Monday, November 21, 2022

Exit Poll Shows Making the Mid-Terms a Referendum on Trump Hurt the GOP

On Election Night, the pundits were busy explaining the reasons for the lack of a red wave using exit poll data. The consensus was that Trump and abortion had reversed the GOP advantage. But here's the thing about exit polls. Compiling and studying exit poll results actually takes days, not hours.  Often, what one is told to be true on election night turns out not to be so when a more in depth study of the numbers is conducted.

Jeffrey H. Anderson writing for the City Journal, took a hard look at the exit poll numbers.  His analysis concludes that the unpopularity of Trump and other GOP leaders is what dragged down the party:
Midterm elections normally serve as referendums on incumbent presidents—to whom voters seldom give the benefit of the doubt, and whose parties almost always lose substantial numbers of seats in the House of Representatives and often the Senate, as well. To the surprise of most commentators (including yours truly), that didn’t happen this time. As of a week after Election Day, the number of seats that the GOP will gain in the House looks likely to be in the single digits—a far cry from the 54 seats that Gingrich and company gained in 1994 or the 64 seats that a Tea Party-fueled GOP picked up in 2010.

A pair of numbers leaps out of the exit polling: 32 percent of voters said that they cast their House vote to “oppose” President Joe Biden, while 28 percent said they cast their House vote to “oppose” former President Donald Trump. In other words, for every eight votes cast against Biden, all but one was negated by a vote cast against Trump. This is surely unprecedented in a midterm election. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a previous midterm in which almost as many people voted against the loser of the previous presidential contest as voted against the winner. How many people, for example, bothered to vote against Richard Nixon in 1962, Jimmy Carter in 1982, George H. W. Bush in 1994, or even Hillary Clinton in 2018?

Of course, it didn’t help Republicans that the leading establishment faces of their party are even less popular with voters than Trump. The former president’s favorability rating in exit polling was -19 percentage points (39 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable), worse than Biden’s -15 points (41 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable). But Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy’s favorability rating (-26 points, with 27 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable) was not only lower than Trump’s but also lower than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (-24 points, with 36 percent favorable to 60 percent favorable). RealClearPolitics lists Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s unfavorability rating as of Election Day as being nearly triple his favorability rating (59 percent vs. 21 percent). Per RCP, McConnell’s net favorability rating of -38 percentage points is 24 points worse than that of his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer (-14 points, with 33 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable).
During the last few weeks of the campaign, Donald Trump worked hard to make certain the mid-term would be considered a referendum on him.   No doubt Trump wanted the public to view the anticipated GOP wave as an endorsement of his re-election.  Republican operatives voiced concerns the presence of Trump might drag down GOP candidates.  Turned out those worries were well-founded.  The exit poll data suggests Trump was consistently a drag on GOP candidates across the country, even more so in those statewide races where the twice impeached ex-President openly endorsed candidates who had embraced Trump's Lie about the 2020 election being stolen.

The abortion issue was also cited as a factor that hurt Republicans in the mid-terms.  Anderson though found the effect of the issue, unlike the negative effect of Trump's endorsement of election denying candidates, was much more mixed:
Many observers have blamed Republicans’ lackluster showing in the midterms on their positions on abortion, but exit polling suggests a more nuanced picture. On the one hand, Fox News exit polling indicates that few voters (10 percent) considered abortion to be “the most important issue facing the country.” On the other, 25 percent regarded the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade as the “single most important factor” to them personally when “thinking about voting in this election.”

The network consortium’s exit polling found that only slightly more voters think abortion should be “legal” (30 percent) as think it should be “illegal” (26 percent) “in most cases.” But those in the latter camp appear to hold their positions with more conviction, as they were far more likely to support Republicans (90 percent to 9 percent) than those in the former camp were to support Democrats (60 percent to 38 percent). Indeed, the Republicans’ 81-point margin among voters who think abortion should generally be illegal swamped the Democrats’ 22-point edge among those who think it should generally be legal.

Moreover, Republicans won a majority of the vote among the 58 percent of voters who, in response to the overturning of Roe, felt “enthusiastic” (16 percent), “satisfied” (21 percent), or even “dissatisfied” (21 percent). Combining those three groups, Republicans won by a margin of 50 points (74 percent to 24 percent). Only the 39 percent who felt “angry” in response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization supported Democrats (85 percent to 14 percent).

Thus, more moderate voters on this contentious issue—those who were neither enthusiastic nor angry, and those who think abortion should be neither legal nor illegal in every case—were more apt to favor Republicans. Among those with more intense views either way—those who were enthusiastic or angry, and those who think abortion should either always be legal or always be illegal—Democrats prevailed.
Clearly the Republicans were not prepared to handle the politics of abortion in a post-Roe world.  Early on, the GOP allowed the issue to be defined by the exceptions (rape, incest, threat to life of the mother) which in actuality account for less than 1% of the abortions performed.  It was not just Democrats doing the defining.  Shortly after Roe was overturned the Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita held a press conferences announcing an investigation into an Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10 year old rape victim who had traveled to the Hoosier State from Ohio for the procedure.  So incredibly dumb.

Republican candidates used to concede the exceptions as a political necessity. But as the GOP became more radicalized on the abortion issue over the years, Republican candidates faced defeat in primaries if they embraced the exceptions. But now the political climate has shifted with those candidates now having to face general elections in which abortion rights are more than theoretical.  Still despite their clumsy handling of abortion and getting heavily outspent on the issue in the mid-terms, the pro life side had numerous successes in 2022.  In my home state of Indiana, after the Dobbs decision, the Indiana legislature this year passed the most strict abortion law in the country which only allowed abortion for the three exceptions.  I was certain that it would cost Republicans seats in the state legislature.  Instead, the Indiana GOP added seats and won statewide races by even bigger margins previously.  Likewise, the Republican Party did well in a number of states including Arkansas, New York, Ohio, and Georgia. 

Republicans though will have to moderate their position on the abortion issue.  That means again embracing the three exceptions and forcing the Democrats to debate what gestational limits on the procedure they will accept.  Most industrialized states have adopted, via their legislature, 12-15 week limits.  Roe mandated 24 weeks, at the minimum.  Democratic talking points are that the issue is just about a choice regarding what a woman does with her body suggests they are no acceptable gestational limits on the procedure.  Further, they want it to be funded with tax dollars.  In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams found herself defending this very unpopular position, which let Governor Kemp off the hook on the issue. 

