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“A Bygone Era”: All Politics Aren’t Local Anymore

Sometimes changes that affect our politics are subtle and therefore, easily missed. Paul Kane has identified how one of those changes is affecting members of the Senate who are running for re-election.

After nearly 12 years in the Senate, North Carolina Republican Richard Burr holds a dubious distinction: a lot of people in his home state don’t know if he’s any good at his job…

Burr is not alone among potentially vulnerable incumbents with low name recognition in key states that will decide which party controls the Senate in 2017. Of the 25 least known senators, ten are running for re-election — nine of them Republican — as relative unknowns, with roughly 30 percent of their voters unable to form an opinion of them. That list includes Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Kane suggests that the reason these incumbents are so unknown among their constituents is that partisans tend to get their news from ideologically driven outlets while local news has all but disappeared.

Overall, there are more reporters covering Congress than ever, except they increasingly write for inside Washington publications whose readers are lawmakers, lobbyists and Wall Street investors. A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year found that at least 21 states do not have a single dedicated reporter covering Congress.

That is a story John Heltman wrote about here at the Washington Monthly in an article for the Nov/Dec 2015 edition titled: Confessions of a Paywall Journalist.

Kane goes on to talk about the two options Senators have used to overcome this lack of name recognition. First of all – money talks.

“We go six years with no coverage,” Burr said in an interview this week, lamenting the fading interest in his state’s congressional delegation. “So it’s like you weren’t here for six years. Your name ID drops into the 40s.” Run $5 million in ads, he said, “it pops right back up to the 80s.”

Secondly, “iconoclasts stand out.”

After little more than three years in elected office, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has reached near saturation level with Bay State voters, with just 12 percent having no opinion of the liberal firebrand. Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey (D) — an institution in Massachusetts politics after 37 years in the House and three in the Senate — does not register with 30 percent of his constituents.

It’s the same dynamic in Texas with the state’s two Republican senators. Ted Cruz — an erstwhile conservative presidential contender — has held elective office not even three-and-a-half years, yet all but 14 percent of his voters have a strong view of him. A third of Texans cannot form a view of John Cornyn, the Republican whip with nearly 14 years in the Senate who is likely to be the next GOP floor leader.

That points to two disturbing trends we’ve all been watching lately in politics – the influence of big money and the rise of show horses over work horses. Jonathan Bernstein picked up on all of this and suggests that it also fuels partisan gridlock.

I don’t know how much the changes in media coverage caused the atrophy of the committee system and Congress’s ability to do its job. But it’s easy to see how rank-and-file members have fewer incentives to be productive, and more incentives to merely vote with their party’s leadership and do little else.

All of this focuses on how the lack of a vibrant local press affects incumbents in the Senate. One can only assume that it poses an even greater challenge for members of the House. Finally, it explains a lot about why we have tended towards an “imperial presidency” and the lack of voter participation in midterm elections. For years we’ve been hearing that famous line from Tip O’Neill who said, “All Politics is local.” That might be relegated to a bygone era.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 1, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Political Media, Politics, Senate | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A One-Man Lloyd’s Of London”: If Only Trump Came With A Money-Back Guarantee

Donald Trump makes more guarantees than a used-car salesman. I guarantee you.

He guarantees Mexico will pay for the border wall. “I’ll get Mexico to pay for it one way or the other. I guarantee you that.”

He guarantees that his still-secret tax returns are the hugest ever. “They’re very big tax returns,” he said after the New Hampshire primary. “I guarantee you this, the biggest ever in the history of what we’re doing. . . . But we’ll be releasing them.”

He guarantees that Karl Rove and David Axelrod were more violent with crowds than Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. “I guarantee you they probably did stuff that was more physical than this.”

And, memorably, he guarantees us that his penis isn’t small. “I guarantee you, there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”

The guy is a one-man Lloyd’s of London. But how will he make good on all his assurance policies? Are they money-back guarantees? Full faith and credit guarantees?

Some Trump promises are 100 percent guaranteed. When he tells the president of Ford Motor Co. that the company will be taxed if it builds a factory overseas, “I guarantee you 100 percent he will say, ‘Mr. President, we have decided to build our plant in the United States.’ ” (Trump at another point guaranteed the time by which Ford would capitulate: “I would say by 4 o’clock in the afternoon . . . But I guarantee you, by 5 o’clock the next day.”)

