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Can a blue wave take down Cruz in Texas?

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There probably won’t be any surprises in the Senate race there: Incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke are clear favorites to win their respective primaries.
So the bigger question after tonight is whether O’Rourke, who outraised Cruz last quarter[1] and has been aggressively campaigning throughout the state[2], can ride a blue wave to victory in November.
While O’Rourke certainly has a shot of winning, there are a number of reasons why Democrats should not to get their hopes up.

1. Experts agree Cruz is heavily favored to win

There hasn’t been a lot of polling in the race (more on that in a moment), but observers mostly agree that Cruz is “likely” to win. That is, on a scale that goes solid to likely to lean to toss-up, Cruz’s chances are more towards the “solid” than the “toss-up”. This includes CNN[3] in its race ratings, which has the race as likely Republican.
But just what exactly does likely mean? My old colleague at FiveThirtyEight Nate Silver went back[4] and looked at Senate races since 2010 to see how many times Senate races were won by the side that was “likely” to win in race ratings at this general point in the cycle.
The answer was 85% of the time. Now, saying that Cruz has an 85% chance of winning doesn’t mean the race is over. It’s approximately equivalent to a person tossing a coin three times in the air and it landing on heads each of those times. I’m sure you’ve seen that happen many times. Chances are, though, that it won’t.

2. The fundamentals suggest Cruz is heavily favored

When there’s a general lack of polling, another way of determining the odds on a race is to look at the fundamentals. These include factors such as how the national environment looks (based on the generic ballot), whether the incumbent is running for reelection and the lean of the state on the presidential level (usually measured by examining the last two presidential races).
While the generic ballot heavily favors Democrats, the other two factors don’t. Cruz is an incumbent, and incumbents usually receive an added boost[5]. And remember, Donald Trump won Texas by 9[6], and Mitt Romney won it by 16. In other words, it’s still a heavily Republican leaning state as far as we know.
When statistician Dean Strachan looked[7] at these factors back in December, he gave Cruz an 84% chance of winning. That’s quite similar to where the expert ratings put the race. A race O’Rourke could win — though will probably not.

3. The scant polling that does exist favors Cruz

We have not had a non-partisan poll of the race that meets CNN standards in nearly a year. The two surveys that have been released in the past three months have been from a Democratic-leaning outside group and Cruz’s own campaign. That doesn’t leave us with a lot of confidence in the polling in the race. Still, both surveys had Cruz comfortably ahead — and the average of the two gave Cruz a 14 percentage point advantage.
Until we get more surveys in the race, it’s a little difficult to assess what exactly the polling is saying. Just remember that the January to June polling average before the election[8] in Senate races from 2006 to 2014 had an average error of 6.8 percentage points, and a 14 point lead translates into winning 95% of the time. If the average poll over the next few months looks anything like it does now, O’Rourke’s got a long road ahead of him. Of course, maybe O’Rourke closes in on Cruz after his likely win in the primary.

4. The likely voter population leans Republican

A number of analysts have pointed out to Gallup’s 2017 polling[9] to argue the race could be close. Gallup had Trump about as unpopular in Texas (approval rating of 39%) as he was nationally.
But as I’ve noted before[10], Gallup’s polling is of all adults. That’s misleading to understanding the electorate in Texas. Trump’s approval rating among voters is probably way higher.
Back in the fall of 2016, for example, Marist College polled nine states. They asked about then-President Barack Obama’s approval rating. Democrat Obama’s net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) fell by 13 percentage points between the adult and likely voter population. That’s more than any other state polled and more than twice the average state.
The reason Republicans do better in Texas among voters is fairly simple. First, the state’s voting population is 14 points more white than the adult population, according to the Current Population Survey. Nationally, the average state’s voting population is about 7 points more white than the adult population.
Additionally, voting patterns difference between whites and non-whites is greater than it is nationally.
Those two factors make Texas far more Republican leaning than you’d expect looking a poll of all adults.

