By Chris Stirewalt, ,
Published May 15, 2018
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On the roster: Who’s got a friend in Pennsylvania? - Vacancy makes for testy Idaho GOP gubernatorial race - Dems to use GOP ObamaCare misadventure in ads - Trump pressing Senate GOP for nuclear option - And his baby sister, Celsius
WHO’S GOT A FRIEND IN PENNSYLVANIA?
There’s a reason that the most important street in Washington, D.C. is named Pennsylvania Avenue.
Aside from being the “Keystone” that held together the span of new states, Pennsylvania had also been home to the largest city and the greatest concentration of wealth, thanks in large part to its abundant fields and forests. Naming the main drag in Washington for Pennsylvania was a sign of respect and probably intended as some consolation for losing the capital to a swampy barren by the Potomac River.
Though New York would supplant Pennsylvania as the largest and most powerful state, Pennsylvania’s political significance was enormous until only recently. Until the 1940s, Pennsylvania held something like one in ten electoral votes. The state produced only one president, and a poor one at that, in James Buchanan, but was always a powerhouse until the 1980s.
Pennsylvania’s declining prospects and population happened to coincide with the state becoming less competitive on the presidential level. As industry and economic growth moved to the south and west in the United States, Pennsylvania became more politically beholden to its two major cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
What had been a swing state with a Republican lean until 1988 became reliably Democratic for the next six presidential cycles. The Keystone State had taken its place in the “blue wall.” But after Donald Trump’s stunning and stunningly close victory there in 2016, candidates and parties are looking at the state differently.
Pennsylvania politics today is a story of two competing trends. In the west, an aging population, a weakened labor movement and a strong connection to Roman Catholicism and other observant Christian faiths has pushed the region toward the Republicans. In the east, the demographic changes, secularism and shifting suburban settlement patterns common to the rest of the Northeast Corridor are making the region more Democratic.
The way Trump won and Republicans hope to continue to win is through high voter intensity among the new Republicans in the west coupled with mining out pockets of the kind of post-industrial malaise where the GOP tends to do best outside of the American South and West – places like Luzerne County, which saw a 22-point blue-to-red swing from 2012 to 2016.
Democrats, on the other hand, are intent on capturing the suburban voters on both ends of the state who may be feeling left behind by a Republican Party that is increasingly focused on blue-collar voters. Democrats hope that by raiding what had once been enemy territory and still maximizing turnout among urban liberals and minority voters that they can put Pennsylvania back in their column.
We will start to get some answers about all of this tonight.
It does not seem that the state will have very competitive races for governor or Senate, where popular incumbents seem to be safe against little known potential Republican challengers. But in the battle for at least a half dozen House seats we are going to get some very useful core samples about what’s going on under the surface in Pennsylvania politics.
Democrats could come out with a net gain of more than four seats, but only if they have the right general election contenders. We’ll be watching the 1st District outside of Philadelphia particularly closely.
Democrats have a candidate, Rachel Reddick, who fits their mold for suburban raiders this year: Young, a veteran, a moderate former Republican and female. She’d be in prime position to take out incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick. But Reddick first has to get past multi-millionaire trial lawyer, Scott Wallace, who has spent heavily to capture the nomination. She could play the part of Conor Lamb quite nicely for the Dems, but may not get the chance.
As with other races, this one has exposed the tensions between national Democrats looking for moderate candidates who can storm old GOP bastions and local parties that tend to be more dominated by grassroots activists.
In this race, as well as others, we will start to see what Pennsylvania’s political future. The commonwealth may have slipped out of the top tier of states electorally, but as its cousin Ohio can attest, a smaller state can still have big power – but only if its fickle.
THE RULEBOOK: DON’T GET COCKY
“The wisdom of the convention, in committing such questions to the jurisdiction and judgment of courts appointed by and responsible only to one national government, cannot be too much commended.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 3
TIME OUT: TOM WOLFE, R.I.P.
We are very sorry to say today that we can no longer refer to Tom Wolfe as the “greatest living American author.” Wolfe, who helped remake American journalism and fiction, died Monday at age 88. Born and educated in Virginia until he went to Yale for his doctorate, Wolfe was an unparalleled observer of the human condition, particularly among American humans. He first became famous for his “new journalism,” an immersive approach to reporting that produced engrossing accounts of the 1960s counterculture, the US space program, architecture and art, among other topics. But it was his first novel, “Bonfire of the Vanities,” in 1987 that carried Wolfe into a new league. The story of greed, grandiosity, celebrity and media proved to be a defining tale for its era as well as prescient about changes to come. As he had in “Bonfire,” Wolfe would bring his blend of deep reporting and fantastical storytelling to a variety of topics after that, with a particular focus on race relations and changing sexual and cultural mores. Though unassuming in person, Wolfe was fearless in his attacks on orthodoxy and criticism of his fellow writers. Clad in his trademark all-white suit, Wolfe would deliver scathing takedowns of literary giants like Norman Mailer, John Irving and John Updike as well as cultural icons like Noam Chomsky. Wolfe is survived by his wife, Sheila, and his children, Alexandra and Tommy. Wolfe wrote in “Bonfire” that “[y]our self…is other people, all the people you’re tied to, and it’s only a thread.” His was a life that connected to the millions of Americans who he inspired, provoked and always entertained.
