The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 50:
- A very important win for Trump, GOP
- Don’t count Roy Moore out just yet
- Hatch Hamlets over retirement; Trump tries to prevent Sen. Romney
Tax reform: Before he decided to change the subject on Twitter, President Trump enjoyed a moment of success as the Senate passed tax reform. Although the final outcome is not guaranteed — that will depend on what a joint House-Senate conference committee comes up with — Republicans are on the edge of doing what no one thought possible. And especially after the failure of Obamacare repeal, which had everyone questioning Republican competence to govern, this win really matters.
Successful passage of tax reform, if it does happen, helps Republicans in two ways. First, it gives GOP candidates something to stand on when they run for re-election. When Democrats attack, probably with copious mentions of Trump, these Republicans can say they really made a difference for their nation’s future by passing a serious tax reform bill.
Second, there’s a reasonable chance that tax reform will work as intended and significant economic growth and hiring will occur. And as James Carville famously put it, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”
Given the low bar for economic growth set in recent years, the results from a few tweaks could be a lot more dramatic than anyone expects. That would create an even better situation for Republicans as they ran in the Midterm, not to mention for Trump if he seeks re-election in 2020.
House races: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is determined enough to become Speaker again that she now seems ready to call for the resignation of any Democratic House member caught up in a sexual harassment scandal. She has already done so for John Conyers, D-Mich., and Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev.. Although it seems unlikely that either man will resign, it is not a longshot to think that neither will be his party’s nominee next year.
There’s a method to Pelosi’s madness, and it goes beyond any considerations of intellectual consistency. By throwing out the bad apples now, Pelosi is at least trying to extinguish an unpredictable and potentially distracting story that could fester for months as new cases and new accusations turn up. Recall that the 2006 election suddenly took a turn for the worse for Republicans when Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., was caught up in a late-breaking scandal. That can happen to Democrats as well.
It’s much better to clean out the skeletons now, at this early stage, than to risk having them all come out later. Pelosi just have to hope there aren’t too many more of them to be unearthed.
All other things being equal, the fundamentals of the 2018 election — unpopular Republican president’s first midterm, enthusiastic Democratic base — seem to favor a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House. A rash of sex harassment and assault scandals is just the sort of wildcard that could ruin a twice-in-a-career opportunity for Pelosi to hold the giant gavel.
Meanwhile, two old bulls — Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., will be retiring. Levin’s district is a slightly better target for Republicans than Barton’s is for Democrats, and Republicans are sufficiently short of realistic targets that they will surely try to field a credible nominee. All in all, though, these two retirements probably cancel each other out in terms of partisan advantage.
Alabama: It has been a surprise — although it will probably prove a temporary one — that the majority of high profile sexual harassment scandals coming out during the current frenzy have been of Democratic lawmakers and megadonors, with liberal media figures coming in second.
Just a few on the list of politicially influential Democrats: Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev. As far as liberal media figures go, everyone from Charlie Rose to (yikes) Garrion Keillor is falling from grace.
And guess who that’s helping, at just the moment when he needed it most? Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Despite all odds, Alabamians seem to be reconciling themselves to the idea that they have to vote for him in spite of the seemingly insurmountable obstacle in his past — namely, the unsubstantiated allegations that he inappropriately touched minor girls when in his thirties, and the very credible, very creepy allegations that he was routinely dating teenage girls at that age, which give the other allegations at least a little bit more credence.
Polls that had shown Moore cratering after those allegations were revealed are now hinting that he’ll pull it off. And although pollsters are going to be rusty in Alabama, where general elections are seldom competitive, Jones simply hasn’t built the substantial lead that you’d expect based on the allegations against Moore. If Moore doesn’t win, it really does look like he’s going to lose in a squeaker.
Moore might have Franken’s accuser especially to thank for her timing in coming forward. Franken is not going to resign even though at last one the allegations against him is fully substantiated with photographic evidence. And so, the thinking goes, why should Alabamians risk being represented by a Democrat just because the more substantiated accusations against Moore are arguably not as bad (although certainly old-fashioned, even in the late 1970s) as what Franken has been caught on phograph doing?.
Alabama is a heavily Republican state to begin with. For the voters there to choose a very liberal Democrat like Doug Jones is always going to be a tall order. But what we may see next Tuesday is a restatement of the principle that defined Donald Trump’s and the Republicans’ victory in the 2016 election. The Democratic Party has gone so far to the Left and become so completely unacceptable to many people, that they’d sooner vote for the devil himself if he were the alternative. And some Democrats would assert that the voters did just that when they picked Donald Trump in 2016.
The surprise in that presidential race, which even Trump’s most optimistic supporters could not have seen, was that the 14 percent of all voters who found both Hillary Clinton and Trump unfit to be president broke for Trump nearly five-to-one. Meanwhile, despite the controversy and strident criticism that swirled around their party throughout the election season, often because of Trump, Republicans down-ticket from Trump in 2016 did even better than he did in most cases.
The country was, at least for that one moment, at the point where anything could be forgiven or at least overlooked as long as you’re not the Democrat in the race. This appears to be playing out again now in Alabama.
And it means that Republicans in the Senate may well have to put up or shut up soon on promises to throw Moore out of the legislative chamber, and that’s really not something they wanted.
Utah: In case their relationship status seemed unclear the last time the two were together, President Trump really, really doesn’t like Mitt Romney, and is reportedly working to keep him from succeeding seven-term, 83-year-old incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has been playing Hamlet with retirement.
Trump is trying to persuade Hatch, his staunch and predictable ally in a very anti-Trump but Republican state, to run for re-election once again. And Hatch will easily win the general election if he does run. But Hatch does not share Trump’s antipathy toward Romney, and has at times appeared inclined to give up his seat and let Romney, a fellow Mormon and former Massachusetts governor, step right into it.