AuthorTopic: Election Errata  (Read 126321 times)

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🗳️ Here's why members of the House GOP keep abandoning ship
« Reply #1095 on: August 27, 2019, 12:46:20 AM »
https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/26/politics/sean-duffy-republican-retirements/index.html

Here's why members of the House GOP keep abandoning ship
Chris Cillizza

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Updated 5:06 PM ET, Mon August 26, 2019


(CNN)On Monday, Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy became the twelfth House Republican to announce he would not seek reelection in 2020, a telling indication of the struggles within the minority party in the House as it grapples with a decided lack of legislative power and the electoral uncertainties created by President Donald Trump.
Although the 2020 election is still more than 14 months away, there are already four times as many Republicans leaving the House as there are Democrats. As interesting, only two of the 12 Republicans who have announced they are either retiring at the end of their terms or, in Duffy's case, resigning before their terms end, are leaving to run for higher office. The other 10 are simply walking away from politics entirely -- at least for the next two years.
Duffy, in announcing his decision via Facebook, cited personal reasons for why he is leaving Congress now.

"Recently, we've learned that our baby, due in late October, will need even more love, time, and attention due to complications, including a heart condition," wrote Duffy. "With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now."

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Which makes all the sense in the world.
But it's also worth noting that Duffy, who is in his fourth term representing the sprawling northern Wisconsin 7th district, had been regarded since his election in 2010 as a rising star within the party who had managed to build close relationships with both former House Speaker Paul Ryan and tne President. He has been courted as a potential Senate candidate in 2018 (he declined to run) and was seen as a potential Senate candidate if Sen. Ron Johnson retires in 2022. (While a 2022 statewide race could be on the table for Duffy, it's hard to argue he's better off stepping away from politics for several years prior to such a bid.)
Duffy's decision also doesn't come in a vacuum.
It's easy -- but overly facile -- to lump all of the Republican retirement decisions into a single explanation. Like the rest of us, members of Congress make decisions about their futures for all sorts of reasons -- and very rarely for one reason alone. But when you look across the landscape of the GOP retirements to date, a few obvious observations can be made about what it's like being a House Republican in Donald Trump's Washington -- and why there has been this spate of retirements.
1) Being in the House minority sucks
Take Duffy. He was elected in the 2010 election, part of the class that helped Republicans take back the House majority. He spent his first six years in office not just as a member of the majority party in the House but also someone who had the ear of the speaker. The 2018 election handed power back to Democrats and Ryan retired. Which is a pretty big blow for someone like Duffy.
Size of lead:
0%-5%
5%-10%
10%+
tie / no data
Full Election Results
Ask any member of Congress who has spent time in the House majority and the minority the difference between the two and they will tell you is is the size of the Grand Canyon. As a member of the House minority, you are almost totally powerless to proactively move any sort of legislation; your wins, such as they are, are focused on gumming up the procedural working of the House -- moves that the average American has zero idea you are even doing.
There's a reason that following the Republican takeover of the House in 1994 and the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006, two dozen members of the newly minted minority party retired in each of the following elections.
2) Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP matters
When Rep. Will Hurd (Texas) was elected to his border district in 2014, the idea of Trump being elected to anything -- much less being the President and head of the GOP -- was the stuff of dismissed reality TV series. Hurd won his seat by casting himself as a George W. Bush Republican (he served in the CIA for the entirety of Bush's eight years in office), someone who focused less on party than shared values. He won a considerable percentage of the Hispanic vote in his race, a necessity in a seat that is almost 70% Latino. And he focused on burnishing his bipartisan credentials while in office -- most notably by driving from Texas to Washington, DC, with Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke.
Then along came Trump, casting Mexico as sending rapists and criminals to the United States and pledging to build a wall along the southern border. That take on what it meant (and means) to be a Republican ran directly counter to Hurd's vision. And as Trump has made clear on many occasions, he doesn't like when GOP elected officials disagree with his vision for the party -- and he is willing to punish those who step out of line.
Given those options, retirement starts to look a lot more appealing to someone like Hurd.
3) Electoral (and demographic) reality sinks in
Of the dozen Republican retirements, only one seat -- Hurd's -- is seen as a pure "toss up" based on presidential performance figures from the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan handicapping site. But in several other places, the changing demographics of the districts coupled with voter distaste for Trump makes for a potentially toxic political brew. In Georgia's 7th district, a suburban Atlanta seat, Rep. Rob Woodall (R) won by 20 points in 2016. Two years later, he eked by with a margin of just over 400 votes. In Texas' 22nd district, which encompasses major parts of the Houston suburbs, Rep. Pete Olson (R) won by 19 points in 2016. That margin shrunk to less than 5 points in the 2018 midterms.

If you are Woodall or Olson, what sounds better: Retiring after a few terms or losing a hugely expensive, negative and time-consuming re-election race? Right.
Again, no two House retirements are exactly the same -- and all of them are influenced by personal factors. But when this many House Republicans in these districts announce this early that they aren't running again (and they aren't running for any higher office) it's a telling indicator of the fact that all is not well for congressional GOPers.
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🗳️ New poll shows Biden falling badly, three-way tie for Democratic lead
« Reply #1096 on: August 27, 2019, 08:39:08 AM »
"Remember Uncle Joe?  He was the one afraid to cut the cake.
Joe's run off to Fire Lake."


RE

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/458833-new-poll-shows-biden-falling-badly-three-way-tie-for-democratic-lead

New poll shows Biden falling badly, three-way tie for Democratic lead
By Max Greenwood - 08/26/19 01:00 PM EDT


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Joe Biden’s support in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is slipping, according to a new survey from Monmouth University Poll that shows the former vice president dropping below 20 percent.

The survey showed Biden with support from 19 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters nationally, a double-digit decline from Monmouth's most recent poll in June when he led the pack with 32 percent.

Now, the dynamics have changed, according to the Monmouth survey. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the primary field’s top progressive candidates, are each at 20 percent, putting them in a statistical tie with Biden and indicating a tightening three-way race.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was a distant fourth in Monday's poll, with 8 percent. Her level of support was unchanged from Monmouth's June survey.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has registered among the top contenders in polls for months, is now tied for fifth place with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) at 4 percent.

Only four other candidates — former tech executive Andrew Yang, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and bestselling author Marianne Williamson — garnered support form more than 1 percent of respondents in the poll.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the latest survey results suggest the race for the Democratic nomination is entering a new phase.

“The main takeaway from this poll is that the Democratic race has become volatile,” Murray said. “Liberal voters are starting to cast about for a candidate they can identify with. Moderate voters, who have been paying less attention, seem to be expressing doubts about Biden.”

