Monday, November 18, 2019

Mississippi and Kentucky Elections Redux: Do Trump Rallies Actually Help Republican Candidates?

Last Saturday, a Democrat won another statewide election in the South.  John Bel Edwards who was elected Governor of Louisiana in 2015 thanks to a sex scandal involving the Republican nominee, won re-election over his GOP opponent, businessman Eddie Rispone.   President Donald Trump held three rallies in the state to help Rispone, including two just days before the election.  But Trump's support of Rispone was even more involved than that.  Politico describes: 
Trump’s activity in the Louisiana contest was particularly extensive: In addition to the rallies, he called into conservative radio stations on Rispone’s behalf, recorded get-out-the-vote robocalls and videos, and sent out a stream of tweets savaging Edwards. On Saturday, the president wrote several tweets encouraging Louisianans to cast their ballots for Rispone. 
Trump’s political operation also invested heavily, with the Republican National Committee spending $2 million on the race....
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-Louisiana)
Despite Trump's efforts, Edwards, an old-fashioned conservative Democrat, defeated Rispone 51.3% to 48.7% in the run-off.

This loss followed one less than two weeks earlier in Kentucky, where incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin narrowly lost to Democrat Andy Beshear.  Trump had won both states overwhelmingly in 2016, Kentucky by 30 points, Louisiana by 20.

Unlike what I had documented with Indiana statewise races (2014 v. 2018), Trumpism did not seem to hurt GOP statewide candidates down the ballot in Kentucky.  In fact, in Kentucky, GOP candidates, except for Bevin, did considerably better in 2019 than 2015.

In the Kentucky and Louisiana race, President Trump held several rallies at which he asked that voters make the election a referendum on him and impeachment.  Despite his efforts to nationalize the race and make it about him, those heavily Republican states handed victories to Democrats.  What is going on?

The notion behind the Trump rallies, and the other Trump-led get-out-the-vote efforts, is that it encourages Republican voters to go to polls.  The flaw in that theory is that GOP turnout has already been maximized in the Trump era.  We saw that during the 2018 elections. GOP turnout was fantastic during the mid-terms.  Yet the Republican Party took it on the chin because Democratic turnout was also high. 

What Trump rallies appear to be doing is preaching to the choir...and encouraging Democrats to turn out.  Democrats who likely would have stayed home during non-presidential elections are seeing Trump come into their communities and they are responding by going to the polls in droves.  It may well have been in Rispone and Bevin's best interest to run more tightly on the Republican base in their GOP dominated states and forego Trump visit.

Since poor turnout in 2016 sunk Hillary Clinton, Democrats have been motivated to go to the polls.  Whenever Democratic electoral interest might wane, Trump stirs them back up and they respond at the ballot box.

As far as the Republican Party goes, there simply is no empirical evidence that Trump is advancing the GOP brand.  The elections in 2017, 2018 and this year offer proof that Trump's assistance to GOP candidates does not do much in a general election and may be counter-productive.  That shouldn't come as a shock to those who have looked at the numbers.  In 2016, Trump did not lead the GOP ticket in most states.  In most states (Indiana was an exception), statewide GOP candidates outperformed Trump. 

In short, Trump isn't elevating the GOP brand.  He is dragging it down.

Friday, November 15, 2019

GOP Faces Brokered Convention if Trump Cuts 2020 Deal With Prosecutors to Gain Favorable Treatment

Donald Trump will lead the GOP ballot in 2020...probably.  The debate on the Republican side has focused on whether Trump will retain his 2016 running mate, Indiana Governor and current Vice-President Mike Pence. (I actually think there is nearly a 50% chance Pence is not on the 2020 ticket, but my thoughts on that subject are too lengthy to be set out here.) This column is about the outside possibility Trump himself won't be on the 2020 ballot.

No, I don't think Trump will be kicked out of office via impeachment.  He will certainly be impeached by the U.S. House, and deservedly so, for his participation in the attempt to shake down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (using taxpayer money no less) to try to get a politically-advantageous investigation into his chief political opponent started.  Add to that the fact Trump's bribery scheme put America's national security at risk in the process while aiding his Russia First foreign policy.  It's hard to imagine a scenario more justifying impeachment.  Not sure if Nixon is in heaven or hell (guessing the latter), but he has to be looking at the Trump impeachment developments and thinking "What the hell?"  Nixon's offenses that resulted in his being forced out of office now look like jaywalking versus what Trump is accused of (and has mostly admitted) doing.

Nonetheless, the odds of getting 20 Republican Senators with enough courage to do the right thing and vote out easily the most corrupt and unfit President in my lifetime, is too much to expect. Trump retains a cult leader like control over 85% of Republicans and until that fever breaks, enough GOP Senators will support him to survive.  Now whether those GOP Senators end up surviving their own re-election efforts is a different story.  But at least supporting Trump means they will not have serious primary opposition in their elections, even if they face a more challenging general election because they failed to hold the President accountable for highly unethical, and likely illegal, conduct.

The possibility that Trump will eventually be prosecuted is real.  Besides being an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal enterprise that landed his former attorney Michael Cohen in jail, Trump faces real criminal exposure for his conduct.  That Trump may well have run afoul of federal bribery statutes in attempting to coerce Zelensky into  launching a bogus investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden is only the tip of the Trump prosecutorial iceberg.  Before being elected, Trump had a long history of being a dishonest businessman who skirted the laws.  But Trump got a pass for that conduct as  legal authorities considered him a joke, a bombastic showman who was simply playing the role of successful businessman, a role belied by Trump's ability to lose huge sums of money on nearly every business venture he tried.  When he was elected President though Trump succeeded in getting those legal authorities to finally take him seriously.  Given Trump's dishonesty has carried over to the Oval Office, that's not a good thing.

The Justice Department takes the, rather dubious, position that the Constitution does not permit a sitting President to be prosecuted while in office.   (It's not clear that states are mandated to take that position.)  So that the thought is Trump would run for re-election to try to run out the clock on the statute of limitations that exist for any crimes for which he might be prosecuted.  But that is questionable strategy.  First, there is a very good chance Trump will not be re-elected.  Second, the statute of limitations on many of the crimes for which he might be charged will not have run.  And, finally, the strategy assumes that Trump can avoid committing criminal acts during a second term.  Yeah, good luck with that one.

