Self-Deported Dan Bongino Melts Down

After losing a close race for the Sixth Congressional District, Dan Bongino self-deported to Florida, where this self-proclaimed non-politician has decided to run for Congress again.

It’s not going well.

Showing the cool calm when under fire for which former members of Secret Service are known, Bongino lashed out when a reporter accused him of being a carpetbagger. Apparently, he asked the reporter repeatedly “to carry out a sexual act that is not physically possible” as well as using much other ungentlemanly vocabulary that doesn’t exactly read grace under pressure.

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Montgomery Republicans Now Muslim Baiting

If you’re hoping that Donald Trump falls into the category of “this too shall pass,” you need look no further than the Montgomery County Republican Party to see that Trumpism isn’t an aberration but is the Republican Party.

The Montgomery County Republican Party and 7S have been having a lively debate on Twitter (140 characters being so amenable to thoughtful discussion) about the relative importance of Clinton’s emails versus Trump’s willingness to give Crimea to Putin and his hiring of a campaign manager illegally.

In its desperation to change the subject, the Montgomery GOP resorted to Muslim baiting about longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin:

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They doubled down on this line of attack later:

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In case you’re wondering if these recycled accusations have any merit, here is what Sen. John McCain has to say in response to Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s efforts to scaremonger:

These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.

Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we still aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal, and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.

Our reputations, our character, are the only things we leave behind when we depart this earth, and unjust attacks that malign the good name of a decent and honorable person is not only wrong; it is contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans.

Yet the Montgomery County Republicans continue to promote this scurrilous agitprop.

My twitter response to the Montgomery Republicans:huma3

Help Save Maryland, GOP Push Term Limits

By Adam Pagnucco.

Brad Botwin, Director of the anti-immigration group Help Save Maryland, has sent out the following email promoting term limits.

*****

UPDATE ON THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY TERM LIMIT PETITION – CITIZENS WORKING TOGETHER CAN SUCCEED!

Recent e-mail I received on the status of the Term Limit Petition which will revitalize the MoCo County Council and County Executive if passed this November 2016 by the voters.  The professional politicians are getting nervous!

Dear Concerned Voter:

Thank you for signing the non-partisan term limits petition for Montgomery County.

We did it!  You and nearly 18,000 registered voters in Montgomery County signed the term limits petition (only 10,000 signatures were required).  The signatures were submitted on August 8, which means you’ll be able to vote on the term limits question on the November 2018 general election ballot.   When passed — and we need your vote to pass the measure — it will limit County Council members and the County Executive to serving no more than three consecutive terms, or 12 years.

One week from today, on Wednesday, August 24, you will have an opportunity to support term limits at a Montgomery County Charter Commission hearing.

Here is information about the hearing: http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=16281

In order to testify, you must notify the commission in advance by e-mailing them at: charterreview.commission@montgomerycountymd.gov

If you can’t attend, but still want to convey your support for the term limits petition; email the commission at the same e-mail address in the previous sentence.

If you don’t want to speak out publicly on the 24th, please come to the hearing and stand with your neighbors in support of term limits for the County Council and County Executive.

If you want to know how you can help or need more information, let us know.

Thank you,

Montgomery County Citizens group in support of Term Limits   sohenc@gmail.com

*****

The gmail account above belongs to Sharon Cohen, a member of the Montgomery County Republican Party’s Central Committee.  This reinforces the central role played by both Help Save Maryland and the Republicans in pushing Robin Ficker’s terms limits charter amendment.

The state’s election law requires groups advocating on ballot questions to register with the State Board of Elections and file campaign finance reports.  According to the state’s summary guide on campaign finance laws, “Once the petition process to place a question on the ballot is completed, a ballot issue committee must be formed before money is collected or spent to promote the success or defeat of the ballot issue.”

So far, no committee on Montgomery County term limits has registered with the state.  Hopefully, any group advocating on the issue will obey the law, file reports and show their funding.  Voters may find that information useful as they consider whether to support term limits.

