This Day in Politics: August 2, 1923 – Vice President Calvin Coolidge become U.S. President upon the death of President Warren G. Harding

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Chris Christie – worst governor ever

On a day when a story appeared in papers throughout the country showing Gov. Christie bullying some guy who heckled him at a baseball game, it was sweet to read that a new poll by Marist shows his approval rating at a pathetic 16% among New Jersey residents.   Almost three in four adults in the state, 73 percent, have an an unfavorable opinion of the him with only 20% indicating a favorable impression.

“Following Bridgegate, a failed presidential bid, and the fallout from his holiday beach visit, New Jersey residents have had it with Governor Christie,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “It is unlikely that a sense of nostalgia will kick in during his final months as governor.  The overwhelming proportion of Garden Staters think New Jersey is headed in the wrong direction and think Christie will be remembered as either a below average governor or one of the worst. ”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno has the Republican nomination in the governor’s race later in the year and, not surprisingly, she is being dragged down by Christie’s terrible numbers.  A recent poll shows Democrat Phil Murphy at 54%, leading Guadagno who is at 33% among New Jersey registered voters.

I hope she’s grateful for the “help,” and I hope he goes away and soon.

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Campaign News

Marist Post: Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating scrapes bottom… perceived as one of NJ’s worst governors by a plurality

Washington Post: Rep. John Delaney is running for president in 2020

Politico: McConnell wages war down South

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Joe Manchin announces Senate re-election bid

The Hill: Trump drops to new low in Rasmussen poll

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Kid Rock for U.S. Senate – shoot me now

Yes, that Kid Rock for Senate crap is still out there, as the jackass himself has recently said he is “exploring” the idea and planning a press conference sometime in the next six weeks to address the issue.

“I was beyond overwhelmed with the response I received from community leaders, D.C. pundits, and blue-collar folks that are just simply tired of the extreme left and right bull—-,” he writes. “As part of the excitement surrounding this possible campaign, I decided to take a hard look to see if there was real support for me as a candidate and my message or if it was just because it was a fresh new news story.”

America, where any self-promoting douchebag can grow up to run the country. And every reality TV story line has to be taken seriously. Sad.

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Could Sessions reclaim his Senate seat?

I’ll bet a lot of people have been wondering if Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be able to claim his old Senate seat should Trump find a way to get rid of him.

Apparently it could happen if all nine candidates currently running for the GOP nomination for the seat Sessions vacated agree to drop out of the primary contest, which would then enable the Alabama GOP to appoint Sessions as their nominee for the special election.

The filing deadlines was May 17th, so Sessions couldn’t run straight up.

First Sessions has to find himself out of a job in Washington and then a bunch of very ambitious people have to agree to the scheme, a lot of hypotheticals.

As Politico writes, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the Republican candidates apparently in danger of missing a GOP primary runoff, “has offered to drop out of the contest to make way for under-fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reclaim his old seat in Congress’ upper chamber.”

Maybe Brooks doesn’t think he has much of a chance and is trying to play the hero to distinguish himself, but it’s an interesting ploy in the state where Sessions remains very popular.

Recent public polling has placed Brooks, who has been the subject of millions of dollars in attack ads from a super PAC controlled by allies Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in third place heading towards the Aug. 15 runoff. The ads have portrayed him as insufficiently supportive of Trump.

It would seem the other candidates, including frontrunner  Sen. Luther Strange (currently appointed to the seat), are unlikely to go for it should circumstances present themselves, but it may be worth a try. Still, could there be a problem with siding with Sessions against Trump given that Alabamans also love the president?

“I recognize that President Trump is popular in Alabama,” Brooks writes at the close [of a] statement. “My closest friends and political advisers have told me to not side with Jeff Sessions, that it will cost me politically to do so. My response is simple: I don’t care. If this costs me politically, that’s fine but I am going to the right thing for Alabama and America. I stand with Jeff Sessions.”

Oh, it’s not going to happen, but I wouldn’t want to be the Alabama politician who stood in the way of Jeff Sessions getting a consolation prize should Trump screw him over. Ain’t politics weird?

The primary is August 15th. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the runoff is September 16th. The general election is December 12th. It’s a safe Republican seat.

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Could VP Pence survive a Trump crash to fight another day?

I’ve been watching the Medici family saga on Netflix recently and have come to the conclusion that the Trump’s and their allies are like a really, really dim-witted version of the famous, and ruthless Italian family.