Trump fashions himself to be a great deal maker. Certainly we have not seen any of that supposed ability during his tenure in office. But Trump does have substantial leverage to avoid or limit prosecution...he could cut a deal that includes walking away from a possible second term.  Prosecutors cut deals all the time with elected officials to step down from office and/or not seek re-election in exchange for more favorable prosecutorial terms.

Could that deal, the greatest deal Trump ever pulled off by far, be in his future? While that is a doubtful scenario, it would leave the GOP facing a chaotic 2020 convention with thousands of delegates untethered to any candidate.   Would Trump put his survival ahead of the interests of his (recently) adopted Republican Party?  If you don't think he would do that, you haven't been paying attention.  What is best for Donald J. Trump always comes ahead of his party and his country.  Always.

This scenario is not likely to play out.  Nonetheless, it is a real possibility for which the GOP needs to be ready.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Indianapolis and Hamilton County Election Takeaways

Yesterday, Indiana held municipal elections across the state.  Here are my thoughts on the the election results in Indianapolis (Marion County) and Hamilton County:
  • Death of the Marion County GOP:  The once great Marion County Republican Party has been struggling for awhile, but there was always hope.  Yesterday that hope was extinguished. The GOP won 12 of the 25 Indianapolis city-county council seats in 2015.  Yesterday, the GOP
    won just 5 of the 25 seats.  My warning that only Republican council candidates with districts south of Washington Street might survive the council election turned out to be deadly accurate.  If that wasn't bad enough, two of the winning Republican candidates narrowly won their southside districts.
  • Marion County Supplants Lake County as Most Democratic County:  Last night, incumbent Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett won 72% of the vote versus the Republican challenger State Senator Jim Merritt's 27%.   Democrats running countywide in Lake County regularly beat Republicans by 2-1 margins.  While the high profile Indianapolis Mayor's race is not the best one for measuring a partisan baseline, that race along with the council races suggest Marion may now be the most Democratic-leaning county in the state.  Move over Lake County.
  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Scores Council Wins:  The good, no great, news for the Hamilton County Democratic Party is that it won a council seat in Carmel as well as a district and at-large seat in Fishers.   But the Democrats gave up the opportunity for a majority of the six person Fishers council when it fielded only one candidate in the three person at-large race. (I know this might have been part of a deliberate strategy to get the one candidate elected, but don't think there is much data to show that strategy actually works.)
  • Hamilton County Democratic Party Blows Mayoral Opportunities:  Looking at the 2018 numbers, I knew the Democrats could run competitive mayoral elections in Carmel and Fishers in 2019.  But the Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joseph Weingarten apparently couldn't find candidates for the mayoral slots, leaving the Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness unopposed in their bids for re-election.  The 2019 election results show Fadness in particular could have been beaten.  In my original analysis, I forgot to consider Westfield where Republican Andy Cook was running for re-election in that city.  Cook had no Democratic challenger, only a Libertarian opponent...who received an incredible 39% of the vote.  Cook is, obviously, an unpopular mayor but the Democrats can't win with nobody on the ballot.
  • Marion County/Hamilton County Developments Could Spell Trouble for Statewide GOP Candidates:  If the state's largest county (Marion) is suddenly 70% plus Democrat and the formerly state's most Republican county (Hamilton) is no longer providing huge GOP margins, can statewide Republican candidates continue to win statewide elections?  Probably ... as long as rest of the Indianapolis donut counties continue to provide GOP votes. Haven't studied the results in Boone, Hendricks, Johnson, etc. yet, but my guess is their shift in the Democratic direction is much slower than Hamilton County.  
  • Trumpism's Damage to GOP Brand is Real:  Several of my fellow Republicans warned in 2016 that if the GOP nominated such a disreputable character as Donald J. Trump, Trumpism would come to define and harm the Republican brand.  That damage was on display in the 2018 election results and now once again in 2019.  Possibly that damage is temporary, but my guess is it is long term and will take a generation from which to recover.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Christine Scales, Indianapolis' Finest Public Servant, is Not on Today's Ballot

After receiving a lot of positive feedback for the race I ran trying to unseat then State Rep. Jeb Bardon from a Pike Township based seat in 2000, I was persuaded by a couple state representatives to run for Marion County Clerk.  Months into that endeavor, in the midst of attending scores of Republican meetings across the county, I received a call from a high level Marion County GOP operative.  He told me that party leadership would be supporting my GOP slating opponent because I
"could not be controlled." While I might vote the way Marion County GOP leaders wanted 90% of the time, they wanted someone who will support them 100%, even when what they wanted wasn't in the public's best interest.

It was probably about that time frame, 2001-2002, that I met  Christine Scales at a Washington Township GOP meeting.  Christine was later elected to her northside Washington Township city-county council district in 2007, serving three terms.  Christine Scales proved be a tireless public servant who always insists on putting the best interests of her constituents first, even when her party's leadership wanted her to vote the other direction.  In short, Christine was the elected official who "could not be controlled" by party bosses.

Okay, "tireless" may not be the right term.  No doubt that after three terms of non-stop fighting on behalf of her constituents, Christine is, understandably, very tired.  For 12 years she has been a flurry of activity.  Her chief interest has always been public safety.  I remember well her fight to ensure northside residents had sufficient fire coverage when the city tried to eliminate a ladder truck.  She also has been a good friend to law enforcement, fighting to ensure they had the resources and equipment to make Indianapolis neighborhoods safer.

What I like most about Christine though is that she has always been a straight shooter.  She always is willing to tell you what she thinks and if her words step on some political toes in the process, so be it.  And Christine has stepped on a whole lot of toes while in office.

To understand the arc of Christine's political career requires an understanding of Indianapolis/Marion County politics.  Although party control in the county has gradually shifted from Republican to Democrat these past few decades, it has always been developers, contractors, and big law firms who have called the shots.  If there is some project that will result in taxpayer money ending up in the pockets of these powerful special interests, you can bet that the project will be supported by Indianapolis' political leaders, regardless of the party.  Even when the Indianapolis GOP faces a drubbing at the polls, which will most surely happen today, you don not see Republican mayor or council candidates speaking out for Indy residents against the wishes of  those special interests.  It is a line that candidates, even those facing sure defeat, will not cross.

