Republican Mayors Endorse South Carolina Democratic Congressional Candidate

From The Post and Courier:

Two Republicans along South Carolina’s coast won’t be backing GOP candidate Katie Arrington in her congressional run. Instead, they broke with party politics Tuesday and endorsed Democrat Joe Cunningham.

The two mayors, Tim Goodwin of Folly Beach and Jimmy Carroll of Isle of Palms, said their support boiled down to one issue that affects the state’s 1st Congressional District: Offshore drilling.

This is a case of all politics being local. The fact that Republicans in a deep red state like South Carolina are getting behind the Democrat to fill the seat that is currently held by Mark Sanford says volumes of what they think the political calculations might be in November and heading into the second half of Donald Trump’s first term. If Democrats take the House in November, assume that offshore drilling will be a non-starter for the new majority as a political or legislative issue.

Mayors are also important because they have a local political operation and turnout machine which they can mobilize for elections. If they give their voters a permission slip to vote for the Democrat to stop offshore drilling in their district, this could tighten the race in this district.

Some perspective from a former spokesman for the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus:

 

Iowa Democrat Picks State Senator Rita Hart for Running Mate

Iowa Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell announced his selection of State Sen. Rita Hart as his running mate for the gubernatorial race this fall.  More context to his decision from the Des Moines Register:

Hart, who was elected to the Senate in 2012 and again in 2014, lives in Wheatland, which is on the eastern side of the state and has a population of about 730 people. She works with her husband, Paul, on the farm his family has owned for more than 100 years there.

Hart’s rural background is an asset for Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, who will be working to persuade voters across the state that he understands their needs and is best equipped to address them in the governor’s office. Hubbell told the Register he set out to find a lieutenant governor whose background did not mirror his own.

“I like to surround myself with people that come at questions and issues and experiences in a much different way than I do,” Hubbell, 67, told the Register. “I think that makes the discussion richer, and you’re better able to get a better decision that way. So I was looking for somebody that’s very talented and capable, but not a lot like me. And I think I found her.”

As of this writing, Larry Sabato has the race as Leans Republican. The Cook Political Report has the race as a tossup.

Midterm Wildcards to Watch

Almost four and a half months out from Election Day, here is a list of potential October surprises that could play a role in determining the outcome. Because Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress, most of these developments would probably work against them politically.

The President’s Trade Wars

The United States government has been involved in an escalatory tit-for-tat feud with Canada, Mexico and the European Union on the subject of tariffs. They haven’t taken effect yet, but their impact (or lack thereof) should be known by November.  The available evidence from early news reports suggests that the tariffs imposed on the United States will specifically target states and voters Donald Trump won in the presidential election.  Here’s an example: according to the Des Moines Register, China’s tariffs on U.S. soybeans could cost Iowa farmers as much as $624 million, according to projected estimates from an Iowa State University economist.

The economy is currently at almost full employment, and there is little or nothing the U.S. government can do to stimulate it further in light of last year’s tax cut.  If it takes a tumble in the late summer or early fall as a consequence of trade wars, voters may take it out on President Trump or his party.

The Mueller Investigation

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now in jail after charges of witness tampering, will go on criminal trial in two jurisdictions in the second half of this year.  As of this writing, his trial in Virginia is scheduled to begin on July 25, and his trial in Washington DC is scheduled to begin on September 17. Assuming he goes through with both trials and does not work out a plea deal with federal prosecutors, potentially embarrassing revelations about the Trump presidential campaign could come out during the course of testimony and cross-examination in either trial.

Beyond that, it is not known if more indictments or plea deals are coming in connection with the case. Mueller’s office has been notoriously leak proof. Most reporters have gotten their scoops from talking to witnesses or lawyers involved in the case, or from keeping a close eye on the case docket for new legal filings from Mueller’s office.  Journalists and pundits who have been following the case are expecting an indictment in connection with the 2016 hacking of the Democrats’ emails and communications.

It’s unclear if the 60-day rule that James Comey ignored during the Clinton email investigation would apply here. If it does, that means Mueller can’t issue any indictments or take any other major actions in the case after early September. However, since (as far as we know) he isn’t investigating or about to indict anyone running for elected office in November, it’s possible the rule doesn’t apply. If Manafort’s DC trial begins as scheduled on September 17, assuming it takes several weeks it could potentially wrap up in October with a grand jury decision shortly after, before Election Day.