5. The special election signal

You might think that the special elections so far this cycle are a good sign for O’Rourke. To the degree that they suggest a national environment that leans heavily Democratic[11], they are.
On the other hand, there’s something worrying about the special elections for O’Rourke as well.
The special elections have followed a similar pattern[12]: the 2012 presidential vote baseline has been far more telling than the 2016 presidential vote baseline. If that holds in Texas, it’s a big problem for O’Rourke. The reason being that Texas was one of the few states where Democrats did better in 2016 than in 2012, even as the nation became more Republican leaning.
What O’Rourke needs to win is for voting patterns to follow 2016, and then receive an additional boost on top of that. That’s certainly plausible. The vote patterns in the 2017 Virginia elections[13] looked a lot more like 2016 than 2012. But even there, Virginia Democratic candidates didn’t do that much better than Clinton did in 2016.
Put another way, O’Rourke is going to need pretty much everything to go right in order to win. It can happen, but it’s a long shot.

References

  1. ^ outraised Cruz last quarter (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ aggressively campaigning throughout the state (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ CNN (www.cnn.com)
  4. ^ FiveThirtyEight Nate Silver went back (fivethirtyeight.com)
  5. ^ receive an added boost (www.thecrosstab.com)
  6. ^ won Texas by 9 (uselectionatlas.org)
  7. ^ statistician Dean Strachan looked (medium.com)
  8. ^ polling average before the election (fivethirtyeight.com)
  9. ^ Gallup’s 2017 polling (news.gallup.com)
  10. ^ I’ve noted before (fivethirtyeight.com)
  11. ^ leans heavily Democratic (www.cnn.com)
  12. ^ followed a similar pattern (www.weeklystandard.com)
  13. ^ 2017 Virginia elections (www.nytimes.com)

Politics

George H. W. Bush dead at 94

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Born into privilege and a tradition of service, Bush was a son of a senator, celebrated World War II combat pilot, student athlete, Texas oilman, Republican congressman, national party chairman, pioneering diplomat and spy chief. After his own 1980 presidential campaign came up short, he served two terms as Ronald Reagan’s vice president before reaching the pinnacle of political power by winning the 1988 presidential election, soundly defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis.
After losing the White House in 1992, Bush became a widely admired political elder who leapt out of airplanes to mark birthday milestones. Emphasizing the generosity of his soul, he forged a close — and unlikely — friendship with Democrat Bill Clinton, the man who ended his presidency. When Parkinson’s disease mostly silenced him in public, Bush flashed his sense of humor by sporting colorful striped socks.
Bush’s death comes after his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, passed away on April 17 aged 92. Before her funeral, Bush was pictured in a wheelchair gazing at his wife’s flower-covered casket, in a moment that encapsulated their life-long love affair
The first sitting vice president to be elected to the presidency since 1836, Bush was also only the second person in US history to see his own son follow in his presidential footsteps when George W. Bush was elected in 2000.
In addition to the 43rd president, Bush is survived by his son Jeb, the former Florida governor and 2016 presidential candidate; sons Neil and Marvin; daughter Dorothy; and 17 grandchildren. His daughter Robin died of leukemia as a child, a tragedy that still moved Bush deeply late in his life. He will be buried alongside her and the former first lady at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.
When Bush left office in 1993, he joined the dubious club of presidents rejected by voters after only one term in office. A career filled with top jobs preparing him for the presidency was cut short in its prime.
He lost to Clinton after failing to shake off his image as a starchy Yankee oblivious to the struggles of heartland Americans during an economic downturn.
But as time passed, his foreign policy acumen has come to define his presidency, leaving a legacy of wise and sure-handed management of world affairs.

