Weekend Open Thread for December 15-17, 2017

Welcome to another weekend. Please be sure to check back tomorrow at Noon ET for our latest House Ratings! Next week, we will have regular roundups through Wednesday (or Thursday if news warrants) and then transition to a slower holiday schedule for the rest of the year. But first, an international election to preview:

This Sunday Chile is having its presidential runoff. Chile has a population of 18M and a land area slightly larger than Texas, hugging a roughly 2000-mile long by 50-mile wide strip between the Pacific and the Andes on the southwest coast of South America. Chile’s politics are still defined by its late-20th century dictatorship history under Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country for most of the 70s and 80s. Pinochet’s legacy is a more mixed one than most dictators. Pinochet made the nation from a copper-dependent middle-income resource extraction state into South America’s only bona-fide first world country and an economic dynamo with his free market policies, but he was also responsible for myriad abuses of power, most notably “disappearances” of regime rivals. Since the fall of the dictatorship in the late 80s, the center-left has generally been Chile’s dominant power due to memories of Pinochet being a problem for the center-right but the country’s embrace of largely free-market economics being a problem for the far-left. Chile’s president serves a four-year term and is not eligible for immediate re-election, but can return after sitting out a term, and that looks like what is most likely to happen here. Incumbent Michelle Bachelet is deeply unpopular for a series of corruption scandals as well as economic mismanagement. Ex-President Sebastian Pinera, who is mounting a comeback bid, came in first in the preliminary round last month. Pinera’s 2009 win was the only time the center-right (known as “Chile Vamos”, or Let’s Go) has captured the Presidency since the fall of Pinochet. Pinera was a wealthy businessman before winning the presidency on a moderately conservative platform. Ideologically and personality wise, a very apt analogy for Pinera might be Romney; he has been known as a competent administrator if somewhat awkward personality-wise. Pinera had been considered the front-runner for the duration of the campaign, but he underperformed polls in November with a weaker-than-expected 37%, with two left-of-center candidates taking 42% and a scattering of ideologically-diverse candidates getting the last fifth. He now heads to a runoff with center-left Senator Alejandro Guillier (of the “New Majority” Party), who took second with 22%. Guiller is a fairly typical mainstream center-left social democrat of the type Chile has had strong affinity for during the last three decades. Working in Guillier’s favor is that a far-left candidate (who endorsed him for the runoff) took 20% last month. Those first-round numbers are problematic for Pinera, but polling has shown the runoff very competitive. It looks like the race could go either way.

Now this week’s questions:

1. What do this week’s Alabama results mean for 2018?

2. Who is a politician you would expect to be caught in the #pervnado in the near future?

And because it’s the weekend….same as it ever was HERE!


Political Roundup for December 15, 2017


MN-Sen: Rep. Keith Ellison (D) will not run in the special election for the seat that Sen. Al Franken (D) is resigning. Ellison earlier had indicated he would consider running. He endorsed Sen.-designate Tina Smith (D), who seems to be clearing the field for her to run virtually unopposed on the Democratic side. State Sen. Melisa Franzen (D) says she is still considering running, either for the special election next year or for the full term in 2020.

TN-Sen: A Gravis poll of the Tennessee Senate race on the surface looks good for ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) as he leads Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) and ex-Rep. Stephen Fincher (R). But the lead over Blackburn, the Republican frontrunner is a mere 2 points, 42%-40%(he leads Fincher 42%-38%) and comes mainly from him having higher support from his own party than does Blackburn, likely coming from Blackburn’s lower name recognition in heavily Republican East Tennessee, far from her West and Middle Tennessee-based congressional district. As support coalesces behind the eventual Republican nominee, Bredesen will find it tough to maintain that already slim lead.


AZ-2: Lea Marquez-Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the first Republican to enter the race for this seat. Marquez-Peterson is running while expecting that Rep. Martha McSally (R) will run for Senate, even though McSally has not announced publicly what her plans are. She says she has talked with the congresswoman and told her that she planned to run for the House seat as soon as word leaked that McSally was likely to run for Senate. She says she will pull out of the race if McSally ultimately decides to run for re-election to the House seat. Other Republicans said to be contemplating a run if the seat is open are Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller and Douglas City Councilman DJ Morales.

HI-1: Attorney General Doug Chin (D) is said to be gearing up to run for Congress. He would join state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D), state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D), and Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin (D) in running for the seat Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) is giving up to run for governor. Others, including party switching state Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R->D) are considering running as well.

