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On the roster: Alabama Dems look to win with a throwback - Trump says Gillibrand ‘would do anything’ for money - Trump lawyers seek dueling special counsels - Franken replacement expected Wednesday - Babyface
ALABAMA DEMS LOOK TO WIN WITH A THROWBACK
The last time Alabama had a real, honest-to-goodness competitive statewide general election race like the one today was 15 years ago – and it was a doozy.
Republican gubernatorial nominee then-Congressman Bob Riley beat incumbent Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman by 3,120 votes out of almost 1.4 million ballots cast. It took days to sort out the final tally, with Democrats calling foul all the way to the end over the count.
Riley would go on to consolidate Republican gains at the federal level into a lasting GOP dominance at the state and local levels. He would easily win re-election in 2006.
Other than the bizzaro sex scandal that forced out former Gov. Robert Bentley
earlier this year, Alabama has politically been very much what Riley sought: a place where a coalition of traditional Republicans in suburban Birmingham in the north-central part of the state and their fellows on the Gulf Coast maintained control not just over the remaining Democrats but also the political fire eaters in rural regions upstate.
It’s a familiar model to Southerners, who can see similar scenarios still at work today in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and, less effectively of late, Louisiana.
The way the political aftermath of desegregation played out in much of the South was that many of the remaining moderate white Democrats switched over the GOP in order to have a voice on the state level, but, in turn, moderated Republican politics.
Alabamians elected and re-elected Richard Shelby to the Senate as a Democrat in 1986 and 1992. He had been anti-segregation when many in his party were for it, but had always been conservative fiscally and socially – as well as being a big booster for Defense spending.
When Shelby finally switched to the GOP in 1994, he was only doing what millions of his fellow moderate Democrats had done. These moves gave Republicans essentially total control of the South, but also moderated the Southern GOP.
Segregation and the battle to end it had rendered the Democratic lane largely impassible for white Democrats, even moderate ones. So they changed lanes.
And as long as Republicans nominate people like Riley or his former counterpart from South Carolina Nikki Haley or Phil Bryant in neighboring Mississippi, the compact born of the Reagan-era holds. Republicans get fiscally and socially conservative governance, but more moderate voters get to keep kookism under control in the GOP primaries.
When Louisiana Democrats and Republicans teamed up in 1990 and 1991 to stop David Duke, we got an extreme but perfectly vivid picture of the compact. There’s a bipartisan interest in preventing one’s state from becoming a bad joke, and the arrangement in the Deep South has worked rather well in that way for most of the past 30 years.
In Alabama, since Riley’s narrow win 2002 only one Democrat has been elected statewide. That was in 2006, when Jim Folsom Jr., a former governor himself and the son of the famous populist Gov. “Big Jim” Folsom, snuck in for a single term as lieutenant governor.
In a fitting political cruelty, the Republican the younger Folsom beat was none other than Luther Strange, the now-sitting senator, whom President Trump dubbed “Big Luther” during the president’s unsuccessful bid to help Strange defeat Roy Moore in the Republican Senate runoff this fall.
And if you really want to know how tightly tangled Alabama politics are: The man Strange beat for the Republican nomination in 2006? None other than George Wallace Jr., son of the famed segregationist who was the archrival of who else but Big Jim Folsom.
Maybe they set “Forrest Gump” in Alabama because the same people keep showing up again and again…
What Democrats are trying for today is to revive the old anti-kook coalition, but in reverse. And it’s not just about the allegations against Moore of abusing his authority as a prosecutor to seek out teenage girls, but his long record of taking fire-eating stances.
Moore’s removal from office as the state’s chief judge for refusing to follow federal court orders endeared him to his intensely loyal base, but it also turned off many in the state. Nullifying federal decrees has a long and unhappy history for Mississippi.
There’s a reason Moore was in a dead heat at the beginning of the race for a seat a Republican would otherwise be winning by 25 or 30 points.
Democrats now have even gone so far as to cast Moore as an heir to the now-reviled elder Wallace – all but explicitly calling Moore a segregationist himself. That’s rough stuff in a state that still bears so obviously the scars of that era.
When Democrat Doug Jones raises the specter of segregation, not just talking to black voters, he’s reminding white moderates around Birmingham and Mobile of the embarrassment of those days when “in Birmingham [they loved] the governor...”
Shelby’s already there. How many more moderates will skip the polls altogether or just write in the name of some Republican they wished was running? “Strange” and “Riley” are easy enough to spell…
We will spend a great deal of time in the coming days talking about the consequences of the election for the rest of the country, whoever wins. But as you watch the returns roll in tonight, we’ll be talking Alabamians.
This race has been no part of uplifting for a state that was last in national political news for another sex scandal. Even if you’re rooting for Clemson in the playoffs, you might keep a thought for the Yellowhammer State.
This has been a rough one.
[Watch Fox News for all the latest from Alabama, including special coverage starting at 6 p.m. ET with “Special Report with Bret Baier” and follow along online.]