The first Persian Gulf War

Bush, alongside national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State James Baker, engineered a soft landing for the Cold War as the Soviet empire shattered and Germany unified and then prospered — despite widespread distrust at the time of its history and motives.
In another dangerous foreign policy test, Bush decided in 1990 to build a diverse international coalition, including more than 400,000 US troops, to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
“This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait,” Bush vowed before getting to work on a successful mission that united US allies in Europe and the Middle East in a lightning war.
Later, with Iraqi forces routed, Bush decided not to push on to Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein. That instinct later came to look prescient, given the blood and resources expended by the United States in his son’s own war against Iraq.
The 1990s Gulf War was the first time the world learned of the huge leaps in precision weaponry used by US forces and ushered in a brief era of unchallenged American hegemony after the dented confidence of the post-Vietnam war era.
Earlier, Bush had also ordered US troops to invade Panama after an off-duty Marine was killed by forces loyal to dictator Manuel Noriega. The force quickly overwhelmed Noriega’s men and he was overthrown in just four days and was later sentenced to 40 years in US federal prison on drug charges.
Bush also had to walk a fine line with China, imposing sanctions after a 1989 government crackdown on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but also seeking to prevent a permanent rupture in relations. Also on his watch, Washington backed early diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, which led to the Oslo accords in the Clinton presidency.

Perception of being out of touch at home

But Bush’s success abroad became a cross to bear at home. Voters appeared to get the impression he was more interested in striding the world stage than their economic struggles.
His failure to connect was encapsulated by an incident in which his fascination with a supermarket scanner during his 1992 re-election campaign triggered widespread mockery.
Former aides to this day insist that Bush was maligned by a New York Times report on the incident, which they say resulted from a misinterpretation of a pool report.
But in another incident, Bush exacerbated the idea he was out of touch by looking at his watch in a town-hall style presidential debate, then waffled when a woman asked how he was personally affected by the bad economy.
Bush was often criticized for lacking an overarching political philosophy, a charge he testily decried by complaining about “the vision thing.”

‘Read my lips’

He managed to undermine himself with powerful GOP conservatives by breaking his famous 1988 GOP convention pledge: “Read my lips: no new taxes.”
On Election Day, with the right-of-center vote fragmented by third-party candidate and billionaire businessman Ross Perot, Bush carried only 18 states and just over 37% of the vote.
In many ways, Bush paid a price for ragged presentation skills. Even before his 1988 presidential campaign, there were questions about his political fortitude. Newsweek magazine, which in pre-social media days had immense power to set the political media narrative, published a cover story questioning whether the President was beset by the “wimp factor.”
In her 1988 Democratic convention keynote speech, then-Texas Treasurer Ann Richards had lampooned Bush’s upbringing and tongue-tied political style by joking Bush was “born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Other incidents in Bush’s presidency entered popular culture. Once, he caused a brief panic when he collapsed at a state dinner in Japan. He blamed the embarrassment on a stomach illness. In 1990, he banned broccoli on Air Force One, saying he had hated it since he was a kid.
As elder statesman, he kept publicly quiet
Bush faded from view during the Clinton years, but was thrust back into the spotlight — and became the subject of a torrent of amateur psychology — when his son ran for president in 2000.
Once his son entered office, those expecting a restoration of the elder Bush’s ways were disappointed. The new president responded to the September 11, 2001, attacks by rejecting the internationalism of his father and embracing the neo-conservative doctrine of preemptive war.
There was much speculation about what Bush thought of his son’s actions in Iraq, especially after some of his foreign policy lieutenants went public with criticisms of US policy.
But the elder Bush kept quiet in public, though he was outraged when Democrats branded George W. Bush a “liar” during his 2004 re-election bid.
The attacks on his other son, Jeb, who endured a bruising primary battle in 2016 against Donald Trump, the eventual GOP nominee and 45th president, caused him deep personal pain.
Sources said the elder Bush voted for Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival.
Both former Bush presidents did call to congratulate Trump soon after the New York businessman’s win over Clinton. In one of his final political acts, Bush wrote to Trump to apologize for not being able to not attend his inauguration owing to his poor health.
But in many ways, the acerbic and bitterly divisive election of 2016 represented a final wrenching departure from the more courtly, old-fashioned politics practiced by George H.W. Bush, who until late in his life would pen handwritten notes to friends, former political allies and foes and even reporters who covered his presidency. He counted Democrats among his closest friends, and his death marks not only the passing of a president but a reminder of a bygone era of greater civility in Washington.