I had a good chuckle when I heard VP Mike Pence’s statement on Don Jr.’s increasingly provable efforts to collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Here is the official statement from Pence’s press secretary:

The vice president is working every day to advance the president’s agenda. He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focused on stories about the campaign – especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.

It seems we are never quite sure if Pence knew he was lying when he repeatedly said Trump and team had no problematic dealings with the Russians in 2016, or if he was so out of the loop he had no choice but to say what the man at the top expected.

Whatever the case, it may now be the case that he’s tired of explaining himself and has decided to simply say that whatever happened, it wasn’t him.

Steve Benen at MaddowBlog writes that this could be part of Pence’s efforts to “establish his own political identity distinct from that of the president who chose him.”

The New York Timesreported over the weekend, for example, that Pence “has been courting scores of the country’s most influential donors, corporate executives and conservative political leaders over the past several months in a series of private gatherings and one-on-one conversations.”

Isn’t that interesting?

If Trump does crash and burn can Pence survive? I guess it all depends on what he knew and when he knew it and what can be proved. What Benen asks is maybe more to the point in the short term: Are we approaching an every-person-for-themselves phase of the Trump presidency? And, I would add, if not now, when?

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Campaign Headlines

Washington Post: DNC invests earlier in state parties, voter persuasion

Washington Times: Patrick Morrisey announces U.S. Senate bid in West Virginia

Lancaster Online: Democrat Christina Hartman aims for rematch against U.S. Rep. Smucker in 2018 (PA-16th CD)

The Gazzette: Thomas Heckroth joins field of candidates seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Rod Blum (IA-1st CD)

Denver Post: U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter to drop out of Colorado governor’s race and won’t seek re-election, sources say

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Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Mo Brooks loves Trump and his wall

Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama is running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, and he loves him some Donald Trump and his Mexican wall. In fact, both of those passions are driving his campaign to be the next senator in that very red state.

Brooks, he says, is an outsider to all that inside Washington nonsense standing between Trump and his plans to make America great again, and he is sure that there are many establishment Republicans more a part of the problem than the solution who need a good Alabama ass whoopin’, if you know what I mean (My words, but he’d say it if it weren’t for those sissy PC types who would howl).

A Republican will win this seat, and probably one who professes Trump-love more effectively than his GOP opponent(s). Incumbent Sen. Luther Strange is among those up against Brooks in the primary and has been on Brooks for being critical of Trump, citing an “old insult” in which Brooks referred to the president as “a serial adulterer,” back when that was considered a bad thing in Alabama.

As for Strange there is that whole mess involving his appointment by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned under a cloud due to a sex scandal and abuse of power allegations. Brooks seems to see no contradiction in tying Strange to a supporter’s sex scandal given the history of Brooks’ revered president.

Trump has not yet endorsed in the race, though Salon notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he prefers Strange over Brooks.

This is a state that elected Jeff Sessions to the U.S. Senate, so I have no idea how low their standards could go. Maybe it doesn’t matter, though it will be fun to see these guys tap dance around a successful presidential impeachment proceeding should it come to that.

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Campaign News

GoverningWith Governors races now set, Virginia and New Jersey shift focus to November

WBIR.comBurchett: I’m running for U.S. House or Senate (Tennessee)

Boston GlobeCambridge councilor plans to challenge Capuano (MA-7th)

The Montgomery AdviserTuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox considers run for Alabama governor

Politico: Centrist Republicans mobilize against draft GOP budget

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Russian hackers targeted 21 states in 2016 presidential election

Last week Jeanette Manfra, acting undersecretary of cyber security for the Homeland Security Department, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. state election systems in the 2016 presidential race”  and that “a small number were breached but there was no evidence any votes were manipulated.”

As has been well-reported:

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Kremlin orchestrated a wide-ranging influence operation that included email hacking and online propaganda to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, a Republican, win the White House in November.

Manfra also said, according to a story in Governing magazine, “that none of the digital intrusions affected the parts of the electoral system that counted votes, but that they expect Russia to keep trying.”

While she and other officials testifying argued that “U.S. elections are resilient to hacking in part because they are decentralized and largely operated on the state and local level,” some members of the committee were quick to point out that it wouldn’t take very many votes to impact the outcome of an election.

