Buoyed by her lead in most key states, Hillary Clinton is working to expand her goals beyond merely defeating Donald Trump. Enjoying a solid lead in national polls and most of the traditional swing states, she is now trying to flip Arizona and other traditionally Republican states to generate a broader Democratic victory.

Perhaps the biggest symbol of Clinton’s confidence is Arizona, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey noted in the Boston Globe (10/21). Democrats believe a win in the border state, where Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, could accelerate favorable trends Dems did not expect to solidify until perhaps 2020 or 2024.

The Clinton campaign said it is pouring $2 mln worth of advertising into the state in the final stage of the campaign. Clinton’s campaign sent out a fund-raising appeal (10/20): “We can’t just beat this guy. We’ve got to beat him so definitively that Hillary’s victory is undeniable.”

A poll released 10/19 showed Clinton with a 5-point lead in Arizona, with strong support from Latino voters, but former Gov. Jan Brewer (R) doubts that Latinos will carry the Dems to victory. “They don’t get out and vote. They don’t vote,” she said in an interview with the Globe.

A strong Democratic turnout could boost US Rep Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who is challenging Sen. John McCain (R). Democrats are also hoping to defeat controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigration firebrand who Trump has held up as a chief validator for his calls for a tighter border with Mexico. Running for reelection in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Arpaio trails his Democratic opponent by 15 points in a recent Arizona Republic poll.

Pew Research found that the number of Latino eligible voters is increasing faster than in past elections. In 2008, there were 19.5 mln Latino eligible voters and 9.7 mln cast ballots. In 2012, there were 23.3 mln Latino eligible voters and 11.2 mln voted (71% for Obama). This year there are an estimated 27.3 mln Latino eligible voters. The growth in Hispanic eligible voters since 2012 accounts for 37% of the growth in all eligible voters during that span, Pew reported. And in July Clinton had a 66%-24% advantage over Trump among Hispanic registered voters.

Clinton also plans to spend $1.5 mln to challenge Trump in Texas, where Republicans scoff at her chances but recent polls have found the presidential race within the margin of error and there are 532,000 more registered Hispanic-surnamed voters this year than in 2012, Texas Monthly reported. Texas Republicans are used to getting more than 40% of the Latino vote, but Trump will be lucky to get the 31% of Texas Hispanic voters that supported him in a recent CBS News poll. And those Tejanos might well question the other Texas Republicans who have embraced Trump and his Mexican bashing.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of, noted that Latino participation in early voting was up 99% in Florida, and it was up 45% in California. “After years and years and years of ‘sleeping giant’ metaphors, Trump is finally waking us Latinos up,” Kos noted. “And if we see these kind of numbers replicated in places like Georgia, Arizona and Texas, the GOP’s ability to win in the future will be severely compromised. And they might as well forget about Colorado and Florida.”

CLINTON, OBAMA FOCUS ON ELECTING DEMS TO CONGRESS. Hillary Clinton is pouring $1 mln into Indiana and Missouri in the campaign’s final weeks — not because the Democratic presidential nominee thinks she can carry those reliably Republican states, but because she believes that, with an extra push, Democrats can win the Senate and governors’ races there, David Nir noted at (10/24).

In Michigan, the Clinton campaign is propelling a late surge by Democratic state legislative candidates to regain their House majority. In parts of Maine, Nebraska, Virginia and other states, Clinton volunteers are touting Democratic congressional candidates in their phone calls and fliers to voters. And as Clinton rallied supporters across Pennsylvania on Saturday with running mate Tim Kaine, she touted Senate hopeful Katie McGinty and attacked her GOP opponent, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, as beholden to presidential nominee Donald Trump.

And it’s not just Clinton — Obama’s putting his back into it, too: The presiden endorsed 30 more House candidates (10/24) expanding his effort to use his rising popularity to help Democrats looking to flip or hold swing districts across the country — and crush them under the association with Donald Trump.

Obama’s taped ads and robocalls for several candidates, and more is expected in the final two weeks until Election Day.

The top pro-Clinton super PAC. Priorities USA, announced that it would start airing ads in key Senate races that tie vulnerable Republicans to Donald Trump. They’re first offering was in New Hampshire against Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook estimates the campaign has spent more than $100 mln, in coordination with the Democratic National Committee, to benefit other Democrats.

