Trump's Base Support Begins To Erode

[ Posted Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 – 15:47 PDT ]

For the first six months of his presidency, Donald Trump has always been able to count on a "floor" of public support of around 40 percent. Through thick and thin, four-in-ten Americans approved of the job he was doing. That seems to now be changing. For the first time, his own base is starting to become disillusioned with Trump. So far the change is slight, but the trendline doesn't look good for the near future for the president.

Today Trump hit several milestones on the Real Clear Politics poll tracking page. His job approval average is now 38.2 percent, which is the lowest he's ever seen. His job disapproval rate now stands at 56.9 percent, the highest it's ever been. That's a spread of 18.7 points (below water), which is also the largest it has ever been. But when you take a dive into the poll numbers which make up that average, things look even worse for Trump.

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California's Jungle Primary Could Be Problematic For Democrats In 2018

[ Posted Tuesday, August 1st, 2017 – 16:22 PDT ]

If the Democrats are to have a good chance of retaking control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year, the path to victory will almost certainly have to run through California. There are seven House districts in California that Hillary Clinton won that are still represented by Republicans in the House. To successfully retake the House, Democrats will likely have to win most (if not all) of these races. Currently, Darrell Issa seems the most vulnerable of these Republicans, but there are others in some surprising places (like Orange County, once a Republican stronghold). But Democrats might become hamstrung by a change made to California's primary process a few years back -- the "jungle primary" or "top two primary."

I've supported some reforms to the voting process over the years, but I never supported this idea, just to admit my own bias up front. How it works is simple to describe. Instead of primary election day being essentially a number of intraparty contests (a Republican primary, a Democratic primary, a Libertarian primary, etc.; each with a separate party ballot), instead voters enter the "jungle." All candidates for a particular position -- from all parties -- appear on the same ballot. So you usually get a number of Democrats and a number of Republicans running for the same office. But only the top two in the voting move on to the general election -- even if they're from the same party. Minor ("third") parties are thus almost inevitably blocked from the general election, and at times only one major party appears at all (either two Democrats or two Republicans). Whichever candidate then goes on to win on (general) Election Day wins the race.

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Kelly In, Mooch Out

[ Posted Monday, July 31st, 2017 – 16:28 PDT ]

General John Kelly, newly-sworn-in White House chief of staff, certainly has his work cut out for him. He began his tenure in office with an easy and obvious move -- immediately firing Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci from his job as White House communications director. This completed a week and a half of musical chairs at the White House: Mooch was hired and Sean Spicer resigned in protest, Reince Priebus was fired and Kelly was announced as his replacement, Kelly was sworn in and then showed Mooch the door -- which was reportedly announced by none other than Sean Spicer. The circle is now complete, in a bizarre Trumpian way. Mooch lasted only ten days before he was escorted out of the White House. Worse for Mooch, he can't even use the standard "spending more time with my family" excuse, since his wife reportedly just filed for divorce.

Is this the last spasm of chaos in the Donald Trump White House? Well, I wouldn't bet on that personally, but let's at least give Kelly the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he'll get everyone under control, using his experience in the military to establish what has so far been sorely lacking in the Trump White House: a clear chain of command. This might go a long way towards solving the incessant backbiting and infighting, which has been the motivation behind much of the rampant leaking. Then again, it might not. After all, even if Kelly manages to hammer the rest of the White House into shape, he'll still have a rather large loose cannon as his boss. But we'll get to that in a moment.

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Friday Talking Points [447] -- Donald Trump, Loser

[ Posted Friday, July 28th, 2017 – 17:17 PDT ]

It was just another week in Trumpland, folks. By that we mean more scandalous behavior and bumbling incompetence packed into one single week than most White House administrations show during an entire term of office. The week really began with the news last Friday that Sean Spicer had decided to quit, upon hearing that Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci was to be his new boss. The week ended (the news is breaking even as we write this) that Trump is sacking his chief of staff, Reince Priebus. During the week, Trump also tried his darndest to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit in frustration, while rumors appeared that Rex Tillerson is planning his "Rexit" as well. For good measure, Mooch fired an underling of his, and then just threatened to fire his entire department if he couldn't figure out who was doing all the leaking. In other words, it's getting kind of crowded beneath the Trump bus, as more and more people are casually thrown under it (and as the wheels begin to come off entirely). Just another wacky week at the Trump White House, in other words. Maybe Reince got tired of all the winning?

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The Stupidest Press Conference Ever

[ Posted Thursday, July 27th, 2017 – 16:27 PDT ]

I just finished watching a press conference which, in my humble opinion, should be marked in the annals of Washington stupidity as the absolute stupidest press conference of all time. That's a pretty sweeping statement, but it was a pretty breathtakingly stupid presser. It was a giant profile in cowardice, really.

