Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can Republicans hold the Senate?

Marco Rubio (Gage/Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Lost in the furor over the presidential election is the fact that the fate of the Senate also hangs in the balance this November. Republicans, who currently hold a four seat majority, are in danger of losing control of the upper house of Congress. Republicans are defending more seats than Democrats this year and the looming prospect of a loss by Donald Trump may carry over into Senate races down the ticket. Can Republicans hold the Senate?

This year Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats as opposed to Democrats who are defending only 10 seats. Only half of the contested Republican seats are considered safe while seven of the Democrat seats are safe. Six Republican seats, enough to flip control of the Senate, are either tossups or leaning Democrat. Only one Democrat seat, currently held by Harry Reid of Nevada, is considered a likely pickup for the GOP.

Here are rundowns on the six threatened Republican seats:
  • ·         Florida: Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy will likely emerge from today’s primary as their party nominees. Current polling gives an edge to Rubio.
  • ·         Illinois: Senator Mark Kirk, elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, is being challenged by Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Illinois is a deep blue state, but the race is currently considered a tossup.
  • ·         New Hampshire: Senator Kelly Ayotte, another member of the class of 2010, is facing Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte was one of the Republicans hesitantly endorsed by Donald Trump over the summer. She has also given him a tepid endorsement. The race is currently a tossup with Hassan favored by one point in the Real Clear Politics average.
  • ·         Ohio: Current Senator Rob Portman is being challenged by former governor Ted Strickland. Polling is favoring Portman who is increasing the gap, but the race is still considered a tossup.
  • ·         Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey, another member of the class of 2010, is being challenged by Katie McGinty, a former business executive and lobbyist who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014. McGinty has held several appointed positions in Pennsylvania. The race is currently a tossup with McGinty leading by one point according to Real Clear Politics.
  • ·         Wisconsin: Another Tea Party senator, Ron Johnson, is facing Russ Feingold, the Democrat that he beat in 2010. Feingold is a double-digit favorite.

In addition, Republican seats in Missouri and North Carolina are also threatened, but are currently leaning Republican. Both senators may be suffering from the association with Donald Trump, who favored by only three points in Missouri and is trailing Hillary by two points in the North Carolina average.
  • ·         Missouri: Roy Blunt is being challenged by Jason Kander, the current secretary of state and an army reserve officer. The Real Clear Politics average favors Blunt, but by less than five points. 
  • ·         North Carolina: Richard Burr is defending against Deborah Ross, a former state representative. Burr leads by an average of two points.

On the Democratic side, Nevada is the only tossup. The retirement of Harry Reid leaves an open seat that is being contested by Democrat Catherine Masto, the attorney-general, and Republican Joe Heck, a current congressman. The race is currently a dead heat.

Which just over two months to go before the election, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio look reasonably safe for Republicans. Wisconsin is probably lost. Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and the Democratic seat in Nevada are all too close to call. It should be noted that all three tossup states vote reliably Democrat in presidential elections. A sweep of all three states by the Democrats is not unreasonable to expect.

If Democrats can hold Nevada, they would need to sweep all three of the other tossup states plus one additional state to win control of the Senate. Victory in all three tossup states would mean an evenly split Senate. Ties would be broken by the new vice president.

At this point, there is no way to accurately predict the final outcome, which may be tied closely to the presidential race and upcoming debates. These races should be watched closely due to the high stakes of the election.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trump flips on immigration

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Rumors are swirling that Donald Trump is prepared to reverse his stance on illegal immigration, the cornerstone of his campaign. The Trump campaign began last summer with rhetoric that focused heavily on Mexico and illegal immigration. Trump made his promise of a wall on the Mexican border the centerpiece of his campaign.

The rumors that Trump is flip-flopping on immigration began Saturday night with a Buzzfeed article. Buzzfeed cited three sources who confirmed that Trump signaled his willingness to soften his immigration stance in a secret meeting in the Trump Tower with the newly formed National Hispanic Advisory Council For Trump. The article stated that Trump did not use the term “legalization,” but had indicated that he was open to a solution to the problem of illegal immigrants “that respects border security but deals with this in a humane and efficient manner.”

Univision also cited three sources, some of which were also named by Buzzfeed. One source cited by both outlets was Jacob Monty, a Texas immigration lawyer. Monty said, “I really liked that Trump acknowledged that there is a big problem with the 11 million [undocumented] people who are here, and that deporting them is neither possible nor humane.” Monty claimed that the new Trump plan “wouldn't be citizenship but would allow them to be here without fear of deportation.”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus confirmed to Univision that the meeting took place and that it was part of “our expansive effort to engage the Hispanic community.”
The reports sparked a quick denial from Mr. Trump. I'm not flip flopping," he told Fox News on the issue Monday. "We want to come up with a fair but firm process. Fair but firm.”