OOP's short takes:
  • Regarding my predictions on the eve of the election, I was hoping to get 70% correct, not a huge number but one I thought was reasonable given that so many races were within the margins of error in the polling.  I ended up calling 87.5% of the races correctly, missing only four: the Arizona and Wisconsin governor races, the Nevada Senate race, and the Indiana Secretary of State's race.  I was not right in guessing the Republicans would lose seats in the Indiana House and Senate, that Senate control would be decided by the Georgia run-off and that Kari Lake would be the new MAGA star.
  • And, no, the 2022 polling was not "off."  People need to understand how the MOE works in polls.  Some of the predictions based on the polling was off, but the polls this cycle were very good.  Yours truly did very well.
  • Saw the Mike Pence interview on Sunday Meet the Press.  Pence's repeated attacks on the FBI for simply doing their job is appalling.  Likewise, so too is his claim that the accusation of Trump's collusion with Russians in winning the 2016 election was a hoax.  The evidence is overwhelming that the Trump campaign warmly accepted the help of Russian officials in that campaign.  Saying that that was not "collusion" is an intentional dodge, based on how that term is used in the federal code.
  • So sorry to learn of the passing of my political mentor, Rex Early.  I will have to write at length about him later.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Political Predictions: Senate Control Goes to Runoff, Again; Republicans Gain 20 seats in the House; Kari Lake New MAGA Star

Election Day is just a few hours away. Not sure that we can can call it "Election Day" any longer as people started voting weeks ago in most states.  This election though is like none other in my lifetime.  As I write this, there are 10 Senate races and 8 Governor races fully within the polling margins of error.  To further complicate things, it appears that turnout will be at record highs.  Because there will be people casting ballots in the mid-terms who don't often vote in those races, those infrequent voters can greatly skew the typical turnout model.  Predictions are a crapshoot at this point.  But I'm taking the plunge and making my predictions anyway.  It should be noted that I am only predicting the races that are currently polling as close or semi-close.  So I'm not going to pad my numbers with easy predictions.  My hope is to get 70% of my predictions correct, but even that may be overly optimistic at this point.

Republicans started this election cycle with a large advantage in the polls.  Then the Democrats overtook the Republicans over the summer.  But as the leaves began to fall, Republican candidates across the board started to do dramatically better.  As we turn the page on another election, talk again is of a Red Wave.  Indeed that might have happened in the Senate races, but Republicans chose historically weak candidates that limited their ability to win a majority.  Indeed, I'm predicting that when the counting is done, Republicans have a 50-49 edge in the Senate, pending the outcome of a December runoff in Georgia.

Before jumping into predicting all those super close races, let's look at some which are just outside the margin of error:

Alaska Senate race:  Although the race won't affect partisan control of the Senate chamber, I predict that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski will win re-election despite Trump's endorsement of her Republican opponent.  Murkowski can thank the state's ranked choice voting system.  Murkowski will likely be the second choice on many Democrats' ballot and those votes will go to her once the Democrat is knocked out of the three person race.  This may take weeks to sort out.

Florida Senate and Governor race:  Sen. Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis win re-election.  DeSantis win margin will be just under 10 points.  Rubio's victory will be by a few less points.  Election results in Florida will make Democrats wonder whether they should write it off for 2024.  In 2018, Florida had probably the closest governor and U.S. Senate race in the country.  Now those races are not in the top 10.   Shows you how much more Republican Florida has become.

Georgia Governor's Race:  In a rematch, Republican Governor Brian Kemp defeats Democrat Stacey Abrams, by a margin greater than 2018.  Unlike 2018, Abrams will not, falsely, say the election was stolen.

Iowa Senate:  Republican Charles Grassley will win re-election, but it will be by the closest margin of any race he's had in decades.

Pennsylvania Governor's Race:  Democratic Attorney General Joel Shapiro wins the governor's mansion.

Texas Governor's Race:  Republican Greg Abbott easily wins re-election.  Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke joins Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in the "What Was I Thinking" Club.  Both have seriously damaged their political careers by running against strong candidates in what from the outset looked like a bad year for Democrats. What were they thinking?

Utah Senate:  I so wish I could pick independent Evan McMullin to pull off an upset against the pro-insurrectionist incumbent Senator Mike Lee, but alas I cannot.  Lee will win by 10 to 15 points.

Now a few Indiana/Indianapolis races:

U.S. Senate:  Republican Todd Young wins re-election with nearly 60% of the vote.

Indiana 1st Congressional District: Democrat Frank Mrvan wins re-election by 5 to 10 points.

Indiana Secretary of State:  Really bright spot of the night for Indiana Democrats is that their candidate Destiny Wells defeats scandal plagued Diego Morales.  This is my upset special.

Indiana Legislature:  Democrats gain a few seats in the House and Senate.  Even though Republicans drew the new maps, the GOP had already pretty much maxed out the districts they could win in a state in which over 40% of the electorate regularly vote Democrat.

Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor:  Democrat Ryan Mears easily wins re-election as Marion County confirms its new role as the bluest county in Indiana.

***            ***            ***            ***

Now the margins of error races.  These races are all legitimate tossups and can go in any direction.  What I'm guessing (and it's little more than a guess) is that candidate quality will tip the balance in most of these races.   Republicans would be slam dunks to win Senate races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and possibly even New Hampshire this time if the GOP would have nominated better candidates.  But the Democrats also blew an easy win against Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson by nominating a far left candidate.  Likewise, the Democrats deeply hurt their chances to win the Arizona Governor's race by nominating a candidate who decided the best strategy was to not take on her opponent.  

Note: After the state's name, I am listing who is currently in the lead in the polls, based on Real Clear Politics' average of polls.  The Oklahoma governor's race does not have a RCP polling average, so I have used FiveThirtyEight's instead for that contest.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Senate)

Arizona (+0.6 Kelly) - This is a carbon copy of the New Hampshire race.  Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is struggling to hold on to his seat.  Fortunately, as with Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire, the Republicans, thanks to former President Donald Trump, nominated a weak candidate in the person of Blake Masters.  Fortunately for Masters, the Libertarian candidate dropped out and endorsed him.  Still, that may not be enough.  I give the edge to Kelly to hold onto the seat.

Colorado (+5.7 Bennet)  Republican challenger and businessman Joe O'Dea has presented himself to Colorado voters as an independent-minded Republican, which earned him the ire of Donald Trump.  While Bennett chose the right path to possibly upset the incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, himself a moderate Democrat, his effort is likely to fall a few percent short.  Give the edge to Bennet.

Georgia: (+0.4 Walker) - Republican Herschel Walker has moved very slightly ahead of the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock.  On election night, I believe Warnock will have a slight lead but below the 50% required for a December run-off.

Nevada (+2.7 Laxalt) - Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is a slight favorite to upset Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. 

New Hampshire (+1.0 Hassan) - Republican Don Bolduc has drawn nearly even with Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan in the polling.  I still have to give the edge to Hassan though, who I expect will squeak out a victory.

North Carolina (+6.0 Budd)  -  I know some polls show Democrat Cheri Beasley on the heels of Republican Rep. Ted Budd.  I'm not buying them.  I think Budd wins this by about 5 points on Election Day.

Ohio (+8.0 Vance) - It appears that Republican JD Vance is starting to pull away from his opponent Rep. Tim Ryan.  Ohio is a tough nut for Democrats to crack.  Edge goes to JD Vance  Ryan was attempting to run as a more moderate Democrat who appealed to blue collar workers.  The hope of many Democrats was that Ryan's approach would provide a blueprint for Democrats in future elections. But I'm fearful the margin is going to be so great that Democratic progressives will say the problem was that Ryan was not liberal enough.  Like that would have worked.

