So Why Did James Comey Write That Letter?

James ComeyTo the absolute surprise of no one, the James Comey FBI has come to the conclusion that there was nothing new on the email that was found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Most of the 650,000 email messages were duplicates and the ones that weren’t had no value whatsoever to any of the investigations — Clinton or Weiner. It was the very definition of a nothing-burger.

But what did happen was Clinton was smeared by the media for a week and a half. It went absolutely ballistic. Email! Email!

There are three important things about James Comey’s “update” letter. First, he had no reason to send it. Second, he knew the Republicans would leak it immediately. And third, doing so was a possible violation of the Hatch Act. The reason that the FBI keeps its trap shut on investigations like this one is because it is prejudicial. “Oh, this person is bad! Why else would the FBI investigate them?!”

So why did Comey write the letter? Was it to help Trump? No, actually.

So why did he do it? Two main theories have emerged and I think both have a lot of validity.

Reason One: Comey Was Protecting the FBI

Yale Record Doesn't Endorse ClintonFirst, there is a small subset of FBI agents who are friendly with the Trump campaign. Some of them have been investigating the Clintons on and off since the 1990s. They are suffering from the sunk cost fallacy. They’ve spent so much time investigating, they feel like they have to find something. All that work can’t be for nothing!

So you have people who are very unhappy that they haven’t nailed someone like Clinton. And they want to get them on anything even though there is nothing there.

Whenever the Clintons decide to run for office, they know there will be a deep investigations into literally everything they do. After all, this is a pair that faced a Congress doing 140 hours of sworn testimony into their Christmas Card mailing list. So they are super careful about everything they do. Yet the FBI agents in New York think if they just keep digging, they will catch the Clintons doing something that is illegal. It’s been almost 25 years and: zip!

In this theory, Comey was afraid that these agents would start leaking information and saying that the FBI was covering up for Clinton. So he wrote the letter to say, “We have information and we are looking into it.” That doesn’t explain why he wasn’t clearer that they knew nothing. But the impulse is at least understandable, even though the execution was horrible. That’s the best you can say about Comey.

Reason Two: Comey Was Worried About a Landslide Down-Ballot

The second reason is the fact that until the letter was released, the Republicans were facing a catastrophic wave election that probably would have destroyed their chances for years to come at the national level. James Comey isn’t overly partisan, but he is definitely partisan enough to want to keep the House in Republicans hands. That’s especially true since they have been promising to keep chasing after Clinton if she takes over the White House. What would they investigate her on? They don’t care. If she makes even one mistake (and she will, she is human) they will devote thousands of hours and millions of dollars to investigating everything about it.

Most likely, both of these things factored into Comey’s actions.

Media Culpability

What is enormously frustrating to me is that the media will just blindly go along with this. Which is why yesterday when SNL did their cold open, they pointed out the utter lack of caring over the enormous amount of horribleness that the Orange One indulges in.

Yesterday, Al Franken said that the Senate will be hauling Comey in front of them and demanding to know why he was willing to be so political with one candidate and not the other. The same New York FBI office chasing its tail about Clinton is the one that claimed that there is nothing to see in Trump’s Russian ties despite plenty of other reports contradicting them.

This is disgusting. This is terrifying. Regardless of what happened, this is the top United States law enforcement official tipping the scales for his own reasons. And it is unacceptable.

Good News

The good news is that I am not the only one angry and disgusted by this. There are a lot of outraged people.

It is why so many people are voting early and why the numbers have shot up to the point that Sunday there were 4,000 people in line to vote in Cincinnati. Saturday, hundreds if not thousands of people showed up at a marketplace in Nevada for the final day of early voting. Hell even laboring women are making sure they vote before they deliver.

To quote one of my top hashtags on Twitter, “Hey Comey #expectus asshole. And resign.

Two Heartland House Races: Iowa 03 and Illinois 10

David YoungToday, we head to the heartland. On the docket are races in two Congressional districts: Iowa 03 and Illinois 10. Both of these districts are considered toss ups by The Cook Political Report.

Iowa 03: Playing it Safe

Iowa’s incumbent is Republican David Young. He has only been in office since 2014. Iowa has a strange system where a convention is held if no one in the primary gets more than 35% of the vote. David Young came in 5th out of six candidates, but surprisingly won at the convention. He then went on to win the general election by over 10 percentage points against Democratic challenger Staci Appel.

A former chief of staff to Senator Chuck Grassley, David Young has played it very safe since being elected. Mainly, he is known for showing up — having not missed a single vote.  Then again, with the low number of days the Republican House works, how hard is that?

His opponent this year is a second time candidate named Jim Mowrer. He’s an Iraq War veteran who made some locals uneasy about his run. However, he won decisively in his primary.

Neither candidate stands out, although Jim Mowrer has support from high powered people like Joe Biden (who’s son served with Mowrer in Iraq). That said, Young surprisingly voted for a bill that supported the President’s efforts on anti-discrimination for the LGBT community. So he may be trying to be somewhat less of a typical Republican. Or he may have a personal reason. (See: Rob Portman Affected By Gay Bigotry.) It is unclear.