Trump and new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway were noncommittal on the specifics of the current version of the Trump immigration plan. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Conway replied “to be determined” when asked if Trump still advocated for “a deportation force removing the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants” in the US. Throughout the campaign Trump has been an immigration hardliner who called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants.

Univision also cited Helen Aguirre, an RNC spokeswoman who was present at the meeting. Aguirre confirmed that the Trump campaign was working on a new plan. “Trump was very categorical in saying that he's seeking a fair immigration reform," she said. "He wants to listen to everyone and announce his conclusions in the coming days."

By Sunday, Aguirre was reversing herself in a Breitbart piece. “Some folks talked about legalization, not citizenship, for the undocumented,” she said. “Mr. Trump did not say he was in favor of legalization. Some folks may have felt that he was open to it–and he gave zero indication of that.”
Aguirre told the Washington Post, “He listened to the comments and suggestions made by the various board members, but he never indicated what his immigration policy would be.”

Nevertheless, the comments by Aguirre and Conway confirmed that Trump’s immigration policy is changing. Conway said that “as the weeks unfold” Trump will reveal his new immigration plan. He is expected to address the topic this Thursday in Colorado.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Evan McMullin on the issues

This is the second of a two-part series in which we present Evan McMullin's platform in his own words, drawn from a series of interviews. The interview sources are linked in part one, which we published yesterday. Today we present Evan McMullin on the issues and focus on domestic policy.

On the Second Amendment: On Now This, McMullin said, “I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I think it is important to our freedoms and liberties here in the United States. I am a gun owner. I believe in responsible gun ownership. I think to own a weapon is to assume some very serious responsibilities I believe that we have to have a better, more constructive dialogue on this issue. I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment. I would like to decrease gun violence. I think there are many ways to do that while we still protect our rights.”

On judicial appointments: Louise Mensch of Heat Street asked whether McMullin would appoint Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court. “I’m not making any commitments about who I would or would not appoint,” McMullin replied, “but I will tell you that I will appoint originalists. In the question that involves what I think about Roe v. Wade, I will appoint pro-life justices.

On entitlements: “Entitlements are pushing us further and further into debt,” he said on Bloomberg. “Our debts are larger and larger. Our deficits are larger and larger. We have to do something to get them on a sustainable path. We have to keep our commitments to our elderly, our seniors today, but we have to phase in some reforms for future retirees.”

On religious freedom: “I believe in libertarian ideas in a sense that individuals need to be more empowered in our country. The power needs to be shifted back closer to the people. Those are consistent with libertarian ideas, but part of that is religious liberty. Our country was founded in part on that and we can’t have a president who doesn’t understand that, especially in this time when we really need to, I think, ensure that religious liberties are protected.”

When asked about his stance against religious persecution, McMullin said, “This is a driving principle for me. We’re a nation of 330 million people and geographically we are also very large. A lot of people have different ideas, they come from different countries, themselves or past generations. We are a diverse, pluralistic country and you must have tolerance as a result of that. E pluribus Unum. This was our original, unofficial motto until, I think, the ‘50s, that conveyed the idea that there are many of us with many differences among us, [but] that we are together still as one country. We need to go back to that and realize that we are not going to agree on everything, all of us on the right and left and center, but we need to respect everybody’s ability to live the way they want to live and to be one, united, in defense of those freedoms.”

On why people should vote for him: “I’ve spent my life avoiding the limelight and seeking opportunities to serve. Donald Trump has spent his life avoiding opportunities to serve and seeking the limelight.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Evan McMullin in his own words

Evan McMullin’s campaign is gaining steam, but a big question for many voters is “Where does Evan McMullin stand on the issues?” As McMullin gains ballot access in a growing number of states, the question of who Evan McMullin is and exactly what he stands for remains. We have combed interviews to find Evan McMullin in his own words.

On why he’s running: “One of the biggest threats this country faces is Islamist terrorism. I am the only credible candidate who has any experience whatsoever, firsthand, fighting terrorists,” McMullin said to Bloomberg. “I know exactly what needs to be done to defeat ISIS and other such groups. On day one, I can start that process.”

He further stated on Fox News, “Donald Trump is already losing this election. I entered the race six days ago when he was down ten points at the national level. State polls in critical states over the past couple of days show that he’s even further down in them. Donald Trump has no chance of winning this election. He has alienated too wide a swath of the American population. He continues to put his foot in his mouth. He will not win. He’s weak and I think he’s melting down…. He is ensuring that Hillary Clinton is our next president.”

