Sunday, December 9, 2018

"Witch Hunt" to Finally End on January 3rd

The Hill reports on the end of the witch hunt:
The Democrat poised to lead the House Judiciary Committee next year says he has no intention of continuing the GOP-led investigation into FBI and Jusice Department (DOJ) decisionmaking during the 2016 election.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who stepped outside of the ongoing closed-door interview

with former FBI Director James Comey, told reporters Friday that he plans to end the probe come January. 
"Yes, because it is a waste of time to start with," Nadler said in response to a question about whether he would end the probe. Nadler characterized the Republican investigation
as a political sideshow that aims to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. 
"The entire purpose of this investigation is to be a diversion of the real investigation, which is Mueller. There is no evidence of bias at the FBI and this other nonsense they are talking about," he continued.
Amen. The good men and women of the FBI have been just trying to do their jobs and did not need the attack on their professionalism and integrity by "Republicans" doing the bidding of a President desperately trying to obstruct justice.  The claim that FBI was acting to prevent Donald Trump's from getting elected never made a lick of sense since the agency had kept completely under wraps an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign until the election was over, while very publicly discussing, right up until the election, the status of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. The polls showed a significant drop in Hillary Clinton's support after then FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation just a week or so before the election.  Instead of constantly attacking Comey, Trump should be thanking Director Comey for helping him get elected President.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Indianapolis Council Leadership Proposes Parking Meter Extended Hours; Most of Money Will Go to Private Vendor

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

A proposal from City-County Council Democrats seeks to raise about $1 million annually by extending the hours in which parking meters charge fees throughout Indianapolis. The extra funds would be used to pay for more street-sweeping and efforts to tackle homelessness. 
The proposal would standardize the times when parking meters charge fees across the
Picture from IndyParking.com
city. It also would lengthen the times in which fees are collected on certain days and impose fees on Sundays. 
If the plan is passed, all parking meters would charge fees from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Wednesdays, and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. And, on Sundays, charges would be in effect from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parking on Sundays currently is free. 
Right now, meters in the city don't charge fees any later than 9 p.m. and most of them are free after 6 p.m. The city has about 3,800 metered spaces.
The proposal would do away with the city’s current parking meter zones, which all have different hours during which fees are charged. The downtown core and Broad Ripple zones have the fewest hours during which parking is free.
Nowhere in the article is it even mentioned that, in 2011, Indianapolis privatized its parking meters.  Under that contract, 70% of parking meter revenue goes to a private company, ACS, doing business as ParkIndy.  The parking meter privatization contract is a relic of the Mayor Greg Ballard-era, a period of time when city government seemed hell-bent on funneling taxpayer money to politically-connected companies.   

Admittedly it has been a long-time since I looked at the ACS contract but I do not recall an exception to the 70% for ACS, 30% for the City share breakdown for extended hours.  The contract does provide that once certain income threshholds are reached that the breakdown will become 60-40 in favor of the city, but because those levels are so high and an inflation adjustment is included, it is doubtful that the 60-40 split will ever be reached.

I have written about the Indianapolis-ACS parking meter contract several times before.  Here is one from August of 2011 in which I discuss the 70%-30% breakdown:

In reviewing the ACS (i.e. "ParkIndy") parking contract with the City, I uncovered another trick.  The contract has it set up so the split is 30% for the City, 70% for ACS.  But when a certain monthly income is reached is reached it becomes a much more favorable 60%-40% split in favor of the City.  This was a factor that the Ballard administration used to sell the contract to a skeptical public.
The problem is if you look at the numbers closely, and examine the current parking meter revenue numbers, you would know the monthly threshold necessary to hit the favorable 60%-40% second tier will never be reached.
According to Schedule 2.1 of the contract, there must be a monthly parking meter revenue of  $583,333 to advance to the second tier 60-40 split.  (The 60-40 split only applies to revenue above the first tier.) The drafters of the contact used a monthly income of $825,000 to construct an example of how much the City would earn with the $583,333 first tier in place.
The estimate is misleading at best, phony at worst.   For the four months from March through June of 2011, the total reported revenue was $1,660,910 or an average of $415,227.50 monthly.  That figure is nowhere near the amount needed to reach the second tier.  
But as the rates increase, the second tier target will be hit, right?  Nope, it is a moving target. As of January 1, 2012 (conveniently after the election), parking rates will rise from $1.00 to $1.50 an hour.  At that point increases are tied to inflation increases as measured by the Consumer Price Index.  But the $583,333 monthly inflation first tier ceiling is also adjusted by the Index.  The 60-40 second tier split will almost certainly never be reached.
Naturally the Republicans on the Indianapolis Council oppose soaking residents further on parking meter rates, especially since most of the money will be going to a private company.  That was sarcasm.  Minority Leader Michael McQuillen, who never saw a tax or fee he didn't want to raise, announced preliminary support for the proposal.  Again, from the IBJ:

The proposal appears to have some bipartisan support. Minority Leader Mike McQuillen told IBJ he was tentatively supportive of the plan but the “devil is in the details.” He said he thought expanding street-sweeping and funding for tackling homelessness initiatives were good ideas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Indiana GOP Chairman Takes a Bow as Hoosier Voters Turn Against Republican Party

