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“It’s Anybody’s Guess Right Now”: How Low Can The Congressional GOP Go In November?

A big part of the angst Republicans are expressing over Donald Trump’s presidential nomination is the fear that he’ll doom GOP candidates down ballot. In part, that reflects the reality that ticket-splitting has been declining steadily in recent presidential years. The GOP’s Senate majority is fragile because of a particularly bad landscape. But now even the 59-seat margin Paul Ryan commands in the House could be in peril, though that’s a more remote contingency.

Ace House-watcher David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has a new analysis at FiveThirtyEight that weighs the odds of a Democratic takeover pretty carefully. The GOP majority in the House is entrenched, he explains, by factors that have little to do with the popularity of the two parties:

Democratic voters have never been more concentrated in big urban areas than they are now. In 2012, President Obama won by 126 electoral votes while carrying just 22 percent of America’s counties — even fewer than losing Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis’s 26 percent in 1988. That means Democrats are wasting more votes than ever in safe congressional districts they already hold …

 Republicans’ astounding state legislative gains in the 2010 midterms — the year before the decennial redistricting cycle — allowed them to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats in 2011 and 2012, stretching their geographical edge even further. As a result, in 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of all major-party votes cast for House candidates but just 47 percent of all seats.

A third thumb on the scales for House Republicans is that Democrats did not anticipate the possibility of a presidential landslide, and thus did not recruit top-flight candidates in some districts that now look vulnerable. With candidate-qualifying windows having passed in 79 percent of districts, it’s too late to do anything about that in much of the country.

All in all, Wasserman estimates, Democrats would need something like an eight-point national popular-vote margin to put themselves into a position to achieve the 30-net-seat gains necessary to retake the House. That’s hardly unprecedented since Democrats matched that margin in 2006 and exceeded it (with 10.6 percent) in 2008 (the much-ballyhooed Republican landslides of 2010 and 2014 were based on 6.8 percent and 5.8 percent House popular-vote margins, respectively). And current polls certainly indicate that a win by that sort of margin at the top of the ticket by Hillary Clinton is entirely feasible. But Wasserman’s own ratings for Cook show only 26 Republican-held seats — along with seven Democratic seats — being competitive. A “wave” election would require that additional seats come into play. There’s also an argument that if the presidential race gets out of hand for Republicans, they could make an implicit or explicit “checks and balances” argument in congressional races. That is supposedly how the losing presidential party minimized down-ballot losses in the landslide years of 1972 and 1984. It’s unclear that would happen again in this straight-ticket-voting era, but it’s not inconceivable.

The Senate’s a different situation. Of the 34 seats up this November, Republicans are defending 24 and can only afford to lose 3 and hang on to control if Democrats retain the White House and thus the vice-president’s tie-breaking Senate vote. Seven Republican seats are in states Obama carried twice (no Democratic seats are in states carried by McCain or Romney). Looking at the races more closely, Cook’s ratings show seven Republican-held seats in competitive races, with just two among the Democratic-held seats. A Democratic wave could make several other Republicans vulnerable. And none of the factors that give Republicans an advantage in keeping control of the House are relevant to Senate races.

If anyone’s going to be privately hoping something disastrous happens to the Trump candidacy before he’s nominated in Cleveland, it should be Mitch McConnell. But for Paul Ryan, the time to panic likely won’t arise, if at all, before the leaves begin to turn.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 21, 2016

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Down Ballot Candidates, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dump Trump!”: Trump Winning Could Do More To Destroy The Republican Party Than A Messy Convention Fight In Cleveland

Have you noticed Donald Trump isn’t bragging about his poll numbers anymore?

With Trump down 12 points to Hillary Clinton in the latest Bloomberg poll, all of the clever-dick theories about the strength and momentum of the Trump campaign are disintegrating one after the other. There is no evidence that Trump is changing the configuration of the electoral map. There is no evidence that he is bringing in a huge new bloc of previously disaffected voters — instead it’s just the opposite. The theory that a terrorist attack would help Trump? Refuted when his polls continued to tank after the most deadly mass shooting in American history. Even the core “Trump voters,” non-college-educated white men, are turning on him. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 53 percent of them rated Trump unfavorably. Trump has to do light years better than Mitt Romney among this group to win. He’s failing, and he’s failing faster than any major party nominee in modern history.

The Republican Party should seek to deny him their nomination in Cleveland. Even if it means a messy convention fight in prime time. Even if it hobbles the nominee that eventually replaces Trump.

