Who's really got poll position in Alabama?

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On the roster: Who’s really got poll position in Alabama? - Trump accusers to unite, seek Hill probe - Dems look to ease divisions ahead of midterms - Scramble to correct errors of haste in tax plan - Eject!

What’s the deal with that Fox News poll in Alabama?

If Republican Roy Moore is leading in an average of all polls, why does the one from FNC call it a blowout for Democrat Doug Jones?

The answer is plain: There’s simply no precedent for this race.

The way pollsters make their predictions is to look at how voters behaved before and then make an educated guess on what patterns will be like this time.

If you’re polling, say, Missouri for a presidential election, you can look immediately at the three or four elections before and get a sense of who will be showing up to vote and in what numbers, e.g. 53 percent female, 40 percent aged 45-64, 79 percent white, etc.

Then you keep calling folks until you get a representative sample of respondents that looks like the expected electorate, ask your questions and presto!

But what election would tell us how Alabama would vote? There hasn’t been a competitive special election for a seat in Alabama since 1978, so there’s no direct analogue. Will it be more like a big statewide midterm election with something like 50 percent turnout, or closer to the 25 percent typical of a single-office race?

The pollsters at Monmouth University have a survey out today and they have helpfully for the purposes of explanation hedged their bets. Their best model comes up with a tie, but they have also offered two other turnout scenarios, one slightly favoring Moore and one slightly favoring Jones.

Our pollsters don’t hedge, and, as their track record has shown, they don’t need to.

Take it from our polling maven, Dana Blanton, who offered today this opinion-science version of a smack down: “A subtle but potentially noteworthy finding is Alabama voters who were interviewed on cellphones are +30 for Jones, while the race is roughly even among all others. The fact that traditional, high-quality probability samples, like the Fox News Poll, include both landline and cellphone numbers may be why these polls show Jones doing relatively well compared to automated or blended polls.”

Put simply: Because our poll is better, we’re in a better position to see parts of the electorate that other less expensive polls that often fill the space. But Dana is far too nice to ever say that…

Then there are the candidates.

As the great Harry Enten observed last week even when Moore’s advantage seemed to fully reassert his itself, the Republican was hardly safe. Senate polls in the past 20 years have been off by an average about 5 points, and consistently so.

Even if the race hadn’t shifted back in Jones’ favor, a lead in the mid-single digits would not have been enough to put him out of reach – especially in an oddball race like this one.

The point here is that Moore was not a very good nominee even before Nov. 9, the start of the deluge of accusations of misconduct with teenaged girls while he was a prosecuting attorney.

Moore and Jones were tied in the Fox News poll taken in mid-October. You would have had to give Moore the edge given the general political proclivities of the state and the huge number of undecided voters.

But even so, a tie in a state where Republican statewide candidates win by 30 points or so? That’s some weak tea right there.

If you will recall, though, the argument was that the things that made Moore a weaker general election candidate than incumbent Luther Strange – Moore’s bellicosity and embrace of outré views on sodomy laws, etc. – were the very things that Moore’s backers said were the most needed in Washington.

Steve Bannon and his crew argued, in essence, that Alabama Republicans could take a chance on Moore because, well, it was Alabama, a place where a Republican can underperform by 15 points and still win in a landslide.

But Moore would prove to be a doubly deficient candidate, and worst of all the claims against him undercut his well-cultivated image as a moral authority. If you were skeptical of Moore’s views or attitude, you might have taken solace in the idea that he was bound by a strict code.

That he was accused of abusing his position to seek out children was devastating. That he so badly mangled the response – first offering flimsyish denials before reversing himself and offering a blanket denial and scorn for the accusers – made it worse.

You can imagine the though process: Roy Moore the firebrand pistol-packer? Maybe. Roy Moore the charlatan? No way.

The other thing Bannon didn’t account for was that the Democrats would have a vote in this too. Jones has run well – positioning himself as a means by which for Alabamians to avoid disgrace, a caretaker for two years.

