Dems didn't learn the lesson from West Virginia

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On the roster: Dems didn’t learn the lesson from West Virginia - Time Out: Homeward bound - Blankenship benefits as foes fight - Trump switches lawyers - We feel you 

SABRATON, W. Va. – West Virginia seemed quite unnecessary to Democrats a decade ago.

With just five electoral votes, an aging, stagnant population and little in the way of economic dynamism, the Mountain State was a political irrelevancy.

With the second oldest, twelfth whitest and third poorest population in the union, West Virginia doesn’t fit any of the talking points about the once-vaunted “emerging Democratic majority.”   

Democrats have been focused on the expected blue wave for this fall, but that’s just part of a larger wishing, waiting and hoping that the party has been engaged in since about 2004.

The central conceit of Democratic strategy for more than a decade is that a coming tsunami of younger, more diverse and more affluent voters will transform the political map and make irrelevant the old, white, middle-class coalition that has been deciding elections since before Dwight Eisenhower ever hit a chip shot.

They’re not wrong. But they are early.

As we have talked about many times, the demographic changes taking place among Americans age 30 and under are breathtaking.

That may be for reasons that have as much to do with dissatisfaction with a highly commercialized version of the American Dream as it does with demography. The post-WWII trend of voters moving from left to right ideologically as they move from city to suburb residentially is probably not going to hold. Young adults are waiting longer to marry, waiting longer to have children and shunning the suburban sameness to which their parents and grandparents flocked.

But the ethnic demographics are a doozy, too. In 2015, for the first time in history, the majority of babies born in the United States were not white. Anyone who thinks that the transition from a white majority to a minority majority will be gradual is going to be in for a rude awakening.

After their defeat in 2004, though, Democrats over-interpreted these data to console themselves for a heartbreaking presidential loss. It didn’t matter, they said, because the coming change would obliterate the Republican coalition that the GOP had gotten increasingly good at maximizing. The election of an African-American Hawaiian with the middle name Hussein four years later richly confirmed these assumptions.

As much as Democrats were appalled by Donald Trump’s victory in spite of his boorishness, cruelty and casual dishonesty, they were even more shocked that demographic determinism had failed them.

How could states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan with substantial African American populations join the ranks of lily-white spots like West Virginia? This is not what was promised.

There’s a couple of ways you can look at this, and both hold substantial truth.

On the one hand, we are witnessing a troubling ethnic balkanization in American politics. White voters are engaging in identity politics in unbecoming ways. You may think that they have every right to act like other racial groups have, if you see white victimhood as a concerning trend. But whether they are entitled to it or not, the increasing tribalism in the white majority means deepening disunion and racial hostility.

On the other hand, though, we are witnessing the benefits of having a federal republic. Because our country is organized into 50 states changes in political direction come harder than in unitary systems.

And there is much more at work here than just questions of racial identity. Culture, economics and policies matter bigly as well.

Working-class white voters responded in the only logical way when Democrats started shunning them after the 2004 election. The Clinton-era coalition was able to accommodate white and minority voters in states as different as West Virginia and California. The Democratic base had long been annoyed by having to accommodate Rust Belt and Appalachian voters, particularly on culture and environmental issues.

Once they embraced the dogma of demographic determinism, though, Democrats could simply write off a sizable chunk of their coalition, confident in the belief that a rising tide of liberal, young, minority voters would give the party both power and ideological purity.

The results of the experiment are in and it has been a catastrophe for the Blue Team. Democrats should have looked more closely at West Virginia because Democrats would have seen the peril ahead.

George W. Bush narrowly won the state in 2000, becoming the first Republican non-incumbent to do so since Herbert Hoover in 1928. Democrats would contest the state in the next cycle but end up with a more decisive defeat. By 2008 Democrats had written off the Mountain State entirely. By 2016, it was the second-most Republican state in the union.

West Virginia’s shift was not like that of southern states that flipped like switches following the Democratic embrace of civil rights in 1964 and thereafter, even if Democrats treated it as such.

The truth was that West Virginia was a cautionary tale for Democrats about working class and poor white voters that presaged the coming loss of the House of Representatives and wipeout in statehouses across the country.

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of West Virginia in a lot of states, particularly in the Upper Midwest.

This new disdain for Democrats among blue-collar voters has bought Republicans precious time to try to prepare for the demographic shifts ahead. They are certainly not making much of the opportunity in regards to building for the future.

But even so, Democrats should worry that by the time the tsunami arrives they will be too weak and too beholden to special interest groups within their base to successfully surf the wave.