But instead of gravitating toward a lesser-known but more centrist-minded alternative, moderate voters “are swinging more toward one of the left-leaning contenders with high name recognition.”

Indeed, Biden has lost support among Democrats who identify as either moderate or conservative. In June, roughly 40 percent of those voters said they backed Biden’s bid for the nomination. Since then, that number has dropped to 22 percent.

There are signs that moderate and conservative Democrats are beginning to gravitate toward Sanders and Warren. Sanders saw his support among those voters jump from 10 percent to 20 percent over the past two months, while backing for Warren rose from 6 percent to 16 percent.

Since June, both Sanders and Warren have gained support overall, according to the Monmouth poll. Sanders gained 6 points in the latest survey, while Warren picked up 5 points.

At the same time, Warren has seen a noticeable uptick in favorability, climbing from 60 percent in May to 65 percent in August. Biden, on the other hand, saw his favorability drop from 74 percent to 66 percent during the same time period.

The Monmouth University Poll surveyed 298 registered voters who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning from Aug. 16-20. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.
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🗳️ Trumpworld Anxiety Grows Over a Rising Elizabeth Warren
« Reply #1097 on: September 05, 2019, 10:53:41 AM »
https://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-trump-and-elizabeth-warren-trumpworld-anxiety-grows-over-the-massachusetts-democrat

FIREPROOF?
Trumpworld Anxiety Grows Over a Rising Elizabeth Warren

They once thought they’d delivered the political kill shot. But now GOP operatives are complaining that nothing sticks to Warren.

Hanna Trudo
Asawin Suebsaeng

White House Reporter
Updated 09.05.19 10:10AM ET / Published 09.05.19 5:12AM ET


Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers / Photos Getty

Over the summer, Trumpworld operatives, Republican Party oppo researchers, and GOP aides in Congress have all gleefully celebrated planting unflattering stories about Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris. But no one seems to have landed a lasting blow on Elizabeth Warren.

The earliest days of the Massachusetts senator’s presidential campaign provided ample fodder for Republicans. After an attempt to blunt President Donald Trump’s racist taunts about her Native American heritage by presenting the results of a DNA test fell flat, GOP operatives had a field day, and figured they’d feast off that misstep for some time.
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But Warren has recovered from that initial stumble, and steadily gained ground in the Democratic primary. And now Republicans are wondering why there is so little critical coverage of the senator and why the stories out there are making next to no dent.

“We all push out the bad Warren stories but they don’t go very far,” one Republican strategist said.

The frustration Republicans are beginning to feel about Warren’s non-stick nature was picked up repeatedly in interviews with 10 Republicans, including Trump campaign and White House officials, associates of the president, and other GOP operatives with knowledge of the situation. These sources stressed that the anti-Warren effort within GOP circles hadn’t fallen off since the DNA snafu. Indeed, everyone from officials on Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, to the Republican National Committee, to a select group of opposition researchers have been sifting through her record in search of vulnerabilities. But with few punches landing, the worry is that Trump may have already taken his best shot, and that Warren will end up looking increasingly formidable for having bounced back.

“Sure the Republican base will ultimately loathe Warren, but she doesn’t inspire the same kind of historic vitriol that Hillary Clinton did,” a separate Republican strategist said. “That, combined with fact that SCOTUS isn’t on the line as it was in ’16, and remembering that Trump needed the perfect inside straight to barely win last time, and any Democrat is going to be tough to beat, Warren included.”

Within Trumpworld and the president’s re-election effort, there has been a dramatic shift in how Warren is talked about now, versus how she was discussed as a potential nominee a year ago. Shortly after the release of the DNA test results last year, Trump—along with numerous administration officials, campaign aides, and outside allies—would routinely mock the senator, and privately insist that defeating her in a 2020 matchup would be a cakewalk. Warren was at one point regarded as the preferred candidate for Trump to face off against in the general election.

A year later, they’re not laughing her off. In recent months, senior Trump campaign officials have increasingly discussed Warren as a growing threat, in large part because of the enthusiasm they believe she can inspire on the progressive left, and her improving poll numbers in the primary, two knowledgeable sources say. The president of the United States appears to be taking her candidacy more seriously, as well.

According to three people who have spoken to Trump about Warren over the past two months, the president has specifically highlighted what he views as her surprising political and populist talents during the Democratic primary, and has told multiple advisers and associates that he hears she could be “tougher” in a general election than many initially expected. One of these sources said Trump asked the room if they thought Warren was a “fighter.”
“Bernie just screams and shakes his fist but she’s very strategic.”
— Republican Senate aide

The Warren campaign declined to comment for this piece. But multiple Republicans argued that while Sanders received his fair share of attacks by Democrats and critical coverage both in 2016 and in 2020, Warren has largely gone unscathed. And they view her ability to campaign without taking too much incoming fire as a testament to her skill.

“Bernie just screams and shakes his fist but she’s very strategic,” one Republican Senate aide said about Warren.

But the aide also argued that Warren was unlikely to skate by forever. “All the attacks that you’re seeing about Bernie would apply [in the general],” the aide said, “it would be a nasty campaign.” And while there is more admiration for Warren’s political acumen now, not all GOP strategists believe the primary has been a boon for her.
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“She will have an energized base. Biden would not,” said Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign. “But her base is her eventual undoing. To accumulate that base, she had to take hard-left positions that are wildly unpopular with swing voters.”

As Bennett noted, the lines of attack that Republicans would take against Warren extend beyond allegations that she embellished her heritage and into accusations that she’s a radical. But there are some other biographical vulnerabilities too.

A Washington Post article spotlighted a discrepancy in the number of legal cases Warren’s campaign released on its website versus the number she appeared to be involved with in some capacity. Separately, CNN’s investigative KFile team looked into Warren’s role as a law professor who, the story notes, “criticized the overabundance of government regulations, calling them ‘a tax,’ and spoke to conservative legal groups like the Federalist Society and the Manhattan Institute.”

But what has surprised Republicans is how few and far between these stories have been, and how irregularly they’ve been picked up by both mainstream and conservative publications.

Looking to identify possible reasons for the downtick, one Republican suggested that Warren’s rapid rollout of policy plans could simply be moving too quickly for conservative think tanks to keep up. Those outfits would typically analyze the details of candidates’ plans and offer a counter analysis. With the frequency that Warren releases her proposals, the source said it could be hard for think tanks to look at each one with a fine-tooth comb.

Still, nearly all Republicans interviewed said they were confident attacks will ramp up in the coming weeks, as the Democratic primary field winnows and Warren receives fresh attention as one of the most likely challengers to former Vice President Biden. The Republican group America Rising, for example, has been tracking Warren since 2017 and has shown no signs of narrowing its oppo research file.

