That’s the conclusion of Dov Levin, a professor of international relations at the University of Hong Kong who has studied election meddling for nearly a decade.
“Mueller would have to find evidence of a handful of private meetings with few participants, which were conducted with people who have advanced professional training in hiding their tracks and avoiding surveillance,” Levin wrote. “Likewise, given the possible non-digital nature of such contacts, Mueller’s team would have to do this without a critical investigatory tool: advanced U.S. signals intelligence and cyber-warfare capabilities.”
1. CIA And FBI ‘Human Intelligence’
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team charged Papadopoulos — unconvincingly — with lying to investigators, because Papadopoulos said his contacts with Mifsud began before he was on the Trump campaign. Actually, the contacts started after he “learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the campaign,” but before the campaign made a public announcement that he was to be an advisor.
2. The Trump Tower Meeting
Whenever Democrats or David French types talk about Trump and Russia collusion they look to the Trump Tower meeting as definitive proof. There are several problems with that. First, no presidential campaign in American history would pass up the chance of hearing evidence of crimes being committed by their opponent, no matter the source. In fact, some would say you’re doing the country a favor if you let everyone know that your opponent is subject to blackmail from a not-so-friendly foreign power (just don’t have your son and son-in-law sit in on the meeting).
More problematic is that Glenn Simpson — head of Fusion GPS, the firm being paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC
3. Mike Flynn And The Logan Act
4. Andrew McCabe Sets Up Reince Priebus
Days later, the “breaking news” on CNN was that the White House had tried to pressure the FBI into batting down the reports on supposed ties between Trump and Russia. So not only was the White House supposedly colluding, now there were allegations of obstruction of justice.
5. Brennan Shops Dossier To Harry Reid
Former CIA Director John Brennan, who may have been the U.S. intelligence official to first push an investigation into the Trump campaign, briefed then-Sen. Harry Reid on the Clinton-funded dossier in August 2016.
6. Comey And Clapper Give CNN A Reason To Publish The Dossier
Comey, at the behest of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, briefed Trump on one of the allegations in the dossier, but not on the main allegation in the dossier,
7. The Jeff Sessions Recusal
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after anonymous intelligence community leaks about his contacts with Russians.
8. Rosenstein Recommends Comey Firing, Appoints Special Counsel
Rosenstein recommended Comey’s firing, and then — overseeing the investigation that stemmed from that firing — appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Taken together, these setups indicate a massive effort to aid the Clinton campaign before the election.
Read Full Story From Source: 8 Times U.S. Intelligence Set People Up To Fabricate The Russia Story
On Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Five,” Fox News Channel host Greg Gutfeld stated that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump may be “the right-wing Obama,” but that maybe Trump can “speak to the America currently held captive by liberal media and entertainment.” Although he added Trump “must convince us that he’s actually more than just a pretty, red persona.”
Gutfeld said, after playing a montage of Trump’s speech in Dallas “so this is the historical first, Republican style. Forget the first female in Hillary, or the first African-American in Obama. No, this historical first is celebrity. Entertainment is the new black. Do this exercise, imagine some politician saying what Trump just said, he’d be toast. But Trump has a bubble of immunity. He says, I’m ‘an entertainer,’ declaring himself a member of a new identity group that affords a protection. True, it has some drawbacks. It’s creepy watching starry-eyed men in the media fawn over him, but who does that remind you of?” Gutfeld then played clips of various media figures praising President Obama.
He continued, “So maybe Trump is the right-wing Obama, attracting both fan boys, but impervious to gaffes. How did this happen? Why? To quote the late Andrew Breitbart, ‘Politics is downstream from culture,’ meaning culture influences politics, not the reverse. And may be that culture candidate. He’s the guy from TV, not DC. His impact flows downstream to politics, so it’s less a campaign, and more a comedic crusade appealing to the bored and fed up. The fact is, the right’s been apart from culture for so long, that maybe it takes a TV star to build that bridge, and speak to the America currently held captive by liberal media and entertainment. Trump’s got problems. He can be crass, repetitious. I wish he would say something deep for once about terrorism. I wish he would read more and riff less. He’s a gamble. One that must convince us that he’s actually more than just a pretty, red persona. Or not, he could win as is. Well, unless the Dems wise up and run Clooney.”
Gutfeld later added, that while he agreed Trump does appeal to frustration with DC, “he’s going to have to talk about actual issues and specifics.” And that he thought Trump’s Dallas speech was “very repetitious,” and that he wants “depth.”
