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Latest polls point to real trouble for Trump's re-election prospects

09/11/19 09:22AM

Earlier in the summer, Donald Trump hosted a news conference with farmers and ranchers, who heard the president talk about how impressed he is with himself. "A strange thing is happening: My numbers are going up," the Republican claimed about his standing in the polls. "Someday, you'll explain that to me."

It wasn't at all difficult to explain: Trump's numbers weren't improving. He just made it up.

As the summer nears its end, conditions have grown worse for the troubled president. The latest Gallup poll, for example, shows Trump's slipping from 44% to 39% since July.

A CNN poll released this week also found the president's support falling below the 40% threshold, slipping from 43% to 39% since June. The same report found that 60% of Americans do not believe Trump deserves a second term, while 71% do not trust most of what they hear from the White House.

And then there's the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

President Trump is ending a tumultuous summer with his approval rating slipping back from a July high as Americans express widespread concern about the trade war with China and a majority of voters now expect a recession within the next year, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey highlights how one of Trump's central arguments for reelection — the strong U.S. economy -- is beginning to show signs of potential turmoil as voters express fears that the escalating trade dispute with China will end up raising the price of goods for U.S. consumers.

The poll found Trump's approval rating dropping from 44% in June to 38% now. In the same findings, the president trails each of the top Democratic presidential hopefuls in hypothetical general-election match-ups, including double-digit deficits against Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris.

The Post's report added, "For Trump, the current standings represent a troubling threat: No president in modern times has been reelected with approval ratings as low as Trump's are today."

The question, of course, is what he intends to do about it.

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A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

After a decade of progress, US uninsured rate grows under Trump

09/11/19 08:40AM

There were a wide variety of reasons health care reform advocates pushed for the Affordable Care Act a decade ago, but there was no secret about the top priority: the United States had one of the highest uninsured rates in the industrialized world, and reformers believed the ACA would make it better.

They were right. Once "Obamacare" was passed and implemented, the nation's uninsured rate dropped to the lowest point on record. The law set out to achieve a specific goal and it succeeded.

And then Donald Trump took office and his team went to work.

The number of Americans without health insurance edged up in 2018 -- the first evidence from the government that coverage gains from President Barack Obama's health care plan might be eroding under President Donald Trump.

An estimated 27.5 million people, 8.5% of the population, went without health insurance in 2018. That was an increase of 1.9 million uninsured people, or 0.5 percentage point.... Though the increase in the number of uninsured Americans last year was modest, it could be a turning point, the first real sign that coverage gains under Obama could be at least partly reversed.

In the abstract, this wasn't entirely predictable. After all, 2018 was a good year for the economy, with steady employment gains and the best economic growth in a few years. These aren't the kind of conditions that generally lead to increases in the uninsured rate.

But as the New York Times' report on the data added, the Republican White House's policies have had an impact: "The administration ... cut back on advertising and enrollment assistance, programs that helped low income people learn about the new insurance programs, among other changes that may have depressed Obamacare enrollments."

To be sure, the uninsured rate is still much better now than it was before Democrats passed and implemented the Affordable Care Act, but the trajectory has shifted from an encouraging to a discouraging direction.

And the evidence suggests the change wasn't accidental; it was the result of deliberate changes intended to make the system worse.

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Democratic House candidate Dan McCready talks to volunteers at his campaign office in Waxhaw, N.C., outside Charlotte, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Trump is far happier than he should be about North Carolina results

09/11/19 08:00AM

There were two congressional special elections in North Carolina yesterday, and on the surface, the results were exactly in line with Republicans' wishes: the GOP candidates won both, including the competitive contest election watchers were keeping a close eye on.

Republican Dan Bishop narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McCready in a special election on Tuesday in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. [...]

Democrats said Trump's unpopularity is the only reason the GOP-leaning district was competitive in the first place and that Republicans needed to pull out all the stops to win it. And, looking ahead to next year, Democrats say there are 34 Republican-held congressional districts that are more competitive than this one.

With just about all the votes counted, it looks like Bishop won by about 2 percent. (In the 3rd congressional district, Greg Murphy cruised to an even easier 24-point win, but no one seriously expected that race to be close, and Democrats made little effort to compete in the contest.)

Donald Trump, desperate for some good news, spent much of last night and this morning on a Twitter victory lap, crediting his greatness, making up polls, and whining about news organizations.

Whether the president understands this or not, his joy is badly out of step with the results.

North Carolina's 9th congressional district isn't exactly a swing district. In 2012, Mitt Romney won it by 12 points. Four years later, Trump also won it by 12 points. Local voters haven't elected a Democrat to Congress in several decades.

It's against this backdrop that Republicans scrambled to compete in North Carolina's 9th, with the National Republican Congressional Committee and other outside groups investing nearly $7 million in just this one special-election contest, hoping to push an elected state lawmaker over the top in a race against a Democrat who's never won an election. Bishop also benefited from personal visits to the district from his party's president and vice president.

