Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Watch The House

http://www.washingtonpost.com; May 9, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  More fallout (no pun intended) from Mr. Donald J. Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal.  The intention of the deal was intended to pause Iran's development of a nuclear bomb.  What was left out of the original deal was a way to deal with Iran's behavior in the region and their development of a missiles with nuclear warheads.  The deal also included "sunset clauses" which was intended to give the U.S., its European allies, China, and Russia to find some diplomatic resolution.  Now that seems to be all up in the air, thanks to somewhat ill-considered decision which make the U.S. appear to be violating the terms of the treaty.  Not that Iran has been a complete angel, exerting its destablizing influence in the region through proxies while continuing to develop nuclear missiles.  The president's advisors tried to make the case for fixing the deal to no avail.  The State Department even made some progress with the exception of the issue of sunset clauses.  With the re-imposition of sanctions, the European, American, and Iranian economies are going to take a hit but how serious is to be determined.  Speaking of things to be determined, let us take a look at the midterm elections.

Taking a look around the social media, you get the impression that the Democrats are cruising toward retaking both houses of Congress.  Well, sort of.  In primaries held in North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, West Virgina, Republican incumbents fared poorly.  The Washington Post's Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve report in "The Daily 202: Primary results confirm 2018 is a terrible year to be a House Republican," "THE BIG IDEA: Republican members of the House fared especially poorly Tuesday in primaries across our states, offering fresh evidence that this fall will bring anothe change election and a batch of outsiders promising to shake up Washingon."  Let us review the results.

Taking a look at the electoral carnage: In the North Carolina primary, Representative Robert Pittenger was defeated by former Baptist pastor Mark Harris, despite a major spending advantage.  This result shocked Washington Republicans.  Mr. Harris made the point that Rep. Pittenger was a swamp creature and relentlessly went after him for his March vote in favor of the $1.3 trillion spending bill.  Rep. Pittenger has the ignominious distinction of being the first lawmaker of either party to be summarily forced out of the House.

Next, the Indiana Republican primary to challenge Senator Joe Donnelly (D), businessperson Mike Braun upset two Republican members of congress: Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, rivals since college.

Over in West Virginia, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) was defeated by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to earn the right to challenge incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D).  The primary election gained national attention because convicted businessperson Don Blankenship was on the ballot.  You know you are in serious trouble when Mr. Trump tweets not to vote for you.  Fortunately, Mr. Blankenship finished third--averted another Roy Moore-type Republican disaster.

Finally, in Ohio, support for incumbent Rep. Jim Renacci (R) was shockingly light in his primary challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).  Despite an endorsement from the president--although given this preisdent's poor track record of endorsing candidates--Rep. Renacci only managed to earn 47 percent of the vote against four unknown challengers.

Ms. Deppisch and Greve report, "That's five GOP members who will not return to the House next year."  Not that being an incumbent is a good thing for Democrats.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D), a 16-year veteran lawmaker and former 2008 candidate for president, lost the Ohio Democrat primary for governor to former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray, who was endorsed by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve fondly recall, "It didn't used to be this way.  Historically, House members have been perceived by voters as being the most qualified for promotion to upper chamber." In fact, many of the Republican senators crossed over the Capitol.  For example current presumptive Republican Senate nominees Martha McSally (R-Az), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are member of the House. 

However, the increasingly restless Republican base has learned to hate Washington and everyone associated with it.  The reporters writes, "These trends have been supercharged in the Trump era."

The trends have gone into such a state of overdrive that Washington insiders are running against Washington.  To wit, West Virginia AG Morrisey was unsuccessful in his 2000 Congressional in New Jersey.  Prior to moving to West Virginia, he worked as a Washington lobbyist for pharmaceutical and health-care companies.  Be that as it may, his commercials depict a mountain crushing the U.S. Capitol (host2.advertisinganalyticsllc.com; date accessed May 9, 2018).

Indian Republican Mike Braun, who has a real claim to run against "the swamp," used $5 million of his own money on advertisements attacking career politicians.  To make a point of his outsider status, during candidate debates the two members of congress wore suits and ties while Mr. Braun deliberately wore open-collar shirts, no jacket.  Not that it really make much of a difference, the professional attire does instill a sense of respect for the audience.  Mr. Braun's emphasis on his outsider status was not limited to his choice of debate outfits, Ms. Deppischand Greve write, "In one especially effective Web video, Braun walked around his home town with cardboard cutouts of Rokita and Messer asking people on the street to try telling them apart (youtube.com; date accessed May 9, 2018)."  Here are some takeaways.

"This tried-and-true playbook has proved effect."  Mr. Braun is following the example of outsider Republican businesspeople such as Senators David Perdue (R-GA) and Ron Johnson (R-WS).  Nebraska Republican Senator Deb. Fischer won her seat in 2012 because the two front runners in her primary race attacked each other, creating an opening for a third choice.

