THE MORNING PLUM:
Even as a new round of stories alleging inappropriate conduct have just landed with a thud on Roy Moore, Senate GOP leaders are floating yet another scheme to deal with this problem: postponing the election. But in an interview with an Alabama news outlet, the governor of the state has shut down that plan, too.
Which means the GOP’s Moore nightmare just got a whole lot worse. Indeed, there are also signs this saga is beginning to seep into some of the 2018 Senate races, which will help decide control of the upper chamber. In fact, it’s not impossible that Moore could remain a liability for Republicans for years.
Politico reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his top advisers are privately discussing whether it would be legally feasible to get Luther Strange, the currently appointed Senator occupying Jeff Sessions’s former seat, to resign, in hopes that this would trigger a new special election.
But Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), in an interview with AL.com, knocked down that idea. “The election date is set for Dec. 12,” Ivey said, adding that if Strange did resign, “I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on Dec. 12.” Meanwhile, election law expert Rick Hasen explains why the scheme would probably violate the 17th Amendment.
The idea is likely a nonstarter, but what’s really significant here is that the machinations reveal a deepening GOP desperation to get rid of Moore. Pretty much every option appears to be a bad one. Republicans might try to get Sessions to wage a write-in candidacy, but he isn’t interested, and any such effort might split the GOP vote, enabling Democrat Doug Jones to prevail. If Republicans did get Moore to step down, his name would remain on the ballot, complicating any write-in candidacy even in that scenario.
As I’ve argued, the most feasible way for Republicans to retain this seat is for Moore to win the race in spite of GOP demands that he quit, and for the Senate to expel him so he can be replaced via another special election. But this scenario also has major downsides for the GOP. That’s because expulsion proceedings would be uncertain and would create a major media circus next year, just as the 2018 Senate races are heating up.
Indeed, a Democrat points out to me that the Moore saga is already spilling into those races and exacerbating the ongoing GOP civil war between McConnell and Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump adviser who is championing Moore. Attention to Moore’s escapades is putting pressure on GOP candidates in some primaries to condemn him, but they are declining, apparently out of fear of alienating GOP base voters.
In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally, who wants to run against Bannon-backed Kelli Ward (who has described Moore as an inspiration), is under pressure from the local press to comment on Moore, but so far she has said nothing. In Ohio, Josh Mandel, who is hoping to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), has also remained silent on Moore. In Nevada, Danny Tarkanian, the Bannon-backed challenger to GOP Sen. Dean Heller, has defended Moore by claiming there should be no rush to judgment.
If Moore wins, which remains a real possibility, and circus-like expulsion proceedings begin next year, large swaths of the Trumpist GOP base may rally around Moore, intensifying the difficulties faced by GOP candidates. Democrats believe this could resonate in suburban areas, particularly among women, which will partly decide some of these contests. To be sure, this probably wouldn’t be that big a factor. But the Democrats’ smashing victories in Virginia showed that suburban and college-educated whites are energized bigly against Trumpism. And a massive Moore circus — one whose resolution isn’t even clear, since Moore might not end up getting expelled — won’t help matters for Republicans.
Which leads to a question: If Senate GOP leaders were faced with a straight-up choice between losing a Senate seat on the one side, and serving alongside accused serial teen-targeting sexual predator Moore on the other, which would they pick? I have not seen this question answered. Presumably Republicans want to preserve the seat at all costs, because losing it seriously imperils their agenda. But even as Moore is creating terrible press for the GOP, it’s unlikely he would be a reliable vote for the GOP agenda in any case. Bottom line: Right now, the real question is not whether Republicans will be stuck with Moore, but for how long they’ll be stuck with him.
* FOUR MORE WOMEN ACCUSE MOORE OF ADVANCES: The New York Times reports on four new women, aged 18 to 28 at the time, who are now accusing Moore of encounters:
They complained of being groped, forcibly kissed or subjected to unwanted advances. One of them, Becky Gray, now 62, a retired teacher living in Gadsden, Ala., said in an interview that she was puzzled by Mr. Moore’s repeated overtures when she worked in the Gadsden Mall. “I just couldn’t figure out why a man of his age spent every Friday and Saturday at the mall,” said Ms. Gray, who was then in her late teens or early 20s.