This morning Indiana Republican State Chairman Kyle Hupfer sent out an email, essentially patting himself on the back for great success in the 2018 midterms.  The email quotes an article by local political pundit, Brian Howey:
NASHVILLE, Ind. — Indiana Republicans are at their historic apex. They control 107 out of 150 General Assembly seats (and almost all of the rural seats), nine out of 11 congressional offices, and all of the Statehouse constitutional positions. The maps drawn in 2011 make Democratic gains (only four seats in the General  
Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer
Assembly) virtually impossible as we saw in this wave election year.
Beyond the big cities, Republicans hold a majority of city and county offices across the state....
The verdict of Hoosier voters earlier this month to deny U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly a second term essentially renders Indiana as a one-party state, from a functional standpoint.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer preside over this cascading exhibition of absolute power. 
For Hupfer, Mike Braun’s dispatching of Donnelly was the culmination of a two-year effort that reached across multiple platforms, party entities and campaigns. 
“Not only did we have good funding, we had early funding where we could really build up that infrastructure over the state for well over a year,” Hupfer said in a Howey Politics Indiana interview.
I know I overuse the phrase, but Chairman Hupfer is whistling as he walks by the graveyard. No doubt Hupfer should be given credit for the Indiana GOP not taking it on the chin as badly as the party did in other states.  And Hupfer too shares much of the credit for Braun's win over the incumbent Senator Democrat Joe Donnelly.  But the Howey piece goes beyond that, claiming the Indiana GOP is at an "historic apex."   A closer look at the numbers though reveals that the Indiana GOP losing voters as races grow tighter.  The "historic apex" is in the past. 

A critical part of political analysis is to examine how the "base vote" changes over time.  The base vote is measured by looking at who is winning the low profile races and by how much.  The base vote represents the default for voters.  In low profile races in which few voters actually know anything about the candidates, they tend to vote the party that best represents their views.  Another aspect of base vote that is critical is that apples are compared to apples, oranges to oranges.  Because turnout, usually, fluctuates widely from presidential elections to mid-terms, a comparison of base vote focuses on similar elections.

I have already documented the astonishing decline of the GOP margin in populous Hamilton County which contains the northern suburbs of Indianapolis.  Trump was the least popular GOP candidate in Hamilton County in 2016 and the GOP numbers continued to slide in that county in 2018.  Many races in Hamilton County are just a stone's throw away from being won by Democrats.  That was unheard of before the Trump era began in 2016.  

The trend in well-to-do Hamilton County is not a surprise, however.  In wealthy suburbs across the country, voters are leaving the GOP in droves.  Hamilton is by far the most populous of the Indianapolis doughnut counties.  The substantial rural nature of the other doughnut counties just means those counties will stay a deeper shade of red longer than Hamilton County.  But it certainly doesn't mean the movement away from the GOP is not happening in those counties too.  It is.

But perhaps the rural Indiana counties are offsetting the Trump era GOP decline in Marion County (Indianapolis) and the suburbs?  No, they are not.  Let's take a look at the statewide base vote.  A good race to look at is State Auditor as nine voters out of ten could not tell you anything substantive about the candidates for State Auditor even if they could identify the candidates without a ballot.  People typically vote their party when they vote for State Auditor.  

This month, Republican Tera Klutz won  the State Auditor's race with 55.5% of the vote.  The Democrat Joselyn Whitticker received 41.0%.  (The Libertarian candidate received the balance.)  That is a 14.5% win.  Definitely a comfortable margin.

Actually a much less comfortable margin.  In 2014, State Auditor candidate Republican Suzanne Crouch (who left that position to become Lt. Governor) received 59.6% of the vote versus the Democrat who finished with 36.0%.  The margin between the two candidates was 23.6%.  Between 2014 and 2018, the Republican base vote victory margin over the Democrats shrank by 9.1 points. 

Certainly Indiana Republican statewide candidates can afford to lose a few points in mid-term elections, but presidential election years are a different story.  In 2016, Indiana Republicans won the Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction races by 5.9% and 6.8% respectively.  If Trump continues to drive suburban Republicans away from the party as he did in 2018, Hoosier Democrats are well within reach of winning statewide races in 2020, including the biggest prize, Governor.

I won't even get into the scores of state legislative races, especially in the suburbs, that are suddenly competitive for Democrats.  Although few GOP incumbents were beaten this election, that does not mean the Democrats haven't gained substantial ground.  They have.

I would close by noting that Indiana is not an aberration. The notion that "the red states are getting redder" in the Trump era, a mantra repeated frequently in the media, is fiction. In the future, I plan to share election results in some of those states which demonstrate voters in even more rural voters are leaving the GOP in the Trump era, just not as quickly or in the numbers as their suburban counterparts.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Lack of Wave for Democrats Is Anything But Good News for Republicans

In the final congressional race to be decided, incumbent David Valadao clings a lead over his Democratic challenger T. J. Cox in the race for California Congressional District 21.  Some media outlets had projected Valadao the winner on election night, but since then the lengthy counting of absentee and provisional ballots has narrowed Valadao's lead from a few thousand to, as of today, 447.  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight projects that, when the counting is done later this week, Cox will end up the winner.

If Silver is correct, that would mean the Democrats have picked up 40 seats in the U.S. House, an
astonishing achievement especially considering most congressional seats were drawn by Republican state legislatures to ensure GOP representation.  Loss of the 40 seats is the worst performance for the GOP in midterms since 1974, the first election after Watergate when the GOP lost 48 seats.

Some people are calling it a blue wave.  That it was not.  But the fact the vaunted blue wave did not happen is not cause for celebration for the GOP.  Rather it is cause for alarm.