Four Republican senators -- Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Ron Johnson, and Bill Cassidy -- all appeared to denounce their party's "skinny repeal" bill. They couldn't say enough bad things about it, in fact. I did not take notes, but will be searching for a transcript later to memorialize the stunning language that (in particular) McCain and Graham used against it. Skinny repeal was called a bad bill, a horrible bill, a stupid bill, a destructive bill, a counterproductive bill, a bill which will solve nobody's problems, a bill which will make everything worse, and -- the ultimate Republican insult -- a bill which does not repeal Obamacare. Again, I can't claim those are direct quotes, but I feel certain that the late-night television hosts will be featuring some of the worst denunciations of the bill in the very near future for all to see, because the language was that jaw-dropping.

The entire point of the press conference, though, was for the senators to announce that they would not be voting for this horrible, horrible piece of legislation... unless Paul Ryan assured them it would never become law. "Save us from ourselves!" doesn't even begin to describe this stupidity.

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Why Is Everyone So Certain "Skinny Repeal" Will Go To Conference?

[ Posted Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 – 16:40 PDT ]

As the Senate's "vote-a-rama" continues, it's looking more and more likely that the only bill that has any chance of passing is what's now known as "skinny repeal." Who comes up with these labels, anyway? Nomenclature aside, though, there is a rather large assumption being made right now that may prove to be faulty -- that the skinny repeal bill will immediately move from passing the Senate into a House/Senate conference committee. This would serve to slow the process down and give Congress (at the very least) all of August to contemplate their next step. But this conference may not happen at all, which pretty much everyone in Washington is currently ignoring.

Let's unpack all of that a bit, for those who haven't followed every twist and turn in the healthcare bill saga over the past 24 hours. The Senate's "vote-a-rama" is a freewheeling procedure where any senator can offer up amendments to the bill under discussion, for a minimum of 20 hours of debate. As of this writing, the score stands at three major amendments considered, all of which failed to pass.

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John McCain's Blatant Hypocrisy

[ Posted Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 – 16:30 PDT ]

Senator John McCain traveled from his home in Arizona to Washington in order to cast the 50th vote to open debate in the Senate on the Republican healthcare bill. He was greeted by a round of applause and warm feelings by all, since he has just been diagnosed with brain cancer. I do not begrudge McCain his opportunity to vote, and I would further state that I (just like anyone with a shred of human decency and compassion) fully hope he wins his battle against cancer and send him fond wishes in his medical crisis. But that doesn't mean I can't also point out his naked hypocrisy today.

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Democrats Offer Up "A Better Deal"

[ Posted Monday, July 24th, 2017 – 16:15 PDT ]

It's really tough these days for Democrats to break into the news cycle. Today, for instance, we had the president's son-in-law testifying behind closed doors to a congressional committee, a new White House communications director staring his first full work week, and Senate Republicans desperately trying to figure out what particular bill they're going to bring up for a vote this week on healthcare (the one that kicks 23 million off their insurance, or the one that kicks 32 million off their insurance?). Plus, as always, there is Donald Trump's Twitter account -- which is always good for at least two or three distractions per day. So it's tough to get noticed, with everything else that's going on in Washington. But this maelstrom of Republican chaos isn't likely to get any better any time soon, so Democrats have to forge ahead in their efforts to gain some political attention.

Which is why today, in coordinated fashion, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer both began the rollout of the Democratic Party's 2018 campaign platform. Harking back to the sloganeering of F.D.R., Democrats announced they will be offering "A Better Deal" for Americans. The full title, according to Pelosi, is: "A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future." This was either tweaked at the last minute, or the preparatory leak was wrong, since last Thursday it was reported to be: "A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages." Last-minute change or not, I have to say "a better future" certainly sounds more all-inclusive (and less judgmental) than "better skills."

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Friday Talking Points [446] -- Pardon Me?

[ Posted Friday, July 21st, 2017 – 15:51 PDT ]

We awoke to the breaking news that spinmeister Sean Spicer is out, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is in as White House press secretary. Trump finally found a communications director as well, Anthony "Mooch" Scaramucci, whose main qualification for the job seems to be his world-class standing in the Olympic event entitled "kissing Trump's ass." We personally lost count, during his debut press conference, of how many times he used the phrase "I love Donald Trump" or some variation thereof. Trump, according to Mooch, is a demigod who strides the Earth and can do no wrong, ever, on anything.

Of course, our first reaction to hearing all this news was the same as millions of Americans: "What?!? We're not going to get Melissa McCarthy as Spicey anymore on Saturday Night Live? Who will play Mooch? Who could possibly play such a shameless brown-noser? Maybe... oh, I dunno... Jimmy Fallon?"


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Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages

[ Posted Thursday, July 20th, 2017 – 16:44 PDT ]

Democrats seem to be almost ready to unveil their messaging for the 2018 election cycle. Ever since the disastrous 2016 election, they've been regrouping and trying to figure out a way forward. They did not launch a formal examination of what went wrong last year (unlike Republicans in 2013, there has been no "post-mortem" or "autopsy" document from the Democrats), instead they have focused on tightening up their message to move forward next year. The Washington Post just ran a preview of the Democratic strategizing, and reports that Democrats will be rolling out the whole thing next Monday.

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