“If we’re having these same conversations in eight weeks, that’s a very different conversation,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, who chalked up the perceived lack of attacks as largely overblown.

“If you throw those punches but no one is watching the fight, it doesn’t particularly matter.”

—With additional reporting by Sam Stein
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🤡 More GOP challengers line up against Trump, more states cancel their primari
« Reply #1098 on: September 10, 2019, 05:26:27 AM »
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/more-gop-challengers-line-against-trump-more-states-cancel-their-n1051511

2020 Election
More GOP challengers line up against Trump, more states cancel their primaries
Republican Party leaders defended the decision not to let voters have a say about who they want on the ticket next year.


President Trump Departs White House For Ohio
President Trump has knocked three Republicans challenging him for the 2020 nomination as "all badly failed candidates."Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Sept. 9, 2019, 9:05 AM AKDT / Updated Sept. 9, 2019, 11:49 AM AKDT
By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump now has three GOP primary challengers, but they won't be given a chance to compete in at least four states after Republicans there decided to scrap their presidential nominating contests in favor of supporting Trump.

The Republican parties of Nevada and South Carolina, both crucial early nominating states, voted this weekend not to hold contests, as did Kansas and Arizona.

"With no legitimate primary challenger and President Trump's record of results, the decision was made to save South Carolina taxpayers over $1.2 million and forgo an unnecessary primary," South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement. "President Trump and his administration have delivered for South Carolinians, and we look forward to ensuring that Republican candidates up and down the ballot are elected in 2020."
Four state Republican parties cancel 2020 primaries to protect Trump's re-election bid
Sept. 6, 201902:11

South Carolina's move is an attempt to sideline the state’s former Republican governor, Mark Sanford, who on Sunday declared his intention to challenge the president in the GOP primary. Also in the running against Trump are former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Trump was asked Monday if he would debate any of his Republican rivals.

"I don't know them," the president responded. "I would say this: They are all at less than 1 percent. I guess it's a publicity stunt. We just got a little while ago (a poll showing) 94 percent popularity or approval within the Republican party. So to be honest, I'm not looking to get them any credibility. They have no credibility."

He added, "One was a person that voted for Obama, ran as a vice president four years ago and was soundly defeated, another one got thrown out after one term in Congress and he lost in a landslide and the third one — Mr. Appalachian trail — he wasn't on the Appalachian trial; he was in Argentina."

Sanford, a conservative who clashed with Trump when he served in Congress, said on MSNBC on Monday that he's running because Republicans have turned their back on their values in favor of personal allegiance to Trump.

"Right now, the sun, moon and stars too often basically orbit around Donald Trump,” Sanford said of the attitude of the GOP. "And if it's not personal allegiance to him, not issue allegiance or idea allegiance, but if it's not personal allegiance, it's not good enough."

Sanford said he would consider legal or other challenges to South Carolina GOP's action, but acknowledged his entire campaign is an uphill battle against the incumbent.

Trump fired back at Sanford by bringing up his much-publicized infidelity scandal and knocked "The Three Stooges" running against him as a "all badly failed candidates."

Republicans pushed back on the idea that there was anything unusual about the state parties' decisions to scrap primaries and caucuses, noting that both parties have made similar moves when they have incumbent presidents up for re-election.

"These are decisions made entirely by state parties, and there are volumes of historical precedents to support them," said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. "Nevertheless, President Trump will dominate and prevail in whatever contest is placed before him."

But in most recent cases that the Trump campaign cited, such as Barack Obama's re-election in 2012, there was no declared primary challenger to the incumbent. In contrast, Trump now has three rivals who have served in the top-levels of elective office.
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In Nevada, the state’s GOP at a convention Saturday also decided to forgo their caucus, which typically comes right after Iowa and New Hampshire in the nominating calendar.

"It would be malpractice on my part to waste money on a caucus to come to the inevitable conclusion that President Trump will be getting all our delegates in Charlotte," Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said in a statement, referring to the city where the Republican National Convention will be held next year.

Kansas' GOP also came to the same decision on Friday.

"The Kansas Republican Party will not organize a Caucus for the 2020 election because President Donald Trump is an elected incumbent from the Republican Party," the party announced on Twitter.

The state party estimated it would cost $250,000 to hold the presidential caucus and said the money could be better spent on contesting tough races.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Kelli Ward made a similar argument after his party also voted this weekend to nix their primary.

"This is nothing new, despite the media's inauthentic attempt to portray it as such," Ward said, referring to other times parties with incumbent presidents have forgone primaries. "Arizona Republicans are fired up to re-elect President Trump to a second term and will continue to work together to keep America — and Arizona — great.”

More states could follow as they set their presidential nominating plans for the future.

But Iowa and New Hampshire, the two most important states in the nominating process, are planning to go ahead with their contests.

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told Radio Iowa that state party leaders have "never considered" canceling their famed caucus.

New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, meanwhile, is governed by state law, not the parties, so "there wouldn’t an option for New Hampshire to cancel," Joe Sweeney, the communications director for the state party told NBC News.


Alex Seitz-Wald is a political reporter for NBC News.
Monica Alba contributed.
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https://www.marketwatch.com/story/did-cnbcs-jim-cramer-just-give-us-the-greatest-warren-campaign-ad-possible-2019-09-10

Did CNBC’s Jim Cramer just give us ‘the greatest Warren campaign ad possible?’

Published: Sept 10, 2019 7:43 p.m. ET

Warren is a ‘very compelling figure on the stump,’ Cramer says


Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By Shawn Langlois
Social-media editor

Outspoken TV personality Jim Cramer talked Tuesday with the CNBC crew about how banks are sweating the possibility of Elizabeth Warren as president.

“When you get off the desk and talk to executives, they’re more fearful of her winning,” he said, adding that he’s been hearing “she’s got to be stopped,” echoing around Wall Street these days.

While bank execs might have reason to be scared of what Warren could mean for their company and their shareholders, Adam Best of “The Left” podcast, doesn’t really see that as a negative for prospective voters.

“This is the greatest Warren campaign ad possible,” he says in this tweet:

Warren, described as “a champion of the left wing for her bank-bashing and wealth-taxing proposals,” is a “very compelling figure on the stump,” Cramer said. He predicted she’s going to win Iowa, which is set to be held next February. If that happens, he continued, “it would be a suboptimal situation for the banks.”

David Faber agreed.

“It’s another reason why companies are being implored to do things now ... because come early to mid-2020 if Elizabeth Warren is rolling along, everybody is going to be like, ‘That’s it,’” he said.

