What The Democrats Were Doing While The Republicans Were Making Fools Of Themselves

Sanders Tweeting Debate

I’ve already discussed what the Republicans were doing Thursday night at the debate. We also know that since then the Republicans have been fighting about Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments about Megyn Kelly, with Trump being disinvited from the RedState Gathering. While the Republicans were debating, Bernie Sanders was tweeting in response. Sanders even had the most retweeted comment of the debate:

In contrast, Hillary Clinton was at a fund raiser, leaving staffers to tweet for her. The most talked about item from the evening was not the issues, as when Sanders tweeted, but Kim Kardasian getting this selfie with Hillary Clinton:

Kim_Kardashian_Hillary_Clinton selfie

If we are to match celebrity endorsements, I’m more impressed by the endorsement for Bernie from Sarah Silverman. She has previously tweeted, “I’m loving @SenSanders . He says what he means & he means what he says & he’s not for sale.” On the day of the debate, the Daily Caller had several pictures of Silverman in shirts promoting Bernie:

Sarah Silverman Bernie

This all raises the question as to why the Republicans are debating but the Democrats are not. The DNC did release their debate schedule late last week:

A total of six debates are scheduled, with six different sponsors: Oct. 13 in Nevada (hosted by CNN); Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa (CBS/KCCI and The Des Moines Register); Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire (ABC/WMUR); Jan. 17 in Charleston, South Carolina (NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute); and two scheduled for either February or March in Miami, Florida, and Wisconsin, hosted by Univision/The Washington Post and PBS, respectively.

Limiting the debates to six, with threats to penalize candidates who participate in any other debates other than those sponsored by the DNC, is believed to have been designed to protect Hillary Clinton from opposition and has received protests from the other candidates and those who desire a more open nominating process.  Bernie Sanders has a petition on his web site calling for more debates. The O’Malley campaign has even threatened to organize debates outside of those sponsored by the DNC. Time reported:

The DNC rule “tramples over everything that is important about the democratic process,” said Jake Oeth, O’Malley’s state director in Iowa. “We welcome anyone who wants to participate and we hope to engage in open conversation with anyone.”

Oeth added that O’Malley staff are in discussions with other Democratic presidential campaigns about the possibility of expanding the number of debates. Deputy campaign manager Lis Smith on Thursday reiterated the point in a tweet.

A spokesman Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to questions about discussions with O’Malley’s campaign.

There were more than 20 debates in the Democratic primary in 2008, and 15 in 2004, including debates that were not sanctioned by the DNC…

O’Malley’s campaign is not alone in opposing the six-debate limit. Sanders, who is trailing in polls against Clinton by less than 10 points in Iowa, has started a petition to call for more debates.

“At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it’s imperative that we have as many debates as possible—certainly more than six,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule.”

The DNC, which is staffed by a number of Clinton loyalists, has defended the debate schedule, saying it will allow for a robust discussion over the party’s platform. “These debates will highlight the Democratic Party’s policies, which will continue to strengthen the middle class, and we hope Americans across the political spectrum will tune in,” said party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

The threshold to qualify for the Democratic debate is to get 1% in three national polls, conducted by credible news organizations and polling organizations, in the six weeks prior to the debate. This would certainly let Sanders and O’Malley in, along with Biden if he decides to run. Jim Webb would also make it in at present–he is actually polling better than O’Malley nationally. Chaffee is at 0.9 in the RealClearPolitics average so there is a good chance he has at least 1% in three of the polls. It is necessary to have some qualifying threshold as there are actually far more candidates than you might realize, and presumably many more would enter the race if they had a chance at getting into the debates.

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Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

Fox brought in a record 24 million viewers for the first Republican debate on Thursday night , and nobody doubts it was because of Donald Trump. CNN explained what this number means:

For perspective, the first GOP primary debate four years ago, also on Fox, attracted 3.2 million viewers.

The most-watched primary debate that year, broadcast by ABC, reached 7.6 million.