Or put another way, this should've been an easy one for the GOP. The fact that it wasn't should put the party in an anxious mood, not a celebratory one.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.10.19

09/10/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Asylum policy: "A federal judge on Monday issued a nationwide order barring a Trump administration policy that denies asylum to migrants crossing the border unless they have already tried and failed to obtain asylum in another country along the way, a rule that effectively bans claims for most Central Americans fleeing persecution and poverty."

* What an unbelievable mess: "Puerto Rico's lead federal prosecutor, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, announced Tuesday that three people have been arrested as part of a federal probe into an alleged fraud scheme involving former FEMA officials and hurricane relief funds."

* Speaking of messes: "Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Tuesday that he's asked the FBI to investigate a 'criminal conspiracy' against him by former board members of the conservative Christian school."

* North Korea "launched at least two unidentified projectiles toward the sea on Tuesday, South Korea's military said, hours after the North offered to resume nuclear diplomacy with the United States but warned its dealings with Washington may end without new U.S. proposals."

* Middle East: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he may annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank 'in coordination' with the United States in an apparent last-ditch effort to attract right-wing voters before national elections next week."

* This bill might actually become law: "The House passed a bill Tuesday requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public housing, after more than a dozen tenants died from the gas in the last 16 years."

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Trump ousts Bolton as White House national security adviser

09/10/19 12:33PM

Donald Trump's first choice for White House national security adviser -- a critically important and highly influential position -- was Michael Flynn. The former foreign agent lasted a few weeks before resigning in disgrace and is currently awaiting sentencing following felony convictions.

The president's second choice was Retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward, who was offered the job soon after Flynn's departure, but he turned Trump down. The job instead eventually went to Gen. H.R. McMaster, who managed to stay at the post for a year before Trump showed him the door.

John Bolton lasted a year and a half before the president ousted him, too.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he asked Bolton to resign after he "disagreed with many of his suggestions."

"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning," Trump said on Twitter.

This doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. It was just last week that we talked about the series of reports going back months about the growing distance between Trump and Bolton. At times, that distance was literal: when the president traveled to the Korean peninsula in June, and entered North Korea, he brought with him family members and a Fox News host, but not his top aide on matters of national security.

The New York Times reported in May that Trump and Bolton “have never clicked personally,” and there’s never been the kind of “chemistry” the president considers important.

It recently reached the point at which Trump administration officials rebuffed Bolton's requests for materials he needed to do his job, reinforcing concerns about the staggering dysfunction inside this White House.

Stepping back, though, the question isn't why the president fired yet another national security adviser; the question is why in the world Trump thought Bolton was a good choice in the first place.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.10.19

09/10/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* It's election day in North Carolina's 3rd and 9th congressional districts, where voters will choose new U.S. representatives. Donald Trump was in the Tar Heel State last night and has begun scrambling to bolster Dan Bishop's far-right candidacy in the 9th.

* As expected, GOP officials in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina have approved plans to cancel their 2020 presidential nominating contests, despite the fact that Donald Trump has intra-party rivals, including two former governors.

* The editorial board of the Denver Post is slamming Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) over  Colorado losing investments that are being redirected to Trump's border barriers. The same editorial board published a controversial editorial endorsing Gardner in 2014.

* Despite the importance of Sen. Doug Jones' (D) re-election campaign in Alabama next year, the Democratic National Committee is apparently going to deny the Alabama Democratic Party some party-building funds because of its "failure to develop a strategic plan or invest in state party infrastructure."

* Two years after running a surprisingly strong -- though ultimately unsuccessful -- congressional campaign in Georgia, Jon Ossoff (D) has decided to take on Sen. David Perdue (R) in a U.S. Senate race in Georgia next year. Ossoff quickly picked up an endorsement from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

* Months after picking up an endorsement from Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign in Tennessee yesterday. He's favored to win the open seat currently held by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), who's retiring.

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Schumer plans to put GOP on the spot (again) over Trump's wall gambit

09/10/19 11:20AM

Nearly six months ago, Donald Trump suffered one of the more notable legislative defeats of his presidency. After declaring a national emergency and giving himself the authority to redirect federal funds to the border in defiance of Congress' wishes, lawmakers took up a resolution to block the White House's new policy.

We'd seen some instances in which GOP lawmakers offered rhetorical rebukes of Trump, signaling symbolic dissatisfaction, but this was qualitatively different: it was a substantive measure intended to derail a dubious presidential policy.

The White House seemed to appreciate the differences, and despite having veto power, Trump scrambled, lobbying senators of his own party, demanding that they respect his authority. His efforts had a limited effect: 12 Senate Republicans defied the president and helped pass the resolution.

It was not, however, a one-off. The Washington Post reported this morning:

Senate Democrats plan to force another vote in Congress aimed at overturning President Trump's border emergency -- potentially triggering another standoff between the administration and congressional Republicans over the billions in dollars being siphoned from the Pentagon to pay for Trump's border wall.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to announce later Tuesday that Democratic senators will force a second vote in the chamber this year on a resolution to terminate Trump's emergency border declaration, according to a senior Senate Democratic official.

