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Bernie Sanders: It’s “outrageous” that certain people would accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a foreign asset

Westlake Legal Group hc Bernie Sanders: It’s “outrageous” that certain people would accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a foreign asset tulsi gabbard Trump The Blog russian progressive primary Hillary Clinton democratic Beto O'Rourke Bernie Sanders asset

There’s little downside to Bernie in reviving his 2016 battle with Hillary at this point, even if it means coming to the defense of another candidate. Gabbard herself understands how a war with Clinton might help galvanize progressive voters, which is why she tweeted on Friday at Clinton that “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me.” Lefties hate Hillary for a million reasons — too corporate, too hawkish, too corrupt, and not even a winner when it mattered most. She was just strong enough to snuff out progressive populists’ dream of winning the White House in 2016 but not strong enough to do the same to right-wing populists. Go figure that Gabbard would try to harness their contempt for Clinton to jumpstart her campaign.

And go figure that Bernie, who’d be in trouble if Gabbard started getting traction among progressives, would jump in to try to leverage some of that Hillary hatred before Gabbard claims it all for herself.

I wonder if Sanders would have been as quick to piss off Clinton supporters here if he was atop the field in polling, with a stranglehold on lefty voters. In that case his mind would be on appeasing the centrist Dems whom he needed to win over. As it is, with Warren sapping him of votes he needs and Gabbard now making noise, he needs to protect his left flank first.

A Twitter pal responds: “thanks, guy who honeymooned in the soviet union at the peak of the cold war.”

Hillary has yet to comment on the backlash to her calling Gabbard a “Russian asset,” but I assume she’ll try to weasel out of it by insisting that an asset and an agent are two different things. An agent, she’ll say, is someone who works for a foreign government. An asset is someone whose worldview incidentally serves the interests of a foreign government — a useful idiot, in other words. That’s not what “asset” means in spycraft, of course, and Hillary certainly knows that, but that’s what she’ll claim in order to back away from her defamatory insistence that Gabbard is working for the Russians.

Which reminds me of how Dan Foster framed the blossoming Tulsi/Hillary war — as a conflict between a useful idiot and a more traditional idiot. I’d add that it’s an intriguing match-up between someone whose approach to Syria is conventionally terrible and someone whose approach is unconventionally terrible.

Tom Nichols worries that by elevating Gabbard Clinton has given her a stature that Tulsi might eventually use to divide Democrats, be it as a third-party candidate or by fighting on to the convention with her current campaign. The liberal fear is that Gabbard isn’t so much an asset of the Russians as an asset of Trump and the populist right: She sometimes seems to have more fans among the Fox News demographic, Tucker Carlson foremost among them, than she does in the Democratic Party, where she’s been stuck at two percent or so for months. The plot, supposedly, is for Gabbard to aid Trump by declaring the eventual Dem nominee a tool of warmongers and Wall Street and to demoralize Democratic voters with her criticism, possibly even as a Green Party candidate. Ironically, that’s what Hillary was worried about in her comments last week — that Gabbard would end up playing the Jill Stein role in 2020. Nichols’s point is that, doubly ironically, Clinton may have made that more likely by raising Gabbard’s profile with her paranoid “Russian asset” critique.

I don’t think Gabbard is in cahoots with Trump or anyone else. But I’ll give you a third irony: By raising the prospect of Gabbard as mischief-maker who ends up undermining the Democratic nominee, Hillary may be making the case for a more left-wing nominee than a Clinton-style centrist. Nominate Joe Biden and Tulsi’s warmonger/Wall Street attacks — if they happen — really might resonate with disgruntled progressives. Nominate Elizabeth Warren and those attacks are less persuasive. I think lefties will be looking for reasons to suck it up and support the nominee this time in the interest of ousting Trump so long as they get someone at the top who seems sympathetic to them. Not so sure Biden will hack it for them, but Warren certainly would. There just won’t be as much political space for a Stein type in 2020 with progressives spoiling to beat their orange nemesis and undo their mistake of 2016.

Two clips for you here, one of Beto O’Rourke riding to Gabbard’s rescue by claiming that Trump is the real Russian asset and one of the “View” crew largely siding with Hillary (of course) in her critique of Gabbard. Beto too probably recognizes that, as a left-wing Democratic politician circa 2019, you can’t go wrong taking sides against Hillary Clinton.

The post Bernie Sanders: It’s “outrageous” that certain people would accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a foreign asset appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group hc-300x153 Bernie Sanders: It’s “outrageous” that certain people would accuse Tulsi Gabbard of being a foreign asset tulsi gabbard Trump The Blog russian progressive primary Hillary Clinton democratic Beto O'Rourke Bernie Sanders asset   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Live at 8 p.m. ET: Dems clash in Ohio with race in flux

Westlake Legal Group h Live at 8 p.m. ET: Dems clash in Ohio with race in flux warren The Blog sanders democratic debate CNN buttigieg biden 2020

“Why should I watch a fourth debate with these losers?” you’re asking yourself. “I’ve seen this show three times already.” Eh, not really. Not like this. Nate Silver ably summarizes how much has changed for all three members of the top tier since the last debate in September:

The news cycle will intrude tonight on the usual oneupsmanship over who can offer the most free sh*t. There’s impeachment and Ukraine, of course, and all of its attendant questions: Should House Democrats vote to formally open an impeachment inquiry? Should they in fact impeach the president based on the facts already known to us? Should they throw Rudy Giuliani in a makeshift congressional brig for contempt? But there’s much more going on besides impeachment:

There’s Trump’s decision to stand down amid a Turkish onslaught against the Kurds, an uncomfortable predicament for a field of candidates that’s duty-bound to oppose him on everything on the one hand but on the other hand likes to present itself as the peace-loving alternative to GOP warmongering. How hard do they want to hit Trump for *not* leaving American troops in harm’s way?

Lesser topics may assert themselves too. Where do our candidates stand on the NBA’s stance towards China? The world’s wokest professional sports league is a natural ally of the Democratic Party; do the Democratic candidates want to jeopardize that alliance with harsh criticism?

How much abuse will Beto O’Rourke take from the competition for his recent insane demand that we strip charities that oppose gay marriage of their tax exemption? Pete Buttigieg in particular has been critical of O’Rourke, eager to use the issue to signal to wavering Biden voters that he’s a “moderate” alternative. Will the left-wing candidates like Warren and Sanders, whose fans might like the idea of punishing dissidents who oppose some LGBT rights, go after Beto?

And what about the feud between Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard, who missed the third debate but returns tonight? They’re both basically asterisk candidates at this point but Harris owes Gabbard payback for wrecking her at the second debate over her record as California AG. Maybe she’ll come after her for her foot-dragging on impeachment, assuming she doesn’t spend every moment this evening trying to claw back into the top tier by attacking Elizabeth Warren. As for whom Gabbard will target, it’s anyone’s guess. She’s criticized Trump harshly for his decision in Syria. Maybe she’ll focus on him tonight in hopes of ingratiating herself to left-wing voters instead of the righties who like her but would never vote for her over Trump.

There will of course also be an awkward question for Joe Biden about what exactly Hunter Biden was doing sitting on the board of a Ukrainian company whose field he had no expertise in. Democratic strategists have spent the day wondering what the hell Hunter was doing inserting himself into the news cycle this morning on the very day of a Democratic debate, all but inviting dad’s competition to attack him about it tonight:

“Everyone else had laid off of Joe Biden,” the senior adviser added. “Now that’s all gone. I would bet $100 it’s the first question. If it is, it’s a major disaster.”

“Why even put it out there to answer for that?,” another rival campaign aide asked. “Now it’s fair game that a moderator can bring it up.”

A third aide wondered why the whole thing was necessary at all: “When I saw that I thought, why would you do that? There was no clamor to hear from Hunter directly.”

That may be the single greatest source of suspense tonight. Will anyone onstage dare align themselves with Trump by attacking Biden aggressively for serving as the Obama White House’s point man on Ukraine while Hunter Biden had business interests there? If you’re Amy Klobuchar or Cory Booker or Tulsi Gabbard, what do you have to lose?

The debate will air on CNN and all of its online platforms from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. (It’ll also stream on the homepage of the New York Times, which is sponsoring the debate.) There are, by the way, no fewer than 12 candidates onstage tonight, which I believe is the largest number yet to share a single stage this year — a weird detail at a moment when the field of credible candidates is supposed to be shrinking. The October debate featured just 10 candidates, but since the DNC imposed the same qualifying requirements for this one as for that one, both Gabbard and Tom Steyer were able to make the cut in the interim. When are we going to get a debate between the top three and maybe Buttigieg and Harris, the only five candidates with even a remote chance at the nomination? It’ll have to wait for next month, if not later. But it’s coming. This evening is probably the last chance for a breakthrough for everyone except those five.

The post Live at 8 p.m. ET: Dems clash in Ohio with race in flux appeared first on Hot Air.

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Milestone: Warren now leads Biden in RCP poll average

Westlake Legal Group w-1 Milestone: Warren now leads Biden in RCP poll average warren Ukraine The Blog rcp Quinnipiac primary morning consult democratic biden 2020

They’re basically tied, with Warren ahead by a mere two-tenths of a point, but (a) this is the first time Biden has trailed all year in the poll of polls and (b) it’s reeeeally hard to see how the trendlines here reverse. Biden’s probably already been damaged by the questions about Ukraine and Burisma, and Warren’s chief competition for the progressive vote, Bernie Sanders, seems likely to fade given the health concerns about him and his newly scaled-back campaign. In fact, Bernie’s health trouble may be a double whammy for Biden, not only freeing up lefties to unite behind Warren but raising new doubts about whether a man of Grandpa Joe’s age might face a health scare of his own later in the campaign.

Combine all that with the facts that Warren does better with white voters and the first two primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire are almost uniformly white and she’s starting to look like a solid frontrunner, whatever the polling numbers at this particular moment happen to say.

She’s led in four of the last five national polls tracked by RCP and the one in which she trailed, Morning Consult, comes with an asterisk: For whatever reason, their data has shown Biden ahead by double digits consistently for weeks even as the entire rest of the polling field has shifted towards Warren. That is, even Biden’s one good poll (showing him at 33 percent) is highly likely to be an outlier. Most of them have him in the mid-20s. Case in point, the new one from Quinnipiac:

Westlake Legal Group q Milestone: Warren now leads Biden in RCP poll average warren Ukraine The Blog rcp Quinnipiac primary morning consult democratic biden 2020

Note how competitive Warren is among all Democratic demographics, up to and including Biden’s base of black voters and whites without a college degree. He still has a double-digit lead among black Democrats, but if you were to combine Bernie’s share of that vote with Warren’s it’d be a dead heat. Again, Bernie is the X factor: If you believe (as I do) that Warren rather than Biden will inherit the majority of his voters if he drops out or loses altitude then what we’re looking at in these numbers is likely a floor for Warren, not a ceiling. Her lead is apt to increase as Sanders is marginalized.

YouGov is out with its own numbers today and the toplines turn out to be nearly identical to Quinnipiac’s:

Monmouth also had the race 28/25 for Warren in a poll conducted during the last week of September. Biden’s remaining hope is to seize on surveys that show him performing best against Trump in head-to-head match-ups and use it to hammer his electability pitch. For instance, Fox News found him leading Trump 48/39 this past week in Wisconsin(!) compared to a 45/41 lead for Warren in the same state. (Trump’s job approval there is just 44/54.) Biden also does better against Trump in Quinnipiac’s national poll, leading POTUS 51/40 compares to Warren’s 49/41 advantage. But there’s a caveat: Biden’s 11-point lead over Trump in Quinnipiac is his smallest margin so far this year, down five points from the 16-point lead he enjoyed in August. Even his electability edge may be fraying.

But it gets worse:

[Biden’s] latest fundraising round was more than $9 million behind his closest rival in the polls — Elizabeth Warren. His total also ran well behind Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.

That’s a problem for a candidate who is seeking to compete in all four early states and also build out his campaign infrastructure in the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday…

“The former vice president, with all the high-dollar contacts around the country — you do all the big fundraisers in the big cities. Once you do that, that’s it. If you don’t have that perpetual, low-dollar fundraising machine, you can’t compete,” [David] Kochel said, noting the massive figures reported by Biden’s top rivals. “Biden looks like he can’t compete with Warren, Bernie and Buttigieg. How’s he going to compete with Trump?”

If Warren inherits most of Bernie’s support — electoral and presumably financial — if and when he quits, or fades from, the race, how does Biden keep pace?

An amazing detail about Warren’s quarterly fundraising haul is that she’s done it without holding the sort of fundraisers for wealthy donors that Biden, among others, routinely conducts. In fact, news is breaking today that she’s done so well with her small-donor operation that she intends to extend it to the general election too:

From the day Ms. Warren announced her plan to skip traditional fund-raisers in February, she had said the pledge only applied to the primary. “I do not believe in unilateral disarmament,” she said then on MSNBC.

But she told CBS News in an interview posted on Tuesday evening that, even as President Trump has set fund-raising records, she would not change how her campaign raises money if she won the Democratic nomination.

“No, I will not be forced to make changes in how I raise money,” Ms Warren said. “Look, for me this is pretty straightforward. Either you think democracy works and electing a president is all about going behind closed doors with bazillionaires and corporate executives and lobbyists and scooping up as much money as possible. Or you think it’s about a grass-roots, let’s build this from the ground up.”

Democrats will pressure her to rethink this if she’s the nominee, knowing what an enormous fundraising advantage Trump is building for himself, but there’s strategy to Warren’s position. She watched Trump himself defeat a better-funded candidate three years ago by campaigning as a populist. She won’t get as much free media as he got in 2016 but she’ll get plenty, and it’ll be almost uniformly glowing. The press has its usual strong anti-Trump and anti-GOP incentives to side with the Democratic candidate, but on top of that they have a “first woman president” narrative to push and a kinship with a candidate who is, after all, a well-educated Ivy League liberal academic. More than anything, though, Warren wants to draw a contrast with Trump’s practice of attending lots of fatcat fundraisers for his own campaign. You can see her message coming from a mile awhile: The so-called “populist” president turns out to have been a swamp creature all along and now spends his days happily splashing around in special-interest money. I’m the real populist and to prove it I won’t hold a single fundraiser. Will that work in the midwest?

The post Milestone: Warren now leads Biden in RCP poll average appeared first on Hot Air.

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Report: Ukraine whistleblower had a professional tie to a Democratic presidential candidate

Westlake Legal Group as-2 Report: Ukraine whistleblower had a professional tie to a Democratic presidential candidate whistleblower The Blog republicans democratic byron york bias atkinson

An intriguing scoop, although the fact that this vague clue to the guy’s identity is being leaked by Republicans to Byron York helps explain why Dems are convinced the whistleblower will be outed in a nanosecond after he testifies unless his identity is concealed somehow.

Now, however, there is word of more evidence of possible bias on the whistleblower’s part. Under questioning from Republicans during last Friday’s impeachment inquiry interview with Atkinson, the inspector general revealed that the whistleblower’s possible bias was not that he was simply a registered Democrat. It was that he had a significant tie to one of the Democratic presidential candidates currently vying to challenge President Trump in next year’s election.

“The IG said [the whistleblower] worked or had some type of professional relationship with one of the Democratic candidates,” said one person with knowledge of what was said…

“What [Atkinson] said was that the whistleblower self-disclosed that he was a registered Democrat and that he had a prior working relationship with a current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate,” said a third person with knowledge of what was said.

One obvious possibility is that the unnamed Democratic presidential candidate is Joe Biden himself. If you think this matter is a clusterfark now, imagine if it turns out that the guy who complained to the IG about Trump trying to jumpstart an investigation of the Bidens once … worked for Biden. That’s the most likely bet too, no? Biden spent decades in the Senate and eight years as VP, when he would have interacted with all sorts of intelligence personnel. There’s no one in the Democratic field (at least the top tier) who’s more likely to have had a “professional connection” to someone in the intel bureaucracy than Grandpa Joe.

There’s a less obvious possibility but one with similarly interesting political consequences. What if the whistleblower worked with or for one of Biden’s chief rivals, whether Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? A “registered Democrat” (as the whistleblower reportedly is) would have a partisan reason to damage Trump no matter what, but offering Biden as the victim in a story about Trump leaning on a foreign government to investigate an opponent would risk creating sympathy for Joe among Democratic voters. Not an obvious move if you’re a Warren or Sanders supporter.

Question: Unless the unnamed candidate is one of the big three, in which case the question of bias sharpens up, does the whistleblower’s relationship with someone in the field matter? It matters potentially, I think, if it turns out the whistleblower was working in a political role for that person, e.g., if they volunteered for Cory Booker’s Senate campaign, say. That would suggest that they’re not just a registered Democrat, they’re passionate about politics. Passionate people are more prone to bias. But if it turns out the whistleblower was some sort of CIA liaison to Booker’s Senate office or whatever, well, so what? What do we glean from that? Remember, for what it’s worth, Atkinson says his investigation of the complaint confirmed that the allegations are credible. Being a member of the wrong party doesn’t mean you’re necessarily lying.

