Thursday, October 17, 2019

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On the One Hand:

* The president’s Syria “policy” and his time-capsule-worthy letter to Erdoğan continue to put him at odds with almost everyone besides Rand Paul, creating a cascading crisis whose full implications cannot actually be grasped by anyone.

* A new Gallup poll finds a slim majority of Americans support impeachment and removal.

* Mitch McConnell is now indicating a Senate impeachment trial before Christmas is likely.

* This: “Trump’s Impeachment Blockade Crumbles as Witnesses Agree to Talk”

* And this: “Ex-Aide Saw Gordon Sondland as a Potential National Security Risk”

* Damaging internal leaks (such is in this essential reading Washington Post story about Sondland wanting to spend lavishly using taxpayer money on upgrading his government residence in Brussels) suggest the kind of circular firing squad that can destroy a campaign.

* Sondland is (again) scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Thursday.

* The China trade deal is imperiled by congressional action on Hong Kong.

* Team Trump is playing Electoral College defense in Texas.


On the Other Hand:

* The chaos president, who thrives on pandemonium, was in his element Wednesday with a made-for-TV White House clash with Speaker Pelosi.

* The calendar is an incessant puzzle for the impeachment inquiry, making it a multi-layered challenge for Democrats to find a timetable and a conclusion that further their goal of getting Trump out of office.

* Impeachment fever is doing what Nancy Pelosi feared – shutting down oxygen for Democrats’ preferred issues, such as health care.

* Media errors allow Trump to swan about and tap into one of the hottest of hot buttons he has at his disposal for base revving.

* The ratings for the New York Times-CNN debate were not as strong as earlier sessions, perhaps suggesting a lull in enthusiasm. Perhaps.

* The economic populism of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders could drive the party too far to the left to win a general election. Could.

* Many anti-Warren Democrats are going to pick up the Wall Street Journal ed board’s line about the party’s new frontrunner: “Democrats won’t be able to make the case against Mr. Trump’s falsehoods if their nominee is also dodging the truth…. All of this illuminates a problem with Ms. Warren’s agenda and her political character.”

(Exhibit A: What Biden and others said about Warren on Wednesday.)

(Exhibit B: What Frank Bruni writes about the Bay Stater today: “Warren has campaigned as a truth teller but came across, in this instance, as a classically evasive Washington operator, scared to treat voters as grown-ups who can process information in a sophisticated manner.”)

* Joe Biden might be the rival Team Trump most fear, but many Democrats worried about the former VP’s chances agree with the headline (“Joe Biden Isn’t Going to Make It”) and subhed (“His son Hunter and Donald Trump aren’t dragging him down. He’s doing it himself.”) of this Dan Henninger Wall Street Journal column (which is essential reading).

* Biden’s fundraising and cash on hand are much more ominous than the media is portraying them to be, owing to a strong spin effort by his team – but unless something changes, his ability to compete beyond the early states is seriously in question.

(“Mr. Biden’s problem could be even more dire than it appears, [Paul] Begala said. That’s because he is so reliant on raising money from wealthy donors, who are often fickle and want to pick a winner, while those who outraised him can keep bringing in contributions online without devoting so much time and money to finance events.”]

* The endorsements of Sanders by Representatitives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar strengthen the Vermonter and could lengthen the duration of the nomination battle.

* The media is now heavily invested in the narrative that Biden and Warren are weak/flawed frontrunners, that Sanders is politically alive and well, and that Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and maybe others are poised to get back into the game.  And that investment ain’t based on nothing.


On the Third Hand:

* The Ukraine whistleblower might not testify.

* Rick Perry’s Wall Street Journal interview is filled with details – and inconclusive.


My take: My new book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists On What It Will Take,” suggests that ousting an incumbent president requires, among many other elements, one foundational task: the eventual challenger nominee must be now intensively planning on how to win a general election against the occupant of the White House. 

To do that, the eventual nominee must also try to sew up the nomination early, with money left in the bank.

Much of the media is so focused on (and in favor of…) impeachment and removal and on (rightfully) the spiraling problems in Syria that they are (as they did in 2016) creating the impression that Trump can’t win.

The “on the other hand” list above is not decisive or determinative, and betting markets have lowered Trump’s odds of winning.

But the Moody’s model forecasts a reelection, and until the Democrats settle on a nominee, and it is clear that that person is strong enough to win, among other things, Wisconsin, it is impossible to say anything but that Trump is the favorite in November, 2020.


Speaker Pelosi has her weekly meeting with the media at 10:45 am ET.

President Trump MAGAs in Dallas at 8:05 pm ET.

Vice President Pence leads a mega delegation to Turkey to try to put a lot of genies back in a lot of bottles.


Big Four


Biden: Syria withdrawal proves Trump is a ‘complete failure’.

Farmers blame Trump for biofuels rule they view as betrayal.


Nevada seeks to restart lawsuit over US plutonium shipment.


(Editor’s note: the exclusion this week from “top sports” of items about the Nationals’ historic march to the World Series is meant as a playful joke. Thanks to the many of you who write in to ask about that!)

Top sports story: Errol Spence Jr. charged with DWI stemming from crash


Top business story: Five companies said to be in talks over $22 billion opioid settlement


Top entertainment story: Jonah Hill Passes on Role in ‘The Batman’


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