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

The audience easily exceeded pretty much everything that’s been on American television this year, from the finale of “The Walking Dead” to the final episode of David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The debate was bigger than all of this year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series games, and most of the year’s NFL match-ups.

It also trumped Jon Stewart’s Thursday night’s sign-off from “The Daily Show,” which averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Trump is a known ratings magnet. His reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” used to reach 20 million viewers a week. But it has slipped over the years, averaging 6 to 8 million viewers for recent seasons.

The debate, as well as most of the talk afterwards, was about Donald Trump. They might as well have named it Presidential Apprentice. By the end, many viewers might have been expecting to go to the boardroom to see who Trump would fire. Hint–it might not have been one of the candidates considering what he has been saying about Megyn Kelley and the other Fox correspondents. Among the most crude:

Trump was the center of attention from the start when the very first question was a show of hands  as to “who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” Only Donald Trump raised his hand. (Full transcript of the debate can be found here).

Donald Trump did make a great case for campaign finance reform:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

QUESTION: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.

You know why?

She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

Trump also restated his opposition to the Iraq war but flip-flopped on his previous support for a single payer system. Trump could have been the best candidate in the room if he hadn’t turned into a Tea Party clown.

There were some other moments when Republican candidates deserved credit. This includes Rand Paul criticizing both his fellow Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton for their policies which on sending more arms to middle east:

I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.

This was followed by John Kasich defending taking funds for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare:

First of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life.

Rand Paul made a another good point when he argued with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance:

The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

Beyond this, we primarily learned from the debates that Republicans hate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood.

I am looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on foreign military intervention and suppression of civil liberties. Clinton’s record on these topics does fit well in the GOP mainstream.

I am hesitant to write about winners because we have learned that the winner of a debate is not based upon the debate itself, but the perception of the candidates after people have listened to the talking heads in the days following the debate. This is further complicated with the Republican Party as most of their voters receive their thoughts from Fox. Criticism from the Fox commentators could make Donald Trump look like a loser, but so far he has managed to survive better than the pundits have predicted, and it is not looking like Fox will be successful against him.

From my perspective, which could be quite different from that of Fox, the winners were John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich barely squeaked into the prime time debate, and the two debates did show that Kasich really did deserve to be there more than Rick Perry, who was excluded, possibly by fudging the results of the polls. Kasich and Jeb Bush looked the most stable in the group. Bush already has his position as top contender after Trump, but now Kasich might replace Scott Walker as the leading challenger to Bush and move into the top tier.

I also downgraded Bush for his discussion of his brother’s policies. It wasn’t faulty intelligence which got us in Iraq as he claimed, but his brother twisting the intelligence to justify the war he wanted to start. Jeb! also seemed oblivious to the fact that ISIS and the other problems now occurring in Iraq are due to his brother destabilizing the region. They all seemed oblivious, when talking about the deficit, to the fact that the deficit is a consequence of George W. Bush both fighting the war on credit and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

The other Republican who looked good, if you ignore his actual views, was Marco Rubio. He could make a good candidate in a television-based campaign. The entry of Trump into the race made it hard for candidates like Rubio to get attention, but he did get a shot at being noticed Thursday.

On the other hand, it seemed a battle throughout the evening between Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to be the most bat-shit candidate on stage, which was impressive considering that Donald Trump was on the same stage. I was edging towards awarding this to Huckabee, with lines such as, “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things,” until Cruz gave his closing statement, and clinched the title:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.

In contrast, Huckabee went for the laugh as opposed to Cruz’s tirade:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

So, in conclusion, Trump wins for continuing to totally dominate the discussion, Kasich and Rubio had smaller victories which might improve their position if the race should return to be about the more conventional candidates, and Cruz edged Huckabee for the scariest Republican in the room. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must really have felt happy seeing this debate and the caliber of candidate they might come up against in the general election.

