Sunday, November 18, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Wipes Out The Orange

That sound you heard last night is the fork being stuck in the California GOP, effectively wiped off the map in the 2018 midterms as all 7 congressional districts in formerly red Orange County now belong to Team Blue.

California Democrats completed their sweep of the congressional delegation in Orange County on Saturday as Gil Cisneros defeated Young Kim, a Republican, to capture a fourth seat in what had once been one of the most conservative Republican bastions in the nation.

The victory by Mr. Cisneros, a philanthropist, was declared by The Associated Press. It completes what has amounted to a Democratic rout in California this year. Democrats set out to capture seven Republican-held seats where Hillary Clinton defeated President Trump in 2016, including four in Orange County. They won six of them.

Representative David Valadao, from the Central Valley, is the only Republican who survived the Democratic onslaught in those seven districts, according to The Associated Press. His margin has shrunk as mail-in votes have continued to be counted. The deadline for counting those votes in California is Dec. 7.

With Mr. Cisneros’s victory, Democrats now control all four House seats in Orange County — the birthplace of Richard M. Nixon and modern-day conservatism. The party also won supermajorities in the California Assembly and Senate, while the party’s candidate for governor — Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor — easily turned back a Republican challenge. Democrats control every statewide elected position in California.

Before this election, the 53-member California congressional delegation included 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Assuming Mr. Valadao keeps his lead, after this year’s midterms it will be 45 Democrats and eight Republicans.

Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Kim were competing for the seat left open after Representative Ed Royce, who has represented the area since 1993, decided not to seek re-election. Mr. Cisneros won by about 3,500 votes, receiving 50.8 percent of the votes cast.

And it's still possible that Valadao loses to Democrat TJ Cox as Valadao's lead has been cut to under 2,000 votes.  It's entirely possible that the Republican GOP delegation, a massive group compared to just about any other state at 14, will be 7 by the time January rolls around.  That would be just 13% of the state's delegation, a smaller percentage than Democrats have here in Kentucky (17%), Ohio (29%) or Indiana (22%).

If the Democrats are toast in the Rust Belt,  then the GOP is on the slab in California, and there's no real reason to think they're coming back anytime soon.  Pollster Stan Greenberg:

At first, the results looked like something of a stalemate. The Republican Party retained and even strengthened its hold on the Senate. President Trump’s approval rating was at 45 percent, one percentage point below his percentage of the popular vote in the 2016 election. Analysts said that Mr. Trump still knew how to get Republicans “excited, interested and turn them out” and that he had “deepened his hold on rural areas.”

In the days that followed, though, it became clear that Democrats had made substantial gains. Analysts I trusted concluded that this was because suburban and college-educated women issued “a sharp rebuke to President Trump” that set off a “blue wave through the urban and suburban House districts.” At first, I also believed that was the main story line.

But the 2018 election was much bigger than that. It was transformative, knocking down what we assumed were Electoral College certainties. We didn’t immediately see this transformation because we assumed that Mr. Trump and the polarization in his wake still governed as before.

First of all, Democrats did not win simply because white women with college degrees rebelled against Mr. Trump’s misogyny, sexism and disrespect for women. Nearly every category of women rebelled.

These conclusions are based on Democracy Corps’ election night survey for Women’s Voice Women’s Vote Action Fund and a study of the exit polls conducted for Edison and Catalist.

Yes, House Democrats increased their vote margin nationally among white women with at least a four-year degree by 13 points compared with the Clinton-Trump margin in 2016. But Democrats also won 71 percent of millennial women and 54 percent of unmarried white women (who split their votes two years earlier). In 2018, unmarried white women pushed up their vote margin for Democrats by 10 points. In fact, white women without a four-year degree (pollster shorthand for the white working class) raised their vote margin for Democrats by 13 points.

Overall, white women split their vote between Democrats and Republicans, but it is clear which way they are moving. Interestingly, the white college women who were supposed to be the “fuel for this Democratic wave” played a smaller role in the Democrats’ increased 2018 margin than white working class women, because the former were 15 percent of midterm voters and the latter 25 percent

Yes, white women made up 40% of the 2018 vote, but moving that needle from a 4-5% Trump win to an even split turned the overall election into a full 2% swing in favor of the Dems, and that turned this from 20-25 Dem seats to 40.

The other big move to Dems:  No national third party candidates stealing Dem votes among men.  In 2016, men voted 52%-41% for the GOP and nearly ten percent voted for a third party candidate.  In 2018, that went to 51%-47%.   That also made a huge difference.

Dems can win in 2020 by huge margins if voters keep dropping Trump.

Mississippi Turning

There's still one more Senate race to be decided next week, the runoff in Mississippi between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic candidate Mike Espy, and we could very well have another Doug Jones/Roy Moore situation in the works.

A U.S. Senate runoff that was supposed to provide an easy Republican win has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest, driving Republicans and Democrats to pour in resources and prompting a planned visit by President Trump to boost his party’s faltering candidate.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former congressman Mike Espy.

That Espy is attempting to become the state’s first black senator since shortly after the Civil War made her remarks all the more glaring. It has positioned him to take advantage not only of a substantial black turnout but of a potential swell of crossover support from those put off by Hyde-Smith’s campaign.

Espy remains the underdog in the conservative state, but Republicans with access to private polling say Hyde-Smith’s lead has narrowed significantly in recent days. Republicans need only to look to next-door Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones pulled out a surprise win last year, to stoke concern.