Democrats are well-positioned to win the Senate majority, the Washington Post reported (10/22). There are nine competitive Senate races — eight of which Republicans are defending, most in presidential swing states. Democrats need to net at least four seats to control the chamber if Clinton wins the presidency, in which case Kaine would serve as the tiebreaker.

Steve Schmidt, a top strategist for George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s presidential campaigns, said Republican senators can hang on if Trump loses their states narrowly — but that a Trump loss of eight or 10 or more percentage points could spell defeat.

In the House, Democrats face a much taller order. To win the majority they would need to flip 30 seats, which party strategists concede is unlikely because it would require both a surge in Democratic turnout to 2008 and 2012 levels as well as a depressed Republican vote. Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have suggested a 20-seat gain would be a good outcome.

EARLY VOTING IN N.C. IS DOWN AFTER POLLING PLACE REDUCTIONS. At least 5.9 mln people cast ballots in the first week of early voting in the 2016 election, Michael P. McDonald noted at (10/23).

Early voting started in Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina and in-person early voting is becoming the preferred method of voting among Democrats, McDonald, an associate professor at the University of Florida, wrote. Republicans had built a lead in mailed ballots, only to see that lead dramatically erased after the first day of early voting.

For example, in North Carolina, registered Republicans held a lead of 2,641 returned ballots over registered Democrats, or a lead of 4.7 percentage points among all returned ballots, when in-person early voting began on Thursday, 10/20. By the end of Saturday, the number of registered Democrats voting increased dramatically, and they jumped into a lead of 80,303 returned ballots over Republicans, or a 13.9 percentage point lead among all returned ballots.

The level of early voting was running slightly behind 2012, when 323,281 people voted in-person during the first Thursday and Friday early voting days in 2012, while 321,700 voted in-person in 2016.

But McDonald noted that Democrats may be off their 2012 levels due to the lack of in-person early voting places. Local electoral boards with Republican majorities, at the urging of the state Republican chair, created bottlenecks by reducing the number of in-person early voting polling locations, “and the effect is obvious.” Early voting generally is down in the counties that reduced the number of polling locations and is up where the number increased.

Perhaps the worst case is Guilford, a county of 517,600 people, 57.9% white, which gave Obama 58% of the vote in 2012. The county had 16 in-person early voting locations in 2012, but has only its central election office open in 2016. The number of in-person voters on the first Thursday and Friday in 2012 was 21,560, but was only 3,305 in 2016, a decrease of 85%.

Mecklenburg, where the state’s largest city, Charlotte, is located, a county Obama won with 61% of the vote in 2012, decreased their polling locations from 22 to 10. The effect was not as pronounced as Guilford, as the number of in-person voters on the first Thursday and Friday was 29,068 in 2012, and was 26,660 in 2016, a decrease of 8%.

Many North Carolina counties will expand their in-person early voting polling locations the week before the election. Guilford will have 25 polling locations open later in the early voting period and Mecklenburg will have 22 (particularly the last week). In the past, the volume of early voting has increased as the election nears, so Republican actions to reduce turnout may not be entirely effective.

Defying the party trends, early voting levels among voters who are not registered with a party (what North Carolina calls “Unaffiliated”) is up from 2012 by 32,234 for a 28.6% increase over 2012. This slice of North Carolina early voters may lean towards Trump, as the age distribution of Unaffiliated voters tends to skew older, McDonald noted. “Still, note the skew is not that great as there are a generous number of younger voters, too.”

IN N.C., BURR STANDS WITH TRUMP, DEM CHALLENGER SPRINTS AHEAD. Embattled North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr has made an awfully questionable strategy decision for the final two weeks of this campaign: he’s gluing himself to Donald Trump, Joan McCarter noted at (10/24).

“There’s not a separation between me and Donald Trump. As a matter fact, there’s an ad on TV saying I’m too cozy to him,” Burr said at a rally for the Gaston County GOP, according to tracking video from the liberal group American Bridge.

“You might have seen that lately,” he continued. “I’m cozy to Donald Trump because I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton would be a disaster to my children and my grandchildren. And though I have, when appropriately, spoken up, maybe in opposition to something that was said by our nominee, make no mistake that that’s not a lack of support to our nominee.”

