Friday, May 25, 2018

McConnell Not Convinced By Spygate Claims

The Department of Justice’s classified briefing on Capitol Hill has not convinced attendees to withdraw support for Robert Mueller’s Russia probe despite White House claims that the FBI improperly spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he still backs Mueller’s special counsel investigation after the briefing on FBI use of an informant who had contacted three Trump staffers, but he also believes the inspector general investigation into FBI handling of the matter is also needed.

“The two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers to the questions that you raise — the [inspector general] investigation in the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation,” McConnell told NPR. “I support both of them, and I don't really have anything to add to this subject based upon the Gang of Eight briefing that we had today, which was classified.”

McConnell added on Fox News that there was “nothing particularly surprising” in the briefing in spite of President Trump’s claims that the revelations of an FBI source inside his campaign represented a major Obama scandal.

The briefing was delivered to a “Gang of Eight” Democrats and Republicans made up of congressional leaders and leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Originally planned for Republican leadership only, the White House expanded the briefing to include Democrats after pushback from both parties. Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Chief of Staff John Kelly were also present at the briefing.

The debate centers over whether the Obama Administration improperly used the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign in 2016. President Trump has adopted the phrase “Spygate” and claimed that the investigation is a political scandal for the preceding administration.

Trump critics argue that the surveillance of Trump staffers was limited to those with links to Russia such as Paul Manafort, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and did not benefit the Clinton campaign. In contrast to Trump claims that the entire investigation was based on the Steele dossier, the probe apparently began when Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey tipped the FBI that Papadopoulos had claimed in May 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton from hacked DNC emails.  The Washington Post broke the story last week that an informant inside the Trump campaign had corroborated Hockey’s claim.

There are holes in the president’s argument. Trump has not explained why, if the FBI’s intention was to help Hillary win, the Steele dossier was not leaked until after the election. The president has also failed to account for FBI Director James Comey’s Oct. 28 memo to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. The Comey memo is widely believed to have tipped the election to Donald Trump.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the only other attendee to comment on the briefing, was less circumspect than McConnell. Schiff told CNN in a brief statement on behalf of the Democratic leadership, “Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support the allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Ted Cruz Says Media Ignores Santa Fe Aftermath Due To Bias

Have you heard much about the Santa Fe school shooting lately? The furor over the May 18 attack seems to have abated quickly and Texas Senator Ted Cruz says it is because the victims and their families don’t support the media’s gun control agenda.

In an interview with the Daily Signal, Cruz called the murders “horrific” and said, “There have been too dang many of these.”

“Something’s wrong,” Cruz continued. “When we were kids, this wasn’t a part of going to school. You might worry about getting a black eye at school or something, but you didn’t worry about someone, some lunatic coming in and shooting and murdering as many people as they could. That was not part of school.”

When asked what strategies could be followed to stop school shootings, Cruz said that he and Texas Gov. Abbott asked the victims and their families for opinions. “It was really striking,” Cruz said. “Out of a dozen students who just hours earlier had been in this shooting, every one of them said the answer is not gun control. They said, don’t take our guns. They said if you take our guns, it won’t make us safer, it will just mean the killers and murderers have guns.”

Cruz added that many of the students supported metal detectors and armed police guards in schools, two ideas that have been attacked by Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. The Santa Fe shooting survivors also supported another idea lambasted by Hogg, arming teachers.

The senator told of a student who “said his teacher was a former Marine, who was trained to handle a firearm.” According to Cruz, the student “said he wished his teacher had been armed; he might have been able to stop the killer before he killed so many people.”

Cruz drew a contrast between the Parkland survivors and the Santa Fe students, saying, “It’s fairly striking that, you look at the mainstream media, CNN, after the Parkland shooting, it was round-the-clock coverage of the students calling for aggressive gun control because that happens to be the political agenda of most of the media. In this case, where the students aren’t calling for that, suddenly … the media isn’t interested in covering it.”