Someone else liked it too: “I’m Elizabeth Warren and I approve this message,” the senator from Massachusetts said in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

With 18% support, she’s trailing only Joe Biden, at 30%, in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Bernie Sanders is in third.
Shawn
Langlois

Shawn Langlois is an editor and writer for MarketWatch in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @slangwise.
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🗳️ 5 Democratic contenders lead Trump in head-to-head matchups: POLL
« Reply #1100 on: September 12, 2019, 01:58:25 AM »
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/democratic-contenders-lead-trump-head-head-matchups-poll/story?id=65415134

5 Democratic contenders lead Trump in head-to-head matchups: POLL

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Re: 🗳️ 5 Democratic contenders lead Trump in head-to-head matchups: POLL
« Reply #1101 on: September 12, 2019, 02:30:47 AM »
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/democratic-contenders-lead-trump-head-head-matchups-poll/story?id=65415134

5 Democratic contenders lead Trump in head-to-head matchups: POLL

“It’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.”
-- Joseph Stalin
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🗳️ Elizabeth Warren leads Joe Biden in ranked-choice poll
« Reply #1102 on: September 12, 2019, 08:10:35 AM »
https://www.vox.com/2019/9/12/20860985/poll-democratic-primary-ranked-choice-warren-biden

Elizabeth Warren leads Joe Biden in ranked-choice poll

 

Elizabeth Warren leads Joe Biden in ranked-choice poll

The YouGov/FairVote poll let national Democratic voters rank several of their top candidates rather than picking just one.

Christina Animashaun/Vox

Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead the crowded Democratic field — but under a “ranked-choice” system designed to suss out the majority’s ultimate preference, Sen. Elizabeth Warren would top Biden, 53 percent to 47 percent, according to a new poll exclusively provided in advance to Vox.

The online national poll of likely Democratic voters was conducted by YouGov, and sponsored by FairVote, a nonpartisan advocacy group supporting electoral reform. Unlike an ordinary poll, it asked respondents to rank several candidates in order of preference — so as to simulate ranked-choice voting, a system currently used in Maine and other localities. (FairVote advocates in favor of the system and hopes it will be adopted elsewhere in the US as well.)

The way ranked-choice voting works is that candidates with fewer votes are eliminated, and then their votes are redistributed to whomever each voter designated as their next-ranked preference. For instance, a voter could rank Sen. Bernie Sanders as their first choice and Warren as their second choice — meaning that, if Sanders was eliminated, this vote would be transferred to Warren.

YouGov tested the ranked choice methodology offering all 20 remaining Democratic candidates as options (with the ability to rank 10 of them) — and also by just offering the current top five candidates (Biden, Warren, Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg) as options. The end results were quite similar for both versions, so this article will focus on the five-candidate version for simplicity’s sake. (The more extensive results for both versions are available at FairVote’s website.)

In an initial tally counting only voters’ top-ranked choices, Biden leads the Democratic field with 33 percent, and is followed by Warren with 29 percent, Sanders with 20 percent, Harris with 10 percent, and Buttigieg with 8 percent, per the poll.

But it turns out that respondents who initially favored Sanders and Harris prefer Warren over Biden, by about a two-to-one ratio. So once the field is narrowed to a head-to-head matchup of just Biden and Warren, and votes for the eliminated candidates are to whomever each voter ranked higher, Warren would lead Biden by 6 points.

The results are an interesting indication of how an outcome can change due to a different tallying system. But they could also be indicative of something bigger.

Though voters theoretically can choose among many of candidates, we are still months away from a day when primary voters will cast votes. So how voters rank their options in a smaller field could tell us a lot about what the race might look like in the future, and what might happen were the field to winnow further. These results, at least, suggest that Warren would benefit more than Biden would.

Walking through the ranked-choice results

To the uninitiated, ranked-choice voting (sometimes called “instant runoff voting,” or IRV) might seem like a confusing and convoluted system. Our respondents were asked to rank Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren by preference — from first choice, to second, to third, to fourth, to fifth. (If they wouldn’t vote for some of these candidates at all, they could notate that as well.) The graphic below walks through the tally.

A graphic that walks through each stage of the ranked choice voting system. First Buttigieg is eliminated, then Harris, then Sanders. Their votes are transferred to either Biden or Warren at each stage, and in the final tally, Warren leads 53% to 47%. Christina Animashaun/Vox

A quick note here: The actual counts of voters are rounded from a weighted sample — they’re being presented here to help simulate how the tally would work in a real election, based on these poll results.

What it means

Christina Animashaun/Vox

If the topline results of this poll were the results in a typical American election, Biden would just win outright — he got the most first-choice votes in that first tally. But he only has slightly more than a third of the vote among five candidates.

Now, if it was a typical Democratic presidential primary election, it wouldn’t be so simple. That’s because rather than declaring one winner, Democrats allot delegates proportionally to all candidates who get 15 percent of the vote in each primary or caucus. Those delegates go on to cast ballots at the convention.

Ranked-choice can inform a system like that, too. You could cut off the tally once there are only candidates who have 15 percent of the vote or more — to ensure that no votes are “wasted” on candidates who didn’t meet the threshold. In our example above, things would wrap up at the third tally (showing Biden with 39 percent, Warren with 38 percent, and Sanders with 23 percent).

However, at DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meetings this summer, several members expressed skepticism about whether ranked-choice voting could or should be incorporated into the primary contest given the party’s current rules. And Maine, the state that has most embraced the system, will only use it in the general election next year rather than the presidential primary.

The goal with ranked-choice in general is to ensure the winner is at least in some sense the choice of a majority of the electorate — and that voters who cast ballots for candidates other than the top contenders won’t just see their votes thrown away.

Imagine an election with just three candidates. Candidate A gets 35 percent of the vote, Candidate B gets 33 percent, and Candidate C gets 32 percent. In the most common American voting system (“first-past-the-post”), that Candidate A would just win. But 65 percent of the voters didn’t vote for him — in fact, they might utterly despise him, and have badly wanted him to lose, but been divided between the other two options.

Ranked-choice would avert that outcome: Candidate C would be eliminated, and their supporters would be redistributed to their next-ranked pick. Another benefit is that, under ranked-choice, voters are free to pick an unconventional or underdog candidate as their first choice, without worrying about their vote being “thrown away.”

Of course, there are critiques of ranked-choice voting as well. Simon Waxman has argued that, in practice, the system can be confusing or exhausting — and that the promised majority support doesn’t always materialize, because voters don’t rank enough candidates. (In this YouGov poll, 85 percent of respondents ranked all five candidates — but of course, that also means 15 percent did not.)

Others argue for alternative systems designed to find a “Condorcet winner” — that is, whoever would win a head-to-head race against every other candidate. (It’s at least possible that such a candidate would have little first-choice support and be eliminated quickly under ranked-choice.)