Gutfeld also argued, “you’re having the most ideological component of the Republican Party supporting the least ideological candidate in history,” but that he’s [Gutfeld] “not ideological,” and that Trump is a “warts and all” candidate.
He further stated that “it’s hard to square off with an entertainer as a policy person or a politician, because you can’t say those things, and he can. It’s just like Barack Obama.”
Gutfeld concluded that Trump’s comments about Senator John McCain (R-AZ) 43%
Hillary Clinton argued today that as president she would be as much a political outsider as any other candidate given that she would be the first female president.
“I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president, I mean really, let’s think about it,” the Democratic presidential candidate said during an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“All these mothers and fathers bring me the place mats with all the presidents, and they bring their daughters and they say, ‘My daughter has a question for you,'” the former senator and secretary of state explained Sunday. “And then the daughter says, ‘How come there are no girls on this place mat?’ So, I think that is a pretty big, unconventional choice.”
When pressed further, Clinton acknowledged that “political outsiders” could refer to candidates who have never held public office. But, she argued, those people would not be as effective as she would be as president.
“I know what you’re asking, ‘Do we want people who have never been elected to anything, who have no political experience, who’ve never made any hard choices in the public arena?’ Well, voters are going to have to decide that,” she said.
Clinton’s comments could be seen as a knock against Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — none of whom have ever been elected to public office, but are leading in the Republican polls.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, is also admired for being a political outsider by progressives. He is seeing massive support, gaining steadily in the polls, and even leading Clinton in New Hampshire.
During her interview today, Clinton also brushed aside the notion that she isn’t authentic and doesn’t show her “real” self out on the campaign trail.
“I can’t possibly do that,” Clinton said when asked to name three adjectives that describe her. “Look, I am a real person. With all the pluses and minuses that go along with it.”
Walker was in asterisk territory in one recent poll. REUTERS/Chris Keane
By Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Dan Balz September 21 at 4:23 PM
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is suspending his presidential campaign today, effectively ending a once-promising GOP presidential bid that collapsed over the summer, according to several Republicans briefed on his plans. He planned to deliver the news at a 5 p.m. CT press conference in Madison, Wis.
Walker, who tumbled from top-tier status amid tepid debate performances and other missteps, had pulled back from other early-voting states in favor of a heavy focus on Iowa, where he once led the field and has strong roots as a Midwesterner.
Many backers had directed their ire at campaign manager Rick Wiley, who some Walker supporters believe expanded the staff too quickly and failed to calibrate spending during the summer fundraising season. A recent count put the number of full-time Walker campaign staff at around 90.
Earlier this month, campaigning in New Hampshire, he was hammered with questions about how his campaign would handle falling poll numbers, and the rise of Donald Trump. “We just have to stay constant, stay who you are,” he told one supporter in Rochester.
Staying constant, however, was one of his biggest challenges. On key issues of the day — from calls to end birthright citizenship to the jailing of a Kentucky county official who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses — Walker struggled more than other candidates to clearly explain where he stands.
His performance contributed to mounting questions about the trajectory of his campaign. His verbal missteps — often the result of answering questions on the campaign trail with responses that he was forced to amend and later clarify — had been a topic of concern among his own loyalists. Last month, he twice found himself forced to clarify something he had said, first on whether he supported an end to birthright citizenship and again after an offhand answer suggesting he favored building a wall on the U.S.-Canadian border.
Walker had been urged repeatedly to be far more careful in answering unexpected questions, which have overshadowed positive reviews he’s gotten from conservative media and commentators about some of his policy proposals.
“That would be great.”
Well, at least Tom Brady had made it a few consecutive days without being at the crux of a controversy. But that’s over now.
On Wednesday, Brady entered the political ring again when he threw his support behind his “good friend” Donald Trump.
At the time, Brady dodged giving a direct answer as to whether he would vote for the controversial candidate. But today, the equivocation was axed — Brady wants Trump in 2016.
In a way, it makes sense. Both figures are charismatic but oft-caricatured, and popular within their respective bases while being polarizing to the rest of the nation.
Brady, however, should be a better friend to his 69-year-old golf buddy, and should perhaps reconsider his public vote of confidence in Trump. Why?
Friends don’t let friends make an ass of themselves by running for president.
You can also read coverage of the debate for the lower-tier candidates.
11:10 p.m. Another lighthearted question for the candidates: What would your Secret Service code name be?
