Friday, July 29, 2022

J6 Committee Uncovers Details on Trump's Refusal to Take Action to Stop Violent Insurrection He Helped Foment

On the days leading up to January 6th, then President Trump urged his supporters to come to Washington, DC to confront Congress which that day was counting on electoral college votes which would confirm Joe Biden won the election.  On January 6th, President Trump knew many of his supporters were armed and he asked that metal detectors be removed so they could advance on the Capitol with those arms.  Trump also knew that the mob he had instigated was primed to hang Vice President Mike Pence for not overriding throwing out the electoral college as invalid.  Trump not only didn't discourage the mob from killing the Vice President, by his words he encouraged it.  

As the Capitol was violently assaulted, and the lives of members of Congress, their staff, hundreds of police officers and others were endangered, Donald Trump for over three hours ignored pleas from staff members and family to take action to stop the violence.  Instead Trump sat in his dining room making calls to members of Congress to try to get them to stop the electoral count so his fake elector scheme would have time to play out.  It took Pence, stepping in to act as de facto President, to take action to stop the mob that day.     

In response to the damning evidence uncovered by the J6 Committee regarding Trump's inaction, Trump on June 6th released a statement that he had "suggested & offered" up to 20,000 National Guard troops be deployed to Washington, DC, ahead of January 6 claiming it was because he felt "that the crowd was going to be very large."   This continued claim caused the J6 Committee to release video of acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller's testimony in which he said Trump had issued no such order.  Once again, as he had done thousands of times during his presidency, Trump was lying to the American people.

While I'm deeply skeptical that Merrick Garland's Justice Department will prosecute Trump for his obvious criminality, there should be consensus that, given Trump's refusal to do anything to protect our government from violent attack, that the former President should not be allowed anywhere near power again.  It is, nearly two years after Trump fomented a violent insurrection to overturn the results of a free and fair election, that some people in my party still want to put that criminal wannabee back in the White House.  

Finally, I would end with this observation.  When he was elected in landslides in 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan led the Republican ticket, beating out virtually every other Republican candidate in the country.  When Trump ran for President in 2016 and 2020, he accomplished the opposite. Trump was so unpopular almost every Republican candidate in the country received more votes than he did.  Trump clearly lost the 2020 election because Republican-leaning voters reject him in favor of Biden in swing states.  If he would have just held the Republican base vote, Trump would still be President.  Trump is what political scientists call a loser.  Time for Republicans to move on from that fool.

OOP's short takes:

  • Abortion rights group should be give Indiana Secretary of State Rokita an award.  With the abortion issue being returned to the states, there is nothing they would have liked more than making the abortion issue be about denying the procedure to 10 year old rape victims.  In steps Rokita who gives them exactly what they want.   Even if Rokita's investigation uncovers misdeeds by the Hoosier abortion doctor, the political narrative has been lost.  Rokita's maneuvering on this issue is the dumbest political moves since...
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all Republicans off the J6 Committee.  I know McCarthy was just doing what Trump wanted, but Trump will still put the blame on McCarthy for the debacle of leaving the former President's advocates off the committee.  I'm not convinced his groveling to Trump is going to earn McCarthy the speakership.  Don't be surprised if in 2023 we are hearing about Speaker Elise Stefanik.
  • The website Five Thirty Eight's Senate model how has the Democrats with a 55% chance to take control of the Senate.  Why the dramatic change in the outlook? Because many Trump backed Senate nominees are falling down on the campaign trail.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Republicans are on the Verge of Blowing their Chance to Win a Senate Majority

Given President Joe Biden's historically bad poll numbers and historical trends, it seemed inevitable that Republicans would win control of the House and Senate this November.  Indeed, it is all but a sure thing that the Republicans win the House, probably gaining 20-30 seats.

But the Senate is a different story.   Republicans have nominated, or appear poised to nominate, several flawed candidates that have been pushed by former President Donald Trump.   Polling suggests those candidates are going to struggle to win the general election.  Let's examine:

Arizona:  Like Georgia, Republicans appear to be blowing an easy pick up in Arizona.  Trump is pushing a candidate named Blake Masters to win the GOP primary.  Masters has embraced the Big Lie. But Masters is trailing by 9 points in a matchup against Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.  Democratic Hold.

