Thursday, November 7, 2019

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The (correct) conventional wisdom from Tuesday’s election results is that Democrats have (correctly) taken heart from wins in the suburbs, including and specially around Philadelphia, while Republicans are (correctly) worried about the suburbs.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board shares this suburban view in its lead editorial, but then slips in this:

“But Mr. Trump may need Democrats to nominate an opponent whose agenda is far enough to the left to scare suburban voters who are tired of the daily melodrama of the Trump Presidency.”

The Journal is correct, except for the use of the word “may.”

My take: Neither shocking nor surprising.


President Trump reportedly wanted Attorney General Barr to publicly clear him of any crime connected to his July Ukraine phone call.

My take: Not surprising; would have once upon a time been shocking for a president to do something like this, but, alas, no longer.


Team Trump is dabbling in the dark, phony corners of Twitter to fight back against impeachment by using innuendo, lies, and base-revving.

My take: Not surprising; would have once upon a time been shocking for a president’s associates to do something like this, but, alas, no longer.


President Trump was more involved in Roger Stone’s Wikileaks efforts than has been previously reported.

My take: The least surprising thing of all time.


Rudy Giuliani has finally found some lawyers to represent him (for now) in the Justice Department’s criminal probe.

My take: Surprising, not shocking.


Joe Biden is fourth in another Iowa poll and now probably has a better chance of finishing fifth in the caucuses than he does of finishing first or second.

My take: Neither surprising nor shocking.


Leading Democratic pollster Mark Mellman has an essential reading master class column on how to accurately poll using landlines, mobile phones, and texting.

My take: Shocking that most consumers of polls and even some lesser pollsters don’t understand this.


In today’s edition of “Who is going after Elizabeth Warren now?”

Joe Biden, who called her an “elitist” in a radio interview.

Bill Gates, who doesn’t like her tax increase ideas.

Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger, who writes, “The Warren meltdown could prove to be the Democratic left’s Chernobyl, a lasting catastrophe.”

The New York Times news pages, which runs an interactive graphic on her tax and defense spending cut ideas that could form the basis of nearly all of the RNC’s messaging in a Trump-Warren general election.

All of which is part of what led the Washington Post to write a piece questioning if the recent/current attacks on Warren are sexist or, at least, gender freighted. 

With the exception of the Gates jibe (to which Warren responded on Twitter), her campaign is consistently not engaging on the latest criticisms.

My take: Semi-shocking that all these anti-Warren men don’t realize that the nature of these attacks could help her; surprising that Team Warren seems passive, which worries some neutral Democrats when it comes to gaming out how she would deal with Trump attacks in a general election.


The Saudis allegedly worked improperly with Twitter employees to monitor anti-Saudi tweeters.

My take: I take back what I wrote above. THIS is the least surprising thing of all time.


Big Four

New Hampshire

Bennet signs up for New Hampshire primary.

In New Hampshire, Klobuchar sees hope in election results.

Castro campaign shutting down New Hampshire operations.


Top sports story: Joe Burrow of LSU Tigers the Heisman Trophy favorite, Kyler Murray says


Top business story: Kohl’s, Macy’s turn to pop-up shops and Instagram-worthy displays to try to win the holidays


Top entertainment story: Ben Affleck to Star in Robert Rodriguez’s Action Thriller ‘Hypnotic’


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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Thanks to reader Lee Hoefling for the headline, which I modified a bit.

Democrats took full control of the legislature in Virginia and won several other symbolically key races, while their candidate in the Kentucky gubernatorial race appears to have won. 

Republicans held on to the Mississippi governor’s slot, won the down-ballot races in Kentucky, and picked up some offices in New Jersey.

Which party won the election night?

The Democrats, by virtue of the overall results and the fact that  Donald Trump said at a Monday rally in Kentucky, a state he won by about 30 points in 2016: “You’ve got to vote. If you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can’t let that happen to me!”

The Washington Post says the evening’s results worried many Republicans, some of whom are quoted on the record, and/but also that most GOPers see no alternative to rising or falling in 2020 with Trump.

All will be explained (for some) at 8pm ET in Monroe, Louisiana, when the president holds a “Keep America Great” rally.

My take: Assuming the Democrat holds on in the Kentucky governor’s race, history will record the night as a sign that Trump is politically troubled.  There is no doubt that the Blue Grass State revealed some weakness, just as there is no doubt that the Republican candidate had his own problems.  If your focus is on who will win the White House in 2020, we learned a little, but just a little, last night.


Not-always-but-now-Trumper Gordon Sondland told the world Tuesday what has been manifestly obvious for awhile to anyone paying attention: President Trump was going for a quid pro quo with Ukraine, attempting to barter military aid for investigations, including into the Bidens, that would help Trump politically.  The fact that Sondland’s account is at odds with his previous House testimony added some justified WOW to his new statement.

In the wake of Sondland’s flip, Mitch McConnell said the Senate wouldn’t convict and other Republican Senators did not seem particularly moved.

