Saturday, August 3, 2019

Last Call For Trump's Queen City Blues

Donald Trump needs Ohio to win in 2020, and he needs Cincinnati and Hamilton County in order to win in Ohio.  Yes, Ohio is a red state right now.  But Trump's worried enough to keep holding rallies here 15 months before Election Day.

When President Trump railed against Baltimore and other diverse American cities as dangerous and “broken” during a campaign rally here this week, supporters cheered Trump's assessment.

“Our city is very chaotic politically,” said Alex Triantafilou, the Republican Party chairman in Hamilton County. “That resonates with people. People are moving a little further out, a little further out, whenever they can.”

But Trump’s rhetoric was also welcomed by David Pepper, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman from Cincinnati, who is heartened by recent polling that shows former vice president Joe Biden currently winning the state over Trump and 2018 midterm data that showed many suburban areas swinging away from the GOP.

“The irony is he is giving his speech here, in a city that is doing well,” Pepper said of Trump. “They are already losing Hamilton County suburbs. To the extent that he brings his rantings and ravings and tweets to town, to the extent that he comes to Cincinnati and Hamilton County, it's a symbol of where he is losing ground and why. We take it as a badge of honor that he and his campaign are coming back every week. They know they’re in trouble

Going around and calling Cincinnati a rodent-infested crime hellhole might not help him here, who knew?

Hamilton County is distinctly not Trump country. With about 800,000 people, the county is one of four in Ohio where Trump in 2016 underperformed compared to Mitt Romney four years earlier, losing by nearly 40,000 votes to Hillary Clinton even as he sailed to an eight-point victory statewide. The county has trended toward Democrats since 2008, when it flipped for the first time since 1964 for Barack Obama. Former Ohio governor John Kasich, one of Trump’s few Republican foes, won 60 percent of the county’s vote in 2014.

Trump’s campaign team is eager to buttress his support in places like Hamilton County, particularly given a July Quinnipiac poll that showed Biden beating Trump in the state by 50 percent to 42 percent. Biden was the only Democrat who topped Trump in the state, and some Democrats here said another nominee would struggle to defeat him.

Among the president’s campaign advisers, Ohio is seen as a likely win, though not a guarantee, and they want to compete strongly in places such as the Cincinnati suburbs. His early trip to the county, advisers said, showed how seriously they take the area.

Mike Dawson, the creator of an election statistics website who conducted an analysis of 2016 Ohio voting patterns for The Washington Post, said “the statistics would seem to indicate he's less popular” in the state but that his “significant win” in 2016 will be difficult for Democrats to overcome.

“Hamilton is probably never going to vote Republican again,” Dawson said. “In nonpresidential years, Ohio is clearly a red state. In presidential years, it's not quite so clear.” 

Ohio is red for now, but how red remains to be seen.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Donald Trump thinks he can win reelection by picking off black voter support, because I guess he believes black voters like myself are so colossally stupid that "Send her back" is okay because it deals with those blacks and not "the good ones" or something.

Critics may find the timing of the outreach outrageous. But the campaign hopes that if it can shave just a few points off Democrats’ overwhelming support among blacks, it can boost voter turnout in eight or so key states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — each of which Trump won by less than one percentage point.

The campaign’s pitch to African Americans is simple: Ignore the president’s words and instead focus on his policies, like the state of the economy and the low unemployment rate, the passage of criminal justice reform or the creation of Opportunity Zones, which are meant to bolster investment in underserved or poorer cities.

When Trump took office in January 2017, the unemployment rate among blacks was 7.7 percent. Friday’s jobs report pegged it at 6 percent for July.

“Do I think some of his verbal formulations are in artful? Yeah,” said Ken Blackwell, the former mayor of Cincinnati, former Ohio Secretary of State and a top Trump transition official. “But for me, as a domestic policy adviser during the Trump transition, it has been all about the agenda, a set of results and tomorrow. You have to believe his policy agenda flies in the face of the false narrative of the racist-in-charge.”

But for others, the Trump rhetoric cannot be divorced from his record, and critics argue he must take responsibility for that as president. A recent Quinnipiac University National Poll, released on July 30, showed that 80 percent of African American voters surveyed considered Trump racist.

“The idea is that, because of his agenda, his comments on Charlottesville, Baltimore or shithole countries do not matter,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and the first African American to serve in that role. “Or that you can say the most racist things in the world, but hey, I got a tax cut. Or you can disparage my homeland, but the unemployment rate is going down.”
Which is the point.  Donald Trump thinks we should be grateful to him. The implied "I could make it a lot worse for you" remains, well, implied.

“I certainly think we should expect more from our political leaders,” Steele said. “I would think they would expect more from us.”