THE RULEBOOK: NOW COMES THE WORK
“In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 10
TIME OUT: ALL THE WORDS
James Parker dives into the new translation of the New Testament from theologian David Bentley Hart. Atlantic: “In the beginning was the Word, says the Gospel according to John – a lovely statement of the case, as it’s always seemed to me. A pre-temporal syllable swelling to utterance in the mouth of the universe, spoken once and heard forever: God’s power chord, if you like. For [Hart], however, whose mind-bending translation of the New Testament was published in October, the Word – as a word – does not suffice: He finds it to be ‘a curiously bland and impenetrable designation’ for the heady concept expressed in the original Greek of the Gospels as Logos. The Chinese word Tao might get at it, Hart tells us, but English has nothing with quite the metaphysical flavor of Logos, the particular sense of a formative moral energy diffusing itself, without diminution, through space and time. So he throws up his hands and leaves it where it is: ‘In the origin there was the Logos …’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -22 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.6 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
TRUMP SAYS GILLIBRAND ‘WOULD DO ANYTHING’ FOR MONEY
Fox News: “President Trump slammed ‘Lightweight’ Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand early Tuesday after the New York Democrat sought his resignation in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct -- claims the president called ’false’ and ‘fabricated.’ The president was reacting to claims revived by three female accusers during a press conference and TV interview on Monday… The women, who had previously accused the president of sexual misconduct, called for a congressional investigation into the president. Gillibrand, who helped lead calls for Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign over groping allegations, in turn said on CNN that Trump should resign as well. ‘Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!’ Trump tweeted Tuesday.”
Dem lawmakers ask House to investigate Trump claims - NBC News: “More than 50 female Democratic lawmakers on Monday asked the House oversight committee to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump. In a letter to committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the Democratic Women’s Working Group wrote that the country deserves ‘a full inquiry into the truth of these allegations.’ ‘At least 17 women have publicly accused the President of sexual misconduct,’ the letter, which was signed by 56 lawmakers, said. ‘We cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations.’ The letter added that Trump should be allowed to present evidence in his own defense.”
Report says Trump not happy with Haley’s response to his accusers - Axios: “President Trump was ‘infuriated’ by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s remark Sunday that the women accusing him of sexual assault and harassment ‘should be heard,’ the AP reports. Per the report, Trump has ‘grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.’ White House advisers were ‘stunned’ by Haley’s statement, made on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation,’ according to the AP.
TRUMP LAWYERS SEEK DUELING SPECIAL COUNSELS
Axios: “President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session's Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt. The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators. Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night. The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: ‘A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump ‘dossier’ had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.’ Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: ‘The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate.’”
Justice Department refuse to give details on Mueller ethics waiver - Politico: “The Justice Department is refusing to reveal details of the process that led up to former FBI Director Robert Mueller being granted an ethics waiver to serve as special counsel investigating the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. In response to a POLITICO Freedom of Information Act request, the agency released a one-sentence memo Friday confirming that Mueller was granted a conflict-of-interest waiver in order to assume the politically-sensitive post. The waiver is believed to relate to Mueller's work in recent years as a partner at the WilmerHale law firm, which also represented former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as well as White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump's son-in-law.”
FRANKEN REPLACEMENT EXPECTED WEDNESDAY
Fox News: “Minnesota's governor is planning to announce Wednesday his pick to replace Sen. Al Franken, amid speculation over why the Democratic senator has not yet set his resignation date. Gov. Mark Dayton's office put out a statement Tuesday saying the governor would make the appointment the following morning at the State Capitol. The Star Tribune has reported his likeliest choice is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. The announcement could well put to rest the simmering speculation that Franken might be keeping the door open to remain in the Senate, if Roy Moore is elected in Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race.”
Special election dates set to replace Franks - Arizona Central: “Gov. Doug Ducey announced dates for the special election to replace Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned abruptly on Friday amid allegations he sexually harassed two of his female employees. The governor's proclamation said: The primary election will be held on Feb. 27. The general election will take place on April 24. A growing list of Republicans have expressed interest in running for the 8th Congressional District seat. Republican state Sens. Debbie Lesko and Kimberly Yee, and Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman all told The Arizona Republic last week that they are interested in running for the seat. Sen. Steve Montenegro, a former aide to Franks, announced his candidacy Monday.”
Congress Looks to Overhaul Sexual-Harassment Rules - WSJ: “Lawmakers are moving to change procedures for reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill and how settlements are funded, after Congress was shaken last week by more allegations of improper behavior and three resignations. Lawmakers are looking inward at their own policies in the wake of the ‘Me Too’ movement, which has created a national outpouring of personal stories involving sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.”