Christine never got that memo.  Or more likely, knowing her, she did get the memo and threw it in the trash.  Regardless, Christine went about doing her job, fighting for constituents and getting re-elected by voters who liked and appreciated her putting community service ahead of special interests.

Proposal 364, which is one of the last measures Christine initiated on the Council, is emblematic of her work.  During her time in office, Christine attended scores of committee meetings in which advocates for various proposals would blindside councilors with reams of documents filled with stats and data for why the councilor should support, or oppose, some measure.  Naturally, councilors presented with the documents for the first time at the committee meeting do not have the time it to digest the information (considering in the process its veracity as well as alternative information), prior to casting a vote on the measure under consideration.  Proposal 364 is a good government measure aimed at requiring that those documents be provided to councilors 48 hours in advance of the committee meeting.  If the documents are not provided in a timely fashion, Christine's measure provides that a committee vote can be taken to delay consideration of the proposal until the next scheduled meeting.

While Proposal 364 passed out of committee unanimously, council leaders have apparently stalled the measure, quite possibly as a final personal affront to Christine who to the very end insists of putting her constituents ahead of Indy's special interests who exercise the political clout in the city.

During Christine's last term in office, she switched her partisanship from Republican to Democrat.  But, regardless of what party she affiliated with, she always put the voters first.   Thank you, Christine, for all you did and tried to do.  Indianapolis is better off because of your service.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Indianapolis GOP Face Possible Wipeout in Upcoming Municipal Election

This Spring, as my beloved Cincinnati Reds take the field for the first game of the season, I will take my place in centerfield.

Meanwhile, 90 miles up in the road, former Republican Jim Merritt will be going to work on the 25th floor, having been elected a few months earlier as the Mayor of Indianapolis.
State Senator Jim Merritt

Okay, neither of those things are likely to happen.  But I dare say I am more likely to become the first 50-something rookie in major league baseball history, than Merritt is to win the Indianapolis mayor's race against incumbent Joe Hogsett next month.

To say Merritt has run a lackluster campaign is to be charitable.  Merritt decided, in the age of populism, that his ticket to being elected was to run as a country club Republican.  To make things worse, Merritt decided to run as a liberal, to the left of Hogsett, and in the process turning his back on the conservative principles he stood for decades as a northside state senator.  Merritt thought the shrinking pool of Marion County Republicans would not be offended.  News flash...they are.  Hopefully the conservative-leaning voters in Merritt's state senate district will not forget the way he threw them under the bus in an effort to be elected Mayor.

To be fair though, even if Merritt ran the perfect campaign...he was never going to win.  Marion County/Indianapolis was already trending toward heavily Democrat when the Trump phenomenon hit.  Trump is very unpopular in urban/suburban areas, including Marion County.   Since Trump was elected in 2016, Democrats and independents have been coming out in droves to cast protest votes against Trump and his brand of Republicanism.

Jim Merritt will hardly be the only Marion County GOP casualty on November 4th. I previously warned that the council map drawn by GOP operative David Brooks in a failed attempt to win a Republican majority in 2015 cut the GOP district margins too narrowly.  I said that the map would eventually turn out to be a blessing for the Democrats, allowing the party to capture a sizable majority of the council seats as the numbers continued to drift in the Democrats direction.

Indeed my analysis earlier this year (posted below in full) of the 2018 election results in those council districts show that elected northside Republican council members are about to be rendered extinct:
In 2015, Republicans won 12 of 25 Indianapolis City-County Council Districts utilizing a map drawn by Republican political operative David Brooks.  As I noted at the time, the problem was that Brooks had drawn the GOP districts with margins too small, margins that would not overcome the increasing trend of Marion County residents, particularly those living on the northside, voting Democrat.  The GOP did fairly well defending those northside districts in 2015.  It should be noted that in District 2, Republican councilor Christine Scales switched to the Democratic Party after the election.
It is not that Brooks was negligent in drawing the council maps.  His charge was to draw the maps in such a way (by creating a significant number of narrow Republican majority districts) as to give the GOP a chance to win a majority of council seats in the 2015 election. He did exactly that.  The problem was those numbers would not hold.  It turns out that not only have the Republican  numbers continued their two decade long bleed, what appears to be a Trump effect has caused GOP numbers to hemorrhage.
I said at the time the Democrats, who unsuccessfully challenged the Brooks map in court, would grow to love the Brooks map.  The love begins this year.
Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 16 are northside council districts won by the GOP in 2015.  Mid-term elections are the most similiar to municipal elections in terms of turnout.  To establish a baseline, I looked at the Marion Recorder's Office election results in those districts in 2014 versus 2018.  Here is the table I put together of districts the GOP won in 2015.

GOP Districts2014 GOP Baseline2018 GOP BaselineDifference

Those are not good numbers.  Seven northside GOP districts are deeply underwater.  Even a southside GOP district, District 18, appears to be competitive.
For the record, the only district the Republicans appear to have any shot of winning is Council District 22 held by Jared Evans who upset the Republican in that district in 2015.. But that is at best a long shot.  In District 22 the GOP base went from 54.8 in 2014 to 46.5 in 2018.
The GOP's only hope to keep some of the northside seats is for a very low turnout municipal election and that it is mostly Democrats staying home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Trump Supporters Have No Problem With There Being A Quid Pro Quo

I have seen this movie so many times I have the ending memorized.  First, President Trump claimed that no one from his campaign ever met or communicated with the Russians officials who meddled in the 2016 election.  When evidence came out that there were more than 100 meetings and communications between Trump and 17 of his campaign officials, Trump supporters responded that they did not care.  While there may have been meetings or communication between the Russians and the Trump campaign, the campaign did not solicit help in the election!   So there!

Of course, that turned out not to be right either.  Although the President lied and said the Trump tower meeting was about adoption policy, it turns out Trump's eldest son, Don, Jr. was in fact using the meeting to solicit dirt on Hillary Clinton. 

Were Trump supporters bothered by the campaign soliciting help from a foreign power hostile to the United States?  Nope...they just shrugged their shoulders and moved the goalposts again.  This time, the cry by Trumpers was "there is no evidence of collusion."  The Mueller Report proves that!