Media bias almost certainly plays a role in the lack of continuing coverage of the Santa Fe teens. After Parkland, media outlets made rock stars of Parkland survivors such as David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Emma Gonzalez while all but ignoring pro-Second Amendment survivor Kyle Kashuv.

Nevertheless, there may be additional reasons that the story was downplayed as well. The Santa Fe shooting had fewer victims than the Parkland shooting as well as the fact that the Parkland shooting had the shock value of being the first in a series. The news was also overshadowed by President Trump’s claims that the FBI spied on his campaign as well as events in Korea.

Cruz is absolutely correct that the Texans from Santa Fe reacted differently from the Parkland victims, however. The Texas Tribune detailed a meeting between Santa Fe students and teachers with Gov. Abbott. Most agreed that more school counselors, armed teachers and school police officers were needed. There was also support for random checks of student bags.

The idea of metal detectors seemed to draw more resistance than arming teachers. Sophomore Tyler Morrison questioned whether the policy would be “treating kids like prisoners” while senior Grace Johnson asked, “Do we push back our education because we need to get 1,500 kids through a metal detector?”

What was absent from the list was support for gun control. In fact, a full-page ad placed by gun control group Everytown in the Houston Chronicle last week was signed by 40 students from around Texas. Although a number of the signatories were from the Houston area, there were apparently none from Santa Fe.

The Texan response can perhaps be summed up best by Jay Horn, the parent of a student hospitalized as a result of the shooting. “This is not a gun thing,” said Horn. “Evil's going to happen with anything.” The comment got a round of applause. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump is the Anti-Obama

Ever since Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring for president in 2015 there has been debate over whether Trump is a conservative. Spoiler alert: He’s not. While not a conservative, we now know that, at least in the short term, Mr. Trump is anti-Obama.

But, David, you may argue, if Obama is a liberal and Trump is anti-Obama, doesn’t that make Trump a conservative? The answer is that while there is a lot of overlap between being anti-Obama and being conservative, the two are not the same.

On policy, being the anti-Obama is obviously pleasing to conservatives. Even conservatives who are not personal fans of Trump will admit that they like many of his policy moves. Like George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” if every instinct that Obama had was liberal and wrong, all Trump would have to do to succeed is do the opposite. We have seen the Trump Administration roll back Obama-era policies on taxes, Iran, climate change, healthcare, and abortion to name a few.

One problem with an anti-Obama ideology is that even though Obama was wrong 99 percent of the time, he did the right thing on occasion. Even a stopped clock is right twice each day.

The most serious error that Trump made in unmaking the Obama legacy was one of his first acts as president: Withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership. Conservatives have traditionally embraced free trade, but Trump has gone to great lengths to grow the government’s ability to pick winners and losers in international trade. That withdrawing from the TPP was a mistake is evident by the fact that the Administration is now considering rejoining the trade deal.

A second example is the Trump Administration’s restrictions on legal immigration. A Trump-era shortage of H-2B visas for migrant workers has led to labor shortages in many industries across the country from seafood processors in Maine and Alaska to crop pickers in Texas and California. The shortage has even affected hotels and resorts such as Mar-a-Lago.

In many cases, it has been easy to erase Barack Obama’s legacy because the former president, when faced with a Congress that was not dominated by Democrats, chose to go his own way with executive actions rather than forging bipartisan coalitions to enact more permanent legislation. Where Obama was able to pass laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation, reversing his legacy has been piecemeal.

There are two obvious areas in which President Trump has not departed from President Obama’s legacy. One is in ending Obama’s executive amnesty program, DACA, and the other is Syria.

Last year, President Trump announced plans to end DACA, but called on Congress to pass a law that would extend the program. Earlier this year, Trump offered Democrats a deal on DACA in exchange for funding for his border wall. After Democrats rebuffed the deal, a court order prevented Trump from ending the program, but, given Trump’s ambivalence on ending DACA in the campaign, one must wonder whether he would really give the program the axe if he could.