TX-27: Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) is not running for re-election. Since the filing deadline has already passed, there is no “Great Mentioner” on who might run, but check our post from yesterday on discussion about the other Republicans who have filed for the race.

WI-1: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) is planning to retire next year, according to an article in Politico where they conducted interviews from three dozen people who all said they don’t believe he will stay in Congress beyond next year. Ryan however when asked about the report and whether he was planning to quit said “I’m not, no.” Ryan’s departure could put the seat into play for Democrats, although they still would seem to be at a disadvantage. Trump won the seat by 10 points last year, an improvement over Romney’s 4 point win in 2012.


AR-Gov: Jared Henderson, former state director of Teach for America says he plans to run for governor as a Democrat. The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party says he doesn’t know of anyone else right now planning to run. So it looks like Henderson may be the party’s sacrificial lamb to take on Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R).

CT-Gov: Oz Griebel, CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, is planning to run for governor, according to sources close to him. It is not clear however which party he will run to represent, although he did run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, finishing 3rd. He would join a crowded field of candidates either running or exploring the race in either the Republican or Democratic parties.

TN-Gov: Rep. Diane Black (R) fares the best of any of the Republican candidates for governor in the Gravis poll(same poll that polled the Senate race). Black leads ex-Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (D) 40%-31% and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D) 42%-27%. State House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) and businessman Randy Boyd both have smaller leads over Dean, while Harwell has a larger lead over Fitzhugh than Black. State Sen. Mae Beavers (R) trails Dean, but leads Fitzhugh.

WY-Gov./WY-SOS: Secretary of State Ed Murray (R) has been accused of sexual harassment in an incident that occurred 35 years ago. The accusation was made in a Facebook post by a former coworker. Murray firmly denies that the incident described ever took place and says he doesn’t know why the woman would make the allegation. He has indicated an interest in running for governor next year, but has not yet entered the race.


KY-HD-49: Rebecca Johnson, the widow of state Rep. Dan Johnson (R) who committed suicide on Wednesday in light of sexual assault allegations, says she will run in the special election to fill the seat. Ex-state Rep. Linda Belcher (D), whom Johnson defeated last year, has expressed interest in running as well. Belcher was first elected to the seat in 2008, after her husband who had held the seat was killed in a car accident-potentially setting up a race between two widows of former representatives. Belcher was re-elected in 2010, lost in 2012 and then came back in 2014 before losing again in 2016.

MN-AG: St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark (D) has announced he will run for Attorney General. Clark noted the awkwardness of running for AG when current AG Lori Swanson (D) has not announced her plans, but many expect she will run for governor. Clark joins state Rep. Debra Hilstrom (D), ex-state Rep. Ryan Winkler (D) and attorney Matt Pelikan as Democrats who have announced they are running.


Australia: The second of two by-elections called because of MPs having dual citizenship is this weekend. The Coalition easily retained the New South Wales seat of New England two weeks ago, returning National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to office. A much closer race is expected tomorrow in the New South Wales seat of Bennelong. Bennelong has been a Liberal Party stronghold, and was held from 1974 to 2007 by former Prime Minister John Howard with Labor winning it only in 2007 when Howard and the Coalition went down in a landslide. John Alexander picked the seat back up for the Liberal Party in 2010, held it relatively easily in the last two elections and is running to regain his seat. But Labor has put up a high profile candidate for the seat-former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally. The race is important as the Coalition needs to hold the seat to preserve their 1 seat majority; losing it would require them to rely on an independent member who has pledged to support them on confidence and supply, but vote freely on other issues. The most recent poll puts the Coalition ahead of Labor on a two party preferred basis by 6 points.


TX-27: Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) will Duck Out of Re-election Run

Fourth-term Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) will not seek re-election after being caught up in the #pervnado. Farenthold admitted he had settled a lawsuit from a former staffer, Lauren Greene, alleging sexual harassment, for $85K three years ago. A second accusation of innapropriate behavior this week made his position increasingly untenable. Making the situation a bit complicated is that Farenthold had already filed for re-election before the filing deadline closed this week. However, he had drawn two serious primary challengers for his R+13 TX-27 stretching from Corpus Christi north to Victoria and on to rural areas on the southern outskirts of Austin, and those will now be the major candidates for the open seat. Water board member Bech Bruun (R) seems to be the front-runner, but Victoria County GOP chair Michael Cloud (R) is also running a serious campaign and has Ron Paul’s endorsement (who represented most of this seat in the 2000s). Democrats did not put up a serious candidate for this seat as best I can tell, and without Farenthold their long odds probably go down to a negligible level.


