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New York Times reports Trump in “dire risk” of losing the Peach State
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
The Times attributed to its October 12 report to people briefed on the polls who spoke on condition of anonymity. The newspaper also reported that Clinton’s campaign has concluded that Georgia is winnable, although her camp has made no move so far to put resources into trying to capture the Peach State.
The Times did not give any specific polling numbers for the race or indicate whether that polling took place before or after video surfaced on October 7 in which Trump made braggadocious comments about being allowed to grab women’s genitals because of his celebrity.
The last public poll in Georgia, conducted by WSB-TV/Landmark on September 20-21, showed Trump at 47 percent and Clinton at 43 percent, which was within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage votes. That means that from a statistical perspective, the race was a tie.
A Republican presidential candidate has not taken Georgia in 24 years, since Clinton’s husband, Bill, carried the state back in 1992. Mitt Romney won it by 8 points in 2012.
In addition to Georgia, three other Southern states are also in play — Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. These four states are the largest in the South outside of Texas, with a combined 73 electoral votes, about a quarter of what is needed to capture the presidency.
The latest state polls show Clinton with a strong lead in Virginia, with races in Florida and North Carolina within the margin of error.
No Democrat has captured all four of these states since Harry Truman back in 1948.
Three Alabama politicos flee from Trump; Rubio, Burr and McCrory are non-committal
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — Donald Trump’s support among Southern elected officials has begun to crack after the release of an audiotape in which he made offensive comments about women, but, so far, there has been no wholesale deterioration of his Southern support heading into the second presidential debate.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is the only Southern senator to distance herself from Trump, calling on him to “reexamine his candidacy” in light of remarks that surfaced on October 9 in which he bragged about being able to sexually assault women because of his celebrity.
“As a woman, a mother and a grandmother to three young girls, I am deeply offended by Mr. Trump’s remarks, and there is no excuse for the disgusting and demeaning language,” Capito said in a statement.
Two U.S. House incumbents in tough re-election battles, Reps. Barbara Comstock in Virginia and William Hurd in Texas, both announced they would not vote for Trump and want him to step aside as the Republican nominee.
But three other incumbent Republican politicians locked in tight re-election fights – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Richard Burr of North Carolina and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory – did not retract their support for Trump, although all three condemned his remarks.
Rubio, who offered Trump a tepid endorsement after losing to him in the GOP presidential primaries, went on Twitter to call Trump’s remarks “vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify.” But his opponent in the Senate race, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, said Rubio’s refusal to unendorse Trump amounted to “political cowardice.”
“Donald Trump is a threat to every value this country holds dear,” Murphy said in an op-ed in The Hill newspaper. “If Marco Rubio cannot withdraw his endorsement after this latest sickening news, then he should withdraw from the race.”
The most significant erosion of Trump’s support has come in conservative Alabama, where Republican Governor Robert Bentley has announced he won’t vote for Trump, and two GOP members of the U.S. House delegation, Reps. Martha Roby and Bradley Byrne, have called on him to step aside as their party’s presidential nominee.
“As disappointed as I’ve been with his antics throughout the campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party,” Roby said in a statement “Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.”
Byrne called Trump’s comments “disgraceful and appalling.”
“It is now clear Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States and cannot defeat Hillary Clinton,” he said in a statement. “I believe he should step aside and allow Governor Pence to lead the Republican ticket.”
Roby represents parts of metro Montgomery and southeast Alabama. Byrne represents metro Mobile and southwestern parts of the state. Both are seeking re-election, and neither race is expected to be competitive in November.
Bentley, who has been mired in his own scandal over a purported affair with a former aide, issued a short statement in which he said, “I certainly won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, but I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump.”
Notably absent from the list of Alabama politicos distancing themselves from Trump is U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, one of his staunchest supporters in Congress. Trump announced Sessions would be in New York to help him prepare for his October 9 debate with Hillary Clinton, although Sessions’s office has not confirmed that information.
In Virginia, Comstock, who had not previously endorsed Trump, is in a tough re-election battle in the 10th District, based in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, against Democrat Democrat LuAnn Bennett, a real estate developer who is the ex-wife of former U.S. Rep. Jim Moran.
Comstock called Trump’s comments “disgusting, vile and disqualifying.”
