Monday, December 23, 2019

Warren Backs Off Medicare for All

Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail,
June 2019 | Cliff Owen/AP Photo
Elizabeth Warren, watched her polling position drop from first to fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and nationally from second/even tied with frontrunner Joe Biden in October and November, to third behind her policy partner and rival, Bernie Sanders. Warren’s frontrunner status attracted an onslaught of attacks, mostly aimed at her adoption of Sanders’s “Medicare for All.” She stubbornly defended her position for months, but finally began to move in the last few weeks. “Choice” is now part of her health care plan, along with “phase in.” Both concepts are to buy her some protection from the least popular aspects of the plan, its apparent abrupt change and its insistence that private health care insurers be banned.

Warren’s predicament is that any backing away from health care for all will be seen as wavering, an undesired moderation for her many supporters and especially Bernie Sanders’s fans. The two of them have held a truce throughout 2019, including in the debates, but if she breaks from Medicare for All, the trench warfare could start.

“‘She’s in a bit of a box here, and she’s got to get some moderation into this as some difference,’ said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado-based pollster. ‘On the other hand, it likely will produce some resistance and potential backlash from Bernie’s people.’” (David Sherfinski, Washington Times, 12-18-19)

But, Warren has little choice. Although Medicare for All is popular among Democrats, the ban on private insurance is not. More importantly, Democrats’ top priority, including Iowa Democrats, is beating Donald Trump. Warren’s plan is seen as a burden for union and other voters with private health plans. In general, it contributes to her image as a Harvard, New England liberal too far left for the Midwest battleground states.

Bloomberg: Warren backs down on Medicare for All, Now Says It’s a ‘Choice’
Washington Times: Elizabeth Warren scales back 'Medicare of All' plan on 2020 campaign trail

Friday, December 20, 2019

“Trump Gave Us No Choice”

By votes of 229 and 228, the U.S. House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump. In both cases, 195 Republicans opposed.

The impeachment vote on December 18 culminated a process begun by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on September 24, 2019. It was a change of position for Pelosi. She resisted impeachment many times since the beginning of her speakership. She said “no” in 2007 to numerous members of her caucus who wanted to impeach President George W. Bush for the Iraq War and repeatedly overruled members’ efforts to impeach Trump for his earlier actions, but especially after the Mueller Report.

But, when she said “yes,” she believed it was serious, there was evidence, she was confident her leadership team could manage it and she knew her caucus was ready. It remains to be seen the effect on the 2020 election, but Pelosi and Democrats believed it had to be done and they delivered.

“Trump Gave Us No Choice”
December 18, 2019
Photo: ABC News
House Resolution 755
Impeachment of Donald John Trump,
President of the United States of America
for High Crimes and Misdemeanors
December 18, 2019

Read resolution here

A Preview of the Action
“All Roads Lead to Putin”
October 17, 2019

Photo: White House

Divided House Reflects Public

Public opinion on impeachment has not changed since the October start of the process (Pelosi says “yes,” Sept. 24, 2019), through the House vote on rules (Oct. 31, 2019), the end of the House Intelligence Committee hearings (Nov. 21, 2019), and now the party line impeachment vote (Dec. 18, 2019). Public support was at 46 percent on October 2 and 47 percent on December 18.

Four new polls confirm the lack of movement, with a Fox News poll (Dec. 11) claiming 50 percent support impeachment and removal, CNN 45 percent (Dec. 15), ABC/Washington Post 49 percent (Dec. 15) and a Wall Street Journal/NBC News 48 percent (Dec. 17).

The vote for the articles of impeachment was nearly perfectly aligned with House partisanship, with 100 percent of the Republicans opposing it (195 both articles) and 99 percent of the Democrats in support (Article I – 229, 2 opposed; Article II – 228, 3 opposed). Only three broke ranks. That vote closely mirrors the public’s position, which on December 18, was divided nearly as uniformly as House members, with 84 percent of Democrats in support, but only 9 percent of Republicans (nearly 90% opposed).

President Trump’s approval rating as of December 18 is 44 percent, slightly higher than the last few months, and he is campaigning by Twitter and rallies, especially in battleground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida).

As of today, Trump has not suffered any loss of approval and impeachment opinion is locked in the partisan divisions that characterize every aspect of American politics.