- Christie: “I’ve been called a lot of names by a lot of different people…I would just say true heart.”
- Kasich: “My detail, they called me Unit One.”
- Fiorina: “Secretariat”
- Walker: “Harley”
- Bush: “High energy, Donald” (a nod to Trump’s insult that he’s low energy)
- Trump: “Humble”
- Carson: “One nation”
- Cruz: “Cohiba” (a Cuban cigar brand)
- Rubio: “Gator”
- Huckabee: “Duck hunter”
- Paul: “Justice never sleeps”
11:04 p.m. A lighthearted question for the candidates: In light of the fact that the Treasury Department plans to put a woman on the $10 bill, who would the candidates put there?
- Paul: “I think Susan B. Anthony might be a good choice.”
- Huckabee: “That’s an easy one I’d put my wife on there.”
- Rubio: “Rosa Parks.”
- Cruz; “I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, I’d change the $20…I’d leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is…I very much agree with Marco that it should be Rosa Parks.”
- Carson: “I’d put my mother on there.”
- Trump: “I think my daughter Ivanka…other than that we’ll go with Rosa Parks.”
- Bush: “I would go with Ronald Reagan’s partner, Margaret Thatcher.”
- Walker: “I’d put Clara Barton. I once worked for the American Red Cross.”
Fiorina: “I wouldn’t change the $10 bill or the $20 bill, I think honestly it’s a gesture, I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group, women are the majority of this nation, we are half the potential of this nation and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she choses.”
Kasich: “It’s probably not maybe legal but I would pick Mother Theresa.”
Christie: “I think the Adams family has been shorted in the currency business, our country wouldn’t be here without John Adams and he wouldn’t be able to do it without Abigail Adams.”
10:50 p.m. Tapper brings up the fact that Trump has linked vaccines to autism and asks Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, to weigh in on whether he should stop saying that.
“There have been numerous studies and they have not demonstrated that there’s any correlation between vaccinations and autism. This is something that was spread widely 15 or 20 years ago and it has not been adequately revealed to the public what’s actually going on,” he said. But, he said, there are some vaccinations which don’t prevent diseases that would kill people and said there should probably be some discretion. He blamed the concerns about vaccines on the fact that they are supported by “big government.”
As to whether Trump should stop making the link, he said he can read more and will make an intelligent decision.
Trump said, “I am totally in favor of vaccines” but said they should be spaced farther apart and given in smaller doses. He cited the case of an employee whose child got vaccines and then two weeks later got a fever and then autism.
Asked to respond, Carson said, “He’s an okay doctor,” — a riff on the criticism that Trump fired his way.
“The fact of thematter is we have extremely well-documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations but it is true that we are probably giving way too many in way too short period of time,” he said, saying he would support cutting down on the number and frequency of vaccinations.
Paul, the other doctor on stage, was also asked to respond.
“I’m all for vaccines but I’m also for freedom. I’m also a little concerned about how they’re all bunched up,” he said.
10:35 p.m. The candidates spent several minutes discussing the issue of marijuana legalization by states, and Paul repeated his position that enforcement of drug laws has produced uneven outcomes among white and black Americans.
Christie said that New Jersey has medical marijuana laws, but “I am against the recreational use of marijuana.” He spoke about another policy in New Jersey, which is that nonviolent, non-dealing drug users go to mandatory treatment rather than jail for the first offense.
“I’m pro life, and I think you ned to be pro life for more than just the womb,” he said. But he said that victims of recreational marijuana include employers (who suffer from lost productivity) and people’s families.
Fiorina weighed in with an emotional story about her daughter’s death from drug addiction.
“We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. Its not,” she said. She added, “The marijuana kids are smoking today is not like the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago.”
She called for criminal justice reform as well.
10:30 p.m. A confession from Bush as the discussion turns to marijuana legalization: “Forty years ago I smoked marijuana and I admit it, I’m sure other people might have done it and don’t want to admit it…my mom’s not happy that I just did.”
10:18 p.m. Though Bush has defended his brother through much of the debate, he sought some daylight on the issue of 43’s nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
“John Roberts has made some really good decisions for sure but he did not have a proven extensive record that would have made clarity the important thing. And that’s what we need to do,” he said. Later, he added, “I think he is doing a good job, but the simple fact is going forward what we need to do is to have someone that has a longstanding set of rulings that consistently makes it clear that he is focused exclusively on upholding the constitution of the United States, that they won’t try to use the bench as a means by which to legislate.”