Of course, the the Mueller Report did nothing of the sort.  The report, in fact, explicitly said the issue of collusion was not being addressed in the report as "collusion" is not a criminal term.  The Mueller Report did, however, details scores and scores of instances in which the Trump campaign warmly welcomed help from the Russians during the 2016 campaign.  Trumpers, of course, did not care that that might constitute "collusion" (although not a criminal conspiracy).   The fact Putin helped Trump win the 2016 election just made Trumpers like Putin more.

Most Trump supporters have since dropped the "no collusion" line.  After all, President Trump has now made it clear, regardless of what happened in 2016, he is perfectly fine colluding with Ukraine and China officials to win the 2020 election.  Trump asked those countries to investigate his political opponents, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.  Trump even offered the help of his Attorney General and his private attorney Rudolph Giuliani in finding the dirt. 

It turns out Trumpers never had a problem with Trump colluding with a foreign power to win an American election.  They just needed to move the rhetorical goalpost again.  Now the mantra is, but there was no "quid pro quo!"

Of course, there does not have to be a quid pro quo.  A federal candidate soliciting a foreign country to dig up dirt on the candidate's political opponent is a crime.  Trump not only did that, he used his office in the process - a clear abuse of power.   Nonetheless, whether there was an actual quid pro quo, which would make Trump's abuse of his office and the crime (bribery, extortion, etc.) even worse, Trumpers would have us ignore the President's OBVIOUS implication in the Ukraine phone call, the text messages between the diplomats, and the direct admission by the President's Chief of Staff, Nick Mulvaney, who said during a press conference there was a quid pro quo, i.e. that the already appropriated military aid to Ukraine would not be provided unless Ukraine helped the United States investigate the origins of the investigation into the Russians interference in the 2016 election.

Does anyone really believe that if presented with evidence that the President of the United States extorted political dirt from a foreign power to try to win the 2020 election, Trumpers would say that is unacceptable?  Of course not.  Here's how the movie ends...Trumpers do not care.

Trumpers, after all, are the same people who said it is perfectly okay that the President invited terrorists to break bread with him Camp David on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary. They think it is just swell that the President celebrates brutal dictators as friends, while turning his back on our allies and, in the case of the Kurds, abandoning them to be slaughtered.  That President Trump refuses to speak out for human rights and the protesters in Hong Kong seeking freedom, is perfectly fine to Trumpers.  President Trump  has repeatedly demonstrated nothing but contempt for this nation's democratic values and the Constitution, and has indicated a willingness to put this nation's national security at risk for his own personal political reasons. Trumpers are okay with that. 

Now imagine for a second that any of the above were positions taken by President Obama or a President Hillary Clinton.  Think Trumpers would say such behavior is okay by those Democrats?  Of course not.  Trumpers would be screaming about how awful, how un-American Obama and Clinton were and demand they be impeached. (And they'd be right.) But if President Trump is doing these things, his followers have no problem.  It is the earmark of a cult that whatever the leader of the cult does is by definition right. So too it is with Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking group of followers.

A patriot is someone who consistently stands up for American values and principles, regardless of the what jersey the politician is wearing. Trump supporters should stop pretending that their blind loyalty to a man who has demonstrated he cares not one bit about American values is somehow patriotic.  Being a hypocrite does not make one a patriot.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Indianapolis "Blue Line" Set to Eliminate Washington Street Traffic Lanes, Divert Traffic to Residential Neighborhoods

As I've pointed out on this pages before, despite an ongoing election in Indianapolis, local candidates have thus far refused to listen to listen to the complaints of voters negatively impacted by the (unnecessary) elimination of traffic lanes as part of the implementation of a new rapid bus system.

Now that the Red Line is in place, next up is the Blue Line which will result in the elimination of two
travel lanes.  On West Washington Street that means travel will be limited to ONE eastbound and ONE westbound lane.  Drivers seeking to avoid the resulting congestion in that commercial corridor will divert to nearby residential streets.   Business establishments on West Washington will lose customers and residents near Washington Street will have to deal with increased traffic and see their property values lowered.

WISH-TV reports:
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IndyGo’s Blue Line Rapid Transit System will run from the east side to the airport in the future, but business owners along the West Washington Street route are pushing for changes to the proposed plans. 
The project is expected to have a designated lane for the bus, much like the Red Line. West Washington Street will go from four lanes to two, but store owners fear the Blue Line will negatively impact their businesses. 
Many told News 8 the road isn’t efficiently designed for an exclusive bus lane and will create more congestion. 
“It’s hard for us to get trucks in and out of here as we do get a lot of freight in and trying to bring obviously motorcycles in and cars in to park in front of the building which is what we really want,” said Mike Dreyer, owner of Dreyer Honda. 
“Instead of people using this main road they’ll divert off onto the residential side streets which causes traffic problems for the residents,” said Rachel Hawkins, owner of Markin Sales. 
IndyGo plans to build bus stations in the middle of Washington Street and remove some designated turning lanes. Some business owners feel that could steer potential customers away. 
“It’s gonna be easier for someone to just continue west and find the next local shop or business that they’re looking for rather than turning back around and making it an inconvenience for themselves,” Roy Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Body Shop said.
One thing I learned while writing about this subject is drivers apparently are not supposed to turn left across that raised bump in the middle of the rapid bus transit lane.  They are supposed to go to the next intersection and then do negotiate a tight U-Turn, against the traffic, to return to the business one originally wished to turn left into.  Many people, obviously, are not going to want to do that and will instead choose a business down the road where a u-turn is not needed.
It is important to emphasize that the City's elimination of traffic lanes for the rapid bus system is contrary to the study touted by the City on the web page of the Indy Connect Central Indiana's Regional Transit Initiative.  That study said that "it is not realistic to expect ridership increase under even the most favorable conditions to approach the threshold for exclusive lanes."  Yet despite this advice, city officials have decided to go ahead anyway and eliminate traffic lanes, despite the impact on commuters and residents.
West Washington Street business owners are hosting a meeting on Wednesday about the subject, the details of which are below:
When:  October 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm
Where:  Wayne Township Government Center
              5401 W. Washington St.
              Indianapolis, IN  46241

Friday, October 4, 2019

President Trump Doubles Down on Collusion, Asks China President to Investigate Bidens

President Trump and his legion of media enablers are fond of repeating the lie that there was no collusion found during the Russia investigation.  In fact, the Mueller Report explicitly said it was not making a finding about collusion, but instead concluded there was not enough evidence to establish there was a criminal conspiracy.  Nonetheless, the Mueller Report detailed scores of accounts of Trump campaign officials accepting the help of Russian officials to win the 2016 election.