I have seen wave elections during my lifetime.  Most recently there have been Republican waves in 1980, 1994 and 2010.  For the most prominent recent Democratic wave one has to go back to 1974.  Waves are elections in which enthusiastic supporters of one party go to the polls while disillusioned or apathetic members of the other party stay home.  As a result of the skewed turnout, wave elections result in unexpected election victories by second, even third tier, candidates.

Top-notch political analysts such as Silver, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato identified every competitive House race in 2018. There were no wave-type surprise candidates winning districts not identified as competitive by the experts.

Republicans did not stay home in 2018. They came to the polls in droves, matching Democratic enthusiasm.  And while Republican turnout saved GOP control of the Senate (due mostly to a very favorable map), it did not stop the GOP from losing scores of House seats and control of that body to the Democrats.

If the GOP could point to its voters staying home as the reason for the poor midterm election result, that would be a significant problem, but one that could be resolved.  But since Republicans went to the polls and the GOP still got shellacked, the problem is actually much worse. 

The 2018 midterm was not a wave election.  The 2018 was a realigning election.  The election witnessed women and suburbanites abandoning the GOP in droves.  But the defections do not end there.  Exit polls show virtually every demographic group moving away from the Republican Party.  Even the claim that "red states have gotten redder" is mostly a myth.  Baseline GOP numbers are down in those red states, including Indiana which saw a 3 point decline in Republican statewide baseline numbers from 2014 to 2018.  Fortunately for the Indiana Republican Party, there is plenty of cushion for statewide GOP candidates in midterm election.  But Hoosier statewide elections during presidential election years are generally much closer and 3 points could be the difference between a Republican Attorney General and a Democratic one.

What's worse than a wave election?  A realigning election.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Attorney Michael Avenatti Learns the Meaning of "Karma"

California Attorney Michael Avenatti made a name for himself earlier this year by representing Stormy Daniels in a successful effort to end the ridiculous effort by President Donald Trump to enforce a non-disclosure agreement against her to stop the porn star from talking about her tryst with Trump.   In the process, Avenatti destroyed Trump's fixer "attorney" Michael Cohen and exposed as laughable Trump's claim that he paid Daniels $130,000 as hush money despite never having sex with her.  (No, as any attorney will tell you, $130,000 is not the size of a "nuisance" settlement.)

Honestly, besting a third rate attorney like Michael Cohen in court and exposing that Trump was lying
Attorney Michael Avenatti
are not difficult accomplishments.  Avenatti, however, should have quit while he was ahead.  When the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing became a three ring circus of sexual misconduct allegations, Avenatti could not resist the spotlight.  He put forward an additional Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick, a woman who made the bizarre claim that Kavanaugh had made a practice in high school of getting women drunk so they could be gang raped by the future judge and his friends.  

Swetnick's allegation, like that of the lead accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was offered without any actual corroborating evidence.  But in the world of #MeToosuch evidence is not required.  All that is needed is for a man to be accused of wrongdoing by a women.  The movement, in its most extreme form, demands that women always be believed in such situations.  Women, after all, never lie about such things.  Ever.  Avenatti fully signed on to the most extreme elements of the #MeToo movement including the concept that men are always guilty upon the mere assertion of wrongdoing by a woman.

Then Karma intervened into Avenatti's life  Last week came the news that the attorney was arrested for a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, aspiring 24 year old actress Mareli Miniutti.  The allegations are that a drunk Avenatti hit her with pillows and dragged her across the door during a domestic dispute.  Miniutti's claim earned her a preliminary restraining order, but prosecutors found the evidence insufficient to file felony battery charges against Avenatti.  

Avenatti has denied the allegations against him, explaining, I'm trying to be polite here, his girlfriend is not mentally stable and was acting erratically.  Of course such a suggestion is a violation of the #MeToo mandate, i.e. that women's allegations against men must always be accepted at true and a man who attempts to defend himself is merely victimizing the woman again.    

I do not know if Avenatti is guilty or innocent.  (I am though extremely impressed that Avenatti has had not one, but two, ex-wives come forward to vouch for his character and to say that he never did anything remotely violent with them.)   I am comfortable, absent some corroborating evidence to the contrary, with the conclusion that it simply has not been proven that Avenatti violently assaulted Ms. Miniutti.  

Contrary to the assertions of many #MeToo adherents, women do occasionally lie about their encounters with men.  Because it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, it is a matter of fundamental fairness that we assume those accused of sexual misconduct, including allegations of violence, are not guilty unless proven otherwise.  Sadly, that principle was lost on Avennati when he attempted to use Swetnick's bizarre claim to personally derail Kavanaugh's nomination. 

Avenatti now wants to be presumed innocent and to have the right to defend himself against the domestic violence accusation lodged by Ms. Miniutti.  Indeed, Avenatti should be cloaked with a presumption of innocence as well as given the right to vigorously oppose the allegation.  Fundamental fairness dictates no less.  At the end of the day, one can hope he will learn a lesson from the incident, namely that, occasionally, it is the woman lying while it is the man telling the truth.

Avenatti needs to learn another lesson as well.  Clients often lie to their attorneys.  A lot.  Most attorneys learn that early in their careers and thus take a much more reserved approach than Avenatti has in their representation of clients.   That is why more seasoned attorneys learn to say "my client alleges she was attacked by X" instead of "my client was attacked by X."   Don't ever go out on a limb for a client, vouching personally for the things the client is claiming.