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Mat Bai on Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders

Clinton Biden Sanders

“Siri sounds more spontaneous when she’s finding me a gas station.” –Matt Bai on Hillary Clinton in an article at Yahoo! Politics entitled, Whether or not Biden runs, Clinton has a problem

He also wrote in comparing Clinton to Biden:

What Biden is, even to those who dismiss him as slightly doddering and in over his head, is as real and authentic as they come. The toll of tragedies etched into his face, the well of emotion he keeps so close to the surface, the once celebrated hair plugs — all of it makes him unusually and compellingly human.

With Biden, you get the politically incorrect verbal lapses, the “Veep”-like comedic value. But you also get warmth and authenticity and a handshake that means something.

Clinton’s pitch is pretty much the polar opposite. If there was any doubt about that, it was dispelled when Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s senior communications aide, told my Yahoo colleague Michael Isikoff this week that honesty and trustworthiness were, in Isikoff’s words, “beside the point.”

There followed this pretty remarkable quote from Palmieri: “That’s not the question voters have in their heads when they decide who to vote for. It’s who is fighting for me, and who has the solutions for the American people. She’s still the person who is most likely to be the next president.”

In other words, Clinton’s argument is, at its core, like Richard Nixon’s in 1968: You’re not hiring a friend or a babysitter. You just have to believe that I get what’s wrong, and I’m the only one with the competence to fix it.

There are just so many comparisons between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon, and that is not a good thing. The real characteristic Clinton shares with Nixon is dishonesty, not competence. Clinton has showed poor judgment and a lack of competence many times during her career. This includes how she botched heath car reform as First Lady. This includes her time in the Senate, when she made errors ranging from pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of a tie between Saddam and al Qaeda to pushing for measures such as making flag burning a felony and censoring video games. This also includes her time as Secretary of State when she pushed for greater military involvement abroad, and failed to follow rules designed to preserve transparency at home.

He concluded:

I don’t know what Clinton is supposed to do about this. I doubt there’s an easy way to recast the personality of a candidate who’s been in public life for 30-plus years, and who’s learned by this point to be guarded and calculating around anyone who isn’t an old friend or loyalist.

But I do know that, sooner or later, Clinton and her advisers are going to have to confront this trust issue head-on, rather than trying to change the subject with a bunch of jargon and vague policy goals. If Biden’s flirtation serves only to make that clear, he will have done her a favor.

I agree with much of what he said about Clinton but question his view on Bernie Sanders: “Sanders’s brand of leftist populism has a modest ceiling in a Democratic primary contest, and he’s not far from hitting it.” I would have believed that a few months ago, but looking at both Sanders and Trump suggests that the old conventional wisdom no longer holds. Voters do not want candidates of the status quo or party insiders.

Sanders transcends the old ideas of the linear left/right political spectrum. People care more about his authenticity than where he is placed on this spectrum. Perhaps his twenty-five years in Congress gives him more legitimacy than the mainstream media gives him credit for. Regardless of this, being viewed as an outsider is a plus for Sanders in the current political atmosphere.

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Sanders Gaining On Clinton As Her Popularity Drops; In Statistical Tie In New Hampshire

WSJ NBC Poll July

Hillary Clinton continues to be considered the front runner for the Democratic nomination months before any votes have been cast, but her popularity continues to drop. The latest poll to show this came from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal:

The bad news for Hillary Clinton in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: More Americans view her negatively than they did a month ago, revealing potential vulnerabilities for a general-election presidential contest more than a year away.

The good news for her in the poll: Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field by more than 30 points, and the favorability numbers for two of the top Republicans are even worse than hers.

Just 37 percent of all Americans have a positive view of Clinton, versus 48 percent who have a negative view (-11).

That’s a sharp drop since June, when the NBC/WSJ poll showed her with a 44 percent positive, 40 negative rating (+4) – so an overall 15-point swing…

Despite Clinton’s sinking favorability rating, she continues to lead the Democratic horserace by a wide margin.

She’s the top choice of 59 percent of national Democratic primary voters, while 25 percent pick Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They’re followed by former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are tied at 3 percent each.

That margin, however, is smaller than her 60-point national advantage over Sanders a month ago, 75 percent to 15 percent.