"That Trump's election, along Republican control of Congress, did not fully satisfy voter frustration remains a defining feature of the party,"  fellow Washington Post Michael Scherer wrote in a "Power Post" piece,

In late 2017, 19 percent of Republicans told Pew Research Center that they were 'angry' at the federal government, down from 33 percent at the end of the Obama presidency.  But the number remains more than twice as high 9 percent of Republicans who said they were angry in President George W. Bush's second term.  Even for naturally upbeat candidates, frustration no anger have become the dominant emotion they must appeal to for the Republican base.  GOP consultants nationwide have telling even their midl-mannered candidates to turn up their fury on the trail.  (washingtonpost.com; May 8, 2018; date accessed May 9, 2018)

"--Pittenger's defeat in North Carolina will ensure that sitting congressmen work even harder to distance themselves from Washington during upcoming primaries.  It increases the odds that Democrats can pick up his Charlotte-area seat.  David Weigel, also of The Washington Post, added his thoughts to the "Power Post,"

Harris will now face Dan McCready, a veteran and former Republican who easily won the Democratic nomination in the district,.... According to the last FEC filings from both campaigns, McCready had $1.2 million for the general election; Harris had a little over $70,000.  Democrats were also buoyed by the turnout in the district, which had been drawn to elect a Republicn and which backed Trump over Hillary Clinton by 11.6 points.  Just 35,494 votes were cast in the Republican primary, while 45,660 votes were cast in McCready's [noncompetitive] primary. (Ibid)

"--But if last night's results embolden House Democrats, they should worry Senate Democrats."  That #bluewave may not be a tidal wave after all.  Mike Braun's victory could be a bad omen for his Democratic opponent Senator Donnelly because "he is an outsider who voted as a Democrat until as recently as 2012.  He might have less baggage than the two members of Congress."

If convicted coal mining executive Don Blankenship had won his West Virginia primary, the senate race would have been off the charts.  The reporters speculate, "But Morrisey can beat Manchin.  And there were some red flags in the in combusts noncompetitive primary: Three in 10 Democrats voted for a no-name activist Manchin, who was also weaker than expected in coal country.  (Trump won Indiana by 19 points and West Virginia by 46 points in 2016.)"

However, national Democrats have said in private that Rep Even Jenkins (R-WVa) poses more of a threat to Senator Manchin in the general election than AG Morrisey.  Internal polling show that hammering the Republican nominee on his past lobbying activities, specifically on the opioid the crisis, will yield results.  Further, a Democratic super PAC channeled money into the state over the past few weeks for anti-Jenkins adverts because of party leadership concerns.

"--In their primaries, Democrats mostly followed their heads over their hearts--prioritizing electability over purity."  Yes, finally.  David Weigel continues in his "Power Post,"

Kucinich run was seen as a test of whether Democrats would back left-wing candidates against the 'establishment.'  But in Ohio and other states, the party's left fell short as better-funded candidates easily won their primaries,... In Indiana's 2nd District, a health-care executive and former Republican named Mel Hall defeated candidates who backed a 'Medicare for All' single-Ayer health-care system.  In West Virigina's 3rd District, state Sen. Richard Ojeda (D) romped to a win--even after telling primary voters he backed Trump in 2016.  And in North Carolina's 9th and 13th districts, moderate Democrats won landslides over more left-wing challengers.  (Ibid)

"--Dynasty watch: Vice President Pence's older brother Greg Pence won the Republican primary in Indiana's 6th District," a solidly red district.

"--Five Republican state legislators in North Carolina also went down to primary challenges, as did a Democrat who faced allegations of sexual harassment." (newsobserver.com; May 8, 2018; date accessed May 9, 2018). These primaries were truly awful.  How awful, you may ask?  One candidate "misidentified herself as a nurse and called the students who walked out after the Parkland shooting 'Tide Pod eaters."

"--2018 really is shaping up to be another year of the woman." Online magazine Poltico reported

There were 20 open Democratic House primaries with women on the ballot Tuesday night and voters selected a female nominee in 17 of them,...(politico.com; date accessed May 9, 2018)

"--Rachel Crooks, on of at least 19 women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault won an uncontested primary for a seat in the Ohio state House." (washingtonpost.com; May 8, 2018; date accessed May 9, 2018).  Talk about a #MeToo moment.  Ms. Crooks, a Democrat, will face an incumbent Republican outside Toledo in a district the president carried but twice won by President Barack Obama.

"--Finally, one of the biggest winners last was Mitch McConnell."  Mr. Blankenship persistently attacked the Senate majority leader at every opportunity, going so far as to brand Sen. McConnell  "Cocaine Mitch," a reference to a drug bust on a ship owned by a company his father-in-law established.  The Senators allies funneled money to West Virginia via the Mountain Familes PAC to carpet the airwaves with anti-Blankenship ads.  The Kentucky senator also managed to persuade the president to make robo-calls and tweet anti-Blankenship message.

Fortunately Sen. McConnell has a good sense of humour, really.  "He's been answering his phone by saying 'Cocaine Mitch' in past few days.  He even tweeted,

Thanks for playing, @DonBlankenship.  #WVSen
-Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) May 9, 2018 (twitter.com/@Team_Mitch; date accessed May 9, 2018)

"--For his part, Trum celebrated the results this morning." Naturally tweeting his excitement over the results, giddily looking forward to November.  Of course, Mr. Trump could not help himself, taking a swipe at Ohio Democrat and former head of the Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray, calling him a socialist.  Of course.

Just remember, we still have a very long way to go before November.  If you are registered to vote, cast your ballot.  If you are not a voter, what are you waiting for.