Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Supports Moore

After a week of waffling, President Donald Trump has come out in favor of alleged child molester Roy Moore. He said: "We don't need a liberal Democrat in that seat." He also stressed that Moore has denied all the charges, and pointed out that the alleged molestations, if they happened, took place 40 years ago. The credible reports of nine women apparently don't mean much to the President. The need to keep a Republican rear end on Jeff Sessions' old seat trumps everything else.

Whether Trump's remarks will help or hurt Moore is far from clear. Diehard Trump supporters clearly don't mind accusations of sexual misconduct, but are probably 100% behind Moore already and don't need to be egged on any further. On the other hand, suburban Republicans who don't like Trump may decide that the way they can demonstrate this is by voting for Jones.

On the other hand, there's every chance that Trump's remarks could hurt Trump. To start, he has established a new evidentiary standard—"hey, he denied it"—that will surely come back to bite him in the rear. The next time he brings up Hillary Clinton's e-mail, for example: "Hey, she denied it." Or Barack Obama's alleged wiretapping, or Bill Clinton's sexual indiscretions, or any other number of dead horses that The Donald likes to beat.

More significantly, however, is that Trump—who seems incapable of long-term thinking—does not seem to have played out all the various permutations in his head. In the short term, he has put himself at loggerheads with virtually the entire Republican establishment, thus further straining a relationship that is already very poor. Then, in a few weeks, Alabamians will choose their new senator. If Doug Jones wins, then Trump has hitched his wagon to a loser, which he hates, and will have diluted his political capital even further. "Once again, Trump shows that he has no influence, in a red state," they will say.

If Moore wins, it's probably even worse for the President. He may be a "yes" vote for taxes or Obamacare repeals, but on the whole he will be a loose cannon who is even less reliable than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). He could and would demand that bills be made more conservative to suit his tastes, meaning that the votes of a Susan Collins (R-ME), or a Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), or a Dean Heller (R-NV), or a John McCain (R-AZ) would likely be lost, again making the GOP's narrow margin of error in the Senate a problem. Recall that the man whom Moore would replace, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), is a loyal backbencher who always does what he is told. In other words, he was already a vote for the Republican tax plan, and the Obamacare repeal, and any other thing that Trump and/or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cooks up. Moore can't be "better" than Strange when it comes to following the party line; he can only be the same, or worse.

Meanwhile, if Senate Republicans decide to expel Moore, then it's once again a loss and an embarrassment for Trump, not to mention a further strain on the relationship. And if Senate Republicans decide they can't expel a Trump-backed senator, then Moore will become a massive millstone around Republicans' necks during the 2018 midterms. And then, during the presidential campaign two years later, The Donald will be the candidate who is just fine with pu**y grabbing and child molesting. That may cause many of the suburban women who held their noses and voted for Trump because of their disdain for Hillary Clinton to reach some very different conclusions. This is not good for someone who has virtually no margin of error. So, in short, there does not seem to be an outcome here that does not end with Trump suffering more harm than benefit.

A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows that among all American voters, 60% think that if he is elected, Moore should be expelled from the Senate, whereas only 28% think he should be allowed to serve. However, among Republicans, only 33% say he should be expelled, with 49% saying he should serve. Trump is probably responding to the poll, and paying more attention to that 49% (who are probably with him no matter what) without thinking about the that 33% (Republican voters who are, in effect, announcing that they find Moore outrageously offensive). Trump's guiding principle is to do what his base wants, and the base doesn't care about things like sexual assault on children if it could cost them a Senate seat. At this point it is hard to imagine any crime a Republican could commit and have the Republican base turn on him. Converting to Islam might do it but that, of course, is not a crime. (Z & V)

New Poll Shows Moore Slightly Ahead of Jones

A new Fox 6 poll done by Strategy Research, a firm that mostly works for corporations, shows Roy Moore with 47% of the vote in Alabama and Doug Jones at 45%. This is a statistical tie. About 5% of the voters are undecided and 3% plan to write someone in. The margin of error is 2%. (V)

House Moves to Investigate Conyers

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for an investigation of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (R-MI) over sexual harassment charges. Very briefly, he fired a staff member in 2015 and she is now charging that he did so because she refused to have sex with him. He tried to keep her quiet by paying her $27,111.75, and explained this by saying it was reasonable severance pay.