Targeting Navarro


By Adam Pagnucco.

It was the spring of 2008.  Five-term County Council Member Marilyn Praisner, who had represented District 4 since 1990, had passed away and eight candidates were running for her seat.  One of them was a woman.  One of them was a person of color born in another country.

Her name was Nancy Navarro.

At that time, District 4 included most of US-29 north of Downtown Silver Spring to the Howard County border and the areas south of Olney, east of Rockville and north of Wheaton.  It had little in the way of restaurants or shopping.  There was the aging, emptying business district in Burtonsville.  There was the decrepit, asphalt-covered shopping center in Glenmont.  Here and there, small and mid-size retail strips clung to the sides of New Hampshire Avenue and other major roads.  A tiny colony of fast food and lowbrow restaurants had just sprung up on US-29 at Tech Road.  Walkable urban shopping was nowhere to be found.  If residents wanted that, they would have to drive to Downtown Silver Spring to get it.

None of this was an accident.  For years and years, the civic leaders and activists who dominated the district’s politics had worked hard to keep development out.  Mrs. Praisner was their champion.  They regarded development as a bad thing, attracting both traffic and “undesirables.”  But newer residents, including people of color, wanted the restaurants, jobs and shopping that most other people around the county had.  Colesville resident Nancy Navarro was one of them, and soon she became their champion.

Navarro stood out during the 2008 special election, and not just because of her gender and heritage.  The other seven candidates running for Mrs. Praisner’s seat, including her husband Don, adhered to her vision of little or no growth.  (Don Praisner’s campaign slogan was literally “Fulfilling the Vision.”)  Navarro instead talked about the benefits of economic development, such as creating jobs for residents and giving them amenities that they had not previously had.  Navarro was also supported by many in the business and real estate communities and the public employee unions.  None of this sat well with the old guard, who regarded developers as evil and unions as tax-happy.  Navarro quickly became a target.

The March debate at the Aspen Hill library typified the direction of the campaign: nearly every other candidate concentrated their fire on Navarro.  Their attacks centered on the allegation that she was allegedly a “tool” of developers and unions.  (It didn’t help that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast invited union leaders to his house to get them to endorse Navarro.)  But there was more to it than that.  To Navarro’s supporters, the implication of this “tool” argument was that women and people of color were supposedly not intelligent or strong enough to make up their own minds, and that when they made common cause with others, they would inevitably fall under their “control.”  Furthermore, while Don Praisner’s supporters criticized Navarro for taking contributions from developers and businesses, Mrs. Praisner had done the exact same thing for years.  Later, it was revealed that Don Praisner himself accepted money from a property owner in the district seeking redevelopment.

Much of this is par for the course in the rocky world of political campaigns.  After all, opposition to change frequently arises in politics and outrage can be selective.  But with Navarro on the ballot, it mutated into something far darker: a toxic stew of racism and xenophobia.  Don Praisner defeated Navarro in the 2008 Democratic primary and would serve on the council for less than a year before he passed away.  When Navarro returned to run again in the 2009 special election, the forces of extremism were prepared.

First came the illegal anonymous robocalls, a repeat of a tactic used against Navarro in 2008.  Then came rumors circulated both on-line and off linking Navarro (who was born in Venezuela) to the Hugo Chavez regime.  Help Save Maryland, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “nativist extremist group,” began targeting Navarro for her alleged support of “illegal aliens.”  Their challenge to Navarro was posted on a racist website equating President Obama to Satan.

Most bizarre of all was an email sent to Navarro’s campaign asking about her immigration status.  The author wrote, “I am informally involved with a group of Independents and we are trying to identify a candidate that we feel comfortable endorsing. It would be great if you could put the rumors to rest and provide information as to when (what year) and where, which state, Ms. Navarro received her naturalization or citizenship. Thank you.”  In fact, the author – who used a fake name – was a GOP activist who wrote for the party and had testified against drivers licenses for illegal immigrants.

