BREAKING: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Announces His Retirement

Hugely consequential development four months out from Election Day.

UPDATE: Statement from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

“If there was ever any question whether the November elections would be the most important of our lifetime, Justice Kennedy’s retirement should remove all doubt. Democrats and Republicans should reject any nominee who won’t uphold our constitution and our basic human rights, and who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. We must make our voices heard at the ballot box for the millions of American families who are counting on us.

“So if you believe immigrant families belong together, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe in a woman’s right to choose and a worker’s right to bargain, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe health care is a right for all, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe a Muslim ban is fundamentally un-American, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe in full equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of our society, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe Dreamers should be able to stay and contribute to the only country they call home, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe climate change is an urgent threat to our economy, our environment, and our children’s future, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe our leaders should put people before corporations, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe we should make ​it easier for people to vote, not harder, vote for Democrats in November.

“Elections have consequences. The last Supreme Court vacancy was brazenly stolen by shameless Republican leaders with no respect for American democracy. We cannot let that happen again. In November, you won’t just be deciding the next Congress, you will be deciding the direction America goes in for the next half-century. If the last year and a half has made you angry, organize for Democrats, vote for Democrats, and elect Democrats up and down the ballot – from the school board to the Senate.”

UPDATE II: He’s not a flaming ideologue or alarmist, but CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin really puts the enormity of the stakes of this upcoming Supreme Court fight into perspective:

 

Sinema Leads in Arizona Senate Race Polls

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leads in hypothetical matchups for Arizona’s Senate race against all three potential Republican opponents, according to two new polls which illustrate the challenge that state and national Republicans will have in holding this Senate seat in the November general election.

According to a CBS News/YouGov poll, Sinema leads former State Sen. Kelli Ward 43-35, Rep. Martha McSally 41-34, and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio 45-28.  The same poll gives President Donald Trump a 47-53 approval rating

A second poll by Emerson College has Sinema leading Ward 43-26, McSally 40-32, and Arpaio 54-30. Sinema has a commanding 51 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, with no other candidate getting more than 8 percent. Republican primary voters are more divided, with McSally leading with 32 percent, Ward in second with 19 percent, Arpaio close behind with 18 percent, and 23 percent of voters still undecided.

The Emerson poll also has incumbent Republican governor Doug Ducey with a 31 percent approval rating, lower than President Trump’s 43 percent approval rating in the state.  Ducey leads his opponent, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett 44-22 in the Republican gubernatorial primary, with 35 percent of voters undecided. Former college professor David Garcia leads among Democratic primary voters, with 30 percent of the vote. State Sen. Steve Farley is in second place with 13 percent, and Kelly Fryer in third with 9 percent of the vote.  However, 48 percent of voters are undecided.

Defending the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake is one of Republicans’ biggest challenges in an otherwise mostly favorable 2018 Senate cycle. According to the Prew Research Center, Arizona has the sixth highest Hispanic population in the country – roughly 2.1 million Hispanics who account for 31 percent of the state population, and approximately 3.7 percent of all Hispanics in the United States. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton overperformed in Arizona in 2016 compared to previous Democratic presidential candidates, losing the state by only 3.5 percent of the vote. State Democrats may be even more energized to turn out and vote because of President Trump’s decision to pardon Sheriff Arpaio in August of 2017. There has been no polling of Arizona voters about the Trump administration’s family separation policy, but a recent Battleground Tracker poll by CBS News and YouGov found that the policy only has 27 percent support.

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

UPDATE: NBC News released the results of its Arizona Senate race poll this afternoon. Sinema leads all three Republican candidates by double digits: Ward 48-38, McSally 49-38, Arpaio 57-32.

Poll: Trump Leads Holder 37-21

President Donald Trump leads former attorney general Eric Holder 37-21 in a hypothetical matchup, with 41 percent of voters undecided, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll.  Holder underperforms a generic Democrat who, in another poll, is ahead of President Trump 44-36, with 20 percent undecided.

