Thursday, February 6, 2020

Last Call For State Of The Hawkeye State

Some 72 hours later, we still don't know who won Iowa for sure, and that's because the process has been a clown show from beginning to end.  If Democrats survive all this, the first thing that needs to go is the caucus process, period.

Results from the Iowa Democratic caucuses were delayed by “quality control checks” on Monday night. Days later, quality control issues have not been resolved.

The results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

Some of these inconsistencies may prove to be innocuous, and they do not indicate an intentional effort to compromise or rig the result. There is no apparent bias in favor of the leaders Pete Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders, meaning the overall effect on the winner’s margin may be small.

But not all of the errors are minor, and they raise questions about whether the public will ever get a completely precise account of the Iowa results. With Mr. Sanders closing to within 0.1 percentage points with 97 percent of 1,765 precincts reporting, the race could easily grow close enough for even the most minor errors to delay a final projection or raise doubts about a declared winner.

The errors suggest that many Iowa caucus leaders struggled to follow the rules of their party’s caucuses, or to adopt the additional reporting requirements introduced since 2016. They show that the Iowa Democratic Party, despite the long delays, failed to validate all of the results fully before releasing them to the public.

Mandy McClure, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.), said the party reported the data as provided to it by the precinct caucuses.

“The caucus math work sheet is the official report on caucus night to the I.D.P., and the I.D.P. reports the results as delivered by the precinct chair,” she said. “This form must be signed by the caucus chair, the caucus secretary and representatives from each campaign in the room who attest to its accuracy. Under the rules of the delegate selection process, delegates are awarded based off the record of results as provided by each precinct caucus chair.”

Just about every election night includes reporting errors. They can be difficult to identify, but can often be corrected during a recount or a postelection canvass. This year’s Iowa caucuses are the reverse: Errors are now easy to identify, and hard to correct.

The errors are detectable because of changes to the way the Iowa Democratic Party reports its results, put in place after the Sanders campaign criticized the caucus results in 2016. This cycle, and for the first time, the party released three sets of results corresponding to different steps in the caucus process. The rules are complex and thorough, and they create conditions in which the results can be obviously inaccurate or inconsistent within a precinct.
First, caucusgoers express their preference for a candidate upon arrival, and these votes are recorded in a “first alignment.” Then, candidates with limited support at a precinct, usually less than 15 percent, are deemed not viable; their supporters get a chance to realign to support a viable candidate. The preference at this point is recorded as well, and it’s called the final alignment.

Viable candidates can’t lose support on realignment, but there were more than 10 cases where a viable candidate lost vote share in the final alignment, even though that is precluded by the caucus rules.

This was a mess, plain and simple.  DNC Chair Tom Perez is demanding a recanvass and at this point doing so might make the situation worse for the reasons mentioned above.

What's not in any doubt though is that Joe Biden needs to hit the ground running in NH, NV, and especially in SC or Bernie Sanders will be the nominee.

Neither the disaster of the Iowa Democrats’ caucus app nor the reporting delays change the reality: The former vice president of the United States and the front-runner in nearly all the national and Iowa polls came in a distant fourth, behind Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren. Now he must struggle to reassert himself and hope for a magical underdog story (hey, Bill Clinton turned himself into the Comeback Kid after placing second in the 1992 New Hampshire primary). But forget about advertising and campaign staff: It’s now an open question whether Biden will have the cash to pay for his charter plane to fly him around the 14 Super Tuesday states that vote on March 3.

Running short on money is a big part of why he ended up here at all.

After a disastrous summer of fundraising, plans from the team in Iowa and other states would linger with national headquarters for weeks, then come back without approval for the spending being requested. Other candidates were quickly hiring staff—particularly Buttigieg, who in June had all of four staffers in the state but went into the caucuses with 170—while Biden’s team was under an almost complete hiring freeze. The campaign yanked its TV ads, leaving Biden dark for weeks and exponentially outspent in online advertising by Warren and Buttigieg, who soon had the rising poll numbers to show for it. At one point, aides realized, Biden was on track to spend less on TV in Iowa in this race than in his 2008 run, when he finished as an asterisk, with 1 percent of the vote.

Biden aides who were being honest with themselves knew for months that they were in trouble. Some didn’t want to believe it; some couldn’t. Others felt like they’d gotten into a taxi with a driver who was swerving all over the road, and they were just holding on and hoping they made it to the end.