My take: Call me reductionist and repetitive, but the political essence of impeachment remains the same.  The House Democrats will conclusively demonstrate a quid pro quo attempt (at least six witnesses have testified to it already) and add on obstruction; McConnell will hold enough Senate GOPers to avoid conviction, relying on a buffet of three choices from which to choose for any Trump “ally” who wants to vote “no.”

1. Despite evidence to the contrary, there was no quid pro quo.

2. Ukraine got its aid and Trump got no Biden investigation, so foul but no harm.

3. Trump did a bad thing, but not anything that rises to the level of removal in an election year.

Even Susan Collins will (eventually) more likely than not find one of those choices safe. 

Unless there is more new news, I caveat.


In today’s edition of “Who now is criticizing Elizabeth Warren for her Medicare for All plan, her demeanor, and her economic policies?” we have:

*Democrat Bill Galston, who ends his Wall Street Journal column with this stunner:

“Ms. Warren should be commended for the wealth of detail in her plan, which allows voters to judge it for themselves. This said, she may well have penned the longest suicide note in recorded history. There’s no reason for the entire Democratic Party to sign it.”  

*Joe Biden, who suggested Warren is “elitist” and “angry” as part of a coordinated set of softy attacks via remarks at a fundraiser, a Medium post, and a fundraising email.

*The Wall Street Journal news pages, which chronicles past failed state attempts at Medicare for All-type efforts.

*Jamie Dimon who said to CNBC, “She uses some pretty harsh words, you know, some would say vilifies successful people.”

My take: Warren hit back at Dimon on Twitter, but for now is trying to ignore the Biden jibes.  There are reasons to be skeptical that the former VP can pull off this attack, and/but he is almost certainly going to need to escalate it, perhaps to paid media, if it is going to break through. Political reality: men calling Warren suicidal, “elitist,” “angry,” and “harsh” is potentially problematic for the party – and good for Warren.  Running for president as a woman has special challenges; challenging a woman running for president has special challenges.  Especially if things get personal.


Please, please, please can we stop pretending there is a real debate for Democrats trying to win the White House between inspiring the coalition of the ascendant to turn out and winning over white working-class voters. The latest to push the strawman forward: the New Yorker and the New York Times.

My take: I promise the answer now and through November, 2020 is IT IS BOTH.


Top sports story: Ohio State leads CFP top four of LSU, Alabama and Penn State


Top business story: It’s not just Boeing. More companies are splitting CEO and chairman roles


Top entertainment story: ‘The Batman’ Eyes Colin Farrell for Penguin, Andy Serkis for Alfred


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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This is the most important poll of the year: the New York Times on the battleground states, matching President Trump up against Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

Some of the key sentences:

“The Times/Siena results and other data suggest that the president’s advantage in the Electoral College relative to the nation as a whole remains intact or has even grown since 2016.”

“Mr. Trump struggles badly among college-educated white voters and nonwhite voters, though there are signs his standing among the latter group has improved modestly since the last presidential election.”

“The poll offers little evidence that any Democrat, including Mr. Biden, has made substantial progress toward winning back the white working-class voters who defected to the president in 2016, at least so far.”

“All the leading Democratic candidates trail in the precincts or counties that voted for Barack Obama and then flipped to Mr. Trump.”

“Democrats appear to have made little progress in reclaiming their traditional advantage in the Northern battleground states, despite their sweep there in the 2018 midterms.”

“Nearly two-thirds of the Trump voters who said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 say that they’ll back the president against all three named opponents.”

“The Biden voters who say Ms. Warren is too far to the left are relatively well educated and disproportionately reside in precincts that flipped from Mitt Romney in 2012 to Mrs. Clinton four years later.”

My take: I will say it again — The Democratic strategists I interviewed for “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take” were all worried about these very things when they told me that Trump was the favorite (or major favorite) to win in 2020.  Read this poll carefully to understand why Democrats inside their cable news bubbles do not understand what they are up against.  The latest effort by an organization affiliated with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to combat Trump’s social media and advertising advantage in the battlegrounds is testament to how far behind the party has already fallen, with Plouffe’s quotes in this New York Times story making it clear that the strategists I interviewed for the book are not alone in thinking that spring 2020 is too late to start combating the incumbent’s massive advantages.


In what will apparently be a daily Wide World of News feature, here are today’s people who think Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan is bad politics, bad policy, and unrealistic:

Ruth Marcus

Steve Rattner

My take: Team Warren is going to have to figure out a way to change the plan, change the subject, or change the conventional wisdom about what she has on offer. Otherwise, Medicare for All could put her in the barrel for good. You can’t be the candidate of plans and have a plan that no one who is not on Warren’s payroll or a writer of the plan believes comes close to adding up.


On tap Tuesday: the start of Roger Stone’s criminal trial, some gubernatorial contests, and widely watched state legislative elections in Virginia.



Top sports story: Cowboys’ win vs. Giants does nothing to impress as big plays overshadow a disturbing list of mistakes

Dallas Morning News

Top business story: US will probably keep ramping up pressure on Chinese tech firms — even if a trade deal is reached


Top entertainment story: TV Review: ‘The Crown’ Season 3 Starring Olivia Colman


Monday, November 4, 2019

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Who is not comfortable with Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan?