Right now the polling favors David Young by a large amount. So do the registration numbers (pdf). But that doesn’t mean that things won’t change as we enter the final stretch.

This race doesn’t look too hopeful for Jim Mowrer. But David Young is not distancing himself from the Orange Disaster at the top of the ticket. And if Patty Judge manages to defeat Chuck Grassley for Senate, Mowrer might ride her coattails into the House.

Illinois 10: Routine Rematch

Illinois 10 is represented by Republican Robert Dold. And he is facing Brad Schneider this year. And if that sounds familiar, then you’re a political freak who pays way more attention than your doctor would likely recommend. But there is something very familiar about this race. In 2014, the same two candidates ran against each other. In the end, Dold beat Schnider 51% to 49%. But there’s more! In 2012 Brad Schneider defeated Robert Dold 51% to 49%. This district just cannot make up its mind. (Actually, it’s all about turnout.) Both are part of the major fundraising initiatives from the two national congressional committees and are hotly contesting the seat.

Brad SchneiderIn a surprising twist, Dold not only rejected Trump but was pretty nasty about it. Which may mean that of the Republicans running, he has the least adverse effect of the Trump disaster brewing at the top of the ticket. So the attempts from Schneider to attach Trump to Dold are not going to work (there may be residual disgust in general against Republicans).

The two actually agree on a lot of things, which may not be a surprise with a Republican in a Democratic leaning district.  Dold even supports some gun control!  Not anything created by a Democrat, but it is still very surprising. And it shows he is serious about keeping his seat since that is usually a total poison pill for any Republican.

But this is a Democratic leaning district and so the polling reflects a likely win by Schneider.

Final Thoughts

I have little idea on how Iowa 03 will turn out. It looks like it is David Young’s race to lose. He is a very quiet Representative, who votes cautiously and consistently middle of the road. But we will see.

Illinois 10 looks like a Democratic pickup. But it will be a razor thin margin since Schneider isn’t very popular.

Hillary Clinton Is Not a Flawed Candidate

Hillary Clinton: Flawed Candidate?Frank and I were talking yesterday. He expressed his annoyance with what has become a standard liberal disclaimer. Before attacking Trump, the writer will note that “Clinton is a flawed candidate.” He was specifically referring to an article by Jonathan Chait, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd Writes Disastrous Defense of False Equivalence. In that article, before going after Trump hard, he wrote, “How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism…” Frank’s point was that of course Clinton is a flawed candidate. All candidates are flawed. What’s with the constant repetition of this?

I had a different take on it. It ties into a tweet storm I did a few days ago. I do a lot of them because I get cranky a lot.

Not a Flawed Candidate

Clinton isn’t a flawed candidate. She is a great candidate. But I can already hear all the reactions, “But she is a flawed candidate because…”

Hillary Clinton is often thought of as a bad politician. And you know what? She is. She doesn’t glad-hand with a smooth smile, she doesn’t give rousing speeches, and she doesn’t walk into a room and make it stop with her sheer force of personality. Clinton lacks, as Miz Molly Ivins would have said, “Elvis.”

But that’s “politician” — not “candidate.” Charisma doesn’t necessarily make a great candidate. Just ask President Palin.

What Makes a Great Candidate

What makes a great candidate starts with knowing what the hell you are talking about. And Clinton knows. She knows the ins and outs of the federal government and can talk to your ear off about whatever happens to be the question in front of her about the federal government.

She also has over a hundred thousand words in her policy proposals. And she knows them just as well as she knows about everything else. This is why she tends to have a great deal of policy in her stump speeches. A flawed candidate? I don’t think so.

Reaching Out to Voters

Reaching out to voters is another critical skill for a candidate. Now in a presidential race this tricky. You can’t knock on 125 million doors in the US by the time of the election. But there are ways around this.

You can have small community meetings with local officials. And you can have smaller more intimate rallies. You can send people to do preliminary work on what would be best for you to do to have the biggest impact. Clinton does all of this.

In the debates, she stays around after to talk to the people who asked questions about their needs, and has staff get back to them. She has her staff follow up with people who are at rallies. Clinton calls it table talk time. Back when she was in the Senate, it led to a lot of legislation that she never asked credit for.

And unlike most other candidates, she is still thinking about Flint. This is not a flawed candidate.

Clinton’s Stamina

Stamina is another essential quality of a great candidate. And we know how legendary Hillary Clinton’s stamina is. Her schedule the day she found out she had pneumonia had two fundraisers in two states, a two hour policy meeting, a press conference, and an interview with a reporter. She lasted an hour in the direct sunlight with Kevlar on in the New York humidity on 9/11. Then despite taking the rest of the day off, she did another interview on Monday. Reporters have complained on Twitter about how they can’t keep up.


