Nebraska Group Claims It Has Enough Signatures for Medicaid Expansion

Nebraska voters will decide whether or not to expand Medicaid in the state, after the organization behind the effort claimed it had enough signatures to put the question on the November ballot.

Insure the Good Life announced it had collected more than 135,000 signatures in its efforts, far more than the 84,268 required by today’s deadline.  In order to qualify, the group had to collect signatures from a minimum of 7 percent of the state’s more than 1.2 million registered voters. Those signatures were turned over to the office of  Secretary of State John Gale this afternoon, but verification could take as long as 50 days, according to an announcement sent out from Gale’s office.

If the initiative qualifies for the ballot and voters approve it, the state’s Medicaid plan would be expand eligibility to cover “certain adults” between the ages of 19 and 64 whose incomes are 138 percent below the federal poverty level. According to the Associated Press, Medicaid expansion would provide health care to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for financial assistance under the Affordable Care Act.

Maine voters approved Medicaid expansion during the 2017 election, becoming the first state to do so. A similar initiative is pending for the November election ballot in Idaho and another has already been certified and will appear on the ballot in Utah.

Poll: Half of Americans Think President Trump is Racist

Highlights of a Quinnipiac University poll released July 3:

  • Trump approval/disapproval: 40-55
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Republicans: 86-11
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Democrats: 95-3
  • Trump approval/disapproval among men: 57-40
  • Trump approval/disapproval among women: 39-57
  • Trump approval/disapproval among whites: 47-50
  • Trump approval/disapproval among blacks: 6-92
  • Trump approval/disapproval among Hispanics: 33-64
  • Is Trump honest, yes/no: 38-58
  • Does Trump care about average Americans, yes/no: 43-55
  • Does Trump provide moral leadership, yes/no: 36-62
  • Trump handling of economy, approval/disapproval: 50-45
  • Trump handling of foreign policy, approval/disapproval: 43-53
  • Trump handling of immigration, approval/disapproval: 39-58
  • Trump handling of trade, approval/disapproval: 38-55
  • Trump handling of race relations, approval/disapproval: 36-58
  • Trump handling of taxes, approval/disapproval: 43-51
  • Trump handling of health care, approval/disapproval: 37-55
  • Trump handling of children separated from parents, approval/disapproval: 36-60
  • Does administration have responsibility to reunite families, yes/no: 83-12
  • Is policy of separating children a human rights violation, yes/no: 60-36
  • Trump uniting/dividing the country: 36-58
  • Do you think Trump is racist, yes/no: 49-47

These aren’t the complete results, but in general they do put his approval ratings on various issues in negative territory.  What should keep his political advisers up at night is that these are his numbers in a time when the stock market is at a record high and there is little, if anything, that can be done to further stimulate the economy in the event of a downturn or recession. If he had plans to run during midterms on his handling of tax cuts, foreign policy, and immigration, these numbers should make him think twice, although voters give him a small majority of approval on his handling of North Korea and his meeting with Vladimir Putin.  What this poll does not take into account are recent intelligence reports that North Korea shows no indication of denuclearizing.

What is also jarring is the clear public opposition to his family separation policy.  Clear and decisive majorities feel the administration has committed human rights violations and that the administration has a responsibility to reunite the families that have been separated.

In essence – the president has been very fortunate that so far in his presidency, he hasn’t faced a real crisis that has tested his administration. The bad news is that if that does happen at some point, his polls have nowhere else to go but down.

Three Virginia Republican Leaders Resign, As Party Remains Divided Over Its Senate Nominee

Tucked in this Washington Post story is an ominous detail that does not bode well for the Virginia Republicans: State party chairman John Whitbeck and Kevin Gentry, a member of the executive committee resigned from their posts, as did Davis Rennolds, chairman of the Richmond Republican Party.  Most of the other Republicans quoted in the article threw Corey Stewart under the bus.

This is not a good sign four months before Election Day, especially from a party that has not won a statewide race since 2009.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Endorses Fred Hubbell for Governor of Iowa

NARAL Pro-Choice American president Ilyse Hogue endorsed Democrat Fred Hubbell for next November’s election, calling him “the champion we need in the Iowa Governor’s Mansion.” With Republicans in control of the governor and both chambers of the state legislature, the Hawkeye State has become a flashpoint in the legal and political battle over abortion rights.

Iowa state law currently prohibits abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. Incument Republican governor Kim Reynolds, whom Hubbell is hoping to defeat in the election, signed Senate File 359 into law last May. Known as the heartbeat bill because it would ban abortions once a heartbeat has been detected after about six weeks of pregnancy, it is considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

According to NPR, critics of the new law say it will prohibit abortions before some women might even know they are pregnant.   Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union both already announced their intentions to sue Governor Reynolds and the state.  The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

A recent court decision does not bode well for the future of the heartbeat law. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled 5-2 last Friday that women had a right to an abortion under the state’s constitution, striking down a 2017 law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.   “Autonomy and dominion over one’s body go to the very heart of what it means to be free. At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world,” Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in the majority opinion. “Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty. We therefore hold, under the Iowa Constitution, that implicit in the concept of ordered liberty is the ability to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.”