Other guarantees are clearly not 100 percent. “Another plane was blown up, and I can practically guarantee who blew it up,” he said of the EgyptAir crash, even though the cause still hasn’t been officially determined, and no terrorist group has claimed responsibility.

But here’s something you can really take to the bank. Trump’s “guarantees” are like pretty much everything else that comes out of his mouth: The truth is not high on his list of considerations, and he seldom suffers any consequences for the nonsense.

A notable exception came in recent days when The Post’s David Fahrenthold — dubbed “a nasty guy” by Trump for his efforts — reported that Trump hadn’t made good on his promise to donate $6 million to veterans’ charities after a January fundraiser. Trump, asked about the $6 million, said, “I didn’t say six.” Good thing he didn’t guarantee that he didn’t say six. Fahrenthold found video of Trump using the $6 million figure twice at the fundraiser itself and for several days after — including one TV appearance in which he repeated the figure four times in six sentences.

On Monday, the day before he came clean on the donations to veterans, Trump spoke at the Rolling Thunder gathering on the Mall. He claimed there were “600,000 people here trying to get in,” but organizers put attendance at 5,000 — and there weren’t long lines security lines.

I can practically guarantee you Trump knew that line would be in this column. At a candidates’ forum in November, Trump noted the full house and said that “the people in the media will not report that, I guarantee, because I know how their minds work.” If you think that was clairvoyant, consider that Trump, introduced to a 48-year-old mother and told nothing about her health insurance, decreed: “I guarantee you that she probably doesn’t have health care and if she does it’s terrible.”

Trump guarantees are sometimes technical (“I guarantee you they have substandard parts in nuclear and in airplanes because they get them from China”), sometimes audacious (“I know a way that would absolutely give us guaranteed victory” over the Islamic State) and occasionally quantitative: “I guarantee you” that if he negotiated with Iran, “a deal would be made that’s 100 times better.”

One hundred times better — or your money back!

Many of Trump’s guarantees will never be tested because they occur in alternate realities. After Ted Cruz and John Kasich tried to team up against Trump, the candidate said, “I guarantee you if they had it to do again [they] would have never done it.”

As for Trump’s uncouth antics, he says: “If I acted presidential, I guarantee you that this morning I wouldn’t be here” on top.

Diplomacy: “I guarantee you our relationships will be far better than they are right now.”

The tariff on Japanese cars entering the United States: “I guarantee you it’s probably zero.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: “Our guys have never even read it. I’ll guarantee you that.”

China and the TPP: “I guarantee you. . . . They’re going to come in through the back door in a later date.”

Hillary Clinton’s email server: “I guarantee you one thing: We’re going to be talking about those emails every moment of every day.”

Trump was guaranteed not to honor that last promise. It would have left him no time to make other guarantees.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Domestic Policy, Donald Trump, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Run That By Me Again?”: Sessions Claims Credibility On Hispanic, African-American Voters

Back in February, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did something no other senator was willing to do at the time: the Alabama Republican endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And now that the New York Republican is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sessions is helping lead the charge, urging others in the GOP to get in line.

The senator told Politico, in reference to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) skepticism, “[O]n some of these issues, Trump is where the Republicans are and if you’re going to be a Republican leader you should be supportive of that.”

And what about those in the party who believe Trump will struggle to win in November? Sessions told the far-right Daily Caller that those doubters don’t fully appreciate the breadth of Trump’s appeal.

[Sessions] is predicting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will attract black and Hispanic voters in the general election.

“Donald Trump is going to do better with Hispanics and African Americans, I am convinced, because he’s talking about things that will really make their wages go up,” Sessions said during a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office with The Daily Caller.

The senator didn’t specify what “better” might entail – he presumably meant stronger support than Mitt Romney received in 2012 – but it almost certainly doesn’t matter. By basing so much of his campaign on racial animus, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to alienate voters from minority communities.

Romney won 27% of the Latino vote four years ago and 6% of the African-American vote. There is very little evidence to suggest Trump will “do better” than this performance in the fall.

But what struck me as especially interesting about this wasn’t just the message, but also the messenger.

As we discussed earlier in the year, the New Republic published a piece in 2002 on Sessions’ background, which included a stint as a U.S. Attorney, when his most notable prosecution targeted three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.

The piece added that Sessions, during his career in Alabama, called the NAACP “un-American” because, among other groups, it “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance in which he referred to a white attorney as a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but he claimed to have been joking.