Finally, she has the ability to turn the tables on her opponents. Witness the brilliant trap she sprung on Friday that few people seem to understand is brilliant. First, she made a statement that the media won’t shut up about. Granted, they are tut-tutting her for saying something that they all know is true.

As Scott Lemieux noted, “It strikes me as obvious that Clinton’s much-discussed ‘deplorables’ phrase was a Kinsleyian gaffe — a politician’s statement that gets criticized not because it’s false but because it represents a truth that is supposed to remain hidden.”

But in addition to the discussion of the “optics,” the media have been talking about the fact that she isn’t wrong. They’ve said, “Oh, you were too broad.” So she walked it back by saying that she was wrong about the number of deplorables. That can be taken either way. And it doubles down on the fact Trump is followed by too many racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic people.

It further lays a trap since it gives the media an excuse to ask people like sitting governor Mike Pence if he will denounce David Duke as deplorable. Pence, of course, refused to do so.

Clinton Is a Great Candidate

There are many other reasons why, far from being a flawed candidate, Clinton is a great candidate. But for me it is the fact that she has the knowledge, the stamina, an eagerness to connect with people, and the ability to trap her opponents into making fools of themselves. Regardless how you look at it, she isn’t a flawed candidate.

Will We Strike Gold in California District 49?

Darrell Issa - Incumbent in California District 49It is time to come to the weirdest race I have written about so far: California District 49 (CA-49). The incumbent is a guy who has been arrested multiple times for something other than protesting. Who then ran a business selling those annoying car alarms. This included the Viper car alarm, which he provided the voice for. He insulted the likely next president to her face. And he has done numerous things that just make me gasp.

Meet California District 49’s Representative

He is, of course, Darrell Issa.

Issa was first elected to Congress in an overwhelmingly Republican district in 2000.

Since then, he has had a colorful career. He has some cookie-cutter Republican views: opposition to abortion, homophobia, anti-tax absolutism, and a general anti-reality orientation. But mostly, he is a reliable Republican attack dog in the House, and seems to have no shame about it.

Issa is part of the reason why the Benghazi investigations have gone on as long as they did. He also doesn’t mind going after anyone he thinks is a political enemy of the Republicans. Issa was behind holding low-level IRS staffer Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her refusing to join in their endless witch hunts.

He also has his issues with email. Meanwhile, he even defended the Republican use and destruction of private email, while managing to become known as an IT expert on Capitol Hill.

Ultimately he is a blustering fool who annoys everyone who has to deal with him, even Republicans.

The California District 49 Race

Doug Applegate - Challenger in California District 49This year, Darrell Issa has a competitor who just might topple him.

Doug Applegate is a retired Lt Colonel lawyer who has been able to do something major: he got nearly 46% of the vote using next to no money. He’s only spent about $50,000 so far, based on the last report I could find (in April). He has been added to the Red to Blue program recently.

Before 2006, the DCCC didn’t add people they originally thought didn’t have a chance of winning. Since then, they have been more nimble. In Arizona in 2006, Ann Kirkpatrick was added at the last minute. She won that seat. And part of the reason why she was added is that the DCCC could see the wave that was about to hit. That makes Doug Applegate being added so late a very good sign for his general election chances.

Doug Applegate’s great showing was largely due to Issa’s support for Trump. Colonel Applegate has not been shy about hanging that around Issa’s neck. One of the things that makes it hard to unseat incumbents is getting attention from the media. Yet Applegate has been very good at being politely but firmly provocative in a way that gets him noticed.

That said, he hasn’t ignored the needs of the district like Issa’s has.

My Prediction

Like most pundits making predictions, I have no idea how this is going to play out. But I will give my opinion anyway.

Issa is probably going to lose. On retail politics, if nothing else.

You don’t neglect your district. And he has. He is also being tied to someone that makes the military vets in his district very unhappy. And there are a lot of vets (PDF) in California District 49. So when Doug Applegate does a compare and contrast, he comes out better.

There are plenty of other problems Issa faces but he isn’t doing anything to fix them.

It is a general election though, so it is possible this turns into another 60-40 loss for the Democrats because California District 49 is conservative. But the polling isn’t saying that.If Applegate keeps pushing as hard as he is and uses what time is left strategically, he will win.

Matt Lauer’s Incompetence at the NBC Forum

Matt LauerSo last night was the NBC‘s Commander-in-Chief Forum or really, to quote Trump, “you know what” show. It was hosted by Matt Lauer, because NBC apparently couldn’t find anyone even more incompetent. It was exactly what Paul Krugman was complaining about last week, “But it’s hard to escape the impression that [Trump’s] being graded on a curve.” That’s because he is.

I watched the disaster and had a few thoughts. The principle thing I took from the forum was that it was way too short. The military, for good or bad, is massively complex. A discussion of it requires the time to give insightful answers. But NBC gave a half hour to each candidate. That was bad for Clinton because she has, you know, actual policy ideas. It was great for Trump who can always bluster his way through a half hour — especially when interviewed by a lightweight like Matt Lauer.