The total number of women making such charges is now nine. And the anti-Moore conspiracy between godless liberal elites and the media continues to grow.
* MOORE CALLED ONE YOUNG WOMAN AT HER SCHOOL: The Post relays this striking detail about one of those four women, Gena Richardson, who had previously refused to give Moore her home number:
A few days later, she says, she was in trigonometry class at Gadsden High when she was summoned to the principal’s office over the intercom in her classroom. She had a phone call. “I said ‘Hello?’ ” Richardson recalls. “And the male on the other line said, ‘Gena, this is Roy Moore.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m in trig class.’ ”
Moore (allegedly) was nothing if not persistent.
* TAX PLAN FAVORS TRUMP STATES: The House GOP tax plan nixes most state and local deductions, hitting higher-taxed states harder. Jim Tankersley reports on a new analysis by Carl Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington:
The House bill would raise personal taxes on Californians and New Yorkers by a combined $16 billion in 2027, Mr. Davis found, while cutting personal taxes on Texans and Floridians by more than $30 billion in total. … “It’s not unusual for a tax bill to have varying impacts in different parts of the country,” Mr. Davis said. “But the degree to which this bill makes winners and losers out of different states is remarkable.”
Tankersley notes this will produce “a large geographic transfer of income.” That is, from weenie coastal elite liberal states to Real America.
* HOPE HICKS SEEN AS KEY TO RUSSIA PROBE: Politico reports that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team is set to interview Hope Hicks, who has long been close to the president, suggesting the probe is reaching a critical point:
As a senior White House adviser and now as communications director, she’s been in the room for moments critical to Mueller’s probe … She also is one of the few people well positioned to recount the president’s reactions at various moments as the Russia scandal has sidetracked his presidency — including the Mueller appointment itself.
One imagines Hicks was present for some of President Trump’s private outbursts over the Russia probe leading up to the firing of his FBI director, and perhaps about moving against Mueller, too.
* GOP GOVERNORS FEAR 2018 WIPEOUT: CNN reports that Republican governors fear that the GOP’s big loss in Virginia portends a wave that could wipe them out in many races next year:
The party is defending 26 governor’s offices in next year’s elections — including some in blue states. … Backlash against President Donald Trump has led to a spike in Democratic fundraising and energized the party’s base. The allegations facing Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore threaten to damage the party’s national brand. And the GOP-controlled Congress has not yet delivered on any of its major legislative promises.
If Democrats win back a bunch of governor’s mansions, that could affect everything from the future of the Affordable Care Act to climate policy to redistricting of the House map for the next decade.
* A DEAL IS CLOSE ON GUNS: NBC News reports that Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) are close to a deal on legislation that would patch up a hole in the background check system:
The bill … would incentivize states to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check system to ensure all background check information is uploaded. … [It includes] asking federal agencies and states to produce plans to upload and verify the criminal and mental health records necessary to bar unfit purchasers from buying a weapon. The bill would also create incentives like grants for states that comply with the uploading requirements.
Given that ambitious action is impossible with today’s GOP, any incremental advances — and any acknowledgement at all that we should act to fix background checks — counts as something.
* AND ONCE AGAIN, IT COMES DOWN TO A FEW GOP SENATORS: E.J. Dionne Jr. lists all the horrors in the GOP tax plan — the punishing of blue states, the scrapping of the mandate, the rushed process, the explicit rewarding of big donors, the lies — and concludes:
We are told that there still are responsible Republicans. … Well, responsible Republicans, your time has come. You have the power to say a loud no to cavalier, partisan legislating; no to budgetary folly; no to wrecking the health-care law; and no to a bill that would impose real sacrifice on your constituents down the road. Yes, you’ll enrage your colleagues. But history will treat you better.
Just as with the health-care debacle, it all comes down to whether three GOP senators will not succumb to the deep rot of bad faith consuming their party.