By the time popular, longtime Sen. Richard Shelby announced Sunday that he had not voted for Moore, it amounted to a tacit endorsement of a Jones win. Jones dove on the ball at once and offered himself up as a Senator in the mold of Shelby, who though now Republican, was first elected as a moderate Democrat in 1986.

The ingredients behind a potential Jones win are the following: a weak Republican nominee, a huge scandal, a highly energized Democratic electorate and a competent Democratic nominee.

Jones needs those irregular, largely African-American voters to actually show up and for the pangs of conscience that have been stabbing Alabama Republicans – is it more morally dubious to vote for an accused creep or a pro-choice Democrat? – don’t stab more sharply against Jones Tuesday in the voting booth.

Fox News: “Former President Barack Obama and his veep Joe Biden have recorded robo-calls in support of Democratic Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, in a final push to get out the vote ahead of Tuesday’s special election. A Jones campaign official confirmed the calls to Fox News. They started going out statewide on Monday. The 11th-hour efforts are being undertaken on both sides. President Trump – who held a rally Friday just across the Alabama state line in Florida where he touted Republican Roy Moore’s candidacy – has also recorded a pro-Moore robo-call. The national interest reflects the importance to Trump's agenda of keeping the seat in Republican hands.”

Trump records robo-call to boost Moore - Reuters: “President Donald Trump sought to boost Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore by releasing a recorded phone call on his behalf in the final stretch of a bitter Alabama election fight marked by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore. Moore, 70, a conservative Christian and former Alabama Supreme Court justice, will face off in Tuesday’s election against Democrat Doug Jones, 63, a former U.S. attorney. On Monday, the eve of the election, the Moore campaign is rolling out a ‘robo-call’ with Trump’s voice telling voters that if they do not support the Republican candidate, progress on his agenda will be ‘stopped cold.’”

Jones is utilizing Shelby’s sentiments - The Hill: “Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones will use excerpts of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) saying he cannot support Republican candidate Roy Moore as part of a new robocall ahead of Tuesday's special election in Alabama, CNN reported on Sunday. On Sunday morning, Shelby told host Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" that he did not vote for Moore over concerns about the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against Moore. The robocall, expected to be aired statewide on Monday, will take advantage of the Republican senator's remarks, according to CNN. Jones's campaign is already utilizing excerpts from Shelby's critical comments in two 15-second digital advertisements.”

Moore says it’s him versus the GOP establishment - The Hill: “GOP candidate Roy Moore on Sunday said he is fighting against both the Republican establishment and the Democratic Party, claiming that both groups want his Democratic rival to win in Tuesday's special Senate election in Alabama. Moore said in an interview on Breitbart journalist Aaron Klein's radio show that the Republican establishment wants Democratic candidate Doug Jones to win the election because they think he would be easy to defeat in the next Senate race.”

Uhhh where are ya Moore? - Politico: “In the last weekend of Alabama’s wild special Senate election, Doug Jones barnstormed the state with A-list Democrats in a bid to turn out black voters he desperately needs to win in the deep-red state. Republican Roy Moore disappeared. … Two Republicans briefed on Moore’s schedule before this weekend said he intended to spend Saturday in Philadelphia at the Army-Navy football game… One of those Republicans, who expressed concern about Moore’s absence, said that the planned trip was discussed with Moore’s campaign within the last few weeks and the candidate determined to go — case closed.”

“Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in fact pursued it?” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 6

Sturgill Simpson
 has reinvigorated – and maybe even saved – mainstream country music. But he doesn’t do interviews. Reporter Annalise Domenighini got what Simpson said would be his last interview ever, a pretty bold statement for someone not yet 40. But in his case, we might just believe it. Noisey: “The path of a greasy, teenage pot dealer doesn’t usually lead to a $100,000 recording budget and a two-record deal with one of the largest labels in the United States. … It rarely allows you to enter the music business at age 35, long after any normal person would give up on the dream. But Simpson is not normal, and life is often better to some people than they feel they deserve. ... It’s there in how seriously he takes the job of making music providing ‘maybe 20 minutes of distraction in a person’s life.’”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -23.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 4 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.]

The Hill: “Women who have publicly accused President Trump of sexual misconduct will call for Congress to investigate the allegations at a press conference on Monday. The women will unite for the first time to demand the probe and share details of their allegations against Trump, according to a press release. The conference is being hosted by Brave New Films, a film and campaigns organization that works for progressive causes. It released a film about the allegations against Trump in November. More than a dozen women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump during his presidential campaign. Trump has denied the reports, and the White House has said its official position is that the women are lying. Sexual misconduct has emerged as a major topic in recent weeks as prominent men in politics and entertainment have been accused of sexual harassment or abuse.”

Haley: Accusers ‘should be heard’ - NYT: “Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said on Sunday that women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct ‘should be heard,’ a surprising break from the administration’s longstanding assertion that the allegations are false and that voters rightly dismissed them when they elected Mr. Trump. Ms. Haley, a former governor and one of the highest-ranking women in Mr. Trump’s administration, refocused attention on the allegations against the president by insisting that his accusers should be treated no differently than the scores of women who have come forward in recent weeks with stories of sexual harassment and misconduct against other men. ‘They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,’ Ms. Haley said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’”

Gillibrand calls for Trump’s resignation over allegations  - CNN: “Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told CNN on Monday that President Donald Trump should resign over allegations of sexual misconduct. ‘President Trump should resign,’ Gillibrand told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview. ‘These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.’ If he does not ‘immediately resign,’ she said, Congress ‘should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.’ Responding to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that Trump's accusers ‘should be heard,’ Gillibrand said: ‘Not only should women be heard, but they should be believed.’

Farenthold a marked man - Houston Chronicle: “In the last two weeks, five Republicans have qualified to challenge U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, for re-election. Four of those five candidates have filed since Monday… The latest candidate to jump in the race is Bech Bruun, the former chairman of the Texas Water Development Board who is from Corpus Christ but lives in Austin. Bruun officially qualifed for the 27th Congressional District primary on Friday morning. Earlier this week Republicans Jerry Hall, Eddie Gassman and Christopher K. Mapp all qualified for the primary as well. And a week earlier, former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud qualified for the March 6 primary. … Democrats Raul (Roy) Barrera of Corpus Christi and Ronnie McDonald of Bastrop will be in a March 6 Democratic primary.”

Ryan looks to stay ahead of scandals - WashEx: “Speaker Paul Ryan is under mounting strain as the rising number of sexual misconduct allegations has forced the Wisconsin Republican to assume the role of House warden. Former Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania are unlikely to be the last House Republicans Ryan is compelled to push out of Congress because of sexual misconduct. Congressional ethics probes and media investigations are expected to unearth more incidents of harassment, or worse. Ryan has embraced the task. He’s disgusted with the alleged malfeasance and concerned for female staff — those already affected and those who could be, absent changes in workplace culture. But it’s also trying, as Ryan in some instances confronts longtime friends and respected colleagues about the sordid details of their abhorrent behavior and demands resignations.”

Pawlenty eyes run for Franken’s Senate seat - Twin Cities Pioneer Press: “Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he’s considering running for Sen. Al Franken’s U.S. Senate seat. The Republican governor and onetime presidential candidate insisted Friday that he’s still ‘politically retired.’ But Pawlenty would be a prized recruit in 2018 for Republicans hoping to capitalize on Franken’s resignation amid a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations. Pawlenty became the last Republican to win a statewide election in Minnesota when he won his second term in 2006. And he considered running for Senate before he decided to run for governor. Franken’s resignation has forced him and others to think about how to improve the state and nation, he said. He spoke after addressing a local Chamber of Commerce event.”
Conyers resignation ignites family squabble - WaPo: “That field may or may not include [John Conyers’s] son [John Conyers III]; he’s yet to declare his candidacy and has been slammed with news of an arrest connected to an alleged domestic assault earlier this year in Los Angeles. But even before Conyers’s announcement on [Mildred Gaddis’s] program Tuesday, another relative — state Sen. Ian Conyers, the congressman’s 29-year-old great-nephew — announced his own candidacy. And state Sen. Coleman Young II, son of Detroit’s first black mayor but fresh off being clobbered by incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan last month, declared his bid Friday.”