Democrats are divided about the former attorney general as a prospective presidential candidate. Fifty-two percent of Democrats were undecided when asked about a Trump-Holder matchup, compared to 42 percent who said they would support Holder.

Holder said he was considering a presidential run during an interview with MSNBC last April. He also traveled to New Hampshire in May, during which he spoke and took questions at “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics – a traditional stop for presidential aspirants.  Holder has said he remains focused on his work with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

Governors Oppose Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy

In the past few days, governors from both parties have stated their opposition to President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” which has resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families at the border. Some governors issued statements, while others like Larry Hogan, Charlie Baker and Roy Cooper took action by recalling their National Guard troops that had been deployed to protect the border.

Here is the list, in alphabetical order by state, as of the night of June 19:

For political context, Hickenlooper (D) and Malloy (D) are term-limited. Baker (R), Hogan (R), Raimondo (D), Scott (R), Sununu (R), and Wolf (D) are running for reelection.  Carney (D), Cooper (D), and Northam (D) are in the middle of their current terms.

 

Republicans Make Last-Minute Push to Defend Kansas Seat

 

 

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes mingle with voters after a campaign rally at a Wichita airport hangar. (Photo Credit: David de Sola)

WICHITA, Kan. – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned hundreds of local Republicans of the dangers of complacency as part of a last-minute push to turn out voters for state treasurer Ron Estes, the Republican candidate in tomorrow’s special congressional election.

“The eyes of the whole country are on Kansas,” Cruz said.

Tomorrow’s election is the first of Donald Trump’s presidency. It is also the first test of Democrats’ candidates, messages, strategies, and tactics since the presidential election. The seat previously held by Rep. Mike Pompeo had been safely Republican since the 1994 midterm elections. Though the political history and culture of the district and state at large favor Republicans, anecdotal evidence indicates that state and national Republicans are worried about losing the seat in a district that Donald Trump won by 27 points last November.  Republicans have tried to nationalize the race by tying Democratic candidate James Thompson to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who Thompson has openly cited as his inspiration for running for office. [Sanders’s post-election organization Our Revolution has endorsed Thompson.]

Besides Cruz’s last-minute campaign rally, the National Republican Congressional Committee made a $92,000 expenditure in this race. [According to the New York Times, the NRCC received a poll last week showing Estes ahead only by single digits.] House Speaker Paul Ryan sent out a fundraising email and donated $5,000. Vice President Mike Pence’s robocall, it was revealed today that President Trump himself recorded a robocall on Estes’s behalf.  The Cook Political Report shifted its assessment of the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. From their analysis:

Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special. More than that, Estes appears to be swept up in a last-minute vortex of factors outside his control: Democrats’ anger towards Trump, independents’ anger towards Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP dissatisfaction with early administration failures.

Estes himself was optimistic about the race entering the final stretch. “There’s been a lot of enthusiasm the last couple of weeks.  People are now starting to focus on April 11 and really going to turn out,” he said during a brief interview after the rally. “There’s a lot of people, a couple of weeks ago they were doing other things, maybe the basketball tournament. But now they’re focusing on the election and really want to have a representative.”

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State Treasurer Ron Estes addressing a campaign rally one day before Wichita area voters elect their new congressman. (Photo Credit: David de Sola)

The people at the rally were of all ages and walks of life. One local father took his two middle school-aged children out of class early so they could attend the rally on Monday afternoon, which he described as “a civics lesson.”

“I hope it turns out good,” Robert Pell, a Republican committeeman from Wichita said. He noted he had seen more yard signs for Thompson than Estes, who had not put out as many. He cited the Second Amendment and repealing Obamacare as his two major issues in this race.

Melissa Stout said this was her first campaign event, and she came to hear from both Cruz and Estes.  She ranked her issues in the election as “standing behind our president,” opposition to abortion, and support for the Second Amendment.

