In his Atlantic column on Sunday, David Frum dealt with the lesser-of-two-evils elections concept from a Republican perspective. “You don’t vote to send a message,” he wrote. “You vote to choose a president… Look at how she’s coped with that maniac Trump on the debate stage. Couldn’t have been cooler. Despite yourself, you’ve been impressed. She’s smart and tough and open to reason. We could do worse. It’s four years—not even. She’ll perhaps be boxed in by a Republican Congress for the first two years; much more probably so in 2019 and 2020. By then, it’ll be time to try again, this time with a Republican nominee not suffering from a major personality disorder… [C]hoices are judged by their consequences, and the consequences here are stark: If not Hillary, then Trump. If not Trump, then Hillary. Since it can’t be Trump, it must be Hillary. You understand why people might evade that unwelcome reality. But you didn’t get where you are by evading realities. You face them, you meet them, you make the best of them. You'll hope for the best, but at least you’ll know you did all you could to prevent the worst.”
Which is more than anyone could say about Paul Ryan. Getting clumsily entangled in Trump world– much more so than, for example, the more wily, Mitch McConnell– seems to have wrecked Ryan's political future. Polls are showing Republicans are turning Ryan's #BetterWay into a very #BitterWay, at least for him. An NBC poll released yesterday show that a majority of GOP voters prefer Trump over Ryan to lead the GOP. 63% of Republican voters say they trust Trump more than Ryan (who only garnered 31%). A week earlier a Bloomberg poll showed 51% backing Trump as the better representative of what the GOP stands for, competed to 33% who went with Ryan. Norm Ornstein outlined Ryan's problem with the base and concluded that “[t]he fact that Trump, his advisor Hannity, and a slice of his caucus are hostile to Ryan is less ominous in a sense than the poll result; it is clear that there is now a yawning gap between the Republican establishment leadership and the party rank-and-file. All of that will make governing by finding the necessary coalitions and compromises much more difficult. But it also suggests that the vote for Speaker will be one of the most fascinating and tumultuous post-election events.”
Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Meadows (who led the charge to oust John Boehner,) said recently, “A lot of people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House– they question the loyalty of the Speaker.” Meadows and his allies are trying to delay the Caucus vote, scheduled for the week after the election, to mobilize opposition to Ryan. They might confront Ryan after the election and before the Republican Conference votes to choose its candidate for Speaker, demanding concessions that would include cutting discretionary spending even more sharply, returning to the use of the debt ceiling as a hostage to force the new President Clinton to capitulate to their demands, and refusing to cooperate with her on any area of public policy– a set of demands Ryan could not accept without destroying his capacity to lead, along with deepening governmental dysfunction beyond its current sorry state.
…The best case scenario for Ryan: he skillfully and persistently works his battered caucus to understand he is their only realistic alternative, deflects non-negotiable demands, limps through to a victory on the House floor, and returns to the same dilemma he faced in 2016, and that his predecessor faced from 2011 on: the only way to make policy that can actually be enacted into law is to lose a sizable core of Republicans and replace them with Democrats. There are only so many times he can do that without facing a broader internal revolt. But the failure or refusal to do so means he has failed in his fundamental duty as a constitutional officer, the Speaker not of his party but of the whole House.
How battered that caucus will be– and if it will be even in a position to elect a Speaker at all, or if the Democrats will win up doing that– will be determined in 2 weeks minus a day. Last night we saw how suburban voters in purple Orange and San Diego counties in Florida have swung away from Trump and the GOP and are likely to dump Darrell Issa in favor of Doug Applegate. CA-49, however is an R+4 district where Romney only beat Obama by 20,000 votes– 52-46%. In the Bexar, Travis and Comal county suburbs that make up much of Lamar Smith's TX-21, reliably Republican voters have also swung massively away from Trump and are likely to give Hillary a win in TX-21, though Obama lost it to Romney by 70,000 votes– 60-38%. That would be one amazing swing! And will it be enough to end Trump-backing-Lamar Smith's career in Congress? Tom Wakley and his grassroots campaign sure thinks so. The DCCC and House Majority PAC have pushed $1,939,895 into the race against Issa (including $719,195 this week alone). So far the DCCC has spent zero against Lamar Smith– the exact same amount Pelosi's House Majority PAC has spent. The only outside group spending in TX-21 is Blue America. We've spending around $15,000 so far with a phone-banking system and our mobile billboard and we've raised another $6,000 for his campaign in small contributions from our members. (Please chip in here for his Get Out the Vote efforts.)
Yesterday, Manny Fernadndez, reporting for the NY Times dug into the claims that Texas is winnable for the Democrats this year. Last time it happened was exactly 40 years ago (Carter vs Ford). Democrats see a large turnout by Latinos and African Americans and they see a lot of Republicans, turned off by Trump, staying home. This is likely to be truer in Bexar and Travis counties– San Diego and Austin– than anywhere else in the state and that bodes well for Tom Wakley.
In endorsing Wakely yesterday, the Daily Texan wrote that “Lamar Smith has abused his power as the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to overburden climate scientists and state attorney generals whose work contradicts his denial of climate change. That, and his continued support for Donald Trump, are disqualifying. While his opponent, Tom Wakely, has never held office in this state, Smith has shown that he shouldn’t be going forward. He represents a swath from West Campus to San Antonio– and also the Republican stronghold of Kerrville, which will keep him in place.” But will it? During the last presidential election (2012) Smith did really well in Kerr County, 16,781 votes (78%) of the 20,788 votes cat there. That looks hard to overcome. Sure does. But Travis county gave Smith's opponent 61% of its votes, 48,104 of the 73,711 cast there. The decider will be Bexar, which Smith won big (64%) but– thanks to Trump– is very vulnerable in this year. Hillary's ahead in Bexar, Wakely's home county, and he's looking like he can extend his big win from the primary against a conservative Democrat into a close win in 2 weeks. He may even hold Smith down in Kerr and he certainly will in Comal, Gillespie and Hays, where voters in the environs of New Braunfels and San Marcos are seeing just how intertwined Lamar Smith and Donald Trump are. Yesterday, Smith– who normally never bothers campaigning– was on the defensive at the Comal County Senior Center in New Braunfels. This is what greeted him when he arrived:
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis