Control of Congress on the Line as Fall Midterms Loom

Control of Congress is once again on the line as Democrats and Republicans gear up for the November midterm elections. With voting less than five months away, where do the two parties stand?

The race for the House is too close to call at this point. Democrats will certainly gain seats; the “out” party usually does during non-presidential elections. They need a net gain of at least 23 for a majority. Continue reading “Control of Congress on the Line as Fall Midterms Loom”

“It’s the Economy, Stupid”: Trump and GOP Hope to Ride Economy to Victory in November

The strong economy is a political boon to President Trump and Republicans as they fight to maintain control of Congress. The numbers speak for themselves.

Growth is hovering around 3%. Unemployment (3.8%) is the lowest in nearly two decades, with a record number of job openings (6.7 million) to boot. Consumer spending is brisk after starting the year sluggish. Continue reading ““It’s the Economy, Stupid”: Trump and GOP Hope to Ride Economy to Victory in November”

Democrats Avert Disaster in Crucial Calif. Primaries

With their solid showing in this week’s California primaries, Democrats cleared a major hurdle in their bid to take control of the House of Representatives in November.

 The party avoided its worst-case scenario: Being shut out of several potentially competitive races because of California’s unusual primary system, which advances the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to the general election. On occasion, this leads to races in which two candidates from the same party face off on Election Day.

Democratic leaders fretted about this possibility more and more as primary day drew nearer, envisioning a scenario in which their abundant candidate pool cannibalized itself to Republicans’ advantage. California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman said he expected Democrats to be shut out of “at least a couple” of what should be competitive races in the fall.

Elevated Democratic turnout and machinations by party leaders to steer voters toward candidates they think had the best shot of winning, in some cases by badgering others to drop out of the race, allowed the party to avoid disaster.

The outcome ensures several vulnerable Republican-held seats are still in play, including seven that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won. Democrats need to gain at least 23 seats to win control of the House, which Republicans wrested from Democratic control after the 2010 midterms. They can’t flip the House without California.

But it was far from a victory for the party. Democrats burned through a lot of cash just guaranteeing their candidates slots on November’s ballot. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has spent at least $5.6 million in the Golden State this election cycle, at one point even giving money to Republican candidates in the hopes of splitting the GOP vote.

There was a silver lining for Republicans, who are not accustomed to good news in the state leading the “resistance” to Donald Trump’s presidency.

GOP candidates received a majority of the vote in all but one of the state’s key battleground districts. Granted, they underperformed compared to previous election years. Meanwhile, Democrats will likely do much better in the general election, when their voters are more likely to show up.

But Democrats have only proven they will be able to compete come November. They are targeting 10 seats, which Republicans will not give up easily. One vulnerable Republican, Rep. David Valadao, who represents an increasingly liberal district that voted for Clinton in 2016 and President Obama twice, already looks like a strong bet for re-election.

Furthermore, Republicans were not locked out of all major statewide races, which would have depressed their turnout in the general election. Republican John Cox stands little chance of becoming California’s next governor, but he will square off against Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Nov. 6. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, by contrast, will have no GOP challenger since fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon came in second on Tuesday.

Democrats and Republicans are both spinning the results. In reality, the status quo won. Neither party gained a clear advantage, and the fundamentals of this midterm election did not shift: The House of Representatives is up for grabs; Democrats will gain seats but are not guaranteed enough for a majority; and Republicans will vigorously defend their turf.

Pay attention to the generic ballot, which is starting to swing back in the Democrats’ favor after months of improving numbers for Republicans. With Trump in the White House, the GOP is running on one of the strongest economies in years. If that doesn’t help vulnerable Republican incumbents win re-election, nothing will.

Donald Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde Approach to Syria

Keeping up with President Trump’s constantly evolving position on Syria isn’t easy. Just ask his generals.

Earlier this month, the president called for a quick end to America’s military involvement in Syria, arguing the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops currently in the country should be out within six months. Alarm bells sounded at the Pentagon, whose top brass informed the president such a drastic move would jeopardize the ongoing fight against the Islamic State. Continue reading “Donald Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde Approach to Syria”

Old Fault Lines Threaten Historic Trump-Kim Summit, Despite Optimism

The U.S. and North Korea are inching toward a historic summit to discuss the fate of North Korea’s nuclear program, one that could potentially see the first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and North Korean supreme leader.

The idea originated through a game of diplomatic telephone. North Korea reportedly invited President Trump to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un during an inter-Korean dialogue last month. South Korea in turn relayed the invitation to the White House, and Trump, to the surprise of many, accepted. The summit is scheduled to be held sometime in May. Continue reading “Old Fault Lines Threaten Historic Trump-Kim Summit, Despite Optimism”

China Dream: Beijing Charts Path to Achieve Superpower Status, Overtake U.S.

2049 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s rise to power in China: A century marked by violence, revolution and, ultimately, reinvention, as the country slowly embraced capitalism and opened to the world (but without embracing democracy).

2049 is also the year by which Beijing wants to surpass the United States as the world’s greatest power both economically and militarily. And China is already well on its way to achieving this goal.

Continue reading “China Dream: Beijing Charts Path to Achieve Superpower Status, Overtake U.S.”

U.S. at Odds with Friends and Foes in Syria

As the fight against ISIS winds down, America is deepening its involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war, risking conflict with friends and foes alike.

The Trump administration has committed the U.S. to Syria for the long haul, despite President Trump’s apparent misgivings about U.S. military spending in the Middle East.

Continue reading “U.S. at Odds with Friends and Foes in Syria”

Nunes Memo Won’t Hinder Trump-Russia Probe

The controversial “Nunes memo” – named for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who spearheaded it – has been made public, and Washington is in a frenzy trying to prove or disprove its explosive allegations of bias against President Trump at the top levels of the FBI and Justice Dept. (For our take, check out the latest issue of The Kiplinger Letter).

Further muddying the waters is the potential release of committee Democrats’ rebuttal memo, which Trump would also have to authorize.

Continue reading “Nunes Memo Won’t Hinder Trump-Russia Probe”

Trump’s State of the Union Charts Uncertain Path

Presidents come and go, but the annual State of the Union address endures. It’s mostly an opportunity for political grandstanding but can offer insight into an administration’s goals for the year.

President Trump delivered his first official entry into this historic canon Tuesday. In typical fashion, he took the occasion to celebrate his achievements—major tax legislation, extensive deregulation, the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq—and call for national unity and bipartisanship.

Continue reading “Trump’s State of the Union Charts Uncertain Path”

Mr. Trump Goes to Davos

The idea of Donald Trump attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is a bit like mixing oil and water.

Like many on the Davos guest list, the U.S. president is both a prominent world leader and billionaire businessman. Unlike most of them, he also champions nationalism and economic protectionism, views that rarely receive a platform at the world’s largest annual celebration of globalization and the global elite who love it.

Continue reading “Mr. Trump Goes to Davos”