Political Roundup for December 14, 2017

As the weather this early morning in Pittsburgh resembles the electoral chances of Republicans in 2018, it is time for today’s roundup:

Congress / National

Republican Fear:  The New York Times has a great article articulating the rampant fear running through the Republican ranks and those who really just want out of town because the place has become such a freak show in the Era of the Donald:

  1. PA-15: Representative Charlie Dent (R) might resign early to take a TV gig giving the Democrats a special election pickup opportunity.
  2. AZ-Sen: Republicans are scared that Senator John McCain (R-War Hero) might resign or die soon and the strongest candidate to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake (R), Representative Martha McSally (R-McCain’s Political Heir) might be appointed to replace McCain instead of nominated to replace Flake.  Such a switch might leave Chemtrails Kelli Ward (R-Crazytown) as the Republican nominee to replace Flake since former Representative Trent Franks (R-Creep) resigned due to his efforts to impregnate staffers.
  3. NV-Sen: National Republicans plan to aggressively attack Ward along with perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian (R-Used to be sane) who’s trying to primary Senator Dean Heller (R) for not being conservative enough and not being a Trump sycophant.
  4. MS-Sen:  Speaking of nuts, Chris McDaniel (Confederacy) is still leaning towards a primary run against Senator Roger Wicker (R).  Dirty Roy’s loss is not scaring this Bannon sycophant away.  Here is more on McDaniel as well.
  5. UT-Sen:  Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson (D) is running against Senator Orrin Hatch (R), who might or might not run depending on how much Hatch is pushed by President Trump to prevent former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Adult in Room) from being anointed Senator-For-Life.

Iowa:  President Trump is wildly unpopular in Iowa.  Trump has a 35% approval rating in a state he won by 10% a year ago.  In addition, similar numbers find the country heading in the wrong direction.  Iowans give their state good numbers though with 47% to 40% saying the state is heading in the right direction.  Not surprising seeing the Republicans won a state Senate seat in Iowa on Tuesday by 8% when Trump won it by 40% in 2016.

AZ-Sen:  Speaking of McCain, his health is taking a turn for the worse.  He is in our thoughts.

Infrastructure:  Seeing that the Donald is mortally wounded, Democrats are not going to put any effort into reaching a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

Obamacare:  Repeal of Obamacare is now dead with the Democrats winning AL-Sen.

Trump/AL-Sen:  President Trump was relatively well behaved after Dirty Roy Moore’s loss on Tuesday.  Politico says advisers attribute it to Trump being prepared for the loss beforehand and not really liking Dirty Roy in the first place.

The Perverts and Enablers

AL-Sen:  Dirty Roy Moore (R-Jesus Sometimes) refuses to concede defeat.  His steadfast hypocrisy makes you wonder if he is a distant relative of former PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D-Persisted Too Much).

NV-4:  A second accusation of sexual misconduct has been made against Representative Ruben Kihuen (D). Kihuen just had to behave himself and he could have had a relatively comfortable career in Congress representing a district that will only get safer for him.

OH-9: Representative Marcy Kaptur (D) is in water hotter than Lake Erie has ever been over comments she reportedly made that have been interpreted as “slut-shaming”.  I suspect such statements will enrage some in her district, but will likely not enrage that many considering the demographics of the seat.


MN-Lt. Gov/MN-State Senate: The appointment of Lt. Governor Tina Smith (DFL) to the US Senate will elevate State Senate President Michelle Fischbach to Lt. Governor while she remain President of the Senate.  This is consequential to the extent that Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) is battling cancer.


MN-Sen (S): Gov. Dayton Appoints LG Tina Smith (D) to Franken’s Seat

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has appointed his closest confidante, LG Tina Smith (D), to the Senate seat of Al Franken (D) – who has still not yet resigned. Contrary to the initial reports, Smith will run in the 2018 special election to fill the seat, and will probably start the race as the clear front-runner in both the Dem primary and the general election; however, Smith is probably not imposing enough to avoid some serious opposition in the primary or general; in particular, Rep. Keith Ellison (D) seems like the type who could buck the establishment and pose a serious threat. For the general, Republicans’ top candidate at the moment is probably ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is considering the race and probably won’t be scared by Smith, who has never won an election on her own, as he might have been by, say, popular AG Lori Swanson (D).

