Monday, October 15, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

In the Midwest, Republicans are counting on Senate wins in Missouri, Indiana, and in nearby West Virginia to keep the Senate.  But nobody's talking about Trump's collapse in the states that proved decisive to his Electoral College win two years ago: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa are states Trump won, all with GOP state legislatures and all but Pennsylvania have GOP governors.  

That is expected to change drastically next month as Midwest Democrats are openly running against Trump and winning.

A number of Republicans running for governor or senator in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including several who hitched their wagon to Trump’s political movement, are behind in polls by double digits, a remarkable turnabout in swing states that were key to the president’s 2016 victory.

If current polling averages hold, Democrats will maintain all their Senate seats in those states, pick up a handful of House seats and, in some cases, retake the governors’ mansions. In nearby Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 points, the Democratic candidate for governor was running about even with the Republican governor in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Polling this week found Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) trailing his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers.

The dramatic shift has forced political strategists to reevaluate their post-mortem lessons from the 2016 election, while raising new questions about Trump’s staying power in 2020. Democratic strategists, who worried that Iowa and Ohio were slipping away from them in presidential years, are now heartened and have begun to return their attention to the traditional bellwethers.

“One false assumption that was made was that a Trump voter from the 2016 election was necessarily a Republican voter,” said John Brabender, a GOP consultant who is working with Barletta. “We forget about the power of Hillary Clinton being on the ballot in 2016. If Hillary was on the ballot, Republicans would probably be doing better in all of these states.”
But Hillary's not on the ballot.  Donald Trump's failures are.  And they're killing the GOP.

There is a clear historical precedent for such a shift. Then-candidate Barack Obama swept the industrial Midwest in the 2008 elections, only to find his party battered in his first midterm contest two years later, when Republicans retook governorships in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin, along with Senate seats in Indiana and Wisconsin. Obama was nonetheless able to come back and win those same states, with the exception of Indiana, in his 2012 reelection.

Pollsters do not rule out Trump repeating that success in 2020, especially if the economy remains strong. “He could certainly do what Obama did,” said Berwood Yost, the polling director at Franklin and Marshall College, which tracks Pennsylvania voters. “Trump’s approval rating in our state is about the same place Obama’s was in 2010.”

Still, the short-term impact is dire for Republicans. After surprising the nation in 2016, Trump appears to be driving turnout this year that will largely benefit Democrats, as moderate voters, and college-educated women in particular, seek an outlet for their frustration with his policies and behavior. Trump’s aggressive campaign schedule for Republicans in these states has so far failed to turn the tide.

Republicans were talking about taking 60 Senate seats a year ago, that Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin were all vulnerable and ripe to be picked off.  They're all well ahead, and Republicans are also in real trouble in Governor's races in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and even Iowa.

There are going to be a lot of surprised Republicans in three weeks, but we have to vote.

Deportation Nation, Con't

Yesterday I talked about how Latinx voters are staying home, convinced that Republicans hate them, but that Democrats are indifferent.  That's not stopping Republicans from continuing Trump's hateful rhetoric towards immigrants, and the fact of the matter is in red state races, portraying virtuous white voters as under siege from those people is a tried and true tactic to tighten up races and whittle down both Democratic turnout and the generic ballot lead.

Not long ago, as heart-rending images of migrant children separated from their parents at the border filled the airwaves, the issue of immigration seemed to be losing some of its potency as a weapon for Republicans with the midterm elections approaching. 
But Republican candidates across the country, leaning on the scorched-earth campaign playbook employed by President Trump, saw an opening nonetheless, painting Democrats as the ones pursuing an extreme immigration agenda that would fill the country with “sanctuary cities” where violent criminals roam free. 
The strategy, in play in a growing number of races, may be working. As a tight battle for control of Congress enters its closing weeks, Democrats have found that in politically competitive states, particularly ones that Mr. Trump carried in 2016, the attacks can easily turn crucial voting blocs against Democrats
“Sanctuary attacks pack a punch,” says a four-page memorandum, prepared by the liberal Center for American Progress and the centrist think tank Third Way, that has been shared at about a dozen briefings for Democrats in recent weeks. The New York Times obtained a copy of the memo, whose findings are based on interviews and surveys conducted over the summer.