Clinton’s Half Hour

Of Clinton’s half hour, a full third of it was dedicated to her email. No one who follows actual news cares about this. She has apologized for using a private server, said it was a bad idea, and blah blah blah. Asked and answered. Yet the media keeps harping on it. What have we learned? Nothing. It’s all insinuation.

Having wasted all that time did not stop Matt Lauer, who was clearly in over his head, from constantly interrupting Clinton for the rest of the time as she tried to answer actually important questions.  (I’m also tired of her being asked yet again about her Iraq War vote; why is “old news” a concept that applies to everyone except Hillary Clinton?)

Matt Lauer: Only Interested in Trivialities

One gentleman asked about the VA and the problems that have plagued the agency. Clinton confirmed that she will work on it weekly as President. And then she discussed specific things that she wanted to work on.

Another question was about ISIS. She briefly touched the fact that dealing with ISIS required a multifaceted approach. This included asking other Muslim countries to help us. Matt Lauer, apparently sensing the seriousness of the issue, cut her off before she could go into details.

There were a few other questions that Matt Lauer found necessary to interrupt on. This got to the point where Clinton had to tell him to let her finish.

Once again these are serious issues that need addressing. And no, I don’t think a detailed policy plan is sufficient. It is great to have, but questions should be asked so she can give us more of a sense of how she will be as commander-in-chief. Questions were asked. It’s just that Matt Lauer wasn’t really interested in the answers.

Trump’s Half Hour

Oh dear, God: where to start? 

When he said he wanted to take all of Iraq’s oil because to the victor go the spoils?

Or when he said he thought there should be a military justice system to address rape?

Perhaps when he said that Putin was awesome and had great ratings in Russia?

Or when he said that Clinton was in charge of the military responses in Iraq along with Obama despite the Secretary of State’s not deciding military policy?

Or maybe when he said he was going to fire all of the generals?

The Stupid Half Hour

This was a half hour of the stupidest commenting on the military that I’ve ever seen. It was probably the stupidest ever. It was ill informed and traitorous and just plan horrible. And it was an embarrassment to the entire US political system that a man as ignorant as Donald Trump could be the presidential candidate of a major political party.

Trump lied twice in the first ten minutes of the forum. Matt Lauer, in keeping with his usual high level of incompetence, did not call Trump on either. Trump claimed his running a business and “calling the shots” was sufficient for him to run the US military. He then claimed that his trip to Mexico was a success.  It was not. It actually led to one of his scariest speeches to date.

Trump couldn’t answer most questions he was asked. So he blustered through them. Matt Lauer, of course, allowed him to. Trump again made the claim that he was against the Iraq War, when it is well documented that he was for it — both before and then after. Intrepid reporter Matt Lauer did not counter him on this lie that Trump tells again and again and again.

The Conclusion

So naturally the media is going to say since Donald Trump didn’t drop his pants and urinate on the floor, he was “presidential.” And even if they don’t, what the people saw was Matt Lauer making a very big deal out of Clinton’s email, as though it is really important and indicates something really bad, even if it is never stated. And they saw Matt Lauer allow Donald Trump to say outrageous things — and outright lies — without countering them.

Earlier yesterday, Brian Beutler explained well what liberals are concerned about, “The overarching expectation isn’t that the press should campaign for Clinton or help her escape scrutiny, but that they resist the urge to normalize Trump by portraying both candidates as inhabiting similar moral and ethical planes.” Based upon Matt Lauer’s performance last night, that sounds like a best case scenario. The takeaway from last night was that Clinton is a crook and Trump is just a straight-shooter.

It just was horrible.

A Slightly Annoyed Defense of Hillary Clinton

I saw that tweet the other day. And I got a little annoyed.

Why? Because I actually don’t think it sounds like Clinton. At all. I didn’t think that a year ago. And I don’t think it now. There is a reason for that.

Clinton Has Been Very Open

Clinton has always released her taxes, her email, her family’s foundation records, her fundraising records, her donation records, and her life’s story when asked by appropriate parties. Appropriate parties are: the American people, the government, the press, and the editors of her books.

Not once do you have a record of her refusing to release something that she felt she had a legal or ethical obligation to release.

When you have someone who is that willing to release information, you have someone not trying to hide anything. Are there times she fails to release? Yes — because we are talking about multiple tons of documents. Is there a pattern of her hiding anything? No.

Donald Trump Political Donation ScandalNow on to the bribing. Because she has released all of this information, we can go through and see if she has any record of using sketchy ways of handling business. And guess what? She doesn’t have that record. She complies with the rules even when she gets suggestions to not do so. (I’m looking at you Colin Powell.) Even when she probably should have used an Official Government Email Account™, she followed the rules for not using one.

Having been in government, I know why she used the single device. It is a decision most people in leadership have to make. And most of them hate using two or three devices. Clinton’s having it set up with her husband’s server was probably better than using gmail. But I digress.

