Lewandowski might run for Senate in New Hampshire

First up today, in the Who Might Be Running Department, there’s been a lot of rumbling about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski running for Senate in New Hampshire. He was even name-checked by the president last night at a rally. Reading from Maggie Haberman’s coverage in The New York Times, ““They’re all saying, ‘Are you going to support him?’” Mr. Trump said. “I said, ‘I don’t know if he’s running.’ So Corey, let us know please, if you don’t mind.”” In the same piece, Haberman reported that Trump also said Lewandowski would be, “hard to beat” and a “great senator”. That’s a solid endorsement. And by the way, hat-tip to listener Rich Schafer who pointed out this evolving drama to me on Twitter.

All of this praise comes after President Trump fired Lewandowski in June 2016. And just hours before Trump made those comments yesterday, Lewandowski was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the Mueller Report. Oh yeah, he appears on at least 23 pages of the Mueller Report, related to possible obstruction of justice stuff. So, who is Corey Lewandowski, why might he run for Senate in New Hampshire, and why do we care? Well, let’s break it down.

First up, Lewandowksi is the guy who helped Trump win the Republican primary in New Hampshire—which was, in fact, Trump’s FIRST primary win, and set him on the path toward winning a bunch more. After Lewandowski was fired, he quickly picked up a job as a CNN political commentator.

He's also the guy who allegedly grabbed a reporter during the campaign, denied it, but then it turned out there was video evidence, so he was charged with battery by Florida police, though the charges were eventually dropped. He was later accused of striking a woman multiple times at a party in Washington, DC. That woman was considering a run for political office; no charges were brought and he denies it.

Also, in a weird biographical side-note, he brought a loaded handgun into a Congressional office building inside a bag of dirty laundry in 1999, and was arrested for it. He said it was an accident, having forgotten the gun was in there when he put his laundry in the bag on top of it. In addition to the gun, he also had three magazines and a holster in there. Those charges were also dismissed, though he did spend years trying to get the gun back, including suing the government for $50,000 dollars in part for his suffering. He did not win that one. He has also made two runs for public office and has failed both times by wide margins. Oh, and he’s also the guy who said, “Womp, womp” to mock a child with Down Syndrome. In other words, he’s got some history.

Reading again from the Times on what Lewandowski has been up to lately.

“His opponents would be almost certain to raise questions about his business activities since Mr. Trump took office. In the years since he was fired, Mr. Lewandowski co-wrote two books about Mr. Trump with David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United. But he has also been an adviser to companies that have interests with the government, and he would be required to file financial disclosure forms that would reveal the extent of those business arrangements.”

Okay, so in New Hampshire, the seat he’d be going for is held by two-term Senate incumbent and former Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen. On the plus side, he DOES have the president’s support, though many Republicans are apparently worried about this whole thing. Reading from a Politico article by Alex Isenstadt:

“Tensions over Lewandowski are spilling into the open, with the state GOP establishment in near open revolt over the Trump loyalist’s prospective campaign. Some are voicing concerns about his personal baggage, pointing to everything from his March 2016 physical run-in with then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields to his messy property dispute with a neighbor.
And with the party waging an already uphill effort to unseat two-term Democratic Sen[ator] Jeanne Shaheen, [Republican strategist Dave] Carney and others in the swing state worry that he would do little to help the party expand its base beyond the group of voters that Trump is already expected to attract.
Senior members of the Trump political team adamantly disagree. They argue that Lewandowski — one of the president’s staunchest and most visible defenders — would amp up conservative energy and reinvigorate the coalition of blue-collar voters that powered Trump’s decisive 2016 primary win [in] the state.”

Okay, so this gets to the “why it matters” part, which is that New Hampshire is a swing state this time around, and if you end up with Lewandowski campaigning there, even just in the Republican Senate primary, the effect is truly unpredictable. It might bring the president to New Hampshire quite a bit, and it’s not clear what effect that would have overall. Some Republicans think it would help, others think it could hurt. With Republicans hoping to flip the state red for the president, AND unseat Shaheen, any unpredictable X Factors are cause for real worry there.

So, while Lewandowski has not officially announced his candidacy, I think it’s clear he really wants to and he almost did so last night, if reports are to be believed. And if he does, this could turn into a fascinating side-drama as various races in that swing state suddenly become even more competitive.

O’Rourke confirms yet again that he is not running for Senate

Here’s a quick bit o’ news. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke has had to confirm, yet again, explicitly, that is not going to run for Senate in Texas.

On MSNBC last night, he said in part, “…I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate.”