Oh, and do not ever tempt Karma because Karma will always win in the end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ivanka Trump Uses Private Email for Government Business, Flunks Hypocrisy 101

USA Today reports:

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior advisor Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of messages to government officials last year using a personal email account, the latest member of the president’s inner circle to face questions about private emails.
White House officials learned of Trump’s extensive use of a personal email address because they were gathering documents to respond to a public records lawsuit, according to a story Monday in The Washington Post. The Post cited unnamed sources familiar with an examination of her correspondence.
A spokesman for Trump’s attorney confirmed to USA TODAY that the president’s daughter “sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family. The spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said Ivanka Trump used the address “until the White House provided her the same guidance they had to others.”
Ivanka Trump needed "guidance" to know government officials are not supposed to use a private email account for government business?  Did she sleep through the "Lock Her Up" chants during her father's presidential campaign rallies?  Hillary Clinton illegally used a private email server to conduct government business which, Donald Trump insisted, made her not only unqualified for office, but someone who should be prosecuted.

Ivanka's attorney Abbe Lowell insists that no classified information was included in the emails and that all of the relevant ones have been turned over.  That is exactly the position Hillary Clinton took as to her emails.  Even if true, it is still a violation of the public record keeping law to use a private email for public business.

It should be noted that Ivanka set up this private joint email account with her husband, Jared, after her father's election.   It was not a long time email account she was using for convenience sake.   It could well have been established before starting public service, just as Hillary's email was, to avoid public scrutiny of her work in government.

On the Morning Joe show this morning, the position taken by hosts and panelists is tha, even though Ivanka is a smart woman, she is ignorant of how government works and thinks she is above the law with which other people have to comply.  I agree the Trump family members have repeatedly demonstrated that they believe they are above the laws that apply to everyone else.  I do not, however, agree with the premise, i.e. that Ivanka is a smart woman.  One thing that Donald Trump and his siblings, Ivanka, Don, Jr. and Eric, have demonstrated beyond any doubt is that they are not the sharpest tools in the shed. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Is the Future of Hamilton County (Indiana) Republican Party Like Orange County's (California) GOP's Present?

Logo from Hamilton County Dem's Facebook Page
Orange County, California, has long been a famously Republican county.  Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the county is home to over 3 million residents.  The wealthy residents of the county have long favored conservative Republican politics.  Orange County had not voted for a Democrat for
President since 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt's first re-election bid.  That string ended in 2016, when Donald Trump lost the county to Hillary Clinton by 5 points.

If anyone thinks Trump won't hurt the GOP brand, one only need look at the 2018 election results in Orange County.  The still concluding slow count of midterm vote, shows Democrats wiping out GOP congressional incumbents based in Orange County.  But it is not just federal candidates.  Other races in Orange County show the former Republicans now voting Democrat in scores of other races.  Low profile California Democrat statewide candidates are suddenly winning in Orange County.   The party baseline has shifted.

Indiana does not have an Orange County.  But we have a mini-Orange County: Hamilton County.  Located directly north of Indianapolis, Hamilton County is home to over 300,000 residents.  Hamilton, like Orange County, has a large number of wealthy, highly educated residents.  Republicans have held virtually every office in Hamilton County for decades.  That is about to end.

In 2016, Donald Trump ran as the most unpopular candidate on the Hamilton County GOP ballot.  It was also the first election in which the Hamilton County Democratic Party showed a pulse, fielding scores of general election challengers.  While Hamilton County Republicans won those races in 2016, it is notable that the Democratic baseline went from virtually non-existent to 30%.  

In 2018, the Hamilton County Democratic Party fielded even more candidates and did even better.  An analysis of election results show Democrats with a 40% baseline in the county.  A closer look at the election results, show scores of local Democrats knocking on the door to elected office.  For example, in the Clay (home to Carmel) Township Trustee race, the Democratic candidate received 43% of the vote.  The Democrat in Trustee Township race in Delaware Township (Fishers) also garned 43% of the vote in a race in which the Republican won by only 1,827 votes.

The 2018 midterm featured Republican Mike Braun winning by 6 points over incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly.  In 2012, Democrat Donnelly had defeated State Treasurer Richard Mourdock also by 6 points.  So Braun is clearly a more popular candidate than Mourdock was.  Yet in Hamilton County, Braun in 2018 received only 52% of the Senate vote.  Mourdock running in Hamilton County, pre-Trump, received 54%.  Braun's strategy of lashing himself to Donald Trump might have worked in rural Indiana, but clearly not in suburban Hamilton County.

At the pace the Democrats are on, it is only a few more elections before the Democrats are capturing elected office in the most populous portions of Hamilton County, Carmel and Fishers.  And it is maybe only a few more elections after that that Democrats are winning county-wide in Hamilton County.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Victory Margins for Indiana GOP Congressional Candidates Fall in 2018

Normally a political analyst would not compare a presidential election to a mid-term because they have dramatically different turnouts.  Tuesday's mid-term turnout rivaled that of a presidential election, so a comparison is possible so I decided to look at Indiana's congressional races 2016 v. 2018.  Here is a table with the information I gathered:

District
Winning 2018 Candidate
2016 Winning Margin
2018 Winning Margin
GOP Vote Margin Decline
1st
Visclosky (D)
N/A (No R candidate)
34.8%
N/A
2nd
Walorski (R)
22.3
9.6
-12.7
3rd
Banks  (R)
47.1
29.4
-18.3
4th
Baird  (R)
34.1
28.2
-3.9
5th
Brooks  (R)
27.2
13.4
-13.8
6th
G. Pence (R)
30.9
42.4
-11.5
7th
Carson (D)
24.3
29.8
-5.5
8th
Buschon (R)
32.0
28.8
-3.2
9th
Hollingsworth (R)
13.7
13.0
-.7


The smallest GOP decline came in the mostly rural 9th Congressional district located in the southern part of the state.  The fact Hollingsworth held onto that district by approximately the same margin as 2016 despite having a well-funded challenger who was constantly on television is significant. 