President Trump Indicted for Abuse of Power, Obstruction

As The Buzz predicted on October 15, President Trump would be indicted. It was based on the steady growth of Democrats who supported impeachment after the Mueller Report (July 24, 2019) and the summer of obstruction. Support became near unanimous after the publication of the Ukrainian whistleblower documents of Trump’s call with President Zelensky (July 25, 2019).

The House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry (House Resolution 660) was 232 to 196, with 231 Democrats voting “yes” and two voting “no.” All Republicans present voted “no.”

The vote to accept the articles of impeachment and conveying them to the Senate was similar to the October 31 vote. The management of Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Nancy Pelosi of several weeks of testimony and design of the articles strengthened the Democrats’ resolve. Republicans are unified in opposition, but divided on their lines of defense. The vote is a good reflection of the American political divide as 2020 begins.

See The Buzz: The Impeachment of Donald John Trump, President, House Resolution 660

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Israel, Another Democracy in Stalemate, Heads to Third Election

Israel, after two elections in 2019 (April and September), is still stalemated with the two main voting blocs unable to assemble a majority of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset (need 61 members out of 120). In authorizing a new election, Israel joins Great Britain, which just finished its fifth major election in three years (2 Parliamentary, 1 Brexit referendum, 2 European Parliament).

The March 2 election will likely again face-off Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud Party), who will remain as Prime Minister and under indictment, against his recent opponent, former Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz (Blue and White Party). After two election failures, Netanyahu will face an intra-party contest, but no popular alternative has emerged.

Unless something shakes up the political environment, the next 60-day campaign will sound like a replay of the last, with Netanyahu arguing only he can deliver more sovereignty and national security benefits, often with President Trump’s concurrence, and attack the Arab partners of the opposition. Gantz and the Blue and White will mostly focus on Netanyahu’s alleged crimes and his quest for immunity.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Johnson Wins Majority

Celebrity, populism and nationalism were all elements of Boris Johnson’s and Conservatives’ big win. Johnson’s personality, style and slogan, “get Brexit done,” dominated and connected with voters’ hostility toward the British elite, the frustration with the parliamentary gridlock and the anxiety of being left behind in the face of globalism. On the positive side, Johnson argued he was fulfilling the nation’s democratically-expressed choice and unshackling the British spirit.

Although the result doesn’t end the division in Britain over Brexit, it gives the Conservatives the power to promote their policy agenda and specifically to bring Brexit to an end sooner and probably “harder” than most of the alternatives. Also, it’s a major blow to the far-left in the Labour Party and ends the contentious career of Jeremy Corbyn.

The message for the U.S. is that nationalism is still running hard, especially when led by a wily populist leader. Globalism remains on the defensive as does immigration. Democrats need to be mindful of the narrow appeal of the socialist playbook of taxes and government expansions. In terms of domestic issues, health care was the most frequently mentioned.

Other big winners in the election were Donald Trump, Johnson’s nationalist friend; Vladimir Putin for a weaker EU and a more isolated Britain; and secession as the Scottish National Party picked up seats.

Brexit is a good feeling; it may be a bad idea.

As posted on Wednesday:

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the British economy, especially its trading relationships, and could affect the long-term viability of the EU and the unity of Great Britain.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to supporters on
December 11, 2019 in London, UK | Leon Neal/Getty Images.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Trump Can Win. Presidential Race Focused on Handful of States, Few Thousand Votes.

Democrats should forget the national polls showing 8-, 9- or 10-point wins for leading candidates against President Trump.

Remembering Trump’s win in 2016 and examining the available polls in likely battleground states, what’s clear is that Trump could win again, even losing Pennsylvania this time, if he holds his other 2016 states.
  • Recall that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes (2,869,000).
  • On Election Day, he had 61 percent disapproval. Hillary Clinton had 52 percent disapproval. She was 9 points better, but still the two worst in presidential polling history (Gallup, March 2016).
  • Also, two of the most dependable variables associated with a successful presidential election are incumbency and a positive economy – Trump has both.
A comparison of two leading prognosticators assessing the race based on assessment from polls, historical performance and political conversations with local experts shows the limited number of states likely to be contested.

Larry Sabato published the map below on November 7, 2019. He has Republicans and Democrats even in electoral votes with 248 each and three toss-up states with 42 electoral votes – Arizona (11), Wisconsin (10) and Pennsylvania (20).