Georgia:  Former football star Herschel Walker easily won the Republican Primary in late May.  But Walker, who admits to having mental health issues and a history of domestic violence, is not proving popular with Georgia general election voters.  A recent Quinnipiac poll has incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock ahead of Walker by 10 points. The same poll has the governor's race, a rematch between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, as being tied.  Republicans' golden opportunity to pick up a seat in Georgia may be slipping away.  Democratic Hold.

Iowa:  As I said in another column, I don't think it's a slam dunk that 89 year old Charles Grassley wins a 9th term in the Senate.  Democrats managed to do something right by nominating Mike Franken, a three star Navy Admiral, to face him.  Three polls show Franken within single digits of Grassley.  If President Biden's popularity improves before election day, that will help candidates like Franken.  Republican Hold.

Ohio:  The Republicans could have nominated a worse candidate than JD Vance, but they could have also nominated someone better.  The scant polling shows Vance slightly ahead of Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan who is very much in the mold of the other Democrat Sherrod Brown, the other Ohio Senator who does exceedingly well with working class voters.  Vance's extreme position on abortion (he compared abortion to slavery and doesn't seem to even support traditional exceptions - rape, incest, life of the mother to a ban on the procedure), could sink him in Ohio which is filled with lots of suburban voters.  Republican Hold.

Missouri:   Given the political climate favoring Republicans, it should be a slam dunk for the GOP to hold the seat of retiring Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.  But Missourians Republicans seem intent of nominating former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens.  Greitens, allegedly, took naked bondage pictures of his hairdresser that he threatened to share on the internet if she ever exposed his affair with her.  The hairdresser also claimed Greitens forced her to have oral sex and later slapped her and knocked her to the floor.  The prosecutor filed felony invasion of privacy charge against then Governor Greitens, but then dropped the charge when the photo relied on for the charge couldn't be located.  Nonetheless, the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature felt there was sufficient evidence to proceed with impeachment in a special session that ultimately resulted in Greitens resigning.   Greitens has a narrow lead in his bid to win the GOP nomination for Senate.  Nominating him though would give Democrats a solid chance for a pickup in what has increasingly become a very red state.  Republican Hold.  

Nevada:  This is turning out to be maybe Republicans' best chance to pick up a Democratic seat.  Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is facing Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro.  To win the primary Laxalt touted his endorsement by former President Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump, Jr.   But now he's finding those big name Trumpers hurt him when it comes to winning support from Nevada's independent voters in a general election.  Democratic Hold.

New Hampshire:  There has not been any polling done in the state since April.  In polls conducted before that, Democratic Maggie Hassan has led her likely Republican opponent Donald Bolduc by single digits.  Bolduc who, as Brigadier General served ten tours in Afghanistan, is having to go hard Trumpy to secure the September primary nomination.   That may cripple him for the general election in blue leaning New Hampshire.  Democratic Hold.

North Carolina:  Polls have former Congressman Tedd Budd with a 3 to 5 point lead over former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.   While I expect Budd will win the race and keep the seat, currently held by Richard Burr, in the GOP column, it is shocking that Beasley is competitive in this red-leaning state in what should be a great Republican year.  Republican Hold.

Pennsylvania:  This state looks to be a disaster for Republicans' hopes of retaking the Senate.  With the endorsement of Trump, New Jersey resident Dr. Oz won the primary.  Trouble is Dr. Oz was disliked by many Republicans. Meanwhile the Democratic nominee, Lt. Governor John Fetterman has strong crossover appeal.  At this point, it seems that Fetterman's biggest opponent is not Dr. Oz but his health.  Democratic Pickup.

Utah:  In Utah, former Republican Evan McMullin is running as an independent against unpopular Republican Senator Mike Lee.  The Democrats chose not to nominate a candidate and have thrown their support behind McMullen.  Polls show Lee has just a 5 or 6 point advantage. While Lee still has to be favored, imagine how interesting it would get if McMullin, a hard core conservative who has never backed Trump, is the deciding vote in a closely divided Senate.  Republican Hold.

Wisconsin:  Senator Ron Johnson is the most unpopular Republican running for re-election in 2022.  Most of the head-to-head polling show Johnson's possible Democratic opponents (the primary isn't until August 9th) running even or ahead of the Johnson.  Still, it's hard to bet against Johnson in what should be a big GOP year.  Republican Hold.

Conclusion: It would appear that the Republicans, by nominating weak Trump-backed candidates, are blowing numerous chances to knock of Democratic Senators.  Republicans will almost certainly lose the Pennsylvania Senate race, leaving them having to pick up two seats to gain a majority.  It looks like New Hampshire and Nevada are the two places where that is most likely to happen.  The chance of Republicans winning the Senate have now fallen below 50%.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Why is the Iowa Senate Race Being Written Off as Not Competitive?

