Tuesday ReadsPosted: October 25, 2022
We’re just two weeks away from the midterm elections and the polls are all over the place. It looks like Republicans are in the cat bird seat, and that could be terrible for our democracy. But polls have been unreliable in the recent elections going back to 2016. We are just going to have to wait and see what happens.
From Nate Cohn at The New York Times: If These Poll Results Keep Up, Expect Anything on Election Night.
To this point, this year’s midterm campaign has been about one big question: Can Democrats defy political gravity and overcome the long history of drubbings dealt to the president’s party?
After months showing the Democrats running very well for a midterm year, the polls now offer pretty strong evidence that the party can’t overcome political gravity — at least not entirely. Democrats are being dragged back to earth.
Now, the question is whether Democrats can survive the landing — especially in the Senate, but also in a large chunk of Democratic-leaning House districts.
Looking back, political gravity began to reassert itself several weeks ago. After Labor Day, polls suggested Republican gains in key Senate races where Democrats had shown important summer strength. President Biden’s approval rating stopped increasing. Then the favorable news environment that seemed to give Democrats an opportunity just vanished, perhaps in no small part because of bad inflation news and a falling stock market.
It’s been enough to let Republicans reclaim the lead on the generic congressional ballot, in which voters are asked whether they’ll back Democrats or Republicans for Congress. On average, Republicans have led by two to three percentage points nationally in polls of registered or likely voters released over the last week or so — with Republicans faring even better among likely voters than the polls of registered voters imply.
It’s very difficult for me to understand how voters can choose gas prices over saving democracy and how they can believe that Republicans will be better for the economy than Democrats.
Of course, the voters — not the polls — will have the final say on all of these questions. As such, we spend a lot of time going through the risks of polling error in this newsletter. But for this post let’s imagine that the polls are exactly right about the national political environment. If so, the race is in a very delicate spot. Everything from a Democratic hold in the Senate and a narrow House majority to a total Republican rout becomes imaginable.
Why the wide range of possibilities? On one hand, a Republican lead of two or three points is not inconsistent with a Democratic hold of the Senate. It’s a tough environment for battleground-state Democrats, but it’s probably survivable for strong Democratic candidates against weak Republicans.
Indeed, Democrats still lead Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia, which would be enough for them to retain the chamber. It would be a mistake to view these races as anything other than tossups in this environment, though, especially with polls trending toward Republicans (with the exception of Georgia). The point is simply that it remains quite possible for Democrats to retain control.
On the other hand, a lead of two or three points would also open the door to a Republican rout. To start with the simple stuff: It would be easy for Republicans to squeak out a win in one of Pennsylvania, Arizona or Georgia, and take the Senate. But it would also be easy for the Republicans to make large gains in the House — a lot easier than people might think.
So basically, who the hell knows what’s going to happen?
Scott Clement at The Washington Post has some suggestions about how the read the polls: There are a ton of midterm election polls. Here’s a guide for how to read them. Check those out at the link.
But these approaches to polls ignore the fact that Republicans have every intention of cheating in 2022 and 2024.
Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley at Rolling Stone: Trump Plans to Challenge the 2022 Elections — Starting in Philly.
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER, Donald Trump welcomed a handful of Republican allies to Manhattan’s Trump Tower with an urgent message: He saw a “scam” happening with midterm election voting in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and he wanted conservatives to do something about it.
“During our briefing, he was concerned that 2020 is going to happen again in 2022,” says former senior Trump administration official Michael Caputo, referencing Trump’s debunked assertion that voter fraud in Philadelphia helped win Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. Caputo — who attended the meeting alongside Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko and retired CIA officer Sam Faddis — says they had a message back to the former president: “Our teamencouraged him to be concerned … [Furthermore], I’m advising Republicans to recruit and train election observers and a team of attorneys to oversee historically problematic precincts.”
But it’s not just one meeting, and it’s not just Philly.
In recent months, Trump has convened a series of in-person meetings and conference calls to discuss laying the groundwork to challenge the 2022 midterm election results, four people familiar with the conversations tell Rolling Stone. In these conversations, pro-Trump groups, attorneys, Republican Party activists, and MAGA diehards often discuss the type of scorched-earth legal tactics they could deploy.
And they’ve gamed out scenarios for how to aggressively challenge elections, particularly ones in which a winner is not declared on Election Night. If there’s any hint of doubt about the winners, the teams plan to wage aggressive court campaigns and launch a media blitz. Trump himself set the blueprint for this on Election Night 2020, when — with the race far from decided — he went on national television to declare: “Frankly, we did win this election.”
Trump has been briefed on plans in multiple states and critical races — including in Georgia. But Pennsylvania has grabbed his interest most keenly, including in the Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-endorsed GOP contender Mehmet Oz. If the Republican does not win by a wide enough margin to trigger a speedy concession from Fetterman — or if the vote tally is close on or after Election Night in November — Trump and other Republicans are already preparing to wage a legal and activist crusade against the “election integrity” of Democratic strongholds such as the Philly area.
Trump’s focus on Pennsylvania, however, seems to be more about his own political future than about party allegiance or fealty to his celebrity endorsee. As he hosts meetings on possible 2022 election challenges, he’s also been laying the groundwork for a run in 2024 — where Pennsylvania again promises to be critical and competitive. As one source who has spoken to Trump several times about a potential post-election-day legal battle over the Oz-Fetterman race puts it, Trump views a potential midterm challenge as a “dress rehearsal for Trump 2024.”
Read much more about Trump’s plans at the Rolling Stone link.
The midterm elections may be only days away, but Hillary Clinton is sounding the alarm on the 2024 presidential election, claiming “right wing extremists” already have a plan in place to “literally steal” an election for which there are no official candidates.