Predictably, the Wall Street Journal editorial board – although you really do want to read their whole piece to get a sense of what will be in all the negative Facebook and TV ads that will run if she is the nominee.

Slightly less predictably, Ross Douthat – read the whole thing here also to understand why even some people who can’t imagine four more years of Donald J. Trump might vote for him over Warren.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Bernie Sanders – this Washington Post story does a very nuanced job of running through the history and current status of the Warren-Sanders relationship in the context of the presidential campaign, including regarding health care.

Most importantly, apparently Elizabeth Warren is not all that comfortable with her own heath care plan – she had trouble with some of the financing facts this weekend.

My take: There is now probably a greater than 50% chance that the Democrats will nominate someone for president in 2020 who supports massive tax increases to pay for a new health care system that will take private health insurance away from about 170 million Americans. In the view of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and many, many other smart Democrats, that is the shortest explanation for the answer to the question, how can Donald Trump win a second term?


Which makes Matthew Continetti’s New York Times op ed seem a bit off.  The underlying premise of the piece is that Trump will struggle to win another term.

Continetti writes:

“Mr. Trump has two ways he could regain his standing among independents and win over undecided voters. He can pray that Democrats nominate a candidate whose personality and policies independents find more unappealing than his own. Or he can modify the way he comports himself in public. It is telling that the least likely option is the one within Mr. Trump’s control.”

My take: That is a false binary. Team Trump is counting on the former happening, at which point there is a decent chance the incumbent will be inspired to do the latter.  If the Democrats nominate someone who, say, supports raising taxes massively to pay for a new health care system that will take private health insurance away from about 170 million Americans, the president will talk more about that and less about the streamofconsciousness “topics” that currently dominate his rallies.


One topic the president will NEVER stop talking about is impeachment.

In that way, he is different from (a) most of the Democratic presidential candidates, and (b) almost all of the voters political reporters come across when they leave their Bethesda and Bronxville homes to travel to places such as Iowa, as Edward-Isaac Dovere writes in this essential read from the Atlantic.

My take: This disconnect continues to be the craziest thing going on in the politico-media firmament, and is the main reason (of many) to think that there will not be 20 Republican Senate votes for conviction.


One person who IS talking (or, writing) about impeachment is Hugh Hewitt, who has a wicked smart piece of analysis about the role certain influential media voices will (or, could) play in determining if a Senate conviction is possible.

My take: Most analysis of the media’s role in impeachment is hopelessly biased to the point of uselessness. This piece is not partisan, just clever, in explaining one of the few moving pieces that could impact the outcome in a predictably unpredictable way.


All week in Impeachmentville, summoned witnesses will not show up, or show up, to appear before House investigators.

My take: This will matter less than how quickly public hearings will begin and what they will look like.


All week in the Democratic nomination battle, Team Biden will try to turn the debate to terms more favorable to their man; Team Warren will try to figure out how to turn health care into a plus; Team Sanders will try to decide if Bernie is playing the expectations game correctly; and Team Buttigieg will try to figure out if he needs to start acting differently now because he is in a new phase, or keep acting the same way because that is what got him to the new phase.

My take: That was my take.


Top sports story: Lamar Jackson proves unstoppable, hands Bill Belichick’s team first loss of season

CBS Sports

Top business story: Under Armour Cooperating With Federal Accounting Investigation

New York Times

Top entertainment story: Box Office: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Fizzles With $29 Million Debut


Sunday, November 3, 2019

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Some Wide World of News readers do not like the traditional Friday news quiz, while others consider it their favorite feature.

While I wait for everyone to weigh in, here’s another type of quiz – this one has questions with no known answers.


Will Joe Biden find it as easy to embrace negative TV ads against other Democrats as he did to embrace a Super PAC?

Who represents a greater threat to President Trump — John Bolton or Anonymous?

Who has a better sense of how bad things are — Jill Biden or Joe Biden?

Will Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer do anything concrete to stop their party from nominating someone who supports the Green New Deal and eliminating private health insurance?

Who are 15th through 20th most likely Republican senators to vote to convict?

When will Team Trump put out its best opposition research on Elizabeth Warren?

Which contains more potentially lethal information — Team Trump’s opposition research on Elizabeth Warren or Team Warren’s self opposition research?

Who is the third most likely Democratic presidential nominee?

Who is the fourth most likely Democratic nominee?

What are the arguments against whoever the Democrats nominate for president choosing Senator Tammy Baldwin as the vice presidential pick?

If Warren or Sanders has the most delegates going into the convention but loses the nomination to an establishment candidate on the second ballot when the super delegates get to vote, what impact will that have on general election turnout?

Under what circumstances would Donald Trump accept the Commission on Presidential Debates proposed schedule, number of debates, and moderators?

Would Trump have a better chance to beat Warren or Pelosi in a general election?

Most of all right now (as former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack raised this weekend): How will Warren and Pete Buttigieg survive their time in the barrel?



The Washington Post dominates the day.

1. The Post editorial board speaks truth to those out of power: the Trump economy is doing pretty well (with some big caveats), and any candidate who wants to beat Trump is going to have to learn to talk convincingly about both the current strengths and the caveats. 