If these poll findings persist (and they can change dramatically in over a year), they could indicate problems for Clinton in the general election. Democrats have hoped that any loss in support Clinton receives from the Obama coalition will be made up by more women voters backing Clinton. Now this poll shows a drop in Clinton’s support among white women.

In June, 44% of white women had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, compared to 43% who didn’t. In July, those numbers moved in the wrong direction for Mrs. Clinton: Only 34% of white women saw her in a positive light, compared to 53% who had a negative impression of her, the poll found.

Mr. Obama fared poorly with white women voters in the 2012 election, losing them to Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 14 points.

For Team Clinton, the latest poll numbers are a worrisome development. Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to match the African-American turnout that propelled Mr. Obama to two presidential victories, so she has to make up the difference somewhere else. Women eager to see a woman in the White House is a logical group to target. 

Support for Bernie Sanders has increased as support for Clinton has dropped, but some Democrats are searching for another alternative, with multiple stories about Joe Biden possibly running the last few days. Other names also come up occasionally, such as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz:

The 62-year-old CEO has been urged by supporters to join the Democratic primary, with friends “thinking the time is right for someone who’s not a political lifer,” according to Maureen Dowd’s latest New York Times column. The idea, Dowd postulates, could “be a tempting proposition” for Schultz, and offers a worthy party back-up to Clinton should something unforeseen happen to her candidacy…

It would mark a shift for Schultz if he does enter the presidential ring. In an interview with Time in February, Schultz was adamant that he would not run for President in 2016: “I don’t think that is a solution. I don’t think it ends well,” he said in the story. He threw a cautious endorsement of Clinton, saying he was content to “see what Hillary does.”

Schultz has long been vocal about the role of government and its failure in addressing the nation’s pressing issues. In 2013, Schultz started a Starbucks-led petition to end the government shutdown, and delivered more than 2 million signatures to the White House in their “Come Together” campaign. While promoting his book For Love of Country, Schultz talked about the lack of leadership from the U.S. government and politicians: “The country is longing for leadership and for truth with a capital T,” he told Dowd in a New York Times story.

The current success of Donald Trump in the Republican race raises the questions if an outsider such as Schultz could receive comparable support in the Democratic race. On the other hand, the Democrats might already have a potentially successful outsider in Bernie Sanders. Sanders has many of the benefits of an outsider, while also could be seen as a credible candidate for president after having served in Congress for twenty-five years, with a record including opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Despite Clinton’s (diminishing) lead nationally,  Sanders is now in a statistical tie with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire might quickly put an end to Clinton’s lead in the national polls.

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Endorsements For Bernie Sanders & Speculation About Joe Biden

Sanders Endorsement Ben Cohen

Bernie Sanders has landed a huge endorsement–from Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s. ABC News reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has landed the sweetest food endorsement so far of the 2016 election cycle: Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream magnate spoke Sunday to a gymnasium of supporters in Franklin, New Hampshire, telling them “as a person who has been his constituent for the last 30 years, I can tell you: this guy is the real thing.”

In an interview with ABC News, Cohen explained his involvement.

“Finally, there’s a politician worth working for,” he said with a grin. “So I’m working for him.”

Bernie Sanders Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream

Friends of the Earth Action also endorsed Sanders on Saturday:

“He has proven himself a bold and fearless voice for the planet,” said Friends of the Earth Action President Erich Pica. “Sen. Sanders’ bold ideas and real solutions to addressing climate change, inequality and promoting a transformative economy that prioritizes public health and the environment over corporate profits, have earned him an enthusiastic endorsement from Friends of the Earth Action.”

Hillary Clinton received a ton of endorsements from party regulars who have a poor memory for eight years ago back when her nomination was considered to be inevitable. There is talk that some are now questioning their decision after seeing how poor a job Clinton is doing as a campaigner, how she is being damaged by scandals, and how support for her is rapidly falling. This includes polls showing that a majority do not find her trustworthy, and that she is doing poorly in the battleground states.

Hillary Clinton is rapidly becoming out of place in a Democratic Party which is becoming far more an Elizabeth Warren party than the old Bill Clinton/Triangulation/DLC Party. Being an outsider from the Democratic establishment is one of Bernie Sanders’ greatest strengths as a general election candidate, but such an outsider will have a real uphill battle for the nomination.