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.4 percent
Average disapproval: 53.6 percent
Net Score: -12.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 41.8 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.6 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 0.6 points
[Average includes: CNN: 47% Dems - 44% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Monmouth University: 49% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]
VACANCY MAKES FOR TESTY IDAHO GOP GUBERNATORIAL RACE
AP: “The top candidates running for governor are Lt. Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist. Three-term Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter announced he would step down after serving nearly four decades in public office. … Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus with strong support from the Statehouse’s most far right members… Little has the endorsement of not only Otter but also every living former GOP governor in Idaho. … Ahlquist, an emergency room doctor turned developer, has campaigned on being the ‘political outsider’ … Overall, these gubernatorial candidates have spent millions of dollars has been spent on advertising, flooding the airwaves, social media and mailboxes with candidates throwing jabs in hopes of getting the upper hand. … With Labrador stepping down to run for governor, seven Republicans have flocked to take over his congressional seat, including former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, former Attorney General and former Lt. Gov. David Leroy…”
Another left-center split as Dems vie for chance at vulnerable House seat - AP: “Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District has switched party representation repeatedly in the past six years, and two Democrats will vie Tuesday for the chance to again snatch it back from Republicans. The race between former Congressman Brad Ashford and children’s nonprofit group director Kara Eastman for the Democratic nomination is among the highest-profile contests in Nebraska’s primary election. The winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, who defeated Ashford in 2016 and has no primary challenger. … Ashford has touted his experience in Congress as an asset for residents in the district, arguing he could help broker compromises in a gridlocked Washington. Eastman has cast herself as a progressive alternative to the centrist Ashford, who also has been registered as a Republican and independent. … The district encompasses Omaha and parts of the city’s suburbs. In 2016, Bacon beat Ashford by less than 4,000 votes.”
More like Snor-e-gon… Weak turnout for low-wattage Beaver State races -Oregonian: “Oregon voters appear on track to show their lowest turnout in a primary election in at least 16 years, ballot statistics indicate. … There are no high-profile, high-spending statewide primary contests this year. Gov. Kate Brown is expected to easily win her party’s nomination, and all five members of the U.S. House of Representatives are considered shoo-ins for new terms.”
DEMS TO USE GOP OBAMACARE MISADVENTURE IN ADS
Politico: “Democrats are confidently running on Obamacare for the first time in a decade. They’ve got a unified message blaming Republicans for ‘sabotaging’ the health care law, leading to a cascade of sky-high insurance premiums that will come just before the November midterm elections. They’re rolling out ads featuring people helped by the law. And Tuesday, they’re starting a campaign to amplify each state’s premium increases — and tie those to GOP decisions. That’s a big change from four election cycles of reluctance to talk about Obamacare on the stump. During those campaigns, red-state Democrats were often on the defensive… Now, even those Democrats see Obamacare as a political advantage. The Affordable Care Act has grown significantly more popular. And as Republicans learned last year when they failed to repeal it, the public had scant interest in taking away coverage from millions of Americans, including low-income and vulnerable people on Medicaid. Democrats are also seizing the issue of rising prescription drug prices — another health care cost problem for which the public holds the GOP responsible, according to polls.”
Cynthia Nixon snags Bernie group’s backing against Cuomo - Daily Beast: “Cynthia Nixon on Monday picked up a major endorsement from the left in her race against incumbent New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. The former Sex and the City star and longtime political activist won the official backing of Our Revolution, the political organization spun off from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign. ‘Cynthia Nixon is a lifelong progressive who has spent years working on educational equity. She is a bold progressive who is running in the spirit of Senator Bernie Sanders,’ Our Revolution head Nina Turner said in a statement. … Nixon responded to the endorsement praising the organization and the movement Sanders began in 2016...”
Trailing for re-election, Rauner proposes reinstating death penalty - Chicago Tribune: “Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday proposed reinstating the death penalty in Illinois for mass killers and people who slay law enforcement officers, injecting the idea into his re-election campaign by rewriting a gun control bill and sending it back to lawmakers. Death penalty objectors and the governor’s political opponents including Senate President John Cullerton immediately accused Rauner of using capital punishment as a ‘political tool’ to help his re-election. And it faces long odds in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, which banned capital punishment outright earlier this decade. The Republican governor needs to cobble together support from conservatives and moderates ahead of the November election. Democrats have sent him a few gun-related measures in recent months, including one to license firearm stores that he vetoed shortly before the March primary election.”