There is also an army of journalists working around the clock trying to find new scoops to report on the investigation, and they aren’t bound by any 60-day rule or fears of impacting an election.

North Korea

President Trump invested an enormous amount of political capital in his summit with Kim Jong Un, and tries to tout it as a great success that he can run on in the midterms. However, the North Koreans have a long reputation for not upholding their end of previous bargains. Most North Korea observers wouldn’t count on much of anything on the basis of Kim Jong Un’s word, though it is unlikely he would do anything to antagonize Trump in light of what was a very successful summit from the North Korean perspective.

For what it’s worth, North Korea has previously done three nuclear tests (2006, 2016, 2017) in the weeks leading up to U.S. elections, although there is no evidence that the timing was politically motivated in terms of influencing a U.S. domestic audience. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the 2016 test coincided with the 68th anniversary of North Korea’s founding.

Separation of Immigrant Families

This story has exploded within the past week or so and is only going to get bigger. The optics and morality of this policy have been condemned by members of both parties. Former first lady Laura Bush explicitly compared it to Japanese internment policy during World War II.  Making it worse is the messaging incoherence of the administration, which is simultaneously arguing that 1) it’s the Democrats’ fault (President Trump), 2) it is a policy that is explicitly meant to deter illegal immigration (Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House aides Stephen Miller and John Kelly), and 3) there is no policy (Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen). The optics of members of Congress being blocked from inspecting facilities are also not good. Remember, they have a right and responsibility to do so because these facilities are run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

More of these detention centers are being set up, just as peak summer temperatures are about to hit in border states like Texas. One senior administration official projected that as many as 30,000 children could be in these facilities by the end of the summer. If this situation isn’t resolved before November, assume that like the airports during the Muslim ban controversy, these detention centers will become flashpoints for public protests.  There are also key elections in border states which could be impacted by the politics of this issue – House races in California, the Senate and governor’s races in Arizona, and the Senate and House races in Texas.

School Shootings

Historically, young voters have been the least reliable age demographic in getting out to the polls. That may change this year in no small part because of the efforts of the Parkland shooting survivors, who have made it their mission to take on the gun lobby and politicians who won’t pass gun control measures. They are currently focusing on registering young voters who will be of voting age for the November midterms. If (God forbid) another shooting happens during the runup to Election Day, the gun control issue could become highly salient and a very powerful closing argument.

If you want proof that the Parkland students have had an impact in reframing and reshaping the gun control debate in ways that others haven’t, here it is: the NRA took down from its website the old grades it had given to lawmakers.

Supreme Court Vacancy

As was the case in 2016, a surprise vacancy on the Supreme Court – especially if it’s swing justice Anthony Kennedy or a liberal justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg – would fire up conservative voters who might otherwise have stayed home. Few issues mobilize conservatives like judges, which will be one of Donald Trump’s lasting legacies long after he leaves the presidency.

DNC Sets Dates for 2020 Convention

The Democratic National Committee has scheduled its next national convention for the week of July 13, 2020. According to a statement, the convention is scheduled to begin eleven days before the star of the Summer Olympics to allow the party’s presidential nominee “maximum exposure heading into the fall.” The earlier date also gives the nominee earlier access to general election funds, which are restricted until after the candidate has formally accepted the party’s nomination. Because Republicans control the White House, the Democrats will hold their convention first. According to the Washington Post, the 2020 convention will be the earliest since 1976.

According to CNN, the committee has narrowed down its choice of host city for the convention to eight possible contenders:

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Houston, Texas
  • Miami Beach, Florida
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • New York, New York
  • San Francisco, California

Each city has its pros and cons. With the exceptions of Birmingham and Milwaukee, all have hosted previous Democratic conventions.

  • Atlanta: It is one of the most Democratic cities in the south, in a state Democrats have wanted to flip for years that Hillary Clinton lost by five points. If gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams wins the governor’s race in the fall, she will be a rising star in the party and be able to make a strong case for Atlanta as the convention’s host city. She would probably be a contender to deliver the keynote address, which historically has been a springboard for future stars of the party. Having the convention here would also be a boon to the Democratic nominee running against incumbent Republican senator David Perdue. Picking Atlanta would also reaffirm Democratic commitment to trying to compete and win in the south, an area that geographically has trended Republican for years.
  • Birmingham: Incumbent senator Doug Jones, who won an upset victory in the Alabama Senate race last year and would be running for reelection, would at the very least be considered for a prime-time speaking slot, if not the keynote address. His reelection campaign and the state Democratic party would likely benefit a great deal from having the convention in Alabama. Like Atlanta, choosing Birmingham for the convention would be a reaffirmation of Democratic intentions to compete in the south. However, the state is still solidly Republican.
  • Denver: The Mile High City hosted Barack Obama’s first convention in 2008, and the state has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections. Hosting the convention could be a boon to the Democratic challenger running against incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner. Democrats have found success in the Mountain West in recent years, particularly Colorado and New Mexico. Democratic candidates in purplish states like Arizona or Montana could benefit from having the convention in Denver.
  • Houston: Democrats have dreamed of turning Texas blue for years, a state dominated by Republicans up and down the ticket since the mid-1990s. Hillary Clinton had the best performance of a Democratic presidential candidate in two decades, losing by nine points. Beto O’Rourke is seen as a long-shot candidate to beat incumbent Senator Ted Cruz this November, though the state’s growing minority population could help Democratic candidates running for the House of Representatives this year. Texas won’t be voting for a Democratic presidential candidate any time soon, but hosting the convention in Houston would be an affirmation of the party’s commitment to making that a reality.
  • Miami Beach: Hosting a convention in the perennial and all-important swing state of Florida is never a bad idea for either party. If all the Trump-Nixon comparisons weren’t enough already, here’s another one: the last time the Democrats held their convention in Miami Beach was in 1972 – a few weeks after the Watergate burglary.
  • Milwaukee: Wisconsin has had one of the most successful Republican state parties in the country in recent years, thanks arguably to Governor Scott Walker. Having the Democratic convention in Milwaukee would be a form of making amends, both to rebuild the state party and to not repeat Hillary Clinton’s disastrous failure to campaign in the Badger State in 2016.
  • New York: The Big Apple has all the existing infrastructure to host a convention, and has done so for both parties many times over the years. It would be geographically convenient for many of the party’s fundraisers, as well as Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The city also appeals to the party’s young, minority, and LGBT base. It would also let Democrats take the fight directly to Donald Trump in his hometown, although Trump lost the city and the state handily in 2016. Besides practicality, there is little advantage to doing it here.
  • San Francisco: Like New York, it has all the existing infrastructure and has hosted previous conventions.  It would be geographically convenient for many of the party’s fundraisers, as well as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.  The city also appeals to the party’s young, minority, and LGBT base. The city and state are solidly Democratic. Again, like New York, San Francisco offers little more than practicality.

Do Virginia Republicans Have a Corey Stewart Problem?

Conservative firebrand Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine this fall. He almost won the party’s nomination a little more than a year ago, in a narrow loss to establishment-favored Ed Gillespie in the primary for governor. (Gillespie wound up losing the general election by almost nine points) Stewart, who was the Virginia co-chairman of the Trump presidential campaign two years ago, was immediately endorsed by President Trump after securing the nomination.

Why are some Republicans worried about him being their top statewide candidate in the Commonwealth of Virginia this fall?

Stewart emerged as a fierce defender of the Confederate monuments scattered throughout the commonwealth last year in the wake of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville.  Stewart has also associated himself with rally organizer Jason Kessler. Stewart also spoke highly of far-right figure Paul Nehlen, who has expressed anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic views and is currently running for the Republican nomination to fill the Wisconsin congressional seat being vacated by outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. According to the New York Times, Stewart has since distanced himself from both Kessler and Nehlen.

Stewart shares President Trump’s hardline views on immigration. As chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, he pushed a proposal that would have allowed police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrested. He also pushed the birther conspiracy theory in a tweet last year about the Alabama Senate race. Steve Bannon once called him the “titular head of the Trump movement” in Virginia.

One concern is that Virginia – which has slowly but steadily become a more Democratic state at local, state, congressional and presidential levels – will again reject the Stewart-Trump brand of culture warrior politics.

