Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 10, 2018

COUNTING THE VOTES IN FLORIDA. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is not actively investigating any matters related to Tuesday’s election, a department spokesperson said Friday, after it was informed by the Florida Department of State that there have been no allegations of criminal activity,” CNN reports.

“The announcement comes just one day after Florida Gov. Rick Scott — the Republican candidate for US Senate in the state — requested the state law enforcement agency investigate possible fraudulent activity in Broward and Palm Beach counties as his race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson appears headed for a recount.”

The Tampa Bay Times outlines Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) path to victory as election day votes are still being counted ahead of a legally required hand recount. Nelson trails by just under 15,000 votes out of 8.2 million.

  1. Not all the ballots have been counted yet in South Florida, a Democratic stronghold.
  2. Undervote in Senate race in Broward County. In Broward County, 695,799 people turned in ballots. But only 665,688 voted in the Senate race. That’s a 30,000 difference, a remarkable disparity given the stakes in this race and the name-recognition of these officials. It’s a degree of undervote that is non-existent in the other statewide races on the ballot.  That could be either a tabulation error or a ballot design error.  If it is latter, it will be the second time in 18 years that the election officials in this county designed a ballot that cost the Democrat the election.
  3. Provisional ballots will break hard for Democrats. Voters who forgot identification or showed up at the wrong polling place cast a provisional ballot on Tuesday. In most counties, those ballots still need to be reviewed by the local canvassing board and counted toward the final tally.

Nathaniel Rakich: “Unusually, the votes tabulated in Broward County so far exhibit a high rate of something called ‘undervoting,’ or not voting in all the races on the ballot. Countywide, 26,060 fewer votes were cast in the U.S. Senate race than in the governor race. Put another way, turnout in the Senate race was 3.7 percent lower than in the gubernatorial race.”

“Broward County’s undervote rate is way out of line with every other county in Florida, which exhibited, at most, a 0.8-percent difference… To put in perspective what an eye-popping number of undervotes that is, more Broward County residents voted for the down-ballot constitutional offices of chief financial officer and state agriculture commissioner than U.S. Senate — an extremely high-profile election in which $181 million was spent. Generally, the higher the elected office, the less likely voters are to skip it on their ballots.”“Something sure does seem off in Broward County; we just don’t know what yet.”

In Arizona,Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) more than doubled her lead over Rep. Martha McSally (R) in the heated Senate race after a new round of ballots from were tallied in the Democrat’s favor late Friday, The Hill reports.  Sinema now leads her GOP challenger by 21,185 votes.

In Maine, exit polls by the Bangor Daily News find Jared Golden (D) is favored to beat Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) in a ranked-choice voting count that could decide the tight race in the 2nd congressional district.  “It means the spotlight is now on the 8% of voters who picked a nonpartisan candidate as their first choice in the 2nd district race. Their later-round choices between Golden and Poliquin likely will decide the election… Though Poliquin has a lead now, that crucial group of independent voters leans heavily toward Golden.”

Norm Ornstein: “To be sure, the first priorities for Democrats are more triage than anything else—preventing Donald Trump from further destroying the health insurance marketplace, degrading the environment, shredding the safety net, and undermining worker safety, the census, voting rights, and so on. But Democrats should also focus on what priorities the party would adopt if it did take over in 2020. Few new laws will be passed in 2019. Still, Democrats can lay down markers for the future.”

“Whatever bills pass the House, even if they go nowhere in the Senate, Democrats can highlight their plans through the creative use of the House floor. Structured debates—not always pitting Democrats against Republicans—could show Americans that there are thoughtful and workable proposals out there, some of which are not partisan.”

“Of course, this is a formidable set of recommendations. But a Democratic House has a formidable set of requirements to set the country right and the stage for 2020. Winning the House is not enough. It’s what they do with it that matters.”

DEMOCRATIC WINS KEEP PILING UP.  “Democrats have won at least 33 seats, but they look poised to win closer to 40 — there are 13 races that are either not called or too close to call, and Democrats have a solid chance of winning seven of those,” Axios reports.

James Hohmann: “Democrats picked up more House seats than they have in any midterm election since 1974, three months after Richard Nixon’s resignation, and a dozen races still remain uncalled by the Associated Press. That’s all the more remarkable considering that the economy is booming, unemployment is historically low and wages are growing.”

First Read: “It appears that Democrats are on their way to netting more than 35 House seats — a bigger pickup than the some 30 seats the party gained in the 2006 midterms and the most for them since the post-Watergate 1974 midterms.”


SUSAN COLLINS IS LESS POPULAR AT HOME NOW.   After the Kavanaugh Supreme Court fight, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)’s approval numbers collapsed by 9 points among Maine voters.   Forty-five percent of Mainers approve of her job performance post-Kavanaugh, a 9-point drop since Morning Consult last surveyed over the summer.