They hoped that Democrats’ obsession with beating Donald Trump and voters’ sense of personal connection to Biden would pull them over the edge. Trump had blundered into his own impeachment out of fear that Biden was strong. Now they were hoping the impeachment trial would help make up for his weakness. “We might win this,” one person who worked on the campaign told me the week before the caucuses, “and it might come down to nothing we’ve done.”

When Biden held his final pre-caucus rally at a middle school in Des Moines on Sunday afternoon, 1,100 people came—his biggest crowd in Iowa of the whole campaign. Eight people introduced him; four retired senators were in the crowd. But by the time he began speaking, the Super Bowl had started, and people were dribbling out of the room. An hour earlier, a few miles away in a high-school gym, Buttigieg had drawn twice as many people.

Biden will make it through Super Tuesday, all the candidates will.  Most will stay in through Big Tuesday at the halfway point of March. But after that?  After that this might be a done deal for somebody other than Joe.

Retribution Execution

It took less than a few hours from his Senate acquittal for Trump to start in with his latest round of targeting Americans as his political enemies in order to make them suffer for slighting him.  First up on the list: Puerto Rico.

The White House issued a veto threat Wednesday over a $4.7 billion emergency aid package intended to help Puerto Rico recover from a series of damaging earthquakes.

The statement came ahead of a vote planned for Friday in the Democratic-controlled House to pass the aid package.

It’s the latest in a series of confrontations between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over disaster assistance to Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory is still waiting on billions of dollars approved by Congress for recovery from Hurricane Maria more than two years ago, though the administration recently agreed to release some of the money subject to several conditions.

As part of that effort, Puerto Rico’s governor on Wednesday signed a grant agreement that is meant to allow the territory to access $8.3 billion in Department of Housing and Urban Development funding related to the hurricane.

Still rebuilding from the 2017 hurricane, Puerto Rico was hit by a series of earthquakes beginning in late December, including a 6.4-magnitude temblor on Jan. 7 that killed one person and caused widespread damage and power outages. Aftershocks have continued, with a 5-magnitude earthquake hitting just Tuesday.

The House Democrats’ $4.67 billion aid package would include $3.26 billion in community development block grants, $1.25 billion for repairs to roads, and tens of millions more for schools, energy and nutrition assistance.

The aid package was unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form.

In its veto message, the White House Office of Management and Budget called the House legislation “misguided.”

“Neither Puerto Ricans nor the American taxpayers benefit when emergency aid is misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse,” the veto message said. “Multiple high-profile cases of corruption have marred distribution of aid already appropriated and have led to ongoing political instability on the island

If "Trump is blocking aid because he says the government is corrupt but really he just wants to hurt people" seems a tad familiar to you, well, it's supposed to be, only Trump is doing it to an American territory and not, say, Ukraine.

And if you think that's bad, Trump is going directly after 2020 Democratic Candidate Michael Bloomberg, and all of New York for daring to defy him.

The acting secretary of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that New York state residents can no longer participate in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, due to provisions in the state's new "Green Light Law" supporting undocumented immigrants. 
The law, which went into effect in December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver's licenses while protecting applicants' information from immigration enforcement agencies. 
"Today, we sent a letter to New York indicating, because they took these measures, that New York residents are no longer eligible to enroll in these Trusted Traveler Programs," acting Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. 
New York state residents cannot "enroll or re-enroll" in the programs "because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements, so we need to do our job," Wolf added. 
The letter states that the Green Light Law will impede Immigration and Customs Enforcement's "objective of protecting the people of New York from menacing threats to national security and public safety," according to a copy obtained by Fox News and confirmed to CNN by a source familiar with the letter. 
Since the law "prevents DHS from accessing New York DMV records in order to determine whether a (Trusted Traveler Program) applicant or re-applicant meets program eligibility requirements, New York residents will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in CBP's Trusted Travel Programs," the letter adds. 
The letter lists four such programs that are managed by US Customs and Border Protection: Global Entry, which allows for faster clearance in customs for participants when they enter the US; NEXUS, which allows for quicker border crossing for qualified travelers between the US and Canada; Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), another program that allows for quicker clearance for qualified travelers when they arrive in the US; and the Free And Secure Trade (FAST) program, which allows for quicker clearance for commercial shipments crossing the US border from Canada or Mexico. 
The letter does not mention the Transportation Security Administration's Precheck program, in a seemingly targeted effort to punish New York for the law while limiting problems at airports for TSA.