McMullin told Heat Street, “I am the only conservative in this race. Donald Trump is not a conservative. He has pretended to be at times and not at other times. I have been a conservative my entire life. I believe firmly that I am the only one that can carry that mantle. And I am committed to uniting this country and I believe that under these [conservative] principles… that the country can be united again. It's been divided for too long and both of these candidates, Clinton and Trump, in their own individual ways, are further dividing us. We need a new generation of leadership.”

McMullin agreed that getting down ticket Republicans elected was very important and called encouraging disaffected conservatives “a positive element of what we’re doing. We’re giving the American people someone to vote for, not just against.”

On Donald Trump: “Donald Trump is no conservative,” he told ABC News. He won the nomination “through misrepresenting himself and exploiting vulnerabilities that the American people have…. I do believe he’s a fraud and a con man. That’s not something I say lightly. That is my professional opinion.”

McMullin told National Review, “I believe Donald Trump is a bona fide authoritarian. I am deeply concerned that if he were president of the United States he would act accordingly.”

On Hillary Clinton: “Hillary Clinton has proven that she doesn’t believe she’s accountable to the American people,” he said to ABC News. The email server issue, a lot of people talk about how classified information was compromised and how lives and sensitive operations were compromised as well… Part of the story that didn’t come out that is even more important is that she believes that she is unaccountable to the American people. She went to great lengths to move her work, her email traffic, off the State Department system. She does not believe that she’s accountable to the American people.”

“So we’re in a time now where Americans, hardworking Americans, don’t feel like they’re being listened to. They don’t feel like their government thinks it’s accountable to them. Are we really going to elect a president who personifies that? I think we shouldn’t.”

On whether Hillary is worse than Trump: “I think they would both be absolutely terrible for the country,” McMullin told ABC News. “I think neither of them understand what makes this country special. Neither of them envision a government that is accountable to the people. Neither of them respect our system of checks and balances.”

“I don’t want either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to become president. Neither of them is acceptable to Americans.”

On trade: On Fox News, McMullin said, “I’m for [the Trans Pacific Partnership]. We need the trade. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers are outside our borders and we need access to them. Right now, as it is, we are limited in so many ways in so many countries…. We have got to get to yes on this….”

“On trade, I’ll just mention that there are people who are genuinely suffering as a result of displaced industries and jobs. Automation is another part of that. It isn’t only trade. We do need to hear their concerns. We do need to help them transition more. I believe that and that’s a message conservatives need to promote more, but we can’t stop trading and broadening our trade opportunities. We have to do that.”

On immigration: “I think we need to secure our border first and foremost,” McMullin told the Fox News panel. “It’s a basic part of being a country. It’s a basic piece of national security. We must do that.”

“As far as a wall is concerned,” he continued, “the experts actually say that in some places a wall is necessary, in some places a double wall is necessary and in other places a wall wouldn’t help. I’m for whatever it takes to secure our border with Mexico. We’ve got to do it.”

“I’m for enforcing our laws, but not for deporting 11 million people. I think it’s ridiculous. It would cause so much trouble, economically and in other ways. It’s a ridiculous idea. I oppose that. I think that what we need to do is for those here illegally, who are not criminals and want to stay, there should be a path towards a legal presence in the United States.”

On Heat Street, McMullin said specifically that the pathway would be towards “legal residency and, in some cases, citizenship.”

When asked about Syrian refugees, McMullin said, “If you’re a terrorist and you want to come to the United States, the worse possible way to do it is as a refugee. You go through a year-and-a-half to two years of vetting. If you want to come to the United States and you’re a terrorist, you’re much better off just coming through on the visa waiver program from Europe or just walking across the border from Mexico, so I think there is a lot of hysteria and unjustified hysteria around the refugee situation. I think we need to be more careful and thoughtful and accurate with the way we talk about that issue because it has implications for a variety of other interests that we have overseas.

McMullin told ABC News, “I don’t think we should ban people based on their religion. I don’t think we should call an ethnic group racist.”

On ISIS: “The problem is the pace of what we’ve been doing. President Obama has articulated a containment strategy that sort of has a slow road to defeating ISIS. The problem is for an Islamist organization to have a safe haven the size of the one ISIS has, you buy them time to plot and plan the kinds of attacks that happened in Europe, the United States and elsewhere over the last year, so the pace needs to pick up. This isn’t something that we can sort of get around to casually and that’s my objection to what President Obama is doing.”

When a Fox panelist asked if ISIS should be destroyed, McMullin replied, “absolutely.”