“No woman should ever be subjected to this type of obscene behavior, and it is unbecoming of anybody seeking high office,” she said in a statement. “Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee from the Republican Party. I cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and I would never vote for Hillary Clinton.”
In Texas, Hurd, who had also not endorsed Trump, is battling to keep his 23rd District seat, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio across a wide swath of West Texas to the edge of El Paso.
As a black Republican running in a majority Latino district, Trump’s incendiary comments about Latinos had already put Hurd on the defensive in the race against the man he beat in 2014, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.
Hurd issued a statement saying he could not vote for a candidate who degrades women and insults minorities. He said Trump should step aside in favor of “a true conservative to beat Hillary Clinton.”
Burr, who polls show is neck-and-neck with Democrat Deborah Ross in his re-election race in North Carolina, told Politico that he was “going to watch (Trump’s) level of contrition over the next few days to determine my level of support.”
McCrory, who trails Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper in recent polls, issued a statement in which he said, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the comments made by Donald Trump regarding women. I find them disgusting,” But he stopped short of retracting his support for Trump or announcing that he would not vote for him.
Kaine challenges Pence to defend Trump; Pence criticizes Clinton’s foreign policy tenure
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
FARMVILLE, Virginia (CFP) – Vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have squared off in their first and only debate, with Kaine challenging Pence to defend Donald Trump’s behavior and Pence criticizing Hillary Clinton as a tax-and-spend liberal whose tenure as secretary of state has led to chaos around the world.
The October 4 debate, at Longwood University in central Virginia, is the only one of this year’s four national debates to take place in the South, and Kaine, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, is the only Southerner on a major party ticket this year.
Kaine was clearly the aggressor, repeatedly interrupting Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, and challenging him to defend controversial statements that Trump, the GOP standard-bearer, has made in the past.
“He’s called women slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting,” Kaine said. “He attacked an Indiana-born federal judge and said he was unqualified to hear a federal lawsuit because his parents were Mexican … And he perpetrated this outrageous and bigoted lie that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”
Pence, in turn, derided what he termed Kaine’s “avalanche of insults” and tried to turn the tables on the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
“If Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables,” Pence said.
However, Pence was willing to defend Trump on one line of Democratic attack—namely, that the Republican nominee may have used nearly $1 billion in business losses to avoid paying federal income taxes for decades.
“Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. He actually built a business,” Pence said. “His tax returns showed he went through a very difficult time, but he used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used. And he did it brilliantly.”
Kaine responded by taking issue with Trump’s assertion in the first presidential debate that avoiding taxes made him “smart.”
“So it’s smart not to pay for our military?” Kaine said. “It’s smart not to pay for veterans? It’s smart not to pay for teachers? And I guess all of us who do pay for those things, I guess we’re stupid.”
Pence retorted with a question: “Senator, do you take all the deductions you’re entitled to? I do.”
Pence and Trump also sparred over their respective economic plans, with Pence criticizing the Democratic ticket over a proposal to raise income taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers.
“In the wake of a season where American families are struggling in this economy under the weight of higher taxes and Obamacare and the war on coal and the stifling avalanche of regulation coming out of this administration, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same,” he said. “It really is remarkable that they actually are advocating a trillion dollars in tax increases.”
But Kaine criticized the Republicans for proposing new corporate tax breaks that would benefit “people just like Donald Trump,” which he said would repeat the same mistakes made during the Bush administration that led to the 2008-2009 economic downturn.
“Independent analysts say the Clinton plan would grow the economy by 10.5 billion jobs. The Trump plan would cost 3.5 million jobs,” he said. “Why would (Trump) do this? Because his tax plan basically helps him. And if he ever met his promise and he gave his tax returns to the American public like he said he would, we would see just how much his economic plan is really a Trump-first plan.”
Pence, however, insisted that Trump had not broken his promise and would release his tax returns once an ongoing IRS audit was concluded.
IRS officials have repeatedly said that an audit does not preclude a taxpayer from releasing his tax returns. Because of federal privacy laws, the IRS cannot confirm whether Trump is actually being audited.
Pence also offered sharp criticism of Clinton’s tenure as America’s top diplomat, charging that “America is less safe today than it was the day that Barack Obama became president of the United States.”
“It’s absolutely inarguable. We’ve weakened America’s place in the world. It’s been a combination of factors, but mostly, it’s been a lack of leadership,” he said. “Our primary threat today is ISIS, and because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiation a status-of-forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard-fought gains the American soldier had won by 2009, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert.”