For Republicans, the Nov. 27 runoff is a chance for a slight expansion of their majority in the Senate, their one bright spot in this year’s midterm elections. If Hyde-Smith wins and Gov. Rick Scott keeps his lead in the Senate race in Florida, Republicans would have a senate majority of 53 to 47. A loss in Mississippi would give the GOP a 52-to-48 majority, only one up from the current razor-thin margin.

Trump’s campaign announced Saturday that he would hold rallies for Hyde-Smith in Tupelo and Biloxi the night before the election. The Republican National Committee, meantime, has two dozen staffers in Mississippi and plans to send more. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is also sending reinforcements and last week made a $700,000 ad buy.

The GOP is in full panic mode here and will most likely lock the state down as they did with Tennessee and Sen. Marsha Blackburn cruising to a easy win.  But -- and it's a big caveat here -- Hyde-Smith was appointed earlier this year and Mike Espy is a former Congressman, there's more than a bit of name recognition on Espy's side.

Republicans will almost certainly keep this seat, but it won't be a double-digit runaway win, either. 

If you're in the Magnolia State, you can make a difference next week!

Sunday Long Read: We Gotta Face The Face

 With all due respect to Pete Townshend...

You must have heard the cautionary tales
The dangers hidden on the cul-de-sac trails
From wiser men who've been through it all
And the ghosts of failures spray-canned up on the wall

Sheryl Sandberg was seething.

Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, top executives gathered in the glass-walled conference room of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It was September 2017, more than a year after Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity on its site, an early warning of the Kremlin campaign to disrupt the 2016 American election. Congressional and federal investigators were closing in on evidence that would implicate the company.

But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

“You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.

The clash that day would set off a reckoning — for Mr. Zuckerberg, for Ms. Sandberg and for the business they had built together. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

In Washington, allies of Facebook, including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, intervened on its behalf. And Ms. Sandberg wooed or cajoled hostile lawmakers, while trying to dispel Facebook’s reputation as a bastion of Bay Area liberalism.

This account of how Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg navigated Facebook’s cascading crises, much of which has not been previously reported, is based on interviews with more than 50 people. They include current and former Facebook executives and other employees, lawmakers and government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed confidentiality agreements, were not authorized to speak to reporters or feared retaliation.

Facebook declined to make Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg available for comment. In a statement, a spokesman acknowledged that Facebook had been slow to address its challenges but had since made progress fixing the platform.

Facebook really does need to be shut down, or at least, Zuckerberg and Sandberg need to be summarily fired and replaced by people who actually care about Facebook's users.  But this NY Times piece makes the strong case for the former, that Facebook isn't salvageable, and that they've done more damage to the US as a whole than just about any other corporate cancer in this country.

House Democrats really do need to come down on Facebook, and hard.

Meat The Press, Con't

With the CIA now firmly pointing the finger for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist and Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it appears that at least one Trump regime official has resigned over the White House's complicity in Khashoggi's grisly death.

A top White House official responsible for American policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned on Friday evening, a move that may suggest fractures inside the Trump administration over the response to the brutal killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

The official, Kirsten Fontenrose, had pushed for tough measures against the Saudi government, and had been in Riyadh to discuss a raft of sanctions that the American government imposed in recent days against those identified as responsible for the killing, according to two people familiar with the conversations. Specifically, she advocated that Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, be added to the list, and he ultimately was.

The exact circumstances of her departure are murky, and it is unclear whether her advocacy for a hawkish response to the killing angered some in the White House. When she returned to Washington, according to the two people, she had a dispute with her bosses at the National Security Council, where she had served as the director for the Persian Gulf region.

A representative for the council declined to comment. Ms. Fontenrose did not reply to messages seeking comment.

It gets worse, as the Turks are understandably pissed about having the Saudis run US hit squads in their back yard, and the White House is now trying to appease them as well.

President Donald Trump on Saturday declined to say whether American intelligence officials had implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, following reports the CIA had concluded the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's assassination.

"They haven’t assessed anything yet. It’s too early,” the president told reporters when asked if the CIA had assessed the crown prince's involvement, according to a pool report.

“It’s a horrible thing that took place, the killing of a journalist,” Trump said. “We’ll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday.”

Trump said that report will convey what members of the intelligence community "think the overall impact was, and who caused it, and who did it.” Trump also said he spoke with CIA Director Gina Haspel earlier in the day.

Upon departing the White House on Saturday morning for a trip to survey damage from wildfires in California, Trump heralded Saudi Arabia as a “spectacular ally” — two days after his administration leveled sanctions against 17 Saudi officials for Khashoggi's death. The president demurred on any potential involvement by the crown prince.

“As of this moment we were told that he did not play a role,” Trump told reporters. “We’re going to have to find out what they have to say.”

Trump also rejected a Thursday report by NBC News alleging that his administration is considering extraditing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in the hope of dissuading Turkish President Recep Erdogan from punishing the Saudis for Khashoggi’s murder.

“It’s not under consideration,” Trump said, adding that “we’re having a very good moment with Turkey,” and citing Erdogan’s release of American pastor Andrew Brunson in October.

Needless to say, this is a full-blown diplomatic nightmare and Trump is bending over backwards to make both Riyadh and Ankara happy, while each one would love for the US relationship with the other to crumble.  It also means somebody at the CIA definitely wants the Trump regime to dump the Crown Prince as the result of the leaked report late last week.

Trump is dithering on the report's contents, but it's pretty clear that the Crown Prince is responsible.  What happens from here is anyone's guess.  Say what you will about the CIA leaking for political reasons, but Trump has gone out of his way to piss off the intelligence community, and they were always able to make his life miserable.

They did just that this week.  There's a lesson there for Trump.
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