Robin Ficker was involved too.  The 2008 GOP nominee, Mark Fennel, was a Ficker protégé, had spread the Hugo Chavez rumors and threatened to unleash “the Dogs of War” on Navarro.  In 2009, Ficker “moved” to District 4 to run for the seat and promptly began sending out illegal flyers.  During a televised campaign debate, Ficker waved a set of decade-old tax liens against Navarro and her husband in his opponent’s face.  Ficker did not use Help Save Maryland’s race-baiting tactics directly, but he did not repudiate them either.

Given this history, it’s no surprise that Help Save Maryland’s participation in Ficker’s term limits initiative was spurred in part by a desire to knock off Navarro.  The group has never made its peace with Navarro’s election and has sent out numerous emails slamming her over the years.  Supporters of term limits have many motivations, but Help Save Maryland is quite clear about theirs: they want to slam the county’s gates shut to “illegal aliens.”

Will any of this make a difference in the current debate over term limits?  Probably not.  Few voters have heard of Help Save Maryland and understand what the group believes.  Even Ficker is less infamous now that his NBA heckling days are mostly over.  In any event, voters are more likely to see term limits through the prism of their own perceived self-interest rather than how they impact specific elected officials.

But make no mistake: the treatment of Nancy Navarro during the 2009 special election is a shameful blot on the county’s political history.  It must not be forgotten.  It must not be repeated.  And hopefully, her successors will be treated with the honor and respect that all upstanding candidates deserve.

Maryland Republican Party Ashamed of Trump

The relationship between Donald Trump and the Maryland Republican Party is the love that dare not speak its name. Donald Trump is all but an unperson on the Maryland Republican Party twitter account, @mdreps.

The Maryland GOP would rather pretend their presidential nominee doesn’t exist. @mdreps hasn’t mentioned Donald Trump since the Republican Convention. Indeed, “Trump” has appeared a mere five times @mdreps since the Maryland Republican Primary, including the following tweet on primary night:

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Next up, from the Republican salad days:

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Video received from a Trump voter in honor of this tweet:

The following is the only tweet in which the Maryland Republican Party expresses direct approval of Trump:

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Though Trump gets mentioned in the next tweet only in the cited article description, it’s worth a mention if only because the Maryland Republican Party’s own words, “It’s about ideas, not race,” are as Orwellian as they come.

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The next day they retweeted an innocuous shout out to the Republican delegation in Cleveland that copied Trump.

In short, you’d never guess that the a thumping majority of Maryland Republicans support Donald Trump.  There is not one picture. No tweets proudly touting his latest utterance.

I imagine some Republicans will claim they’re just too focused on state issues to mention Trump. Except that you may’ve noticed that their logo is a “Stop Hillary” sign. Maryland Republicans also have no problem using @mdreps to attack Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

The lack of Trump mentions is really a good sign. Shame is the right emotion if Donald Trump is your party’s nominee. Let’s hope the second stage of grief for the party entails repudiation.

 

How to End the Monopoly and Recover the Money

By Adam Pagnucco.

In the latest development in the county’s continuing liquor monopoly saga, the County Executive has established a task force to explore options for scaling back or eliminating the monopoly.  One condition applies: the monopoly earns money for the county and the Executive does not want to lose it.  Last February, he told Bethesda Magazine, “I have no problem with privatization per se, but we need to make sure the county’s residents and taxpayers are protected on the financial issue.”

That’s a reasonable point of view.  Here’s a proposal to End the Monopoly without taking a financial hit.

First, let’s recall that the goal of last winter’s End the Monopoly campaign was never to abolish the Department of Liquor Control (DLC).  Rather, we were seeking to allow private sector competition with the DLC at both the wholesale and retail levels.  Licensees would be able to buy from the county, private wholesalers or both and consumers would be able to buy all beverages, including spirits, from county stores, private stores or both.  That does not mean that DLC would get wiped out.  Indeed, it has one competitive advantage that no private wholesaler has: it is a one-stop shop for all alcoholic beverages.  Some licensees are willing to tolerate DLC’s problems in return for the convenience of dealing with one bill and one truck.  DLC’s Acting Director claims that their performance is improving and the county employee union President told the latest meeting of the task force that he has spoken to dozens of retailers who wish to stay with DLC.  If they are correct, private competition will not eliminate DLC, but it could reduce its revenues.