In Syria, President Trump has largely continued Barack Obama’s policy of airstrikes against ISIS and providing Special Forces advisors to friendly factions. With the exception of two limited strikes on Syrian regime airbases in the wake of chemical weapons attacks, Trump’s Syria policy is very similar to Obama’s. This also applies to his lack of commitment to the region. In recent months, the president has hinted that the US is considering a withdrawal from the region that would be much like Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq.

On matters apart from policy, President Trump is not conservative in any sense of the word. The president is brash and impulsive, seemingly making decisions on the fly. Trump’s private life is more like that of Bill Clinton, Gary Hart and John Edwards than Ronald Reagan or George Bush. Mr. Trump’s relationship with truth and reality seems Orwellian.

The big question is, “Does it matter?”

To a point, the answer is no. Rolling back the Obama legacy is, for the most part, a good thing. The past eight years were filled with bad decisions that stifled American economic growth and allowed dangerous enemies to flourish. Obama’s errors desperately needed to be corrected.  

Ultimately, America needs more than an anti-Obama. The country needs someone who can unite it around a positive vision. We need someone who can build legislative coalitions to pass reforms in Congress rather by executive decree. Even though many of President Trump’s policies have been good, most, like those of Obama, are grounded only in Executive Orders and bureaucratic regulations that can be easily reversed by the next president.

In another similarity to Obama, President Trump’s lack of grounding in free market principles contributes to an uncertain business climate. Businesses never knew what new regulations would be coming down the pike from the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration is much the same. Tariffs are suddenly announced and dropped just as abruptly, only to have a new possible tariff floated the next day. Long-term planning is impossible in such an environment and could erode the traditional support of business groups for Republicans.

There is also the question of what course the nonideological Trump will take when the low-hanging fruit of easy reversals of Obama-era policies have all been plucked. Whether Republicans keep control of Congress or not, there is a limit to what can be accomplished with executive actions and bureaucratic rulemaking. Trump may well tack left to make deals with Democrats if Republicans lose their majority.

Perhaps worse, Trump’s antics are driving young voters away from the GOP. Despite increased economic opportunity, a recent Harvard poll found an impressive 41-point gap in favor of Democrats for young voters. Likewise, the Associated Press found that young Americans disapprove of President Trump by more than two-to-one. Similar polling of young voters in 2004 showed George W. Bush only 10 points behind John Kerry. Donald Trump is good at signing Executive Orders, but he is not good at articulating to the next generation why they should embrace a conservative, pro-freedom ideology.

Donald Trump has done better than expected at reversing eight years of Obamanism, but the president lacks the conservative foundation and legislative experience to complete the reform. Further, Trump’s personal behavior turns off voters to the Republican brand. In the short-term, an anti-Obama president is a good thing, but President Trump has so far been unable to implement lasting legislative reforms and that seems unlikely to change.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Student Anti-gun Ad in Texas Offers No New Solutions

Texas has the reputation of a gun-friendly red state, but even the population of the Lone Star State is not politically homogenous. That became apparent this week when 40 Texas high school students signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking the question, “We are dying on your watch. What will you do about it?”

The open letter to the governor appeared in the form of a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. The ad follows on the heels of the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that left eight students and two teachers dead. The letter includes classic examples of myths, misdirection and illogical thinking with regard to guns.

The letter begins with the obligatory attack on the NRA. “Our job is to be good students. Your job is to keep us safe. You have failed at your job,” the students say. “Like so many politicians cozy with the NRA, you have steadfastly opposed any reasonable measures that might protect us from gun violence.”

“Instead,” the letter continues, “you’ve signed dangerous policies to force public colleges in Texas to allow guns on campus and make it legal to openly carry firearms in public. You’ve continued to push the notion that guns everywhere for everyone make us safer. By that logic, shouldn’t we be among the safest states in the nation?”

The fallacy here is that guns are not allowed in Texas public schools any more than they are allowed in public schools anywhere else in the country. The murderer was not deterred by the fact that it was illegal to carry his guns into the school.

In spite of two recent mass shootings, Texas has a relatively low gun crime rate overall. The Lone Star State was 28th out of the 50 states in a USA Today ranking of gun violence. The state ranks 18th in violent crime per Statistia.

