Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
As the 2016 presidential election finally, mercifully circles the drain, early returns are showing a surge in Latino voting that should brace Republicans. No matter what happens on Election Day, the party is in for a painful reckoning over its governing vision. And the debate over immigration reform awaits as perhaps the most explosive facing the GOP’s warring factions. Following President Obama’s 2012 reelection, the party’s official autopsy threw in with the pragmatists who wanted to forge a comprehensive package beefing up border security while also creating a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers already here. “If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only,” it read.
That assessment came after an election in which Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, tacked right on immigration to navigate a crowded primary field, along the way calling for undocumented workers to “self-deport.” In the general election, he won only 27% of the Latino vote, a steep decline from the 44% that comparatively reform-friendly George W. Bush won in 2004. Now just four years later, Trump looks on track to pull just half the support Romney earned from the demographic. And that performance will amount to an even heavier drag on his prospects, thanks to what appears to be record Latino turnout already materializing across the map. On a press call Friday, for example, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said more Latinos have taken advantage of early voting in Florida than voted in the entire election there four years ago. And a similar groundwell appears to be driving early turnout in Nevada, defying polling models that showed a tighter race there. Nationally, several projections by outside groups suggest the Latino vote could roughly double as a share of the total electorate from 6% in 2004 to 12% this year.
So will Congressional Republicans find the will to take on comprehensive immigration reform next year? If nothing else, it would mark an important first step in stanching the bleeding that Trump and his border wall-focused bid wreaked with an increasingly critical voting bloc. But don’t count on it. The reason comes down to the difference between what it takes to win a national election versus stitching together enough seats to secure a Congressional majority. In the 2012 election, thanks to districts redrawn by Republican state legislatures, the GOP won 54% of House seats despite earning only 49% of the vote overall. And the proliferation of safe Republican seats means incumbents have more to fear from a primary challenge — say, by an upstart staking out an even harder line against immigration reform — than from a Democrat in the general election. “The boost in Hispanic voter registration might impact a handful to a dozen Republican-held districts over the long term,” says Nathan Gonzales, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. “But I don’t think it’s going to be sweeping across districts everywhere to cause a fundamental shift in the Republican stance.”
In the Senate, of course, candidates compete on the same map that determines presidential contests. But if Clinton wins and Democrats net just the four seats they need to snatch back control of the upper chamber on Tuesday, a very plausible outcome, there’s reason to believe the victory could be short-lived. In that scenario, the parties would each claim 50 seats, with a Vice President Tim Kaine casting the tie-breaking vote. A special election to replace Kaine in the Senate looms next November in Virginia, raising the possibility that Republicans could win the seat and thereby reclaim the chamber less than a year into Clinton’s first term. And the picture gets brighter for Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Democrats will be defending 23 seats, while the GOP protects eight. Republicans are eyeing some of their best pickup opportunities in eight states, stretching from Virginia to Wisconsin, in which Latinos started the year making up less than 5% of the electorate.
So the immediate interests of Congressional GOPers look primed to frustrate the party’s longer-term ambition of winning national elections again. Call it a Republican self-deportation from the White House.
• Christie aids found guilty of corruption
Two top aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were found guilty Friday on all counts of public corruption charges they faced for their roles shutting down traffic on the George Washington Bridge to settle a political score back in 2013. Christie himself wasn’t charged, didn’t testify, and maintains despite testimony from multiple witnesses to the contrary that he had no real-time knowledge of the incident. The scandal has nevertheless taken a critical toll on Christie’s political fortunes, considered sterling when his approval ratings topped 60 percent three years ago but dismal now that they’re hovering around 20 percent. The convictions come at a particularly awkward moment for Christie, who’s leading Trump’s transition team. The governor was slated to campaign for Trump in New Hampshire today but canceled Friday after news of the convictions broke.