The closest relevant example to what would happen if DLC were exposed to competition is Worcester County, Maryland, which opened up its spirits monopoly in 2014.  Worcester’s DLC Director testified to the MoCo Delegation that within a year, the county had lost 42% of its wholesale business to private competition but had kept 96% of its retail business.  Now Worcester County’s monopoly was run far more poorly than MoCo’s DLC as it was found guilty of massive violations of state law back in 2010, so MoCo’s DLC could fare much better with competition.  But for the sake of argument, let’s use its experience as a starting point.

Any analysis of what would happen to MoCo’s DLC under competition must recognize that the liquor monopoly makes two payments to the county: a direct return to its general fund and debt service paid on bonds guaranteed by liquor profits.  Potential shortfalls in both those areas must be addressed.

The General Fund

DLC’s operating profits, projected to be $20.7 million in FY17, are paid directly into the county’s general fund.  That amount accounts for 0.4% of the county’s $5.3 billion operating budget.  What would happen to those profits if the private sector were allowed to compete with DLC?  According to the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight, DLC’s FY14 revenues were split pretty evenly between wholesale ($136 million) and retail ($127 million) operations.  If Worcester County’s experience occurred in MoCo, 42% of the wholesale revenue and 4% of the retail revenue would be at risk from competition, so DLC’s total revenue would decline by 24%.  If DLC’s operating costs scale with its operating revenues, its net income would fall by $5 million.

How do we make up that money?

First, the county could open up more county liquor stores.  (Indeed, it is already doing so.)  In FY13, the county earned $795,000 in annual gross profit per liquor store.  So if that gross profit figure still holds, seven new liquor stores could cover a $5 million gap.

Second, new tax revenues will be available in a world of competition.  The state’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates released a report last year finding that if DLC were completely abolished, $22.8 million in tax revenues would be generated, mostly from customer repatriation.  (That is actually larger than DLC’s return to the county’s general fund.)  The problem is that only $1.8 million would accrue to the county in local income taxes, while the rest would go to the state (primarily through sales taxes).  The solution is to have the state share its incremental revenue increase with the county for a period of time.  After all, if the county is giving up a financial asset, it should share in the returns from that.

A formula could be constructed that ties incremental increases in state revenue from alcohol sales in MoCo to DLC’s reduced income.  For example, in Year X, if DLC earns $5 million less than its baseline and the state earns $6 million more than its baseline, up to $5 million could be returned to the county.  The formula should cap returned receipts to the county at the amount that the state gains so that the state doesn’t lose money.  And it could be temporary and transitional since at some point MoCo would be expected to behave like nearly all other counties in the nation and pay its bills with no liquor monopoly.

The math is clear: it’s entirely possible for the county to suffer no net losses at no cost to the state with incremental revenue sharing and a few more liquor stores.

The Bonds

The county has issued three tranches of revenue bonds guaranteed by liquor profits, the last of which matures in FY33.  The outstanding balance on the bonds is $114 million as of June 30, 2014 and DLC is projected to pay $10.9 million in debt service on them in the current fiscal year.  If the liquor profits available to pay for these bonds were to disappear, another source of revenue must be found to replace them.

Such a revenue source can be easily found in the county’s budget: county cable franchise fees.  Federal law allows local jurisdictions to charge cable companies in return for using public right-of-way.  The maximum amount allowed by federal law – 5% of cable bills – is contained in the franchise agreements the county negotiates with Verizon, Comcast and RCN.  Because cable bills rise every year, the county gets more money out of this as time passes.  Also, because this money is unencumbered by DLC’s employee and capital expenses, it is not subject to cost changes like DLC’s profits are.  Cable franchise fees are actually a more stable revenue source to guarantee bonds than are liquor profits.