In short, what saved Trump was that Mueller found that his campaign was not actively involved in Russia's efforts on his behalf...that the Trump campaign just took advantage of the Russian assistance that was given.  That reduced the issue to possibly being a campaign law violation, the acceptance of a "thing of value" from a foreign government.  Contrary to significant legal precedent, Mueller concluded that because the Russian in kind assistance couldn't be strictly quantified in terms of how much it was worth, that the fact it was a "thing of value" could not be established.

As I said during the Mueller investigation, Trumpers do not care one bit whether Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.  They are perfectly fine with a foreign power, even an enemy of the United States, helping a candidate win an American election as long as that candidate is named Donald Trump. Events of these past couple weeks have demonstrated how true that is.

First it was an ally, Ukraine.  In a phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig up dirt on his chief political rival, Joe Biden, who is polling way ahead of Trump nationally and, more importantly, in virtually every battleground state.  While a "quid pro quo" certainly isn't necessary (it just makes Trump's abuse of his office worse), Trump actually provided that too when the Ukrainain President brought up the need for military assistance which Trump immediately followed saying that he needed a favor done "though." If that was not enough for the Trump crowd (it isn't) that text messages have come out that Trump administration officials believed that continued military assistance and a visit to the White House was contingent on Zelensky's willingness to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.

In the height of silliness, Trumpers tout that Zelensky, in response to the growing scandal, said he didn't feel pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens.  Did anyone actually expect Zelensky to say anything different?  His country's entire survival is dependent on a good relationship with the United States, for which his relationship with President Trump is key. Of course, Zelensky was never going to throw Trump under the bus.

Yesterday, President Trump, standing in front of a contingent of reporters on the south lawn of the White House, asked the President of China to investigate the Bidens.  Turns out this was not a new request.  During a June phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump had already asked Jinping to investigate the Bidens.  He also apparently mentioned Elizabeth Warren as well.  Like the Ukrainian phone call, the record of the Chinese phone call was placed on a highly classified server, unlike other calls with world leaders. 

Trump is clearly using his office to encourage foreign leaders, including those from a country hostile to the United States, to investigate his domestic political rivals.  On the Ukraine call, he even offered the assistance of the Attorney General and his private attorney in Ukraine's efforts.  The Trump Collusion Train has left the station.   Any member of Congress, including Republicans, who do not support holding Trump account for his conduct is betraying the Constitution they took an oath to defend.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

President Trump Continues to Peddle False Narratives About the Bidens While Asking Another Country to Investigate Them

Today on the south lawn of the White House, President Donald Trump requested another foreign power, this time China, to investigate his main political rival, Vice President Joe Biden, as well as his son, Hunter.  Trump also renewed his calls for Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens which would, of course, aid him in his effort to eliminate from the Democratic primary race an opponent,
Biden, that polls showed Trump had little chance of beating in a general election.

Of course, it is a crime for a candidate in a federal election to solicit campaign help from a foreign government.  No quid quo pro is necessary, though in the case of the Ukrainian phone call, it is undeniable that Trump expressly dangled military aid in exchange for help with the Bidens.

President Trump admits he brought up the Bidens during the Urkainain phone call, a fact confirmed by the summary of the call the White House provided.  Yet, a poll shows only 40% of Republicans believe Trump mentioned the Bidens during the phone call.  That is how bad the President's gas lighting of America, aided by so-called conservative media (they are "Trumpian" not "conservative") outlets, have become.   Even when Trump openly admits doing something bad, his Kool-Aid drinking cult followers refuse to believe it.

Today, Trump once again used his office to spread lies about Bidens.  Make no mistake about it....Hunter Biden used his father's position as Vice President and good name to cash in privately.  (Sort of like the Trump family does every day of the week.)  Joe Biden was reportedly unhappy with his son taking the position, but he had no power to stop it.  Nonetheless, the facts are that Hunter Biden himself was never under investigation by the Ukraine prosecutor.  The gas company was under investigation before Hunter Biden took a position on the gas company board of directors.  The investigation was no longer active when Vice President Biden, at the behest of President Obama and scores of reform advocates as well as the entire western alliance urged the prosecutor to be fired for not pursuing corruption cases.  Vice President Biden's actions not only didn't benefit his son's gas company,  they in fact opened the possibility a new prosecutor would restart the dormant investigation.

Trump's approach to the Bidens is straight out of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels's playbook.  Goebbels said that "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." While rational, thoughtful people probably will not believe Trump's big lie about the Bidens, enough people may believe it to sink Biden's bid for the Democratic nomination.  That would leak Trump facing a much weaker rival, someone like Elizabeth Warren.

The irony is that what is easily the most corrupt President in a lifetime (which includes the presidency of Richard Nixon) is using the issue of corruption to try to sink a much more ethical and honest rival.

Impeachment is no longer an option.  Impeachment is an imperative.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears Signals a New Day May Be Dawning at Marion County Prosecutor's Office

WTHR reports:
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office announced Monday that it will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases.
“Too often, an arrest for marijuana possession puts individuals into the system who otherwise would not be. That is not a win for our community,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears said. “The enforcement of
Marion County Acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears
marijuana policy has disproportionately impacted people of color, and this is a first step to addressing that.” 
That means when someone is picked up for having an ounce or less of marijuana, they won't be prosecuted. 
"Our priority is violent crime." Mears said. "We are not going to mess around with these small possession of marijuana cases." 
According to Indiana state law, possession of marijuana in an amount less than 30 grams can be prosecuted as a Level B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. 
The prosecutor clarified what will happen if police do make an arrest. 
"It's not being sold. It's not being smoked. We are not going to be filing those cases," Mears said. 
According to the former chief deputy prosecutor, minor marijuana possession cases are clogging courts, over crowding jails, and taxing resources that could be better spent fighting violent criminals.