Congressman Jim Banks saw his margin trimmed the most, losing 18.3% on his winning margin in CD 3.  However, he still won CD 3 by nearly 30 points so that district is far from being competitive.

In CD 2, Republican Jackie Walorski saw her winning margin trimmed from 22.3% to 9.6% . While that seems close, Walorski pre-Trump has experienced closer races in the north central Hoosier district.

As I predicted, CD 5, the central Indiana district held by Republican Susan Brooks, was significantly closer in 2018 than 2016.  Brooks’ 2016 winning margin in the Indianapolis suburban district was nearly cut in half.  With just a 13.4% winning margin on Tuesday, continued GOP weakening in the northern Indianapolis suburbs could put the district into play.

In the one Indiana Democratic congressional district with an available comparison, the 7th District based entirely in Indianapolis, the Republican losing margin increased from 24.3% to 29.8%. 

What undoubtedly has allowed Hoosier Republican members of Congress to avoid the fate of many of their losing colleagues is that every Republican district in Indiana has a substantial amount of rural area in it.  Further, instead of using the Indianapolis’ suburbs to create a single congressional district, several congressional districts were drawn to cut into the Indianapolis suburbs.   The result is that GOP congressional incumbents avoided the election night loss experienced by many of their colleagues.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Republicans On Track to Lose 35 U.S. House Seats, Worst GOP Mid-Term Election Result Since Watergate

No doubt President Trump and his delusional band of supporters woke up Wednesday morning thinking the President had "won" his first mid-term.  Certainly the GOP picking up as many as 3 seats in the U.S. Senate is something for Republicans to celebrate.  And Trump especially deserves credit for apparent GOP Senate and Governor wins (the races may be subject to a recount) in Florida, the only remaining swing state where Trump remains popular.

But back in the real world, the GOP in 2018 had an extremely favorable Senate map.  The Republican
Party should have been expected to oust Democrats in the several ruby red states that the party did win.  Notably GOP Senate challengers lost two heavily Republicans states - Montana and West Virginia - where Trumpism triumphed in 2016 but failed two years later.

In the U.S. House, Republicans, at last count, have lost 30 seats to the Democrats.  Twelve more congressional districts are still out.  Republicans are projected to lose as many as 35 seats when the counting is all done.  That would top the 32 seats lost by Republicans in President George W. Bush's second midterm in 2006.  In 1974, in the aftermath of Watergate, the Republicans lost 48 seats.

In state legislatures, the Democrats on Tuesday won over 300 Republican-held seats.  (During President Obama's eight year tenure, over 1,000 state legislative seats switched from Democrat to Republican control.  Trump is well on the way of matching that should he be elected to two terms.) Democrats claim the party has taken control of the Colorado Senate, the New York Senate, the Maine Senate, the Minnesota House and both legislative chambers in New Hampshire. The Democrats now have a majority of State Attorneys General.  The Democrats wrested control of the Governor's office from Republicans in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.  While the Democratic gubernatorial candidates polled ahead, albeit slightly, in Ohio, Florida and Georgia, losses in those races did not offset the very good night the Democrats had in other governor races.

Several of my fellow Republicans have been sounding the alarm about the long term damage Trump is doing to the Republican Party, i.e. that he is narrowing the GOP's appeal as he drives young people, women, college graduates, and minorities away from the Party of Lincoln.   That will only get worse as shifting demographics continue to deemphasize the Trump's political base, i.e. less educated white voters.  Certainly the 2018 election results proved our fears about what Trump is doing to the GOP is real.  Will the Trumpers finally wake up to that reality?  I am going out a limb (not) and say "no."

Monday, November 5, 2018

Expect the Unexpected on Election Day

In high school I played baseball with someone who would always warn that in the sport you should "expect the unexpected."  I have never forgotten that phrase.   It didn't make much sense,...but now, decades later, I find it the perfect admonition for what to look forward to in assessing the results of the 2018 midterm elections.

Never before have I seen more races well within the polling margin of error (MOE), even how the media misdefines that term.  To correct a misconception repeated constantly by the media, MOE does not relate to the difference between two candidates' poll numbers.   Rather, MOE is a statistical error range which applies to both candidates' poll numbers.  So a 4 point statistical margin of error actually creates a 8 point, not a 4 point, potential swing.  Nonetheless, MOE is not the major problem with the polls compared with tomorrow's results.  The major problem is the sample taken by the pollsters.  It is extremely challenging for pollsters to create a polling model which matches turnout.  This is particularly true in this election in which it appears we will have heavy turnout by both parties, a rarity in the history of mid-term elections.  But I digress.