According to the county’s cable budget, the county is projected to collect $17.7 million in cable franchise fees in FY17.  Of this amount, $3.8 million is passed on to the Cities of Rockville and Takoma Park and the Maryland Municipal League in compensation for use of municipal rights of way, leaving $13.9 million available.  The county has obtained legal advice holding that the county can do virtually whatever it wants with the 5% cable franchise fees.

How is the cable money currently spent?  Most of it is given out to the PEG (public/education/ government) TV channels.  The two largest are the county’s in-house news channel, County Cable Montgomery, and the non-profit Montgomery Community Media, which is also financed by private sector contributions.  The problem is that no one knows how many people actually watch this programming.  The huge majority of their YouTube clips get a few dozen views each at best.  Is this truly worth millions of dollars of public money?

The county could easily retire its current liquor bonds and replace them with new bonds that are guaranteed by both liquor profits and cable franchise fees.  Liquor profits would be the first source of debt service payment, with any shortfall covered by cable fees as a supplement.  Even if liquor profits entirely disappear, the $13.9 million in annual cable fees – an amount that has been growing steadily for years – could cover the $11 million in annual debt service by themselves.  And over the long term, this arrangement would be temporary as the bonds will eventually be paid off.

There you have it.  Through a combination of a few more stores, incremental revenue sharing with the state and restructuring of the liquor bonds, the county could free itself from its liquor monopoly with no significant financial consequences.  No new taxes or fees are necessary.  And the county would see the creation of new jobs, more income, more economic activity and greater competitiveness with its neighbors as a result.

It’s a huge opportunity.  Will Montgomery County go for it?

Where the Purple Line Goes from Here

In the wake of District Court Judge’s Richard Leon’s decision that the Purple Line Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to take into account ongoing Metro problems in their ridership estimates, the defendants have several different options.

First, defendants can produce the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) required by the District Court. According to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), this would set the project back by six months and could unravel the public-private partnership. I suspect that this is hyperbole and that MTA would manage to do it more quickly, though the study would need to be substantial enough to satisfy Judge Leon.

Alternatively, the defendants can appeal. Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn has said that Maryland will appeal the ruling. Except that the decision about any appeal rests with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Justice Department, as the federal government is the defendant in the lawsuit.

As a first step towards any appeal, the federal government would need to seek a stay of Judge Leon’s ruling. The decision on any request for a stay would be a critical moment. If appellants win their request, the Purple Line could continue to proceed even as the appeal moves forward.

In order to receive a stay, the federal government would like have to show substantial, irreparable harm from a delay and the appellate court would have to deem them likely to win their appeal. In my view, the first condition would not be hard to demonstrate. The second point also strikes me as winnable, if only because NEPA suits tend to fail. But I’m not a lawyer–I don’t even play one on TV–and the Judge’s decision increases uncertainty.

Whether they are granted a stay or not, MTA and FTA would most likely wisely start to produce an SEIS so that they are prepared regardless of the outcome of the appeal. If FTA wins an appeal, they won’t need it but the money is small beans in comparison to the overall cost of the project. The appeals process could well take longer to conclude than an SEIS.

Regardless of the outcome, Judge Leon’s decision has highlighted MTA’s flat unwillingness to produce information on how it calculated Purple Line ridership. In effect, this biased and politicized agency is saying “trust me” to the public on this enormously expensive project–eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s “believe me.” Even the ardently pro-PL Washington Post acknowledged this fundamental issue in its editorial decrying the decision:

Granted, Maryland transit officials have not been sufficiently transparent about how they arrived at ridership numbers. And if their estimates for the Purple Line fall short of forecasts, it could prompt the state to raid other revenue sources to pay off the project’s construction debt.

Additionally, Purple Line advocates are in the uncomfortable position of explaining (1) their utter faith that Metro ridership will rise even though it has declined for several years despite strong regional growth, (2) why we should believe that the trend toward telecommuting and biking, which they use to explain the decline, will cease, and (3) why Metro’s deep problems will be solved anytime soon, despite the recent derailment of the brand new Silver Line.

