A close governor’s race in Louisiana stays blue

On Saturday, a runoff election in Louisiana went to the incumbent, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. It was a hard-fought race. His competitor was a businessman from Baton Rouge, Eddie Rispone. Bel Edwards won the race with just over 51% of the vote. Reminder: President Trump won Louisiana in 2016 by 20 percent.

Let’s talk about the similarities and differences between this race in Louisiana and that Kentucky race we’ve been talking about for the last two weeks. In Kentucky, incumbent governor Matt Bevin was notably unpopular—his polling was just really bad. That opened a crack for a Democrat—who happened to also be the son of a previous Kentucky governor—to jump in and win that race. President Trump spent some time in Kentucky doing rallies trying to help the Republican candidate, but it wasn’t enough.

In Louisiana, the dynamic was a little different. In that case, the incumbent WAS a Democrat. And Trump showed up for rallies there as well. But one of the big challenges in Louisiana is that Bel Edwards is not particularly liberal. He’s pro-gun rights, he’s anti-abortion, and he actually is capable of drawing a chunk of traditional conservative Republicans because of that.

Let me read from just one of the many analyses of the Louisiana race published over the weekend. This one is by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, writing for The New York Times.

“When President Trump showed up in Louisiana for the third time in just over a month to try to help Republicans win the governor’s race, he veered off script and got to the heart of why he was staging such an unusual political intervention. His attempt to lift Gov[ernor] Matt Bevin of Kentucky to victory this month had failed, Mr. Trump explained, and it would look bad for him to lose another race in a heavily Republican state.
“You got to give me a big win, please, O.K.,” the president pleaded with a red-hatted crowd last Thursday in Bossier City, L[ouisiana].
But on Saturday night, Mr. Trump’s wager backfired in spectacular fashion.
Not only did Gov[ernor] John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, win re-election by more than 40,000 votes, he did so with the same coalition that propelled Governor-elect Andy Beshear to victory in Kentucky and that could put the president’s re-election chances in grave jeopardy next year. Like Mr. Beshear, Mr. Edwards energized a combination of African-Americans and moderate whites in and around the urban centers of his state, building decisive margins in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.”

That last part is key. Regardless of the politics at the top, Democrats appear to be succeeding in all kinds of recent elections—including that Virginia legislature thing—when they are able to turn out a broad coalition. And that coalition depends heavily on people of color.

Bloomberg apologizes for his stop-and-frisk policy

Next up, former New York City Governor Michael Bloomberg apologized for one of his signature policies. And it was a policy that severely affected people of color. Reading from an article by Shane Goldmacher in The New York Times:

“Ahead of a potential Democratic presidential run, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York on Sunday reversed his longstanding support of the aggressive “stop-and-frisk” policing strategy that he pursued for a decade and that led to the disproportionate stopping of black and Latino people across the city.
“I was wrong,” Mr. Bloomberg declared. “And I am sorry.”
The speech, Mr. Bloomberg’s first since he re-emerged as a possible presidential candidate, was a remarkable concession by a 77-year-old billionaire not known for self-doubt: that a pillar of his 12-year mayoralty was a mistake that he now regrets. It was also, in some ways, a last word on an era of aggressive policing in New York City that began a generation ago under former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — though the fallout on neighborhoods is still felt to this day.
Speaking before the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center, a black megachurch in Brooklyn, Mr. Bloomberg delivered his apology in the heart of one of the communities most affected by his policing policies, and at a location that nodded to the fact that should he decide to run for president, African-American voters would be a crucial Democratic constituency that he would need to win over.”

The article goes on to describe how, after Bloomberg concluded his remarks and took his seat in the church, Reverend A.R. Bernard had to urge folks to, “show some love and appreciation,” which only resulted in what the Times called “tepid applause.”

This highlights one of the key challenges Bloomberg faces, should he decide to run. His long political history leaves him with baggage that could hurt him in an effort to build the very coalition he would need to win the primary. This is kind of similar to the baggage Joe Biden has carried and I’ve reported on for months, with one really important exception—Biden polls very well among black voters. The question remains whether Bloomberg can turn this around. Reading once more from the Times:

““This issue is a threshold issue,” said Stephen K. Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S[outh] C[arolina], who came to the church service and had dinner with Mr. Bloomberg several weeks ago, where the topic of stop-and-frisk came up. Mr. Benjamin said he had urged Mr. Bloomberg to run in 2020. “I’m a big believer that there is strength in humility and genuine contrition, realizing and articulating you got something wrong.””

A giant pile of new polling data arrives

Over the weekend, we saw a LOT of new polling data. CBS News released FOUR polls, covering Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. And the Des Moines Register released the latest version of its Iowa poll.

So, what’s the summary? Long story short, in these early-voting states, this is a three-way race among Biden, Sanders, and Warren, and we may be able to add a fourth person to that mix—that’s Buttigieg. He’s doing very well in Iowa, and his position is rising in New Hampshire.

I don’t want to hit you over the head with too many numbers, but I do want to explain the Buttigieg rise in Iowa. In that Des Moines Register poll, 25% of “likely Democratic caucusgoers” chose Buttigieg as their first choice. Behind him are Warren at 16, and Biden and Sanders tied at 15. The margin of error there is plus or minus 4.4%, so Buttigieg is way outside that margin, and the other three—in that poll—are basically chilling in the backseat of the van. Nobody else got double digits.