Let's make a few predictions anyway, starting with the easy ones.  Only 1/3 of U.S. Senators are up every 2 years and this election cycle the Democrats are faced with a terrible map as the party is defending scores of Democratic seats in Republican states.  I think the most likely scenario is that the GOP picks up 1-2 Senate seats, thus retaining control of that body.  Democrats are slight favorites to pick up Republican Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona.  Clearly the Democratic incumbent is going to lose North Dakota.  Incumbent Bill Nelson probably will eek out a very close election win in Florida due to the popularity of the Democratic nominee for Governor Andrew Gillum.  Republicans have an excellent shot at winning in Missouri and Montana.  I think Donnelly will narrowly survive in Indiana due to modest Republican margins in the Indianapolis suburban doughnut counties.  As far as getting a Democratic Senate majority, the party need to run the table successfully defending the party's incumbents in heavily Republican states, while scoring an upset in Tennessee or Texas.  Those states are probably too Republican for the Democrats to win this cycle.  The untold story is that without building up a big margin in the Senate in 2018 when the map is very favorable, the GOP will almost lose the Senate in 2020 when the map is not as favorable.

In the House, it seems highly likely that the Democrats will finish the night with a majority.  The million dollar question is the number of seats the Democrats will gain.  To gain a majority, the Democrats need a pickup of 23 seats..  I think 30-35 seats would be a good, conservative prediction and the one I'm going with.   Indiana incumbent members of Congress will likely win, though the margins in the 2nd and 9th districts could well be in the single digits.  I'm also keeping an eye on the 5th district which includes the northern Indianapolis suburbs.  I think anti-Trump sentiment in wealthy, highly educated Hamilton County is likely to keep incumbent Republican Susan Brooks numbers down, resulting in a much closer race than in previous elections.

What has nbot gotten the coverage this year, but which, going into redistricting following the 2020 census, is more important than control of the U.S. Congress, are the Governor races.  The Democrats are poised to wrest seize control of Governor mansions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida.  They also have a shot at winning Georgia.  Although those states have Republican legislatures, having a Democrat governor would even the field when it comes to redistricting.

In Indiana, I expect the GOP to lose several seats in the Indiana House and a few in the Indiana Senate.  (I think Mike Delph loses to J.D. Ford in one of those races.)  Both houses of the Indiana legislature are likely to keep large Republican majoritiess.

The statewide races in Indiana, will go Republican, but by reduced margins from what is normal for mid-term elections.

While one should expect the unexpected, tomorrow, there is one thing that is certain as death and taxes:   Donald Trump will claim the outcome, regardless of the result, is a great personal victory for him and any electoral failure is the fault of someone else.  And you can bet too that his Kool-Aid drinking supporters will buy that spin.  Of course, they should not.  Donald Trump has repeatedly said the 2018 midterm is a referendum on him.  If he, in the midst of a soaring economy, loses the House, that should send a message to Republicans everywhere that hate-based politics known as Trumpism is sinking the Republican Party.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Will the Mid-Term Results Finally Cause Republicans to Wake Up to Trump's Electoral Weakness?

To hear President Trump and his his followers tell the story of the 2016 election, Trump proved a champion vote-getter and political messenger, a one-of-a-kind politician whose coattails propelled Republican candidates up and down the ballot to victory.  Trump won his soaring victory with the support of numerous Democrats crossing over to vote Republican for the first time.    Trump is as great a politician as great as Ronald Reagan, they declare, and some suggest even better.  
Pres. Ronald Reagan

Shockingly, the supposedly anti-Trump mainstream media has simply accepted this narrative as true. But the 2016 election results reflect a far different story.

In 2016, 241 Republicans won seats in the United States house. In how many of those districts did Trump run better than the GOP candidates?  24.  In other words, in over 90% of congressional districts, the winning Republican congressional candidates was more popular than Donald Trump. 


Hillary Clinton was, by far, the most unpopular candidate the Democrats ever nominated.  Yet Trump managed to lose the popular vote to her by over 3 million votes.  While Trump won the Electoral College, if just 39,000 votes in three states were switched we'd be talking about President Hillary Clinton facing her first mid-term election.

When Reagan won his landslide victories in 1980 and 1984, he did far better than Donald Trump in running ahead of winning GOP congressional districts..  In 1980, in a three way presidential race (John Anderson ran as an independent and garnered 6.6% of the popular vote), he led 38 of the winning GOP candidates at the polls.  In 1984, Reagan ran ahead of 59 GOP congressional candidates who won their district.

Trump was not a popular Republican on Election Day 2016 and he is even more unpopular today, entering his first mid-term with the lowest favorability rating of any President at this point.  Trump did not lead Republicans to victory in 2016.  He road on the coattails of the popularity of Republicanism and, even more so, the unpopularity of the liberalism of the Democratic Party.  For more popular GOP candidates to tie themselves to an unpopular President spouting racism and hatred, someone deeply hurting the Republican brand with millennials, educated voters and non-whites, is incredibly foolish.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Death of Two Asylum-Seeking Saudi Arabian Women in New York: Murder or Suicide?