Morella Endorses Clinton

Unlike Trump enablers Senate Candidate Kathy Szeliga or Rep. Andy Harris (R-1), former Rep. Connie Morella (R-8) prefers to support the presidential candidate who isn’t a raging racist narcissist willing to say anything to attract higher ratings. In short, Connie Morella (R-08) has endorsed Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton has the knowledge, the experience, and the commitment to lead our country as president and Commander in Chief.  She will reach out to every segment of our society to move our country forward.  I have seen her work across the aisle to get things done and I know her lifelong commitment to families and children. Unlike her opponent, she will not divide, bully, or dismiss us.  She is the right choice in this election and I wholeheartedly support her – and urge my fellow Republicans to look at the choice before them and do the same.

Hogan Takes $25 Million from Schools but Gives $20 Million to Northrup Grumman

Governor Larry Hogan has refused to spend $25.1 million that the General Assembly allocated toward education. Apparently, this is because he’s piqued that the legislature did not give the discretion on how to spend the money.

Among the $25.1 million is $6.1 million that would have gone to fixing aging schools. Governor Hypocrite has made a cause célèbre of bringing air conditioning more quickly to Baltimore schools but is uninterested in upgrades when he’s not at the center of headlines or they were the legislature’s idea.

An additional $19 million would have helped local school systems cover the cost of employee pensions, allowing them to free up the money to improve education. Hogan said no.

Instead, Hogan is giving $20 million to Northrup Grumman in a huge dollop of corporate welfare. Avowedly, this bribe to Northrup Grumman is to “retain” 10,000 new jobs in Maryland. Except that the fine print of the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) report reveals that NG is not required to create a single job to get the money.

Bad idea for so many reasons beyond the Trumpian “believe me” approach. First, Northrup Grumman won’t release the taxes it pays to the State, so we don’t even know the benefits. Does NG pay any taxes to the Maryland? Apparently, “don’t ask, don’t tell” has finally found a new home at NG.

Second, unlike some corporations, Northrup Grumman can’t easily move. It has a complex, heavy plant that would be very expensive to rebuild or relocate. The jobs require high skill workers who aren’t going to move or be replaced if NG up and moves to low tax Kansas or Louisiana. Most important, they do a lot of secret work for the federal government and it is very helpful to be near DC.

Third, and perhaps worst of all, the General Assembly already gave Northrup Grumman a $37.5 million tax credit in the past session with the Governor’s enthusiastic backing. So the total amount that NG is receiving at the trough in $62.5 $57.5 million. Yet Hogan won’t release $25 million more appropriated to the schools.

Finally, corporate welfare is a bad idea that both Democrats and Republicans should loathe. Democrats should dislike it because its a giveaway to the wealthy. Republicans should hate it even more, as another government expenditure and market-distorting industrial policy. Businesses should compete on a level playing field.

Maryland is never going to compete for business as the cheapest destination. Here’s a novel idea for Gov. Hogan’s consideration: let’s continue to invest in education so that our citizens remain the best prepared and most competitive in the nation, so we can attract good jobs on our merits rather than cash.

No, Hillary is Not the “Weakest Democratic Nominee”

Can we please dispense with the horsepucky même that Hillary Clinton is theweakest Democratic nominee” and Donald Trump is theonlyRepublican that Clinton could beat?

Hillary Clinton and, for that matter, the Democratic Party have strengths that would come into play against any Republican candidate. Any Republican who thinks that their party’s weaknesses end with Trump is in denial. But today I focus on Clinton.

You Cannot Knock this Woman Down.

When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she endured endless brutal direct questioning about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and her marriage. For a time, she trailed Republican Rick Lazio in the polls. Anyone who came through that is not going to be knocked down by the likes of her blowhard opponent.

Hard Working and Knowledgeable

During the 2000 campaign, Clinton visited town after town in upstate New York. Her understanding of not just the general problems of the region but of specific issues in each town surprised people, as did her sustained interest. Clinton did far better than usual by Democrats there.