My take: The Post implies that none of the Democratic hopefuls are doing this well right now, and the Post is correct.


2. Another cautionary note for Democrats who think impeachment is the final nail in the coffin for Trump’s reelection chances: California’s resident political wizard, Willie Brown, states unambiguously in an op ed that after a Senate acquittal, Trump will be politically stronger.

My take: The right question for many Democrats at this point is not “Will impeachment help Trump?” but “What can be done during the process to mitigate the political advantage it will bring him?”


3. The groupthink of the national political press corps is that Biden and Sanders are yesterday and Warren and Buttigieg are tomorrow.  The new Washington Post national poll of Democrats has these numbers:

Biden                  28
Warren                23
Sanders               17
Buttigieg              9

No one else is anywhere.

For those ready to write off Biden, note this:

“Biden continues to lead on the question of electability, with 42 percent saying he has the best chance to defeat Trump, compared with 17 percent who say the same for Warren, 16 percent for Sanders, 3 percent for Buttigieg and 2 percent for Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). Biden is seen as the strongest leader by 35 percent of Democrats, compared with 20 percent who say this of Sanders and 19 percent for Warren.”

And read these voter quotes from another Post story:

“’You saw what happened last time,’ said Nina Smith, 80, a retiree who attended a recent event for Booker in West Des Moines but remains undecided in the race. ‘You can love someone so much in your heart, but in your head, you wonder if they can really beat Trump.’

“Margaret Torrie, a 72-year-old retiree from Ames, said the pressure of making a decision was so stressful that she was having nightmares.

“’The number one issue for me is that I don’t want to see Trump reelected,’ said Torrie, an undecided voter who recently attended a Harris event. ‘But I have these dreams, these almost Technicolor dreams where we’ve picked the wrong person, and I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.’”

My take: As I suggested yesterday, all four of the currently viable candidates are flawed in some significant ways.  For those (including the other campaigns) who think Biden’s big edge on electability is simply a function of name ID: think again.


4. The Los Angeles Times on Buttigieg’s challenge with African American voters.

My take: This story has obviously been written before, but this is a very good version of it, and it has more meaning and relevance now that Buttigieg is being considered a top tier candidate.


5. The Washington Post, again, on Mike Pence’s Saturday foray into the Blue (not Purple) Commonwealth of Virginia, ahead of Tuesday’s legislative elections.

My take: To rally the base, the vice president declared these races to be a referendum on President Trump.  That is unlikely to turn out to have been a smart thing to say after Tuesday.

6. The Washington Post on Trump’s special loathing for Ukraine.

My take: Some day, historians will realize that part of understanding Trump’s brain is figuring out what differentiates those people and things for which Trump can see gray (Jared, Mitch McConnell, the NFL) from those where he can only see black or white (Ivanka, Adam Schiff, the quality of the food at his clubs).  The brilliance of the reporting in this story is that it demonstrates conclusively that Ukraine for Trump is in the black/white category, which explains a lot about how he got into the mess he is in.


7. The Washington Post on the preliminary thoughts of both parties on how the battle for public opinion around the open House impeachment hearings will be waged.

My take: Most of the media will be rooting for the Democrats, but don’t discount the GOP efforts to create fog, elongate the proceedings, and play to the public’s relative lack of interest in the whole shooting match.


8. Here’s a New York Times headline: “Judge Blocks Trump’s Plan to Bar Immigrants Who Can’t Pay for Health Care”

My take: If I can state the obvious: between impeachment and the Democratic nomination battle, a lot of important stuff is happening that simply isn’t getting the coverage it deserves.

An underappreciated element of that: Which Democratic presidential candidates have the vision and rhetorical chops to integrate significant daily developments into their stump speeches in a manner that catches the imagination of voters?


Top sports story: World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals


Top business story: Saudi Aramco IPO: Domestic listing set to begin trading in December


Top entertainment story: ‘SNL’: Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ Plan Leads Cold Open


Saturday, November 2, 2019

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On the occasion of solid employment numbers (New York Times: “Job Market Shows Resilience, Quieting Recession Fears”), Beto O’Rourke’s withdrawal from the race, Kamala Harris’ pulling up stakes in New Hampshire, the New York Times Iowa poll showing Joe Biden in fourth, and Tom Edsall’s extraordinary op ed suggesting a centrist has a better chance of beating Donald Trump than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders do, let me tell you what a lot of Democrats (not all, but a lot) think:

As of today, the only four people who can be the party’s nominee ar

  1. A 70-something woman with a Harvard Law School nameplate, an unvetted past, and positions in support of eliminating private health insurance and decriminalizing the US border. 
  2. A 70-something man who is a socialist, recently had a heart attack, is feared by many Democratic businesspeople, and supports eliminating private health insurance and decriminalizing the US border.
  3. A 30-something mayor of a city of 100,000 people, with an elite resume, who happens to be gay, and has demonstrated extremely limited appeal to African American voters.
  4. A 70-something long-time Washington fixture, who doesn’t inspire even some of his own supporters (let alone young people), has no discernible message, and has a long history as both a horrible fundraiser and a horrible presidential candidate.