Trump has regularly defended himself by saying “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.” He told reporters recently that scores of African Americans have been calling the White House to thank him for his work. “What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done,” Trump said this week from the White House lawn, as he left Washington for an event in Jamestown, Va., that all of the state’s black lawmakers boycotted.
Republicans have struggled for decades to make inroads with African American voters. Trump earned just 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, while Democrat Hillary Clinton won 89 percent. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney performed even worse in 2012, earning just 6 percent of the African American vote against President Barack Obama.

President George W. Bush did the best in recent years. He earned 11 percent of the African American vote in 2004, up from 8 percent in 2000, by appealing to conservative, religious voters.

Granted, going from 8 to 11% of black voters in a state like Georgia or NC or Michigan might be the couple thousand votes he needs to win, true.  But I think it's going to be a lot more likely that he goes from 8% to zero.

Cramer Versus Crazier

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was one of several red state Democrats who lost in the 2018 elections to Republicans by completely failing to thread the needle between too much Trump love and being called Socialist baby-killing traitors by Trump daily.  She was replaced by Republican Kevin Cramer, your basic frack and drill type.  But this week, the freshman senator got a lesson in "never trust Donald Trump".

A Republican senator held up the confirmation of a White House budget official this week in an attempt to obtain sensitive information about border wall contracts he has been trying to steer to a major donor, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

The emails show Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) blasting the “arrogance” of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after senior military officials told him the contracts contained sensitive, proprietary information provided by the companies that could not be shared.

In recent months, Cramer has touted his preferred construction firm, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, and campaign finance records show the senator has received thousands of dollars in contributions from company chief executive Tommy Fisher and his family members.

Cramer put a temporary hold this week on the confirmation of Michael Wooten, a nominee for a senior post at the White House Office of Management and Budget. After Wooten was confirmed Thursday, Cramer lashed out at the Army Corps in private emails when he was told the contracting bids contain sensitive information.

“This is a woefully inadequate response and not what I was promised by the White House as a condition for releasing my hold on the confirmation of the nominee for the Federal Procurement Officer,” Cramer wrote, copying others at OMB, the White House and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The fact that you all claim secrecy without [citing] statute makes me very suspicious,” he wrote. “I have decided to stay in DC another day and would like to see General Semonite in my office tomorrow.”

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the top official at the Army Corps, went to Cramer’s office Friday to provide the senator with a private briefing. Cramer’s office released a statement afterward, vowing to hold the military engineers “accountable.”

“We received an update on wall construction and the bidding process, as well as a number of documents and the answers to questions we requested from the Army Corps,” the statement said. “I believe we have their attention and are in a position to succeed.”
Trump has redirected $3.5 billion in Defense Department funds to the border project and promised to build 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election. Cramer said the president has bestowed him with special responsibilities to oversee progress.

“President Trump deputized Senator Cramer to work with the Army Corps to ensure their process is fair, transparent, and delivers the best possible deal for the American people,” Cramer’s statement read.

So Cramer took Trump at his word that he would be getting those construction contracts for his state, like he was  bribed publicly...I mean "lobbied" get.  But that didn't happen.  Cramer then kicked up a fuss and brought in the Washington Post to let everyone know Trump screwed him over.

The question is how far Cramer is willing to take this, because we know how far Trump is.

Here's the kicker.

The North Dakota senator has repeatedly promoted Fisher, and Trump too has joined the effort, pitching the company in meetings at the White House and aboard Air Force One that have troubled military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials.

They say it is highly unusual for a president to intervene on behalf of a private company seeking billions in federal contracts, and one of the reasons the Army Corps has long managed the procurement process is the military’s reputation for integrity and rectitude.

Well maybe that was true before, but all of you work for Trump now.  Those days are over.

Moscow Mitch And His Corrupt Comrades

Mitch McConnell is really, really pissed off at this whole "Moscow Mitch" nickname, connecting him to Russian oligarchs and Vladimir Putin. His ties to Oleg Deripaska and the fact the Putin stooge dropped a $200 million investment in aluminum mill in Kentucky are common knowledge around here, but apparently the rest of the country is only just finding this out now, and Mitch and his Russian friends are responding with a full-on PR blitz as Democrats call for McConnell to be investigated.

Braidy Industries, which is developing a new Kentucky aluminum mill partially backed by the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, has hired a firm with ties to Sen. Mitch McConnell (r-Ky.) to give the project a public relations boost as Democrats raise concerns about the initiative.
The firm, RunSwitch PR, was co-founded in 2012 by Scott Jennings — a former McConnell aide and CNN political commentator who ran a super PAC in support of the Senate Majority Leader called Kentuckians for Strong Leadership. Braidy hired RunSwitch in July “following recommendations from fellow business leaders naming them the best statewide media relations agency,” a Braidy spokesman said.