WaPo: “In recent weeks, Democrats have scored huge electoral wins in Virginia, cultivated public opposition to the Republican tax plan, purged two liberal stars accused of sexual misconduct and gotten closer to winning a Senate race in Alabama that should be out of reach in such a conservative state. But they still can’t agree on what the party stands for. From immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country. Those concerns flared up at a party meeting over the weekend in Washington. … But pulling those advantages into a coherent message remains elusive in Trump’s tweet-driven Washington. Instead, Democrats are continuing to argue among themselves over how to present themselves to voters. In addition, the bitterness cultivated during the party’s 2016 presidential nominating contest has not fully faded.”

DNC discuss cutting amount of superdelegates - Politico: “A commission set up to help reform the Democratic presidential nominating process has voted to restrict the number of superdelegates as part of a slew of changes. The Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission is recommending cutting the number of superdelegates by about 400, equal to a 60 percent reduction. Many of the remaining superdelegates would see their vote tied to the results in their state. The commission is also suggesting that absentee voting be required as an option for presidential caucus participants. It is calling for automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration. And it wants to mandate public reporting of raw vote totals from caucus states. The recommendations will now go to the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee, and then likely to the full 447-member Democratic National Committee…”

Tennesseans change their tune on Bredesen - National Journal: “A dozen years ago, liberals denounced Phil Bredesen, the then-Democratic governor of Tennessee, for his decision to kick off about 170,000 adults from the state’s expanded Medicaid program in order to fix a budget crisis. … Now, Democrats have turned to Bredesen, a 74-year old white, moderate man for their political salvation, even as many of them wish for a future of ever greater progressive policies on the backs of increasingly diverse younger generations. But officials and strategists from Tennessee to D.C. say Bredesen is the Democrats’ best shot to win the open Senate seat, giving them a slim chance to take back the Senate in 2018. The argument: He’s the last Democrat to win statewide, and he’s the only one left who can do it again—though he’s unlikely to spend much time highlighting that fact.”

WaPo: “Republicans are moving their tax plan toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they’ve had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the types of expensive problems popping up in their massive and complex plan. Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes, which must be tackled by congressional negotiators working to reconcile competing versions of the legislation passed separately by the House and the Senate. And the melding process underway has opened the door to another frenzy of 11th-hour lobbying as special interests, including President Trump’s rich friends, make one last dash for cash before the final bill speeds through both chambers of Congress and onto Trump’s desk. Passage is expected the week before Christmas.”

Oops: Bill would tax top earners at 100 percent - WSJ: “Some high-income business owners could face marginal tax rates exceeding 100% under the Senate’s tax bill, far beyond the listed rates in the Republican plan. That means a business owner’s next $100 in earnings, under certain circumstances, would require paying more than $100 in additional federal and state taxes.”

Trump to make closing argument this week - Axios: “On Wednesday, President Trump will deliver his closing argument on tax reform to an audience made up largely of young people and middle-class families whose personal stories will be laced into his remarks. Trump's remarks at the Treasury Department, next door to the White House, are expected to lay out how the once-in-a-generation tax cut/reform bill will create economic opportunity and brighter futures. Aides say Trump will display his deal making/closing skills as he makes his case to the American people, while continuing to work behind the scenes to iron out final details. A source close to the White House told me: ‘There's no way we would have been here had he not pushed for this to happen before Christmas.’"