You be the judge.  New York Times reports:
A person strolling through Riverside Park last Wednesday afternoon spotted something jarring on the riverbank and called the police. 
There, below a small pier that juts out from the park at 68th Street, lay the bodies of two young women, bound together by duct tape at their waists and ankles. They had not been in the water long, the police said. Clad in similar black leggings and black jackets with fur trim, their bodies bore no obvious signs of trauma. 
By Friday, detectives had learned the women were sisters from Saudi Arabia who lived in Fairfax, Va. 
Rotana Farea was 22; Tala Farea was 16. They had a history of going missing, and they had recently requested asylum in the United States, the police said. 
But beyond that, the circumstances of their deaths have remained a mystery. Investigators have struggled to piece together how two young women from a city more than 250 miles away turned up along Manhattan’s Hudson River shoreline.
A medical examination revealed the sisters had water in their lungs which is an indication that they were alive when they went into the water.  New York Police Department told the media that there is "nothing to suggest ...foul play" was involved and that the women likely committed suicide.  One working theory is that they jumped off the George Washington bridge as part of a suicide pact.  
Suicide by drowning is rare. The body's instinct for survival usually takes over during the long suffocating process involved in drowning.  Very few people who commit suicide want the additonal suffering involved in drowning to end their lives.
No evidence of foul play?  Hmm, how about they were tied together with duct tape?  Do the crack NYPD investigators believe they tied themselves together at water's edge then jumped into the water? And how exactly did they tie themselves together?  Wouldn't there have to be a third person involved?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New Poll Shows Democratic Challengers Competitive in Indiana's Fifth and Ninth Congressional Districts

In my last blog post, I bemoaned the lack of polling in Indiana's congressional districts and said that three of them, the Second, Fifth and Ninth had the potential to be interesting.  Turns out on the very day I posted the article, a polling outfit was concluding polling in two of those districts.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
According to a poll conducted by Change Research, 9th District Congressman Trey Hollingsworth leads his very well funded Democratic challenger Liz Watson 52% to 45%.  That 7 point margin is within the margin of error.

(Note:  The media almost always reports margins of error incorrectly.  If a margin of error on a poll is 4 points, that means a potential 8 point swing as the MOE is on both sides of the numbers.  For example, with a 4 point MOE, a race that is 54R-46D coudl be anywhere from 58R-42D to 50R-50D, thus an 8 point swing on the 4 point MOE.)

A more shocking development is that the polling firm has the Fifth District even closer.  Change Research's poll has Republican Susan Brooks ahead of her cash-starved Democratic challenger Dee Thornton 50% to 44%.  GOP members of Congress in suburban districts are struggling this election cycle due to Trump's unpopularity among well-educated, affluent Republicans.  As the Fifth District is dominated by northern Marion County and wealthy Hamilton County, it makes sense this district could be more competitive than it has in the past..

For some reason Change Research did not poll the Second District race between Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her Democratic opponent, Mel Hall.  It is the only district in Indiana,that political analyst Charlie Cook suggests has an outside chance of being competitive.  Cook has labeled the district as "likely Republican."

The Change Research poll results need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.  As a polling outfit, Change Research's work product is given a C+ rating by the website FiveThirtyEight and the polls conducted by the company don't make the standards to be included in the polls listed by RealClearPolitics, the resource for most political junkies looking for survey results.  While Change Research's online polling technique is relatively new, its C+ rating is still well ahead of the D- grade FiveThirtyEight gives to Survey Monkey, another online pollster regular employed by media outfits.

Monday, October 29, 2018

With Week to Go Before Election, Still No Independent Polling in Indiana U.S. House Races

As a political geek, for months I have been eagerly anticipating poll results in the Indiana congressional races.  While independent polling outfits have conducted surveys in scores of congressional races across the country, there, to date, has been no such polling in the Indiana U.S. house races.

The lack of polling reflects the fact that the experts do not believe any Indiana congressional districts are likely to switch hands a week from tomorrow.  But it is not clear that working assumption is correct.   While Republicans only have two impossible targets for pickups, the Indianapolis-based Seventh Congressional District, based in Indianapolis and the First District, based in Lake County, the
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN)
same is not true of the Democrats do have a legitimate, albeit longshot, chance of picking up one maybe two seats in Indiana. 

In the Second District, Republican Jackie Walorski is facing off against South Bend businessman Mel Hall.  Walorski won the district by just 1% in 2012, but the last two elections has won by 20% plus.  While the district has a lot of Republican-leaning rural area, the urban area in the district is dominated by Democratic-leaning South Bend.  The district has the potential to be much closer this year than in 2014 or 2016.  This is especially true with Hall outraising Walorski $3,028,831 to $2,580,624.

The Ninth District might also prove to be competitive.  Located in the southeastern part of the state, the district is represented by Trey Hollingsworth.  His Democratic opponent, Liz Watson, has outraised Hollingsworth ($1,946,998 to $1,385,135) and has been consistently running ads on Indianapolis TV.  I haven't seen any Hollingsworth ads, but possibly may have missed them.  That district is also serviced by the Louisville and Cincinnati media markets.  While Watson has run a spirited race, the rural area that dominates the Ninth District is the heart of Trump Country.

Although unlikely to be competitive, I would like pollsters would look at the electorate in the Fifth Congressional district which is anchored by Hamilton County and the northern Indianapolis.  Incumbent Republican Susan Brooks won the district by 27 points in 2016 and enjoys a sizable financial advantage over her challenger Dee Thornton.  Brooks raised $1,294,790 for the race while Thornton has only received $175,216.  With a well-funded opponent, the Democrats might have had a legitimate, albeit a long-shot, at competing in the suburban dominated district.  Brooks, after all, has to carry the baggage of Donald Trump in northern Marion and Hamilton Counties where he is not terribly popular.  Of all Republicans appearing on the county-wide ballots in Marion and Hamiltonin 2016, Donald Trump performed the worst.  A well-funded Democrat could have tied Brooks more closely to Trump and, thus, encouraged Republicans to cross over in favor of Thornton.  This race is likely to be closer this time, but without Liz Watson type money Thornton does not have a realistic shot at winning.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Deficit Spending Soars Under Failed Leadership of President Trump, Republican Congress

One of the reasons I became a Republican is that the GOP historically had a more realistic approach to deficit spending, i.e. that absent an economic downturn, the United States should not be spending more than it takes in.  Although Republicans usually fell well short of that philosophy in practice, the need to control deficit spending was at least an organizing principle of the GOP.