Maureen Dowd reminded readers in Sunday’s column that Beau Biden urged his father to run for president before dying. This got many people all excited, as those who are starting to panic about the prospects of a tainted Hillary Clinton running in the general election realized that there is an establishment candidate available.

Biden would be yet another candidate running to the left of Hillary Clinton. While this means he might divide the liberal vote and help Clinton, there is also a strong likelihood he could divide the establishment vote and help Sanders. I see this as win-win.

It would be great if his entry helps Sanders win. On the other hand, if it turns out that the Democratic establishment is too powerful to allow this, Biden would be far preferable to Clinton. Besides being a stronger campaigner and far more fit ethically to be president than Clinton, there are issues which do separate them. While both were wrong to vote to authorize force in Iraq, Clinton pushed for war far more strongly, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s push for greater military intervention when Secretary of State. Plus Biden is far more liberal on social issues. Biden did not join up with the religious right as Clinton did in the Senate, and it was Biden who pushed Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.

Howard Fineman has a list of seven reasons why Biden might run. The most interesting is the second:

2. The Clintons

The vice president had a mostly cordial relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and his longtime role as a champion of women’s rights amplifies his appreciation for the former first lady.

But, privately, he looks down on what he regards as a political/money-making machine. He sees the Clintons as far more interested in cash and clout than in doing good. “They’re everything he hates about the way politics operates today,” said one friend.

Biden may conclude that he is the only person in the party who can stop a Clinton return to the White House. If he enters the race, he will at least further complicate Hillary’s already dreary slog towards the Democratic nomination.

Sanders was asked by ABC News what he thought of Biden entering the race:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he’s “very fond” of Vice President Joe Biden, but that “the American people… want to go beyond conventional establishment politics.”

We are seeing a desire for someone outside of the conventional establishment in both parties as support soars for Bernie Sanders among the Democrats and Donald Trump among the Republicans. Of course only one of these two men would make an acceptable president.

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White House Threatens To Veto Bills Defunding Planned Parenthood; Huckabee Threatens To Send In Troops To Prevent Abortions

Planned Parenthood

There were two threats related to abortion in the news today. While Hillary Clinton looks willing to throw Planned Parenthood under the bus for political gain, the White House is showing why I backed Obama over Clinton in 2008. From The Hill:

The White House on Friday threatened a veto on any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.

A budget measure that strips funding from the organization “is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“We have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically driven riders” in budget bills, Earnest added.

The White House spokesman questioned the authenticity of the recordings and pointed to criticism they have received from media organizations.

“I haven’t seen the videos, but those who have taken a close look at them have raised some significant concerns about their authenticity and whether or not they actually convey the view of those particular officials or even the broader institution,” Earnest said.

On Thursday, Earnest said the “fraudulent way” the videos were released means there is “not a lot of evidence” that Planned Parenthood violated any laws.

Abortion opponents claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue obtained during abortions, which is illegal. Their illegally obtained tapes actually show negotiations over nominal fees for preservation and transportation of the tissue for biomedical research, which is totally different from selling the tissue, and which is legal. Fees for transportation of medical specimens is customary, such as when Medicare or private insurance companies pay me to place cervical cells in preservatives and transport the specimen after doing a pap smear on a patient.

An article at Slate describes the importance of using fetal cells in medical research. This is the real pro-life position.

An investigation of Planned Parenthood ordered by Republican Governor Mike Pence in Indiana cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing after the videos were released.

Mike Huckabee has taken opposition to abortion to a new level, threatening to not only disregard the Supreme Court, but possibly send in troops:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee indicated Thursday that if elected, he wouldn’t rule out employing federal troops or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion from taking place in the United States.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against bans on abortion, Huckabee said past presidents have defied Supreme Court rulings.

Jesse Choper, professor emeritus of public law at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, said in a phone interview Friday that Huckabee’s statement was “way off-base,” adding, “it does rival Donald Trump.”

