Thursday, August 18, 2016

Last Call For The Upper Chamber Going Down

Time to check in with the Senate election forecast for November with Nate Silver, and as you can imagine, the odds of the GOP holding their 54-46 control of the chamber is running directly into the orange buzzsaw that is Donald Trump.  Democrats are taking aim at picking up eight GOP seats or more this year, and they are well on their way.

Democrats need to gain a net of four or five seats to win control of the Senate, depending on whether Hillary Clinton or Trump wins the presidency.1 Before the conventions, polling in the 10 states whose Senate seats were most likely to flip between parties this November showed a pretty close race. Democratic candidates led in Illinois and Wisconsin, both of which would be pickups for their party. The Republican candidate was leading in Nevada (a seat that Democrats currently control). I didn’t include Indiana in my pre-convention analysis because of Democrat Evan Bayh’s late entrance into the race — we had just one partisan poll that included Bayh — but Democratic chances seemed good there (it would be another Democratic pickup). And Republicans led in the other competitive Senate races, all seats the GOP currently holds, so Democrats looked like they could pick up a net of two seats if everything stayed as it was and the polling leader in each state went on to win. 
Since the conventions, however, Trump’s polling has worsened — overall and in states with key Senate races. In the eight states with competitive Senate races and both pre- and post-conventions polling,2 Trump had previously been down an average of about 6 percentage points; he’s now down an average of 9 points.3 And while Republican Senate candidates had been up by an average of a little more than 1 percentage point before the conventions in these eight states, they are now down by a little more than 1 point. That is, Republican Senate candidates in key states are still running ahead of Trump, but that cushion may no longer be enough to win now that Trump’s fortunes have worsened.

Just how bad is it for the Senate GOP?  This bad.

Six of the eight Republican candidates for Senate are polling worse than they were before the conventions. Nothing has changed in Florida, according to the polls. And Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio is the only Republican whose fortunes have improved. (That may be partially because he has a massive fundraising edge over his Democratic opponent, Ted Strickland.) The biggest shifts have been in Illinois, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and in the latter two, the leader flipped. 
Among the eight states, the most precipitous drop for both Trump and the GOP Senate candidate happened in New Hampshire, where Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte had led in most polls before the conventions. Since then, she has trailed in all four polls of the state that have been released. MassINC pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted one of the surveys in the New Hampshire average, had told me that Ayotte’s troubles are at least partially because of “how closely tied the Ayotte and Trump vote are” and that he saw that “as evidence that Trump is hurting her.” 
Republicans have also seen their prospects worsen in Pennsylvania. Trump is now down 10 percentage points in the state, a headwind that may be too much for Republican Sen. Pat Toomey to overcome. Toomey, like Ayotte, had been leading in most polls before the conventions. But he has trailed in four of the five polls conducted since the conventions. Toomey’s slide, in particular, should worry Republicans. He has made it clear that he is not a Trump fan and has avoided appearing with Trump when he visits the Keystone State. And yet, their fates still seem tied. It may be that down-ballot Republicans can only do so much to keep themselves from getting swept up in an anti-Trump tide. 
Democrats now lead in enough states to take back the Senate — so long as Clinton holds on to her large lead. If the favorites in the polls win, the Democrats would flip and pick up the seats in Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans would pick up Nevada and hold onto Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. Of course, many of these races are close, and there’s plenty of time before Election Day. The fight for the Senate isn’t over by a long shot. Republicans and Trump — or Republicans without Trump — could rebound.

So, right now, the Dems pick up 5 seats, and the GOP picks up Harry Reid's seat in Nevada, giving the Dems a 50-50 tie, where a Clinton White House win would mean Tim Kaine would serve as VP and Senate tiebreaker.

North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida aren't out of reach, either.  Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, and Richard Burr are all in real trouble at this point, and this was before Trump went the full Breitbart this week.

It would be nice to see the Dems have a decent cushion in the Senate, but right now I'll take the 50-50 tie if it means kicking Mitch the Turtle's ass out of the Senate majority leader's office.

Prison Industrial Complexities

In a major move for prison reform, the Obama Administration announced today that it will no longer be renewing contracts with private prison companies for federal correctional facilities.

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. 
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.” 
They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote. 
The Justice Department’s Inspector General last week released a critical report concluding that privately operated facilities incurred more safety and security incidents than those run by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The private facilities, for example, had higher rates of assaults — both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff — and saw eight times as many contraband cellphones confiscated each year on average, according to the report. 
Disturbances in the facilities, the report said, led in recent years to “extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer.” The report listed several examples of mayhem at private facilities, including a May 2012 riot at the Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi in which 20 people were injured and a correctional officer killed. That incident, according to the report, involved 250 inmates who were upset about low-quality food and medical care. 
“The fact of the matter is that private prisons don’t compare favorably to Bureau of Prisons facilities in terms of safety or security or services, and now with the decline in the federal prison population, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to do something about that,” Yates said in an interview.