There’s other whistleblower news this afternoon. Hmmmm:

A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a C.I.A. officer who spoke to the White House official.

The White House official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the C.I.A. officer wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically…

“The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official’s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020,” the C.I.A. officer wrote.

Is it John Bolton? Please say it’s John Bolton.

A few obvious questions about this. One: Is the “visibly shaken” White House official the same person who’s now come forward as the second whistleblower? Whistleblower #2 is alleged to have firsthand knowledge of some of Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine. Listening in on the call would fit the bill.

Two: How high up in the food chain is this person? Not just everyone gets to listen in on the president’s calls, especially a call in which POTUS intended to lean on the president of Ukraine for help with investigating the Bidens.

Three: Was there more to the call than what was relayed by the official White House quasi-transcript? Questions have been raised about the use of ellipses at key points in that document. Did Trump say something to “frighten” this official that didn’t make it into the transcript?

Four: How many other White House officials, lawyers included, came to the conclusion that the president might have broken the law with what he said to Zelensky? A key Republican defense of Trump during an impeachment trial will be that, however shady his behavior may be, it simply doesn’t amount to “high crime or misdemeanor” — or even a crime of any kind. If there are people in the White House itself who know what was said and who disagree with that judgment, that’s hugely helpful to Democrats. “Trump did commit a crime,” they’ll say. “Just ask his own advisors who were there.”

This also helps show, though, why it doesn’t matter *that* much who the whistleblower is. No one’s removing Trump from office based on something some guy heard secondhand from someone else. The point of the Democratic investigation is to find out who this “frightened” White House official is and convince that person to testify. Senate Republicans aren’t ousting the president over hearsay but there’s at least a hypothetical chance they’d oust him if they heard from a primary witness who said, “I was there, I heard the whole thing, and it was worse than you can imagine.”

The post Report: Ukraine whistleblower had a professional tie to a Democratic presidential candidate appeared first on Hot Air.

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Blockbuster: Trump, RNC raise combined $125 million in third quarter, a new record

Westlake Legal Group t-3 Blockbuster: Trump, RNC raise combined $125 million in third quarter, a new record Trump The Blog RNC republican primary Obama gop Fundraising democratic Bernie Sanders 125 Million

How big is this number? When Obama ran for reelection in 2011, he and the DNC managed a combined $70 million in the third quarter.

Trump and the RNC didn’t quite double them up, but they got pretty close.

Consider this an unusually concrete example of the advantages of incumbency. While Democratic candidates are dividing liberal money among themselves and using it to battle each other, the GOP can focus all its energy on building a tremendous financial arsenal for next fall.

Well, mostly for next fall. A little of it will be spent this fall to try to solve the president’s impeachment problem.

The pro-Trump effort said Tuesday that it has raised more than $308 million in 2019 and has more than $156 million in the bank. Republicans aim to use the fundraising haul to fight off Democrats’ impeachment effort…

The fundraising announcement comes as the pro-Trump efforts launched their first major advertising campaign of the cycle. Trump’s team aims to devote $1 billion to his reelection.

Last week, as House Democrats launched their impeachment effort, the Trump campaign announced it would spend $8 million to air an ad attacking Democrats for trying to “steal” the 2020 campaign. The RNC said it would spend $2 million attacking Democrats for their support of impeachment.

So there’s another reason why Democrats may have warmed up to impeachment: It’s helping to offset the mammoth lead Trump has on fundraising for the general election, forcing him to spend some of his cash to fight the effort to drive him from office. If I’m right that impeachment will end up as a wash politically, with opinions for and against Trump so hardened that no one ends up being swayed either way by the process, then getting Trump to deplete some of his war chest might be the chief benefit Democrats get from it.

But wait. Are we sure Trump and the RNC are *losing* money on impeachment on balance? Granted, they’re spending some — but how much are they making?

In addition to taking numerous fundraising trips to collect reelection cash, Trump’s cash haul got a boost in recent days as House Democrats endorsed an impeachment inquiry. The Trump campaign brought in $8.5 million dollars online in two days after the impeachment push began.

How do you suppose the Trump campaign will do fundraising-wise in the 24 hours after Democrats actually go ahead and impeach him?

I’m curious to see a breakdown of how much of the $125 million came from small donors and how much came from fatcats. (In 2011, Obama’s haul came from 600,000 individual donors, 98 percent of whom gave $250 or less.) I can imagine the numbers being strong from both groups. Trump is extremely popular within his own party and the “siege effect” from impeachment may increase that popularity, or at least increase the enthusiasm of hardcore fans. There’s bound to a broad base of smaller donors, and they’re apt to become more eager to show their support in the fourth quarter as the Democrats close in on him. Meanwhile, rich donors are warily watching Elizabeth Warren’s ascendance in the Democratic primary and imagining their wealth going up in smoke in 2021. They’re surely pouring money into Trump’s campaign as well, knowing that he’s a weak incumbent by historical standards and may need extra financial help to hold her off next year. If you can spend thousands now by donating to Trump to save millions later in new taxes if Democrats sweep to power, that’s an investment worth making.

One more number for you:

The Republican National Committee’s most recent financial disclosure showed that the organization held $53.8 million cash on hand at the end of August. The Democratic National Committee, by contrast, had $8.2 million on hand at that time.

Trump proved in 2016 that a financial disadvantage is no bar to winning the presidency, something the Democratic nominee will find comfort in next year. I wonder how big a difference the RNC’s financial advantage will make in Senate races, though. It looks like they’ll have lots of cash on hand that can be shoveled as needed at candidates like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner who are stuck in tough purple-state races. Trump’s fundraising bonanza might not be enough to win him an election but it could be enough to ensure that the GOP keeps the Senate. That, not Trump, may be the only thing that keeps Warren away from rich people’s money.