The other wrinkle in this is what might happen to the LG seat; Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R) is set to become the state’s #2, but that may be a bad deal for her as she would give up 3 years as Senate president for 1 as LG. (Update: Or maybe not – in 1898 it appears that the MN Supremes decided that a State Senator can be LG and remain in the Senate however there was a constitutional amendment 80 years ago that may or may not override that 1898 precedent. This could be decided in court). See our Great Mentioner here for more detailed speculation as to who may run in the special election.


Political Roundup for December 13th, 2017

Bless your heart, Steve Bannon. In other news from last night, Jim Carlin (R) held IA-SD-3 by a narrower-than-expected 8-point margin.


Please, no Moore: Unsurprisingly,The Economist nailed the dynamics of yesterday’s special senatorial election in Alabama. It also correctly pointed out the needle Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) would need to thread to win.

Heritage, Not Hate: Those that fail to learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. Inspired by the Donald’s blaming of “both sides” during a standoff between white supremacists and their opponents, The Economist was inspired to look into the nationalist/populist infatuation with the Confederate battle flag. What did it find? The brand of anti-elitism preached by Steve Bannon (“R”-His Delusions) and his ilk was once shared by two important groups: 1) those fighting for the Confederacy, and 2) many northerners who saw the abolitionist movement as an elite conspiracy to free up a source of cheap labor.

Whataboutism: Politico looks at the evolution of Trump enthusiasts’ defense of their hero’s alleged sexual assaults since the October 2016 Access Hollywood tape leak.

Steve Bannon, Great Populist: ICYMI, defender of the common man Steve Bannon (“R”-Hidden) attacked Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough (I-New Canaan) on an Alabama stage days before the state’s special senatorial election. For what? Bannon, a Georgetown and Harvard alum, exclaimed that he went to better schools than did Scarborough. Where, exactly, is Scarborough’s alma mater? …the University of Alabama. Please tell me more about Bannon’s political savvy.

Taxes: Many billionaires (read: donors) are saying that they don’t find the current tax bills tremendous. Sad!

Only the Best (No, Really): Arguing that the parties are more divided than they’ve been since the Civil War, Mort Kondracke calls for a moderate revolution composed of “the best.” Who? Those that would set aside their differences to work toward civility and common-sense solutions.

Party ID: Since the 2016 election, the GOP has seen a marked drop in partisan identification.


Democrats: Citing inadequate responses to the #pervnado, younger congressional Democrats are calling for a passing of the leadership torch on Capitol Hill.

Bipartisan Friendships: Who said bipartisan friendships on Capitol Hill are dead? Read this article to find out which New York Democrats(!) are legitimate friends of Ted Cruz(!!) and Louie Gohmert(!!!).

MN-Sen: Governor Mark Dayton (D-Target) plans to name a replacement at 10:00 AM today for latest pervnado casualty, Stuart Smalley Al Franken (D-SNL).

TX-27: Duck, duck, goo… The Houston Chronicle breaks down the candidates aiming to take out the four-term ducky pajama wearer Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

AL-Sen: Last night, Doug Jones accomplished an unprecedented historical feat: he subdued Donald Trump.

The States

IL-Gov/C[r]ook County Assessor: A recent investigation by the Chicago Tribune revealed C[r]ook County Assessor Joe Berrios (D-Chicago)’ corrupt handling of property tax appeals. To wit, wealthy donors were able to get their property taxes reduced; many got reductions significantly below market value. Accordingly, on Monday, Governor Bruce Rauner (R-Winnetka) demanded that Berrios resign. One of Rauner’s potential Democratic opponents, Heir Extraordinaire J.B. Pritzker (D-Chicago), attacked Rauner. Apparently, the governor and the paper were on a “witch hunt.”

MA-Gov/Zoning: Massachusetts Gubnah Chahlie Baykah (R-Swampscott) has latched onto a popular issue: building more housing in Massachusetts. More residential development which would keep housing affordable and boost the economy. His solution? Eliminating the biggest stumbling block: the state’s supermajority requirement for zoning changes.

#StandWithWendy: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has graced the hoi polloi with an update on the plans of Wendy Davis (D-Austin) and her pink sneakers. Davis, who ruled out a 2018 gubernatorial bid, is apparently not (yet) ruling out a 2022 gubernatorial bid. Surely, Texas will be dark blue by then.

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