Despite the spin from some party grandees and a few super optimistic strategists who think President Trump is doomed NO MATTER WHO THE DEMOCRATS CHOOSE TO RUN AGAINST HIM, the course and contours of the Democratic nomination fight have only created more panic, dread, and pessimism among a wide swath of the party. 

One of their main concerns: two of the most likely nominees support Medicare for All, which is too liberal for Nancy Pelosi.

In talking to Democrats in the aftermath of the publication of my book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take,” I typically hear one thing or get one question. 

The thing I hear, from the pessimists: We don’t have a single candidate who can win the nomination AND beat Trump. 

The thing I’m asked, by the “optimists”: Can any of our candidates who can win the nomination beat Trump?

Iowa Democrats heard from many of their presidential candidates Friday night in the last big Hawkeye State kick-the-tires event before the February caucuses. 

The party wants a candidate who can win and change the country. 

For a long time, many in the party establishment thought Joe Biden was the answer to that answer, more because of the former than he latter.

Here is how the Washington Post described the scene in Des Moines Friday night:

“‘Firefighters for Biden’ filled a specially decked-out suite, but as the former vice president addressed the dinner, hundreds of empty seats remained in six upper-level sections reserved by the campaign. Outside those sections sat boxes of unused inflatable noisemakers branded with one of Biden’s signature phrases, ‘Beat him like a drum.’

“When the lights dimmed, Buttigieg’s supporters, who filled nearly a quarter of the arena, waved lights that blinked in sync. Warren’s campaign also filled several sections, with supporters sporting liberty-green shirts and noisemakers. At the apex of her speech, they unfurled an enormous ‘Win With Warren’ banner that draped over three tiers of the arena.”

Some Democrats still wait for a white knight to enter the race at the last minute, or hope that Amy Klobuchar or Michael Bennet can rise up from the pack.

Who can vanquish Donald Trump?

Here’s some of what the Democratic strategists I interviewed for the book said needs to be done to beat the incumbent.

If you are a voter in search of a strong general election candidate to face the incumbent, ask yourself: Who can do these things?


*Start thinking about how to win the general election now; waiting until the nomination is won is far too late.

*Study how Bill Clinton — the last challenger to beat an incumbent — pulled it off.

*Understand Trump voters and supporters, rather than denigrating them.

*Get ready now to do battle with Trump, rather than waiting until the nomination is in hand.

*Accept the fact that Trump doesn’t just control the news environment; he IS the news environment.

*Protect your public image at all costs, or suffer the fate of Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole.

*Do everything possible to keep the party united, even as you fight for the nomination, or you risk a repeat of 2016, when many Bernie Sanders supporters failed to back Hillary Clinton.

*Build a sophisticated war room to combat social media disinformation efforts.

*Be prepared for Team Trump to effectively destroy your chances in the spring when you become the presumed nominee but don’t have a majority of the delegates in hand.

*Don’t play it safe in the debates — have a much more aggressive strategy than Hillary Clinton did four years ago.

*Tell a better American story than Donald Trump does about a future that makes every citizen feel included economically and culturally.

Again, can any of the Democratic hopefuls do these things? 

The answer to that question will determine if Trump gets another term.


The four impeachment developments you need to know about:

1. The Washington Post goes inside the Senate Republican lunch from earlier in the week, in which some members have already started saying it is time to admit there was a quid pro quo and/but not that there’s anything wrong with that.

2. Several news organizations are reporting that the National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg, told Lt. Col. Vindman to stop talking to people about his concerns regarding the July phone call.

3. Bret Stephens well describes the new Washington Post poll:

“Trump’s support among Republicans [is] at 74 percent — an eight-point decline since September and the lowest since he was elected. Nearly one in five Republicans support impeachment and removal. So do 47 percent of independents.”

4. Trump friend Chris Ruddy says the July call was not appropriate; he did not describe it as “perfect.”


Top sports story: James powers Lakers to overtime win against Mavs

Yahoo Sports

Top business story: China says it’s reached a consensus in principle with the US during this week’s trade talks


Top entertainment story: Hillary Clinton Argues “Mark Zuckerberg Should Pay a Price” for False Facebook Ads

Hollywood Reporter

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Friday, November 1, 2019

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“This is over a phone call that is a good call.  At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call…It’s energized my base like I’ve never seen before…I think [impeachment is] a very dirty word, it’s a word that I can’t believe that the do-nothing Democrats are trying to pin on me, and it’s a disgrace. And I think it’s going to backfire on them….I did nothing wrong, and for them to do this is a disgrace. To me the word impeachment’s a very ugly word….My poll numbers are very good. You know, they always like to talk about my poll numbers — you know they’re very good,….My base is much bigger than people think. But I think I go way beyond my base.”  — Donald Trump in an interview with the Washington Examiner

My take: I have no idea if the president realizes that he will eventually need to mount a more robust defense than just saying that the phone call was “perfect,” “good,” and “straight.”  But I am sure Senate Republicans think he does.  When the president says he believes the impeachment process will backfire on the Democrats, that isn’t spin. GOP pollsters’ data largely encourages Team Trump to think that.