Cruz said Roberts’ nomination was a “mistake” and that he changed the law to uphold Obamacare. Bush pointed out that he had supported Roberts’ nomination.
“That was a mistake and I regret that,” he said. He said Bush nominated Roberts because it was politically expedient.
10:10 p.m. After Jake Tapper brings up Carson’s statement that the U.S. would not have gone to war in Afghanistan if he had been president, Christie said that’s not what he would have done and told the story of worrying about his wife on 9/11 because she worked two blocks from the World Trade Center.
“We lost friends htat day, we went to the funerals, and I will tell you that what those people wanted and what they deserved was for America to answer back against what had been done to them and I support what President Bush did at the time.”
Carson said that instead of war, Bush could have used the bully pulpit to “galvanize everybody behind a national goal” the way former President John F. Kennedy did during the space race.
“While that might have been a fine idea that Dr. Carson had, these people were about to kill us,” he said.
Rubio chimed in as well.
“Radical terrorism cannot be solved by intellect,” he said.
10:04 p.m. Defending former President George W. Bush was a popular position for the audience in the Reagan Library Wednesday night. Trump went after the 43rd president when arguing with Bush over foreign policy, saying, “Your brother and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama. It was such a disaster those last few months Abraham Lincoln couldn’t’ have been elected,” he said.
Bush retorted, “When it comes to my brother…he kept us safe,” getting applause.
Walker chimed in with another defense after Trump said he didn’t feel safe.
“It’s not because of George W. Bush, it’s because of Barack Obama,” he said, also to applause.
9:58 p.m. CBS News Political Reporter Stephanie Condon fact checks Bush and Trump’s tiff over whether Trump sought casino gambling in Florida.
9:51 p.m. Clinton becomes the main target for a few minutes as the candidates discuss the merits of attacking her:
Kasich usually avoids it. “People still have to get to know me so I want to spend my time talking about my experience,” he said.
Fiorina, who frequently attacks Clinton without being prompted, said, “Mrs. Clinton is going to have to defend her track record…lying about Benghazi..lying about her emails…she does not have a track record of accomplishment.
“If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton’s,” she said.
And Christie said he would be best poised to “prosecute” Clinton because of his role as as former federal prosecutor.
9:35 p.m. Fiorina and Trump get in an extended back and forth about their business successes after Fiorina is asked to respond to attacks by Trump about her tenure at Hewlett Packard.
“I led Hewlett-Packard through a very difficult time. The worst technology recession in 25 years. The NASDAQ stock index fell 80 percent. It took 15 years for the stock index to recover. We had very strong competitors who literally went out of business and lost all of their jobs in the process. Despite those difficult times, we doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its topline growth weight, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation,” she said.
“Some tough calls are going to be required,” she said of massive layoffs. “But as for the firing” — her firing, which Trump has criticized — “I have been very honest with this from the day it happened. when you challenge the status quo, you make enemies. I made a few. Steve Jobs told me that when he called me the day I was fired to say ‘hey, been there, done that, twice.'”
Then she hit Trump for his multiple bankruptcies in Atlantic City.
“You filed for bankruptcy four times, a record four times, why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you managed the finances of your casinos?” she said.
“Atlantic City is a disaster and I did great in Atlantic City. I knew when to get out, my timing was great and a got a lot of credit for it,” he said. He said he, like other businessman, have just “used the laws of the land” to help his companies.
Then Christie laid into both of them for arguing about their careers, saying Americans who are struggling or out of work “could care less about your careers. They care about theirs.”
When Fiorina started to interrupt him, he said, “You interrupt everybody else on this stage; you’re not going to interrupt me.”
“Stop this childish back and forth,” Christie said.
9:23 p.m. Carson expands a bit on his immigration plan, which he discussed on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this weekend.
“After we seal the borders, after we turn off the spigot that dispenses all the goodies…people who had a pristine record we should consider allowing them to become guest workers primarily in the agricultural sphere.”
“If they don’t do it within that time period then they become illegal and as illegals they will be treated as such,” he said.
He said his plan is not amnesty because farmers cannot find American workers to do the labor they need, and he would not allow guest workers to become American citizens or enjoy the rights of citizens.
9:16 p.m. Trump and Bush spar again over whether Trump went too far by saying that Bush has a soft spot for Mexicans because his wife, Columba Bush, was born in Mexico.