McCarter noted that Public Policy Polling’s newest North Carolina poll finds that Democrats were running up large leads during early voting. Among those who said they’ve already voted, 63% say they cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton to only 37% for Donald Trump. The big Democratic advantage holds down the ballot as well, as Democrat Deborah Ross led Richard Burr 52-34 for Senate, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 7% among those who say they have already cast their ballots.

JUST 10 MEGA-DONORS PROVIDE ONE-FIFTH OF SUPER PAC FUNDS. Ten mega-donor individuals or couples are responsible for a staggering 20% of the $1.1 bln that super PACs had raised in the 2016 election cycle by the end of August, the Washington Post reported.

Following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, these groups have been able to raise unlimited sums from individuals and corporations, but this fundraising total far exceeds the $853 mln that Super PACs raised for all of 2012 — and it doesn’t include the last two months of this year’s campaign, Stephen Wolf noted at (10/20).

While most mega-donors lean heavily Republican, these top 10 had a mix of people giving to both parties. Chief among Democratic donors was environmentalist hedge-fund founder and Citizens United critic Tom Steyer. His net worth is approximately $1.6 bln, and he had given $38 mln by the end of August. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, topped the list for Republicans, having given a combined $21.5 mln. Sheldon Adelson is reportedly the world’s 22nd richest person, with a net worth of $32 bln dollars, roughly 20 times Steyer’s wealth.

Michael Bloomberg, the world’s eighth-richest person with an estimated net worth of $40 bln, has divided his $20.2 mln in donations between the two parties and various ballot measures. Conspicuously absent from the list are Charles and David Koch, the two fossil-fuel robber barons. However, the two brothers, who are tied for world’s ninth richest at nearly $40 bln each, have built up a massive fundraising network capable of spending hundreds of millions, rather than relying just on their own personal fortune, and they donate to 501(c)(4) political nonprofits that don’t report individual donors.

Many of the other top-10 mega-donors writing eight-figure checks unsurprisingly come from the world of finance and energy extraction, and it’s pretty clear what they’re getting for their money: a Republican Party completely beholden to their interests on deregulation. And even the Democratic Party often finds it needs these sorts of donors unless it wants to face a massive spending disparity, Wolf noted.

“Citizens United isn’t responsible for everything wrong with our politics, but letting the ultra-rich dominate the conversation has done a lot of damage when their policy views are far out of sync with the general public’s,” Wolf wrote. “If every citizen’s voice should matter equally in a democracy, that simply cannot happen when one donor can write a check for tens of millions while most voters don’t — and many can’t — donate at all. Fortunately, if Democrats win the presidency and Senate in 2016, they are poised to install a new Supreme Court majority that could overturn Citizens United and allow us to start passing some meaningful new campaign finance restrictions.”

SANDERS: IF MY CAMPAIGN EMAILS LEAKED, THERE’D BE MEAN THINGS ABOUT HILLARY, TOO. Sen. Bernie Sanders was not surprised at any of the content revealed by the Hillary Clinton campaign emails published by WikiLeaks, and he admitted that if his own campaign staff’s emails were to be hacked, they’d contain substantially unflattering messages about his former Democratic primary rival.

“Trust me, if they went into our emails — I suppose which may happen, who knows — I’m sure there would be statements that would be less than flattering about, you know, the Clinton staff,” Sanders told the Washington Post (10/24), dismissing the current leaks as unsurprising. “That’s what happens in campaigns.” Additionally, Sanders confessed he found it “amusing” that the emails proved what his camp had long claimed: “We said that the Clinton campaign was heavily influencing what the DNC was doing regarding debates, and that’s exactly what had been happening. None of that is a shock to me.”

PAUL RYAN WARNS IF GOP LOSES SENATE, SANDERS WINS. Paul Ryan is famously described as what Republicans think a smart person sounds like, John Nichols noted at (10/17). But sometimes the speaker of the House outsmarts himself.

Ryan lectured Young Republicans in his native Wisconsin (10/14), and the speaker wanted to make the case for Republican voters to turn out and back GOP congressional candidates, even if they can’t stomach their party’s scandal-plagued presidential ticket. Implicit in Ryan’s argument was the suggestion that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate could be counted on to obstruct Hillary Clinton’s supposedly “liberal progressive” agenda.