The letter then attacks the religious beliefs of gun-carrying Texans: “A few months later, you said that gun violence was happening because of ‘hearts without God.’ Do you think that the children who were shot in class this week died because they hadn’t prayed enough? What about the 26 who were killed while they were worshiping in Sutherland Springs? Do you think they are to blame, rather than yourself and other politicians who refuse to allow even a meaningful discourse on reasonable gun violence prevention policies?”

The logical fallacy here is that it is not the victims whose hearts were the problem. The fundamental problem is that there are rogue killers with evil in their hearts who prey on innocent and defenseless people like the students of Santa Fe and the worshippers of Sutherland Springs. The Bible addresses the fact that the human heart is inherently wicked. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Being godly does not necessarily protect people from evil predators. Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis was only history’s first example of a predatory murder. The Bible does teach us that only God’s love can tame the evil tendencies of the human heart.

The fundamental question of the gun debate is how to address the problem of people who are so riddled with evil that they decide to become predators and kill their fellow classmates. The students’ offer a typical solution, saying, “We were happy to hear you mention background checks and responsible gun storage when you spoke on Friday. But here’s the thing: Words only matter if they’re followed by action. And you have no track record of fighting for anyone other than the NRA. The majority of gun owners support laws that disarm domestic abusers or require a criminal background check on all gun sales. Do you?”

In the case of the Santa Fe murders, the Remington shotgun and .38 pistol were legally owned by the killer’s father. The father has not discussed how his son obtained the weapons. It is possible that more stringent laws on securing guns would have prevented the shooting, but background checks would have had no effect in this case. Even the argument that gun storage laws would have made a difference is suspect. Most 17-year-olds are savvy enough to find hidden guns and keys when their parents aren’t looking. Keeping guns locked away also makes it more difficult for them to be used for home defense, a primary reason that many people own guns in the first place.

Likewise, the reference to “disarm[ing] domestic abusers” and “requir[ing] a criminal background check for all gun sales” are red herrings. The Giffords Law Center notes that Texas already prohibits the purchase or possession of firearms for five years after release for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

The “all gun sales” is an attempt to require universal background checks for private gun sales, but this seems to be a solution in search of a problem. No mass shootings have been committed with guns that were obtained through private transactions and few other crimes seem to fall under this category. Politifact agrees that most gun crimes are committed by people who possess the gun illegally, rather than a legal purchase.

Next, the students again attack the NRA and lax gun laws, saying, “Why is our safety less important than the check you get from the NRA? We know that common sense gun laws make us safer. Since January 2009, Texas has experienced at least 20 mass shootings—more than any other state in the country. Do you think that a culture of guns everywhere and our lax gun laws might have something to do with that?”

The claim that Texas has more mass shootings that any state in the country could be directly related to the fact that Texas is the largest state in the continental US and ranks second in population. The claim, which is unsourced, is apparently not even true. Statistia data from 1982 through 2018 credits Texas with only eight mass shootings. Texas ranks third on this list behind the gun-control mecca of California (16 mass shootings) and Florida (10).

The final three paragraphs of the letter are an emotional appeal to “let this be your ‘come to Jesus’ moment.” The students say, “We appreciate your thoughts and prayers, but without policy change, this crisis will not end.”

The question is how to end the crisis. There seems to be no one-size-fits-all solution to spree killings. There is no evidence that the measures that the students advocate would have prevented this or any other recent mass shooting.

As recent truck and knife murders in Europe show, removing guns from the equation does not change the human heart. A better solution seems to be to re-introduce training in morality and ethics into schools. The core problem is that we are failing at teach our children to have respect for human life. That is what must change.

Originally published on The Resurgent

DOJ To Investigate the Investigators

Amid allegations of misbehavior by the FBI in the investigation of several members of Donald Trump’s campaign staff in 2016, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to investigate the investigators. The new probe will look into whether FBI agents responding to reports that Trump staffers were attempting to work with Russian agents in 2016 acted inappropriately themselves.

