Thursday, August 29, 2019

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Neither Shocking Nor Surprising

1. New polls show Biden remains the national leader, but the press, which hyperventilated over one previous poll suggesting he had fully lost his lead, acts as if no soul searching is required.

My take: It seems clear that Biden is still the national leader (if not the frontrunner…), but there are many weeks to go before the voting starts. Here is what is more clear: it will be very difficult for Biden to be the nominee if he loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, and his national lead now is neither large enough nor impregnable enough to propel him inexorably to a first-in-the-nation win.  The dearth of polling in those two states means we are all flying blind.

2. Senator Gillibrand quits presidential race after failing to make the debate stage.

My take: The humongous Democratic field and DNC debate rules make it very difficult for candidates to break through. Still, Gillibrand, as a senator from New York, failed to keep up with the mayor of South Bend on grassroots fundraising, or with a senator from California on momentum.  Neither of those are perfect or perfectly fair metrics, but Gillibrand had a relatively clean shot to catch up and catch on, and, for whatever reasons, this was not her cycle. Her rhetoric in departing the race – calling for unity and reaffirming her commitment to beating the incumbent—is a model for what the party needs to unite in opposition to Donald Trump.

3. Bernie Sanders knows he needs to be about more than loud rally speeches to win the nomination; he needs to flaunt personality.

My take:  The first step in starting a second act is acknowledging you need to start a second act. The second step is starting the second act. The third step is having the media notice you have started the second act. But the step that really matters is well executing the act over and over again.  Let’s see how that step goes.

4. Bernie Sanders does not want to play the media’s game of trying to get him to criticize Elizabeth Warren.

My take: As in 2016, Sanders is both principled and disciplined in not engaging in the press-fueled dynamic that calls for sharp elbows to be aimed at party rivals who are also personal and ideological allies.  Sanders will stay true to himself for much longer than most candidates would do under these circumstances.

5. Democrats have mixed feelings about the winnowing DNC debate process, but in the end, it is what it is, and people will largely move on.

My take:The Wall Street Journal editorial board rightly notes that one of the biggest implications of the slimmed down debate process (one debate for ten people, rather than two debates of ten each) is the near-total absence of centrist candidates. This leaves an opening for Senator Klobuchar.

6. Joe Biden hopes to deal with flaps over his family’s business dealings by not addressing the specifics.

My take: Understandably, the former vice president is not comfortable talking about controversies involving his family. Past experience has lulled him into thinking he can get away with diversion and deflection. As long as he is the presidential race (eventually, perhaps, as the nominee), he is mistaken if he thinks the old rules/standards apply.

7. Karl Rove does a very good job summing up the state of the Democratic nomination race and Biden’s standing as a national frontrunner with flaws.

My take: It’s early; it’s getting late. Biden is a solid candidate; Biden is a flawed candidate.  Biden’s support is soft among many; Biden’s support is strong among the voting elderly. 

8. Tom Edsall does a very good job summing up the state of Donald Trump’s support from white voters, especially wealthy, less educated white voters, in an essential read on the electorate.

My take: It will take you a bit of August time to read this whole piece, but if you want to be smarter about who supports the president and his chances of winning again, you have to read this.

9. The Trump administration put out a new policy that says that “children born abroad to certain United States service members and other federal employees will no longer be granted automatic citizenship.”

My take: Yet another citizenship issue on which the Trump administration is picking a wedge fight, in this case for no obvious reason and without sufficient explanation.

10. The press hyperventilates over some Trump tweets critical of Fox News.

My take: Four years ago, Donald Trump was truly at war with Fox, and we saw how that turned out and how close he has stayed to the network. What is going on now isn’t even a skirmish or a feud. It is piffle.

11. Former Pentagon topper Mattis decries “tribalism” in new book, without taking a direct shot at his former boss, Donald Trump.

My take: Let’s see what Mattis says when he is on-camera promoting his book. The press will be salivating to get him to go farther in criticizing Trump. Mattis is a disciplined man.

12. The retirement of Republican Senator Isakson from Georgia leaves the state with two Senate contests, leading to lots of speculation about a Peach State-fueled Democratic takeover of the Senate and the state turning Blue at the presidential level.

My take: A few names have been floated, but this whole scenario is dependent on Democrats recruiting super strong candidates in both Senate races, and having a presidential nominee who is a strong cultural fit for the state. Until they do that, the speculation is running ahead of reality.

13. The New York Post now has an unofficial daily feature on Representative Omar’s personal life.

My take: This item is the least surprising on the whole list.

14. George Will likes the Electoral College.

My take: This item is the second least surprising on the whole list.

Top sports story:  Serena tested by McNally, 17, but rallies in 3 sets

Top business story: Apparel retailer Forever 21 weighs bankruptcy filing

Top entertainment story: Venice Film Festival Kicks Off, With Brad Pitt, Kristen Stewart, ‘Joker’ Lined Up for the Lido

Big Four


Tulsi Gabbard runs her Iowa campaign with volunteers.

New Hampshire

With 12 bills left, Sununu’s record veto tally nearly complete.

South Carolina

As layoffs hit SC, Graham says he’s prepared for China trade war to ‘drag on’.

Biden rallies supporters during Spartanburg visit.

O’Rourke campaign ejects Breitbart reporter from speech.

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