President Trump enthusiastically endorsed Roy Moore this morning, describing him as a “great guy” who will help to realize Trump’s goal of making America great:
There is a Democratic candidate who is running against Moore (who prevailed in yesterday’s GOP primary runoff against Trump’s first choice, Luther Strange) in the Dec. 12 special election. He is Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who won the conviction of two members of the Ku Klux Klan who murdered four girls in a 1963 church bombing. Jones is running on a platform that includes more spending on education and opposition to tax cuts for the rich and to cuts to the safety net. Will national Democrats seriously contest the race?
I spoke this morning with Jones’s senior strategist and media consultant, Joe Trippi. He said the Jones campaign would frame the coming contest as one “about integrity and character.”
“People in Alabama want a senator they can take pride in,” Trippi told me. “They don’t want to be embarrassed by Roy Moore.”
Trippi noted that Moore had been removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice by a judicial ethics panel for defying the court order on the Ten Commandments’ monument; after running again and winning, Moore was suspended again by the panel after defying the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
“Having a senator you can take pride in is going to matter,” Trippi said, adding that Jones would campaign as someone who is “not throwing zingers out there every five minutes” and who is not a “stunt senator” or an “ideologue,” but rather “is actually going to listen to the other side and get things done. There’s no way Roy Moore is going to do that.”
When I asked him if Jones would go directly at Moore’s long history of anti-gay bigotry, Trippi said: “We’ll let Moore speak for himself. Doug Jones is going to be talking about jobs, health care, moving the country forward and uniting people, not dividing them.”
Trump beat Clinton in Alabama by nearly 30 points in 2016, which would seem to mean that Moore is still the heavy favorite against Jones. But there is still a reasonable case for national Democrats to invest at least to some degree in the race. Moore’s lawlessness, anti-gay fanaticism and support for a profoundly regressive flat tax call for Democrats to respond aggressively and show where they stand as a party. Plus, special elections are quirky, and a former U.S. attorney running against Moore has at least the chance of winning over some center-right voters who are uncomfortable with Moore’s various crusades.
National Democrats tell me they will make the decision how to approach the race after a number of questions have been answered. What does the quality head-to-head polling look like? Is Moore capable of running a normal campaign and presiding over a functional organization? How badly has Moore been damaged among independents — and less conservative and non-evangelical Republicans who backed Strange — by the massive ad campaign that the GOP establishment bankrolled against him? Is there some route for Jones, in an unpredictable special election, if he can cobble together enough African Americans and less-conservative whites, and if turnout under-performs on the other side?
* REPUBLICANS WILL UNVEIL BIG TAX CUT, PUT OFF TOUGH DECISIONS: The Post reports that congressional Republicans are set to unveil a plan for $5 trillion in tax cuts, to be paid for by the elimination of numerous tax breaks. But those will be specified later:
By refusing to specify … which tax breaks could be jettisoned, GOP leaders make a calculated effort to try to postpone any backlash while they try to build a coalition … But they plan to lean heavily into promising Americans that the tax changes will lead to a wave of economic growth that will spur new jobs and better wages. Trump told a group of Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday the tax framework could lead the economy to grow more than 6 percent a year, more than double what even his advisers had hoped for, and a view that many economists believe is preposterous.
And needless to say, this 6 percent growth will easily generate the revenues necessary to pay for the tax cuts, and then some! (Actually, none of that will happen.)
* AMERICANS EXPECT TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH: A new CNN poll finds:
Asked about the impact of a reform effort led by Trump …about four in 10 say they expect taxes for the middle class to rise, while just 25% say middle class taxes will drop. Likewise, more Americans think their own personal taxes would go up under this effort than drop (34% to 21%). More see tax decreases on the horizon for big businesses (47% say so) and for the wealthy (42%).
Just wait until Republicans start telling Americans about the spectacular growth that tax cuts for the rich and businesses will unleash. Oh, wait, they’ve been doing that for decades.
* LARGE MAJORITIES OPPOSE TRUMP ON IMMIGRATION: More important findings from the new CNN poll:
The poll finds most Americans oppose each of the major initiatives Trump has backed on immigration since taking office: 82% say they want the policy known as DACA to continue, 63% oppose building a wall along the entire border with Mexico, and 55% say they oppose changes in federal law to reduce the number of immigrants who enter the country legally.
But Stephen K. Bannon told me that a large silent majority of Americans is cheering on Trump’s immigration crackdown and that only squeamish elites are protesting it.
* GOP MAY HAVE TOUGH TIME REVISITING REPEAL: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is vowing to revisit repeal at some point, but the New York Times explains why this could be tough, at least in the short term:
But that could be months away — if not years. The tax effort will probably occupy Congress … into next year. After tackling the tax overhaul, Republicans could make another attempt … But such an undertaking would require passing yet another budget blueprint, in order to protect the bill from a Democratic filibuster, and it would put health care front and center as lawmakers head into the midterm elections.
Good luck running in the midterms in the midst of yet another effort to gut coverage for millions, Republicans.
* A BIG DAY ON HEALTH CARE: Today is the deadline for insurance companies to set their 2018 prices for plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt explains what’s at stake:
Trump still won’t say whether he’ll continue paying the cost-sharing reductions, and we have already seen large premium hikes that are the direct result of this sabotage, which is rooted in nothing but spite.
* TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN STILL UP IN THE AIR: The Post reports that in a meeting with House Democrats, Trump appeared to back off his plan to seek a mix of private-public financing of infrastructure repair, saying private financing won’t work. Via Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.):
At the meeting Tuesday, Higgins said Trump indicated the administration instead would seek to pay for infrastructure upgrades through direct federal spending — either by paying for projects with new tax revenue or taking on debt. Such an approach would probably limit the scope of the initiative to a fraction of what the president has described.
Democrats would like to see a genuine public investment, but a large one looks unlikely. It’s shocking that this economic component of Trump’s “economic nationalism” has yet to materialize, isn’t it?