“I think he’d better more carefully examine what he’s saying, because it is totally unprecedented,” Choper said Friday.

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Distrust Of Clinton By Independents Makes Her Vulnerable In General Election

CNN Clinton Trust Issue

Things are not going well for Hillary Clinton when she is compared to Donald Trump, such as in this op-ed at ABC News by Matthew Dowd entitled, Canary in Coal Mine: Trouble Ahead for Poll Leaders Trump and Clinton. The view is that the candidate leading the polls for both parties looks like a loser. The difference is that Donald Trump is still considered by many to be unable to win the Republican nomination, and looks like he will lose badly if he does make it to the general election. Hillary Clinton remains in a strong position to win the Democratic nomination, but now looks to be in considerable danger of losing the general election (unless she is fortunate enough to be up against Donald Trump).

This is based upon the the latest Quinnipiac poll, the most recent in a recent string of poor polling results for Clinton. Some of the points in the poll stressed by Dowd:

1. As we have seen previously, the electorate is incredibly polarized, with Republicans and Democrats lining up nearly unanimously with their parties’ candidates for House, Senate and president. You only see 1% or 2% defection to the opposing party. As I have written recently, it is Independents who will decide next year’s election outcome, and as of today they are slightly leaning voting Republican up and down the ballot — except for Trump, who they are opposed to in the general election.

2. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating today is a net negative 11 points, and among Independents it is a net negative 18 points. She started out the campaign in March with a positive net of 3 points so she has deteriorated badly in the course of four months. Trump today has a disastrous net negative favorable rating of minus 32 points overall and among Independents.

3. Hillary is viewed as not honest and trustworthy by an amazing 57% of the country and by 62% of Independents. The opinion of Trump is just as bad, being viewed by 58% as not trustworthy. This is a difficult platform for either to run a campaign from if they don’t fix it, and even more problematic in attempting to govern the country if they were to win.

4. And on the very important quality of “cares about needs and problems of average people” (which Democrats always seem to score well on), 52% say Hillary doesn’t. And 63% say Trump doesn’t care about needs and problems of regular voters. Again, this is a deep flaw that both retain going into this election cycle.

5. So why are they ahead in their respective primaries and what does this mean? Much is driven by name identification as well as the lack of a true dominant counter force in their primaries. But keep in mind voter support is a lagging indicator of this race, and the leading indicators to watch are likability, qualities of connection, and trustworthiness. They are the canaries in the coal mine signaling problems ahead. Hillary and Trump are very vulnerable to being beaten — Hillary more likely in the general election, Trump in the primary because of the different bases of support.

Hopefully if Democrats begin to understand how vulnerable Clinton is to being defeated in the general election in time this will lead to the selection of a better candidate.

Part of the reason that Clinton is distrusted is the evasive way in which she answers questions, with non-answers such as “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” The problem has been exacerbated by the email scandals. The latest addition to the long list of questions about Clinton’s conduct is whether she was sending classified information over her private server. McClatchy took a closer look at this story:

“Even if Secretary Clinton or her aides didn’t run afoul of any criminal provisions, the fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails . . . is not supposed to be allowed,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security matters. “Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.”

McClatchy also has determined some details of the five emails that the intelligence community’s inspector general has described as classified and improperly handled.

Intelligence officials who reviewed the five classified emails determined that they included information from five separate intelligence agencies, said a congressional official with knowledge of the matter…

In documents that were publicly released, Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III said State Department officials had warned that there were “potentially hundreds of classified emails” on Clinton’s private server…

State Department officials routinely gather and report diplomatic information that “in an intelligence context could be read very differently,” said Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives.

Government employees with access to classified information are trained to identify classified information, Fitzpatrick said.

“The requirement to mark is so that you know it when you see it,” he said. “Failure to observe any of the requirements for marking or safeguarding would be in a category known as a security violation.”

Failing to properly mark information as classified would not necessarily result in criminal charges, he said.

The matter would be far more serious if it were to turn out that there were hundreds of classified emails.