“This is a gift for us. Our internal polling shows that Donald Trump’s support has gone up thanks to the impeachment inquiry. Since Nancy Pelosi called for this we have seen the numbers go up….We can let them keep going with this because the American people are not distracted by this.” – Lara Trump to Sean Hannity

My take: Ibid (with some caveats and overstatement).


“Can I say we all know it hap­pened? I think the de­finitive ques­tion for the hear­ings will turn out not to be ‘Did he do it?’ but ‘Do the Amer­i­can peo­ple be­lieve this an im­peach­able of­fense?’” – Peggy Noonan

My take: As chronicled this week in Wide World of News, this will remain the Republicans’ main argument for much of the impeachment process, but it will eventually give way. [See two items below.]


“De­moc­rats want to im­peach Mr. Trump for ask­ing a for­eign gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate his po­lit­i­cal ri­val for cor­rup­tion, though the probe never hap­pened, and for with­hold­ing aid to Ukraine that in the end wasn’t with­held. As­sum­ing the facts bear this out, the at­tempt was self-serv­ing and reck­less and a long way from the ‘per­fect’ be­hav­ior Mr. Trump claims.” – the Wall Street Journal editorial board

My take: Ibid.


“To my colleagues on the other side, I say this: Give the people back their power…Let them choose the next leader of the free world. Follow the principles of our Constitution. And do not dilute our democracy by interfering in elections from Washington.” – House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy

My take: As long as the impeachment process goes into December or beyond, this is going to become the main argument that Team Trump makes to keep Republican Senators in line.  It is a process argument masquerading as a principled one.  Most Republican strategists and many Democratic ones think it will be enough to ward off conviction.


“It’s not correct, it’s not constitutional, it’s unprecedented and it’s probably illegal.” Marty Wisher, a 54-year-old artist and avid Republican volunteer, who lives in the district of a Florida Republican congressman who recently made tentative noises supportive of the impeachment process, and, the Washington Post found, was quickly descended upon by MAGAers at home. Said congressman, who is retiring, voted with all other Republicans against the impeachment resolution Thursday.

My take: The media will rightly continue to look for qualitative and quantitative indications that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are becoming more supportive of impeachment and removal. That does not appear to be happening very much so far, and that has huge implications for this process.  Outside of Washington, impeachment is not the daily obsession it is for the political class. Nancy Pelosi knows that. It is less clear that Adam Schiff does.


“I make no prejudgement as to where that remedy will be warranted when we finish these hearings. I will wait until all the facts are put forward” — Adam Schiff

My take: Nice try, but this is one of the most disingenuous statements made by a member of Congress on Thursday. Schiff’s past actions and words (and, likely, his future ones) render this sentiment inoperative.


“We’ve had enough for a very long time.” — Speaker Pelosi to a roundtable with columnists earlier in the week about the evidence that has been gathered

My take: “Enough” for what is the question.


“The reality is we could fill every day of the next month with a new potential witness interview. Given the evidence we’ve collected so far, we think we’re ready to enter a public phase sooner than later.” – a Democratic source to Politico

My take: The coverage in the current news cycle suggests the House Democrats believe they are on track to hand things over to the Senate in 2019.  Despite the quote above, there are a lot of steps to go before Pelosi throws it over to McConnell, and Republicans are going to do what they can to stall.


“I get that Democrats feel they have to proceed with impeachment to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. But there is little chance they will come close to ousting the president. So I hope they set a Thanksgiving deadline. Play the impeachment card through November, have the House vote and then move on to other things. The Senate can quickly dispose of the matter and Democratic candidates can make their best pitches for denying Trump re-election.” – David Brooks

My take: Brooks’ column is essential reading. It reflects the bipartisan establishment view that impeachment is necessary but if it drags on, it will help Trump get reelected.


“We’re just going to run our race…And if Bernie or Warren have to be in Washington while we’re in Dubuque, that’s their problem.” – an unnamed Biden adviser in a Politico story on the impact impeachment and a Senate trial could have on the Democratic presidential nomination battle

My take: No one knows all the ways the impeachment process will effect the Democrats’ search for a nominee who can win a general election against Trump, but the argument that the media laser focus on Capitol Hill will help any of the Democrats running to do what is necessary to be victorious in November, 2020 seems wrong.


“If Joe Biden is the nominee, Democrats probably won’t have to be talking about Medicare for All…If Elizabeth Warren is the nominee, then Democrats might have to spend some money distancing themselves from her proposals.” – the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman to the Wall Street Journal

My take: This is from one of the very, very stories in this news cycle about the Democratic presidential race.  It reflects the Gang of 500 consensus that Biden is not going to be the Democratic nominee and that if Trump’s general election opponent supports eliminating private health insurance, the president will be given a big political gift. That two-part consensus might not be correct, but it has grown immensely over the last month.


“My family and I will be making Palm Beach, Florida, our Permanent Residence” Donald J. Trump, formerly of Gotham City, on Twitter

My take: Exhibit 20,004 for the Democrats I interviewed for “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take” on why Trump can use the power of incumbency and his nose for news to dominate any news cycle he wishes, creating unprecedented challenges for his general election opponent.


Big Four


Democratic presidential hopefuls to address African American economic issues at Des Moines NAACP forum.