“Women deserve equal access to quality, affordable health care, and as governor, I am committed to making that a reality,” Hubbell said.

Supreme Court Politics and the 2018 Election Map

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to retire four months before the election is the best thing that could have happened to Republicans, conventional wisdom says.  It is difficult to disagree with that logic, but it is also necessary to keep in mind the counterargument – which is that enthusiasm cuts both ways. (To be fair, the more adequate word for Democrats still reeling from the announcement isn’t enthusiasm, but fear.)

Historically, Republican voters have been more motivated to go to the polls because of the issue of judicial nominations than Democrats.  Exit polls from the 2016 election confirm this view. According to CNN, 56 percent of Trump voters said Supreme Court appointments were the most important factor in their decision. Evidence strongly suggests that filling Supreme Court vacancies was a big reason for Donald Trump’s win. Though the stakes for filling any court vacancy are always high, they aren’t as high or urgent from the Republican perspective this time around. Why? Two years ago, the presidency was up for grabs and, with it, the next two or more court vacancies, including the seat held by Scalia which could have altered the court’s majority if Hillary Clinton had won.  Now, Donald Trump is in the middle of his first term, with a Republican-controlled Senate. It may gin up enthusiasm among some Republican voters, but it doesn’t have the same existential sense of urgency that Democrats are now feeling.

“Misery motivates, not utopia,” Karl Marx once wrote. That principle, combined with lingering anger over the Senate Republican blockade of Merrick Garland and the recent string of losses in Supreme Court decisions during the week leading up to the Kennedy retirement, strongly suggest that Democratic candidates and their allies aren’t going to treat this Supreme Court vacancy like any other opening in the past.

State Democratic parties and candidates are fundraising off the Kennedy retirement, some on the specific message of running as a defender of abortion rights. Others have spoken more generally about the urgency of electing Democratic governors and legislators to have as a check on any sweeping future rulings from the Supreme Court on issues like abortion, voting rights, gun control, campaign finance, or redistricting. However, the initial messaging from Democrats and various interest groups on the actual Supreme Court vacancy itself is all over the map, depending on who you ask.  Their options to block a nominee are nonexistent after Senate Republicans abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees for the Neil Gorsuch vote. Their only chance at blocking a nominee is the slim chance that minority leader Charles Schumer can hold all 49 Democrats and is somehow able to get two Republicans to join them in voting against.

Just as there will be enormous pressure on a handful of red state Democrats who are running for reelection this cycle (specifically Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch last year), there will also be enormous pressure on Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are the only pro-choice Republicans in their party’s Senate caucus. Collins and Murkowski have the benefit of not running for reelection in this hyperpartisan political environment, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be feeling pressure. As Republican pro-choice women in the Senate who have a vote in judicial nominations, do they want their legacies to be defined by potentially casting the deciding vote to seat a Supreme Court justice who might one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?

It is also necessary to look beyond Murkowski and Collins for potential pressure points. Even though they aren’t on the ballot this year, the governors of Alaska and Maine are, as is Maine’s independent senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats. Voters in both states won’t be able to vote against Murkowski or Collins in this cycle, so they may opt to flex their political muscles by voting for (or against) the candidates who are on the ballot in November.

While Senate Democrats have a terrible electoral map to defend this year, when it comes to governors and state legislatures, the map becomes almost the inverse, meaning that they will have ample pickup opportunities in down ballot races.  Democrats have shown more interest and energy in down ballot state legislative races in the first eighteen months of the Trump presidency, and have already demonstrated some success in special elections – the DLCC has flipped 44 Republican-held seats to the Democrats, in addition to a Wisconsin state supreme court seat, a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, and stunning off-year results up and down the ballot in Virginia. If Democrats can harness this anxiety about the court and turn it into votes in November, that could drive them to some surprise victories.

Democrats might not be able to stop Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee, but they can put themselves in a better political position for the second half of his term: retaking the House or Senate will give them subpoena power and the ability to launch investigations, as well as control of nominations to the upper chamber; control of governor’s mansions, state offices and state legislatures will give them control of state voting rights as well as drawing the congressional maps for the next round of redistricting after 2020.

As painful as losing cases at the Supreme Court will be, the Democrats’ best hope for now is that they can use the court as an issue to play the long game: rebuild their bench in state and federal offices, gain congressional majorities, and eventually win the presidency.