Bush said he went too far, the comment was “completely inappropriate” and he should apologize.
“I hear phenomenal things,” Trump said of Bush’s wife.
“Why don’t you apologize to her?” Bush asked.
“No I won’t do that because I’ve done nothing wrong,” Trump said.
9:10 p.m. Will Trump put a number on how much his immigration plan will cost? No, but he did reiterate his plan to build a wall and deport immigrants like gang members from all over the country on his first day in office.
9:08 p.m. Fiorina was given the opportunity to respond to comments Trump had made insulting her appearance. He later said he was talking about her persona.
“Mr. Trump said to me that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said, getting applause from the crowd.
“I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman,” Trump responded.
9:02 p.m. The candidates get into the issue of whether the Congress should shut down the federal government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.
Kasich said, “The president of the United States is not going to sign this and all we’re going to do is shut the government down…the American people are going to shake their heads and say what’s the story with these Republicans?”
Cruz, on the other hand, said his fellow Republicans were “preemptively surrendering” to Obama. “You know, Obama’s committed to his principles,” he said. “Republicans surrender, we need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles.”
Christie avoided a direct question about whether he would shut down the government, urging his fellow Republicans to stop fighting with each other and put the question to Clinton instead. Finally, after repeated questioning, he said, “We should be doing these things and forcing the president to take action,” referring to cutting Planned Parenthood funding out of the budget.
Fiorina delivered an impassioned speech and said “I dare” Clinton and Mr. Obama to watch the videos of officials discussing the transfer of fetal body parts.
“This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force Barack Obama to veto this bill, shame on us,” she said.
8:50 p.m. The candidates debate the merits of whether the U.S. should have intervened in Syria militarily after dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons.
Rubio said the Congress didn’t want to authorize use of force because the military was not in a position where they could win. Cruz said President Obama hadn’t answered the question of what if chemical weapons had ended up in the hands of radical Islamic groups.
Paul had a different reason for believing there shouldn’t have been any U.S. intervention.
“Had we bombed Assad at the time…I think ISIS would be in Damascus today, I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria,” he said. “Sometimes intervention makes us less safe.”
8:45 p.m. Walker finds no support for his call to cancel an upcoming state visitby Chinese President Xi Jinping. Paul said the U.S. should always talk to people it considers enemies, pointing to the Cold War. Bush also passes on the idea of canceling, but said the U.S. should be tough on China.
8:43 p.m. Cruz doubles down on his promise to rip up the Iran nuclear deal after being asked to respond to criticism from Kasich that it shows his inexperience and that he’s just playing to a crowd.
“No president of the United States…has the authority to give away our sovereignty,” he said, referring to President Obama working with the United Nations to implement the deal.
8:41 p.m. Candidates weigh in on how they’d deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said, “I will get along I think with Putin, and I will get along with others and we will have a much more stable, stable world.” Fiorina said the U.S. shouldn’t be talking to Putin at all and instead should be building up its military presence in the region.
8:33 p.m. Bush and Trump tangle after Bush was asked about whether special interests controlled his campaign. As an example, Bush said that he turned down Trump when the businessman sought casino gambling in Florida. Bush said he turned Trump down.
“I promise if I would have wanted it, I would have gotten it,” Trump said.
Later, as Bush continued to press Trump over his past donations to Democrats, Trump showed some appreciation for his feistiness.
“More energy tonight, I like that,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience.
8:31 p.m. One person who’s not that interested in beating up on their fellow candidates by name: Carson. Asked who he was referring to when talking about politicians who do things that are politically expedient, he said, “I don’t want to really get into describing who’s a politician and who’s not a politician but I think the people have kind of made that decision for themselves already.”
Fiorina jumped into the discussion of outsiders.
“If someone’s beein in the system their whole life, they don’t know how broken the system is…its not that politicians are bad people, its that they’ve been in that system forever,” she said.
8:27 p.m. Kasich scolds his fellow candidates for the infighting.
“If I were sitting at home watching this back and forth, I’d be inclined to turn it off. People at home…want to know what we’re going to do to fix this place,” he said.
8:24 p.m. Walker joins in the fray hitting Trump.
“Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now…we don’t know who you are or where you’re going.”
“In Wisconsin you’re losing $2.2 billion dollars right now,” Trump retorted.
8:21 p.m. As with the lower tier debate, the first question has to do with Trump. It went to Carly Fiorina, who was asked if she trusted Trump to be in control of the nuclear launch codes.