Conyers is the longest-serving member of the House. The case is complicated because Conyers is 88 and the senior member of the House Judiciary Committee. If the Democrats seize control of the House in 2018 and want to impeach Donald Trump, the initial action would be up to Conyers as the new committee chairman. Many younger Democrats, especially liberal ones, would prefer someone else in charge of the proceedings.

Also in the mix is race. Conyers was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Consequently, he expects black Democrats to support him, but some members of that caucus think he is guilty as charged and don't want to defend him. He could be pressured into resigning, but it would take a 2/3 majority to expel him from the House. (V)

Murkowski Says She's Open to Killing Obamacare Mandate

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has penned an editorial for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner—you know, "The Voice of Interior Alaska." In it, she says she is definitely open to the provision in the GOP's new tax bill that would (effectively) repeal the Obamacare individual mandate, because she supports the freedom to choose. That does not necessarily mean that she's yet on board with the actual tax bill itself, however, as she is careful to point out. Further, she still wants the Alexander/Murray bill passed, in order to stabilize the insurance markets.

What Murkowski has effectively done here is talk out of both sides of her mouth. She supports a law that would stabilize the ACA, but she also supports a law that would be guaranteed to destabilize it. We presume that a United States Senator with a college degree and a law degree is smart enough to know that killing the individual mandate is guaranteed to cause young, healthy people to cancel their plans, thus increasing costs and premiums, and creating a crisis in the insurance markets that will be somewhere on the spectrum between "dire" and "death spiral."

If this assumption is correct, then it raises the question of what the Senator's thought process is here. It's possible that she's just thinking provincially, given that Alaska would get a disproportionate amount of support under Alexander/Murray. More probable, however—given that the op-ed was published in podunk newspaper with a circulation of less than 10,000—is that this is just a little posturing for the benefit of the folks back home, where Obamacare costs are extremely high. "I fought for Alexander/Murray, and I was willing to kill the mandate," she can say. She may also suspect that the GOP bill is going down in flames, and she may want to get a little political mileage out of it before it does so. (Z)

Say Farewell to Net Neutrality...Maybe

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, assumed his position with one goal in mind: ending Net Neutrality. Doing so would mean that Internet service providers (ISPs) would be allowed to give preference to some traffic (their own, the traffic of those who pay for the privilege) and to slow down other traffic. For example, the ISP Spectrum might well prioritize their own streaming cable service, while bottlenecking the service of SlingTV, or extracting a king's ransom from Netflix in exchange for not bottlenecking them.

The FCC has a procedure in place for enacting policy changes like this, namely requiring a six month period in which citizens are allowed to share their views. A record 22 million comments were received, with the vast majority opposing the proposed change. Pai, who—just coincidentally—used to work for ISP Verizon, has listened to the feedback and decided that he's going to move forward anyhow. In an announcement on Tuesday, he declared declared that, "[The federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices."

That is some very pleasant-sounding rhetoric, but make no mistake, this is a big, shiny Christmas present being handed to telecomm companies, who will either be in a privileged position to promote their own content, or would be able to charge more money to deliver others' content, or both. The proposal thus bears more than a passing resemblance to the GOP tax plan, where "for the people" really means "for the Party's well-heeled corporate donors."

If Pai has his way, there are three potential effects on people's Internet usage, any or all of which could happen:

  • Inferior Service: Let's use Netflix as an example here. Because the Internet, and thus Netflix, are digital, there really are no degrees of functionality. It either works, or it doesn't. Right now, it works. If the rules are changed, it will either keep working the same, or it will work worse—dropped frames, connection issues, etc.—which would make the service unusable for some (or many) users. It cannot get better, since there is no "better" beyond the current "it works correctly."

  • Higher Costs: If Netflix's service degrades to the point that they start losing users, they may be forced to pony up for "priority" streaming from Verizon, or Spectrum, or AT&T, or whomever. Those costs would be passed on to consumers, one way or another.

  • Less Choice: On the other hand, if the added costs of doing business are so much that consumers will not bear them, then Netflix will have to cut costs by reducing content. Or, they may find themselves unable to do business entirely, and may be forced to fold.

Netflix is just one company, and a big one that is likely to weather the storm. But multiply this effect by hundreds of thousands of websites and companies—Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Sling, MLBtv, ESPN, etc.—and it could fundamentally change the Internet in a way that would surely be worse for the consumer. That's a pretty big risk for the Trump administration and for the GOP—the effects would be noticeable, and everyone would know who is to blame. It would also be further, and compelling, evidence for Democratic claims that the Republicans are only interested in helping the rich, even if it means screwing the middle class and the poor.