“Let us bring our inquiries nearer home.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 52

Fox News: “A 100-year-old flag used in the funeral of U.S. troops on a small Scottish island during World War I is making it back to where it originated from as part of a remembrance of the Great War. Currently held in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., the flag is making a trek back across the Atlantic to where it was put together, the Scottish island of Islay. It was used in funerals for the more than 200 American soldiers who drowned when the SS Tuscania was hit with a torpedo by a German U-boat. The ship departed Hoboken, N.J. on Jan. 24 1918, with 384 crewmen and more than 2,000 U.S. Army personnel and was headed for Liverpool. The German U-boat, UB-77, eventually sank the Tuscania on Feb. 5, 2018 when it fired two torpedoes at the ship, causing it to sink in about four hours.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 52.4 percent 
Net Score: 
-10.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 4 points 
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 45% approve - 48% disapprove; Gallup: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; Fox News: 44% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 39% approve - 54% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 39% approve - 54% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.2 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up one point
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; NPR/PBS/Marist: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 47% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 47% Dems - 40% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP.]

West Virginia MetroNews: “Fox News Political Editor Chris Stirewalt believes former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship may have picked up as many as eight percentage points for his performance in Tuesday night’s debate. Blankenship, who debated on Fox News with state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins, was able to mostly avoid how he is usually described, Stirewalt said. ‘You’re the killer. You’re a monster. You’re Beelzebub yourself—and he got on stage and he was affable and funny. So he is going to pick back up some of his support out of that,’ Stirewalt said during a Wednesday appearance on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’ … West Virginia Wesleyan Political Science Professor Robert Rupp said Blankenship went into the debate with a huge liability but only one question addressed his federal prison time and the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 coal miners.”

Trump super PAC punishes Tester over VA debacle - Politico: “President Donald Trump’s political operation is intensifying its offensive against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), launching a new TV ad labeling him ‘disgraceful’ and ‘dishonest’ for his role in taking down a Trump Cabinet pick. ‘In Montana, we value integrity and support our president,’ says the ad from the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC. ‘But Jon Tester spread false information about a respected Navy admiral, helping D.C. Democrats derail President Trump’s Veterans Affairs nominee.’ The spot goes on to say that Tester, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents up for reelection in 2018, ‘betrayed our trust, our veterans and our president,’ concluding that ‘it’s time for him to go.’”

O'Rourke trolls Cruz in Español -
Texas Tribune: “U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, has invited U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to participate in six debates with O'Rourke across Texas, two of them in Spanish, during their U.S. Senate race. O'Rourke campaign manager Jody Casey made the proposal in a letter last week to Cruz's senior staff, adding that the debates should have ‘media reach to all twenty markets in the state.’ ‘I would like to begin direct coordination of the debates with your campaign team between now and May 10th,’ Casey wrote to Cruz advisers Bryan English and Eric Hollander in the April 24 letter. ‘Please advise my best point of contact on the Cruz campaign team.’ Cruz previously suggested he is open to debating O'Rourke. Cruz's campaign said in response to the letter that it was exploring its options.”

House GOP primaries feel the Trump effect -
Politico: “For years, opposing President Barack Obama was among the top issues in Republican primaries. Now, the contests hinge on supporting — or opposing — President Donald Trump. In California, a Republican opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is calling him a ‘hypocrite’ on supporting Trump, as a super PAC runs digital ads using an old tape of Rohrabacher calling Trump ‘a mean nasty SOB.’ A Texas Republican in a runoff for an open, GOP-heavy seat is citing his opponent’s old Facebook posts criticizing Trump. And in Indiana, Republican front-runner Mike Braun has given Rep. Todd Rokita a Trump-style nickname, ‘Todd the Fraud,’ for running as a Trump supporter after previously criticizing the president.”

Lamborn makes it back on the Colorado ballot - Denver Post: “U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn will get another chance at re-election after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the six-term lawmaker should be put back on the ballot — a turnabout from a Colorado Supreme Court decision last week. U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer’s ruling all but ensures that Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, will be able to defend his Republican-leaning seat against GOP rivals Owen Hill, a state senator, and Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner, in the June 26 primary.”