Clinton’s Clean Donation Record

The fact is that you can trace her giving to whomever via her taxes, her family’s direct foundation, and the Clinton Foundation. You can look to see what they did with every dollar they received. You can spend months on this — just like most of the charity watchers do. And nothing — Absolutely nothing! — shows it was not above board. There was no using donation funds to buy things, no using funds to make political donations, nothing. Nada. Nichts.

Clinton does have a track record: not lying whenever she wants; not using her money to get out of scrapes; admitting fault; apologizing when she screws up…

Yet where does Justin Green, Political Editor for Independent Journal Review, start? Saying that Hillary Clinton is who first comes to mind when reading, “Rich person laundering political donation (bribe) through his foundation and hiding it on IRS filings”? And he is surprised that it is Trump?! Clinton has zero record of doing anything so unbelievably illegal and Trump is, well, Trump.

Clinton’s Track Record

Clinton does have a track record: not lying whenever she wants; not using her money to get out of scrapes; admitting fault; apologizing when she screws up; not breaking the law; not bribing public officials; not creating investment or university scams; and on and on.

So why the hell would anyone — especially a professional political editor — even conceive of writing such a statement?

Clinton has screwed up before — the Iraq war vote, using a private server that the State Department hadn’t authorized[1], most of the 2008 campaign, pushing for the use of American power when a wait-and-see approach would probably have been better. But these are policy decisions. When it comes to behavior? She doesn’t do anything wrong.

[1] This always struck me as weird, since she was in charge of it and Obama clearly knew she had the server and didn’t care.

California District Dreamin’: 10 and 25

Bryan Caforio - California District 25There are no more open toss-up districts. So I’m going to discuss some of the juicer campaigns. We have incumbents to talk about! So off we go to Frank’s current stomping grounds and my home state: California. So I am going to look at an almost certain Democratic pick-up, California District 25, and then the promising District 10.

California has a top two primary system. This creates some interesting general election contests. While this system was sold as a way to increase voter turn out, it doesn’t. It was supposed to make politics less partisan, it hasn’t. In fact, in a general sense, Top-Two Primary System Hasn’t Worked as Proponents Promised.

California District 25 (CA-25)

I start with the most vulnerable incumbent — Representative Steve Knight. Knight is known for his being conservative but not too conservative. Oh, and telling off his constituents after realizing that Congress-critters don’t have total power over the US government. He also has a fairly dismal record of working well with others, but at least he shows up for work.

He is facing challenger Bryan Caforio, an attorney originally from Los Angeles. Caforio seems to have one main flaw: he is new to the district. Otherwise he doesn’t seem capable of putting a single foot wrong. The Democrats have been active in getting voter registration figures up. This California District went from a 14,000 deficit (PDF) to a 5,000 advantage (PDF).

Caforio is stapling Trump all over Knight who keeps trying to duck questions about his party’s presidential nominee. Back in June, Caforio polled 6 percentage points down. A month later, he polled 8 points ahead of Knight in California District 25.

This means that this race is probably already over, even though no ballots have dropped. It should be an easy pick-up for the Democrats.

California District 10 (CA-10)

Michael Eggman - California District 10The current serving Representative in California District 10 is Republican Jeff Denham. He has been around since 2010, when he got the dubious distinction of getting dishonorable mention in CREW’s Most Corrupt Report. Otherwise, he has been a fairly conservative politician who works somewhat well with others. Outside of that he hasn’t done much to distinguish himself or make himself look bad.

He is facing, for the second time, a Democrat by the name of Michael Eggman. This is where sometimes looking stuff up on candidates will yield bizarre results. Michael Eggman is something of a stereotypical California dad. Well, he has had frosted tips. Regardless, he is definitely bringing up Trump.

There has been one poll done in the race by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research. It was done back in July and found Eggman losing by 7 percentage points. However, Eggman had little name recognition at that time. What’s more, the fundamentals of this California district are distinctly Democratic — 7 point advantage for a generic Democrat versus a generic Republican. Eggman’s problem is getting his name out there. And since he has less than a million dollars on hand, that might be difficult.

This may be a keep for the Republicans but hey, frosted tips can do wonders for a man!

Wisconsin District 08 — Plus Paul Ryan!

Tom Nelson - Wisconsin District 08There are two races I will talk about for Wisconsin. Wisconsin District 08 is a toss up. The other, well, isn’t; but it’s pretty to think so.

Wisconsin District 01 (WI-01)

In Wisconsin District 01, we find the current Speaker of House: the over-hyped “wonk” of Paul Ryan. He is running against a gentleman named Ryan Solen. He is a former Iraq war vet who served in the Army as a medic and is now a computer systems analyst for SC Johnson.

Solen has an incredibly difficult uphill battle if he is going to be the first person to unseat a Speaker since 1994. Generally, Speakers don’t lose their districts for the fairly obvious reason that they are gerrymandered for them. However that doesn’t mean a particularly large wave year wouldn’t sweep anyone — including a Speaker of the House — out of office.