While I am philosophically against laws being on the book that are not going to be enforced, Indiana prosecutors certainly have the discretion to prioritize the enforcement of laws.  Prosecuting individuals for small quantity pot possession definitely uses up resources that are better spent combating more serious crime, particularly that of a violent nature.   And, as Mears notes, there is no link between using pot and more serious crime.
On balance, I side with Mears and am greatly encouraged we finally have someone who will lead the Marion County Prosecutor's Office in a newer and better direction, assuming, of course, Mears is the one ultimately selected as the replacement to the elected prosecutor, Terry Curry.  Unfortunately, Curry showed a shocking hostility to civil liberties, particularly in the area of civil forfeiture which he expanded greatly under his watch.    If Mears wants another worthwhile cause, he should investigate the use of civil forfeiture by his office and take steps to curb the abuses if not outright end the practice.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Handling of Whistleblower Complaint Reveals the Depth of Trump Corruption

That did not take long.  Details of the whistleblower complaint have leaked out.  It would appear that during a telephone conversation, President Trump promised Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelensky something, it's been suggested continued military aid, if Zelensky would pursue corruption charges against his Trump's chief political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, for business dealings in that country.  Previously, Ukraine had looked into the matter and found evidence of corruption to be lacking.  Trump though wants them to pursue the allegations anyway.

Hmmm, so Trump is wanting the help of a foreign power to try to win an American election?  Where
have I seen this film before?  In 2016, the Trump campaign openly welcomed the help of the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton.   The Mueller Report found that this arrangement though fell short of a criminal conspiracy because there was no evidence that promises were made by the Trump people in exchange for the assistance.

This time, however, Trump appears to be offering the element Mueller did not find, i.e. the offering something of value (taxpayer money) in return for campaign assistance from a foreign country, in this case criminally prosecuting his chief political rival and his son.  Bribery and corruption charges have been built on far less.  

On cue former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke out for President Trump and managed to make a bad situation worse.  During an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Giuliani admitted he went to Ukraine to encourage government officials to investigate the Bidens.  Giuliani did clarify that although he solicited this help as Trump's attorney and to help the President's re-election campaign, it did not come at Trump's direction.  Of course, that is true.  We attorneys, on our own, do quasi-illegal stuff to help out our clients all the time.  Needless to say, that is sarcasm.

As a side note, I really think there is something physically wrong with Giuliani.  I had a brother who had a type of early onset dementia, an affliction that attacks the front of one's brain and causes bad judgment.   I wonder if Giuliani has something like that.  I am deadly serious.  Like him or not (and I was definitely not a fan), when Giuliani was Mayor and, before that when he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani was a serious person who gave careful thought to everything he said.  The 2019 version of Giuliani is a far cry from the person he used to be.

That Trump would possibly commit a crime in a phone conversation monitored by several people is not that surprising.  Donald Trump clearly is not a bright man.  Trump has gotten away with so many things in the past, it probably never crossed his feeble mind that he should not be saying what he is alleged to have said on that phone call.

What I continue to find surprising though is the actions of Attorney General Bill Barr.  He, without any authority whatsoever, stepped in to override the legal process for handling the whistleblower complaint and blocked it from going to Congress.  Once again, Barr has demonstrated that he is willing to break the law (and lie to the American public and under oath if needed) on behalf of President Trump.   While Trump's illicit conduct can be somewhat blamed on his profound ignorance and recklessness, Barr seems to be just plain corrupt.  There appears to be no limit to what Barr is willing to do to help Trump.  Barr certainly could not care less about his obligation to the American people or the oath he took to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Unhappy With the Traffic Congestion Caused by New Rapid Bus System? Indianapolis Mayoral Candidates Do Not Care

The last couple months, I have had the opportunity to talk to scores of Indianapolis residents about issues important to them.  While potholes and the condition of roads are often topics discussed, the most frequent complaint has to do with the implementation of Indianapolis' new rapid bus system.  In particular, complaints focus on the massive traffic congestion chokes commuting in
key portions of the city, including downtown Indianapolis and Broad Ripple.

One would think that the candidates for Indianapolis mayor would see it as an opportunity to address the concerns of the public about the implementation of the rapid bus line.  In particular, it should be an excellent issue for Republican challenger Jim Merritt, who should be targeting high profile issues that could move voters.  But Merritt's public comments indicate he loves the hugely expensive project and could not care less that Indy residents are inconvenienced as they sit in their cars idling in massive traffic jams.  His only criticism is that Mayor Joe Hogsett didn't initially support the project enthusiastically enough.

State Senator Jim Merritt
Make no mistake about it, the rapid bus system is primarily about economic development, not making life easier for Indianapolis residents.  In short, it is an opportunity for the city's leaders to pretend to do something good, while, again, using public dollars to subsidize private development.  In Indianapolis, there is a mutual non-aggression pact between the Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to supporting these corporate welfare projects.

Between Hogsett and Merritt, it is tough to argue that Merritt is the more fiscally conservative candidate .  In fact, Merritt appears to have completely abandoned his conservatives principles in other areas as well  Recently he attacked the Hogsett administration for not setting aside enough 15% of city contracts for minority and women-owned businesses.  State law apparently doesn't allow the strict quotas that Merritt supports.  Merritt's position supporting strict quotas means he is advocating discriminating against businesses which are not minority and women-owned in the awarding of government contracts.  That sure as heck is not a conservative idea.

Merritt is a longtime conservative state senator running for Indianapolis Mayor as a liberal Republican.  He was either an opportunist pretending to be a conservative in the General Assembly or is an opportunist pretending to be a liberal on the mayoral campaign trail.   Neither is acceptable.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Numbers Behind Washington Post-ABC News Poll Reveal Depth of Trump's Re-Election Troubles

This morning the results a new Washington Post-ABC News poll on President Donald Trump's popularity was released.   The top line of that poll is Trump has a 40% approval rate among registered voters, 38% among the general population. As is typical with news coverage of polls, that finding is what gets almost all the coverage.

But it is the other the other data in the polls, the cross tabs, which are often more significant and telling than the totals that get widely reported.  The is true definitely with regard to the Post-ABC News poll, which highlights the mountain Trump would have to climb to be re-elected.

Let's take a look at those cross-tabs:

Of the 56% of the poll respondents who said they disapproved of Trump, 48% of those said they "strongly" disapproved of him.  Meanwhile just 27% "strongly" approved of Trump.  The 48% and 27% are hard numbers, i.e. it is highly unlikely that those "strong" respondents can be budged from their positions.  48% means it is virtually impossible for Trump to get a majority of the vote.  Of course, there is still the Electoral College.