Republican complaints intensify about Hawley’s campaign - Politico: “As GOP Rep. Ann Wagner prepared to introduce candidates in a Republican Senate debate here Friday, she took a pointed jab at one contender who didn’t make it – front-runner Josh Hawley. [Wagner declared] to the raucous applause of Republican voters on hand that ‘showing up matters.’ The scene encapsulated widespread concerns about Hawley. Star-struck Senate Republican leaders anointed the 38-year-old, Stanford- and Yale- educated state attorney general as their top recruit of 2018 – a squeaky-clean figure they saw as the future of the party and an ideal opponent to take on the endangered Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill. Yet… in interviews with more than two dozen senior Republican strategists, donors, lawmakers and local officials, Hawley was depicted as a lackadaisical candidate who has posted sluggish fundraising numbers, turned down interviews with conservative radio show hosts, and spurned traditional GOP events considered a rite of passage for a potential U.S. senator.”
Pence team looks to calm concerns with mega-MAGA hire - NYT: “While [President Trump] remains an overpowering personality in Republican politics, he is mostly uninterested in the mechanics of managing a political party. …. So Mr. Trump’s supremely disciplined running mate has stepped into the void. Republican officials now see [Mike Pence] as seeking to exercise expansive control over a political party ostensibly helmed by Mr. Trump, tending to his own allies and interests even when the president’s instincts lean in another direction. Even as he laces his public remarks with praise for the president, Mr. Pence and his influential chief of staff, Nick Ayers, are unsettling a group of Mr. Trump’s fierce loyalists… On Monday, Pence allies sought to tamp down any suspicions of disunity by circulating word via Fox News that Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s first campaign manager, was signing on as an adviser to the vice president’s political committee.”
TRUMP PRESSING SENATE GOP FOR NUCLEAR OPTION
The Hill: “Frustrated with what he calls Democratic obstruction, President Trump is expected to press Senate Republicans during a lunch Tuesday to change the rules to speed up consideration of his nominees for vacant court seats and executive posts. It has taken an average of 84 days to confirm Trump’s nominees, far longer than for the four presidents who preceded him, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan group that tracks confirmations. ‘Waiting for approval of almost 300 nominations, worst in history. Democrats are doing everything possible to obstruct, all they know how to do,’ Trump tweeted Saturday. Republicans on the Senate Rules Committee approved a measure last month to shorten the debate time for nominees on the floor, but the idea doesn’t have Democratic support.”
But refusal to apologize for joking about McCain’s death causes chill - AP: “The last time President Donald Trump headed to Capitol Hill for the weekly Senate Republican lunch he was feuding with the powerful chair of the foreign relations panel, and had tweeted that the man couldn’t get elected dog catcher. Now Trump is embroiled in a controversy over an aide’s comment disparaging ailing GOP Sen. John McCain, and the Senate GOP leadership is telling Trump it’s past time for an apology from the White House. ‘The smart thing to do would have been five days ago to just nip it in the bud and come out and apologize for it,’ said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican.”
White House prepares to punish leaker, not the insulter - Politico: “Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Monday that she expects personnel changes in the White House in the wake of President Donald Trump’s latest outburst against leaks that have proved damaging to his administration. The White House has dealt in recent days with fallout from a leaked remark from communications staffer Kelly Sadler… Sadler reportedly called McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, after the news of the comment surfaced but has yet to make a public apology. White House spokespeople have not denied that Sadler made the remark but have declined to comment on it other than to say it is being dealt with internally. On Monday, Trump wrote online that ‘the so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible’ but added that ‘leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!’”
Manafort lawyer wants to unmask grand jury witnesses - Politico
Missouri GOP stays on the attack against Greitens after charges are dropped - Kansas City Star
“When Hillary Clinton used the word ‘deplorable’ that had a significant effect on so many people. They basically said ‘We understand that Donald Trump is not a nice guy, but he is one of us’. He said ‘Yes, I know I’m a billionaire, but I’m like your weird uncle. I’m not politically correct and I’m not judging you and that’s the key.’” – Levi Sanders, son of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in New Hampshire, in an interview with The Independent.
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AND HIS BABY SISTER, CELSIUS
The Local: “[One] Swedish woman has turned her failed tattoo into a whole new identity for her child. Local newspaper Blekinge Läns Tidning reported over the weekend that 30-year-old Kyrkhult resident Johanna Giselhäll Sandström went to a local tattoo studio around three years ago to get the names of her two children inked on her arm. …Sandström went home with what she thought was a permanent declaration of love to her kids Nova and Kevin. There was just one problem. Kevin had become ‘Kelvin’. … When Sandström discovered that it would take multiple treatments to remove the tattoo, she and her husband opted for a different course of action. ’We decided to rename the boy,’ she said. That’s right. Kevin became Kelvin. … ‘So when I thought more about it, I realized that no one else has this name. It became unique. Now we think it is better than Kevin,’ Sandström said.”
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.