Trump sent Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on Tucker Carlson's White Supremacist Power Hour to exclusively announce that the regime was punishing Bloomberg's state of New York, and my guess is this is only the first of many assaults on the Empire State as long as they keep defying Dear Leader (and as long as the State of New York continues its multiple cases against the Trump Organization.)

Again, this is happening mere hours after being acquitted on an abuse of power charge.

Meanwhile in the Department of "justice", Attorney General Bill Barr released new guidelines for investigating political candidates: any investigation of any presidential candidate or their top staff must now be approved by the AG and top officials first.

In the memo, Mr. Barr established a series of requirements governing whether investigators could open preliminary or full “politically sensitive” criminal and counterintelligence investigations into candidates or their donors.

No investigation into a presidential or vice-presidential candidate — or their senior campaign staff or advisers — can begin without written notification to the Justice Department and the written approval of Mr. Barr.
The F.B.I. must also notify and consult with the relevant leaders at the department — like the heads of the criminal division, the national security division or a United States attorney’s office — before investigating Senate or House candidates or their campaigns, or opening an inquiry related to “illegal contributions, donations or expenditures by foreign nationals to a presidential or congressional campaign.”

Past attorneys general have said that the department must take extra care with politically sensitive campaign-related investigations in an election year. But Mr. Barr is the first to require that the F.B.I. consult with the Justice Department before opening politically charged investigations.

Now everything has to go by Barr first before an investigation can even begin, meaning he can kill any probe into Trump, just in time for the election.  A policy of guaranteed interference by requiring interference in investigations sure seems like something you can trust this regime to do, right?

Oh, but it gets worse as Trump took his victory lap this afternoon from the White House East Room.

In an extended rant following his acquittal in the Senate, President Donald Trump on Thursday crowed over his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

“Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now,” Trump said.

He also complained about the investigations into him and his campaign.

“And we were treated unbelievably unfairly, and you have to understand we first went through Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said. “It was all bullshit.”

You can't make this up.  This has been just the last 24 hours.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The big takeaway from this week is that control of the Senate remains in play for the Democrats, at least according to the Cook Political Report team, but as I said yesterday, that means coming up with a pickup to offset Doug Jones's sacrifice.

Jones’s electoral prognosis was grim even before he announced today he will indeed vote to convict and remove President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial. That’s not a winning vote to take in a state Trump carried by 28 points four years ago, will easily win again this year and remains incredibly popular in. Our analysis that this race is moving away from Jones, no matter what he does, solely on the fundamentals would have been the same had he voted to acquit Trump.

Jones isn’t even among the most bipartisan senators. For the 115th Congress, the Lugar Center ranked Jones as the 36th in bipartisanship. FiveThirtyEight finds that Jones has voted with Trump 36.8% of the time, putting him behind other Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema. And he was also ranked behind all four Democrats who lost in 2018 — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Florida’s Bill Nelson and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly. Of that quartet of states, only North Dakota voted for Trump by a larger margin than Alabama.

On the other highest-profile vote of his career — the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh — Jones also voted with Democrats and against confirmation. The same is true for Jones as it is for the other most vulnerable Republican incumbents this cycle — there is ultimately little incentive for them to buck their party. A contradictory vote would likely do little anyway to woo a shrinking bloc of independent voters or even Republicans, and they all must rely on their base to win anyway. For Jones, he still needs Democrats for fundraising and support — and it’s been speculated a possible spot in a Democratic administration if he does lose re-election.

So for all those reasons, we are moving the Alabama Senate race from Toss-Up to the Lean Republican column, meaning it is the first to move into takeover territory for either party this cycle.

With this new calculus, Democrats now need a net gain of four Senate seats if they win the White House or five if they don’t. What this doesn’t change though is that the majority is still in play and that Democrats still have a path to getting there. It’s hard to see the Senate flipping if the White House doesn’t too, and there are still multiple paths to those four seats for Democrats. Three GOP incumbents remain in Toss Up — Arizona’s Martha McSally, Maine’s Susan Collins and Colorado’s Cory Gardner. North Carolina’s Thom Tillis is teetering on the edge of being there too, and we’ll have analysis in this Friday’s newsletter of how the impeachment trial and acquittal votes affect those endangered Republicans. Last month we moved both the Kansas and Georgia Senate races in Democrats’ favor. So while this is good news for Republicans, overall, they still have a tough task in defending their majority.

We'll see.  If we can get rid of Trump and Mitch as Senate leader, oh lord yes.


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