 

October Surprise Watch: The Russia Investigation

Amid all the hoopla about the Supreme Court in the past several days, it’s easy to overlook the fact that there has been some movement in the Russia investigation. Here is a list of events that are already known and set on the calendar, scheduled to happen before the election:

  • July 25: Paul Manafort Virginia trial begins.
  • August 24: Mueller will update the court on sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn.
  • September 7: George Papadopoulos sentencing hearing. (Could be postponed to October, depending on judge’s availability)
  • September 17: Paul Manafort DC trial begins.
  • November 6: Election Day

Trials can be messy affairs – witness examination and cross-examination, as well as presentation of evidence by both sides virtually guarantees that a lot of Paul Manafort’s dirty laundry will be aired out in public for the world and a grand jury to see. While the charges focus on Manafort’s work as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian political clients in Ukraine, it is entirely possible that facts and allegations about Manafort’s time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman come out during the trial.

Keep in mind, these are events we know about, based on court filings and public statements.  It is entirely possible Mueller could drop another bombshell or two. For example: a subpoena to get the president’s testimony, or the long-expected indictment surrounding the email hacks that caused so much chaos during the 2016 election. The thinking is Mueller will indict Russians who were involved in the hacks in the same way he indicted Russian individuals and organizations in connection with the social media efforts. If this is the case, the potential wildcards are if he indicts WikiLeaks as an organization, Julian Assange as an individual and the head of that organization, and if any Americans are named or indicted as well.

All of this does not take into account any potential developments in the Michael Cohen case, which may or may not overlap with the Russia investigation. (Reminder: it was Mueller’s office who referred the case to the Southern District of New York) When the FBI raided his home, office and hotel room, they seized more than 3.7 million items which federal prosecutors could potentially use as evidence. As of this writing, the judge overseeing the case has ordered that a review of documents and data files seized as evidence in the case must be finished by the first week of July.  (Reminder: federal agents seized eight boxes worth of documents, approximately 30 cell phones, iPads and computers, and the contents of a shredder)

The court-appointed special master has for the most part rejected claims of attorney-client privilege by Cohen.  According to a court document from earlier this month, out of nearly 300,000 items reviewed, only 161 were privileged and seven of them were conversations between Cohen and a legal client containing legal advice. This means that the vast majority of the evidence seized in the raids is fair game for prosecutors.

There has been reporting that Cohen is leaning toward cutting a deal and collaborating with a government but no concrete evidence of that yet. There has also been reporting that Cohen has had a falling out with his former boss and the Trump family, which might make him more willing to talk to federal investigators – whether it by the Southern District of New York or Robert Mueller’s office.

Watch this space.

Doug Jones Sends Out Fundraising Email for Arizona Senate Race

Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Qualifies for North Carolina Ballot

North Carolina voters will decide next fall whether voter ID requirement should be part of the state constitution.  The Republican-controlled state Senate approved the measure, which would bring back photo ID requirements that were part of a 2013 state election law that was later struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016. The ruling concluded, “the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and called it, “the most restrictive voting law North Carolina has seen since the era of Jim Crow.” Amendments do not require the approval of the governor, in this case Democrat Roy Cooper.

Governor Cooper released a statement earlier this month saying, “Here they go again. After being stopped by the Courts for discriminating against African Americans with ‘surgical precision,’ this Republican legislature is once again reducing access to the ballot box. We should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”

In a statement, Let America Vote president Jason Kander said, “North Carolinians who believe in a free and fair democracy now must stand up and fight to defeat this amendment so that this un-democratic policy is not enshrined in the state constitution. Let America Vote stands with voting-rights champions to make sure that political consequences exist for politicians who suppress the vote.”

According to North Carolina Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse, the State Executive Committee will meet in Charlotte on August 4 to formally endorse the amendments that will appear on the ballot, and work to ensure their passage. Because the amendments were passed by a Republican-controlled legislature, they would presumably help drive Republican turnout in the 2018 election with no governor or U.S. Senate race on the ballot this cycle. Voter ID will be one of six constitutional amendments on the North Carolina ballot this November. Only two states currently have voter ID requirements in their constitutions.

Biden Endorses Kyrsten Sinema

Former vice president Joe Biden has endorsed Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate running for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat. In an email sent out from Sinema’s Senate campaign, Biden said:

“I am proud to support my friend Kyrsten Sinema in her campaign for Senate. Kyrsten understands the challenges and opportunities that Arizona families face every day and will make a great Senator.

I’ve seen first-hand how Kyrsten gets things done for Arizona. She was indispensable to our work to strengthen the landmark Violence Against Women Act and brought a unique perspective, having worked in communities and schools. Together with Kyrsten, we expanded protections against domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Kyrsten also cares deeply for the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform. From standing up for our active duty service members to her work to ensure all veterans get the care they deserve, Kyrsten is tenacious in delivering results.

Kyrsten is as hard-working and principled as they come. She has the rare ability to cut through the political games and work across the aisle to get things done. These qualities can be tough to find today, but are as important as ever to solve our nation’s toughest challenges. We need more people like Kyrsten in the U.S. Senate.”

Arizona’s primary election is scheduled for August 28. Both Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report project the Arizona Senate race as a tossup.

Both Candidates in Nevada Senate Race Fundraising Off Kennedy Retirement

That didn’t take long.

Rosen Kennedy email June 27 2018.jpeg