Whatever you think about which voting system is best, for a deeper dive into this poll data, you can head over to FairVote’s website — they have interactive graphics for both the five-candidate result this article discusses, and a separate result in which all 20 candidates were offered as options.

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🗳️ News Analysis: Democrats head toward a three-person race while the second ti
« Reply #1103 on: September 13, 2019, 08:34:59 AM »
I actually watched about half of this one.  IMHO, Liz came off the best of the 3 front runners.  Uncle Joe is a doddering old fool and Bernie is lacking the energy of his first run.

Down at the bottom, Andrew Yang's stupid proposal to give money to people fell flat, he's a waste of time.  Cory Booker did OK, and Beto O'Rourke played to his constituency on the guns issue, but not much else.  We should get some more dropouts before the next one.

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https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-09-13/houston-debate-analysis-democrats-head-toward-three-person-race

News Analysis: Democrats head toward a three-person race while the second tier scrambles


Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren onstage at Houston debate

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have pulled away from the pack in most national and early-state polls over the last month.
(Associated Press)

By Janet HookStaff Writer
Sep. 13, 2019
5 AM
WASHINGTON —

The sprawling Democratic primary field has been headed toward a three-person race, and despite strenuous efforts by the trailing candidates, Thursday’s debate seems unlikely to have significantly changed that.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have pulled away from the pack in most national and early-state polls over the last month.

It should not be surprising that those three candidates have risen to the top of the field of more than 20: Biden, Sanders and Warren are the three contenders who came to the race with a national political brand, and they have used their campaigns to hone their messages with a clarity that none of their competitors have.

More surprising is the fact that, in a campaign that started with paeans to the party’s need for youth and diversity, none of the many other candidates has elbowed into a place among the three white septuagenarians.
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The problem: While some of the second-tier candidates have had solid attention-grabbing campaign moments, none has been able to translate them into durable political gains.
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Biden clashes with Warren and Sanders at the Democratic debate over the party’s future

Thursday’s debate in Houston presented those candidates with one of a dwindling number of opportunities they will get to keep a broader choice before primary voters.

It won’t be clear for a week or more whether any of them had true breakout moments. But the seven rivals on the stage tried just about every tactic in the book.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sought to offer moderate alternatives to the health, gun control and tax policies advanced by Sanders and Warren. Early on, she flatly declared Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan a “bad” idea.

Former Obama Cabinet official Julián Castro repeatedly challenged Biden, including a blunt suggestion that he was losing his memory — a personal attack that seemed to backfire, both on style and on substance.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California tried to focus on attacking President Trump, not her Democratic rivals — a somewhat surprising stance for a candidate who memorably attacked Biden in their first debate in June and enjoyed a noticeable, if temporary, boost afterward.
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Photos: Candidates face off in third Democratic debate

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey preached for “common cause and common purpose” rather than Democrats trying to “demonize and degrade each other.” He also landed one of the night’s toughest critiques of Biden, though he did it in a CNN interview after the debate rather than onstage:

“There’s a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling,” he said. “I know that Castro had some really legitimate concerns.”

While the candidates all labored to draw distinctions among themselves, they also leavened the debate with more kind words for one another than in the previous confrontations, sensitive to the risk of alienating voters who want the party to come together.

The result was lavish praise on Sanders for having pioneered Medicare for all; on former Rep. Beto O’Rourke for his handling of the aftermath of a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso; and especially on former President Obama, a shift in tone from the July debate, when some candidates criticized his policies and took heat from Obama loyalists for doing so.

Warren and Harris both took time early on to praise Obama’s handling of healthcare, even as they touted plans that would go significantly beyond Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. Both candidates have been seeking to expand their support among African American voters, a group that gives the edge to Biden and among whom Obama remains especially popular.

Still, the spotlight shone most brightly on the top three candidates: They were the target of barbs. Biden and Warren got the most speaking time. And they demonstrated a great deal of how they hope to play their hands and compete with one another in the next, more intense chapter of the primary campaign.

Warren, for the most part, aimed her criticism at corruption and the political system, not her rivals. Political analysts have been predicting that at some point Warren and Sanders, ideological soulmates, will have to begin drawing distinctions between each other. That time did not come Thursday.

Though she has yet to put out her own detailed plan for healthcare, Warren doubled down on her commitment to Sanders’ signature healthcare proposal, Medicare for all.

Sanders focused more on drawing distinctions with Biden — saying they were on the opposite side of Obama-era policies on trade and the Iraq war.

Biden took a swipe at Warren for dodging a question about whether middle-class families would see their taxes go up under Medicare for all. Though he may never escape his habit of verbal wandering, he has grown more comfortable than he was earlier in his criticisms of his two liberal rivals for going too far and wanting to spend too much.

Thursday was the first time Biden appeared on the same debate stage as Warren, at a time when his advisors indicate that they see her as a bigger threat than Sanders. Even though she still ranks closely with Sanders in most polls, trading second and third places in different surveys, Warren’s campaign has shown unique strength: She is the only candidate who has shown steady growth in polling over the last several months, while Biden and Sanders have mostly plateaued.

The other candidates on the stage have not yet managed even a plateau.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., made a big early splash as a preternaturally articulate 37-year-old who raised a ton of money. In Thursday’s debate, he landed one of the stronger critiques of Medicare for all, for denying people the ability to choose private health insurance: “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” he said. “Why don’t you?” Overall, however, he ended up as a marginal voice in the debate.

Harris’ focus on Trump seemed a response to the political lessons of her first two debates: She had a breakout moment in the first debate attacking Biden, but the polling and fundraising bump proved short-lived. She faltered in the second debate when she tangled with Biden again and was thrown on the defensive.

O’Rourke is still struggling to light the kinds of sparks that drew him acclaim in his 2018 Senate race against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

None of the 10 candidates on the stage Thursday is likely to drop out any time soon: They all have qualified for the October debate.

But most of them continue to give the sense that they’re waiting for one of the top three to falter.

That could well happen in the coming weeks and months. Many Democrats have been predicting a Biden collapse around every corner, due to his age (76), propensity to gaffes and a decades-long voting record that includes some positions on crime, abortion and other issues at odds with today’s liberal consensus.

His performance Thursday included no major missteps but was uneven, sometimes meandering, and included an anachronistic reference to record players that reminded viewers of his roots in another era.

But in the five months since Biden announced his candidacy, he has maintained his polling position as front-runner despite all that. He has shown a lot of the quality that was the subject of the last question posed by Thursday’s debate moderators: resilience.
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🗳️ Who won the Democrats' debate? Our panelists' verdict
« Reply #1104 on: September 13, 2019, 03:54:08 PM »
Another spin on debate winners & losers...