Their nominee is already hobbled, because he is Trump. Since Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination, it turns out that it was not just a few right-leaning ideologues and scribblers who think Donald Trump is unfit to be president. A significant portion of the GOP’s traditional coalition simply will not let Trump represent them. Many elected Republican officials think Donald Trump cannot be trusted with the awesome powers of the presidency. Trump’s disloyalty to Republican orthodoxy and the cartoonishly aggressive style that made him electrifying to his core group of primary supporters turn out to be enormous general election liabilities.

Some Republicans are quietly hoping Trump loses in November, and loses badly enough that the party can just move on afterward. But there’s a problem with this line of thinking. Trump has shown himself willing and able to inflict more damage on the party even after securing its nomination. He still refuses to bury the hatchet with Paul Ryan and other leaders. He will drag other Republicans to defeat with him, and he will wreck the party’s image for years to come.

Besides, there is still a minor risk that some other exogenous event makes Hillary Clinton unelectable. Say a terrorist attack happens featuring weapons from former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s unsecured stash. Or Clinton has a debilitating but not fatal stroke weeks before election day and simply disappears from the campaign trail. If his past is a preview of his presidency, Trump winning could do more to destroy the Republican Party than a messy convention fight in Cleveland.

Stopping Trump before the convention may not just be the civic-minded thing to do, it may be in the best interests of the Republican Party long term. If Clinton’s campaign somehow fails, Trump’s failures as president will still belong to the GOP.

Of course, a convention coup is likely to fail. Republicans have been notoriously slow-footed and uncoordinated in responding to Trump. And there are two major obstacles to its success. The first is the moral obligation that convention delegates feel to vote for the winner of their state or district. Trump may have only won a plurality of primary voters, but even if the Rules Committee unbinds the delegates, many will still feel morally obligated to vote for him on the first ballot. If that’s the case, Trump will be close enough to prevailing that the effort to deny him may stall out immediately.

The second obstacle is more familiar. His name is Ted Cruz. The Texas senator will come in with the biggest anti-Trump weapons, the loyalty of delegates who are pledged to him and the many party activists who admire him even if they are bound to Donald Trump. Cruz would be essential to organizing any coup at the convention. And as the next leading vote-getter, he would have demands — possibly including the nomination itself. While Cruz may be more electable than Donald Trump, it is by a margin so slim that the risks of a convention coup and riot in Cleveland may not seem worth trying. Many elected Republicans and big GOP donors view Cruz as treacherous and repellent. They won’t give his candidacy much more support than Trump’s.

Republicans will have to regroup as a party after 2016 anyway. The Trump challenge showed the deficiencies of Republican orthodoxy, and those must be addressed. But in the meantime, the best thing that the party can do is send Trump back to what he does best, welching on his creditors and selling over-priced garbage with his name on it.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, June 16, 2016

June 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Silence Is Just Not Loud Enough”: Moments Of Silence In The House Have Become An Abomination

Our president was speaking to us in his grave yet hopeful voice, a timbre and tone he has had much practice in using. Far too much practice.

He uses it when there has been a mass shooting in America. And by some counts, this was his 14th time.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war,” our president is saying.

We have been working on that one for a while. But it is really not a matter of human lives lost, people lying in pools of blood or corpses shredded by gunfire.

Solving that problem would be relatively easy. The real problem is political — which is why no gun legislation with a serious chance of passing stands before Congress.

The body counts, the gore, the all-too-vivid last moments captured on a hand-held camera mean nothing compared with the politics of gun ownership.

It remains very easy to buy a semi-automatic rifle almost anywhere in America. Only seven states ban them.

So the killing continues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 guns were used in 11,208 deaths by homicide. That’s a lot. That’s nearly 31 per day.

Why so many? “Crazy” is a popular choice. Do you have to be crazy to shoot and kill 49 people in a nightclub? How about 20 small children in an elementary school? Or 12 people at a Batman movie?

Were all the shooters crazy? Could be. But foreign countries have crazy people, too, and many countries’ murder rates are much lower than ours.

Again, why? One reason is that in America, we allow individuals to own weapons of mass destruction — semi-automatic firearms with large magazines.

And though Congress banned them for 10 years — 1994 to 2004 — it has refused to reinstate the ban even though mass killings continue.

In America, a gun is not just a gun. It is a fetish, a totem, an icon. It has an appeal that defies mere logic.

Charles Bronson — and I swear I am not making up the name — is the former commissioner of agriculture and consumer services for the state of Florida. He used to be in charge of gun permits. Today he is still against more stringent gun laws, such as the ones that would ban semi-automatic AR-15 military-style rifles.

“People use AR-15s to hunt deer, to hunt hogs, to hunt all kinds of game,” Bronson told a reporter, and he said it would be a shame to change the gun laws “because of one person’s lawlessness.”

I am trying to see his point of view: One person kills 49 people and wounds 53 others, and that is nothing compared with the pleasure of executing a hog.

All these arguments are familiar. Everything about mass shootings is achingly familiar — the moments of silence, the lighting of candles, the wearing of ribbons, the hourlong news specials, the flags at half-staff, the president coming down to the briefing room and then the full-scale speech like the one President Barack Obama will make Thursday in Orlando.

“These mass shootings are happening so often now that lamenting them afterwards is becoming a national ritual,” Conan O’Brien said Monday.

O’Brien is a late-night comic. He is also an observer of life in these United States. It is sometimes hard to observe that life and still remain a comic, and I admire him for trying.

“I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think,” he said, his voice growing angrier as he spoke. “However, I am a father of two. I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle. … These are weapons of war, and they have no place in civilian life. …

“I do not know the answer, but I wanted to take just a moment here tonight to agree with the rapidly growing sentiment in America that it’s time to grow up and figure this out.”

Time to grow up. A fine idea. And I really wish the sentiment behind it were “rapidly growing.” Because not everybody in America will get a chance to grow up. Some of those children we send each morning to the “safety” of their schools will never make it back home alive. (According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “since 2013, there have been at least 188 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week.”)

On Capitol Hill on Monday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a ritual moment of silence in the House chamber to commemorate those killed in Orlando.

Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes stood up and walked off the floor instead. Previously, he had tweeted:

“I will not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.”

“The Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination. God will ask you, ‘How did you keep my children safe’? Silence.”

“If God is an angry God, prepare to know a hell well beyond that lived day to day by the families of the butchered. I will not be silent.”

And I, for one, hope he keeps talking, tweeting, speaking out and walking out.

 

By: Roger Simon, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Gun Control, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Only Sensible Answer To A Brutal Problem”: It’s Time: Democrats Are Speaking Up About Gun Control

Pressure from Democrats to finally push the needle on gun reform, after repeated mass shootings have been met with silence from the right, came just hours after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Following House Speaker Paul Ryan’s usual moment of silence on the floor on Monday, Democrats chanted “Where’s the bill?” and dismissed the silence as meaningless without legislative action.

Democrats are pursuing a slate of legislation, including “No Fly, No Buy,” which would ban those on the FBI’s no-fly list from accessing guns; addressing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows guns to be sold after a three-day waiting period, even if the FBI’s background check isn’t complete; and legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing guns.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and other senate Democrats staged an old-school talking filibuster to urge movement on gun reform. And while a handful of conservative voices — and Donald Trump, via a tweet — have come out in favor of curbing access to military-style weapons, the vast majority pivoted towards focusing on “radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the attack.

Republicans talk a tough terrorism game, yet they don’t see a problem with suspected terrorists being able to purchase guns. As Hillary Clinton tweeted on Wednesday, “people can’t board planes with full shampoo bottles — but people being watched by the FBI for terrorism can buy a gun, no questions asked?” The nation was able to swiftly pass new airport security measures in the wake of 9/11, yet in the wake of the worst LGBT hate crime in American history, and the worst terrorist on American soil attack since 9/11, Republicans are holding back, hiding behind the Second Amendment.

The effort by Republicans to shift the debate away from gun control and towards ISIS is a reflection of who is really pulling the strings — the gun manufacturing lobby. Ted Cruz has raked in $36,229 from gun lobbyists. When, as speaker of the Florida House, Marco Rubio’s caucus failed to pass a bill allowing employees to bring firearms to work, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer complained ominously that Rubio “talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk.”

The CEO of Sturm, Ruger, and Co., Michael Fifer, assured shareholders a month ago that, although demand for their product was “easing,” they should anticipate higher gun sales during the election season, as the “rhetoric from both sides” will “[keep] consumers aware and thinking about their firearm rights.”

Fifer didn’t try to hide his opportunism, adding that “If the political environment in this election year causes one or more strong spikes in demand, we may stretch our capital expenditures budget to take advantage of the opportunities presented.” In other words: Yes, the political fear mongering is purposeful, and yes, it is profitable.