In his speech, Cruz mentioned four “big things” Republicans had on their plate for 2017: the Supreme Court, repealing Obamacare, regulatory reform, and tax reform.  “We have a Republican president, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. How about we act like it?” Cruz asked rhetorically, to applause from the audience. “If we accomplish all four things, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. If we fail, 2017 will be a heartbreaking year.”

A Thompson victory in the Fourth Congressional District would probably draw comparisons to Scott Brown’s improbable U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts in 2010, though Thompson’s would not be as consequential to the balance of power in Congress. The special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District scheduled for April 18 is another worry for national Republicans. The Cook Political Report recently rated the Georgia race as a toss up.

When viewed individually, the Kansas and Georgia races might be dismissed as a fluke.  Taken into conjunction, happening in two different regions of the country within the span of a week, both in districts considered safely Republican, these two races would cause alarm among Republicans. Less than one hundred days into the Trump presidency, they would be indicators of the volatility of the electorate going into 2018, particularly for Republican chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives.

Media Moguls Reconsidering Presidential Run for 2020

This double whammy could have Democrats salivating or give them heartburn.

First, this Hollywood Reporter story saying that Disney CEO Bob Iger is reconsidering running for president as a Democrat in 2020. The story notes that his current contract expires in June 2018, which means that if he were so inclined, that would give him a few months to mount a political operation before jumping into the Democratic presidential primary beginning in 2019. Beyond that, the story also reports that he has consulted with Michael Bloomberg about the transition from business executive to political executive. Bloomberg is another media mogul who made the jump into politics, serving as New York City mayor despite no previous record of public service.

Second, this interview with Oprah Winfrey on Bloomberg’s The David Rubenstein Show:

Rubenstein: Have you ever thought that given the popularity you have, we haven’t broken the glass ceiling yet for women, that you could actually run for president and actually be elected?

Winfrey: I actually never thought, I’ve never considered the question, even a possibility. I just thought, “Oh! Oh!”

Rubenstein: Because it’s clear you don’t need government experience to be elected President of the United States…

Winfrey: That’s what I thought! I thought, “Gee, I don’t have the experience. I don’t know enough.” Now, I’m thinking, “Oh!”

Trump’s victory has billionaires and business executives from both parties rethinking about political ambitions and entering public service. However, if one or possibly both of these entertainment industry moguls who are more than capable of self-financing a run – at least to a point – enter the race with a presumably crowded Democratic field of governors and senators, they will probably suck a lot of the media oxygen out of the race early on.  It should also be noted that Winfrey herself was an early and prominent backer of Barack Obama during the 2008 primary.

Democratic Attorneys General Oppose Trump Clean Water Executive Order

While much of the focus on the Democratic legal opposition to the Trump White House has focused on the travel ban, a new front has opened up: Trump’s executive order loosening Obama-era clean water regulations.

New York Attorney General (and long-time Trump nemesis) Eric Schneiderman announced a coalition of attorneys general from New York, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont that would oppose this new executive order.  The coalition issued this statement:

“We strongly oppose President Trump’s action today that undermines Clean Water Act protections and the public health and environment of our states.

The President’s order runs counter to the Clean Water Act’s, and the EPA’s, very purpose: achieving clean water. The Clean Water Rule is a measured, reasonable, and lawful application of sound and uncontroverted science to protect our nation’s upstream source waters. We rely on these waters to ensure clean drinking water, recreation, and viable commercial fishing and navigation. Abandoning the Clean Water Rule will allow uncontrolled pollution of these critical water resources. It could also harm the competitiveness of our state economies by forcing us to spend more to clean up the pollution of deregulated waters coming from upstream states that refuse to control such pollution.

Clean water is essential to life — and the people of our states and the nation deserve the basic protections established by the Clean Water Rule, to ensure that the benefits of clean water are shared equally, regardless of state lines.

We won’t hesitate to protect our people and our environment—including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the public’s paramount need for clean water.”