WWII hero became Texas oil prospector

Born in Massachusetts on June 12, 1924, George H. W. Bush was the son of wealthy Wall Street banker and future Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush and Dorothy Bush.
He became the youngest naval pilot at age 18 following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and flew combat missions from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto. As a “flyboy” in the Pacific War, Bush flew 58 combat missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
One mission in September 1944 was almost his last. Bush’s air wing attacked a radio installation on the tiny Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima. During the raid, his plane was hit and as flames licked around the cockpit, Bush gave the order to abandon the aircraft. The bodies of his crewmen, Ted White and John Delaney were never found. Bush, after desperately paddling his life raft away from the island and Japanese boats sent out to capture him, was miraculously rescued by a U.S. submarine.
It took decades before Bush was able to speak publicly about his experiences in the war.
“It was just part of my duty. People say, ‘war hero.’ How come a guy who gets his airplane shot down is a hero and a guy who’s good enough that he doesn’t get shot down is not?” Bush told CNN in 2003.
Late in his life, the former president’s heroism was recognized when the Navy named a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier after him.
After returning from the Pacific, Bush attended Yale University, where he was a noted athlete and then went west with his new wife, Barbara Pierce, to set himself up as an early Texas oil prospector.
By the mid-1960s, politics was calling and Bush ran for the US Senate, but lost. In 1966, however, he was on his way, winning a seat in the House of Representatives.
Chosen by President Richard Nixon to serve as envoy to the United Nations, Bush later served as the head of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate scandal.
Then, he became one of the few prominent Westerners to get into China, which had been closed to outsiders for decades. Bush headed the US Liaison Office in Beijing, the forerunner of the US Embassy. He later detailed his experiences, including trips into the Chinese countryside on bicycles, in diaries published in 2008.
In 1976, Bush became the head of the CIA. He only held the job for a year, but was so well remembered that the agency later named its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after him, and he would later say it was his favorite job.
In 1980, Bush ran for the White House, challenging former California Gov. Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination, slamming what he said was his foe’s “voodoo economic policy.”
After a sometimes rancorous campaign, Reagan won, and after briefly flirting with picking former president Gerald Ford as his running mate, handed Bush the vice presidential spot.

‘Nothing self-conscious in my love of country’

With Reagan set to leave office in 1989, with his popularity ratings on a high, Bush was in the ideal spot to claim the nomination and the presidency.
“I may not be the most eloquent, but I learned early that eloquence won’t draw oil from the ground,” Bush said in his 1988 convention speech.
“I may sometimes be a little awkward, but there’s nothing self-conscious in my love of country. I am a quiet man — but I hear the quiet people others don’t,” Bush said, vowing to fight for a “better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light.”
It’s an irony that it was not until he was well-settled in retirement that many Americans began to get glimpses into the character traits that might have helped him win a second term.
Refusing to bow to advancing age, he marked his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays by going skydiving, with the money going to charity. His primary causes included literacy, cancer research and volunteerism, and he and Barbara Bush would raise more than $1 billion for charity in their years after the White House.
He and Clinton became close friends after working together after the Asian tsunami disaster in 2004 and after Hurricane Katrina the following year.
“It was an amazing experience. This man who I had always liked and respected and ran against … I literally came to love,” Clinton said in 2011.
President Barack Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year.

Never completely got out of politics

Several bouts with illness and advanced age kept Bush out of the spotlight in recent years and he has rarely made public remarks.
But, in November 2014, he was in the audience in a wheelchair when George W. Bush published a biography entitled “41: A Portrait of My Father.”
The younger Bush poignantly said he “wanted Dad to be alive” when the book came out.
In 2017, several women accused Bush of inappropriately touching them during photo ops, prompting his spokesman to release a statement saying that “on occasion, (Bush) has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner” and apologizing to “anyone he has offended.”
The elder Bush revealed several years ago he suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease which left him unable to walk. He used a wheelchair or a scooter to get around.
Bush suffered multiple health scares later in his life. In December 2014 he was hospitalized for what aides described as a precautionary measure after experiencing shortness of breath, and the following July fell at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, breaking the C2 vertebrae in his neck. The injury did not result in any neurological problems, his spokesman said at the time.
This story has been updated.