Clinton and the State Department are also in more hot water with a federal judge over using her personal server to evade Freedom of Information Act requests for information from AP and other news organizations, and for the considerable delays in the release of the requested emails.

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Donald Trump Continues To Threaten To Run As Third Party Candidate

DONALD-TRUMP

Last week I pointed out that Donald Trump was refusing to rule out running as a third party candidate. Several days later The Hill  received the same response in another interview:

Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Typically primary candidates remain in the race until they drop out of money. Donald Trump differs as he will not run out of money, not being dependent upon contributions from others. He has the ability to remain in the race as long as he desires–including after the conventions are over if he should feel that the RNC has been unfair to him.

While polls continue to show Trump with a lead (which might not last much longer after his comments on John McCain) for the Republican nomination, he is also among the weakest Republican candidates in head to head match ups against Hillary Clinton. A Washington Post/ABC News poll gives a clue as to what it would mean if Trump were to run as a third party candidate:

The survey shows that in a hypothetical three-way race, Clinton is at 46 percent, Bush is at 30 percent and Trump is at 20 percent among registered voters.

Trump takes more support away from Bush than Clinton in such a contest. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton tops Bush by 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters.

The current polls suggest that the Republicans will lose if they nominate Trump, or if someone else wins and Trump decides to run as a third party candidate. These numbers can change quite a bit by next November, but in this poll the vast majority of the votes taken by Trump come at the expense of the Republican candidate, and I would expect that pattern to continue. Possibly the magnitude of Trump’s vote will decrease by then, but this suggests there is an excellent chance that he could take at least five to ten points from the GOP candidate, which would probably tip the balance towards the Democrats should the race become closer (as other polls suggest it might be).

The same pattern is likely to also hold should Sanders or someone else manage to beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination, or someone other than Bush be the Republican candidate. It is certainly premature to assume Bush will be the Republican nominee. If he is, the Democratic candidate might not need any help from Trump in winning if Bush keeps taking about phasing out Medicare.

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Factcheck.org Debunks Conservative Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

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The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood follows the pattern we have seen so many times in the past. Groups such as Breitbart put out edited tapes or videos to attack organizations which they disagree with based upon false claims. Now that fact checkers have had time to evaluate the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, it is becoming clear that this is just one more example, and hardly comes as a surprise considering that most of the conservative reports on the issue which I’ve read quickly degenerate into a tirade against reproductive rights and legitimate scientific research.

Factcheck.org has evaluated the claims, and points out that, “it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus, and for that tissue to be used for research purposes.” They point ethical guidelines on the issue from the American Medical Association: “Fetal tissue is not provided in exchange for financial remuneration above that which is necessary to cover reasonable expenses.”

Reviewing the tapes, Factcheck.org found numerous examples which demonstrate that Planned Parenthood was operating within the law and established ethical guidelines:

Nucatola’s comment, though, isn’t evidence that Planned Parenthood or its affiliates are selling “body parts” or fetal tissue for profit. The full video shows that after Nucatola mentions the $30 to $100, she describes how those amounts would be reimbursement for expenses related to handling and transportation of the tissues. Nucatola talks about “space issues” and whether shipping would be involved…

Nucatola does make one statement in the unedited video that suggests to critics that some clinics would be comfortable with a payment that was slightly more than their expenses for providing the tissue. “I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a nonprofit, they just don’t want to — they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that,” Nucatola says.

But immediately after this statement, Nucatola goes on to say: “Really their bottom line is, they want to break even. Every penny they save is just pennies they give to another patient. To provide a service the patient wouldn’t get.” Planned Parenthood told us that she may have been referring to more general operations of the clinics.

Nucatola repeatedly talks about affiliates only wanting to provide a service to their patients, who elect to donate the tissue for medical research, and not having that service impact their bottom lines. She says that it’s “not a new revenue stream the affiliates are looking at” and that “nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” She says some affiliates might donate the tissue for free.