Here’s Steve Bannon imagining that the end result of impeachment might be … another Hillary Clinton candidacy. That won’t happen, but it’s understandable that Bannon would want to go back to that well. Can’t go wrong as a right-winger promoting Clinton as a face of the Democratic Party.

The post Blockbuster: Trump, RNC raise combined $125 million in third quarter, a new record appeared first on Hot Air.

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Study: Independents six points less likely to vote Democratic when told that candidates have shifted left

Westlake Legal Group ew Study: Independents six points less likely to vote Democratic when told that candidates have shifted left warren Trump The Blog shift sanders republican left indies independents democratic biden Allahpundit Alexander Agadjanian

A noteworthy caution to Democratic voters on a day when Biden’s lead in the RCP poll of polls has slipped to just 4.2 points, easily the smallest margin he’s enjoyed since entering the race. Progressive flamethrower Elizabeth Warren is now hot on his heels and has even led narrowly in a couple of polls taken over the last 10 days. Maybe the exciting left-wing candidate who can mobilize Dem voters is the way to go against Trump!

Or maybe not, says researcher Alexander Agadjanian:

The experiment’s procedure was simple. A random half of participants read a news snippet illustrating the leftward shift, while the other half read about unrelated topics, such as the schedule of election dates. The news item was a few sentences that included policies discussed by the candidates: decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings; expanding undocumented immigrants’ access to government services; replacing private health insurance with a government-run system; and establishing free public college for all children from working-class families. The content was drawn directly from real news coverage.

Both sets of respondents then indicated how they planned to vote in 2020 (whether for President Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee), how strongly they were considering voting Democratic, and how motivated they felt to turn out and vote for or against the Democratic nominee. Because of the random assignment — with some reading about the policy positions and others reading innocuous, unrelated information — the difference in responses between the groups can be attributed to the effect of reading about the leftward shift.

When deciding between Mr. Trump and the Democratic nominee, voters in the middle — the independents who could ultimately tilt things in Mr. Trump’s favor — became six percentage points less likely to vote Democratic after reading about the leftward turn compared with the independents who had read the innocuous content.

The good news for Warren is that *Democratic* voters who read about the leftward shift were *more* likely to say they’d strongly consider voting for the eventual nominee — but only by a margin of three points, less than the share of indies who were repelled by the leftist trend. If you’re a true-believing progressive, maybe none of that matters. Better to place a risky bet on meaningful change in the form of Warren or Bernie Sanders as nominee than to place a safe bet on the status quo by backing Biden. Or maybe you think the “alienated independent” effect here will be weaker than Agadjanian expects. For instance, if Trump ends up bogged down in impeachment and scandal, or if the economy slows down, indies who might be reluctant to vote for a leftist might nonetheless be more reluctant to vote for Trump. And maybe Warren as nominee will so energize Democrats, including far-left Democrats who sneered at Clinton three years ago, that Democratic turnout will blow the roof off and more than compensate for the loss in independents.

But alienating independents is a big risk, obviously. And the result here buttresses Trump’s strategy to run against socialism next year no matter who the nominee ends up being, even the not-particularly-socialist Biden. That would have been an interesting follow-up question for Agadjanian — do candidates with a rep for being far-left, e.g., Sanders and Warren, lose more independents than a moderate like Biden does when indies are made to read about the party’s leftward shift or is the effect uniform across all candidates? If it’s less pronounced for Biden, obviously that supports his electability pitch.

Another possibility: Maybe Warren as nominee would simply reposition herself as kinda sorta centrist in the general election. All nominees move towards the middle a little, after all. Perry Bacon argues today at FiveThirtyEight that that’s unlikely to happen this time, though. In recent history, party nominees have tended to pander to the center of the general electorate more through “tone” and their VP choice than by backing down on policy promises they made during the primaries. Watering down one’s policies for the general election might not even amount to effective pandering:

The previous Democratic presidential nominees were all in some ways following a kind of “median voter’ model, imagining that there was a set of voters whose views were basically in between the positions of the Democrats and the Republicans. But there is a lot of evidence that moderate, swing and independent voters aren’t particularly centrist, but hold a lot of different views, some of which are conservative, some of which are liberal.

So maybe Sanders or Warren, in a general election, keep their populism pretty amped up in an effort to woo voters who may swing between the two parties but would prefer an unabashed economic populist. Maybe Harris, instead of choosing a centrist white man as her running mate, picks Warren — or Warren chooses Harris — and they run a campaign with strongly liberal stands on issues of race and identity, hoping to win the election by energizing voters particularly turned off by Trump’s racialized and racist appeals.

Any “alienated independents” who are lost now aren’t likely to be wooed back next year in the general, in other words. Democrats are going to have to beat Trump with a version of Trump’s own strategy from 2016, with sky-high turnout among their own base and indies concluding that the other party’s candidate is just a little bit more reprehensible on balance. Every election is a “lesser of two evils” election now!

Speaking of centrism and electability, go read this story about Pete Buttigieg trying to reposition himself as a centrist in the primary now that Biden’s grip on the frontrunner role has begun to slip. Moderate Dems are going to demand an alternative on the ballot next year to Warren and Sanders, even if Grandpa Joe suddenly appears unelectable. Right now, with Harris having collapsed and none of the other also-rans showing signs of life in the polls, Mayor Pete is the only game in town.