Kamala Harris bringing more staff to Iowa for second time in two months.

New Hampshire

Sanders says he’s taking ‘nothing for granted’ in N.H. primary.


Top sports story: Kenyan Drake breaks out in first game with Cardinals, Undefeated 49’s prevail

SF 28, ARI 25


Top business story: Dimon Scores Win Over ‘Lazy’ Investors on Corporate Voting Rules


Top entertainment story: Aaron Sorkin to Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Is ‘Assaulting Truth’ With Political Ads Policy


Thursday, October 31, 2019

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The most important things to know about Thursday’s House impeachment vote:

Democrats expect to lose no more than five of their flock; Republicans expect to lose fewer than that, and maybe none.

Why the Democratic unity, after months of skepticism by members from Trump districts?

Cue the New York Times: “Democrats are buoyed by internal polling conducted by their campaign arm, which found that their candidates lead Republican candidates by three percentage points in House battleground districts, and by eight points in all districts, according to a Democratic aide.”

Is Team Trump taking unity for granted?

Cue the Washington Post: “The White House plans to invite a group of GOP lawmakers to meet with Trump before the roll call in an additional move to ensure ‘no’ votes, the official said.”

My take: This is an historically important vote and an important process moment, but it is hard to see how it impacts public opinion or Senate Republican opinion.  The media will rightly treat any Republican defections as more significant than Democratic ones.


The most important developments in the House impeachment investigation:

Retiring White House national security aide Tim Morrison is expected to give closed-door testimony Thursday to House impeachment investigators. If Lt. Col. Vindman was a 9 out of 10 on the WOW scale, the previews of Morrison’s testimony (including his decision to leave his White House job) suggest we are looking at leaks by the end of the day that will make Morrison somewhere between a 5 and a 7.

The Democrats want John Bolton to testify.  It is absolutely unclear if he will.

My take: The case has been built privately – Donald Trump tried for a quid pro quo with Ukraine.  Which of the many witnesses who have and will speak to that fact in non-public sessions will be able to perform in a way that makes the case to the American people (and Senate Republicans) is still unknown.  Vindman seems to be part of the answer. If Bolton testifies and turns, that would complicate Trump’s life in unfathomable ways.


The most encouraging signs for Trump in terms of surviving in the Senate:

He is taking Mitch McConnell’s advice about publicly laying off wavering Senators (like Mitt Romney) and McConnell is still highly motivated to avoid conviction. (Politico)

One of the smartest conservative thinkers, Rich Lowry, columnizes on the case previewed in Wide World of News yesterday: eventually, the only argument that will save Trump from Senate conviction is that the quid ended when the Ukrainians got their military aid and the quo never happened.

Mike Pompeo, in an interview with the New York Post, was fully on board with Team Trump.

My take: The president is not unreasonably counting on some combination of White House lobbying, McConnell’s determination, a lack of overwhelming Republican grassroots support for impeachment, Democratic missteps, the drumbeat from Fox News, Rush, etc, and peer pressure to keep his Senate firewall in place.


Most surprising development of the day:

RealClearInvestigations decided to basically and apparently out the identity of the whistleblower.

My take: Oh, the Internet. How will other media stakeholders react to this? Only time will tell.  But a Drudge link pushes information into a distinct and different place.


Most intense Trump political fantasy:

Hillary Clinton gets into the presidential race.

My take: Oh, Bill Clinton.


Most undercovered aspects of Kamala Harris’s campaign lack of money leading to a desperate last gap stand in Iowa, where she has limited support:

Despite the brave face the campaign put on in announcing the move to lay off staff and put all its remaining chips on the Hawkeye State, barring a political miracle, this is the end of the Harris campaign.

Cue the New York Times: “Among larger donors, Ms. Harris has virtually disappeared as a topic of conversation, as they have increasingly looked at Mr. Buttigieg as the most viable alternative to Mr. Biden among the center-left candidates. That is a reversal from earlier in the year when Ms. Harris was viewed that way, according to multiple donors and fund-raisers.”

My take: If you want to know the answer to who the Democratic nominee is going to be, the question you would most want the answer to is, who will finish higher in Iowa, Biden or Buttigieg?  Elites and donors don’t pick the Democratic nominee, but the most prized unfilled slot in the party right now is “establishment Biden alternative,” and Buttigieg is better positioned to assume that mantle than anyone else on planet earth right now.


The most underrated candidate in the Democratic field:

Bernie Sanders’ weekend Minnesota rally with Representative Omar has been moved to a bigger venue because of demand.

My take: I said early on that I thought Sanders was an undervalued stock.  I overstated the case then; most of the press is understating the case now.  He might not end up the nominee, but he almost certainly will be a big player.  He is less susceptible to damage from time in the barrel than either Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden, for reasons too obvious to state here.


Big Four

New Hampshire

Filing period opens for New Hampshire’s presidential primary.

Bill aims to make generic drugs more affordable for seniors.


Record cold in northern Nevada, freeze warning in Las Vegas.


Top sports story: The seventh inning that shocked Houston and made the Nationals World Series champions


Top business story: Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot reach deal to merge


Top entertainment story: Twitter Will Ban All Political Advertising


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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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. 