So just in case you were still hoping that he would change his mind on that, I think that’s pretty definitive.

Head-to-head matchup polls show Trump losing badly and why that’s misleading

Okay, our main story today. So every month a batch of what’s called head-to-head matchup polls come out, and make headlines. I’ve covered these before, but to be honest, I didn’t understand that much about how they worked and how predictive they are…or aren’t. I understand them much better now, so let’s dig in. These are speculative polls that ask, essentially, if the election were held today, and your choices were Person A and Person B, for whom would you vote?

And for months now, these polls have shown, consistently, that various Democrats beat President Trump handily in the general election. The question then turns to WHICH Democrats, and also BY HOW MUCH. So, just to give you some numbers on the current state of this stuff, let’s talk about a new Fox News Poll. Now, I do want to be clear, whatever you think about the TV channel, their polling organization is solid. They get an “A” grade from FiveThirtyEight, and this is considered a high-quality poll.

Okay, so methodology first. The poll was conducted from August 11th through 13th, it included just over 1,000 registered voters nationwide, with live telephone interviews on both landlines and cellphones. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent. And the question was, “How would you vote if the candidates were,” and then they listed President Trump and one of just FOUR Democratic primary options. If the respondent gave an I-don’t-know result, they were asked again, “Well, which way do you lean?” They could still then respond by saying they’d vote for somebody else, wouldn’t vote, or still didn’t know—which accounts for why these numbers don’t add up to 100. All right, result time.

Biden won against Trump 50 to 38.

Sanders won against Trump 48 to 39.

Warren won against Trump 46 to 39.

Harris won against Trump 45 to 39.

Those were the only candidates polled, but, you know, that looks overwhelming, right? Like, no matter who the Democrats nominate, it looks like an easy win.

What’s really interesting here is that Trump consistently gets 39 percent of the vote. The Democrats get varying amounts—Biden gets slightly more than Sanders, who gets slightly more than Warren, who gets slightly more than Harris. But the only candidate who seems to draw one point away from Trump is Biden, and that’s just ONE percentage point, with a margin of error that’s three times that amount. So, statistically, these are all “wins,” but as with all polling, we have to understand how these polls work.

So I want to call your attention to an article in FiveThirtyEight by Perry Bacon, Jr. back on June 14th. The title is, “Should We Take These Early General Election Polls Seriously? [Bleep] No!” By the way, the bleep technically was a thing called a grawlix, there’s a link in the show notes explaining that if you’re a linguistics nerd and/or comics nerd. ANYWAY, Bacon writes:

“So, just how seriously should we take hypothetical general election polls more than a year out and before the Democratic nominee has been selected?
Not seriously.”

He then runs through some historical polling, and shows that even when you’re much closer to the actual primary, these polls are historically very wrong. For the period from 1944 to 2012, they’re about 11 percent off on average, and sometimes a lot more. Like in 1992, which I happen to remember, they were 26 percent off. Okay? Meaning, basically, A LOT CHANGES IN THE GENERAL ELECTION versus the primary. And we’re not even THAT deep into the primary yet.

Bacon chalks up these polling misses to several factors. First up, we don’t actually have a nominee, so the hypothetical factor right now adds a ton of uncertainty. Who knows what any given nominee will do or say between now and a year from November, when voters actually vote? And also, what’s the economy gonna be like during that time? Those factors do tend to influence the real outcome. They sure did in 1992. Reading again from the conclusion of Bacon’s article, and in this he references what was THEN the current polling:

“Trump’s real political problem is self-identified independents and voters who don’t love him or hate him. In the 2018 midterms, independents broke heavily for the Democrats in U.S. House elections (+12 [percent]), as did voters who “somewhat” disapproved of the president (+29 [percent]), according to exit polls. In this Quinnipiac survey, all the Democratic candidates had double digit leads over Trump among independents, and those are the numbers that should worry the president and his political team.”

Okay, so in the NEW poll, Independents are NOT always polling in the double digits in the Democrats’ favor. They do for Sanders, giving him a 12 percent overall edge against Trump among Independents. But the rest are single-digit percentage points, and some of those are quite low, with Harris and Warren at 2 percent and 3 percent respectively.

So, that’s the current head-to-head matchup polling, and the healthy dose of salt you need to take when you look at these numbers. None of this means that it’s a lock to defeat Trump in 2020. What it MIGHT mean is that, at least right now, we have a nice variety of Democratic candidates who are potentially electable. So at this stage, I don’t think we can count anybody out—at least, none of the four that we have this polling data on.