2020 Electoral College Ratings
Nov. 7, 2019

While Sabato has three states with 42 electoral votes in play as of November, Louis Jacobson identifies six toss-up states and 101 electoral votes. He adds demographics to his analyses (% rural, % college education, % White). He places 205 electoral votes in the Republican column and 232 on the Democratic side of the ledger. The following is a list of his toss-up states and his lean Democrat and lean Republican states that will be highly targeted by the respective parties.

Jacobson also offers an assessment if the Democrats nominate a “poorly positioned nominee.” Then, Republicans would have 231 safe likely or leaning electoral votes and Democrats 218 with 89 toss-up states: Florida (20), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (10) and Wisconsin (10). Democrats would then need to win 5 of the 6 states if they don’t carry Florida.

If there is a message for Democrats from both assessments, it is that their nominee and their campaign strategy will be critical to win the very focused race.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Articles of Impeachment are Ready

As outlined in The Buzz on October 23 (“Articles of Impeachment are in Drafting”), I referenced the three articles in the Nixon impeachment adopted by the Judiciary Committee in July 1974 and suggested they are likely to form the basis of the current articles to be adopted 45 years later. Indeed, the Democrats’ articles include “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress,” similar to contempt of Congress used in 1974.

Although they did not include an obstruction of justice article, which could have incorporated the incidents documented in the Mueller Report, clearly many Democrats believe that the Ukraine incident is only the latest in a long pattern of actions that began in the 2016 election, and according to Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Committee Chair: “continues to this day, unapologetically and right now.”

I thought the Judiciary Committee proceedings would take longer, but the intense partisanship made a deliberative process impossible. The Senate trial is likely to be the only forum for an extended discussion of the charges, but even that is uncertain as the circus-like atmosphere of the House may affect the Senate process, which is yet unannounced. However, with the House indictment done, the likely schedule is that the Senate trial will begin shortly after the new year.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, joined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House committee chairs
(Maxine Waters, Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Richard Neal and Adam Schiff),
unveils abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment
against  President Trump in a press conference, Dec. 10, 2019 | FOX News.

British Election Will Decide Fate of Brexit (and EU, GB?)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
delivers a speech in Telford, Britain,
 Nov. 24, 2019 | Photo: Xinhua
The December 12 British Parliamentary election will likely decide the fate of Brexit and lead to the implementation of the withdrawal deal on January 31. Although a broad outline of a deal was approved by the 27 nations of the EU, there will be a year or more of intense negotiations on the details of the agreement. Although polling on the British Parliamentary election is notoriously difficult, late polls, which have been tightening, indicate that the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson and his slogan, “get Brexit done,” will win more than 40 percent of the vote, translating to a majority of seats (about 339), projecting a range from a low of 311 to 367 (need 326 to form a majority government).

Although Brexit is the primary issue on the agenda, Johnson moved the Tories away from the austerity policies they were noted for and campaigned on more spending on national health care, child care and the environment. As a populist, Johnson mainly campaigned against the governing gridlock that has characterized the recent history of parliament.

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the British economy, especially its trading relationships, and could affect the long-term viability of the EU and the unity of Great Britain.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Top Four Dominating the Race into Super Tuesday

The next major event planned by the DNC in the race for the White House is the LA debate, December 19. But, the debates have had little effect on the polling positions of the field. The candidates themselves have been making more news with their exits (Kamala Harris) and entrances (Michael Bloomberg).

The national polling numbers have stabilized after the boomlet for Pete Buttigieg moved him to fourth nationally. His ascendance appears a reflection of his success the last couple of months in Iowa and New Hampshire where he is now in first place. He has benefited from some slippage in Democratic voter support by Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

It now appears that the top four will be maneuvering for momentum and advantage for the next two months as the February 3 Iowa caucus approaches.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Super Tuesday Won’t Settle It

At a western polling conference (PAPOR), the latest California presidential primary polling makes clear that as candidates and Democratic voters approach March 3, Super Tuesday, they are as of today likely to get an inconclusive event, with four top candidates each with about a fifth of the vote and the last 20 percent scattered. And, nearly all the voters are still examining options and have second choices.

It is ironic that the biggest state, California, moved up its primary from June 2 to have an impact at the start of the race, but it might have had a more decisive role if it had stayed at the end.

California’s 416 delegates will swamp the February count of the four early states (155), but their timing and media coverage tends to provide an outsized influence.

The most recent California poll from Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (N1964 likely primary voters, Nov. 21-27, 2019) has Bernie Sanders at 24 percent, Elizabeth Warren 22 percent, Joe Biden 14 percent and Pete Buttigieg 12 percent.