“I think Mr. Trump is wonderful entertainer, he’s been terrific at that business,” she said. She added that she believed a long campaign process would be beneficial in revealing character.
Pressed for an answer to the nuclear code question, Fiorina said, “That’s not for me to answer, it’s for the voters of this country to answer.”
In Trump’s response, he took aim at Paul, who hadn’t even spoken yet.
“Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage,” he said referring to Paul’s polling.
After Paul criticized Trump for attacking people’s looks in the manner of a junior high debate, Trump said, “I never attacked him on his look, and believe me there’s plenty of subject matter right there.”
8:10 p.m. The 11 Republican candidates doing best in the polls have begun the main debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. On stage: businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Down-ballot races are increasingly decided by who wins the White House. To grasp this fact, it’s best to focus on two numbers: 6 percent and .781.
The first number is the total percentage of House districts that voted for different parties for president and for U.S. House in 2012. It was the lowest percentage in nearly a century. The second number is thecorrelation between the presidential results and the Senate race results in 2012. (Zero indicates no relationship, while one would indicate a perfect, exact relationship between two variables.) The correlation between presidential and Senate voting in 2012 was higher than it had been in more than half a century.
In other words, the presidential race looms very large down the ballot. And, as we examine the state of the Senate, House and gubernatorial races coming up this year and next, the presidential outcome may be especially important in the highest-profile category: the Senate.
#1. To win the Senate, win the White House
The key to Senate control in 2016 will be the state-by-state presidential results. If the GOP presidential ticket wins, even if by a hair, it will be exceptionally difficult for Democrats to take back the Senate. On the other hand, a Democratic squeaker for the presidency might not capture the Senate, but a victory of a couple percentage points may well do the trick.
Most analysts acknowledge that Democrats have a plausible but narrow path to a minimal Senate majority, requiring a net gain of four seats if a Democratic vice president is elected, or five seats if the GOP wins the White House. But this will be a heavy lift because Democrats need to capture the lion’s share of the small number of truly competitive Republican seats on 2016’s map (Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). Moreover, Democrats have to hold their shaky seats in Colorado and Nevada. Other than Illinois, these are all states that should also be competitive in the race for the White House, which will make presidential coattails all the more important.
Because the route to a Democratic majority is difficult, the Republicans are still more likely to keep the majority than the Democrats are to grab it. At least a small net loss for the GOP is expected, though. Not losing any net seats probably requires the Republican nominee to not only win the presidency, but capture more than 300 electoral votes — something no Republican has done since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
#2. The year’s most important Senate primary
One reason Democrats have won Senate seats they should have lost in recent years is because the party has generally been able to select stronger candidates than Republicans in critical contests. Several Republican candidates, like Richard Mourdock (Ind.), Todd Akin (Mo.), Sharron Angle (Nev.), Ken Buck (Colo.) and Christine O’Donnell (Del.) kicked away winnable seats in 2010 and 2012. Democrats have had some duds of their own in recent years, but they will be saddled with their own Akin if Rep. Alan Grayson beats Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Florida Democratic Senate primary.
Democrats fear they cannot capture the Florida seat if the bomb-throwing Grayson wins, whereas they think they have a good shot with Murphy, a former Republican who has positioned himself as a centrist. Republicans understand this too, and some outside conservative groups have already run ads attacking Murphy to help Grayson, a tactic popularized by Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) maneuvering to aid the weakest GOP primary candidate, Akin, in 2012. (It’s worth noting that the Republican primary in Florida is very much unsettled as well.)
There’s a larger question at work here, too. The old trope, popularized by Bill Clinton, is that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line, but the opposite has been truer in down-ballot primaries over the past few cycles. A Grayson nomination, won by tarring Murphy as a faux Democrat, would suggest that the Democratic establishment could be having problems with party unity, just like the Republicans have, as President Barack Obama leaves the scene.
#3. Will any incumbents face primary trouble?
The old adage about there being only two ways for an incumbent to run for reelection — scared or unopposed — remains as apt as ever. But at this point in the 2016 cycle, few senators are trembling. In fact, it’s hard to identify a single senator who might fall victim to an intraparty challenge. The most common names bandied about are Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who won reelection in a write-in campaign after losing a 2010 primary, as well as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). However, none of them have attracted a high-level challenger yet.