Pennsylvania (+0.1 Oz) - Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has closed and overtaken his Democratic opponent Lt. Governor John Fetterman.  But at 0.1% difference, it could barely be more of a tossup.  I'm going to give the edge to Fetterman.  Do voters prefer a candidate who is suffering the effects of a debilitating stroke or someone who comes across as a jerk who doesn't even live in Pennsylvania.  I'm guessing the former.  Since this was a seat held by a retiring Republican, Pat Toomey, it would be a Democratic pickup.  

Washington (+3.0 Murray)  I just can't believe that incumbent Senator Patty Murray is in trouble of losing her re-election bid.  Republicans haven't won a Senate election in the state in almost 30 years.  But Tiffany Smiley has run a good race and is giving the Republicans a chance to win. But she will fall a few points short.

Wisconsin (+3.3 Johnson) - Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican Senator in the country.  So what do the Democrats do?  They nominate a Bernie Sanders acolyte, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes against him instead of a moderate Democrat.  Brilliant!  Give the edge to Johnson to win another term.

Inside Margin of Error Races (Governor)

I'm not as familiar with the Governor's races, so I will keep these predictions brief:

Arizona (+2.4 Lake) -  Republican Kari Lake will win the Arizona Governor's race.  It's too bad the Democrats didn't bother to field a candidate.   Okay, I know Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is her opponent, but her decision to not debate Lake was as stupid as stupid gets.  Lake will be the new MAGA star.  One thing that worked against Donald Trump's attempt to undermine American democracy is that, well, Trump is frankly very stupid.  Lake is what Trump would be like if he had a brain.  Be afraid, very afraid.

Michigan (+4.2 Whitmer)  - Gretchen Whitmer wins re-election by several points against her opponent, Republican Tudor Dixon.

Minnesota (+4.3) Walz - Governor Tim Walz easily wins re-election.

Nevada (+2.3 Lombardo) - Don't know much about this race, but I do believe Nevada is going Republican on Election Day.  That means Republican Joe Lombardo beats Democrat Steve Sisolak.

New Mexico (+4.0 Lujan Grisham) -  Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wins re-election.

New York:  (+7.0 Hochul):  No, Republicans are not going to elect a governor in the Empire State.  Incumbent Kathy Hochul will win re-election by nearly double digits over Trump-backed Lee Zeldin.  I'm not sure what all the fuss about this race was about.  It was never really close.

Oklahoma: (+2.5 Stitt - FiveThirtyEight):  Democrat Joy Hofmeister has been polling ahead of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt for much of the year.  Who would have thought a Democrat could win Oklahoma.  But Hofmeister, a former Republican, picked a bad year to run.  As unpopular as Stitt is, timing is everything in politics and that includes being on the ballot in the right year.  I have to give the edge to Stitt.

Oregon (Tie) -  Like the State of Washington, I refuse to believe Republicans are going to win neighboring Oregon.  The state is too blue.  I give a small edge to the Democratic candidate Tina Kotek.

Wisconsin (+0.6 Michels) - Probably hardest governor's race to predict.  But I'm going with Republican businessman Tim Michels to unseat Governor Tony Evers.

OOP's Observations/Thoughts:  

  • Will someone please explain to me why it takes so long to figure out who wins a ranked voting contest?  I get the concept.  You rank your favorite candidates and if your first pick finishes last your second pick becomes your first choice.  This process continues until one of the candidate gets a majority.  Can't someone design a software program which can figure out who wins these ranked choice contests in a manner of seconds?   Why does it take weeks?   Ranked choice is never going to catch on if a fortnight passes before we know who won.
  • Every election I hear people in the media and some political pundit types urging American voters to be patient in waiting on the results.   The admonition is that it may take days to count the votes. Why?  With modern technology, why can't we count the votes so we know the winner on Election night?   I know part of the problem is with states like Pennsylvania which bar the counting of mail-in ballots until the polls close.  Well, those states need to change their damn rules.  And those states which allow write-in ballots to arrive a week after Election Day (California, you hear me), well that just needs to end.  If ballots don't arrive by Election Day, they shouldn't be counted.  Period. 
  • We need to stop expecting that, with the proper education about what is going on, the American public will eventually become accepting of these long counts that stretch out over days.  That is never going to happen. Worse yet, you are going to see politicians increasingly use the long counts to claim voter fraud.  In Pennsylvania, we have an explosive situation set up this time. Oz will no doubt lead early in the count.  But as the mail-in ballots are counted, Fetterman will be closing in on Oz and may pass him.  I can just hear the howls now about voter fraud. 
  • Speaking of Pennsylvania, don't be surprised if you see violence in that state as Oz's lead starts to collapse.  Violence will almost certainly happen somewhere on Election Day. My bet is on the Keystone State.
  • I can't believe I'm saying this after the 2000 Bush-Gore fiasco, but if you want an example of how to count votes, look at Florida.  Florida has a lot of votes to count, including tons of mail-in votes (which option is emphasized by the state's GOP organization), yet they manage to get all the votes counted on Election Night.
  • In 2020, I predicted that there would be armed people, members of groups like the Proud Boys, outside of polls intimidating voters.  It didn't really happen.  Well, I think my prediction may have been just a bit early.  I am renewing it for this election.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Reporters Continue to Misrepresent Polling Margins of Error

Last week, Rasmussen Reports released a poll showing Republican Herschel Walker with 48% support among Georgia likely voters, besting Senator Raphael Warnock who had 43%.  The poll had a 3% margin of error.   Media outlets reporting on the poll said Walker's lead was outside the margin of error.

Wrong.  The lead is inside.

One of my pet peeves about political reporting is that reporters continually mischaracterize how margins of error work.  A margin of error is a statistical measurement that accounts for the difference between actual and projected results in a survey sample.  Applied to political polling, the margin of error refers to how much the measurement of a candidate's support could be off just due to the fact that the sample, despite the best efforts of the pollsters, might not be representative of the population polled.  

Let me explain using the aforementioned Rasmussen poll.  According to the 3% margin of error, Walker could have as much as 51% support or as low as 45%.  Warnock's possible range is 46% to 40%.  So one result of the poll is that Walker could lead by as many as 11 points (51-40) while in the scenario on the other side of the possibilities, he trails by 1 point (45-46).

If you're looking to see whether a lead is outside the margin of error, one needs to double the margin of error.  In the Rasmussen example, Walker has a 5 point lead while the doubled margin of error is 6.  Again, Walker's lead is inside.

As a result of reporters continually misreporting how margins of error in polling operate, the public has come to expect an accuracy in polling results that no sane pollster would try to claim or has been able to live up to.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Talevski Case Tests Whether Citizens Should Be Able to Go to Court to Enforce Legal Protections

This term the United States Supreme Court will decide Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski.  It is a case that, depending on how it is decided, could have a major impact in the ability of litigants to redress grievances in our nation's courts.  More on that in a second.