Speaker Ryan has a large war chest and the seat is considered safely Republican. At the same time, Ryan only managed to get 55% in the last presidential year election. This cycle has Democrats and a lot of independents wanting to vote against Trump and they may vote just as much against Ryan to punish him for not being tougher on keeping Trump under control. Of all of the Congressional candidates, I think Speaker Ryan is the one most visibly connected with Trump and that is going to seriously hurt him.

The Numbers

People who are better at this than I am with the whole math thing have determined that if Trump gets less than 45% of the votes in the district, it is apparently time for the incumbent to be terrified.

At the beginning of the month, Clinton was up 15 percentage point on Trump and she may very well still be that high or around ten points more than Trump since Wisconsin is considered a very safe Democratic state. But there aren’t any real polls for the individual districts at this point and unfortunately Ryan Solen isn’t a sparkly enough media figure to get a great deal of attention.

Solen is however doing most of the right things by defining his opponent by the person at the top of the ticket and demanding a debate. I have jokingly pointed out that there should be the slogan of #PickTheBetterRyan for this race, but like usual, no one listens to me.

It will likely stay safe for Paul Ryan but things could change.

Wisconsin District 08 (WI-08)

Wisconsin District 08 is getting a lot of the attention because it is a possible pick up for the Democrats. It is an open seat because the Republican incumbent is retiring at the end of this term. In 2008, it went for Obama, but switched to Romney in 2012. It also was a 2006 Democratic wave pick up that was lost in 2010. So Wisconsin District 08 could go either way.

Mike Gallagher - Wisconsin 08It also has generated a lot of buzz because of the two candidates running. Tom Nelson is the Democrat and he is an Outagamie County executive who has been talked up for someone to possibly run for governor. In 2010 he ran against Tom Barrett for the Lt Governorship. He actually came really close for such a Republican wave year — losing by only by six points. So he knows how to campaign and do so effectively.

The Republican is Mike Gallagher. He won a surprise upset over an experienced politico in the primary. A former Marine, he was a foreign policy analyst for both the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations and Scott Walker’s failed presidential bid. He has been vigorously campaigning and has tried to distance himself from Trump. But he did admit he will be voting for the Republican standard-bearer.

A Tough District

Wisconsin District 08 is going to be a tough race. Since I don’t live in that area, I can’t speak to which one will be more effective at getting out the vote and winning. Tom Nelson is a guy who has incredibly deep ties to the district and he ran unopposed so he was able to spend all of his time working the general election voters. The Republican primary, on the other hand, was fairly brutal and left Gallagher with the moniker of DC Mike. Just the same, it also provided him with higher name recognition.

I do think since this is a blue wave year, it is probably going to go to Nelson.

New York, New York — New York District Tossups

There are three open seats in New York where neither party has an incumbent running for re-election. Each is considered a toss up. The funny thing is that all three have some interesting politics going on.

New York District Three (NY-03)

Oddly, Democrat Steve Israel decided to not run for re-election, even though the district is fairly Democratic and he would have won easily. Maybe he wants to become a full time comic writer.

For the general election it will be Thomas Suozzi on the Democratic side. He is a somewhat perennial candidate who has held elected office before as a county executive. But he also lost his last three races for governor and his re-election bid to the county executive position.

On the Republican side it is State Senator Jack Martins. He has led the way in filing bills that actually get passed. He also really, really hates taxes since most of his bills have to do with that.

The DCCC has already started crazy-gluing Trump to Jack Martins. So this is another seat that the implosion of the Trump Campaign is probably going to have a huge impact on. Martins did say back in May he would support Trump if elected. But as recently as 4 August he has not formally endorsed Trump.

In terms of money, Suozzi has a slight edge. But neither has a huge amount in their war chests. And they are expensive districts to run in, so it is unclear what the money will do for either one.

There is a Libertarian candidate, Michael McDermott, but it is unlikely he will do anything significant in the race.

New York District

New York District 19 (NY-19)

This race is going to fun. The district has gone for Obama twice, both times fairly decisively. But the retiring incumbent, Chris Gibson, is a Republican. So the district is considered a toss up.

On the Republican side, the winner of the primary was John Faso. In the 2006 Democratic wave election, he ran in the general election against Eliot Spitzer and lost. After that, he kind of fell off the radar. Instead of politics, he worked on things such as Autism Speaks, a program that helps kids with autism.

On the Democratic side, the primary winner was the fabulously named Zephyr Teachout. She is best known for running against Andrew Cuomo and getting a surprising 34% of the vote. In addition, she has been a big supporter of Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders.

The fun thing about this race is that John Faso is using red baiting. This is at least a bit odd. Faso has said he supports Trump for President, even though he hasn’t endorsed him formally. But, of course, Trump and his campaign have a lot of ties to Russia.

I also found out today that a hedge fund billionaire has decided to spend a small sum of money against Teachout. Luckily Teachout seems to be one of the few people who can pull a Sanders off when it comes to fundraising and the national and state parties are willing to help her out. With a firm effort by Teachout, this may be a pick up.