AT&T, Verizon, and the other carriers aren't stupid. They know they have to make the demise of net neutrality look like a boon to consumers—at least at first. A likely scenario is that one or more big ISPs makes a deal with, say Netflix. Netflix pays, say, AT&T, a large amount of money every month (which consumers don't know about initially) and in return, streaming movies from Netfix doesn't count against the consumer's monthly bundle of MBs or GBs, whereas using, say, Amazon Prime, does. Amazon then makes a deal with, say, T-Mobile, to do the same thing. Then the consumer has to pick either AT&T/Netflix or T-Mobile/Amazon. The other combinations aren't available. This is consumer choice?

But in the long run, it gets much worse. Under the terms Pai has outlined, a carrier would be free to block certain Websites completely. Suppose AT&T decided to completely block liberal Websites like Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and others. Would Republicans in Congress not want to reward them for this courageous behavior of banning "fake news"? In case you are thinking: "What about the First Amendment?" that applies only to the government, not to private companies.

The end game here is to turn the Internet into cable TV. Instead of millions of Websites, most of them small, allowing a vigorous exchange of ideas, we could end up with a Web consisting of 1,000 Websites, each run by a big company for purposes of selling its products and services or pushing its political views. It would be as impractical for individuals or small businesses to get on the Web as it is for them to get their own channel on cable TV.

That said, the fight is not quite over yet. Pai knows that the states, particularly the big, blue ones, are likely to step in and pass their own Net Neutrality laws. Recognizing this, he is trying to preemptively block states from doing so. The states will argue that it is in their purview to claim any powers not delegated to the federal government, and since the FCC is explicitly dialing back its regulatory behavior, it is the states' right to fill the void. Pai argues that Internet traffic is a form of interstate commerce, and is thus the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. It is not at all clear what side would prevail in this dispute; the only thing that is clear is that the courts are going to be involved, which means no resolution for a very long time. And then, the Democrats will eventually retake control of the government and the FCC, change the rules back, and we'll be right back where we started. (Z & V)

Trump's Likely Pick to Oversee the Census is Dubious

For someone who promised to drain the swamp, Donald Trump is pursuing many and varied types of swampy behavior. To oversee the next census, he is leaning toward Thomas Brunell, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Like many Trump picks, he has no relevant experience, having no government experience at any level. What he does have, however, is a well-established political agenda.

Brunell, who has been a professional academic for 20 years, has exactly one book to his credit. Its title is Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America. The scholarly community didn't exactly love it; the word "absurd" showed in more than one review. Obviously, it's not too hard to guess what Brunell's goals are, or why Trump is thinking about picking him. By the time the next census is conducted, the Supreme Court may well have struck down political gerrymanders. But if they haven't, then Brunell is the perfect guy to help the GOP maximize the mileage they get out of the practice. (Z)

Democrats Have a Fighting Chance in PA-18 Special Election

Former representative Tim Murphy had an easy time in 2016: The Democrats didn't bother to run anyone against him. So he waltzed to his eighth straight victory in PA-18, a heavily gerrymandered district in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. He could have kept piling up victory and victory had it not come out in October that he encouraged his mistress to have an abortion, despite his being on record that nobody else should have an abortion. On Oct. 21, he resigned from Congress.

Somewhat to everyone's surprise, the March 13 special election might be competitive. The Democrats have nominated a Marine Corps veteran and former assistant U.S. attorney, Conor Lamb, who is a political moderate. The Republicans nominated a right-wing state representative, Rick Saccone, who has boasted that he "was Trump before Trump was Trump."