But in a question-and-answer session following his speech, Ryan inadvertently made a case for liberals and progressives to turn out in big numbers in order to elect Democratic candidates in the fight for control of the Senate.

“If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

Ryan’s comment drew a tepid response from the Young Republicans he was lecturing. No surprise there. Polling suggests that Bernie Sanders is among the most well-regarded political figures in the country, especially among younger voters, and the long-time independent generates far less partisan antipathy than veteran Democrats, Nichols noted.

But when word got out that Ryan was rattled by Sanders, the response from around the country was electric. People who might have been having a hard time getting excited about the presidential race were most intrigued by the possibility that Sanders might become a powerhouse in the Senate.

The senator from Vermont is the ranking member of the budget committee, and if Democrats gain control of the chamber on Nov. 8, he would be in line to chair it. But Sanders could also end up chairing the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he could use to advance many of the proposals (for affordable college, empowering unions, and investing in public-health programs) that made his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination so popular.

The final list of committee assignments will be influenced by the choices of senior senators, such as Washington’s Patty Murray. “There’s lots of individual choices ahead, of people who are senior to Bernie,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who is set to replace retiring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.). Yet Schumer says of Sanders, “He will chair a significant committee if we win the majority.’

OPIOID USE DOWN IN STATES THAT ALLOW MARIJUANA. Fewer people are using opioids in states that have legalized medical marijuana, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health that bolsters advocates’ claims that marijuana can substitute for more deadly drugs, Kimberly Leonard reported at (9/15).

The study, which examined data from 1999 to 2013, found an association between a state legalizing medical marijuana and a reduction in testing positive for opioids after dying in a car accident, particularly among drivers ages 21 to 40.

Previous studies have found that opioid overdoses went down after medical marijuana laws were enacted, but this study was geared at opioids use more generally. Researchers noted that those who tested positive may have been taking opioids as a doctor prescribed, and the use of the drug was not necessarily a contributing factor to the vehicle crash.

The study used a sample of 68,394 people who died in a car crash drawing from federal traffic safety data in 18 states. It found people were slightly less likely to test positive for opioids after a state had legalized medical marijuana, which may be prescribed in place of even some prescription painkillers like oxycontin to treat severe or chronic pain.

Advocates for expanding medical marijuana laws say they can reduce the use of prescription painkillers, which are highly addictive and can result in overdose deaths when used incorrectly. Medical marijuana hasn’t been evaluated for efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration, but advocates say it has helped them cope with pain. Prescription painkillers have led to a widespread opioid epidemic in the US, for which overdose deaths reached 28,647 in 2014, including deaths from heroin.

Marijuana, by contrast, has never caused a fatal overdose, Laurel Raymond reported at Marijuana can relieve pain, ease nausea and promote appetite — greatly improving quality of life for patients struggling with chronic pain and diseases such as cancer. According to a 2013 New England Journal of Medicine survey, an overwhelming majority of doctors said they would prescribe it as treatment.

Twenty-five states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, though a handful don’t allow it to be prescribed for pain.

Measures to legalize medical or recreational use of marijuana will be on the ballot in nine states on 11/8: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota.

MEDIA PUSHED RUSSIA, ISIS, TAXES; DOWNPLAYED CLIMATE, POVERTY, CAMPAIGN FINANCE. In the general election debates, the Supreme Court was mentioned about one-quarter as much as Donald Trump’s tax returns and three-quarters as much as Hillary Clinton’s emails, Adam Johnson noted at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (

Russia, ISIS and taxes overwhelmed all other topics during the four presidential and vice-presidential debates, totaling 429 mentions from both candidates and questioners.

Russia (and Putin) alone came up in the four debates 178 times, more than national debt/entitlements, Social Security, the Supreme Court, race/racism, education, abortion, drugs, poverty, LGBTQ people, climate change, campaign finance/Citizens United and the environment combined, with the latter topics totaling 164 mentions.

Clinton’s emails were mentioned less than half as often as Trump’s tax returns (30 vs. 80 mentions), but still more than topics such as Social Security, the Supreme Court and education.