Many of the Republican attacks use misleading language and employ overblown claims about the dangers of immigrants. But the fear-based appeal demonstrates how Mr. Trump has overcome months of negative headlines about his hard-edge immigration policies to make the issue a potentially profitable one as Republicans try to preserve their slim Senate majority and defy projections that they will lose the House. 
Democrats, the strategists who prepared the memo advised, could neutralize the attacks if they responded head-on. But they should spend “as little time as possible” talking about immigration itself, and instead pivot to more fruitful issues for Democrats like health care and taxation.
The strategists worry that Republicans’ foreboding immigration message is far more personal to most voters than the more modulated position of Democrats, whose push to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers and to ensure humane treatment of undocumented people does not, in many cases, affect voters themselves. 
“It is very difficult to win on immigration with vulnerable voters in the states Trump carried in 2016,” the strategy memo said, arguing that “even the most draconian of Republican policies,” such as family separation and threats to deport the Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — failed to sway most of them. 
But where Democrats see caution signs, Republicans see opportunities. Matt Gorman, the communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm, said immigration themes — “sanctuary cities” in particular, as well as liberal calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement — were among voters’ top concerns in some places where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and where Republicans are now battling to hang on to competitive seats.

So yes, Republicans are absolutely playing the fear card, and it's working.  But Democrats are stupidly playing right into GOP hands with the idiocy that ICE will ever be abolished, and while sanctuary cities work for NYC and LA and Chicago, it doesn't play well in Kansas City or Fargo or here in Cincinnati.

Democrats are, as usual, finding a way to blow it here in the Midwest, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

The Eye Of The Storm

Florida went easy on housing contractors in the panhandle area and the state didn't require tougher building codes inland from the shore after Hurricane Andrew until 2007.  That definitely contributed to the devastation from Hurricane Michael as the storm ripped through the state last week, and we're still trying to categorize the damage there.

It was once argued that the trees would help save Florida’s Panhandle from the fury of a hurricane, as the acres of forests in the region would provide a natural barrier to savage winds that accompany the deadly storms.

It’s part of the reason that tighter building codes — mandatory in places such as South Florida — were not put in place for most of this region until just 11 years ago.

And it may be a painful lesson for area residents now that Hurricane Michael has ravaged the region, leaving sustained damage from the coast inland all the way to the Georgia border.

“We’re learning painfully that we shouldn’t be doing those kinds of exemptions,” said Don Brown, a former legislator from the Panhandle who now sits on the Florida Building Commission. “We are vulnerable as any other part of the state. There was this whole notion that the trees were going to help us, take the wind out of the storm. Those trees become projectiles and flying objects.”

Hurricane Andrew a generation ago razed Florida’s most-populated areas with winds up to 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes and obliterating almost all mobile homes in its path.

The acres of flattened homes showed how contractors cut corners amid the patchwork of codes Florida had at the time. For example, flimsy particle board was used under roofs instead of sturdier plywood, and staples were used instead of roofing nails.

Since 2001, structures statewide must be built to withstand winds of 111 mph (178 kph) and up; the Miami area is considered a “high velocity hurricane zone” with much higher standards, requiring many structures to withstand hurricane winds in excess of 170 mph (273 kph).

Though Michael was packing winds as high as 155 mph, any boost in the level of safety requirements for builders helps a home avoid disintegrating in a hurricane.

Tom Lee, a homebuilder and legislator, says past hurricanes have shown time and time again that the stricter codes help. He said during past hurricanes he looked at the damage by plane and could tell if a home was built before the new code.

“The structural integrity of our housing stock is leaps and bounds beyond what it was,” said Lee.

The codes call for shatterproof windows, fortified roofs and reinforced concrete pillars, among other specifications. But it wasn’t until 2007 that homes built in the Panhandle more than one mile from shore were required to follow the higher standards. And Hurricane Michael pummeled the region with devastating winds from the sea all the way into Georgia, destroying buildings more than 70 miles from the shoreline.

Gov. Rick Scott said it may be time for Florida to boost its standards — considered the toughest in the nation— even further.

“After every event, you always go back and look what you can do better,” Scott said. “After Andrew, the codes changed dramatically in our state. Every time something like this happens, you have to say to yourself, ‘Is there something we can do better?’”

Other coastal states should be paying attention, especially Virginia up into New England.  Hurricanes are only going to get more powerful as the Atlantic heats up, and it won't be long until a Michael-force hurricane takes aim at states without storm-resistant building codes and a lot of old buildings.

I loathe Rick Scott, but Florida does have the state's toughest storm building codes, and it's time that everyone else on the Atlantic Seaboard catches up.


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