After the turbulence of 2010 and 2012, when three sitting Republican senators failed to win renomination, every Senate incumbent (on both sides) who sought renomination won it in 2014. But the topline success hides some creakiness, particularly among the Republicans. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) came within inches of losing, and others, like Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) didn’t even clear 50 percent against weak challengers. It’s possible that the 2016 Senate incumbents will have an easier path to renomination, but there’s also discontent in the air, particularly on the Republican side, which should keep the incumbents on their toes.
On the House side, five representatives lost renomination in the 2014 cycle (this includes “kissing Congressman” Vance McAllister, who failed to advance out of Louisiana’s jungle primary). That total was slightly higher than other recent non-redistricting cycles: four lost renomination in the 2010 cycle, three in 2008, and two in both 2006 and 2004. Nonetheless, 387 of 392 incumbents seeking renomination in 2014 successfully advanced to the general election, so it wasn’t exactly an incumbent bloodbath. This far out, about the only thing we can say is that it’s likely that at least someone will lose renomination in the House: Going back to the 1974 cycle, there has always been at least one sitting representative who lost his or her party’s nomination.
#4. More retirements are coming
So far, six representatives and four senators have announced that they won’t be seeking reelection in 2016, a total of 10. This doesn’t include members who are running for other offices or those who have resigned from office during the 114th Congress. Based on Roll Call’’s handy “Casualty List,” history suggests that at least a few other members of Congress will also be leaving Capitol Hill by choice in the coming months: Since the 93rd Congress in 1973-1974, the lowest total number of retirements was 13 in the 1984 election cycle. Over the past 40 years, the average number of congressional retirements is about 29—close to 23 in the House and a little over six in the Senate.
Despite the historical average, it’s possible that there will not be any more Senate retirements. After all, during the 2014 cycle, every senator who decided to retire did so by March 2013, except for appointed Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), who was forced out under unusual circumstances. These early decisions make sense: Statewide campaigns are expensive, especially in competitive races, so many retirees opt to give their party and potential successors plenty of time to figure out plans for the next election. However, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announced their exits much later on in the 2012 cycle (December 2011 and February 2012, respectively), so perhaps another senator will decide against running again in 2016. Should only four senators retire, it would be the lowest number since the 2006 election cycle (also four).
On the House side, only two representatives had announced they weren’t running again by this time in the 2014 cycle. As 22 others eventually joined them, we can be confident that at least a few more members will hang up their spurs in the coming months.
#5. New candidates will emerge
There’s still plenty of time for candidates to surface in key races. Now-Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) didn’t announce his campaign until February 2014, and former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who almost beat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen last year in New Hampshire, didn’t officially jump into that race until April. During the 2012 cycle, now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, didn’t enter the North Dakota Senate race until November 2011. Though some primaries were moved up this year on account of the presidential race, down-ballot filing deadlines are months away. That leaves plenty of time for both parties to shuffle their lineups, including in places where the parties lack top-tier challengers, such as Republicans in Colorado’s Senate race and Democrats in North Carolina’s.
#6. Could the House Republicans’ big majority actually get bigger?
Given that Republicans have their biggest House majority since the start of the Great Depression—247 seats—one might think that they are dramatically overextended in the House. Instead, it’s not out of the question that Republicans could make a tiny addition to their majority if they win the White House by a few percentage points.
The more likely outcome is a small Democratic gain regardless of the presidential result simply as a correction against the large Republican majority now. But Republicans are not nearly as overextended as Democrats were after the 2008 election, when they won 256 seats. In the subsequent 2010 midterm, Democrats were defending 48 seats won by John McCain in the previous presidential election, and they ended up losing 36 of them. By contrast, Republicans now hold just 26 seats that Obama won in 2012, and of those, Obama won only 14 by a greater margin than he won nationally in 2012. And some of those seats are held by entrenched GOP incumbents.
Since Democrats need to net 30 seats to win the House, Democrats reclaiming the majority isn’t likely unless they win the presidency in a landslide and put many Republican seats that now appear safe into play.
#7. Democrats on defense in gubernatorial races
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2014 midterms was that Republicans, despite having to defend 22 of 36 governorships, ended up building on their governorship total, going from 29 to 31.
Unfortunately for Democrats, they may have to wait until 2018 to cut into that GOP edge: Of 15 races being contested this year and next, Republicans are defending just six seats, while Democrats will try to hold on to nine seats, or half of all the 18 governorships they currently hold.