It doesn't take long to find out why Trump is so deeply underwater. Women.  Most women loathe Donald Trump.   In the poll, Trump is 34 points under water with women.  Of the 64% of women disapprove of Trump, 54% do so strongly.  Again, that 54% is a hard number.  Trump's support among men is much better, 47% approve and 47% disapprove.  But Trump's numbers among men on Election Day needs to be much, much better than that to offset women.

I always thought Trump was popular with Catholics so the cross-tab that showed Trump under water, 46% to 48%, with Catholics caught me by surprise.  Probably the most interesting thing about that cross tab is that the large "strong" numbers that make up these totals - 41% and 38% respectively.  Catholics are certainly not on the fence when it comes to Trump.

Although Trump's overwhelming support among Republicans is often touted, the poll Post-ABC poll does not show that.  Trump polled at 82% approval among Republicans, which is a far cry from the 94% the President often cites.  Perhaps even more significantly, only 66% of the GOP respondents said they "strongly" approve of the President.

When it comes to self-identified conservatives, Trump's approval is 73% and only 57% of those conservatives say they strongly approve of Trump.  This is consistent with my position that, although the media constantly portrays Trump's actions and words as "conservative," many long-time conservatives, like myself, do not at all agree with that characterization.

While it is still early, I don't buy the assumption that these numbers are fluid.  The polling seems pretty set in stone.  What is not set in stone though is turnout.  Trump is obviously counting on that his GOP base will turn out and Democrats, and independents who have turned strongly against Trump after the 2016 election, will not go to the polls.  I wouldn't bet on it.  While Republicans did turn out exceptionally well in 2018, so did the Democrats.  That mid-term election, which Trump portrayed as a referendum on himself, resulted in the GOP getting thrashed at the polls.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why are NRSC Campaign Resources Being Used to Sell a Senator's Books?

The last few days, I've received in my email inbox solicitations to buy Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton's new book "Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery."   What I found perplexing is that the solicitation came from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, an entity which bills itself as "the only national organization solely devoted to strengthening the Republican Senate Majority and electing Republicans to the United States Senate." Why in the world is an officially established party political action committee involved in a non-political activity, i.e. selling books?

When I dug into the NRSC website, I found an entire page devoted to selling Cotton's books.  It would appear that by making a large enough "contribution" ($35 or more) to the NRSC, one can receive a Cotton book.  By the way, one can buy a hard cover copy of the book on Amazon for $14.49.  The fact that hard cover copies of the book are priced that low on the open market suggests they were not selling.  That might have been the reason, Cotton turned to the NRSC to sell his books. 

But how does the arrangement work?  Did Cotton donate his books to the NRSC to sell?  Or did the NRSC buy a bunch of Cotton books that it is now hawking on its website and in GOP emails?   Or is the NRSC selling the books for Cotton on consignment?   Is Cotton personally profiting off the sale of these "Sacred Duty" books?  Is the NRSC splitting profits with Cotton?

I would note that although political resources are being used to sell Cotton's book, Sacred Duty, the book is applauded for keeping politics out of the book.  Apparently politics though is not being kept out of the selling of those books.

It could well be legal.  But being an attorney and somewhat knowledgeable about the restrictions on campaign expenditures, the arrangement raises major red flags.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Media Advisory: Hearing on Independent Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate's Exclusion from the Ballot

Date:               Thursday (Today), August 29, 2019

Time:               Beginning at 2 p.m. (Each side is allotted ½ hour)

Location:         Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse, 46 E. Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN, Courtroom 344

Contact Person:        Paul K. Ogden
                                    317-728-6084 (cell phone)
                                    317-297-9720 (home office

            On Tuesday, November 5, 2019, Indianapolis voters will go to the polls to elect a Mayor to serve for the next four years.  As things stand now, Indianapolis voters will be limited to casting a vote for Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett or his Republican challenger State Senator Jim Merritt.

            Businessman John Schmitz felt Indianapolis voters should have more options than the Democratic and Republican nominee, which two candidates were hand-picked by party bosses during endorsement conventions proceeding the primary.  Schmitz filed to run as an independent candidate
John Schmitz
for Mayor.  To qualify for the ballot, Indiana law requires that Schmitz obtain signatures of a certain percentage of Marion County registered voters.  Working tirelessly, Schmitz and his campaign team obtained 8,295 signatures of Indianapolis voters on petitions submitted to the Clerk’s Office. 

            The Marion County Democratic and Republican parties though have a long history of using Indiana’s petition requirement to exclude candidates and limit the right of Indianapolis voters to choose someone other than Democrats and Republican candidates preferred by party bosses.  Schmitz experienced this first-hand when the Marion County Election Board[1] voted 3-0 to disallow thousands of voter signatures Schmitz had obtained, leaving him 749 short of the required 6,106 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

            Schmitz, through his attorney Mark Small, filed for relief with the Southern District of Indiana.  (See attached “Complaint and Request for Preliminary Injunction”.)  Today, at 2 pm, Judge Tanya Walton-Pratt will be conducting a hearing on Schmitz’s request for injunctive relief, i.e. to be placed back on the ballot.

             Marion County party bosses should not be permitted to use Indiana’s petition requirement to exclude candidates from the ballot and limit voter choices.  Indianapolis voters deserve better.  The hearing today presents a very important principle that is a matter of considerable public concern and interest.  I hope you will consider attending the hearing and covering the issue.

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[1] In Indiana, county election boards have three voting members, including the County Clerk and an appointee of the county Democratic and Republican chairman.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Indianapolis Traffic Becomes Dreadful as Bus Red Line Swallows Up Critical Travel Lanes

I drive on Indianapolis downtown city streets often.  I also go to Broad Ripple, about once a week, to catch up with a friend.

Those experiences have changed dramatically this summer.  The last several weeks, I've found myself snarled in long traffic jams on downtown streets, waiting through multiple several cycles of the traffic line before I can move through an intersection.    As far as getting to Broad Ripple, especially from downtown... well forget about that.  Heading north on College Avenue toward Broad Ripple at the end of the day, traffic is backed up literally for as much as a mile.  
Welcome to the Red Line, Indianapolis new rapid transit system, which employs an all electric bus system. 