RE

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/13/who-won-the-democrats-debate-our-panelists-verdict

Who won the Democrats' debate? Our panelists' verdict

Another combative Democratic debate saw clashes between Joe Biden and his opponents – but no clear winner emerged

Nathan Robinson, Lloyd Green, Jessa Crispin, Malaika Jabali and Art Cullen

Fri 13 Sep 2019 01.25 EDT
Last modified on Fri 13 Sep 2019 10.17 EDT

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/F_TYe2wdaGg" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/F_TYe2wdaGg</a>

US election 2020: highlights from the third Democratic presidential debate – video
Nathan Robinson: ‘Biden did better but remains a liability

The consensus will probably be that Julián Castro distinguished himself in Thursday’s debate, thanks to some forceful talk on immigration, a good story about hard ethical choices, and some deliciously salty exchanges with Joe Biden. Biden himself did better than before, which isn’t saying much. There were still painful moments, especially a downright bizarre ramble delivered in response to a question on his racial record – Biden implied that black parents need instructions on how to raise children, told people to “make sure you have the record player on at night”, and then started talking about Venezuela for no reason at all. I continue to believe he is a political liability who should under no circumstances be nominated.

Bernie had some excellent answers on foreign policy and democratic socialism, sadly made less forceful thanks to a hoarse voice. Unfortunately, he was also denied the chance to say anything about climate change, meaning he couldn’t explain the urgent need for a Green New Deal.

Warren distinguished herself as an explainer of progressive policies and effectively replied to the line about people wanting to “keep their insurance” by saying “I’ve never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.” Kamala Harris continues to duck tough questions about her atrocious record as a prosecutor, Amy Klobuchar continues to offer uninspiring centrist cliches, Beto O’Rourke continues to emphasize guns and racism, Andrew Yang gets ever closer to becoming Matthew Lesko, and Cory Booker continues to be personally endearing without offering any reason to vote for him. Oh, and please: no more three-hour debates. They are truly unendurable.

    Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs and a columnist for the Guardian US

Lloyd Green: ‘For Democrats, 2020 can’t arrive quickly enough’

Joe Biden came out swinging hard but then struggled to stay focused in the third hour. Still, his swipes at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were effective. Warren refused to own up to the cost of her single-payer healthcare plan; as for Sanders, he was reminded that “socialist” can be a putdown. Biden’s line, “I’m with Barack, Elizabeth is with Bernie” is here to stay.

Kamala Harris also did well. Her tart Wizard of Oz description of President Trump, “When you pull back the curtain it’s a really small dude,” got the audience’s attention.

Presidents Obama and Trump were also winners. This time, the candidates on stage repeatedly sang Obama’s praises on his healthcare reform. As for Trump, he had to be smiling when Julián Castro angrily taunted Biden over his age. For the Democrats, 2020 can’t arrive quickly enough.
0:36
Castro questions Biden's memory during third Democrat debate – video

    Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992

Jessa Crispin: ‘I miss Marianne Williamson’
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Biden as the Democratic frontrunner only makes sense if no one is watching any of his media appearances or these debates: he spends half his time stuttering, digressing, and bleeding from sensory organs.

Everyone on stage on Thursday agreed on which issues are important and squabbled about how they will all magically solve intractable problems like healthcare, gun control and environmental devastation. The only fun left here is guessing who leaves the race next. Well, that and figuring out why Kamala Harris, who kept giggling at her own awkward jokes, had such a strong wine mom energy tonight.

I miss Marianne Williamson. While everyone else argues about whose plan is going to actually raise taxes the most, she spoke to the deep issues of apathy, loss of authority, and weariness with a system that spends a year making big promises and then spends four years explaining why those promises are all impossible to achieve.

If Biden is the Democratic future, responding to every mass shooting with an Oh Jeez and every diplomatic crisis with a “got your nose” joke, I want at least one person talking about why this is a joke too many.

    Jessa Crispin is the author of Why I Am Not a Feminist

Malaika Jabali: ‘No clear winners – but better moderators’

It’s clear that Democratic debate hosts continue their disingenuous framing of socialism and the left, from asking loaded questions about what distinguishes Bernie Sanders from Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro to repeating conservative talking points about Medicare for All. The debates are becoming increasingly redundant, with few revelations materializing among them. However, moderators Linsey Davis and Jorge Ramos asked tough questions that were a welcome shift from the tone of previous debates.

Davis unflinchingly confronted Biden on his positions on racial equality and lack of interest in reparations, and she directly called out Kamala Harris’s criminal justice record. Likewise, Jorge Ramos keyed in on Biden’s support for the Obama administration’s deportations of 3 million people.

As the debate was three hours long, there should have been plenty of time to follow up on these questions, instead half of the first hour was spent relitigating Medicare for All. While there were no clear winners, and the frontrunners’ positions will likely change little after tonight, at least a few pointed questions forced some to contend with their records.

    Malaika Jabali is a public policy attorney, writer, and activist

Art Cullen: ‘Beto had a tremendous night’

The best moment in all the debate was when Joe Biden made his closing remarks, speaking of resilience against all his tremendous personal loss: “Faith sees best in the dark. You find purpose in what you do. I stayed engaged.” Going up against that, Julián Castro looked small nipping at Biden’s heels by suggesting that he was forgetful.

Beto O’Rourke had a tremendous night, the best on stage, with accolades all around and the most applause from the crowd for championing gun safety and condemning racism with passion, calling Trump a “white supremacist”. “Would you take away their guns? “Hell yes,” O’Rourke said. “We’re gonna take away your AR-15, your AK-47.”
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Beto O'Rourke on gun control: 'Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15' – video
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Elizabeth Warren maintained her momentum with cogent riffs on trade, Afghanistan, healthcare and corruption. Amy Klobuchar’s midwestern appeals for pragmatism will echo for voters looking for relief from chaos. She stayed in the fray.

    Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is author of the book: Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland
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Re: Election Errata
« Reply #1105 on: September 13, 2019, 05:01:11 PM »
No golden ticket for Hawaiian Barbie ?  Chick needs to write a book on being dis'd by the left wing of the mob war eagle  :evil4:

Carlin was right ..... It's all bullshit.  :icon_mrgreen:
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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This pledge by Beto will probably win him Poll % amongst Democrats, but will not play well in the POTUS election, if he managed to gt the nomination, which is unlikely.  If he flips to run for Senate in TX, it's a tough call.  Texans LOVE their GUNZ, but all the shootings there are starting to wear people out.