So 13 federal private prisons will hopefully be going away in the next five years or so.  Unfortunately that leaves two big questions: where to put the existing federal prisoners (many of whom are non-US citizens held as part of the deportation process) and what to do about the dozens of state prisons that are run by private contractors.  Both are still massive, massive problems that the next President will have to deal with.

Of course, if Trump wins, you can bet this directive will go away on January 21, 2017, so the first order of business is making sure Hillary Clinton wins.

On the gripping hand, private prison stocks CRATERED today.  I'm good with that too.

Trump Cards, Con't

So we're now on the third Trump campaign head in three months, Corey Lewandowski has been demoted to CNN, now Paul "Crimea River" Manafort has been kicked upstairs to Liar Emeritus status, and the new guy?  Well, the new guy is something else, alright.

The campaign’s new chief executive, Stephen Bannon, joins from Breitbart News—where he helped mainstream the ideas of white nationalists and resuscitate the reputations of anti-immigrant fear-mongers.

White nationalists today invest a lot of energy worrying about growing Hispanic and Muslim populations in the U.S. Turns out, Breitbart News spends a lot of time worrying about those things, too. And in Bannon, they see a media-friendly, ethno-nationalist fellow traveler.

“Latterly, Breitbart emerged as a nationalist site and done great stuff on immigration in particular,” editor Peter Brimelow told The Daily Beast.

VDare is a white supremacist site. It’s named after Virginia Dare, the first white child born to British colonists in North America. Brimelow said he and Bannon met briefly last month and exchanged pleasantries about each other’s work.

“It’s irritating because is not used to competition,” Brimelow added. “I presume that is due to Bannon, so his appointment is great news.”

Brimelow isn’t the only prominent white nationalist to praise the Bannon hire. Richard Spencer, who heads the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute, said he was also pleased. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has given favorable coverage to the white supremacist Alt Right movement. And Spencer loves it.

If your plan is the lead a resurgent white supremacist movement, you couldn't ask for a better point man than Steve Bannon, which brings me to the point I've made several times around here: when Trump loses in November, his followers aren't going to quietly vanish.

Bannon's specialty is virulent white supremacist dog whistle politics, after all Breitbart has been attacking President Obama and his family, Black Lives Matter, and any Democratic black or Latino politician they can find for years now, from Cory Booker to Joaquin Castro to Shirley Sherrod (remember her?)

And hey, let's not forget the problem we have now with Trump's White Power campaign goes directly down the line drawn by Andrew Breitbart and the media monster he created before his death in March 2012.

For tomorrow, the fresh hell of the news cycle begins anew, and Breitbart's pervasive taint will be all over it and the many, many news cycles to come after. The dead racist guy gets the last laugh in this America. His replacement will invariably be worse.

His replacement was Steve Bannon.  We can go straight from that point to here over the last 55 months.

So if avowed white supremacists are happy to see Steve Bannon in charge of Trump's campaign, that's something that we should all be worried about, along with the merger of Breitbart and Trump. Things are going to get a lot uglier, if that's even possible. As Charles Blow points out, it's a funny strategy to take for a guy so obviously trying to pander to black voters as he tried to do Tuesday in Wisconsin.

The speech was tone deaf, facile and nonsensical, much like the man who delivered it. 
Then within hours of making that speech, Trump shook up his campaign in part by naming Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the campaign’s chief executive. 
This is the same Breitbart that the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to in an April “Hatewatch” report
“Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas — all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’” 
The report continued: 
“The Alt-Right is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.” 
How are you reaching out to the black community when you step on your own message with such an insulting hire? 
All of black America is looking askance at Donald Trump. He has no credibility with black people, other than the handful of black staffers and surrogates who routinely embarrass themselves in their blind obsequiousness.

I mean on one hand I can see why Trump did this, you can't get worse with black voters than "fewer than one percent" so he doesn't have many other people to reach, and if you haven't been driven off your support of Trump by now, you're probably really jazzed by Bannon's hire.

On the other hand, I'm a human being with a soul and morals, so this is all awful nonsense to me that needs to be crushed brutally at the polls in November when Democrats run up the scoreboard.

We'll see.  It's going to be a long 80-some days.


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