In implementing  the Red Line, several travel lanes are now dedicated to those buses and verboten for drivers to drive in.  The city has already lost a lot of travel lanes due to the addition of bike lanes before the city's leaders decided to take away more travel lanes.

College Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares by which people head to and from the Broad Ripple area, is one of the streets greatly impacted by the Red Line.  With the new bus system removing two of the lanes, there are only two lanes remaining for the north/south traffic on the road.  Needless to say, College Avenue backs up with an endless parade of cars during rush hour.   The obvious location for the Red Line heading to/from the Broad Ripple area was Keystone Avenue instead of the much more narrow, and residential, College Avenue.  But more money was to be made for developers on College Avenue so that is of course where the bus lanes were located. In Indianapolis, the interest of the city's taxpayers always take a back seat to developers whose ambitions are often funded by those same taxpayers.  And, of course, those developers are all too willing to kick back taxpayer money to the politicians in the form of campaign donations that keep the cycle going.

Part of the allure of the Red Line is that the all electric buses will have zero emissions and, thus, be better for the environment.  (Let's ignore for now the obvious counterpoint that emissions are involved in creating the electricity to run the buses.)  How exactly is the environment made better by greatly increasing the amount of time Indianapolis commuters are stuck in idling cars that are pumping out carbon monoxide as they wait through endless cycles of traffic lights?

The developers of the Red Line argue that, if our bus system is much better, Indianapolis commuters will park their cars and ride the bus instead.  That strategy is called "build it and they will come" approach and it never works.  Mass transit has to be designed to meet demand, not to create it.

Problems with Indianapolis traffic, post Red Line, could have been a major issue for Indianapolis voters when they go to the polls in November.  Yet, Republican mayoral candidate State Senator Jim Merritt, desperate for traction in the increasingly Democratic city, can't bring himself to raise the issue.  Merritt has spent more time talking about food deserts than the city's worsening traffic.  The result is Mayor Joe Hogsett does not have to defend the bus line to Indianapolis voters frustrated that their commutes are now considerably longer.

When it comes to whether taxpayers should subsidize economic development and, in doing so, making the corporate interests wealthier, the leadership of both political parties always line up to stick it to the taxpayers.  Make no mistake about it, the Red Line is all about corporate welfare.  The losers are Indianapolis taxpayers and commuters who drive in the city.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Today's Polls Bring Good News for Bernie Sanders, Bad News for Elizabeth Warren

A couple polls today give the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign some hope.
Sen. Bernie Sanders

A Gravis poll of New Hampshire, puts the Vermont Senator in first place.  Sanders comes in at 21% in that poll, while former Vice President Joe Biden is six points behind at 15%.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the only other candidate in double figures at 12%.

That is the first New Hampshire poll in which Sanders has led in since April.  Biden and Sanders are the only Democratic candidates who have led New Hampshire polls this year.

Then you have the Politico/Morning Consult poll.  While Biden is at 33% in that poll, Sanders is a solid second place at 20%, well ahead of Warren at 12%.  Again, no other candidates are in double figures.

Media types for months have been touting the "surging" Warren candidacy, a claim that is usually accompanied by a contention that Sanders' prospects are floundering.  In the real world, the polls don't show much of that going on at all.  They show only a modest few point gain for Warren during the past several months and Sanders losing little of his supporters to Warren or anyone else.

What I find most interesting is that, despite overwhelming positive media coverage, Warren doesn't appear to be gaining much.  Meanwhile, Sanders' supporters continue to feel the Bern.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

After Trump, America Needs a Nap; Polls Show "Sleepy Joe" Recovered From June Debate Performance

Joe Biden
A few months ago, President Donald Trump coined the nickname "Sleepy Joe" for Joe Biden.  Trump meant it as an insult, that the former Vice President could not match the frenetic, constant news-making that has been the hallmark of the Trump administration.  Meanwhile, Biden's Democratic opponents for President make a similar, albeit more polite, claim.  They advocate for polices that greatly expand the size and role of government.  They argue the 76 year old Biden can't provide the energetic change voters want.

And they would be wrong.  Americans aren't clamoring for new expansive government programs that takes the country closer to socialism.  Americans aren't looking for an energetic leader who leads an administration that is constantly in action, or in Trump's case, turmoil.  Instead Americans are looking for solitude, peace and quiet, a return to normalcy, decency and civility. Not only has the time for Biden to be President not passed him by, this may well be the perfect time for his brand of politics.  After Trump, America needs a nap.

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The polls, even among Democratic partisans, seem to confirm that.  Following July's debate, Biden's poll numbers slipped while California Sen. Kamala Harris, who attacked Biden over his opposition to forced busing (not sure when busing became popular even among "progressives"), gained traction.  A month later, the numbers have reverted to their pre-debate status.  Three polls released today (Emerson, Politico/Morning Consult, The Hill/Harris X) have Biden at 33, 33 and 34 respectively.   Quinnipiac's poll, released yesterday, has Biden at 34.

But Biden's numbers are not the only ones that reverted to the previous norm.  Let's look at the result for the second tier candidates in the Emerson, Politico/Morning Consult, The Hill/Harris X, and Quinnipiac polls:

Sanders: 20, 18, 20, 11
Warren: 14, 13, 12, 15
Harris:  11, 12, 9, 12

Political commentators continue to peddle the narrative that support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren is growing.  The polls just do not show that.  Warren's poll numbers are stagnant and have even dipped some in July.  Harris, meanwhile, is once again struggling to hit double figures.

Although Sen. Bernie Sanders' political obituary has been written by those numerous analysts touting Warren, the fact remains that Sanders remains a modest few points ahead of Warren in virtually every poll.  The good news for Sanders is that he is fending off the challenge from Warren.  The bad news is he appears to have a solid ceiling on his support even among hard core Democratic partisans. 

The nature of news coverage is to promote conflict and to make political races seem more competitive than they actually are.  No doubt the coverage from this week' debate will feature prominently at least one "break out candidate" (remember how Julian Castro was crowned a debate "winner" and new star; his 1% in numerous polls say otherwise), as well as perceived debate winners and losers.  And polls may, briefly, show movement from the debate.  I'm just not convinced there will be a significant long-term change in the polls from this week's debate. 

Bottom line is the Democratic electorate wants to nominate the most electable Democrat and that person is "Sleepy Joe" Biden.