Of the three races being held this year, Republicans should easily hold Louisiana and Mississippi, while Democrats are struggling to defend their open seat in Kentucky. Though Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin is a weak Republican candidate who has struggled to reunite his party after his unsuccessful challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in last year’s primary, his opponent, state Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, does not have an enviable reputation as a campaigner and is burdened with Obama’s severe weakness in the Bluegrass State. We see Bevin as a tiny favorite, thanks to Obama’s unpopularity in the state, but this is a tight race.
Moving to next year, Democrats have good prospective candidates but face difficult holds in Missouri, West Virginia, and maybe Montana and Vermont. To make matters worse, New Hampshire could come into play if Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) decides to challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). Meanwhile, Democrats have a marquee pickup opportunity in North Carolina, which should be a very competitive election between Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). Beyond that, Democrats could have an outside shot against Gov. Mike Pence (R) in Indiana and at an open seat in North Dakota, although Sen. Heitkamp’s (D) decision to stay in the Senate makes the Republicans a strong favorite to hold the Flickertail State.
Ultimately, it’s more likely than not Republicans begin 2017 with more governorships than they hold now. But keep in mind that presidential coattails and other factors will undoubtedly affect some 2016 races in ways we cannot yet predict.
#8. The historic power of incumbency
In a large majority of elections, incumbency is a powerful, often dominant, factor. Historically, 75 percent of senators have won renomination and the general election; the success rate for House incumbents is about 90 percent. When looking only at the general election, the winning percentages rise to a little over 80 percent for senators and 94 percent for representatives. Gubernatorial incumbents have also been very formidable, with about three-fourths winning both renomination and the subsequent general election over the past 70 years.
The power of incumbency could be particularly pivotal in the 2016 Senate cycle, where there could be as many as 29 incumbents seeking reelection. Republicans are defending seven seats in states that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 at the presidential level; six feature GOP incumbents (Marco Rubio’s presidential run opens up Florida). Although Iowa’s Chuck Grassley is effectively unbeatable, the others are likely to have tough reelection battles, particularly in Illinois and Wisconsin, the two most Democratic states of this group at the presidential level. But if Republican incumbents in states such as New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania can hold on in a presidential cycle, it will be very difficult for Democrats to win back control of the upper chamber. And the lack of a Democratic incumbent in Nevada may boost Republican chances of winning one of the GOP’s few opportunities on the Senate map.
This summer’s election season has been dominated by Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, other outsider presidential candidates like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Bernie Sanders. We do think there is a generic desire for unscripted voices in American politics. But as the elections for president and other offices draw closer, history tells us that betting on the insiders over the outsiders in most contests is safer. Nothing better illustrates this than the consistent, towering success of incumbents of both parties in primaries and general elections.
This is the second of a two-part series updating both the race for the White House and the battle for Congress and leadership of the states. Part one, on the presidential race, is here.
Donald Trump didn’t mean any harm when he criticized fellow GOP 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s face. He says he was just being the showman he is.
“Many of those comments are made as an entertainer because I did The Apprentice and it was one of the top shows on television,” he told Greta Van Susteren on Thursday night. “Some comments are made as an entertainer and as everybody said, as an entertainer is a much different ball game.”
Trump who is leading in Republican polls has said comments that would have buried many other candidates.
A Rolling Stone story Wednesday illustrates a scene where Trump watches Fiorina come onto the TV screen.
“’Look at that face!’ he cries. ‘Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!’ The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. ‘I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posed ta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?’”
On Thursday night, he reiterated what he told CNN earlier — that the face comments were actually about her persona.
“We’re really talking about not a physical thing, we’re talking about the persona. This is a women that gets tremendous publicity,” he said. “I don’t know why…her past doesn’t go along with the publicity she’s getting.”
But it didn’t take long before he was back on his favorite punching bag: Jeb Bush. “When somebody knocks me like Jeb Bush or anybody else, I at least decide that I think it’s appropriate to fight back.”
Van Susteren pointed out this wasn’t his first time saying controversial comments about women.
Trump responded that he was leading with women, and many other groups.
“I’d like to say that nobody understands and nobody wants to do more for women,” Trump said, a favorite line of his. “My wife was talking to me and she said you cherish women you really have to talk about it a little bit more.”
Trump also addressed his spat with Dr. Ben Carson. Earlier Thursday he said Carson, who is the first person to successfully separate conjoined twins, was an “OK doctor.”
Trump backtracked a bit, saying he’s sure some people will disagree with his views.
“I’m sure he’s a good doctor, I think that he’s overrated as a doctor,” Trump said.