RE

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/09/beto-orourke-death-threat-debate-pledge-take-assault-style-weapons.html

Texas Lawmaker Issues Death Threat to Beto O’Rourke After Debate Pledge to Take Away Assault-Style Weapons

By Elliot Hannon
Sept 13, 20197:18 AM

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/Za3dAPwKU0w" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/Za3dAPwKU0w</a>

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    When Losing a Loved One to Gun Violence Doesn’t Change Your Gun Rights Beliefs

Beto O’Rourke was uniquely outspoken in his calls for gun control during Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Houston. The former Texas congressman, whose hometown of El Paso recently was the victim of a mass shooting at a Walmart, was asked if he’d take away assault-style weapons that are often used in mass shootings. “Hell yes,” O’Rourke responded. “We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore.”

It seemed inevitable that O’Rourke’s call to ban ownership of military-style weapons would rile up the guns=distilled liberty true believers online, but it was, perhaps predictably, an elected Republican official—from the state of Texas no less—who led the way over the cliff. Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted a not-so-thinly veiled threat at the presidential contender, tweeting, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,” calling O’Rourke, whose nickname is Beto, by his first and middle names.

The O’Rourke campaign said it reported the 34-year-old state representative’s tweet to the FBI. Twitter took down the tweet, saying it had violated its terms of service. “It violates our rules for threats of violence,” a company spokesperson said late Thursday night. “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people.”

Cain, however, was unrepentant.
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https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/09/beto-orourke-death-threat-debate-pledge-take-assault-style-weapons.html

Texas Lawmaker Issues Death Threat to Beto O’Rourke After Debate Pledge to Take Away Assault-Style Weapons

 Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain tweeted a not-so-thinly veiled threat at the presidential contender, tweeting, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis,” calling O’Rourke, whose nickname is Beto, by his first and middle names.

The O’Rourke campaign said it reported the 34-year-old state representative’s tweet to the FBI. Twitter took down the tweet, saying it had violated its terms of service. “It violates our rules for threats of violence,” a company spokesperson said late Thursday night. “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people.”

Cain, however, was unrepentant.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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🗳️ Fact check: Could a President Beto O'Rourke actually confiscate assault wea
« Reply #1108 on: September 14, 2019, 02:16:17 PM »
Beto has a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected POTUS, and an even smaller chance he could ram through a confiscation law.

However, this declaration did it's job, which was to get Beto back in the headlines.  He's going to pick up poll percentage points from this controversy.

RE

Fact check: Could a President Beto O'Rourke actually confiscate assault weapons?

Holmes Lybrand

By Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Updated 8:06 AM ET, Sat September 14, 2019


Beto O'Rourke: We should stop selling weapons of war 01:52

(CNN)Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas has made his position on assault weapons crystal clear. "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," O'Rourke said during Thursday's Democratic presidential debate. "We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore."
To accomplish this, O'Rourke has proposed a mandatory confiscation of these guns whereby individuals would be compensated for their firearms.
Beyond the thorny politics of this proposal, it raises clear legal and logistical questions, including whether a president has the authority to confiscate people's guns.
Facts First: A president could not issue a blanket confiscation of so-called assault weapons, but they could work with Congress to pass such a law. Constitutionally speaking, that law would likely run into some significant legal trouble.

First, some basic facts. The National Rifle Association has estimated that there are somewhere between 8.5 million and 15 million assault rifles in the US, the organization told McClatchy in 2018. That's about 2% to 4% of all the estimated guns in the US, but it's unclear how many guns would ultimately fall under an assault weapons confiscation.
Part of that has to do with the fuzzy definition of what qualifies as an assault weapon, which can sometimes be based on cosmetic features like a folding stock or an additional handgrip on a rifle.
In 1994, assault weapons were banned from being manufactured but the law did not call for the confiscation of those already in private ownership. That assault weapons ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed under the George W. Bush administration.
O'Rourke's plan, however, not only would include a ban on all sales of so-called assault weapons but also would require owners to sell these guns to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, something the US government has never done before.
Because of precedent set by the Supreme Court, the widespread use and popularity of these guns would almost certainly present legal trouble for O'Rourke's proposal.
In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled on whether a ban on handgun possession in the home violated the Second Amendment. It found that it did, holding that the Second Amendment protects guns that are "in common use" and prohibits " 'dangerous and unusual weapons.' "
In response to questions about the constitutionality of his proposal, O'Rourke's campaign told CNN that the confiscation of AR-15-style weapons would be legal, and cited Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion from Heller, that the regulation of "dangerous [and] unusual weapons" does not violate the Second Amendment.

However, Scalia's opinion states that the Second Amendment protects guns in "common use." Given their prevalence, these assault weapons could fall under the definition of being "in common use," and therefore be protected by the Second Amendment.
At least one expert believes that common use interpretation would carry the day. "There's no dispute that these guns meet that definition," Dave Kopel, gun rights scholar and research director of the Independence Institute, told CNN.
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🗳️ Democrats Get Closer To Serious Field Of Trump Challengers
« Reply #1109 on: September 15, 2019, 12:28:20 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2019/09/14/760666026/democrats-get-closer-to-serious-field-of-trump-challengers

Democrats Get Closer To Serious Field Of Trump Challengers

September 14, 20197:00 AM ET
Ron Elving at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley)

Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont participate in Thursday's debate in Houston.  Win McNamee/Getty Images

There was something different about the Democratic debate this week, compared to the earlier rounds this summer. Something was happening that was hard to pin down, but palpable. Not the contrast of night and day, but perhaps the difference between dusk and dawn.

It's a critical difference and it comes at a crucial time. Because the Trump presidency these candidates are competing to truncate has reached what may be a critical juncture. But more of that in a moment.

This week, the Democratic nomination fight once again took the form of a TV quiz show with too many contestants to fit onscreen at once. Once again, the candidates sounded a lot alike, peddling much the same wares as in June and July. And yes, three hours was too long.

Yet something different happened. The debate left a clearer imprint. The effect was at least somewhat more energizing than the summer meetings, or perhaps just a bit less dispiriting.
5 Questions Answered About The 3rd Democratic Debate
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5 Questions Answered About The 3rd Democratic Debate

There were still 10 candidates on stage but at least they were the candidates most people wanted to see and — best of all — there was not the prospect of 10 more contestants doing it all over on the following night.

That made a difference. The earlier affairs had the feel of the NFL exhibition season, this week felt more like playing for keeps.

On the substantive side, the candidate's answers and thoughts seemed more fully formed and more clearly expressed. Some of this is just practice. Some of these candidates are new to the big leagues; and veterans such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are getting used to new roles.

Some of the upgrade also seemed attributable to the ABC moderators, all four of whom were crisp. They had challenging questions and they probed in their follow-ups, but they did not intrude on the dynamic among the candidates. Like good referees, they pretty much let the players play — to the benefit of all.