“A sophisticated actor could hack an election simply by focusing on certain counties,” Maine Senator Angus King said. “I don’t think it works just to say it’s a big system and diversity will protect us.”

At this point it would appear Russian hackers are analyzing data they have collected in order to determine how to compromise the integrity of the voting system at some future date.

Give me a paper ballot, a pencil, and a cardboard box any day.

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This Day in America: June 29, 1956 – The Federal Highway Act of 1956 is enacted

Also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, which included a $25 billion authorization for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System, the largest public works project in American history at the time.

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren look safe for reelection

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker  and Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren are well positioned to win reelection next year, according to a WBUR poll* just released.

It indicates 55 percent of registered voters in the state view Warren favourably, which is up from a January poll that had her favorabilty number at 51 percent. “It finds that Warren’s opponents have little name recognition and poll far behind the incumbent senator more than a year before the election.”

Gov. Charlie Baker is still riding high with registered voters in the state, 64 percent of whom say they have a favorable view of the Republican governor.

“Charlie Baker is very popular,” says MassINC pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted the survey for WBUR. “Throughout most of his term, he’s been either one of the most popular or the most popular governor in America.”

Koczela notes, however, that popularity doesn’t always translate into votes. Still, better to be liked than the opposite.

“Charlie Baker and Elizabeth Warren, as of now, are prohibitive favorites in 2018,” says Professor Jeff Berry, of Tufts. “Neither opposing party has candidates now who appear to be viable candidates against them.”

I would bet neither of these candidates has much to worry about.

*The live telephone survey of 504 registered voters across Massachusetts was conducted June 19-22. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
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Campaign News

InsideNOVA: Gillespie mum about Senate health bill in Woodbridge campaign stop

Boston Globe: Not even close: Charlie Baker leads Democratic rivals in new poll

BuzzFeed News: Pro-Trump group pulls ad against Nevada Republican over health care bill

Politico: Trump rips media, mocks Pelosi at closed-door fundraiser

Washington Post: Republicans running for governor put in a tough position by Trump health cuts

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Big Luther Strange is a Trump man (in case you couldn’t tell by his name)

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about safe Republican Senate seats, but sometimes you have to take a peak just to see what kind of craziness in the hinterland makes a phenomenon like Trump possible.

On December 12, 2017, there will be a special election for the U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. This is to replace Jeff Sessions who is of course Trump’s fumbling, bumbling Attorney General.  On February 9, 2017, then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to temporarily fill the vacancy. Strange is running in the special.

After some back and forthing, the special election was set for later this year instead of initially at the same time as the regularly scheduled elections in 2018. Long story.

10 Republicans and eight Democrats qualified. The primary elections will take place on August 15, 2017, with primary runoffs on September 26, 2017, if necessary.

Don’t really care who wins this very safe Republican seat, but Big Luther wants you to knoe he’s a Trump man.

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State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi to challenge in NY-22 congressional district

New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi announced Wednesday that he will seek his party’s nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney next year in the upstate 22nd congressional district.

Tenney is a freshman member of the House, having won election in 2016 after Republican Rep. Richard Hanna chose not to seek reelection. Brindisi, of Utica, has to be considered a serious contender with only an obscure computer science professor challenging him for the Democratic nomination.

“I think it’s about time we have an independent voice representing this congressional district,” Brindisi said in an interview with the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau. “I have a record of standing up to my own party when I thought they were wrong, and I have a record of reaching across the aisle to work with my Republicans colleagues — and that is something the American people want: a common-sense consensus-builder.”

Tenney won the general election by just over 5 points in 2016. Charlie Cooke, Stu Rothenberg, and Larry Sabato all call the race in 2018 a likely Republican hold, but Brindisi should make things interesting, especially if Trump is drowning with a sub-40 percent approval rating as Election Day approaches.

Daily Kos notes that the NY-22nd is still likely to be a tough district for Dems to flip, “but Tenney’s hard-right image and her support for TrumpCare could give Team Blue an opening.”

Taking back the House will be an uphill battle for Democrats, but if they have any shot, districts like this one will be the key.

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Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller will need to fight like hell to keep his seat

A new poll shows Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller in a virtual tie with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen in the 2018 Senate race. It may too early for polls to mean much, but it has to give Heller something to think about when contemplating support for the disastrous Senate healthcare bill.

Not surprising, the poll found that the GOP Obamacare repeal is unpopular.

