Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Last Call For What's Up With Team Aftab?

Kind of a big local story here in Cincinnati as the House race for OH-1 between GOP Rep. Steve Chabot and Democratic challenger Aftab Pureval has gotten very strange, and definitely not in a good way for the blue side.

A resignation and two firings have cast a pall on the campaign of Democratic congressional Aftab Pureval six days before the election.

His campaign manager Sarah Topy resigned late Tuesday night and two staffers were fired.

Now some see his challenge of Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, in jeopardy.

Pureval wouldn't say why other than "new information" came to light.

"Yesterday, I learned new information that led me to believe that members of my staff may not have lived up to that standard," Pureval said in a statement "We have dismissed those staff members. I do not want this issue to be a distraction in the final days, and therefore have accepted the resignation of my campaign manager."

In an interview with The Enquirer, Pureval gave little additional information. He wouldn't say what the new information was. He also wouldn't reveal the identity of the two staffers.

The staff shakeup comes on the eve of a hearing Thursday in front of the Ohio Elections Commission about whether Pureval improperly spent money from his local election campaign fund for his federal campaign.

The campaign came under a bigger cloud of suspicion with allegations a worker on Pureval's campaign posed as a Chabot campaign worker and infiltrated his campaign.

"While the actions of a few are inappropriate, we're proud of the campaign we've run," Pureval said yesterday.

Republicans see Pureval's troubles as not only assuring a Chabot victory, but also helping their candidates in the other races, including the close gubernatorial race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Rich Cordray.

"When something like this happens so close to the election, his supporters are probably starting to walk away from him," said Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party. "That might mean fewer supporters for the other Democrats on the ticket."

When asked who will manage the campaign in the final week, Pureval said local political consultant Jens Sutmoller will serve as chief of staff.

The latest two NYT polls in the last few weeks show Chabot up by a comfortable nine points after surveys earlier this fall showed Pureval within a couple of points, but if this turns into a campaign finance scandal with days to go, Pureval's done blue wave or not.

If there is a blue wave, there's no sign of it in Cincy.  OH-1 is an R+9 district, and Chabot is leading by that margin.  Unless the NY Times polls are badly overestimating Chabot, he's going to win.

We'll see.  Cincy readers, get out and vote.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent takes a look at the Trump regime "strategy" to hold the House and keep damage to a minimum, which apparently involves crafting different groups of lies to different blocs of Trump supporters that manage to contradict each other and could bring the whole GOP House firewall crashing down under a blue wave.

Republicans are mostly on defense in districts that are both economically prosperous and are filled with voters who are badly alienated by Trump. Why this disconnect?

One likely answer is that the story Trump has told about the economy — and the country — just isn’t resonating in many of these districts. That narrative is that immigration and globalization pose major threats to the well-being of Americans, and Trump is now acting on those threats, via stepped-up deportations from the interior, efforts to slash legal immigration and refugee flows, and trade wars. That, plus his tax cut, has created the supposed “Trump boom,” in stark contrast with the economy under Barack Obama, which is uniformly depicted as a pre-Trumpian hellscape.

At the same time, Trump and Republicans have distilled down Trumpism’s core narratives into a series of ludicrous and menacing cartoons for the GOP base’s consumption. Why? Brownstein’s analysis provides an answer: Because the bulwark against truly large GOP losses in the House is made up of many districts that are competitive but are also heavily populated with blue-collar, rural, small-town, exurban and evangelical whites. Hold off Democrats in all those districts, and if they win the majority, it will be a limited one.

And so, to galvanize those voters, Trump has directed bread-and-circuses belligerence at euro-weenie elites and China. He has employed endless lies and hate-mongering to hype the migrant “caravan” into a national emergency, and will send in troops as props to dramatize the point. Republicans are running ads absurdly depicting immigrants as criminals and invaders alongside many other ones that indulge in naked race-baiting. Trump is vowing an end to birthright citizenship, confirming the ethno-nationalist underpinnings of Trumpism and further fanning the xenophobic flames.

But Trump’s political team recognizes that all this risks a backlash among more-educated white voters. So this is the $6 million ad campaign that his team is running right now, that appears to be targeting those voters.

The split in GOP messaging is notable. While Republicans employ garish race-baiting to galvanize the hard-core white GOP base, this ad’s soft-focus messaging directed at white suburban women features none of that imagery. The spot’s iconic white suburban woman is obviously conflicted over her vote — we aren’t told why, but we know full well why — but finally checks the “Republican” box out of concern over her child’s economic future.