Benefiting most were the candidates who got the most airtime — Biden, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Credit: NPR

Much was made of it being the first time viewers had a chance to see Biden and Warren face off — with Sanders, the other candidate consistently in double digits, right there as well. It gave Democratic consumers their best chance for a taste test to date.

Among the three, Warren seemed to make the most of it. She had the freshest energy on stage, and she is getting better at pressing a point. Her share of the airtime this week was nearly 17 minutes — second to Biden, but only by a few seconds. And she was showing passion on a range of outrages rather than intellectual irritation at the way things are.
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Elizabeth Warren Gets Personal On The Trail

She also responded to questions and to the answers of her rivals with apparent spontaneity — even when she is recycling what may be a practiced response.

Most observers gave Biden, the putative front-runner, middling marks. For some, he was just OK, a left-handed compliment at best. For others, he was good enough, which isn't much better. All seemed to agree he wasn't bad.

It's hard to know how Biden, soon to be 77, would look to the Democratic electorate based solely on this debate performance, given how long he's been around. Even more of a factor is the defensiveness many Democrats feel about the guy they still think has the best chance of beating President Trump. But more of that in a moment.
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Democratic Debate Exposes Deep Divides Among Candidates Over Health Care

Sanders, who is already 77, came across as every bit his age and just as irascible as he was at just 73 and challenging Hillary Clinton for the last presidential nomination. He once again made a strong case for the national health care system he calls "Medicare for All" — a concept that now gets at least lip service from many of his rivals, as well as pushback from a few.

Even though Sanders' goal is to make the famous health program available to everybody, it is for now still primarily associated with old folks. It's likely to be the Democratic Party vehicle for getting to national health care, sooner or later, so it could use --– and likely will have — more age-appropriate champions.

Still, it was Biden's age that was called into question in this debate, when he had talked about who would qualify under his amendments to Obamacare. Julián Castro, at one end of the stage, objected to what sounded like Biden contradicting himself. When Biden interrupted with a denial, Castro fired back, "Are you forgetting already what you said just 2 minutes ago?"
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'Details Are Irrelevant': Biden Says Verbal Slip-Ups Don't Undermine His Judgment

Without that word "already," that question might have stood on its own. Instead, it seemed a shot at Biden's age and past lapses of memory. The audience reacted with a mix of groans and applause. They took it as a shot, and it played as such endlessly on broadcast highlights and in panel post mortems.

Castro may have been the victim of his own need to distinguish himself from the pack, a problem shared by all but the three candidates at center stage. He was anchoring the end of the line-up because his polls and fundraising are barely meeting the criteria for inclusion.

Also in endangered status was the candidate at the other far side of the stage, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who continues to emphasize her "middle of the country" roots and middle of the road positions. Her focus on the middle surely includes the early-caucus state of Iowa, her neighbor to the south, where she needs a break out showing.
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What Is The Filibuster — And Why Do Some Democrats Want To End It?

Just inside from the two ends onstage were two candidates who were expected to make more noise than either has to date: one was Cory Booker, the senator from New Jersey, a tall and commanding figure who got the night's best laugh and said many eloquent things on gun violence and the status of his fellow black Americans. The Booker campaign professes to be unworried, but it is hard to fathom why Booker has not broken through in the early states or the national polls.

The same might be said of Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso whose campaign has drawn new impetus from last month's massacre in that city. O'Rourke was saluted by his rivals for his strong stance, and he had a viral moment saying: "Hell yes we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," referring to the military-style weapons used in many recent mass shootings. That promise, however, does not reflect the position of most of the other candidates, or of the Democratic caucus in the House or the Senate.
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O'Rourke Promises To 'Take Your AR-15,' But Americans Are Split On Buybacks

Moving in toward the centerpiece trio one found Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.,, who used every chance he got to insert thoughtful answers with a fine-chiseled edge. He used his closing remarks to say how much it had meant to his life to come out as gay and marry his husband. The fact that his age, 37, may be more of a weight for his candidacy than his sexuality is one measure of how life in America has changed.

In mirroring status across the stage stood Andrew Yang, a young entrepreneur making a splash with younger voters and casting a wider net with ideas for guaranteed federal income payments (in lieu of other programs) and 100 Democracy Dollars to supplant lobbyists' actual dollars.
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Which leaves us with Kamala Harris the one candidate who stood aside from the threesome at center-stage but was not part of the trio on either wing. The California senator tried a good-natured jab at Biden regarding his oft-repeated ties to President Obama. It worked in its way, especially with the crowd at Texas Southern University, a historically black school. But it didn't have nearly the bite of her June debate challenge to Biden for his opposition to busing for school integration in the 1970s.

One thing Harris succeeded in doing was returning the debate, again and again, to the subject of Donald Trump. One after another, the candidates would acknowledge that beating Trump was everyone's ultimate goal, an existential necessity for the party and the over-arching unifying element in this contest.

Sen. Kamala Harris, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke participate in the third Democratic primary debate on Thursday night.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Yet, curiously, not one candidate mentioned the impeachment debate currently raging within the House of Representatives, where most Democrats now want a formal impeachment proceeding but Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not – at least yet.

Neither did anyone in the debate mention the recession jitters that polls show many Americans feeling, if only because the length of the current expansion and indications it may be ending.

That's important, because recessions beat incumbent presidents more often than the opposing party's nominee does. No incumbent lost between the Depression election of 1932 and 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter talked of an "economic misery index" in ousting Republican Gerald Ford. That same index was even worse when Ronald Reagan ousted Carter four years later.

George H. W. Bush also lost as an incumbent in 1992, the victim of a brief recession and an independent candidate (Ross Perot) who got 19% of the popular vote. Since then, three incumbent presidents have been re-elected and none has lost, despite the efforts of well-known, well-financed and party-backed challengers (Robert Dole, John Kerry and Mitt Romney).
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Poll: Democrats Most Like Warren, But Voters Overall Are Lukewarm On Democrats, Trump

That is largely why polls taken this week by CNN and by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist found a plurality of Americans expect Trump to win a second term, even though far fewer think he deserves it. Trump's approval number is now among the lowest ever for presidents after 20 months in office. But some have come back from comparable low points, including Obama and Reagan (who came back to win 49 states).

It's going to take more than good debate performances, and more than winning the nomination, for one of these Democratic contenders to defeat this incumbent. Only bad economics, or the actions of the incumbent himself, are likely to accomplish that.

But to make themselves attractive as a reasonable option, the Democrats need to present coherent, clear alternatives in policy and persona. This week's debate was at least a longer step in that direction.
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