Wall Street Journal
• Clinton charity took $1 million from Qatar while she was at State
The Clinton Foundation accepted a $1 million contribution from Qatar in 2011 without notifying the State Department, an apparent breach of an agreement Clinton struck with the Obama administration for the charity to abide by stricter transparency standards as long as she served in public office. That agreement stipulated that the foundation would submit for review any donations from new foreign governments or major increases from those that had already given. The State Department says it has no record of being notified of the check from Qatar, which emails leaked from the Wikileaks hack indicate came with an expectation of a meeting with former President Bill Clinton. A spokesman for the foundation confirmed the gift but maintained it didn’t amount to the sort of material increase that would trigger the disclosure requirement.
• Clinton should love Friday’s job report
The top lines from Friday’s job report were fine if uninspiring: The U.S. economy added 161,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.9%. But the report included a more important and encouraging statistic for Clinton. Average hourly wages rose 2.8% year-over-year, the biggest such bump since 2009. Stagnating wages have likely had a lot to do with people’s frustration with the recovery despite slow but steady growth. The latest data point on wage growth fits a pattern from recent months, like the Census Bureau Survey that showed American workers got a bigger raise last year than in any year since 1960. And the labor force participation rate — which Trump has flogged on the trail as proof that most Americans have quit looking for work altogether — has ticked up this year, indicating, along with the falling jobless rate, that more of those looking for work are finding it.
Around the Water Cooler
• Tabloid shielded Trump from affair allegation
The National Enquirer, the gossip tabloid that demonstrated its friendliness toward Trump by becoming one of the few newspapers to endorse him, reportedly did the candidate one better. Its owner, American Media, paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate to buy the exclusive rights to her story of what she describes as a nearly decade-long affair with Trump while he was married to his third and current wife, Melania — and then never published a story about it. The Trump campaign denies the allegations.
Wall Street Journal
• Melanie worked in the U.S. before she had legal permission to do so
It must have been a rough Friday night for Melania. On top of the story about Trump’s affair, the Associated Press reported that the Slovakian-born model earned her first $20,000 in 1996 before she had a visa that allowed her to work in the U.S. The revelation comes as Trump closes out a campaign launched by his hardline rhetoric and approach to dealing with illegal immigration. The work —done during her first seven weeks in the country, at which point she obtained the proper visa — is unlikely to have any impact on Melania’s citizenship status. The U.S. government can revoke the citizenship of someone found to have misrepresented the facts of their naturalization but typically only does so in cases involving war crimes or terrorism. The Trump campaign says the documents the AP relied on for its report, which included accounting ledgers and an agreement Melania signed with a management agency, “do not reflect our records” but declined to explain further or answer other questions.
• Trump unintentionally helped forge the Paris climate deal
Fear of a Trump presidency seems to have spurred the countries negotiating the international climate pact to wrap up their work on it before he could take office. The deal, which Trump has vowed to walk away from, took force today. So in recent weeks, as Trump’s prospects improved, governments party to the agreement have scrambled to complete work on it. The goal is to keep global warming within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. Ninety-five countries have signed on, and there are signs that major oil and gas companies outside of the U.S. now may be following suit.
• Clinton and Wall Street: Frenemies
Clinton has taken as tough a line against Wall Street in her campaign as any major party nominee in modern memory. She talks up tighter regulations, raising fees on big banks, and even breaking up too-risky institutions. Yet the industry has rallied behind her candidacy, shelling out campaign contributions and registering jitters about her campaign stumbles with stock selloffs. What gives? Industry insiders say they take Clinton’s campaign trail pronouncements with a chunk of salt and figure she’ll adopt a friendlier posture in office (leaked transcripts of Clinton’s speeches to major financial firms suggesting just that helped confirm the suspicion). And then there’s the alternative. Many financiers have decided Trump’s seat-of-the-pants policy pronouncements and his confrontational instincts would sow instability to potentially devastating effect.
• Bank of America chief says he has proof America is already great
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan isn’t declaring an allegiance in the presidential contest. But he did go out of his way in a Friday interview with Fortune to refute the premise of the slogan animating Trump’s campaign. America, Moynihan said, remains economically strong and the best place to live and run a business. The proof lies in the talent he sees from Brown University applicants in his work with the school — they’re the best of the best, and they want to come here. As a certified point-one-percenter, Moynihan is perhaps an imperfect messenger. But he insists, in so many words, that the economy’s fundamentals are strong despite political rhetoric from some quarters to the contrary.