“The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” a DOJ spokesman said in a statement.

The announcement of the FBI probe comes a day after President Trump demanded in a tweet that the DOJ “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes [sic].” The president also charged the DOJ with investigating whether members of the Obama Administration made “any such demands or requests.”

The president’s demand follows on news over the weekend that a retired American college professor with deep ties to US and British intelligence was an FBI informant that corroborated other reports about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that it had identified the informant, but was not publishing his name. President Trump accused the FBI of planting an “FBI representative” in his campaign for “political purposes,” but the Post notes that there is no evidence that the informant was planted by the FBI.

The informant was subsequently identified by the New York Post as Stefan Halper, a retired Cambridge professor who previously worked for the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations. Halper reportedly met with Carter Page in July 2016. Page had previously been the subject of a FISA surveillance warrant as early as 2014.  In August, Halper met with Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis and contacted George Papadopoulos by email.

Supporters of the president charge that the FBI investigation of members of the Trump campaign was politically motivated, but there are several problems with this theory. The first is that Page and Manafort first attracted the attention of counterintelligence agencies long before they joined Team Trump. Second, even though the investigation into the Trump dossier and other Russian contacts by the Trump camp was underway well before the election, the allegations of a Trump-Russia conspiracy were not made public prior to the election, when they would have done the most harm to the Trump campaign. Instead, the Comey memo to Congress on October 28 alleged possible wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton and arguably cost her the election. These facts do not fit the narrative of an attempt by the FBI to sink the Trump campaign.

The Trump Administration’s criticism of the FBI hinges on the assumption that the investigation was political rather than a legitimate counterintelligence probe. So far, there seems to be no evidence to support that claim. If the FBI judged that the reports of an attempt to conspire with the Russians were credible, they would not have been doing their job if they had not launched an investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, told NBC News, “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

The accusations that the FBI broke the law in investigating members of the Trump campaign are serious and need to be treated as such. President Trump has used the FBI and DOJ as a foil for his frustrations with the ongoing Mueller investigation and accusations that his administration conspired with Putin to throw the election. The president’s claims need to be investigated to avoid undermining public faith in the agency and the government at large.

Given Mr. Trump’s track record of dubious claims, however, he is unlikely to be satisfied with the results. The core problem is that Donald Trump hired campaign staffers who were compromised by the Russians. The president’s own son met with a Russian lawyer because he thought she had information that would damage the Clinton campaign. It is difficult to look at the allegations about Trump’s staffers and say that the FBI should have done nothing.

Originally Posted on The Resurgent

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mueller Investigation To End By Sept. 1

For months President Trump and his supporters have questioned how long Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation would last. As the probe reached its one-year mark, Mr. Mueller has reportedly hinted that there is an end in sight. The New York Times reports that Mueller plans to wrap up his investigation of the Trump team by September.

Rudy Giuliani, who is now the president’s lawyer, said that Mueller informed him two weeks ago that the current timeline shows that the probe of the president’s campaign should be wrapped up by Sept. 1, provided that Mr. Trump agrees to be interviewed. Giuliani added that if the investigation continues beyond that point, Mueller would risk being accused of interfering with the 2018 elections.

The Mueller investigation would not necessarily end completely by September when the investigation into Team Trump concludes. Mueller’s appointment by the Department of Justice instructed him to conduct a “full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.” The investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign were complicit with the Russians is merely one aspect of the larger investigation.

Despite accusations that Mueller is dragging out his investigation, the Russia probe is proceeding quickly. If the investigation into the Trump Administration concludes in September, that would mark approximately one year and three months. Other special counsel investigations have taken much longer. The Reagan-era Iran-Contra investigation lasted more than six years as did the Whitewater investigation of Bill Clinton. The Valerie Plame investigation in the second Bush Administration took three years. The longest special counsel investigation, which resulted in the indictment of HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros for perjury in 1997, lasted nine years.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on Giuliani’s remarks. So far the Mueller investigation has indicted 19 people on a variety of charges and secured five guilty pleas. Thus far no evidence has been made public that shows that members of the Trump Administration successfully conspired with the Russians to affect the outcome of the election.