The same panelist then followed up with a question about whether American ground forces should be used. “I don’t think we should take anything off the table,” McMullin answered, “but there are a lot of great options… for us before we put troops on the ground. We need to use CIA operations; we need to use our Special Forces. I’ve been there, done that. We are very good at this. We need to train indigenous forces. There are countries in the region who have volunteered to put up their own troops. We need to exhaust some of these things before we go ahead and put traditional troops on the ground. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think we can defeat ISIS through other means….”

On the prisoners at Gitmo: “I don’t think Gitmo should be closed. These are enemy combatants and 
they deserve to stay where they are until hostilities are completed…. These are people who want to kill Americans en masse. I’ve dealt with these people face-to-face. They are intelligent, many of them, they’re well-traveled, they’re well-studied. These are very motivated people who eat, sleep and drink destroying America and the idea that they shouldn’t be locked up and held…. We need to put ourselves on a war footing and remember that’s what we’re involved in….”

On Russia: “I’m no friend of any authoritarian,” McMullin told ABC. “Donald Trump is an authoritarian and the leaders around the world, in history and currently, that he admires, that he aspires to be in one way or another, are all authoritarians. It’s very interesting that that’s the case. He speaks very openly about it. I think we all need to be concerned with that.”

“I’m no beginner to this game, but Donald Trump is. He sees Putin as a friend. But Putin sees him as a big, fat target.”

In the Washington Post, McMullin called Donald Trump’s pro-Russian advisors “Moscow’s most successful intelligence operation. They must be beside themselves to have co-opted either willingly or unwillingly someone on the doorstep” of the presidency.

-To be continued

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Who is Evan McMullin?

Evan McMullin rocked the presidential race when he announced his candidacy on August 8, 2016. Only three days later, McMullin announced that he had been added to the ballot in Colorado. At this point, few Americans have heard of McMullin, much less know what he stands for. Who is he? What is he about? Does he have a chance?

Evan McMullin is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he earned a degree in International Law and Diplomacy. He also has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the same school where Donald Trump got his undergraduate degree.

After graduating from college, McMullin went to work for the CIA as an undercover Operations Officer in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. From 2011 to 2013, he worked for Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. In 2013, he became an advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and eventually became the chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Is McMullin trying to throw the race for Hillary? On Fox News, McMullin said, “Donald Trump is already losing this election. I entered the race six days ago when he was down ten points at the national level. State polls in critical states over the past couple of days show that he’s even further down in them. Donald Trump has no chance of winning this election. He has alienated too wide a swath of the American population. He continues to put his foot in his mouth. He will not win. He’s weak and I think he’s melting down…. He is ensuring that Hillary Clinton is our next president.”

But does McMullin have a chance of winning? Because of his late entry to the race, McMullin will not be on the ballot in all states. At best, he would be able to petition for ballot access in about half the states according to election expert Richard Winger. Winger also says that the McMullin campaign might sue states with earlier deadlines and win a spot on the ballot in those states.

McMullin also said that he is working with third parties to gain ballot access in some states. In Minnesota, the Independence Party of Minnesota nominated him as their candidate, guaranteeing him a place on the ballot according to The Hill. At this point, it is too early to tell if McMullin will be able to get on the ballot in enough states to make a difference.

McMullin told Fox, “There are many ways we can win. One way is through the House. I think it is unlikely that we will reach 270 [electoral votes]… but, if we prevent both Hillary and Donald Trump from reaching that threshold as well, we can take it to the House.” Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives decides elections in which no candidate receives a majority of votes from the Electoral College.

“The other thing is that I don’t know if Trump is going to make it through,” McMullin continued. “I think he is in the middle of a serious meltdown right now as is his entire campaign. I don’t know if he’s going to make it and I don’t know how long RNC support lasts or under what terms, but he is very fragile right now.” If Trump quits the race or is forced out, some combination of Evan McMullin and Mike Pence would be the logical choice to replace him.

McMullin’s chief advantage is the unpopularity and divisiveness of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In an interview with Now This Election, McMullin said, “We have Bernie Sanders supporters reaching out to us saying, ‘We don’t agree with everything, all of your policy positions,’ but they talk about honesty. They want someone who is honest with the American people. They want someone who is going to bring us together and someone who is not going to perpetuate a system of government in Washington where insiders flourish and regular Americans have no voice. That’s our message and I think it’s resonating across the country.”

Evan McMullin is a long shot candidate. Then again, so is Donald Trump. Evan McMullin might prove to be a viable choice for conservatives who cannot support Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson. This is an election year in which normal rules do not apply.

In a future article, we will look at Evan McMullin’s position on the issues.

Read this article on Conservative Firing Line