Analysis: ‘McConnell enters year-end sprint’ - Roll Call
Poll shows voters view tax bill as financial injury - Marist Poll
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dead at 65 - Fox News
Spicer writing book about his time in the White House to ‘set the record straight’ - Politico
Read this piece about the Q Poll: ‘The Poll That Built a University’ - Politico
AUDIBLE: OY GEVALT
“One of our attorneys is a Jew.” – Kayla Moore, wife of Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, defending accusations that her husband holds anti-Semitic views.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I wonder if Jeff Sessions had any idea what kind of mess he was leaving behind when he became Attorney General. What could have been a simple replacement with another Republican has turned into a rather momentous decision for Alabama. I was not a Roy Moore fan before, so when the allegations surfaced, it only gave me more reason to not consider him as my Senator. Today, I will write in a candidate on the ballot. Some think that if you write in a candidate, you are throwing away your vote. … In the past two weeks, I have been polled twice for the Alabama special election. One of the surveys forced you to choose between the two major candidates. For me, I was looking for the Independent or write in candidate option, and since that survey forced you to align with either Jones or Moore, I opted for Jones. This type of question skews the polling when the option that represents the voter is not represented in the survey question.” – Lizette Zuniga, Birmingham, Ala.
[Ed. note: First and foremost Ms. Zuniga, our condolences! I feel so bad for Alabamians who have had to endure this most unlovely chapter of modern American politics. Though I think it is perhaps good that we are reminded how much worse things were in Alabama and the rest of the country just 50 years ago. We have a feeling these days that everything is coming apart, and that may be so. But for those who endured the 1960s and 1970s in Alabama and, truth be told, the entire country, the current political moment can’t look nearly as foreboding. As for those poll calls that you received, I can tell you right now that they were not legitimate. Though real pollsters encourage voters to state their actual preference, encouraging undecided voters to express which way they might be leaning, they would always allow for a voter to say they were choosing someone other than the two major party nominees. In the closing days of hotly contested races, campaigns throw out all manner of polls, sometimes including negative advertising disguised as a poll. “Would you be less likely to vote for Freddy Funkhouser if you knew that he forgot to feed his pet gerbil in middle school and it died?” You get the idea. And, look at the bright side: Alabama is not likely to be the site of any competitive races at least until next year’s gubernatorial primary.]
“Why are votes held on Tuesdays? I would think that a lot more people would show up if they didn’t have to worry about taking off work to do so. Maybe this is something to change in the future?” – Jeff Cox, Broken Arrow, Okla.
[Ed. note: You have stumbled into one of my only actual political causes, Mr. Cox! You may know that I make it a point to argue for more civics and history education in schools, because, well, just look around… But this note has only ever taken an official position or endorsement one time, and we stand by it: Election Day should be a federal holiday. Let’s get rid of all of the early voting and no excuse absentee polling and give everyone the day off every other year to come together and vote. Not only do I think that it would be helpful for turnout, kind to voters who work multiple jobs and be generally more just, I think it is good for people to come face-to-face with their neighbors when they cast ballots.]
“Love the half-time report. So excited you mentioned Sturgill, I’ve been a fan of his for about 3 years now. He’s one of my favorite artists period. Him and the Dead. Sturgill doing Jerry covers? Anyway, love the report and thanks for introducing Sturg to your readers. He truly is the best country artist out there today. The pop country stuff is garbage!” – Patrick Wittbrodt II, Grand Blanc, Mich.
[Ed. note: CC: Dana Perino.]
“I find it difficult to understand why it’s so easy to believe the women accusing Trump of harassment and so hard to believe they may (note I say ‘may’) have been encouraged to be untruthful by a third party. The same third party who paid for the infamous Trump dossier, possibly. And removing him from office because of unprovable claims from years past after Clinton served eight years when there was proof of misconduct in his Oval Office seems a tad unbalanced, justice-wise.” – Susan Williams, St. Louis
[Ed. note: Well, Ms. Williams, I don’t think anyone is going to be removing Trump from office over these claims. Of course Democrats think he should resign over these charges. They also probably think he should resign for drinking too many Diet Cokes. That part is just posturing, and won’t amount to anything in practical terms. What I don’t understand, though, is why a conspiracy would be necessary to bring these charges forward. Trump himself has bragged about his formerly freewheeling lifestyle and, of course, even joked about the privileges of celebrity when it comes to grabbing and groping. The claims against him may not be true, but based on what we already know are at least credible. But, that doesn’t change anything. Trump is not going to be impeached over these claims which were very well known when he was elected. They may make for good talking points for his political foes, but I don’t see any shadowy activities evidenced here.]
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KTVI: “Ballwin [Missouri] police are assuring residents that teens are not commandeering their vehicles. A Facebook post by the police department says that alarmed citizens probably say one of their officers transporting a prisoner. They even posted a picture that shows officer in question. ‘We received a call from a concerned citizen who saw who they believed to be teenagers operating a marked Ballwin patrol vehicle. It was quickly determined that the driver of the patrol vehicle was Officer Rock, accompanied by a prisoner she was transporting. While she may appear to be 14 years of age, we promise she is above the age of 21, the legal age to be a police officer as defined by the State of Missouri statute. As always, pictures have been attached so you can visualize the call for yourself.’”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.