But Kaine noted that at the time the Obama administration came into office, Al Queda leader Osama bin Laden was still alive, the United States had more than 175,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program that it has now agreed to give up.
“Under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, she was part of the public safety team that went after and revived the dormant hunt against bin Laden and wiped him off the face of the earth,” Kaine said. “She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.”
Pence also criticized Clinton for using a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, which he said may have allowed foreign hackers to gain access to sensitive information.
“If your son or my son handled classified information the way Hillary Clinton did, they’d be court martialed,” Pence said, referring to the candidates’ sons who are both serving in the Marine Corps.
Kaine shot back: “That is absolutely false, and you know that,” noting an FBI investigation that resulted in no criminal charges against Clinton or any of her aides over use of the email server.
On other issues:
Immigraton: Kaine said he and Clinton both support comprehensive immigration reform leading to an eventual path to citizenship while Trump “believes in deportation nation.”
“Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people, 11 million who are here without documents. And both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship, so if you’re born here, but your parents don’t have documents, they want to eliminate that,” he said. “They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people.”
Pence insisted that claim was “nonsense,” saying Trump first wants to strengthen border defenses and deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes “and once we’ve done all of those things, … we’re going to reform the immigration system that we have.”
He accused Clinton and Kaine of wanting “to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all the things that are driving wages down in this country.”
Abortion: Pence, who was raised a Roman Catholic and considers himself a born-again Christian, said his opposition to abortion flows from a passage in the Bible where “God says, before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.” He criticized Clinton’s support for repealing a provision in federal law that forbids use of taxpayer funds for abortions—a provision Kaine has supported in the past.
But Kaine, a Roman Catholic who has said he is personally opposed to abortion, said he and Clinton support the right of women to make their own decisions on the issue.
“I think you should live your moral values. But the last thing, the very last thing government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices,” he said.
In an interview earlier in the campaign, Trump indicated he might support criminal penalties for women who have abortions. But he quickly walked back from that position, and Pence told the debate audience that he and Trump “would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy.”
Former Armed Services Committee chairman “distressed” by Donald Trump’s criticisms of the military
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CFP) — Former Republican U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, questioning Republican nominee Donald Trump’s ability to lead on national security issues and military affairs.
“You don’t pull up a quick text, like National Security for Dummies,” Warner said at a September 28 rally in Alexandria where he announced he would vote for Clinton in November. “You have to build on a foundation of experience how you will go forward in the leadership of this country.”
Warner, without mentioning Trump by name, took particular issue with Trump over his critical comments on the state of the U.S. military.
“It is not in shambles. It is not the admirals and the generals … in the rubble in the hallways of the Pentagon,” Warner said. “No one should have the audacity to stand up and degrade the Purple Heart, degrade military families or talk about the military being in a state of disaster.”
Warner’s remark about the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the military wounded in battle, stemmed from an August rally in Virginia during which a veteran gave Trump his medal. Trump then told the audience that he had always wanted a Purple Heart but “this was much easier.”
Warner, 89, is the longest serving senator in Virginia history, in office from 1979 until 2009, and was also Navy secretary during the Nixon administration. He spent more than six years as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Clinton also served when she was a senator.
Warner lauded Clinton’s work on the committee, saying she was always well prepared and had one of the best attendance records among senators on the panel. He also said that the September 26 debate between Clinton and Trump showed that she was composed while he was not, despite Trump’s insistence afterward that he won the debate.
“The film speaks for itself. You can’t rewrite it. There it is,” Warner said.
The former senator also had kind words for Clinton’s running mate and fellow Virginian, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who he said “exemplified what this country needs foremost — a man of unquestioned integrity.”
Warner was flanked at the rally by Kaine and the commonwealth’s other senator, Democratic Mark Warner, who is no relation to the former senator.
The endorsement of the popular Warner, who won 83 percent of the vote in his last re-election campaign in 2002, may help strengthen the prospects of the Clinton-Kaine ticket in Virginia, where polls show them with a lead.
Virginia has gone Democratic in the last two presidential elections, after going for the GOP candidate in 10 straight elections dating back to 1968.
Outside of his political career, Warner may be best known as the sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he wed in 1976. They divorced in 1982.