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Tulsi Gabbard: On second thought, we need an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s Ukraine conduct

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My first thought upon reading this was for poor Tucker Carlson, her nationalist admirer at Fox, whose heart must be breaking. If Gabbard’s not going to shill for Trump when the chips are down, of what use is she ultimately to Fox News and MAGA Nation? Right, great, she dealt a heavy blow to Kamala Harris at the second debate. Protecting Trump from impeachment matters much more.

I pointed out on Tuesday when she sounded like a no on impeachment that she was placing herself in an awkward position politically. She just qualified for the October presidential debate, after all; she’s going to be onstage next month on national television at a moment when her party is racing towards impeaching the president with near-unanimous support among its own base. She was certain to be asked about her stance at that debate. Anything she might conceivably say about the drawbacks of impeachment — it’s divisive, it’s another blow to political norms, it’s proceeding without due deliberation — would be interpreted by lefties as treason against the party. She’d wreck her political future at the tender age of 38.

She needed to climb down, and so today she did.

“However, after looking carefully at the transcript of the conversation with Ukraine’s President, the whistleblower complaint, the Inspector General memo, and President Trump’s comments about the issue, unfortunately, I believe that if we do not proceed with the inquiry, it will set a very dangerous precedent. Future presidents, as well as anyone in positions of power in the government, will conclude that they can abuse their position for personal gain, without fear of accountability or consequences.

“If we allow the President to abuse his or her power, then our society will rot from top to bottom. We will turn into a banana republic, where people in positions of power—from the president all the way down to the traffic cop—will feel it’s okay to abuse their power with no consequences.

“This is not the kind of country that any of us want to see.”

She’s not calling for impeachment but for an impeachment inquiry, the same sort of hedge Pelosi has used lately. Democrats aren’t committed to impeaching the president (officially) but they are now committed to investigating the Ukraine matter in the expectation that it’ll lead to impeachment if the claims are substantiated. Gabbard hedges a bit more for the MAGA fans in her base when she goes on to say that the Democrats’ inquiry “must be swift, thorough, and narrowly-focused” and “cannot be turned into a long, protracted partisan circus.” She even uses the word “unfortunate” not once but twice in her statement to signal her deep, deep misgivings about taking this position — although, in fairness, she also notes Trump’s own comments about the Ukraine matter as a contributing factor in her reversal. I wonder which comments, specifically. These, maybe?

And so we come to the question: Wha’ happened? Did Gabbard flip-flop because she really was persuaded by the whistleblower complaint that there might be corruption here? Was it a simple matter of her knowing her position would be untenable onstage at the next debate?

Or was it something else? Meet Kai Kehele, Democrat and candidate for office in Hawaii’s Second District. That’s Gabbard’s district. He’s challenging her in the primary and he’s been playing her reluctance to impeach Trump, which she had called “divisive,” to the hilt on Twitter this week:

As of this morning, just 12 Democrats in the House still opposed an impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine matter. Eleven of the 12 come from purplish districts, many won by Trump in 2016. Opposing the president under those circumstances is risky. The only exception: Tulsi Gabbard, whose home district in Hawaii broke for Hillary Clinton by more than 30 points. Her stance is — or was — waaaay out of step with the partisan tendencies of her home state. If Gabbard had stuck to her guns on opposing impeachment and been confronted about it on a national stage at the next debate, donations from outraged lefties would have begun flowing in to Kehele’s campaign from across America. Gabbard would have been at risk of losing her House seat. At the end of the day, Tulsi’s enough of a conventional politician to protect her own career when she has reason to believe it’s in peril.

By the way, the DNC announced today that the entire field of 12 candidates will be onstage together at the October debate instead of splitting into two groups of six, which means another opportunity for Gabbard to take it to Kamala Harris in a big spot. Maybe she’ll end up back in Trump Nation’s good graces after that. In lieu of an exit question, re-read her statement and note that Gabbard’s standard of potentially impeachable offenses appears to involve “abuses of power,” not statutorily defined crimes. That’s a point that’s already popped up in Trump’s defense among his supporters, including on her friend Tucker’s show: If impeachment is supposed to focus on “high crimes and misdemeanors,” what specific “crime” is Trump guilty of? Gabbard appears to be of the view that abuse of power is enough of a crime to justify an inquiry, another point of division between her and Trumpers.

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“Very few hearings, if any”: Dems hoping to rush through impeachment before Thanksgiving

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The official word is that there’s no timetable but the political reality is that Democrats need this done ASAP.

Which is bad news for Trump since it leaves him less time to plead his case and produce exculpatory evidence before Dems take the plunge.

But it’s good news for Senate Republicans. The less time Democrats give themselves to build a case against Trump, the less persuasive that case will be by the time it gets to the Senate, the easier it’ll be for Republicans there to say, “I’m troubled but it’s just not enough to convict.”

Plus, Cocaine Mitch doubtless wants this over as soon as Pelosi does. Nothing good can come from Susan Collins and Cory Gardner having to linger in impeachment limbo while voters in their home states scream at them to vote yes/no.

“Very few hearings, if any,” said a senior Democratic aide, who said the coming investigative work will largely take place in closed-door interviews. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly…

Under an informal timeline discussed by multiple Democrats on Wednesday, the Intelligence Committee would spend the coming weeks investigating the Ukrainian allegations. Meanwhile, the other five committees investigating Trump-related matters would work to close out their own investigative portfolios. After that, the findings would be passed to the Judiciary Committee, with Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) taking the lead in drafting potential articles of impeachment.

Following the two-week recess, the House is scheduled to be in session for the last three weeks of October, then after another one-week recess, another two weeks in session before Thanksgiving. Some Democratic lawmakers and aides said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations, that they believed impeachment articles could be ready for a House vote around Thanksgiving.