Don't be fooled by the "Marion County" in its name.  Yes, Marion County Health and Hospital, a municipal corporation, performs a number of assorted tasks within the Indianapolis city limits, including making sure local homeowners keep their yards mowed and the trash picked up.  However, HHC also has partnered with private companies to help run a number of nursing homes throughout the State of Indiana.  HHC is an important player in that nursing home partnership.  Because HHC is governmental in nature, it is able to bilk bill taxpayers for the maximum amount when it comes to getting paid for services provided to Medicaid patients.  Privately-owned nursing homes get reimbursed by the federal government for Medicaid patients at much lower rates even though they offer the same services.  Despite HHC-run nursing homes getting more money from taxpayers, HHC is often called out for running some of the worst nursing homes in the state. 

Although HHC is technically a part of Indianapolis city-county government, it has operated without any meaningful oversight for decades.  Neither the Indianapolis Mayor's Office or the Indianapolis City-County Council, regardless of whether run by Democrats or Republicans, has ever taken action to reign in HHC.  Likewise our state legislature has done nothing.  This is despite numerous critical newspaper articles about HHC, including the aforementioned nursing home Medicaid scam scheme.  Much of the HHC's operations, especially those involving its state-wide nursing home operations, are about enriching those fortunate enough to work for HHC.  Did I mention that most of this money comes from we taxpayers?  As a conservative, I want to emphasize that point.  

Now the HHC is in the news for another reason.  The HHC decided to appeal the Talevski case to the United States Supreme Court in an effort to establish the principal that families of patients in HHC's nursing homes have no right to go to court to challenge the HHC's failure to comply with the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (also known as the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 or OBRA '87). The act provides a national minimum set of standards of care and rights for people living in certified nursing facilities.  The 1987 Act, which received overwhelming support in Congress, including from Republicans, was signed into law by President Reagan.  

HHC's legal position is that it has a "contract" with the federal government to provide these nursing home services for Medicaid patients, and that only federal officials can say whether the HHC is violating the minimum standards for nursing homes established by Congress.  If HHC succeeds at the Supreme Court, Medicaid patients in nursing homes will be at the mercy of federal regulators to ensure providers like HHC meet congressionally-mandated minimum standards.  Given the poor quality of care HHC has, allegedly, provided at its nursing homes, does anyone believe the care at HHC facilities will improve if it is shielded from private enforcement of minimum standards?

In pursuing this appeal, the HHC, which now has its activities supervised entirely by a Democratic Mayor and a Democrat-dominated City-County Council, has a number of GOP allies in Republican Attorneys General.  Together they are using the case not just to block nursing home patients from challenging the adequacy of their care, but to stop other private legal challenges to the provision of other  congressionally-provided benefits.

As an attorney, I have had civil-rights type cases in which my clients were expressly protected through some provision adopted by Congress.  In response, the government attorneys would admit that those protections exist and even concede that the state or local government they represent failed to enforce the law.  But they would nonetheless seek dismissal of the case based on the argument that there was no "private cause of action" provided which would allow people to challenge the government's failures that resulted in harm to my clients..  In short, while laws exist to protect people, we were to simply accept it on faith that government would do the right thing and enforce the law. 

When I first heard of the Talevski case, I was dumbfounded as to why my fellow Republicans would support HHC's position.  After all, it is not conservative ideology that people should simply trust government to do the right thing.  Nor is it conservative ideology that people should be denied the right to challenge government's failures in court.  The Supreme Court should find in favor of Talevski and uphold the 7th Circuit's decision allowing her case to move forward.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Polls Show Movement in Favor of Republican Candidates

One of the best measures of partisanship advantage going into an election is the so-called generic congressional ballot question.  The public being polled is asked whether they would vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress. No names are attached to the question.

At the end of April, Republicans led on the question by 4.8% according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.  On September 22nd, the first day of Fall, RCP had Democrats with a 1.3% gain.  In just three weeks since then, the Republicans have move to a 1.6% lead.

Looking at particular matchups, Republicans are doing better in Wisconsin.  Senator Ron Johnson, who is the most unpopular incumbent Republican Senator seeking re-election, has polled ahead of his Democratic rival Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes in the 7 of the last 8 polls conducted in that state.  (The 8th one showed the races as tied.)  This is in contrast to polls in the summer almost all of which had Barnes ahead.  When a post-mortem is done on the 2022 mid-terms, there is going to be a lot of discussion of how Republicans lost winnable Senate races due to former President Donald Trump foisting on the GOP weak candidates who are out-of-step with their states' voters.  But let's not forget how the Democrats have likely blown the easy pick up of a Republican seat in Wisconsin by nominating a Bernie Sanders-endorsed, Defund the Police candidate.

There is also good news for Ohio in that J.D. Vance continues to maintain a small lead and Republican "Dr." Mehmet Oz has cut his opponent Lt Gov. John Fetterman's lead to just 3.4%.  In the middle of August, Fetterman's lead was 8.7%.  

What is going on?   My guess is the economy, and in particular inflation, is hurting the Democrats more as the election gets closer..  Also, the Republicans are skillfully using the crime issue to hurt Democrats in individual races.  Democrats have tried to counter inflation and crime with abortion.  However, while that's an important issue that motivates the Democratic base voters to go to the polls, using abortion to get independent and Republicans to vote for Democratic candidates has always proven to be problematic.

There is a bit of good news for Democrats out of all places...Iowa.  Incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley's lead is down to 3% in a poll conducted by Selzer & Co.  Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co, is considered one of the most accurate pollsters in the country.  I have long been saying that Iowa could be close.  Grassley is 89 years old seeking an 8th Senate term.  He is running against a centrist-appearing Democrat, Mike Franken, who rose to the position of Admiral during his decades in the military.  Yet, it  seems no professional political pundit in the country believes Iowa is even remotely competitive.   For example, Five Thirty Eight says Franken has only a 1% chance of winning.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Herschel Walker and the Party About Nothing

So, Georgia Senate candidate and former football star Herschel Walker is a liar and a hypocrite and Republican elected officials have no problem with that.  In shades of Seinfeld, the GOP has become a party about nothing, a valueless vessel for candidates seeking the spotlight of elected office.  As former NRA gadfly and right-wing radio host Dana Loesch put it "winning is a virtue."  Actually, winning at all costs is the only thing that seems to matter to the Trumpified GOP.  

Two Georgia polls released yesterday show incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock with a 3 and 7 point lead over Walker.  I just don't see how Walker ever gets above 45% in a general election. Even if he survives to a run-off, the anti-Warnock vote is just not strong enough to boost Walker over the 50% threshold.  Plus, Warnock is going to benefit from a lot of Republican voters passing up voting in the Senate race or crossing over to vote for him.