Washington Post poll indicates unexpected states may be in play
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — When it comes to wondering which way Southern states might fall in this year’s presidential election, conventional wisdom holds that, outside of a few states along the Atlantic seaboard, Donald Trump doesn’t have a thing to worry about.
A paucity of public polling in most of the South also means that we don’t have any way to judge whether this conventional wisdom is wise. But now, the Washington Post and Survey Monkey have come along with an unusual poll of all 50 states that offers some incredible results for a number of places in the South.
In fact, should these results be borne out in November, incredible won’t be a sufficiently strong adjective.
In eight of the 14 Southern states, the poll found that Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton was only in the single digits—not just in battleground states such as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia but in some rock-ribbed GOP states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
In Arkansas, which Mitt Romney carried by 23 points in 2012, Trump led Clinton by just 9 points in the poll; in South Carolina, by just 7. And in Mississippi—a state that hasn’t gone Democratic since 1980—Trump’s lead over Clinton was a mere 3 points. No, that was not a misprint—3 points in Mississippi.
In perhaps the biggest shock of all, the poll found that Texas, with its bounty of 38 electoral votes, was a flat-out tie, with both candidates at 40 percent in a state a Democrat hasn’t carried since 1976. (How long ago was that? Donald Trump was still a year away from marrying wife No. 1, Ivana.)
Of course, one must greet the results of any poll showing Trump in possible trouble in Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas with a considerable dollop of skepticism. Casting more doubt on these findings is the fact that this poll was an online survey conducted on Survey Monkey’s platform that did not employ a random sample and, thus, a margin of error can’t be calculated.
However, despite those shortcomings, what makes this poll noteworthy is its extremely large sample size — 74,000 registered voters, about 70 times the size of a typical poll — which could compensate for some of the measurement and sampling issues posed by a non-random sample.
Also, battleground state results in this poll are consistent with other public polling in those states. (In Florida, for example, the poll showed Clinton with a 2-point lead, which is close to what the other polls have found.) And there is no reason to believe this methodology is inherently more inaccurate in non-battleground states.
So what might explain these wacky results that so assault our conventional wisdom? The answer could lie in Trump’s pronounced unpopularity with minority voters.
In Mississippi, for instance, the black voting age population is about 35 percent, and blacks register and vote at rates comparable to whites. So if Clinton is taking almost all of the black vote, she would need to capture just 25 percent of the white vote to win. True, President Obama couldn’t pull that off against Romney four years ago, but, then again, the GOP was much more united behind Romney than it is behind Trump.
And in Texas, blacks and Latinos make up an even larger percentage of the voting age population, 44 percent. If Clinton can galvanize those minority voters in large numbers, as little as 20 percent of the Lone Star State’s white, non-Latino vote could be enough to win (that’s a conservative estimate taking into account the fact that Latino voters lag black and white voters in their registration and participation rates.)
Florida, where Clinton led in the poll, has a minority voting age population of 31 percent, and, unlike in Texas, Latino voters in the Sunshine State register and turnout to vote at rates comparable to white voters. So with just 30 percent of the white, non-Latino vote, she could win.
A look at polls results those Southern states where Trump is doing well also supports the premise that minority antipathy may be what’s bedeviling him in the region. He was winning by more than 20 points in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia, all states with relatively small minority populations. But in three of the five states where the black voting age population is more than 25 percent, his lead was in single digits.
The only states where the correlation between high minority population and a reduced level of Trump’s level of support didn’t hold up were Alabama (where Trump led by 26 points) and Louisiana (where he led by 16.)
Arkansas—where the black voting age population is only 15 percent and he was only ahead by 9 points—stands out as an anomaly against the premise that a paucity of minority voters leads to wide margins for Trump. Then again, Hillary Clinton did live in Arkansas for nearly 20 years before decamping for New York, and her husband was elected governor of the Natural State five times. Perhaps they have more residual political roots than Republicans are anticipating.
So should we all put some money down on a Clinton victory in Arkansas, Mississippi or Texas? Despite the intriguing results from this poll, the odds of that happening would still have to be considered rather long. But this has been a political year where the only thing we’ve been able to expect is the unexpected. So it is not inconceivable that, if Clinton can galvanize the region’s minority vote and Trump runs behind Romney, election night might turn out more interesting than usual across the South.