Originally published on The Resurgent

A Democrat Senate Majority Just Got More Likely

The once-safe Republican Senate majority is starting to look vulnerable. A Democrat takeover of the Senate would almost certainly have to go through the Tennessee seat of the retiring Bob Corker. Although Tennessee is normally a red state, the race for Corker’s seat is shaping up to be a fight.

The Tennessee race is competitive at this early stage largely because the Democrats nominated Phil Bredesen, a popular former governor with widespread name recognition as their candidate. Bredesen is among the Southern Democrats who have not fully embraced the party’s leftward lurches, which helps make him palatable in the conservative South.

It also doesn’t hurt that Bredesen is a multimillionaire who, if elected, would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Both candidates have raised about $2 million so far, but Bredesen also has his significant personal wealth to draw on.

Republicans nominated Marsha Blackburn, currently the congressional representative for the state’s seventh district, which encompasses the suburbs of Nashville to the rural areas east of Memphis. Blackburn has served in the House since 2003 and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

Perhaps unexpectedly, current polling shows Bredesen in the lead. Every poll since March has put Bredesen out front with margins from eight to 20 percent. Ms. Blackburn led in only one poll that was taken last January.

Blackburn, who voted with Trump 90 percent of the time, has positioned herself as the pro-Trump candidate and President Trump has returned the favor. The president tweeted support for the “wonderful woman” in April and plans to headline a $44,000-per-couple fundraiser for her on May 29.

Sen. Corker, who has been no stranger to confrontation with President Trump, doesn’t seem to be doing much to help. Corker has praised Bredesen, a longtime friend and political ally, saying he was “a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person.” Corker said he plans to vote for Blackburn, but won’t campaign against Bredesen.

“I think he’s got real appeal — I don’t think it, I know it,” Corker told the Christian Science Monitor. “The question is, in a state like ours that is still a red state, is it enough? I don’t know the answer to that.”

The Tennessee seat is almost a must-win for Democrats if they hope to take control of the Senate. Democrats need a net gain of two seats to win a majority. This is a taller order than it seems since Democrats are defending 26 seats while only nine Republican seats are being contested.

Nevertheless, two Republican seats in addition to Tennessee are considered toss ups by the Cook Political Report. Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada and Jeff Flake’s seat in Arizona, both critics of President Trump, are too close to call. Recent polling shows Heller in a dead heat  at 40 percent with Democrat Jacky Rosen while Democrat Kyrsten Sinema leads all potential Republican candidates ahead of the Arizona primary. Both races seem to be likely possibilities for another Democrat pickup.

Cook has also moved another three Republican seats into competitive territory. The seats of Cindy Hyde-Smith (who faces both Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Chris McDaniel in a three-way special election) in Mississippi, Deb Fischer in Nebraska and Ted Cruz in Texas have all been downgraded to “likely” Republican from “safe” Republican.

For their part, the Democrats also have several vulnerable seats. Six Democrat seats (Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia) are rated as toss ups. Another two (Minnesota and Ohio) are considered to lean Democrat.

If, as Democrats hope, the race hinges on Mr. Trump, Republicans could be in for a long night. Of the nine toss up states, Trump’s net approval is at or below zero in all but Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia. A key question is whether voters will separate Mr. Trump’s personality from his increasingly popular policies.

It is more likely that these close races will hinge on local factors and the quality of the individual candidates. In some cases, primary battles have yet to be waged to determine the nominee. In many cases, polling is sparse and unreliable for the state-level elections.

Like many of the individual races, control of the Senate is a tossup at this early date, but Republican chances in some individual races appear to be slipping. Democrat control of the Senate is still a long shot given the dynamics of the election, but the party has made gains over the past month. If the expected blue wave emerges, it could conceivably cause the Senate to change hands as well as the House.

Originally published on The Resurgent