He’s back: Grayson seeks return to House - Orlando Sentinel: “Liberal firebrand Alan Grayson is back, revealing Tuesday he will challenge U.S. Rep. Darren Soto for his old Central Florida seat in Congress in what likely will be a heated Democratic primary. Grayson had been considering a number of congressional seats to seek, but he told the Orlando Sentinel he chose District 9 in Osceola, Orange and Polk counties that he represented for four years because ‘that’s where people want me.’ … The race pits Grayson, who garnered both controversy and a national profile in his six years in Congress, against Soto — who, as the first Florida congressman of Puerto Rican descent, has been a vocal advocate for the community in the wake of Hurricane Maria and the influx of evacuees to Central Florida.


Fox News: “President Trump’s in-house lawyer representing him in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is set to leave this month -- and will be replaced by an attorney who represented former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment fight, Fox News has learned. [Ty Cobb], who sports a trademark mustache, served as the president’s internal legal counsel and acted as a liaison between the White House and Mueller’s office. White House Counsel Don McGahn advises Trump internally on separate matters. Cobb will now be replaced by Emmet Flood, who served as counsel for Clinton during impeachment proceedings in 1996. Flood also was the lead lawyer at the White House Counsel’s Office during former President George W. Bush’s second term. ‘For several weeks Ty Cobb has been discussing his retirement and last week he let Chief of Staff [John Kelly] know he would retire at the end of this month,’ White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday.”

Mueller may subpoena Trump if president won’t cooperate -
Fox News: “Special counsel Robert Mueller told President Trump's legal team that he could subpoena the president to appear before a grand jury if Trump refuses an interview with Mueller's team, Trump's former lead attorney told The Associated Press Tuesday night. John Dowd told the AP that Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena during a meeting with Trump's legal team in March. According to accounts of the meeting first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by Fox News, Dowd retorted: ‘This isn’t some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.’ Dowd resigned as Trump's lead lawyer weeks later amid a dispute over how to answer Mueller's request for a presidential interview.

Ex-Trump campaign aide interviewed by Senate panel on Russia - Fox News: “Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo was interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday as part of the panel's investigation into Russian activities during the 2016 elections. Caputo's lawyer, Dennis Vacco, told Fox News the interview lasted three hours and included opening and closing statements by his client. ‘The focus [of the interview] was more about his knowledge or lack thereof of Russians, [former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort and Manafort associates like [Rick] Gates during the campaign or prior thereto,’ Vacco said.”

Trump will meet with former Rep. Jeff Miller on VA secretary position - WashEx

“It’s important that it not be five white guys at the table, no offense. I have no intention of walking away from that table.” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi referring to the top leadership positions in the House and Senate while speaking to reporters from the Boston Globe.

“Like the pepperoni roll, my husband was born in the Clarksburg area around 1938. I miss our trips back to his home place in neighboring Wolf Summit, the cool summer mornings sipping coffee and eating pepperoni rolls on the back porch while watching for deer bounding across the ‘crick’ and catching fireflies with the little one as the day turned to night. Thank you for you frequent tributes to this wild, wonderful state and the well deserved respect you show her kind and hard working people.” – Dana Furner, Flower Mound, Texas

[Ed. note: You just made me smile so big, Ms. Furner. Our time this week in the Mountain State has been like a tonic to me. I think we may have even made a convert of Brianna. As soon as we publish we’re heading for pepperoni rolls so we shall see…]

“Amid all the polls asking whether voters like Republicans or Democrats best, one question is not being asked: ‘In the race for U.S. Senate or Congress, if the candidate of the political party you prefer is someone you consider inept, silly, out of his or her depth, or an embarrassment to your state would you consider voting for the candidate from the other party?’ I’m willing to bet that, if the poll respondent thought seriously about the question and was totally honest with the pollster, the answer would be yes.” – Edward Brewster, Edmond, Okla.

[Ed note: As a forecasting tool I don’t think your question would be too useful, but as an exercise in civic mindedness and patriotic grace I wholeheartedly endorse it.]

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AP: “A Vermont man is facing charges that he used a shotgun to silence a smoke detector in the kitchen of his apartment. Police say two shots fired Monday afternoon from the 20-gauge shotgun owned by 68-year-old Leroy Mason, of Barton, hit the adjoining wall of an occupied apartment. Police say Mason has complained about frequent false alarms from his smoke detector, and he was upset fire crews wouldn't relocate it so he ‘took it upon himself to relocate the smoke detector, and shot it with the shotgun.’ Emergency personnel say they took the shotgun from Mason, who then pointed a handgun at them while demanding his shotgun. Emergency crews disarmed Mason. There were no injuries. Mason pleaded not guilty Tuesday and was released. His attorney declined to comment.”

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.