Rosen gets 42 percent of those surveyed to Heller’s 41 percent. Rosen is a relatively obscure rookie congresswoman, and Heller is neither obscure nor new to the game, so this is good news for Democrats.

On the methodology:

The survey was conducted by Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP). It surveyed 648 statewide voters and has a margin of error of just under 4 percent. (Even though PPP’s methodology — robo and web question mix — is often questioned, the demographics look solid, including a 6-point Democratic registration edge and 16 percent of the sample was Hispanic. The widely respected 538 website rates PPP a “B-plus.”)

As I say, early days, but definitely a seat the Democrats need to pick up.

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Campaign News

Boston Globe: Ted Kennedy Jr. not running for governor in Conn.

Cleveland.com: Ohio Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Senate quiet on Obamacare repeal bill

The Nevada IndependentPoll: Heller, Rosen in dead heat in Senate race

Salon: Elizabeth Warren: It’s time for Democrats to run on single-payer health care

New York Times: Trump campaign chief’s firm got $17 million from pro-Russia party

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A pro-Trump group works the refs with a new ad on the Russian probe

The ad attacks special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and generally swipes at the investigation into the “Trump campaign’s possible cooperation with Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

Nut-job conservative talker Tomi Lahren is featured in the ad, called “Witch Hunt,” as she channel’s her inner Trump using the kind of language we have come to expect.

“Only in Washington could a rigged game like this be called independent,” Lahren says, using air quotes in the ad to emphasize her point.

The argument the ad makes is based on ties Mueller’s team of lawyers has to Democrats “because some of the lawyers have given campaign contributions to the party.” And then there is the “relationship between fired FBI Director James B. Comey and Mueller, who was once his boss.”

It’s an idiotic attempt to smear a man no one believes can be touched. Then again, the game probably has more to do with making sure Mueller knows Trump has friends who will be watching. Big deal.

At what point does Trump’s attack on the inside Washington crowd, particularly America’s beloved law enforcement community, start to make Trump’s base nervous?

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Campaign News

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Georgia 2018: Roy Barnes endorses Stacey Evans for governor

The Nevada IndependentDSCC starts Google ads campaign to pressure Heller on health care

The Herald: Parnell: ‘If we do this a little bit better, I’d be getting sworn in on Monday’ (South Carolina 5th CD)

The Denver PostDaVita CEO for governor? Candidacy would trigger a flood of cash and controversy

New York Times: Democrats’ turnout in Georgia blew past typical off-year levels

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Randy Bryce for Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin congressional seat

Is it possible that everything we thought we knew about politics in America is wrong, that the Democratic Party should stop hiding behind the supposed need to promote a slightly left of centre agenda because that’s where, they say, the votes are? Is it possible a newly constituted understanding of the party, under the right leadership, could convince a growing majority of Americans that the best kind of populism is guided by a progressive notion, one that promotes inclusion, generosity, and mutual respect?

After the shock of November 2016 I’m willing to entertain a lot ideas I might otherwise have considered fanciful. This could be one of them.

I started thinking about this in earnest after seeing a new political ad for Democrat Randy Bryce, a Bernie Sanders supporter who has decided to do what is likely impossible, unseat Republican house speaker Paul Ryan.

Mr. Bryce has an interesting resume. He is a veteran, an ironworker, and a union organizer. He supports single-payer healthcare. He possesses a folksy charm that could work very well on the campaign trail. In other words, he comes across as what some people might call a mensch.

The district to be contested is the Wisconsin first congressional and despite being led by a high profile Republican in the House, it can be a hard district to read. George W. Bush won it in 2004, Romney in 2012, and Trump in 2016, but Obama took it in 2008.

I seriously doubt Ryan will break a sweat keeping this seat, but Randy Bryce-ness, the idea of someone like this, should be compelling for Democrats. Whatever else Trump’s victory signals, it surely suggests the usual crew is at a disadvantage. Something different is called for. This is that.

I also don’t know how someone with an organized labour background will play in American politics, but as a union organizer this guy is not new to politics, as labour politics are some of the toughest in the land, and a great school for the political big leagues.

Anyway, this is not really about whether a guy like this can beat Ryan, but more about whether a guy like this can show the Democratic Party a new way to relate to a constituency they need to woo.

Again, a veteran, an iron worker, a union organizer, progressive, and pro-single-payer. More like this please.

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