the earth. But I am voting for him anyway because Republicans need this Senate seat." So far, the question of whether people would vote for a man who tortured and killed puppies was merely a hypothetical. Now the rubber has hit the road and we will find out.

More of the same nastiness in Wisconsin, but without the puppies. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is yelling that Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D-WI) is soft on crime and displaying a photo of Barnes with former San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin, who was recalled for being soft on crime. Barnes is shooting back with: "I won't be lectured about crime from somebody who supported a violent insurrection that left 140 officers injured." Barnes also said the Senate is broken and blamed Johnson for being part of it and being in it only for himself and his wealthy donors.

Why all the negativity? Basically, it is not intended to get swing voters to vote for the candidate running the negative ads. Swing voters tend to hate negative ads. It's all about the candidate trying to enrage his own base, to make them furious and hate the other candidate and party with the heat of 1,000 suns so they will be sure to vote. (V)

... And Gubernatorial Races Have Become Exceptionally Asymmetric

Negative ads are all over the airwaves in the Senate races, but there is one niche where they seem to be missing: ads for ultra-Trumpy Republican gubernatorial candidates. In some of the most hotly contested races for governor, the Republican is not on the air. Digital is fine and dandy, but most professionals still think TV ads are the most powerful way to go, so it seems strange that in three states with a very hotly contested race for governor (Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) the Republican candidate has gone radio silent (although in some cases a third-party super PAC has taken up some of the slack).

What's going on? Barrett Marson, an Arizona Republican operative, said: "I heard a rumor that campaigns need money to run ads. I don't know if that rumor is true, but if it is then we have the reason why Kari Lake (R) isn't up on TV." Marson said that the only time Lake is on television is when she is doing an interview with some station, and not all of those interviews are friendly. Lake has downplayed the importance of ads, saying that she is not a huge believer in running TV ads, an odd thing to hear from someone who has a news anchor on a local television station for two decades. She said: "I think I'm a unique candidate in that I didn't need to run as much advertising to let people know who I am, because they already knew who I was." Of course, as a news reader, people didn't know what she stood for, just what she looked like. However, polling shows that Lake and Katie Hobbs (D) are close, so maybe ads don't matter in her case.

In Pennsylvania, the television gap is also huge, but so is the polling gap. There Doug Mastriano (R) has been a poor fundraiser and has been abandoned by national Republicans. Donald Trump loves him, but he hasn't tossed any quarters in Mastriano's direction. Doug's on his own. In contrast, his opponent, AG Josh Shapiro (D) is a good fundraiser and has the full backing of the national party. It is expected that Shapiro will have aired $35 million in ads in the primary and general election combined and Mastriano will have aired almost nothing.

Same story in Michigan. Trumpy Tudor Dixon (R) is not running any television ads at all, although the DeVos family is running some for her. The problem with leaving it to others is that actual candidates get much cheaper rates than third parties. Also a problem is that super PACs are not allowed to coordinate with candidates. Dixon is getting around this pesky law by having her website list all the themes she thinks are impoortant and even has a Google Drive folder with an hour of footage that third-party ad makers are free to use. Still, Dixon is going to be swamped. Republican groups have reserved $5.1 million in air time between now and the election. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) has reserved $7.2 million and the DGA and other Democratic groups have reserved an additional $21 million.

But as we have noted before, advertising isn't everything. In 2020, there were quite a few key races in which one candidate snowed the other under in ads—and still lost. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

Two more Georgia polls taken after the Herschel Walker abortion story broke, and two more data points suggesting he's in trouble. We also have our first poll of Louisiana, where John Kennedy (R) is clearly on track to crush poor Candidate Unknown in the runoff, if there even is one.

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 46% Herschel Walker 43% Sep 25 Oct 04 U. of Georgia.
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 52% Herschel Walker 45% Oct 07 Oct 10 Quinnipiac U.
Louisiana Candidate Unknown 33% John Kennedy* 53% Oct 10 Oct 11 PPP
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan* 52% Don Bolduc 45% Oct 02 Oct 06 Fabrizio + Impact
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto* 46% Adam Laxalt 44% Oct 04 Oct 07 Suffolk U.
Wisconsin Mandela Barnes 46% Ron Johnson* 52% Oct 03 Oct 09 Marquette Law School

* Denotes incumbent

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