Guess that is no longer true.  The Wall Street Journal reports on the soaring deficits under all Republican leadership in Washington, D.C.:
WASHINGTON—The U.S. government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended last month, an unusual development in a fast-growing economy and a sign that—so far at least—tax cuts have restrained government revenue gains.

The deficit totaled $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 17% from $666
billion in fiscal 2017, the Treasury Department said Monday. The deficit is headed toward $1 trillion in the current fiscal year, the White House and Congressional Budget Office said. 
Deficits usually shrink during economic booms because strong growth leads to increased tax revenue as household income, corporate profits and capital gains all rise. Meantime, spending on safety-net programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps tends to be restrained. In the last fiscal year, a different set of forces was at play as economic growth sped up. 
Interest payments on the federal debt and military spendingrose rapidly, while tax revenue failed to keep pace as the Republican tax cuts for both individuals and corporations kicked in. The problem with the tax cuts passed at the end of 2017 is that the decreased revenue was not accompanied by corresponding spending cuts. Instead Congress passed a budget dramatically increasing spending across the board. Then you had the added problem that the tax cuts came during a time when the economy was already experiencing solid growth. A smart move would have been to wait until the inevitable economic downturn to cut taxes, particularly corporate taxes. Instead the tax cuts ended up pouring gasoline onto an economic inferno.

There was no reason to stimulate an already stimulated economy.  We were already at full employment. Now the Federal Reserve is having to raise interest rates to stop inflation from taking root, a byproduct of an overheated economy.  Higher interest rates mean higher deficits.

We are on track to have annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion with a growing economy.  The total national debt is currently closing in on $21.66 trillion dollars.  Interest paid to service the debt is the fourth largest item in the budget and is on the way to becoming the second largest item in a decade or so.

Did I also mention that the Chinese own much of our national debt?  What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Expect First Post-Kavanaugh Poll to Show Republican Braun Surging Ahead of Democrat Donnelly in Indiana

Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Just a prediction, but I fully expect the first post-Kavanaugh poll to show Republican challenger Mike Braun moving several points ahead of the race against Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly.  (Pre-Kavanugh polls had Donnelly up 2-3 points, well within the margin of error.)  I've been saying all summer, that Donnelly was going to win Indiana.  That though was before Judge Justice Kavanaugh happened.  Donnelly, as did all Democratic Senators except Joe Manchin, voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation.

While Democrats continue to look strong in House races, Republicans Senate candidates are surging in the polls.  This morning, an Emerson poll showed Republican Dean Heller, the most vulnerable incumbent Republican in the Senate, up 7 points.  The most recent polling of the next most vulnerable Republican seat, the one vacated by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who didn't seek re-election, show the Republican Martha McSally up 6 points. Democratic efforts to take Republican seats in Tennessee and Texas appear to be falling apart post-Kavanaugh, as Republicans now have double digit leads in both states.  Meanwhile, in North Dakota, the most vulnerable incumbent Heidi Heitkamp trails by 12 points.

Still waiting on post-Kavanaugh polls in Missouri and Indiana, but I expect the Republican candidates in both states to have moved ahead.  If the Kavanaugh-impact holds on for the next three weeks, I look for the GOP not only to continue control of the Senate, but to pick up as many as three additional seats.

The 2018 election was well on its way to being a referendum on President Donald J. Trump's first two years in office.  The historically unpopular President Trump agreed to the notion of his first (and hopefully only) mid-term being a referendum on his term in office.  And it was not going well for Republicans.  Not only was the GOP poised to lose as many as 40 seats in the House, they even faced the possibility of losing the Senate despite having an incredibly favorable map.

Then Brett Kavanaugh happened.   The President is simply wrong when he says Kavanaugh was "proven innocent."  The fact is we simply don't know what happened 36 years ago.  But to many, people it was seen, rightfully so, as a left-wing attempt at 11th hour character assassination to stop the appointment of a well-qualified justice to the Supreme Court.   A lot of people, even many women, are offended by the notion that a man who is accused of sexual misconduct for something that happened decades earlier should be assumed to be guilty, even without corroborating evidence.   They were likewise turned off by the mobs of people (including some who were paid by left-wing groups) who descended on the Washington, D.C. to ambush Republican members of Senate in an attempt to create viral video moments.  The strategy backfired, big time.

As a conservative Republican, I am embarrassed every single day that Donald J. Trump is the leader of my party and has inherited the legacy of Ronald Reagan.  As was proven yesterday during the 60 Minutes interview, Trump is incredibly ignorant and lacks the temperament and judgment to be President.  You could walk into any downtown Indianapolis building, after hours, find a janitor cleaning the place, and that person would be better suited to be President of the United States than one Donald J. Trump.

But the fact that we have in office, thanks to my Republican Party the most unqualified President in history, doesn't make the Democrats right about the issues or that any tactics are okay in the pursuit of victory.  The Democrats were spectacularly wrong in how they handled the Kavanaugh appointment and the polls reflect that.

Three weeks remain to return the mid-term election to being a referendum on Trump instead of on the Democratic Party policies and tactics.  That, however, may not be enough time to save several Democratic Senate candidates, including Indiana's Joe Donnelly.