Meanwhile, Republican Governor Brian Kemp appears to be on his way to to re-election.  I have long been a critic of his 2018 and 2022 opponent Democrat Stacey Abrams.  In 2018, Abrams claimed Kemp stole the election when he, as then Secretary of State for Georgia, removed a number of people from the voting rolls who had not voted for several cycles.  Never mind that Kemp was simply following the law in doing a much overdue cleaning up of the registration lists of perpetual non-voters who were likely deceased or had moved.  The media was quick to call out Trump for claiming, without offering any proof, that the Georgia election was stolen from him.  Yet, that same media refused to call out Abrams, who lost the state by a margin three times what Trump did, for claiming, without evidence, that Kemp stole the governorship from her.

While it appears the Republicans have a shot of picking up a Senate seat in Nevada, virtually everywhere across the country Republican Senate candidates are underperforming.  Donald Trump was very successful in winning Senate Republican primaries.  But winning a primary gets you nothing if you don't win the general election.  In addition to Georgia, Trump saddled the Republicans with terrible candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire.  Trump cost the Republicans control of the Senate in 2020 and he is poised to do the same in 2022.

A political party standing for nothing except opposing the other party is not a winning formula.  In the era of Trump, the GOP has eschewed its conservative principles to go all in on "winning" at all costs.  The only problem is the Republican Party is not winning. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Indiana 2022 Election Prediction: Senator Young Will Cruise to Re-Election While Democrats May Win the Secretary of State's Race

No, I'm not believing a Indy Politics/ARW Strategies poll showing Indiana Senator Todd Young up by just two points on his Democratic rival Tom McDermott.  Young has skillfully avoided going too MAGA (unlike his colleague Senator Mike Braun) and is, thus, unlikely to lose enough base support to give McDermott a chance to win.  I can't say the same for the Republican Secretary of State candidate Diego Morales who the poll suggests is running four points behind his Democratic opponent, Destiny Scott Wells. Morales has a number problems as a candidate.  Besides being an election denier, he had a spotty record

Senator Todd Young (R-IN)
 as a state employee and was caught exaggerating his military service.  I think there will be plenty of Republicans voting for the Libertarian Jeff Mauer or for Wells.  Many Republicans won't vote at all in that race.

I also anticipate the Republicans will lose a few seats in the Indiana General Assembly in November.  Frankly, the Indiana GOP had pretty much maxed out their numbers and the recent redrawing of districts after the 2020 census was aimed at shoring up incumbents districts, not expanding the GOP numbers.  

As I've documented on these pages before the GOP base in the state has been weakening the last several election cycles, a trend that has accelerated during the Trump years.  The population centers of the former GOP bastion Hamilton County - Fishers, Carmel and Westfield - are rapidly becoming Democratic. What has helped offset the GOP downturn in the Indianapolis suburbs has been increased rural turnout that heavily favors Republicans.  I don't anticipate that will continue forever.  If it doesn't happen in 2022, Republicans may lose more legislative races than a "few."

But one thing is clear when it comes to Indiana politics - Democrats do a lot better in the higher turnout, presidential election years.  I expect, assuming the party can find moderate candidates, the Democrats will have real chances to win the the Governorship and defeat Senator Braun in 2024.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Florida Governor Spends Taxpayer Dollars to "Relocate" from Texas Refuges from Brutal Communist Dictatorship

There are few governors more ridiculous than Florida's Ron DeSantis. Rather than embrace thoughtful policies that would help the lives of Floridians, DeSantis looks for issues that can garner media attention and boost his popularity among the MAGA folks who dominate GOP politics in the Sunshine State.  The Governor doesn't care if it means trampling conservative principles or wasting taxpayer money.

The Florida legislature appropriated $12 million to relocate "unauthorized aliens...from this state."  But DeSantis had a problem. Florida doesn't have a border at which the "unauthorized aliens" are crossing.  So he didn't have anyone to relocate.  So what does DeSantis do?  He uses Florida taxpayer money to go to Texas to ship them out from that state to places like Martha's Vineyard, New York City and Washington, DC.

Never mind the literal language of the Florida statute doesn't allow DeSantis to do this.  MAGA Republicans aren't real big on following "laws."   Remember when Congress refused to appropriate money to build the absurd wall President Trump wanted?  Trump simply seized other appropriated tax dollars and started building it anyway.  (Very little wall ever got built.)  Not only are MAGA Republicans not real keen on following laws, they don't mind wasting taxpayer money.  I would remind readers that neither of those hallmarks of MAGA Republicans are traditional conservative values.

DeSantis claims that he had people from his administration in Texas several months screening these individuals to ascertain whether they might be inclined to travel hundreds of miles through several states to end up in Florida.  He claims that people from his office fully informed these Florida-bound migrants of other options to live, such as Martha's Vineyard, and they voluntarily agreed to board planes to travel there instead.  Does anyone actually believe this?  I am sure even DeSantis most fervent supporters, know he's lying.  They just don't care.  Lying for a what is perceived to be good cause is perfectly acceptable in MAGA world.

But let's examine that "good cause."  Most of the migrants that DeSantis is busing are refugees fleeing a brutal communist regime in Venezuela.  In the olden days, Republicans welcomed people fleeing from Communist regimes.  Yet more proof that MAGA Republicans are not conservative Republicans.

I'm sure it is just a coincidence that the refugees fleeing Venezuela have brown-skin while the Eastern Europeans fleeing Communist regimes who were welcomed with open arms had white skin.  

The Republican Party needs conservative leadership.  They don't need a performative fool like Ron DeSantis.

OOP's short takes:

  • So for months New Hampshire GOP senate candidate Donald Bolduc has enthusiastically peddled the fiction that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump.  Then, within days of winning the GOP primary, he announces he's done some "research" and has now concluded that Biden did legitimately win.  Apparently, Bolduc thinks New Hampshire voters are stupid.
  • More polls over the weekend from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Arizona suggest that Democratic gains on Republican candidates made over the summer is stalling.  The irony is that this is happening while Biden's numbers are clearly improving.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Democratic Improvement in Senate Races Seems to be Stalling

As I write this, the political prognosticating website FiveThirtyEight is giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate.  Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 72% chance of gaining a majority in the House.

With the large number of House races and the dearth of polling in those races, it's hard to track where the parties are in the House.  But the Senate is a different story.  The narrative over the last month or so has been Democrats doing better and better in the Senate matchups.  Much of that is due to poor candidate quality.  Thanks to the intervention of Donald Trump in GOP primaries, Republicans have been stuck with MAGA candidates who lack the broad popularity to win general elections. Add to poor candidate quality,  lower gas prices over the summer, the backlash to GOP overreach on abortion post-Dobbs, and legislative successes by the Biden administration which has boosted the President's popularity.