MICHELLE OBAMA’S BOOK REVEALS SOME TRUTH.  Former first lady Michelle Obama said her her new book, Becoming, that she will “never forgive” Donald Trump for stoking far-right “birtherism” theories about then-President Obama during his campaign, the Washington Post reports.

Said Obama: “The whole thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

WHITAKER WATCH.  Jonathan Swan: “Matt Whitaker has been acting attorney general for just one full day but he’s already under extreme pressure.”

“President Trump, who shocked even some of his senior most staff with the hasty timing of his firing of Jeff Sessions, threw Whitaker into an immediate political and legal storm. The White House expected opposition from Democrats but the blowback is widening and now includes a growing body of conservative legal opinion.”

“Federal investigators last year looked into whether Matthew Whitaker, as an advisory board member of a Miami patent company accused of fraud by customers, played a role in trying to help the company silence critics by threatening legal action,” the Washington Post reports.

“Whitaker, named this week by President Trump as acting attorney general, occasionally served as an outside legal adviser to the company, World Patent Marketing, writing a series of letters on its behalf.”

MUELLER IS NOT HAPPY WITH MANAFORT.   Talks between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “have grown increasingly tense over Manafort’s apparent lack of cooperation with the investigation,” ABC Newsreports.

“Prosecutors from Mueller’s office have been asking Manafort about a wide range of topics in nearly a dozen meetings since Manafort agreed to cooperate in September, sources said, but the Mueller team is ‘not getting what they want.’”

“The consequences of failing to fully cooperate could be dire when it comes time for Manafort to be sentenced.”

DEMS TO TACK MUELLER PROTECTION LEGISLATION ONTO SPENDING BILL.  House Democrats held a conference call on Thursday afternoon to discuss ways they could protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe if the new acting attorney general tries to hamper the investigation, as many have speculated. 

According to a participating lawmaker who spoke to the New York Times, the call was led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as other senior House Democrats: Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

In the call, Democrats mulled crafting a resolution that could shield Mueller’s probe and also considered tacking language that would protect the probe onto the coming spending bill that Congress must pass before the end of the year, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Friday joined renewed calls from Senators Flake and Alexander and Senator-elect Romney to pass legislation in Congress to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation now that President Trump has appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.

Collins said in a statement that she is concerned about Whitaker’s past comments about the probe. He has advocated limits on the Russia investigation.

President Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his extramarital relationships with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.”

“The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.”

FLAKE URGES PRIMARY CHALLENGE TO TRUMP.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told Politico that a Republican needs to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.  Said Flake: “I’ve not ruled it out. I’ve not ruled it in. Just, somebody needs to run on the Republican side.”  Flake said both outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) could give Trump a credible challenge.

IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE TO STOP MUELLERBenjamin Wittes: “The normal critique of special-counsel investigations is that they hoard jurisdiction, endlessly expand, and become personal roving inquests into their political subjects’ lives. The opposite is the case with Mueller. He has not merely referred to other Justice Department components matters at the margins of his investigation, such as the Michael Cohen situation in New York. He has also let other components handle matters involving core questions of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, such as the Maria Butina and Elena Khusyaynova prosecutions.”

“The result of this strategic step is not just that Mueller is relatively invulnerable to the charge of any kind of power grab or mission creep. It is also that firing him or reining him in only does so much. If Trump imagines these investigations as a cancer on his presidency, they are a cancer that has already metastasized.”

Also important: “Mueller has used silence as a powerful strategic instrument throughout his investigation… The day that Mueller holds a press conference or stands before cameras and declares that his investigation is facing interference from the Justice Department will be a very big day, perhaps a game-changing day.”

HOW KOBACH LOST KANSAS. Kansas City Star: “Interviews with more than a dozen Republican strategists and officials paint a picture of a candidate who refused to listen to advice, was unwilling to put energy into fundraising and failed to set up a basic ‘get out the vote’ operation.”

“Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, struggled to pay his campaign staff on time and at one point lacked a working phone system at his Johnson County campaign office, according to GOP sources familiar with the campaign. And people who offered to volunteer were never contacted.”

Sid one long-time GOP operative: “It was the most dysfunctional thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

WISCONSIN REPUBLICANS OPPOSE DEMOCRACY.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The Republican plan to take power away from the incoming Democratic governor could include overhauling state boards and removing authority that Republican lawmakers handed to GOP Gov. Scott Walker (R) when he took office in 2011.”

“Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said Thursday that Republicans are looking at giving incoming Gov. Tony Evers (D) less say in state rules that implement state laws. Eight years ago, Republicans handed Walker more power over those rules when he was first sworn in.”

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s defeated and outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R) lost a very narrow race for reelection to Democratic challenger Tony Evers, “[b]ut it wasn’t close enough to qualify for a recount — thanks to a law he signed himself last year,” CBS News reports.  Sweet irony.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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