Despite the silence and inaction, Democrats are pushing forward in their campaign to make progress on gun control. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced legislation that would ban anyone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing, possessing, or shipping a gun, marking the first proposed gun control legislation after the Orlando shootings.

Like other gun reform proposals, this one is common sense. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, 43,000 hate crimes committed in the United States involved the use or threat of a gun. And considering that the most recent one involved the slaughter of 49 people in a gay nightclub, or that the brutal shooting in Charleston, South Carolina resulted in 33 federal hate crime charges, there is ample need for the legislation.

Democrats are also expected to continue pushing for the renewal of the ban on assault rifles. Rep. Seth Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, penned an op-ed for Wednesday’s New York Daily News in which he advocated for the ban. “I know assault rifles,” Moulton tweeted. “I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America’s streets.”

“I had to look at pictures of dead and mangled bodies in order to understand the magnitude of what it meant to pull that trigger,” he wrote.

President Obama joined presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — and nearly every Democrat in national politics — this week in reinforcing calls for a ban on assault rifles, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004.

The pressure to change laws is a popular one, too: A CBS poll conducted this week found that the percentage of Americans who support banning assault weapons jumped to 57 percent, from 44 percent in December. And a White House petition to ban the AR-15 from civilian use has tallied more than 157,000 signatures in three days.

Republicans continue to repeat the polarizing message that those on the left are trying to “take your guns away” — a useful slogan that doubles as ad copy for gun manufacturers.

Meanwhile, they stand in the way of reforms that are not only long overdue and hugely popular, but also the only sensible answer to a brutal problem that every other nation on earth has legislated out of existence.

 

By: Matt Tracy, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Gun Control, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Presidential Candidate Who Is Mentally Unhinged”: What’s Going On In The Republican Party Right Now Is Shocking

Would it surprise you to hear that Donald Trump said something shocking yesterday? Probably not. But here’s the latest. On a conference call with supporters, someone asked the presumptive Republican nominee about a memo issued by his campaign staff asking surrogates to stop talking about the Trump University lawsuit. Here was his response:

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said…

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”…

A clearly irritated Trump told his supporters to attack journalists who ask questions about the lawsuit and his comments about the judge.

“The people asking the questions—those are the racists,” Trump said. “I would go at ’em.”

It couldn’t be any clearer that Republicans are about to nominate a presidential candidate who is mentally unhinged. He blasts his own campaign staff (meager as it is) as stupid and suggests that reporters who questions his racist statements are – by definition – racist.

Anyone who has been paying attention has known this about Donald Trump for a long time. And so the more interesting question is about how Republican leaders are reacting. We saw last week how Paul Ryan donned the cloak of denial by claiming that Trump’s racism came out of left field. The ever-crass Mitch McConnell summed it up with: “I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House.” Perhaps the most unhinged response to an unhinged candidate came from Mike Huckabee. In reference to the Republican establishment’s concerns about Trump, he said this:

“And they’re getting what they justly deserve, they’re getting spanked,” he continued. “And they need to be happy they’re only getting spanked and not executed, because there is seething rage out in the country for those who have fought to help some of these guys get elected, and they get there and they surrender to Obama and people are sick of it. And I think that’s why we’ve seen the spirit of this election, and frankly Donald Trump gives me great comfort. I tell people, ‘I don’t have any hesitation going out there and genuinely supporting Donald Trump.’”

In a time when Republicans weren’t so busy defending a candidate like Trump, suggesting that their party’s leadership should be grateful for getting spanked rather than executed would qualify as a completely outrageous statement. But such are the days of Republicans in the era of Donald Trump.

Beyond that, we are actually witnessing things like Senate Republicans having to reassure our global allies that – if elected – Trump wouldn’t actually do what he’s said he would do, and other leaders attempting to assure voters in this country that constitutional limits (including the possibility of impeachment) would halt his authoritarian tendencies.

I say all of this because it is important that we retain our shock at these events. It is bad enough that in about a month the Republicans are set to formally nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. But it is even more dangerous if we begin to normalize this as political discourse. Explaining away racism as acceptable in an attempt to win, talk of executing politicians, and authoritarian tendencies are simply unacceptable in a democratic republic. So let’s be honest…that is exactly what is happening in the Republican Party right now.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 7, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Journalists, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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