But in the last few days, I've noticed a new trend.  Democratic improving fortunes in the Senate races seems to have stalled.  In Nevada, the Democratic incumbent trails.   In Pennsylvania, the Democrats best chance for a pickup, Democratic Lt. Governor Fetterman campaign seems to be sputtering due in no small part to concerns about his health post-stroke.  In Georgia, Republican Herschel Walker, who is maybe the worst Senate candidate in history, has actually led the last few polls.  Republicans lead close races in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, although within the margin of error.  Meanwhile, the Democrats lead in Arizona, New Hampshire, Wisconsin against horrible Trump-backed GOP candidates, but that lead is within the margin of error.  Colorado and the State of Washington even appear to have Democratic incumbents involved in reasonably close races. 

Part of what is going on might just be gravity exerting itself.  It is extremely hard for the party controlling the Presidency to win mid-term elections.  Inflation continues to be a problem.  While Biden's numbers have improved, he remains unpopular.  Democrats also may be putting too many eggs in the abortion basket thinking their new-found political advantage on that issue will carry them across the finish line.  Pushing too hard on that issue can eventually lead to a backlash. 

Despite FiveThirtyEight giving Democrats a 71% chance of winning the Senate, the closeness of several contests suggest the final weeks of this election will be critical.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Book Review: "Why We Did It, a Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell"

A couple weeks after the 2016 election, I met "Jim" for a beer after work.  Two decades earlier, Jim and I had worked together on a gubernatorial campaign and had been good friends ever since.  We had a lot in common.  We both had interned with Republican state senators while in college and had come to know campaign strategy and communications.   We shared conservative views on most issues.

As we sipped our craft beers, our discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.  That once enjoyable topic had grown increasingly uncomfortable.  Months earlier, as the primaries wound down, Jim had boarded the Trump Train and never looked back.  Jim had always had been a thoughtful policy wonk, but as he embraced Trumpism he increasingly brought to our meetings nothing more than the latest Trump talking points.  When it came to Trump the man, Jim seemed willing to overlook everything because, as he claimed, "Trump fights back." 

Near the end of the conversation, Jim made a suggestion.  He said that if I would start supporting the President-Elect,  I could parlay my political and professional experience into a job in the upcoming Trump administration.

Unlike Jim and most of my fellow Republicans, I never once considered supporting Trump.  Before the now, thankfully, ex-President came down the golden escalators, I knew who Donald Trump was and still is.  Trump was a legendary bad businessman who led his companies into six bankruptcies.  I knew about the scams Trump had run, things like Trump University and his hawking dietary supplements on late night television. I remembered how Trump had used eminent domain to take away a little old lady's house so he could have more parking for limos at one of his casinos.  I recalled how Trump almost single-handily sank the USFL with his idiotic idea to confront the NFL head on by moving USFL games to the fall.  Trump was infamous for not paying employees and contractors who worked on his properties.  I  remembered Trump's support for China murdering its citizens who had protested for democracy in Tiananmen Square.   At home, Trump had pushed for the execution of the Central Park Five defendants even after they were exonerated.

Politically,  former Democrat Donald Trump had been on the liberal side of virtually every issue, changing his positions to conservative ones in 2015 to run for President as a Republican..  Trump had given money to prominent Democrats over the years, including Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.  More generally, I knew Trump to be not very bright, poorly educated, someone with extremely poor judgment.  He had also proven himself to be someone completely lacking in ethics, character and integrity.  Trump was not fit to be the night manager at a Seven Eleven, much less be President of the United States.

Given what I knew about Trump, there was no way I was going to ever cast a vote for him.  And I sure as hell wasn't going to work for him in any capacity.  It is not that my decision wasn't rooted in selfishness - it most certainly was.  No matter how much I could earn or how high I could rise in the Trump administration, working for the former reality show star, failed businessman would have meant selling out my honor, my decency, my integrity.  Looking at the balance sheet, the pros and cons, it wasn't even remotely a close call.  I was certain that my fellow Republicans would reach that same conclusion once they got to know Trump as well as I did.

Wrong.  Republicans still didn't get off the Trump train when the now ex-Presidents' flaws were on full display.  Rather, when the ride became bumpy, they just held on to the handrail even tighter.  Perplexed, I have been searching for answers as to why other Republicans made a different calculation than I did. Particularly, I was interested in understanding the motivations of those who went to work for the Trump's administration, knowing the price of admission was one's soul.  

Tim Miller's book, Why We Did It, a Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell, seeks out those answers.  Miller for years worked in communications for Republican candidates.   His first prominent political job was as an Iowa staffer for John McCain as the Arizona Senator sought the GOP nomination for President in 2008.  That was followed by a short stint with the John Huntsman 2012 Presidential campaign.  Later in that election cycle, Miller worked for the Republican National Committee which was seeking to elect Mitt Romney as President.  Following Romney's loss, Miller helped found America Rising, a opposition research consulting firm which focused on promoting negative stories about Democrats.   Miller worked as executive director of that group before taking a position with the Jeb Bush presidential campaign during the 2016 campaign.  When Bush dropped out, Miller resumed Republican consulting work which included a brief stint assisting, albeit indirectly, Trump's 2016 election efforts.  During that time, Miller was approached to work more directly to help elect Trump.  Miller, who had previously been a harsh critic of Trump, found he couldn't set aside his feelings, let alone his integrity, to work for the reality show star who had become the Republican presidential nominee.

In Why We Did It, Miller attempts to answer the question as to why Trump staffers, many of whom were long time friends of Miller's, made a different decision than he did.  But before Miller engages in a fascinating review of conservations with and observations of former political colleagues in answering the question, he shares with readers his own personal journey through life and politics.  Miller, as a closeted gay man, had come to grips with his own sexuality while working in the party that preaches family values. Miller didn't find his sexual orientation to be incompatible with his (mostly) conservative political values, but his view was not shared by many Republicans.   The irony is that many of those same Republicans had no problem worshiping a casino owner who was on his third marriage, someone who is a serial liar who had cheated on every one of his wives.  Meanwhile, Miller who is now married and has a daughter, is living the very family values that those Trump-loving Republicans claimed to support.

As a communication specialist, Miller discusses getting caught up in the "Game."  The Game is an approach to politics that says the only thing that matters is the scoreboard, i.e. whether you're winning or losing.  In the Game, the ends always justify the means.  Players like Miller who begin to question the ethics of a strategy or who become squeamish about certain tactics, find themselves mocked by the other players in the game.  Having moral qualms is seen as weakness.

From the book:

For those who were able to find a way to justify supporting Trump, the most demoralizing part was watching their friends and family members struggle with Trump's character and his win
I couldn't believe that everyone in my life was going along with this.  I was flabbergasted by the unanimity.   I tried to explain to them how crazy it would be to work for Trump, but they didn't listen.

Understanding why they supported Trump, and what they were willing to do, is important to understand how he rose to power....

Increasingly isolated in a Trump-dominated Republican Party, Miller reflected on his own values.:

I began to realize that I was making the same mistakes that had gotten me and the party in trouble in the first place.  I was not taking the ramifications of my work seriously, but rather was cashing checks and acting as if it was all part of some big game devoid of real-world consequences.