Domestic issues that were mentioned somewhat frequently were immigration, police brutality/race, and Obamacare. Immigration is obviously a hot button issue given Trump’s calls to forcefully cleanse 11 mln largely Latino immigrants from the US.

Police violence was asked about twice and mentioned 20 times, almost certainly due to sustained activism from Black Lives Matter organizers. The framing of the issues from the moderators, however, was center-right in nature, using the false-parity language of “race relations” instead of “racism,” and “racial tension” in lieu of “white supremacy.” Vice-presidential debate moderator Elaine Quijano framed the question as “Do we ask too much of police officers in this country?” when broaching the subject with Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.

Social Security was mentioned 23 times, but almost always in the context of it being insolvent and needing to be reformed. Indeed, the billionaire-funded Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget was cited as a “nonpartisan” group by both Quijano and Fox’s Chris Wallace, moderator of the third presidential debate, implying its claims were the product of dispassionate number-crunching rather than pro-austerity lobbying. The Pete Peterson-funded think tank was mentioned during the debates as many times as climate change: four.

In the four general election debates, there were no questions about climate change, education/student debt, poverty, drugs, China, the environment, privacy/surveillance, Native American issues, campaign finance or LGBTQ issues. It’s been over eight years since the topic of climate change was brought up by a presidential debate moderator.

Foreign policy leaned heavily towards Russia, with 178 mentions. Iran was mentioned 67 times; Syria (both in the context of Assad and ISIS) was mentioned 71 times, frequently in the context of how much more it should be bombed, with “Assad” mentioned another 31 times. Iraq was mentioned 38 times, often in relation to the decision to invade in 2003.

Mexico came up 17 times, in the context of Trump insisting it was taking US jobs and Clinton noting Trump’s prior racist comments. China was brought up 43 times, mostly by Trump in similar trade-based terms.

Afghanistan, where the US still has 10,000 troops, was mentioned once; Libya, where thousands have been killed in civil wars following the US-led military intervention in 2011, three times. The US-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen wasn’t mentioned once. Israel was mentioned four times in the VP debate but not brought up at all in any of the presidential debates. The United States’ largest trading partner, Canada, was only brought up once—so that Trump could bash single-payer healthcare.

In a count of the topics asked about by the moderators (and, in the “town hall” debate, by audience members), Russia again won out. Including questions about Russia’s relation to the Syrian war, moderators asked a total of seven questions about Russia, five about ISIS and terrorism, and four about tax policy.

After three consecutive debates (and nine in the Democrat primaries) without a question about abortion, Fox’s Wallace finally broached the topic, asking both Clinton and Trump about their views on the subject.

AT LEAST TRUMP MAY END PAUL RYAN’S CAREER. Paul Ryan once was the agenda setter. The mastermind. The man with the plan to unravel the New Deal and nuke the Great Society from orbit. And then, Ian Milhiser noted at (10/24), the GOP’s rank-and-file got other ideas.

A Bloomberg poll of GOP voters on whose view matches their view of what the GOP should stand for found that 51% agreed with Trump 51% and 33% agreed with Ryan.

According to one recent poll, 58% of Republican primary voters view Ryan at least somewhat unfavorably. “Though the Speaker has an almost mystic ability to seduce GOP elites and inside-the-beltway reporters with those dreamy blue eyes, he has lost the confidence of his party’s voters,” Milhiser wrote.

“There are, of course, many factors that contributed to Ryan’s collapse. His gutless response to Trump’s racism and sexism is certainly one of them. Ryan, who continues to endorse Trump even as he refuses to be seen with his party’s standard bearer, is the Aaron Burr of the 2016 election. He waited to see which way the wind would blow. And he is now alone, at home neither with the Trump loyalists nor with the Never Trumpers.

“Lest there be any doubt, there is also a far more deep-seated reason why Ryan is in free-fall. Ryan, despite the mythology that surrounds his charmed career, is bad at politics. He is bad at math. His ideas are bad. And people hate those ideas.

“Paul Ryan misunderstood the fundamental grievances that glue his party together. He allowed existing fissures to become chasms. And, in doing so, he paved the way for Donald Trump’s takeover of the GOP.”

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From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2016

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