What’s more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he “used to think they [the Klan] were OK” until he found out some of them were “pot smokers.” Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him “boy,” and once warned him to “be careful what you say to white folks.”

When the Reagan administration nominated Sessions for the federal bench in 1986, the Senate rejected him because of his controversial record on race.

But in 2016, Jeff Sessions is so “convinced” he has his finger on the pulse of the electorate that he’s willing to predict increased Hispanic and African-American support for the controversial Republican nominee.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Donald Trump, Hispanics, Jeff Sessions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Over-Inflating Impressions Of Trump’s Strength”: Clinton’s Lead Over Trump May Be Bigger Than You Think

A fresh round of hand-wringing among Democrats broke out over the weekend, and at the core of it was the same old storyline that we keep hearing again and again: Donald Trump is unconventional and unpredictable! The normal political rules don’t apply! Democrats are getting caught off guard by this, and you should be terrified!

But what if Hillary Clinton’s national advantage over Trump is actually larger than it appears? And, more to the point, what if the reason for this is a thoroughly conventional one?

NBC’s Chuck Todd and Dante Chinni have served up a useful analysis of the current national polls that suggests this is a very real possibility. They looked at three recent polls that currently show the race very close: The NBC News poll showing Clinton up 46-43 among registered voters; the New York Times/CBS poll showing her up 47-41; and the Fox News poll putting Trump up 45-42.

But then Todd and Chinni took into account the fact that a sizable chunk of people supporting Sanders are now saying they cannot back Clinton. These are the “Sanders-only voters.” They took the additional step of assuming that Clinton wins back 70 percent of those voters. Here’s what happens to the national numbers:

In the NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton’s advantage over Trump goes from three points to eight points and she leads 51 percent to 43 percent….

In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, Clinton’s advantage grows from six points to nine points with 70 percent of Sanders-only voters — she leads 50 percent to 41 percent. In the latest Fox News poll, where Trump currently leads Clinton, the Sanders-only voters make it a tied race — 45 percent to 45 percent.

Now, in my view, we shouldn’t place too much stock in national polling at this point, because it historically has not been predictive. But if we are going to obsess over it, let’s keep this in mind: In two of these polls, once you allow for the possibility that Clinton could win over many of Sanders’s supporters once he concedes and endorses her, Clinton holds sizable national leads, of eight and nine points. Nate Cohn has similarly concluded that, if Clinton can consolidate Sanders supporters behind her, she could gain a “considerable advantage” against Trump.

And we’ve seen this before: As Todd notes in his video presentation of these numbers, in 2008, Barack Obama picked up three points against John McCain in NBC polling after Clinton surrendered in the primaries.

If this is right, the point is that the tightening in the polls between Clinton and Trump — which is real — may reflect a particular moment in this race that may prove fleeting, in ways we’ve seen in the past. To be sure, Democrats should not underestimate Trump or imagine that defeating him will be easy. They should work to determine the true source of his appeal, i.e., his suggestion that our political and economic system is failing people and he’d snap it over his knee and get it working again. They should work on making an affirmative case for Clinton that addresses this voter dissatisfaction in addition to relying on the low hanging fruit of attacking his business past and highlighting his wretched comments. Nor does any of this mean that Clinton’s high negatives aren’t a real problem. Democrats should obviously be prepared for any manner of attack that Trump will throw at her, and they’ll need to figure out how to create a more positive narrative around her.

Rather, the point is that we should stop over-inflating impressions of Trump’s strength. We should stop ascribing magical political powers to Trump based on the questionable notion that his “unconventional” and “unpredictable” campaign makes him a more formidable foe than anyone expected. Trump will be difficult to beat, but that might be mainly because these elections are always hard. It is perfectly plausible that the “old rules” will end up applying to some degree. For instance, Clinton may be able to beat Trump, at least in part, by offering up more convincing policies and revealing his to be the nonsense that they are. Maybe assuming that Trump has rendered policy debates meaningless actually gives him too much credit. Maybe we shouldn’t accept Trump’s boasts of super-human appeal in the Rust Belt at face value: they may well run headlong into demographic realities. Meanwhile, we should keep focused on what the aggregate data is actually telling us.