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Cohen believed Trump would pardon him, but then things changed

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After a March 2018 visit to Mar-a-Lago[1], the President’s private club in Florida, Cohen returned to New York believing that his former boss would protect him if he faced any charges for sticking to his story about the 2016 payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to one source with knowledge. Trump was also at Mar-a-Lago at the time of Cohen’s visit.
Another source said that after the April 2018 FBI raid on Cohen’s office and home, people close to the President assured Cohen that Trump would take care of him. And Cohen believed that meant that the President would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message. It is unclear who specifically reached out to Cohen.
Michael Cohen pleads guilty, says he lied about Trump's knowledge of Moscow project

“The President of the United States never indicated anything to Michael, or anyone else, about getting a pardon,” said Rudy Giuliani, the President’s attorney. “Pardons are off the table, but it’s not a limitation on his power in the future to pardon in any case.”
Cohen’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Following the raid on Cohen’s home and office, Cohen’s attorneys had a legal defense agreement with Trump and his attorneys. During this time, there was a steady flow of communication between the two sides, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
At first, publicly, Trump seemed very supportive of his former attorney. On the day of the raid, Trump said Cohen was “a good man” and that the investigation reached “a whole new level of unfairness.” He unloaded on law enforcement, calling the raids “a disgraceful situation.”
Why Michael Cohen's plea deal matters

But in the days that followed the raid, one source says, things started heading south with the President.
Trump started to distance himself from Cohen. And when Trump appeared on “Fox and Friends” two weeks after the raids[2] and said that Cohen only did a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work, Cohen knew the game had changed. According to one source, Cohen knew that things had changed and he acted to protect his family — and himself.
It couldn’t be learned whether Cohen shared this information with Mueller, though Cohen has spent more than 70 hours providing testimony over the last several months.
Rudy Giuliani: There is 'no contradiction' between Cohen and Trump responses to Mueller

These developments represent an extraordinary reversal of fortunes for Trump and Cohen, who once boasted he would “take a bullet” to protect his longtime boss. But since then, Cohen implicated Trump under oath[3] in the illegal hush-money scheme with Daniels. If Cohen did share this information with Mueller’s team, then it could be used as part of the obstruction of justice probe in determining whether the President was trying to illegally influence a witness in the investigation.
Cohen pleaded guilty on Thursday[4] to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts relating to the Daniels hush-money scheme and tax fraud from his personal business dealings.

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US judge rules against Trump administration in suit over policing grants to ‘sanctuary cities’

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The lawsuit challenged the Justice Department’s efforts to punish sanctuary cities by withholding a key law enforcement grant the department said was available only to cities that complied with specific immigration enforcement measures.
In July 2017,[1] then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that applicants for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants would have to comply with federal immigration enforcement in ways that were unlike years past, like allowing federal law enforcement agents to have access to detainees in jails for questioning about their immigration status.
According to the ruling, the seven states involved in the lawsuit, as well as New York City, had been receiving the grant money since Congress created the fund for the “modern version of the program in 2006,” and the funds “collectively totaled over $25 million.”
“In 2017, for the first time in the history of the program, the U.S. Department of Justice (‘DOJ’) and Attorney General (collectively, ‘Defendants’) imposed three immigration-related conditions that grantees must comply with in order to receive funding,” wrote Judge Edgardo Ramos, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, in his ruling.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood led the suit and was joined by New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington state and Virginia.
Underwood said in a statement on Friday that the ruling was “a major win for New Yorkers’ public safety.” CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
This isn’t the first ruling of its kind — in April[2], a panel of three judges from the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in favor of the city of Chicago that blocked the Justice Department from adding new requirements for the policing grants.

References

  1. ^ In July 2017, (www.cnn.com)
  2. ^ in April (www.cnn.com)

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