Clinton’s message was made for the the group Indivisible. According to their website, the organization is “grassroots movement of thousands of local Indivisible groups with a mission to elect progressive leaders, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the [Donald] Trump agenda.”
The video was released last week, but got renewed attention this week as conservative critics called out Clinton’s message about the potential legitimacy of the next presidential election.
“I know we’re all focused on the 2022 midterm elections, and they are incredibly important, but we also have to look ahead because, you know what, our opponents certainly are. Right-wing extremists already have a plan to literally steal the next presidential election, and they’re not making a secret of it,” Clinton said in the video.
At issue for the former presidential candidate is the “right-wing controlled Supreme Court,” which she argued could before 2024 give more power to state legislatures to “overturn presidential elections.” Others have sounded the alarm over state legislatures gaining more control in how to conduct elections in 2024.
Watch the video at Mediaite.
We really have to hope that the DOJ will bring him down before he is able to get back into the White House. And they are continuing to move forward. Here’s the latest on the stolen documents case from The New York Times: Prosecutors Pressure Trump Aides to Testify in Documents Case.
Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of national security documents he took with him from the White House have ratcheted up their pressure in recent weeks on key witnesses in the hopes of gaining their testimony, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The effort by the Justice Department shows how the investigation is entering a new phase as prosecutors seek to push recalcitrant witnesses to cooperate with them.
A key focus for prosecutors is Walt Nauta, a little-known figure who worked in the White House as a military valet and cook when Mr. Trump was president and later for him personally at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s private club and residence in Florida.
Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of an initial account Mr. Nauta gave investigators about moving documents stored at Mar-a-Lago and are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning, according to two people briefed on the matter.
At the same time, the prosecutors are trying to force a longtime aide and ally to Mr. Trump, Kash Patel, to answer questions before a grand jury about how the documents were taken to Mar-a-Lago and how Mr. Trump, his aides and his lawyers dealt with requests from the government to return them, according to a person briefed on the matter….
Shortly after the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August to reclaim the classified documents, Mr. Patel publicly proclaimed that the former president had declassified the records before leaving office. But Mr. Patel refused to answer many questions this month before a grand jury in Washington hearing evidence about Mr. Trump’s handling of the documents, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a person briefed on the matter.
In response, prosecutors asked a top federal judge in Washington to force Mr. Patel to testify — a move fought by Mr. Patel’s lawyers, who are concerned the government wants to use Mr. Patel’s own statements to incriminate him. CNN reported on Thursday that Mr. Patel had appeared before a grand jury.
The efforts to gain the testimony of Mr. Nauta and Mr. Patel demonstrate how department officials will have to make decisions in the coming weeks and months about whether to charge the witnesses, offer them cooperation agreements, grant them immunity or give up on trying to obtain their testimony, according to the people briefed on the matter.
Check out this video for a helpful explanation of what DOJ is doing with Patel.
Yesterday a bunch of so-called “progressives” from the House recommended that Biden should negotiate directly with Russia to achieve peace in Ukraine–as if Ukraine weren’t an independent country under attack and as if Russia would honor any agreement. It did go well for them and now they are trying to walk it back. I was really surprised to see Jamie Raskin involved in this.
Andrew Feinberg The Independent: Progressive Democrats in Congress slammed over letter calling for US-Russia talks over Ukraine.
A group of 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has had to quickly retreat after a letter calling for direct US-Russia talks to resolve the war in Ukraine touched off a firestorm of criticism.
In the 24 October letter to President Joe Biden, the 30 signatories – including CPC chair Pramilla Jayapal of Washington, former CPC chairs Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Barbara Lee of California, Democratic “squad” members Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush, and other high-profile progressives such as Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin – called for the US to mount a “proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a cease fire” as a condition of future military support for Ukraine.
The letter lays out a series of concerns, chief among them the fact that the US has not maintained a bilateral dialogue with Moscow as part of efforts to bring the war to a close. The lawmakers relayed these concerns to Mr Biden despite months of statements from the administration stressing that the US would not engage in direct talks without participation from Ukrainian officials.
A Ukrainian journalist, Anastasia Lapitina, took to Twitter on Monday to slam the letter, writing that the signatories seem not to understand that Russian “operates on a completely different set of assumptions about the world and this war” than the progressives who spearheaded the missive to Mr Biden….
“They [Russia] have never accepted our independence, and they won’t start now. Our subjugation is their fundamental goal. Diplomacy will not change that,” she wrote.
A former commanding general of US forces in Europe, Mark Hertling, wrote in agreement: “These 30 [members of Congress] are exceedingly naive about this crucial point”. […..]
The backlash against the letter was sufficiently intense that Ms Jayapal was forced to issue a statement to “reaffirm” the progressive caucus’ support for Ukraine just five hours after the letter became public.
“Let me be clear: we are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to supporting Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates for a change in that support,” she wrote.
Nancy Pelosi weighed in on the issue. The Insider: Pelosi reaffirms US support for Ukraine ‘until victory is won’ after progressive lawmakers push for talks with Russia.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that US support for Ukraine will continue ‘until victory is won,’ an implicit rebuke of progressive lawmakers who just a day earlier pushed the White House to talk with Russia.
“Under President Biden, our support for Ukraine – and our determination to defend democracy – is here to stay until victory is won. Slava Ukraini!” Pelosi said in a statement that also praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “courageous and patriotic leadership.”
The speaker’s vow comes amid a series of conflicting messages from congressional leaders over long and how robust US support will be as Ukraine continues to repel Russia’s invasion. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has implied that Republicans may curtail US support for Ukraine if they regain the majority in upcoming midterms.
What are your thoughts on these stories? What else is on your mind today?