Schumer will reportedly say today that "as stipulated by the National Emergencies Act, Democrats will once again force a vote to terminate the president's national emergency declaration."

The word "force" is of particular interest: under the law, Schumer can introduce a privileged resolution that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cannot block.

And while we can probably guess how the process will play out -- the measure will pass, only to be vetoed again -- that doesn't mean the effort is theatrical trivia.

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Inviting the Taliban to Camp David, Trump was his own adviser

09/10/19 10:49AM

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a retired Marine who served in Iraq, asked a reasonable question on the minds of many: "[W]ho the f**k thought it was a good idea to invite the Taliban to Camp David -- let alone around September 11th?"

By all accounts, the idea originated with Donald Trump himself. The New York Times reported that it was the president who thought it'd be wise to bring "the leaders of a rugged militant organization" at "the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war."

A reporter asked Trump yesterday if perhaps someone on his team talked him out of hosting the meeting. He replied:

"No. Actually, in terms of advisors, I took my own advice. I liked the idea of meeting.... We had a meeting scheduled. It was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn't even -- I didn't discuss it with anybody else."

It's such a strange thing to brag about. The president wants credit for having invited Taliban leaders to Camp David around the 9/11 anniversary; he wants credit for uninviting them; and he wants credit for not discussing this with anyone.

There's a process in place for dramatic policy decisions like these, with qualified officials carefully doing their due diligence. But as the New York Times reported on Sunday, and as Trump effectively confirmed yesterday, the "usual National Security Council process was dispensed with."

Asked specifically about Camp David yesterday, the president added, "Well, Camp David has held meetings with a lot of people that would have been perceived as being pretty tough customers and pretty bad people. There have been plenty of so-called 'bad people' brought up to Camp David for meetings.... [Y]ou know, Camp David has had many meetings that, I guess, people would not have considered politically correct."

Perhaps. Eisenhower, for example, hosted Khrushchev at Camp David in 1959, and at the time, the Soviet Union was a dangerous and powerful foe. A generation later, Clinton welcomed Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to the same venue, in the hopes of helping negotiate a Middle East peace agreement.

But foreign "tough customers" who were welcomed to Camp David all had a degree of international legitimacy. It's not unreasonable to wonder whether the Taliban deserves such a status -- or whether Trump thought any of this through in advance.

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U.S.  President Obama meets with President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington

Trump (falsely) thinks he's found proof of Obama failing to be 'great'

09/10/19 10:04AM

Donald Trump wasn't asked about Barack Obama or judicial nominees during a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday, but the Republican shared some notable thoughts on the subject anyway.

"President Obama gave me a beautiful birthday present when he gave me 138 judges that weren't approved. And, frankly, how do you consider that being a great president when you hand to the opposition 138 slots of federal judges, including appellate court judges and one Supreme Court judge?"

Yes, Trump has heard quite enough about his predecessor being great, and he thinks he's uncovered some evidence to the contrary. If Obama were truly great, the argument goes, he wouldn't have left a bunch of vacancies on the federal judiciary for his Republican successor to fill with young, far-right ideologues.

Trump has made comments like these several times before, suggesting he's genuinely baffled. In his mind, Obama must've been outrageously incompetent to simply leave all of these vacancies on the federal bench.

It's at about this point that some of the folks that I know who worked in the Obama White House start having aneurysms.

Obama didn't hand Trump dozens of judicial vacancies, including a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court; Mitch McConnell did.

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Image: White House news conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn

Team Trump claims to be gearing up for 'Tax Cuts 2.0'

09/10/19 09:21AM

Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, Donald Trump announced that he and congressional Republicans were working "around the clock" on a new, "very major" tax cut, which would exclusively benefit the middle class, and which would be ready no later than Nov. 1. Even by his standards, the president's claim was bizarre: lawmakers weren't on Capitol Hill; there was no work being done on the issue; and even White House officials were "mystified" by Trump's absurd rhetoric.

The whole endeavor, born of desperation, became an embarrassing fiasco for the president, but there was an underlying point of real significance: Trump and his allies realized that the American mainstream didn't see the value of the regressive GOP tax plan, which disproportionately benefited the wealthy and big corporations.

Republican leaders were ready for a second tax cut, in large part because the first one didn't produce the intended results.

While Trump's pre-election scheme was quickly exposed as a joke, his goal of another round of tax breaks was real. A few weeks ago, he again said he's determined to "approve a major middle income Tax Cut" -- possibly in 2021.

As Politico reported, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is eyeing tax cuts even earlier than that.

"I think there's no question the U.S. economy is in very good shape. As we look around the world, there's no question that China is slowing, Europe is slowing -- the U.S. is the bright spot of the world," Mnuchin told reporters.

"And regards to a middle-class tax cut, you know, we'll be looking at tax cuts 2.0, something that will be something we'll consider next year," he continued. "But right now, the economy is in very, very good shape."

For now, let's put aside the fact that every time top administration officials scramble to tell everyone how great the economy is, they sound a little less convincing. Let's instead turn to the vague idea Mnuchin and his boss are excited about.

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