The public relations push comes amid Democratic calls for the Trump administration to review Rusal’s $200 million investment in the aluminum mill project, which was made possible by the Treasury Department’s decision in January to lift sanctions on Rusal and other companies owned by Oleg Deripaska — a Russian oligarch and Kremlin ally accused of facilitating Moscow’s nefarious activities.

“As a rapidly growing business headquartered in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we engage a number of top-notch advisers and counselors without regard for their political affiliation,” the Braidy spokesman said.

A spokesperson for RunSwitch, where Jennings is a partner, said the firm is “frequently hired by companies with Kentucky projects and interests.”

“We are proud to work with Braidy Industries, a project with widespread bipartisan support that offers economic hope to a region that has taken a number of hits over the last several years,” the spokesperson added. “We believe the scurrilous attacks on Braidy are inaccurate and generated by people who want to see Eastern Kentucky fail if it means scoring political points, which is pretty pathetic.”

Jennings will not be working on the project himself.

The Braidy mill is projected to cost $1.7 billion. According to the company, it will produce aluminum for the food and auto industries and not for the Defense Department, a concern Democrats have raised in their push for a review of the Rusal investment for possible national security implications.

And of course Trump regime sanctions on Deripaska's Rusal corporation have been eliminated.  Senate Democrats would like a word with Braidy and Rusal.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is stepping up calls for a national security review of a Russian aluminum company's plans for a mill in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), calling the project "deeply concerning."

“Rusal’s proposed investment in a Kentucky rolling mill is deeply concerning," Wyden said in a statement Wednesday. "The deal was announced just three months after the Senate voted to lift sanctions on Rusal, and now we learn that Majority Leader McConnell’s former staff have been lobbying for the project. The American people need to have confidence that this deal is in the country’s best interest."

Wyden called for a probe by a federal agency which reviews the national security implications of foreign deals in June but is ramping up those calls after a report that two former McConnell staffers lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the project.

Hunter Bates and Brendan Dunn, both of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, lobbied on the development by the Russian aluminum company Rusal, Politico reported Wednesday. Akin Gump is retained by Braidy Industries, a Kentucky company, partnering with Rusal on the project. Rusal is owned by a Putin-connected Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.

"The department needs to take potential harm to national security from Rusal’s proposed investment seriously,” Wyden told Politico in a statement responding to their story.

Deripaska faces U.S. sanctions, but Rusal won sanctions relief from the Treasury Department and it announced in May that its board approved a $200 million investment, The New York Times reported at the time.

The project in Kentucky has brought scrutiny from Democrats, who have been calling on the Trump administration to review Rusal’s investment into the project over concerns about Russian influence.

Mitch is definitely worried about how "Moscow Mitch" will play out over the course of his reelection campaign here in Kentucky, worried enough that he's risking an obvious payola charge to big name PR firms in order to dig himself out of this hole.

He doesn't have a choice, though.  Storming out on to the Senate floor and railing against the Moscow Mitch moniker told every political journalist in America that there's a story here, and a big one.  Even the local boys are daring to ask. Joe Gerth:

McConnell, who has in the past embraced nicknames given him by his opponents — from the “Grim Reaper” to “Darth Vader” to “Cocaine Mitch” — took to the floor of the Senate on Monday and decried those impugning his character.

Why did this upset him so, while he has embraced others?

Maybe it hit too close to home.

Perhaps, he knows our democracy is at risk and he’s not doing enough to protect it. Maybe he knows that his legacy won’t be the conservative judges he puts on the federal bench after all.

Maybe he knows the legacy of “Moscow Mitch” will be that he looked the other way when he thought Russian influence could help him and his party and that he harmed America in the process.

But if he thought the floor speech would make the nickname go away, it was a terrible error in strategy, because it revealed something that can get under the old sphinx's skin.

Memes abound on the internet with McConnell wearing Russian fur hats. The Democratic Party of Kentucky is selling Moscow Mitch shirts.

Throughout our history, our politicians who have stood up to the Russians are the ones who have become heroes. Kennedy. Reagan.

We don't honor those who capitulate.

And if you believe this isn't going to come up repeatedly at Fancy Farm this weekend, I've got some ocean-front property to sell you in Severo-Yeniseysky

Fancy Farm, the annual candidate forum picnic that's Kentucky's biggest political event of the year, is today.  Kentucky's usually moribund Democratic party is gleefully selling Moscow Mitch gear as a fundraiser and they are raking in thousands.  Bet on this being the story this weekend.

And this ad is now running here in Kentucky.

Moscow Mitch is scared, folks.  Maybe for the first time in his Senate career.

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