Nucatola also discusses Planned Parenthood clinics’ interactions with a tissue procurement company called StemExpress. The company’s website says that partnering with StemExpress can be “financially profitable” for a clinic — a point that some conservativewebsites have singled out. But this also does not constitute evidence that Planned Parenthood is profiting in such a way…

Richards, the Planned Parenthood president, said in a video response to the controversy: “The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”

On July 21, the Center for Medical Progress released a second, similar video, again featuring a discussion with a Planned Parenthood official in a restaurant. The numbers mentioned in the edited video are similar to what Nucatola said. The official, Mary Gatter, quotes a rate of $75 per specimen, and says she was thinking of saying $50. The discussion only reaches $100 because the “buyers” in the video mention higher prices. At one point, Gatter says that “we’re not in this for the money,” and later she reiterates that “money is not the important thing.”

Though few studies of costs associated with fetal tissue acquisition are available, existing evidence does suggest the prices named in the video are in line with general practices. The National Institutes of Health conducts research with fetal tissue, and in the late 1990s, the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) looked into the acquisition of such tissue, finding that the direct cost to researchers was “low.” GAO said payments primarily went to “central tissue suppliers,” as opposed to health clinics. In most cases, GAO found that clinics did not charge researchers, but when they did, the cost ranged from $2 to $75. The report did not address how much clinics might have received from central tissue suppliers, which is more analogous to the situation presented in the video.

PoltiFact has also reviewed the topic.

The New York Times has run an editorial on the subject. After summarizing the issue, the editorial concludes:

Anti-abortion groups have long pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, even though no federal money is used to provide abortions. But that hasn’t stopped their efforts to shut down the clinics, which provide services like contraception, cancer screening and other tests.

The Center for Medical Progress — which managed to get tax-exempt status in 2013 as a biomedicine charity, according to a report by The Huffington Post — appears to have done little beyond producing the undercover video. According to its registration form with the California attorney general, it has three officers: Mr. Daleiden; Albin Rhomberg, who has participated in anti-abortion protests; and Troy Newman, the president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

In a statement last week, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that “our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines” and that “Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”

Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson’s. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue — clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.

The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk.

Considering the potential health benefits, research on fetal tissue is the true “pro-life” position.

Update: The Department of Justice plans to investigate this matter.

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Battleground State Poll Shows Clinton Falling Behind Republicans & Not More Electable Than Sanders or Biden

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Hillary Clinton has been doing poorly in the swing state polls, and the latest Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll shows Clinton trailing Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Previously she tended to have narrow leads or trail in the various swing state polls. She was not tested against current GOP front runner Donald Trump, but with Trump’s negatives I would assume she would beat him. This drop is support for Clinton in three key swing states is consistent with the declining support for Clinton seen in other recent polls.

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

“Against three Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Secretary Clinton trails in six matchups and is on the down side of too-close-to call in three,” Brown added.

“That’s compared to the April 9 Quinnipiac University poll in which she was clearly ahead in five of the matchups and too-close-to-call in the other four. One other key takeaway is that Vice President Joseph Biden, who is considering a 2016 run, does better than Clinton on honesty and on caring about voter needs, always a key Democratic strong point.”

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

Another remarkable result is that both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had comparable results to Clinton against Republican opponents. Clinton typically did the same or was a couple of percentage points better, but she is on a downward trajectory. There is considerable risk that her support will fall further as more people understand the severity of her ethical misconduct as Secretary of State, and better understand her views. On the other hand, Sanders remains relatively unknown and Biden has not even entered the race. Both stand to improve with campaigning and in debating Clinton.

Polls at this stage have limited predictive value and this is not to say that Clinton cannot win these battleground states if she wins the nomination. What this does do is contradict the argument from many Clinton supporter that Democrats should back her, despite her ethical faults and conservative positions on many issues, because of feeling she has the best chance of beating the Republicans. Democrats would be much better off nominating a candidate whose campaign is not at great risk of being derailed by ethical charges, and there is no need to compromise on a candidate who is not all that much more liberal than Jeb Bush on many issues. As Common Dreams posted earlier this week, Hillary Clinton Is No Progressive.

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