Wednesday, October 30, 2019


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IT’S ACTUALLY VERY SIMPLE

In the straight-talk spirit of the late John McCain and with a nod to Wide World of News readers who have short attention spans, let’s do impeachment and 2020 true and short. 

IMPEACHMENT 

What President Trump did in working with Rudy Giuliani and others to try to force a quid pro quo ultimatum on Ukraine (and then try to cover it up) shocks the conscience of Rob Portman every bit as much as it shocks the conscience of Steny Hoyer. 

But/and what will determine if there is a chance the Senate will convict are

1. How turf-battling, due-to-make-some-errors Democrats conduct their public hearings — and (broken record) how quickly. 

2. How unanimously and deftly Team Trump and its congressional allies make the exact argument embodied in this tweet of Republican Congressmen Mark Meadows (an argument I have long thought was potentially the Democrats’ weak link for the public and the life raft for Republican senators looking for a life raft):

“While Democrats continue to leak false narratives, here’s what the actual witness interviews would show you: – No aid was ever traded for any political investigations – Ukraine aid continued to flow WITHOUT new investigations – There is zero basis for impeachment”

In other words, the president sought a quid pro quo but didn’t pull it off.

In other, other words, a foul, but, in the end, no harm.

Will Portman and other Senate Republicans buy that argument?

Here’s Portman Tuesday, looking for a life raft (via the Washington Post): “I thought it was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. I also do not think it’s an impeachable offense.”

This is where sharp Trump defenders and allies of Mitch McConnell think the theory of the defense case will eventually end up when the game of musical chairs spin reaches the Senate.

Can more witnesses telling the same story in private or, eventually, in public, as Lt. Col. Vindman did Tuesday, change the minds of Republican Senators and/or the larger public?

Only time will tell, but it does not appear so yet.

Another momentous day Tuesday, more status quo: the House impeaches; the Senate does not convict; Trump potentially grows stronger for reelection, as Nancy Pelosi long feared.

Which means Democrats can’t take their eye of the prize – they need to come up with a very strong general election candidate, regardless of impeachment, or risk losing the White House contest, again, to Donald Trump. 

Therefore:

****

2020

No Super PAC is going to save Joe Biden from finishing fourth in Iowa.  No phoner with Andrea Mitchell is going to save Joe Biden from finishing fourth in Iowa.  No electability argument is going to save Joe Biden from finishing fourth in Iowa. No endorsement (except from an Obama) is going to save Joe Biden from finishing fourth in Iowa. No negative TV spots are going to save Joe Biden from finishing fourth in Iowa.  

And no amount of spin is going to allow Joe Biden to survive a fourth place finish in Iowa. 

The man needs one thing, Democratic strategists say: a compelling and relevant American narrative about a Biden presidency, a/k/a a message. 

If Biden finishes fourth in Iowa, the candidate not named “Biden,” “Warren,” or “Sanders” who most meaningfully exceeds expectations in the caucuses will become the second most likely nominee.

Who should, and will, the Democrats nominate? Based on the reporting I did for my new book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take”:

“Serious candidates are expected to present a positive message, especially on the economy; a negative message, or “frame,” for the opposition; and an attractive persona with clear-cut traits, ideally those of strength, conviction, and empathy. It is important that the message as a whole reflects the authentic core of each candidate—voters instinctively identify and ultimately reject artifice and blandishments….

“For all of Trump’s inconsistencies and thrashing about, one of his advantages, say the strategists, is the stability of his brand as the cocky, business-savvy, anti-establishment anti-hero. Trump shows up in character every day. If a Democratic candidate cannot forge her or his own narrative, and consistently reinforce it with a confident policy agenda, an appealing nature, and a clear argument against four more years of Donald Trump, then the winter primary season will be cold and short.

“The strategists believe that the environment in which Donald Trump got elected is still very much in place. Despite a somewhat improved economy, voters also feel the volatility. Americans remain insecure, unhappy with Washington and career politicians, and looking for a change. Historically, the more optimistic candidate tends to win U.S. general elections. But Trump’s 2016 victory demonstrated that a large segment of voters wants an oddball cocktail of anger as well as optimism.

“Democrats should be cautioned that the war against the elites is not over. ‘The Democratic nominee,” says Charlie Baker, ‘cannot go back to a pre-Brexit world.’”

In a way, that defines Joe Biden’s biggest problem: he is a pre-Brexit candidate in a Brexit world.

****

The latest on the California fires here.

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Big Four

South Carolina


Biden’s communion denial highlights faith-politics conflict.

****

Top sports story: Nats’ Dave Martinez ejected after arguing controversial call in 7th

WAS 7, HOU 2

Series tied 3-3

Game 7 tonight at 8pm ET

ESPN

Top business story: The NCAA will allow athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness in a major shift for the organization

CNBC

Top entertainment story:‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Series ‘House of the Dragon’ Ordered at HBO

Variety

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