Virginia Democrats have more or less cracked the code to consistently win statewide races in the commonwealth over the past fifteen years or so, through a combination of candidate recruitment and favorable demographic trends. They have done this so well that they managed to exceed their own expectations during last November’s statewide elections.  Not only did they manage to hold all of the statewide offices, but they came within one seat of getting a 50-50 tie in the House of Delegates, erasing what had been a 66-seat Republican supermajority.

Beyond that, Stewart’s popularity as the highest-ranking Republican on the statewide ballot this year – or the lack thereof – could have a trickle-down effect on other Republicans in down-ticket races. Just as national Republicans are often asked to comment on President Trump’s controversies, Virginia Republicans could be put in a similar bind. According to University of Virginia political guru Larry Sabato:

On the day after Stewart’s primary victory, Republican former lieutenant governor Bill Bolling tweeted:

Initial signs from national Republican organizations are not looking good for Stewart. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told CNN the organization has no plans to get involved in the Virginia Senate race. The Republican National Committee has not commented on whether or not it will support Stewart, despite him having secured President Trump’s endorsement.

Stewart could wind up suppressing Republican voter turnout – meaning that voters who might otherwise vote for other Republican candidates could opt to stay home or vote for third party or write-in candidates. If Republican voters don’t turn out in November because they don’t like Stewart, it could have a net negative effect on endangered House Republicans like Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat, or the race to hold the open seat being vacated by Thomas Garrett. The good news for Republicans is that because elections for the state legislature aren’t until 2019, there are only a few down-ballot races this year – a handful of school board and municipal elections throughout the state. Essentially, any negative down-ballot fallout would likely be limited to congressional races.

Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both currently project the Virginia Senate race as safely Democratic.

June 12 Primary Results

There were primaries for state and federal races across the country earlier this week.  Here are some of the highlights:

MAINE:

  • This will be the first election using the new ranked-choice voting system, which was approved by state voters in 2016. How this system works is explained here by the New York Times. Voters across the state opted to retain this system 54-46.
  • Businessman Shawn Moody won the Republican nomination to succeed term-limited incumbent governor Paul LePage. He will run against the likely Democratic nominee, state attorney general Janet Mills. Votes from the Democratic primary are still being counted because of the ranked-choice system.
  • State representative Jared Golden is holding a lead for his party’s nomination to compete against incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the state’s second congressional district. However, conservationist and businessman Lucas St. Clair has yet to concede the race because he is waiting for the final results to come in through the ranked-choice voting system.

NEVADA:

  • Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak will face off against Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the governor’s race. Sisolak had backing from the Harry Reid machine, which remains a formidable force in state Democratic politics.
  • Democrat Jacky Rosen (who represents Nevada’s third congressional district) will square off against incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller. Heller is considered one of the most endangered Republican incumbents in an electoral map that is heavily favored for the Senate GOP this year.
  • Democratic state Senator Aaron Ford will run against Republican former state assembly member and assistant attorney general Wes Duncan in the race for state attorney general to succeed Adam Laxalt.
  • Democratic philanthropist and education advocate Susie Lee will run against perennial Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian for the congressional seat being vacated by Jacky Rosen. Tarkanian had originally planned to mount a primary challenge against Dean Heller but was convinced to sit out the race and run for this seat instead.

NORTH DAKOTA:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

VIRGINIA:

  • Former Trump Virginia campaign chairman Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination for the Senate race this fall.  Stewart narrowly lost the Republican nomination for governor in 2017. He will square off against incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine, who ran for his party’s nomination unopposed.
  • Incumbent Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock defeated a primary challenger 60-39.  Democratic state senator Jennifer Wexton emerged from a field of six candidates to win her party’s nomination to take on Comstock, who is considered one of the most endangered Republican House incumbents this cycle. She represents a district in a state that has been trending Democratic during local, state, federal and presidential elections over the course of the last fifteen years.

All Work and No Play Makes David a Dull Boy

Hi everybody…

I’ve been working hard on my second book for the past several months. I’m currently holed up in Aspen cranking out the first draft.  I’m hoping to have it finished this month or by early July at the latest, hence the blogging inactivity over here despite the many political developments in Washington DC and throughout the country.  Regular political blogging/reporting will resume shortly, I promise!