Recent Deft Political Moves

So much criticism has surrounded Hillary Clinton that it is easy to miss some of her best political moves. In particular, she has somehow managed to reach out to the left of her party and the center of the electorate simultaneously–gymnastic skills unlikely to be seen at the upcoming Olympiad.

Handling Sanders

Clinton’s handling of Sanders showed who is the shrewd deal maker in this election. Facing unremitting intense criticism from hardline Bernie supporters and Bernie’s own reluctance to endorse her, Clinton kept her cool and didn’t look petulant or lash out.

Instead, she worked hard to bring Bernie Sanders and his supporters into the tent. Behind the scenes, she courted Sanders and their key staffers built a strong relationship. Her major concessions on the platform were either changes that the electorate will like–raising the minimum wage–or do not necessarily care about or understand very well–single payer health care.

While a statement of party principles and policy, the platform now serves mainly as a potential source of embarrassment for nominees. John McCain disowned the GOP platform in 2008. In the end, platforms don’t matter much when they meet the political reality of passing legislation. Anyone remember either the Clinton or the Obama healthcare plans from 2008?

Picking Kaine

Clinton named Kaine as her veep nominee, despite intense pressure to choose someone who was either more left wing, African American, Latino, or a woman. But Kaine’s excellent roll out mostly overrode those objections.

Smart and strong. Candidates look more presidential when they don’t cave and when they make a good decision. Most critically, Kaine is ready to step into the presidency if necessary–the key qualification for a vice president and voters know it. Purist grumbling aside, Kaine is a solid liberal.

Politically, Clinton needs to motivate African American, Asian American and Latino voters but she didn’t need a veep choice to do it. The Obamas are all in for Clinton–a big help among African Americans. No one doubts that Trump will stimulate members of three groups to vote.

The swing vote is largely about whites this year. Like Biden, Kaine helps here. Every time another reporter calls Kaine the “dad jeans” of politics, I’m sure somewhere Clinton is smiling. It’s a direct pitch to the swingy suburbanite vote. Kaine also has extremely strong ties to the African-American and Latino communities in his state.

Staying Out of the Way

One of the cardinal rules of politics is to stay out of way when your opponent is in the process of destroying himself. Leaving aside the astonishingly bad idea of going on FOX with Chris Wallace, a seasoned reporter on a hostile network, Clinton has not dominated or tried to dominate the news cycle over the past few days, allowing Trump to implode with some nice assists from the Khan family, a crying baby and himself.

Organized and Decisive

The Democratic Convention was a well-organized affair that provided a nice reintroduction to Clinton and the Democrats. When the Wasserman Schultz scandal broke, the campaign dealt with it decisively so it didn’t dominate the media for days like Melania Trump’s speech. Smart.

Clinton is also not taking voter turnout for granted. Along with a variety of organizations, the campaign is working hard to do the less flashy job of turning out the core Democratic vote, especially among African Americans and Latinos.

Making a Weakness a Strength

Hillary Clinton is not a great speaker. Maybe it results from gender bias but I can’t help but notice that Michelle Obama gave a speech for the ages at the same convention. Even if it is unfair, it just is and complaining looks whiny (see Trump at any given moment).

I loved how Clinton turned it around and made the case that having a grind as president might not be the worst thing in the world when it’s time to make decisions even if eloquence is not her strength. She drew a useful contrast with her domineering opponent.

Women win executive posts at low rates precisely because they are unfairly stereotyped as people who are fair and handle process well but are not leaders. Yet Clinton managed to communicate that she cares more without looking less commanding in spite of her flat style.

Put another way, Clinton presented herself as calm and caring but Trump as an overly emotional bully. No mean feat for the author of “It Takes a Village” to turn the tables on the “author” of “The Art of the Deal.”

 

Yup, Republicans can keep believing that they would win if only they had nominated someone else. That bit of denial would be a fine start toward giving Hillary Clinton a second term.

Maryland Politics Watch

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