Centrist Dems want to go slow in order to show right-leaning voters back home that they’re taking this seriously and not rushing to conclusions about Trump. But that timeline doesn’t work for the party. Pelosi’s worried about this bleeding into next year and disrupting the primaries while Democratic candidates are busy trying to make their case to voters on policy. And with every day that passes, the argument grows stronger that we’re close enough to Election Day to let voters resolve this matter at the polls. Pelosi’s also worried about the public losing interest in the Ukraine matter if it drags on for months. And of course lefties fret that impeachment might backfire on them by driving undecided voters to sympathize with Trump the same way it backfired on the GOP in 1998.

All of this fits with Pelosi’s baseline view of impeachment — it’s a bad idea that could actually help Trump next November, but if the base simply won’t be denied its heart’s desire then the House is better off doing it as quickly as it can and dumping it on McConnell. McConnell will doubtless dispense with it quickly too and come next November it’ll be a distant memory. The base gets what it wants and Pelosi still kinda sorta gets to stick with her “focus on the election” approach. In fact, the most interesting detail in the excerpt is that House committees investigating Trump on matters other than Ukraine — emoluments, tax returns, hush-money payments, etc — will now also be pressured to wrap up quickly and send their findings to Nadler. That is, Pelosi’s going to seize this opportunity to snuff as many impeachment candles as she can while she’s busy granting progressives their wish with an impeachment vote on Ukraine. She’s not going to go through this mess again in six months over something else because liberals are mad that the Senate didn’t bounce Trump over Ukraine.

The standard view of how impeachment might backfire on Democrats is by so infuriating right-leaning voters that Trump’s turnout next fall ends up higher than anyone expected. That’s possible, but there’s a greater risk per Noah Millman — the process might placate some anti-Trump voters who are outraged by Trump’s behavior and looking to punish him for it. Impeachment might scratch their itch such that they’re less motivated to vote, or it might inadvertently convince them that Trump’s not as corrupt as they’ve been led to believe. It might even move the goalposts on what properly counts as “corruption”:

Then, while the inquiry is ongoing, there’s a real possibility that the allegations move in the minds of at least some of the public from the political column to the criminal one. The standards of evidence could move from “do I want to hire this guy again?” to “is he guilty enough to convict?” — and attacks could feel more like prejudging the case than weighing it and finding the president wanting. This dynamic is arguably ridiculous — but it’s also exactly what happened in the Kavanaugh hearings. Ironically, starting a process designed to remove the president for his crimes could lead the public to view that process as the sole legitimate venue for adjudicating whether those crimes were committed, and remove them from the electoral calculus. And the GOP is going to pursue all of these lines of argument through official channels and through friendly media, to make sure that the public evolves in the desired fashion.

It’s pointless to weigh the political pros and cons of impeachment anymore, though, since it’s now assuredly going to happen. Yuval Levin wrote today at NRO about his time as a staffer for Newt Gingrich during the Clinton impeachment saga, when pundits routinely predicted that the GOP would find a reason to hold off and the GOP went right ahead and impeached him anyway. Once you commit to a course this dire and gratifying to your base, Levin explains, there’s no way to retreat without losing face. The momentum is nearly unstoppable. In Trump’s case, it would probably take something on the order of the whistleblower confessing to having made up some of the allegations in his complaint to give Pelosi a strong enough reason to cancel the attack on Trump at the eleventh hour. As it is, Levin’s correct to say that “Pelosi now seems to be operating under the logic that the best way to contain the damage from this process to her conference is to get it over with quickly.” She’s going to check the box, then McConnell’s going to check it, and that’ll be that. Back to (the new) normal.

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Bye-bye Biden? Warren leads in new national poll, tied for lead in another

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Bear in mind, these results are trickling in *before* Democratic voters have digested the allegations of corruption made against Biden in the Ukraine matter. Even if they opt not to believe them, how many will conclude that swing voters will believe them next fall and start discounting Biden’s alleged “electability” advantage?

Imagine if Trump ends up being impeached for trying to make trouble abroad for a candidate who was never going to be his general election opponent anyway.

A game-changing new poll from Quinnipiac:

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Not only is 27 percent the best Warren’s ever done in a national poll, it’s also the first time she’s led Biden outright in any national poll. As usual, she leads him in enthusiasm too: Fully 70 percent of Dems say they’d be excited to see her as nominee versus 56 percent who say the same of Biden.

The real alarm bell for Grandpa Joe, though, is the split among black voters, as Philip Klein rightly notes:

Back in a July poll, Warren was essentially in a three-way tie for second place, with 15 percent nationally, according to Quinnipiac. In that poll, she was at 20 percent among white voters, but way back at six percent among black voters. In a Wednesday poll, she has vaulted to the top, with 27 percent overall, just edging out Joe Biden, at 25 percent. But now among black voters, she’s in second place, at 19 percent.

In California, it’s a similar story. A new LA Times poll finds Warren jumping to a 29 percent to 22 percent lead in the delegate-rich state overall, but, she’s only trailing Biden 32 percent to 24 percent among black voters. Sen. Kamala Harris, who is both black and from California, was at 18 percent among the group.

Not only is Warren now second to Biden among black voters, trailing him 40/19, but Bernie Sanders has 12 percent of that group. If Bernie fades and black progressives begin drifting towards Warren, suddenly she’d be competitive with Joe among voters who are supposed to be his “firewall,” the group that will offset his losses among other demographics by preferring him overwhelmingly. Blacks no longer prefer him overwhelmingly, according to today’s Quinnipiac data. And given the general drift towards Warren in all polling lately, it’s likely that his lead among them will shrink rather than grow.

Could the Quinnipiac poll be an outlier? Seems unlikely. This new data that dropped this morning from YouGov confirms that the race is a coin flip right now, with Warren and Biden neck and neck in the mid-20s.