At this point in the book, Miller begins discussing his colleagues who chose to board the Trump Train rather than join him in walking away.   He starts by identifying various categories to explain their motivations, including "The Team Player" and "Compartmentalizers."  But then Miller begins naming names. First up is Reince Preibus, the former head of the Republican National Committee, who became Trump's first chief of staff.  Miller skewers Preibus as a weak-willed enabler, the type of politico that Trump eats for breakfast.  Miller then goes after the self-promoting Sean Spicer who rose to a level as Spokesperson for the President of the United States, a job that was far beyond his limited ability.

Probably my favorite Miller target is Elise Stefanik, the former moderate, anti-Trump Republican who sold out her principles to grovel at Trump's feet. As a result of her sucking up to Trump, Stefanik was able to wrest the position as head of the Republican Conference, the third ranking party position in the House, from the much more principled, and conservative, Liz Cheney,  Miller diligently tried to get his now former friend to talk with him about her metamorphosis, but Stefanik angrily denied his request.  No doubt she knew Miller would intellectually shred any explanation she offered for her conversion.

Miller even attacks Republicans like Alyssa Farah, a communications specialist who regularly appears as a critic of Trump on cable news programs.  Farah had been a spokesperson for the Freedom Conference.  Later she worked for Mark Meadows when he was in Congress and joined him again when he became Trump's chief of staff.  Farah at one time had supported Trump, but quickly grew disenchanted with him.  Yet Farah kept working in the Trump administration, albeit not directly for the President.  Farah talked with Miller for the book in an effort to explain why she chose to work in the Trump administration.  Miller could have easily cut her slack given Farah's current position as Trump critic.  Miller though chose not do that.  Instead he easily tore apart Farah's justifications for staying on the Trump Train.  No doubt Farah expected better treatment from her old friend.

I cannot end this review without saying a word about Miller's writing style.  I have read many well-written political books authored by journalists and others who work in the media.  Why We Did It certainly belongs in that category.  But Miller brings color and humor to his writing that his fellow writers lack.  I especially enjoy it when Miller sets up and then delivers a punch line.  You know from a mile away that it is coming, but you are nevertheless delighted when it arrives.

I have ready many political books in my life, but Why We Did It is the very best.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

President Biden's Speech That MAGA Republicans Are Threat to Democracy Baits Trump Into Political Mistake

Last week, President Joe Biden gave a speech highlighting the danger posed by MAGA Republicans who do not support American democracy, the rule of law, the Constitution or see the need to respect the results of free and fair elections.  He said MAGA Republicans who harbor hostility to democracy are "semi-fascists."  It was one of the best speeches Biden has ever given.  

Biden's use of the label "MAGA Republicans" was intended to target Trump supporters for their autocratic, anti-democratic views, while dividing them from other Republicans and independents who support American democracy.  Making up only 35% of the electorate, MAGA Republicans cannot win most elections unless they get the support of non-MAGA Republicans and independents.  This fact was demonstrated in 2020 when then President Trump lost re-election because in every swing state, a significant percentage of Republican-leaning voters cast ballots for Biden, before returning to the GOP column for the down ballot races.  As a result, Trump ran behind virtually every Republican in the country.

Timothy Hale-Cusanelli
I've long said the problem is not Donald Trump.  Trump is who he has always been  The problem is his brain-washed group of followers who lifted the reality show star to power.  The demise of Trump as a political force doesn't end Trumpism.  It merely transfers the crown to a different leader.  Any attack on Trumpism has to be focused on challenging the motives and character of the mob that gives power to the movement.  These folks are hostile to American democracy and our institutions. They need to be called out.

And that's what Biden did.  

On the Bulwark podcast, Charlie Sykes often speaks of Trump's reptile-like political cunning.  I have never bought that.  Every time Trump has a political move to make, he almost always chooses the one that hurts him politically.  The obvious political play after the Biden MAGA attack was to play the role of the victim, to earn sympathy.  Many Republican elected officials did exactly that after the Biden speech.  Not Trump.  

At a rally the following Saturday, Trump attacked the FBI and called Biden "an enemy of the state."  The ex-President said that, if re-elected, he might pardon the January 6th insurrectionists who did his bidding in violently storming the Capitol (Will someone please point out that he had a whole two weeks to pardon them in January 2020 but chose not to do so?).  The Trump rally in Pennsylvania also featured Cynthia Hughes, the leader of a group supporting the January 6th insurrectionists.  During the speech, Hughes promoted the case of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a supporter of Adolph Hitler, who has been in jail following his arrest on charges related to the assault on the Capitol.  The judge is fearful that Hale-Cusanelli, who has said he looks forward to a civil war and said Hitler "should have finished the job", will go after an informant who gave the FBI information to arrest him.  Hale-Cusanelli was convicted of five counts earlier this year.

In addition to dividing Republicans, Biden's speech was also aimed at making the mid-terms about Donald Trump.  Again, Trump always takes the political bait.  The Democrats mid-term fortunes have improved dramatically and the chief reason why is that Trump is back in the news doing crazy things like attacking law enforcement officials who are simply doing their job.  That won't sit well with non-MAGA Republicans and independents.

OOP's short takes:

  • Interesting polling results from Trafalgar this weekend.  In New York, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul leads Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin by just 5 points (48-43) in the governor's race.  In the Washington Senate race, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray leads Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley by just 3 points (49-46).  While Trafalgar's methodology has always seemed more favorable to Republican candidates, the polling outfit has proven to be fairly accurate in recent years.

Monday, August 29, 2022

NRSC Chair Rick Scott Vacations on Italian Yacht While GOP Senate Hopes Go Up in Flames

Last week, Florida Senator Rick Scott decided it was a good time to criticize President Joe Biden for "vacationing" at his home in Delaware.  The next day, Axios reported that Scott was spending part of his congressional recess vacationing on an Italian yacht.  

Scott's vacation hypocrisy is the least of his problems.  The GOP's efforts to retake the Senate are crashing and burning.  So Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the arm of the party in charge of helping GOP Senate candidates, thought it was a good time for a European vacation.

Maybe Scott was trying to get out of town because of the heat he had been taking heat over his running of the NRCC.  Newsweek reports:

Critics of Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), resurfaced a past Medicare fraud settlement from his tenure as CEO of a hospital corporation, as his committee reportedly is running short on cash and pulling ads in support of GOP Senate candidates with less than three months until the midterm election.

The NRSC is the primary organization working to raise funds and support Republican candidates in the party's bid to take back the majority in the upper chamber of Congress.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL)

Scott has led the committee since January 2021, 
but The Washington Post reported on Friday that campaign advisers are asking "where all the money went, and to demand an audit of the committee's finances" as the NRSC pulls ads and runs low on funds.

Many on 
Twitter pointed to Scott's past Medicare fraud scandal during his time as CEO of Columbia/HCA. When Scott was deposed in 2000 amid the investigation, he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times.