Now, in the OTHER new poll of Iowa, that’s the CBS one, the field looks much more even, and in fact it has Biden and Sanders tied for the top spot at 22%, with Buttigieg just behind at 21, and Warren at 18. The margin of error for that poll is plus or minus 4.1%. So…yes, these polls differ on the specifics, but the big take-away is that, in Iowa Buttigieg is now a major factor.

In the other polls, again, you’ve heard enough numbers. But the key message there is clear—it’s a three- or maybe four-way race in those four early voting states.

Oh, one more important note. NONE OF THESE POLLS changed the debate qualification picture for the December DNC debate. So, what I said last week still stands. We have until December 12th for another three or THEORETICALLY more candidates to pick up polls. Given the volume of polling going on, adding Gabbard, Steyer, and Yang to that December stage seems a pretty safe bet.

The Trump impeachment stuff in three minutes or less

And now, the impeachment news in three minutes or less.

On Friday evening, testimony from Ukraine embassy staffer David Holmes leaked in the form of a series of photos of his written opening statement. This is the staffer Bill Taylor referred as having overheard a phone call between President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Reading from Kari Paul of The Guardian:

“The transcripts, which are being called “damning”, include Holmes saying he overheard Sondland tell Trump that Ukrainian president Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to”.”

Another follow-up from Friday. I said Friday that the transcript of an earlier call between Trump and Ukrainian president-elect Zelensky had nothing of interest. Well, apparently one thing was in fact notable about it. In the original readout of the call, the White House said that call included a discussion of corruption and reforms and stuff like that, which in fact are not present in the call log released Friday. There has been a dust-up about whose error that is, whether the read-out was wrong, or the call log was wrong, or whatever. The issue may in fact be that Trump was given talking points about those issues before the call but simply didn’t bring them up in the actual call.

Today, President Trump suggested on Twitter that he would “strongly consider” testifying in the impeachment inquiry. He appeared to be responding to yesterday’s episode of Face the Nation, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Trump should go ahead and testify. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said roughly the same thing. I will, of course, keep you posted if Trump ends up being a witness, but keep in mind that he made similar comments about the Mueller investigation and then refused to sit for interviews. He did, however, submit written testimony to Mueller’s team.

In a related matter, today a court is considering whether the House will get access to the underlying materials from the Mueller investigation. The court hearing is actually in progress as I say this, so the outcome is not clear yet, and won’t be today anyway. But it is being treated as an urgent matter. The underlying issue is that House investigators want to know whether the president himself lied in his written testimony. Specifically, they want to know whether the president had knowledge of his campaign’s communication with WikiLeaks. So, more on that when we know it.

Coming up this week, there will be more public testimony starting tomorrow, that’s Tuesday, and will feature Alexander Vindman, among others. Sondland will testify Wednesday, and there are a total of eight people scheduled to testify in public this week, all packed into just three days. So, savor today and Friday because those are the only days this week with no public testimony.

Obama tells Democrats to chill out just a bit

On Friday, former President Barack Obama appeared with Stacey Abrams at an event for the Democracy Alliance in Washington. Obama’s remarks have made headlines, because they respond to the recent candidates jumping into the race at the last minute, seemingly concerned about whether Biden is the right moderate candidate.

There’s also the overall disagreement among Democrats between liberal policies and moderate ones. That’s what the DNC debates are about, and that’s in large point what this whole thing of finding another moderate candidate might be about. Obama speaks to that issue from his perspective. I just want to read a few of the notable Obama quotes to you, as reported by Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn’t think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that."

Next one:

"My point is that even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds or the activist wing of our party."

And last one.

“We have the better argument. We can’t be arrogant about it. We can’t take for granted that somehow people, just, you know, the scales will fall from their eyes at some point.”

So, no particular analysis on this one from me. There are two links in the show notes to lengthy discussions of what these remarks mean and don’t mean, but I just want to make sure you’re aware of what Obama actually, specifically, said.

There’s a rumor that yet another Republican might jump into the primary or something

Let’s keep this next one short. There are some whispers and rumors that Representative Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas, might, maybe, perhaps, maybe run for president. This seems deeply unlikely to me, but if we play around with the idea for a moment, it’s kind of interesting. It’s also potentially interesting in some kind of super long-shot scenario where, you know, maybe impeachment and removal DOES somehow occur and the GOP has to look around for an electable candidate real quick.

Hurd is currently the only black Republican in the House, and he is a relatively moderate politician. He apparently held SIX events in New Hampshire on Sunday alone, which does seem pretty weird for somebody from Texas who is not running for president. So anyway, no concrete news there, but it is sometimes fun to think about far-out rumors.

A brief reminder that there is a DNC debate in two days

Last up today, a super-short item. I just want to note that, yeah, there is a full-scale DNC debate on Wednesday night. Leading up to previous debates, the news cycle has been much more focused on candidates and debates.

But right now, it is hard to find news on anything other than impeachment, so it can be easy to forget that is a very important moment in the Democratic primary. Everybody on that stage worked really hard to get there, and I am going to have a bunch of clips the next day trying to summarize what they said.

So, again, that debate will air on MSNBC from 9pm to 11pm Eastern Time on Wednesday night. You can stream it on the MSNBC or Washington Post websites, and their apps for smartphones and TVs and tablets and, I don’t know, maybe watches, or fridges or whatever.