White House starts push for January infrastructure spending package WSJ      

Bannon’s conspicuous absence from Russia storyline
 - Politico

Trump spats with NYT over TV viewing habits
 - Politico

What’s become of the individual mandate -

GOP pushes back on judicial nominations
 - Politico

“I don't think - President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown said about President Trump in an interview with “60 Minutes.”

“I am highly concerned about our political future. It appears that the Democratic Party is increasingly headed towards even bigger government potentially even socialism. The democrat candidates currently highlighted, even excluding Bernie Sanders, seem focused in that direction (Warner, Harris). Also, polling within the younger generations indicates that they are receptive, and even may prefer, socialism. Additionally, the recent Soros sponsored event in California indicated that he would like to see the entire country go further in the direction of California, which in my opinion is towards socialism. It surprises me since our government (particularly the Senate) is showing that they really aren’t very good at anything in the current environment, why would we want to give them more control? What are your thoughts?  Do you see us heading there, or avoiding that treacherous path?” – Leslie Rice, Hillsboro, N.H.

[Ed. note: Well, when you put it that way… Maybe it will be helpful to think of it like this: Politics is always a struggle between youth and maturity. It’s one of the basic dividing points for everything else we do and, historically, young voters tend to push for change, while older voters seek to hold the line. A funny thing happens to those young voters, though… They turn into old voters. Just as Baby Boomers went from burning draft cards in the 1960’s to lighting up Wall Street IPOs in the 1990s, time and tide change us all. I think the more fundamental concern I have is whether we can preserve some political norms in near term so that whatever does come next has to operate within some guardrails. The degree to which governing and political norms have been upended in the past 25 years is a big deal. My hope is that there will be pendular swing toward normalcy and decency. But that only happens if voters demand it.]

“I enjoy Halftime Reports, but I was surprised that neither you nor any other reporter picked up or commented on what Senate Leader McConnell said to President Trump in yesterday’s meeting, re the spending bill. Mitch said he looked forward to extending the CR to be able to work a long-term solution. Only in Congress is a six-to-nine month spending bill considered a long-term solution, especially when it is already three months late. None of the media is addressing the deleterious effects to the military and other federal agencies of operating on CR’s each year. At a time when our military needs to recapitalize, a CR impedes the ability to do that. When Congress finally passes the spending bill and all the attendant authority associated with it, the military will not have the time to spend it appropriately before the end of the fiscal year. The good news though, is that Congress will be the first to criticize the military for any rushed or inappropriate expenditures.” – David Jowers, Littleton, Mass.

[Ed. note: I think that was more a question of timing than disinterest! In fact, we talk so much and so often about the perils of fiscal improbity that I worry readers will become bored. It has now been a decade since we’ve really had anything like ordinary budgeting. Unlike many who think that the 60-vote threshold on legislation is causing Senate dysfunction, I see another culprit: The Byrd rule and budget reconciliation. The arrangement was supposed to make budgeting easier and more ordinary. But since it has become the preferred vehicle to advance partisan policy objectives that budgetary function has been substantially lost. As the Senate looks at revamping rules after the next election, I think there’s a strong argument to be made for abolishing reconciliation.]

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KDVR: “Every holiday season when Santa comes to town, children and their parents line-up to meet the jolly big man – but one Maryland toddler wasn’t having it. Kerry Spencer taught her son the sign for ‘help’ in sign language. And during his photo with Santa – he made the sign. ‘We taught our baby sign language. This is the sign for ‘help.’ You’re welcome,’ Spencer wrote. Spencer tweeted out the hilarious photo on Tuesday and it has gone viral with over 5,800 retweets and over 22,900 likes, as of Saturday afternoon. She went on to clear up the specific sign language variant he was taught. ‘In baby sign you go with what they do. We showed him the ASL version and this is what he did,’ she wrote on Twitter. No word on if the little boy was able to let Saint Nick know what he wanted for Christmas before his parents rescued him.”

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.