Columbia/HCA later reached a settlement with the Justice Department of $840 million in 2000, and another settlement of $881 million in 2002, with the combined fines totaling $1.7 billion. At the time, this was the record health care fraud settlement, although it has since been surpassed, according to PolitiFact.

"Rick Scott oversaw the biggest Medicare fraud in history, so the GOP in its genius put him in charge of its national campaign fund and now is wondering where all its money went. Incredible," writer Gary Legum posted to Twitter, commenting on the 
Post's reporting.

"There's clearly been some shift in momentum over the summer. But fundraising collapses like this don't happen in a week or a month. Did Rick Scott defraud the NRSC like he did Medicare? How on earth can they be out of money after a year of GOP surge?" Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall tweeted.

"Rick Scott has gotten amazingly far in politics for a guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history but I'm not sure why you'd put the guy who perpetrated the largest Medicare fraud in history in charge of a large sum of money," writer and editor Matthew Yglesias tweeted.

Fortunately for Rick Scott, he was able to avoid being indicted in the scandal.  Amazingly though, a majority of Floridians thought that scandal-riddled background qualified Scott to be Governor and later U.S. Senator.  You would have thought that, given his association with fraud, the Senate Majority Leader would have balked at putting the Senator in charge of a big pile of money. But you'd think wrong.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

As Mid-Term Elections Increasingly Become a Referendum on Trump, Republican Fortunes Fade

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made headlines over the weekend when he said that the Senate was less likely to be Republican after the 2022 midterms than the House.  That actually wasn't news.  No one had seriously rated the Republicans' chances as greater in the Senate than the House.  But what made news is what McConnell said next when he said "candidate quality" could keep Republicans from capturing the Senate in November.  McConnell had said the quiet part out loud, and in the process dissed the numerous candidates he was depending on to become Senate Majority Leader again.

McConnell, of course, is right.  Republicans have a slate of really lousy Senate candidates and there is one reason why:  Donald J. Trump.  Trump insisted on endorsing candidates who expressed maximum fealty to him and who are willing to lie about the 2020 election being "stolen" from Trump.  Never mind that many of those candidates didn't have the experiences and political skills to win a general election.  Trump wasn't interested in that.

And the polls are reflecting how bad the Republican Senate nominees are.  Dr. Oz has trailed in every
poll in Pennsylvania.  Republican Senator Ron Johnson is trailing a far left Democratic nominee in Wisconsin.  Shockingly, some polling has Republican Senator Marco Rubio trailing Rep. Val Demings in Florida.  In Ohio, J.D. Vance has only a slight lead over Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan in a general election matchup that wasn't supposed to be close.  Then, the race that is most shocking to me is in North Carolina where Democrat Cheri Beasley is polling as tied with Congressman Ted Budd, yet another Trump hand-picked candidate.

For the record that is seven Republican seats the Democrats now have in their sights  (And let's not write off Iowa too quickly where 89 year old Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is facing off against a Democratic three star admiral, a 36 year Navy veteran who is an impressive candidate.)   Meanwhile the Democratic seats the Republicans have targeted appear to be fizzling.  In the Nevada Senate race, a poll yesterday by the Reno Gazette had Nevada Democratic Senator Cortez Mastro up by 7 points over her Republican challenger former Attorney General Paul Laxalt.  Republican candidates in Georgia and Arizona are running well behind.

FiveThirtyEight has the Democrats' chance of winning the Senate now at 63%.  This is an increase from 40% on June 1st.

The Democrats' improved prospects in the Senate appear to be bleeding over to the House.  On June 1st, FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a 14% chance of winning the House.  Now it is at 22%.  Cook Political Report's David Wasserman downgraded the Republicans' expected gain in the 2024 election to be as low as 15 seats.  

In addition to Trump's recruitment of terrible candidates, the ex-President also has successfully pushed the nomination of lackeys who ran to unseat Republican members of Congress who had voted to impeach him.  With those weak candidates now in place, Democrats have additional pick up opportunities.

Other factors have played a role in the great Republican 2022 wave turning into a trickling brook.  Gas prices, the most visible evidence of inflation, have fallen dramatically over the summer.   Post Roe, Republicans have terribly overplayed their hand on abortion, staking out positions that are highly unpopular.  On that score, Democrats across the country owe a debt of gratitude to Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita who, within weeks of the Dobbs decision, focused the issue on a 10 year old rape victim seeking an abortion. 

Trump believes the search of his home at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents is politically beneficial to him. Indeed among Republican voters, Trump received a substantial boost.  But the problem is that independent and unaffiliated voters don't view Trump as a sympathetic victim. They view him as possibly engaged in criminal activity, and it reminds them of how tired they were of Donald Trump.  There is nothing more that the Democrats would like than to have the 2022 midterms be about Donald Trump.

If Donald Trump blows GOP's efforts to win the Senate, and dampens GOP gains in the House, which seems to be the current trajectory of the race, Republicans will need to reevaluate Trump's future in the party.  Under Trump, the Republican Party lost the House, the Senate, and of course, the White House.  Trump might be called a lot of things, but "winner" is not one of them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Andrew Yang, Founder of Forward Party, Sides with Trump and Against The Rule of Law

I guess respecting the rule of law won't be a tenet of Founder Andrew Yang's Forward Party.

After the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump's residence, the Mar-A-Lago resort, businessman and Founder of the "Forward Party" Andrew Yang took to Twitter to defend the former President.  Yang declared that the search was politically-motivated and that the classified documents Trump had squirreled away at the resort were not very important.  Yang didn't wait for the facts to come out before siding with Trump.

Daily Kos takes it from here:  "He then quotes “one legal expert,” who said, “If they raided his home just to find classified documents he took from The White House… he will be re-elected president in 2024, hands down. It will prove to be the greatest law enforcement mistake in history.”

Whose side is this guy on? Well, Yang answers that after what must have been multiple queries about his allegiances:

“I’m no Trump fan. I want him as far away from the White House as possible. But a fundamental part of his appeal has been that it’s him against a corrupt government establishment. This raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution.”

According to Yang, we need to ignore Trump's misbehavior, indeed even his possible criminality.  To not do so will antagonize his base causing them to turn out at even higher levels. 

Yeah, that's worked so well over the last six years...I say with the most sarcasm I can muster.

Yang's comments do make one thing clear though.  That whole "nobody is above the law" rhetoric...well that's not something he believes in.  Yang does believe at least one person - Donald Trump -  is above the law.

Finally, many critics of the search are demanding that the Justice Department make public its request for a search warrant, including the evidence upon which it was based.  The Department will, of course, do so shortly.  But you know who could have made that document public immediately?  Donald J. Trump.  Trump doesn't do that because he knows its easier to spin the issue of the search if people aren't provided with the actual search warrant.  It's the same strategy employed by former Attorney General William Barr when he demonized the Mueller Report long before he actually released it.