Another traunch of primaries (and a few caucuses) will take place later in March. Among the larger states are: March 10 – Michigan (125), and then March 17 – Florida (209), Illinois (155), Ohio (136) and Arizona (67), three of which are expected presidential battlegrounds. Some final large state primaries are: April 28 with New York (224) and Pennsylvania (153) and finally on June 2 in New Jersey (128).

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Homelessness is Becoming a Political Crisis

The number of homeless people has been surging across the country, public concern is high and politics – both right and left – is beginning to respond.

Depending on how homelessness is defined and reflecting the difficulty of counting people with no home or stable address, there is now more than 500,000 homeless in the country, with a quarter of them, 130,000, in California, and 60,000 in Los Angeles alone. But, communities across the country – large and small, urban, suburban and exurban – are all struggling with the surge of homeless individuals and encampments.

Politicians have been applying available tools, such as food kitchens and banks, temporary shelters, affordable housing funds and as many health resources as can be afforded, but the numbers continue to surge and the sight of people camping on streets, sidewalks in front of businesses, underpasses and parks has raised public awareness and demands for action. As the solutions of urban leaders and homeless advocates don’t seem to be working, alternatives from the populist right are starting to be heard.

District of Columbia

A recent poll by the Washington Post shows a popular mayor, Muriel Bowser (67% approval), being judged doing a “not good” or “poor” job on “addressing homelessness (61%). The issue is ranked as the third biggest problem by voters after affordable housing and crime and violence.


Denver voters, who gave Hillary Clinton 74 percent of their vote in 2016, crushed an initiative labeled as the “Right to Survive” by homeless advocates. It would have made policing homeless encampments nearly impossible and legalized homeless camping on public spaces, including parks. The 2019 decisive defeat reflected not heartlessness toward the homeless, but a broad based viewpoint that a legalistic solution creating a right to camp on public space was the wrong approach. Many homeless service organizations and liberal advocates opposed it. In the election, growth, quality of life and public safety were important issues, and the surge of homelessness was considered a significant problem.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles’s homeless population is now the size of a small city (60,000), with highly visible encampments on public and private property appearing more or less permanent. A recent poll in the Los Angeles Times, cosponsored with the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, and involving the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (conducted by Peter Hart, Hart Research Associates, Oct. 15-22, 2019, 901 LA voters), identifies homelessness as the number one issue rated as serious or very serious by 95 percent of the public ahead of congestion and housing affordability. The public understands it’s a complex problem and they express considerable sympathy, with nearly a third reflecting that they have been homeless or sometimes felt threatened by loss of shelter.

But, after approving a $1.2 billion housing bond in 2017, there is a growing sense the problem is getting worse and having a negative impact on safety, health, quality of life and property values. As frustration rises, the public looks increasingly toward law enforcement solutions in spite of court decrees, settlements of law suits and regular protests that limit police-like solutions. However, if a Denver-type initiative was placed on the ballot, it’s certainly possible 60 percent or more of the public would say no, there is no legal right to camp. And, 65 percent of LA voters believe the police should be more involved in cleaning up the streets to deal with health issues from unsanitary encampments (see polling questions below).

Local government has the first line responsibility for addressing the issue, and from small beach communities to major metropolitan areas, the problem is starting to move the political plates. If the liberal establishment can’t provide solutions, conservative populists will step in.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Giuliani Who?

Bill O'Reilly | Photo: NYT
You knew it was inevitable that Rudy Giuliani would become a liability to Donald Trump and have to be dispatched. It happened last Tuesday, Thanksgiving week, on a Bill O’Reilly podcast. Trump said he had no idea what the former New York mayor was doing in Ukraine, maybe he was working for other clients. Trump specifically denied he sent Giuliani to Ukraine.

O’Reilly, isolated to the outer fringe of commercial media after being released by Fox News, was in heaven with Trump’s interview (listen here). Unfortunately for Trump, his memorialized words on how Giuliani was his envoy in Ukraine for the Biden probe reinforced by days of sworn testimony shredded his effort.

It must feel ironic for Giuliani, who in his first run for mayor of New York in 1989, used his high-profile success as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York putting away the heads of the “Five Families” to be under investigation by the same Southern District for his behavior as a type of consigliere to the boss in the White House.

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump | Photo: CNN