According to the Cook Political Report, the Iowa Senate race is "Solid R".  Larry Sabato's crystal ball says the Senate race is "Safe R."  Politico indicates it is a "Solid R."

Admiral Michael Franken
I don't get it.  Yes, the incumbent Charles Grassley is a fixture in Iowa politics.  He served eight terms in the Iowa House of Representatives, before being elected to the U.S. House for three terms.  From there, Grassley moved on to the Senate where he has served seven six-year terms.  Last year, he announced that he would be running for an eight term in 2022.

Grassley will be 89 years old on Election Day.  If he serves out the full six year term, he will be 95 years old.  According to actuarial tables, an 89 year old man is only expected to live 5.5 more years.

I don't understand why the pundits are so sure this race won't be competitive.  One of the biggest knocks on President Joe Biden, even among Democrats, is his age.  And, at 79, he is ten years younger than Grassley.  I'm pretty sure that many Iowa voters, even Republicans, are going to have misgivings pulling the lever for Grassley knowing the odds are he won't live out his term.  

Rural Iowa though has become more Republican over the years, causing the state to shed its battleground status.  Iowa Democrats though took a pass on the more liberal former Iowa Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer to nominate Michael Franken.   Franken's background is quite impressive.:

Franken was born in Sioux County, Iowa. He was one of nine children. During his youth, Franken worked alongside his father at the Lebanon Farm Shop, working with farm equipment and trucks. When he was 17 years old, Franken began working at Sioux Preme Packing Company to pay for college. He also worked as bar manager, math tutor, bouncer, and as a law firm’s civil engineer. Franken earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree from the College of Physics at the Naval Postgraduate School and professional studies at MIT, UVA’s Darden School of Business, and the Brookings Institute.

Franken was a member of the U.S. Navy. He retired from military service as a three-star admiral in 2017.

Franken worked in a variety of positions in Washington, D.C. He was the first military officer on Senator Ted Kennedy’s staff. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Defense.

There have only between two polls done in Iowa that feature a matchup between Grassley and Franklin.  In a Change Research poll released on April 11th, Grassley led Franken 45-42.  In another Change Research poll, this one released on July 4th, Grassley's lead was nearly identical 49-44. 

The results should be taken with a grain of salt.  Change Research is run by a former Democratic operative and conducts all of its polls online.  However, while online polls have historically been derided as inaccurate, during the 2020 election cycle, they proved themselves as accurate as phone polls, formerly the gold standard for polling accuracy.

Assuming that the polls are accurate, they suggest that Grassley may have a problem. Grassley was below 50% in both polls.  Incumbents who poll below 50% are said to be in trouble because undecided voters tend to break against the incumbent.  This is even more true when the incumbent is extremely known to the voters.  The April poll had 13% undecided while those voters registered at 11% in the July poll.

The Democrats have a three star admiral running against a Republican who will be turning 89 before the next election.  The ads write themselves.  Assuming Franken is able to raise the money, he could well make this a competitive race.  I don't know why the experts are writing it off.

OOP's short takes:
  • I have twice unsubscribed from Trump emails, the latest time about a week ago.  Despite my effort to get off the Trump campaign mailing list, on Tuesday, I received 12 emails from Trump wanting money. 
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham failed in his effort to quash a criminal court subpoena from the Georgia grand jury investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the election results in that state.  That was expected.  Quashing a criminal subpoena is extremely I'm sure his attorneys told him.  Now Graham has a dilemma.  He may well be called upon to answer questions that could implicate him in a crime.  That would leave him with no choice but to claim the 5th.  Not a good look for a sitting U.S. Senator.
  • An analyst with FiveThirtyEight looked at 6 pre-Dobbs and 6 post-Dobbs generic congressional ballot polls and concluded that there was a 3 point swing in favor of Democrats.. A couple more post-Dobbs generic ballot polls just came in so I did an 8 pre and 8 post poll comparison.  That analysis shows a swing of 1.7 in favor of the Republicans.   A caveat though - those two new polls were very favorable for Republicans, showing the GOP with 8 point leads on the generic congressional ballot.  In short, it's too early to know what effect Dobbs reversing Roe will have on the election.  My guess is the decision is going to be helpful to Democrats, but fall far short of the political earthquake they were hoping for.