Yet the ad’s core narrative — the contrast of the Obama hellscape with the Trump boom — is an invention, and as the first study noted above suggests, it might not even resonate in these districts. What’s more, the Trump/GOP economic agenda is being dramatically falsified as well: Trump is promising a huge middle-class tax cut that isn’t going to happen, to obscure the truly regressive nature of the actual Trump/GOP tax cut, which lavished a huge windfall on the wealthy and corporations and as such is deeply unpopular.

Republicans are also running ads vowing to protect people with preexisting conditions, yet they have also locked themselves into opposition to Obamacare, which Democrats are now campaigning on protecting. As Ezra Klein explains, this has left Republicans with no alternative but to lie relentlessly to obscure the real GOP health-care agenda, which is to deregulate insurance markets and regressively strip protections and economic assistance from millions. This, too, is deeply unpopular.

Trump and Republicans are closing by lying about health care and taxes to limit losses among suburban and well-educated white voters, and lying about immigration while race-baiting against individual Democratic candidates to keep the downscale white GOP base energized. This probably won’t be enough for Republicans to keep the House. But whatever is to be on this front, the need to lie so relentlessly about all these matters itself constitutes an admission of failure. The public has seen Trump’s fusion of ethno-nationalism and orthodox GOP plutocracy put into governing practice, and is rejecting it.

So there you have it:  In order to keep the House, the GOP has to appeal to white college graduate women to keep the house (44% voted GOP in 2016) and to white women without degrees (61% voted GOP in 2016).  Together, they made up 37% of the electorate.  You have two different campaigns, based on two separate sets of lies.  They're getting crossed up, and it's not working.

In the final week we'll see how it goes, but should the blue wave become a blue tsunami, you'll know why.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Once again, I guarantee that GOP operative Roger Stone is going to be indicted after the midterms by the Mueller probe, and it's going to get very ugly, very quickly.  There's a reason that the bizarre and ultimately fruitless right-wing hatchet job that emerged this week of paying former associates of Mueller to fabricate sexual assault allegations, and it was a last-ditch effort to save Roger Stone from the dock as Mueller's trap jaws close in.

The special counsel investigation is pressing witnesses about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone’s private interactions with senior campaign officials and whether he had knowledge of politically explosive Democratic emails that were released in October 2016
, according to people familiar with the probe.

As part of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appears to be focused on the question of whether WikiLeaks coordinated its activities with Stone and the campaign, including the group’s timing, the people said. Stone and WikiLeaks have adamantly denied being in contact.

On Friday, Mueller’s team questioned Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, about claims Stone is said to have made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian operatives, according to people familiar with the session.

In recent weeks, Mueller’s team has also interviewed several Stone associates, including New York comedian Randy Credico and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Both testified before the grand jury.

Investigators have questioned witnesses about events surrounding Oct. 7, 2016, the day The Washington Post published a recording of Trump bragging about his ability to grab women by their genitals, the people said.

Less than an hour after The Post published its story about Trump’s crude comments during a taping of “Access Hollywood,” WikiLeaks delivered a competing blow to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by releasing a trove of emails hacked from the account of her campaign chairman John Podesta.

The group trickled out new batches of Podesta’s private messages nearly daily through the campaign’s final weeks, ensuring the stolen documents would vex Clinton’s campaign until Election Day.

Investigators have been scrutinizing phone and email records from the fall of 2016, looking for evidence of what triggered WikiLeaks to drop the Podesta emails right after the “Access Hollywood” tape story broke, according to people with knowledge of the probe.

In an interview this week, Stone vehemently denied any prior knowledge of the Podesta emails. He said he did not play any role in determining the timing of their release by WikiLeaks or suggest they be used to blunt the impact of the “Access Hollywood” tape.

It is unclear whether the special prosecutor has evidence connecting Stone to WikiLeaks’s activities. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, could have concluded on his own that releasing the emails on that day would benefit Trump.

The results of Mueller’s inquiry could answer the central question of his probe: whether there was coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian activities. Trump has repeatedly declared there was “no collusion.”

Again, if Steve Bannon is being questioned about Stone, and if you somehow don't believe Bannon will give up Stone to save his own slovenly hide, November is going to be a fun education for a lot of people.  There's always the chance Trump will pull the trigger sometime next week and make his move trying to get rid of Mueller, but I don't think he'll beat Mueller to the punch when it comes to saving Stone.

Still, anything's possible once the midterms are done with.  We'll see.


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