2018 is the New “Year of the Woman” in Politics

A new “Year of the Woman” is taking shape in politics. An unprecedented number of women are running for Congress and governor this year, reflecting a sharp uptick of overall female participation in politics since the 2016 presidential election, particular within the Democratic Party.

Women still face some challenges, so it’s uncertain how this crop will fare come Election Day. But women have never been better positioned to make gains at the state and national levels. Continue reading “2018 is the New “Year of the Woman” in Politics”

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.

Hemp is Coming Back

Hemp will once again be a cash crop for the United States. There is a strong bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to legalize the plant, a close relative of marijuana with myriad industrial uses, and define it as an agricultural commodity.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is cosponsoring and fast-tracking a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances. The legislation would allow states to regulate the plant’s cultivation and sale and it would make hemp farmers eligible for federal crop insurance. Continue reading “Hemp is Coming Back”

Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pending retirement wasn’t unexpected. Given the raucous, de-centralized nature of the House Republican Conference, as well as the unpredictable, often strained relationship between GOP leaders and President Trump, his announcement this week that he won’t seek re-election was already in the works. The speakership, once the most coveted prize on Capitol Hill, has become a thankless job that some qualified potential candidates now shun. Ryan himself didn’t want the gig, reluctantly accepting the assignment in 2015 out of a sense of party loyalty after then-Speaker John Boehner’s ouster left the conference in turmoil.

Ryan’s self-imposed exile sets off a chain-reaction. For starters, Republicans are struggling to retain control of the House next year. Heading into its toughest campaign season in a decade with a lame-duck leader won’t make things easier for them. Continue reading “Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP”

Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation

The last major legislative train of the year is about to leave Capitol Hill and a lot of high-profile cargo will be left behind.

Lawmakers had hoped to attach several significant and unrelated provisions to a massive government funding bill that Congress will address later this week. The $1.3-trillion omnibus bill is the last major “must pass” piece of legislation that Congress will take up until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so lawmakers from both parties and chambers had hoped to use it as a vehicle to address everything from shoring up Obamacare’s health insurance markets to new gun control measures, immigration reform and protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Continue reading “Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation”

Fake News Websites Proliferating

Beware of a growing trend in politics—websites masquerading as unbiased news organizations that are run by politicians, political parties or activists created to tout their partisan views.

Republicans have been particularly savvy in utilizing this technique to spread their messages and discredit Democrats. Continue reading “Fake News Websites Proliferating”

Don’t Believe The Hype. Congress Can’t Play Nice.

Next time congressional leaders suggest they’re ready to bury the political hatchet and work together in good faith toward a common goal, take their words with a grain of salt. In fact, make it a block.

Take this week’s immigration “debate.” When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to reopen the government last month, he did so on a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to debate a key Democratic agenda item: Legislation to protect the 1.8 million “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors. McConnell vowed an “amendment process that is fair to all sides.” Continue reading “Don’t Believe The Hype. Congress Can’t Play Nice.”

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”

Control of Congress Rests on Handful of Critical Variables

It’s too early to make a definitive call on the midterm elections, but here are some key factors shaping the campaign landscape.

The Generic Congressional Ballot: This poll asks people which party they would support in a congressional election, without mentioning any specific candidate. So far, Democrats have a clear advantage. RealClearPolitics, a political polling and news aggregator, shows the party with an average lead of 9 points on the generic ballot, based on polling data dating back to January 2017.

Continue reading “Control of Congress Rests on Handful of Critical Variables”