New York District 22 (NY-22)

This race is not as wild as the other two. And it is the one New York district most likely to go Republican.

It went for the Republican candidates in the past couple of presidential elections even while being represented by a Democrat for ten years before redistricting. So it is possible that this is a pick up for the Democrats.

On the Democratic side is Kim Myers who is related to the Dick’s Sporting Goods family, but runs her own business. She also has been a member of the governing legislature for her county. So she has some experience running for office.

On the Republican side is Claudia Tenney. She is a state assembly member who endorsed Trump prior to her winning the primary. She was considered the underdog and pulled off a bit of an upset. Otherwise, she appears to be boilerplate Republican.

What is interesting about this race is this is a rare situation where a woman is running against another woman. Generally speaking, that doesn’t happen. Otherwise it is ye olde politics.

What Will Be the Outcomes of Each New York District?

I think these may all wind up being Democratic pickups. None of the three districts are heavily Republican, and this is shaping up to be a Democratic wave year based on how well Clinton is doing. She is taking steps to try to have a Democratic Congress to work with for at least the first two years (especially since she knows exactly what is going to happen if she doesn’t). The word is that the RNC is ignoring Trump and trying to salvage races like these.

So with that mess going on at the top on the Republican ticket, and the Democratic side working their tails off to avoid any losses, New York will be so blue it will be visible from space. And that will likely include each New York district discussed here.

Pennsylvania 08 (PA-08): A Bellwether House Race?

Steve Santarsiero - PA-08As we finally get to the meat of the general election, we are off to Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District (PA-08) which is an open seat and a toss up. When I checked the Cook Political Report today, there were a lot more toss ups than there were a month ago. This is more evidence that the top of the ticket is having a real impact down ticket.

The District

PA-08 was one of the pick-ups in the 2006 Democratic wave year, and kept in 2008. However, it was lost to the Republicans in 2010 and has stayed that way since then. When people talk about gerrymandering, they typically point to Pennsylvania as a particularly bad case, which greatly benefits the Republicans. But President Obama only narrowly lost PA-08 to Mitt Romney in 2012, so it is possible pick-up for the Democrats.

There also has been enough time with enough people moving around to allow it to flip. My general impression is that about six years after redistricting, seats become open enough to flip. We’ll see if that’s the case this year.

Incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick has decided to honor a pledge he made to serve only a certain number of terms and is not up for re-election. But don’t consider him too honorable. His brother, Brian Fitzgerald, is running for his seat now. It seems kind of like a trick — a loophole in Michael Fitzpatrick’s promise, but I guess the people of PA-08 will decide.

The Candidates for PA-08

Brian Fitzpatrick - PA-08Brian Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent who is campaigning on a “law and order” appeal. He has several obvious advantages. Primarily, he has name recognition and a great list of campaign donors thanks for his brother. But also, having worked the Campaign Finance and Election Crimes Unit at the FBI, he speaks with authority on “law and order” issues. He is definitely playing down the partisanship based on his Facebook page. But overall, his campaign website has the standard Republican boilerplate with only one thing that looks like it comes from the candidate personally.

Over on the Democratic side, State Representative Steve Santarsiero from District 31 won his primary on April 26th. Serving at the statehouse since 2013, he has pushed quite a few reforms regarding campaign finance, fracking, and gun control. He even called for a constitutional convention for campaign finance reform. Santarsiero is not only not running from his party, he is embracing it. He is also definitely trying to tie Fitzpatrick to Trump.

Who Will Represent PA-08

As usual, it is difficult to say how this election will turn out. (I don’t write about races where the outcomes are clear.)

On the one hand, Fitzpatrick may be considered an interloper merely running to keep the seat for the Republicans (and in the family). On the other, he has actual experience fighting campaign finance crimes and knows what he is campaigning on.

Santarsiero is an experienced campaigner who is well known in his own district while Fitzpatrick is a political newbie. So Fitzgerald may be tripped up by common beginner mistakes. His refusal to take a position on Trump might hurt him as well.

Time will tell.

Minnesota 02 (MN-02): Will Politeness Win? Will Trumpism Lose?

Angie Craig MN-02Minnesota’s Second Congressional District (MN-02) is open because Representative John Kline (R) has decided to go do more interesting things than be a congressman.

Currently the district is fairly well to do with an average income of $76,000. So naturally all of the people running are millionaires.  Yes, that includes the Democrat.  It is considered a battleground district since it has gone for Obama at the top of the ticket, even though it has gone Republican for about a decade at the House level.

The usual happenstance of a crowded field of Republicans fighting for the seat was the situation here with four Republicans battling it out. Two were simply regular Republicans, while two are very much of the Tea Party type.  What was different this time was that the Republican establishment fell in line behind one of the extremists: Jason Lewis.  He was the clear front runner, and managed to line up most of the major endorsements while having the highest name recognition. Not surprisingly, he ended up winning.