One other point: The Todd/Chinni analysis could have important implications for the endgame of the Dem primaries. Once the voting is over in June, Sanders will have nothing left to do but win actual concessions in exchange for working to swing his supporters behind Clinton. You could see a real shift in how this race is covered, with more and more analysts — and high profile party leaders, such as Elizabeth Warren, and, yes, Barack Obama — pointing out that the failure to unite Democrats is making the prospect of a Trump presidency more likely. That could make it harder for Sanders to hold out. We don’t know if Sanders’s supporters will get behind Clinton in the numbers she needs, and she will have to do her part to make that happen. But despite all the tensions, Sanders, too, will probably end up doing all he can to ensure that it does.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, National Polls | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump Declares War On The Press”: Trump Thinks He Literally Deserves A Constant Stream Of Praise And Kudos

This morning, Donald Trump held a press conference to answer questions about a fundraiser he held four months ago on behalf of veterans’ groups, and perhaps more so than ever before, he made explicit his contempt for the media that have given him so much attention over the past year. Not only that, he promised to continue to attack them whenever they fail to give him the kind of coverage Russian state-owned media give Vladimir Putin.

It was little short of a declaration of war.

The ostensible purpose of the event was to address that fundraiser, particularly the shifting stories and outright falsehoods about it that have come from Trump and his staffers. In recent weeks there have been questions about whether Trump had raised what he claimed, how much of it had actually been distributed, and perhaps most troublingly, the fact that on that night in January Trump said he had given $1 million to veterans’ groups, which was false. When the Post’s David Fahrenthold and other reporters began investigating where the money had gone, they found no evidence that Trump had given $1 million to any veterans’ group. Then last Monday — four months after he claimed to have given his donation and only after reporters’ questions had become more frequent and pressing — Trump finally called the head of a veterans’ group to tell him the group would be getting a $1 million donation from him.

When Fahrenthold asked Trump whether he had given the money only because he was getting questions from reporters about it — a perfectly reasonable question to ask — Trump replied, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re a really nasty guy.” That was a preview of what happened today.

In this press conference, Trump was as ridiculous as ever — he must have claimed “I didn’t want the credit” for raising money for veterans at least a dozen times, which is sort of like Kim Kardashian saying “I really don’t want to be famous.” But he spent most of his time attacking the media.

We should understand that Trump is hardly alone among politicians in disliking the media or thinking that his coverage isn’t what it should be. Where he differs is in the other things he believes. Trump thinks he literally deserves a constant stream of praise and kudos from reporters. He thinks that any challenging question from a reporter is not just inappropriate and unfair but evidence that the reporter is a terrible person. He thinks that it’s reasonable for a presidential nominee to look a reporter in the face, point at him, and say “You’re a sleaze,” for no reason other than that the reporter asked a question premised on something other than the idea that Donald Trump is a spectacular human being everyone should constantly be applauding.

“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. Reporters “are not good people,” he said. “The political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met,” he said. “The press is so dishonest and so unfair,” he said, without identifying a single thing anyone in the media said on this topic that wasn’t true. When ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked Trump about his well-known penchant for exaggeration, Trump said, “What I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He’s a sleaze in my book.” When Llamas asked why, Trump responded, “You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.” And this may have been the most revealing part:

“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying ‘Who got it, who got it, who got it,’ and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”

He actually believes that it’s the job of political reporters covering a presidential candidate to write “Thank you very much, Mr. Trump.” It’s not the press’ job to discover the truth or ask questions or hold the powerful accountable; their job is to promote him and compliment him. And when he doesn’t get the glowing coverage he wants, he attacks.

I’m trying not to get tired of saying this, but just try to imagine what the reaction would be if Hillary Clinton came out to defend herself against some perfectly reasonable questions, and said “The press should be ashamed of themselves” or pointed to a reporter and said, “You’re a sleaze.” She wouldn’t be criticized or questioned, she’d be crucified. Reporters would ask if she had lost her mind and was having a nervous breakdown. There would be demands for her to pull out of the race immediately, since she had shown herself to be so unstable.

It’s going to be a real challenge for reporters covering Trump to continue to ask the questions they ask of every candidate, to demand answers and to point out falsehoods — which is already a herculean task when it comes to Trump, since he delivers so many of them. That’s not easy to do when you know your subject is going to assault you over it. And it’s not likely to change.

“Is this what it’s going to be like covering you if you’re president?” one reporter asked near the end of the press conference.

Trump’s reply: “Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press.”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Press, Reporters | , , , , | 3 Comments

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