When Democratic voters are asked whom they’re considering voting for, Warren leads Biden 54/47. There are other polls lately that look like this too — Emerson recently had Biden up 25/23 and NBC/WSJ had it 31/25 in mid-September. There’s no reason, in other words, to think Quinnipiac and YouGov are “bad polls” for Biden or “good polls” for Warren. They seem to accurately reflect the state of the race at the moment, before the impact of the Ukraine stuff has been felt. In fact, as of today, Warren is the first candidate besides Biden to crack 20 percent in the RCP poll of polls since May. She seems to be for real.

“But wait,” you say, “national polls are interesting but ultimately don’t matter. Iowa and New Hampshire are what matter.” Right, true — but Warren’s surging there too. I already posted this new Monmouth poll of New Hampshire yesterday but it’s worth eyeballing the numbers again:

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She’s just three points behind Biden in the RCP polling average of the state right now. And Iowa? Warren has led the field there in the last two polls taken, 24/16 over Biden in an Iowa State survey taken in mid-September and 22/20 in a Des Moines Register poll conducted a few days later. She’s up 2.7 points in the RCP average.

If you had to make a bet on the Democratic primaries at this particular moment in time, Warren running the table would look like a fairly solid bet. The question is whether South Carolina’s mostly black Democratic electorate would stick with Biden if he lost the first two states or if they’d break for Warren if she won them. The signs there aren’t great for Biden either, per Politico:

Biden’s level of support in South Carolina makes it his firewall state, but even in South Carolina there are troubling signs of erosion. While he remains on top, among black voters, who are more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate, Biden has plummeted 19 points in Tyson’s polls. That’s a potential leading indicator of the problems he could face after South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary when many of the minority-heavy Southeastern states — as well as Texas and California — beginning voting on Super Tuesday, March 3, and thereafter.

As strange as it is to imagine after the Democratic field initially ballooned to more than 20 candidates, the actual race could be over quickly once Democrats start voting. Which means Trump will never have a chance to use the Ukraine matter against Biden — but Warren will have lots of chances to use it against Trump. Good lord.

Exit question: Kamala Harris is now at three percent nationally, per Quinnipiac? Was even Scott Walker’s 2016 flameout as embarrassing as this?

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And then there were two: New WSJ/NBC poll has Biden and Warren breaking from the pack as Harris collapses

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This is a big deal if it’s part of a trend, and maybe it is. After all, it was just a week ago that Elizabeth Warren pulled 26 percent in a YouGov poll, her best total ever. Now here she is again breaking into the mid-20s with Bernie Sanders a distant third in the mid-teens.

Is this now a two-way race?

Because increasingly it feels like a two-way race.

Biden fans will find solace in the fact that he kept pace with Warren’s surge, losing just one net point to her since July. But read the fine print here. When we combine first- and second-choice totals for the candidates (and we should since the race is still heavily in flux at this early point) we find Warren at the head of the pack, not Grandpa Joe.

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Who’s leading in voter enthusiasm, you ask? Right, Warren again. Back in March, just 20 percent of Democrats said they were enthusiastic about her as nominee. Today 35 percent do. The trends for Bernie and Biden are in the opposite direction, with enthusiasm for Sanders dipping from 28 to 25 percent since March and enthusiasm for Joe sliding all the way from 33 percent to 23. Dems are going to find themselves in quite a spot if Biden ekes out the nomination on “electability” grounds despite no one getting excited for him while Warren has to settle for second place despite galvanizing the base.

The divide among white voters is especially interesting since, as Liam Donovan notes, Iowa and New Hampshire are almost entirely white. Warren is surging ahead among white college grads but Biden remains in front with working-class whites. Who wins that death struggle in the early states?

Another race-related development worth nothing: Warren has now crept into second place among black Democrats. It’s a very distant second to Biden, just 13 percent compared to his 49, but if she starts taking chunks of his base he’s finished.

And speaking of finished. Although it’s not news that her polls have slipped significantly since July, the fact that she’s now down to a dismal five percent here suggests that Officer Harris has retired from the 2020 force. She’s now fifth when candidates are measured by their first- and second-choice totals behind Pete Buttigieg, and it seems perfectly plausible that she’ll have been passed by Andrew Yang the next time NBC polls the race. This poll is no outlier either: The last three surveys tracked by RCP had her at six, four, and six points. Imagine being a millionaire liberal who’s been approached by Harris for your support. What could she possibly say at this point to convince you to cut her a check instead of Warren or Biden or even Sanders? Hopefully this poll will kickstart the “Harris is a surprisingly weak, cynical, inauthentic candidate” takes in the media, because she really is all of those things and more attention should be paid to it.

One last point. There’s a running debate among politics nerds about whether Bernie is hurting Warren or Biden more by remaining in the race. You might think the answer is obvious — he’s hurting Warren because they’re both far left and some of his voters would surely be with her if he dropped out. But Bernie also appeals to older working-class white voters, the same people who gravitate to Grandpa Joe. Not all voters are ideologues. For some, if they can’t get the geriatric socialist nominated for president, they’ll take the geriatric centrist. I mention all that because this graph from NBC’s story about the poll caught my eye:

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Clearly Bernie does seem to be hurting Warren more than Biden right now. Given the reports today of dissension within the ranks of Team Sanders, you wonder if some Berniebros will begin grudgingly leaning him on this fall to do the right thing and endorse Warren if there’s further separation between the two in polling.

Oh, almost forgot: Now that we have two separate post-debate polls showing Beto O’Rourke’s numbers stuck in the toilet, I think we can safely conclude that last week’s gun-confiscation stunt was a bust.

In lieu of an exit question, via Jeff Dunetz, here’s the Trump campaign’s new tribute to the mental health of the Democratic frontrunner, who’s probably not really the frontrunner anymore at this point.

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