An update on that end-run around the Electoral College

Longtime listeners will be familiar with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, one of my favorite weird legal strategies. Long story short, it’s a plan whereby each state can pass a law saying that, under certain circumstances, that state’s Electoral College votes for President will stop being decided by the state’s voters themselves, and instead by decided by the national popular vote overall. Weird, right? And it’s PROBABLY CONSTITUTIONAL, because states get to decide how to apportion their electors.

One of the interesting ways this is set up is that states are voting into this thing one by one, and each state law includes a trigger provision, saying it only goes into effect when a majority of electoral votes would be in play. In other words, let’s hold onto the existing system until we can, together, overthrow the old system. The net effect here is that if enough states decide that the popular vote is more important than the state-by-state vote, then, boom, suddenly they all dive in together. Not surprisingly, Democrats often like this idea and Republicans, not so much.

Right now, today, here’s who has signed on to this plan, in the order they adopted it: Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon. Given that list, they are about 73% of the way to the electoral votes they would need to trigger the new system, which might seem pretty close, until you start doing more math and realize that you’d need some red states to actually join this thing in order for it to actually happen.

Looking at the polling right now, even if you add all the states currently projected to go blue next cycle—that’s Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and Virginia, you’re still only 85 percent of the way there. So…this is a cool idea and stuff, but it’s gonna require some RED states to make big changes in order to actually mean anything. Also, for the record, the Democratic Governor of Nevada vetoed the plan in his state after the legislature passed it, so it’s not like it’s a universally loved thing, even among Democrats.

Well, today’s news is discouraging for fans of this plan. In FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich reports that Colorado residents are planning a ballot measure in 2020 about this plan. The measure would first ask Coloradans whether they want to subject the law to a vote. Then, if successful, the law itself would be on a later referendum ballot. And given that Colorado is purple, this could mean that Colorado could be the first state to join and then leave the compact. Reading from Rakich’s report:

“The only poll about the National Popular Vote law I could find in Colorado was a March survey from Republican pollster Magellan Strategies that found 47 percent of likely 2020 voters would vote to affirm the National Popular Vote law and 47 percent would vote to repeal it. However, even if those numbers are too rosy for the repeal effort, I would still expect support for the law to decrease as opponents prosecute the case against the National Popular Vote, so even a lead of, say, 10 points (akin to the national breakdown) would not be secure. This could be one of the most closely watched ballot measures of the 2020 cycle.”

Bullock and de Blasio will appear in CNN town halls later this month

This next one’s a quickie. Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that they will participate in back-to-back CNN town hall events on August 25th, which is a Sunday.

The town halls will be held in New York, be an hour long for each candidate, and Bullock goes first starting at 6pm Eastern.

Now, most of why I mention this is that it’s a pretty good indicator that neither of these candidates expects to drop out within August. Or maybe ever, I don’t know. So while both of these men were in a story earlier this a week as potential early drop-outs, it looks like they do not see it that way.

What Buttigieg ate at the Iowa State Fair

Last up today, let’s just go on a light note, all right?

I came across an article in Eater which I just thought was delightful. Sometimes we need that. It’s got a lot of really fun photos, and if you’re gonna click on one fun thing based on this show, make it the last link in the show notes, okay? The article is titled “Mayor Pete’s Excellent Iowa State Fair Adventure.”

According to the article, Mayor Pete Buttigieg consumed AT LEAST the following list of food in ONE DAY while at the Iowa State Fair, and yes, they have TONS of pics to prove it:

A root beer float,

A pork chop on a stick,

A fried bacon ball BLT sandwich (in which each ball contains NINE pieces of bacon),

Fried Oreos,

Chocolate milk, and

A red-white-and-blue slushie.

Eater also reports that Buttigieg grabbed a Gizmo sandwich, which apparently is some kind of messy Italian-style thing. But he did not eat it at the Fair. Instead, a staffer held onto it for the candidate’s dinner.

Buttigieg said, “I don’t know the history. I just know it’s something I shouldn’t be eating on camera.”

Well, that is all for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. The week is ending, and I am looking forward to that. Special thanks to listener Richard for reminding me that I can RENT DRILLS. Thanks, buddy, now I got no excuse! No, but actually thanks, because that’ll probably save me some money, and also, now all the ads I see when I browse the web are for these, like, drills that are red and black and stripey and stuff—they’re designed like tactical weaponry or something. I have fallen into some weird category of advertising that must really confuse the robots. So I’m gonna go click on some kittens or something. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all on MONDAY.