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. 




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.


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


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


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


Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Today is the official publication date of my book “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take.”

With impeachment, Syria, ISIS, and the rest of the Trump Show, as always, front, center, and back, the Democratic presidential nomination fight has not gotten much prominent coverage lately. But the clock ticks inexorably towards Iowa, Milwaukee, the general election debates, and November, 2020.

Today, the Associated Press says this about the Democratic presidential nomination race: “The lack of enthusiasm for Biden’s candidacy underscores a broader trend emerging in the states that matter most in the Democratic Party’s high-stakes presidential nomination fight: Primary voters appear to be getting less certain of their choice as Election Day approaches…..Major donors and party leaders across the country have publicly and privately raised concerns about the direction of the primary election recently as well. But interviews with dozens of primary voters across Iowa and New Hampshire in recent days reveal a pervasive feeling of unease.”

Today, Politico says this about the race: “There are signs the top tier of the Democratic presidential primary may be expanding, leaving Democrats to confront the prospect of a lasting, multi-candidate contest that could drag on long into next year.”

Here is an excerpt from the book, the closing portion of the prologue. It is why smart Democratic strategists, like the ones I interviewed for the book, remain concerned that, despite (or because of) impeachment, winning the White House will not be easy.


But the paradox remains. Candidates in the Democratic field will have to spend every waking minute, through at least March and possibly through July, focusing all of their mental and physical resources on winning the nomination. If they take an eye off that ball, a general election strategy becomes moot. But if they do not spend some effort starting in the winter thinking about how to beat Donald Trump, a nomination win becomes immaterial.

The biggest mistake a candidate can make, the strategists say, is to fail to take the necessary and available steps to prepare for the endgame. On the Republican side, Trump and his reelection campaign will be barreling along every day, raising money, testing versions of Facebook ads, and identifying, profiling, analyzing, and mobilizing a general election electorate. The Democratic opponents must explain their political motivations, avoid squabbles, and rack up primary wins, but be ready to pivot cleanly from the tumult of delegates and Democratic voters to the challenges of the Electoral College and general election voters.

“Begin with the end in mind,” says Jill Alper, a Michigan-based strategist who worked for the Clinton-Gore team and John Kerry, quoting the famous axiom by Stephen Covey. “The best way to win the primary is to talk about Donald Trump. Right? And the best way to win the general election is to talk about Donald Trump. So how do you talk about Donald Trump to achieve those objectives at the same time?” In a way, a winning candidate must run a campaign that is a palindrome of sorts, one that reveals brain and soul and skill, that lives in the moment, in the daily struggles, but holds November 2020 close. The candidate should maintain personal consistency, a steady message, and true principles, from start to finish, finish to start.

Read the rest of the excerpt here. Order my new book:

America’s Top Political
Strategists on What it
Will Take

Order:Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, an Army officer whose family fled the Soviet Union when he was a child, is by every indication a patriot and not a Deep State operative. His pants are not striped, he puts country over politics, and he was deeply alarmed at President Trump’s attempts to get the new Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. Also, he was on the July telephone call and was so alarmed about it that he reportedly took his concerns to the White House counsel’s office.

His expected closed-door Tuesday testimony, apparently soon to be followed by similar words from his White House colleague Tim Morrison (whose lawyer says he will testify despite the administration’s desire that he not), will dominate the news all day.

Morrison and Vindman will almost certainly be part of the public hearings that the House hopes to begin soon, joined by top U.S. envoys to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch. 

My take: Based on Vindman’s widely shared opening statement and the initial descriptions of his biography, it is very likely that Republican efforts to do opposition research on him and muddy him up will be minimal and ineffective. 

Couple that with Speaker Pelosi’s very cleverly drawn House impeachment resolution, to be voted on Thursday (and applauded by the Wall Street Journal ed board), and it is clear that the odds of two things have gone up: (1) the chances that the House will impeach the president, focused primarily on his push to get Ukraine to probe the Bidens, and (2) the chances that the press will stop giving Republican process complaints as much attention.

And/but, here are two things whose odds are not more than marginally changed by the from-central-casting appearance of Vindman (complete with identical twin brother!): (1) the chances  that Democrats can win over either House Republican votes or decisive public opinion on impeachment, and (2) the chances that Team Schiff/Nadler/Pelosi can finish the impeachment process before the political calendar runs out.

Do the advent of Thursday’s vote and Vindman’s testimony change the odds of what is, in the end, the only impeachment-related question that matters – will 20 Senate Republicans vote to convict and remove Donald J. Trump?

The answer to that remains “no,” because as dramatic as Tuesday will be, Mitch McConnell and his flock have made peace with the “bad thing to do but not worthy of impeachment and removal” posture.  

That could still evolve, but Vindman’s account and Pelosi’s smart process fix do not change that particular game.


Top sports story: NCAA to meet Tuesday to consider allowing athletes to profit from endorsements

Top business story: Boeing CEO to face heat in Congress over 737 Max crashes: ‘The whole world’s watching’

Top entertainment story: Appeals Court Revives ‘Shake It Off’ Lawsuit Against Taylor Swift