Republicans in the MN-02 Primary

Jason Lewis MN-02The primary ran last Tuesday. But the field was interesting.

First, was former state senator and candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State, John Howe. He only served a single term as a state senator. But that did make him stand out: he had actually won elected office. None of the others have. He was largely self-funding, but that wasn’t a problem. Except that he lost with less than 14% of the vote.

Second, was Darlene Miller. She is a business owner. Thus, she had some advantages in being one of the demigods of the Republicans: a “job creator.” But otherwise, she didn’t offer much. She did have outgoing Congressman Kline’s endorsement for MN-02. It wasn’t enough, but she did manage to get almost 31% of the vote.

Third, was Matthew Erickson whose main selling point was his extremism. He served as a spokesman for Trump’s campaign as well as the volunteer coordinator for the state party. According to him, he was running because other politicians are cowards. Erickson does have some “interesting claims.” For example: he thinks he’s basically JFK:

I am basically John F Kennedy. I look in the mirror and I ask myself each morning “Matthew David Erickson, what can you do for your country today?” And the answer comes back, “I will do my goll-danged darnedest.”

Erickson’s goll-danged darnedest garnering him less than 7% of the vote.

Fourth, was Jason Lewis, the winner with 49% of the vote. His background is in radio. He’s had a local show going back 25 years. And he has been a bit outspoken in his right wing views, to say the least.  His main focus has been taxes where he takes a fairly libertarian line.

Democrats in the MN-02 Primary

The Democrats started with a three person primary, but two of the candidates withdrew. That left just Angie Craig. She is a former medical executive.  She has done very well with fundraising and has major endorsements from all of the usual liberal groups as well as the Democratic political establishment.

The MN-02 General Election

This race is rather like the national presidential race.  Trump’s struggles thus far have moved this race from one that would clearly lean Republican to a toss-up.

The question is how tightly Craig will be able to duct tape Trump to Lewis. If this is a wave year, and there are signs pointing to this, MN-02 will be one of the 29 minimum seats that the Democrats need to pick up to flip the House.

A Personal Reaction to Hillary Clinton’s Speech

Hillary ClintonFrank asked me to write about how I feel now that Hillary Clinton is at last the first woman to head a major party presidential ticket. I don’t know exactly how to express it but I will try.

I am a woman who served in elected office. When I see Hillary Clinton, I don’t just see a woman who I have looked up to for over a decade, I see myself. I see someone who has had to fight against unreasoning prejudice because of the gender we both were born with. I see someone who has had to fight past people who don’t think much of you — who think you don’t have what it takes.

I was very young when I won my first office and I had to prove myself again and again. And I had to do it in various capacities. I had to prove myself to the other judges. To the lawyers I worked with. To the public. I did that by doing what Hillary always does: I put my head down and I got to work. I wasn’t and am not perfect. But I eventually won the respect of my colleagues and the people who came before me.

Personal Connection

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was shortly after my re-election. A lawyer who I greatly admired was having a hearing on some issue and thought I had lost. He asked me when I was going to leave office. The prosecutor hissed, “She won you dummy!” The lawyer responded, “You what? You won?!” He continued, “Judge Rogers, when I come in your courtroom I have to take off the jester’s hat I generally use for this level. I put on my lawyer’s hat, because when I come in here I know you will be at least as prepared as I am. In addition to that, you treat my clients with fairness and respect. I appreciate all of this.”

From Seneca Falls to tonight, from the fact that women were once little more than property to the woman who stood on that stage in suffragist white, the night was about all of us little girls who became women watching Clinton’s career and seeing in her ourselves.

Hillary Clinton is like me — only at a far higher level. She knows the rules, the law, the cases, the studies. She makes the effort to not just hear what we have to say, she makes an effort to find out more information and to do something about it. I trust her absolutely to implement the progressive platform that we Democrats put together. (For the record: I expect us all to send her a Congress to help!)

Hillary Clinton’s Long Battle

Like me she has known the joys of winning a hard fought race and the joy of re-election. She has also known the bitterness of defeat. While she probably cried before she had to say she conceded to President Obama, she picked herself up and kept going. She knows what it is like to be called some pretty awful names to her face. To have to smile even when you are being insulted directly. And she can still find common ground with those determined to dehumanize her. She is way, way, way more gracious then I ever could be.

Her speech last night was absolutely brilliant. But it was simply seeing her walk out on that stage that brought tears to my eyes. From Seneca Falls to tonight, from the fact that women were once little more (and often nothing more) than property to the woman who stood on that stage in suffragist white, the night was about all of us little girls who became women watching Clinton’s career and seeing in her ourselves. The women who came before her who suffered, starved, and bled to ensure that one day, one of their descendants would be able to walk into the Oval Office as Madam President.

I am sure others will more eloquently state what this means for themselves and other women. For me though, it is about seeing myself in my President in a way I never could before.

Thank you Hillary Clinton. From the bottom of my heart. #ImWithHer