Lamb is not going to run on an anti-Trump platform. That would be suicide in this R+11 district. He is going to talk about his background as a Marine and a prosecutor and the opioid epidemic. Like Doug Jones in Alabama, he wants this to be a local race, not a replay of the 2016 presidential election. As in Alabama, the combination of a moderate Democrat and a very right-wing Republican might just work in a conservative district. If Lamb wins, it will encourage Democrats to contest rural districts all over the country. (V)

The Russians Love Rohrabacher

Among the Republican representatives running for re-election in 2018, there aren't many who are more endangered than Dana Rohrabacher (CA). His district, once very red, has become purple (Cook PVI of R+4), and is full of the kind of people (college-educated suburbanites) who appear to be drifting away from the Republican Party. Donald Trump is unusually unpopular there, for a Republican-majority district, and the Congressman has not been effective in walking the fine line he needs to walk to keep both his constituents and his colleagues happy. In particular, his (ultimately meaningless) votes to repeal Obamacare did not sit well with the voters. If he supports a tax plan that kills deductions for state income taxes, he could find himself with a full-on rebellion on his hands. He's already drawn two Republican and seven Democratic opponents who want to take their shot at him next year.

Life did not get easier for Rohrabacher on Tuesday. It was already well known that he was very Russia-friendly, particularly once he assumed chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. Now, the New York Times reports that the Kremlin found him so valuable that they assigned him a code name for use in communications between their spies. The FBI warned the Congressman of this fact back in 2012, but he continued to cultivate close relations with Vladimir Putin, and to lead the subcommittee. There is no evidence that Rohrabacher had any role in Russiagate, but nonetheless, it's not a good time to look like someone who was either knowingly collaborating with the Russians, or else who spent a decade or more was an oblivious "useful idiot." (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov21 Leigh Corfman Gives Her First Television Interview
Nov21 Kellyanne Conway Wants Moore's Vote on Taxes
Nov21 GOP Tax Plan Gets Another Bad Review
Nov21 Another Woman Accuses Franken
Nov21 Two Journalists Accused of Harassment
Nov21 Trump Administration Working Hard to Fulfill Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Nov21 McMaster Said Trump's Intelligence is Comparable to that of a Kindergartner
Nov21 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti May Run for President
Nov21 Virginia House of Delegates Still Up in the Air
Nov20 Alabama's Biggest Newspapers Endorse Jones
Nov20 Moore Is Already Affecting the 2018 Races
Nov20 Franken Won't Resign
Nov20 Seven Senators Are on the Fence on the Tax Bill
Nov20 White House: Tax Bill Trumps Repealing Obamacare
Nov20 Republicans Desperately Want the Tax Bill to Pass; Democrats, Too
Nov20 Trump Fires Back at Ball
Nov20 How to Keep Trump Happy? Lie to Him
Nov20 NRCC Lottery Offers a Weekend at Trump's Hotel in D.C. as the Prize
Nov19 Trump Jr. Linked to Yet Another Friend of Putin
Nov19 What is Donald Trump's Foreign Policy?
Nov19 USA No Longer Number One
Nov19 Trump's Ability to Launch Nukes May Be Limited
Nov19 Donald Trump to Pay Donald Trump's Legal Bills
Nov19 Alabama Pastors Slam Moore
Nov19 It's Ball Vs. Trump
Nov18 Murkowski Wants to Stabilize Health-Care Market Before Voting on Tax Bill
Nov18 Russiagate Plot Thickens Even More
Nov18 Trump Building in Panama Under Scrutiny
Nov18 Jones' Strategy in the Alabama Senate Race
Nov18 Moore's Polling Is Trending Downward
Nov18 Would a 51-49 Senate Be Different from a 52-48 Senate?
Nov18 Cook Political Report Predicts a Democratic Wave in 2018
Nov18 Female Staffers Rush to Franken's Rescue
Nov18 Aides Give Up on Trump Tweeting
Nov17 House Passes the Tax Bill
Nov17 More Trouble for Kushner
Nov17 Six Possible Outcomes for the Alabama Senate Race, Ranked
Nov17 Not Everyone Is Fleeing from Roy Moore
Nov17 Republicans Are Getting Nervous about 2018
Nov17 Menendez Escapes--For Now
Nov17 Franken Groped and Kissed a Woman Without Her Consent
Nov16 Health-Care Industry Gets Involved in the Tax Bill
Nov16 First Republican Senator Opposes the Tax Bill
Nov16 Former Defense Secretaries Oppose the Tax Bill
Nov16 Moore Saga Continues to Develop Rapidly
Nov16 Could the Republicans Try a Constitutional Hail Mary?
Nov16 NRSC Poll Shows Jones Up by 12 Points
Nov16 Bannon Sees the Republican Party as a Headless Chicken
Nov16 Lots of Blowback on Potential Uranium Investigation
Nov16 Kaine Wants to Abolish Superdelegates