We’ll start today with two paragraphs from the Cincinnati Enquirer, which notes that, through a purloined email, it has learned that the campaign of Donald Trump still hasn’t established a ground game in Hamilton County (home to Cincinnati), a key county in a swing state no Republican presidential candidate can do without:
The campaign has yet to find or appoint key local leaders or open a campaign office in the county and isn't yet sure which Hamilton County Republican party's central committee members are allied with the Republican presidential nominee.
"If they are against us, we just need to know," wrote Missy Mae Walters, Southwest Ohio regional coordinator for the campaign.
Why might that be important? In today’s edition of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, one of our favorite prognosticators, Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz, reports that his presidential prediction model actually gives Trump a slight edge come November.
The trouble is, Abramowitz doesn’t believe his own machine. He writes:
Beyond the poll results, the Time for Change forecasting model is based on two crucial assumptions — first, that both major parties will nominate mainstream candidates capable of unifying their parties and, second, that the candidates will conduct equally effective campaigns so that the overall outcome will closely reflect the “fundamentals” incorporated in the model….
The nomination of Trump by the Republican Party in 2016 appears to violate both of the Time for Change model’s key assumptions. Trump is clearly not a mainstream Republican and he does not appear to be running a competent campaign — he has lagged far behind Clinton in both fundraising and grassroots organizing in the swing states, and his rhetoric on the campaign trail has frequently brought sharp criticism from prominent Republicans as well as Democrats…
Crystal Ball’s editors acknowledge that it’s unusual for an academic to immediately disavow the product of his own research, but they add this:
…Abramowitz’s model is one more indication that a generic Republican very well could have been the favorite in 2016 — and that if Trump comes back to win the election, it might be because certain “fundamentals” (like the state of the economy and the president’s approval rating, which Abramowitz’s model stresses) indicated that the country was ready for a change.
Because checking this has almost become a daily habit:
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is headed to Georgia on Monday on a fundraising trip -- something very much expected. What's become unusual: Seeing all these Georgia Republicans unabashedly supporting the same guy:
The Board of Regents is technically an independent arm of state government, but let there be no doubt that Gov. Nathan Deal sanctioned the decision to replace outgoing Chancellor Hank Huckaby with Steve Wrigley – on an interim basis at least.
“He has dutifully served the University System, the Board of Regents and the state as chancellor since 2011. I cannot think of a stronger candidate than Steve to replace Hank and lead our University System,” read a statement from the governor shortly after Huckaby announced his retirement.
The question that now looms is whether Wrigley is a candidate for the post on a permanent basis. The governor has shown he likes internal candidates – he also endorsed Huckaby in 2011 when he became the first in-state chancellor hired by the Regents in more than two decades.
Atlanta’s south side has always had a reputation for producing sensitive leadership. Something to click on, from our AJC colleague Chris Joyner:
There won’t be an arts festival in College Park this fall, in large part because somebody was mean to the long-serving mayor.
In a council meeting in June, Mayor Jack Longino cast the deciding vote against the festival, saying he was blocking the event because organizers campaigned against him in last year’s election.
“I think that sometimes the do-gooders in this city need to figure out where you want to be and what you want to be and how you want to be,” he said after the vote.
Some bad news is headed the way of state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, and other advocates of medicinal marijuana. From the Washington Post:
In an announcement scheduled to be in the Federal Register, the Drug Enforcement Administration will turn down requests to remove marijuana from "Schedule I," which classifies it as a drug with "no currently accepted medical use" in the United States and precludes doctors from prescribing it.
The decision will keep the federal government at odds with 25 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana to some degree. Members of Congress have called for its reclassification and on Wednesday, the National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution asking the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule I.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s two general election opponents are piling on the two-term incumbent for votes to increase the country’s debt limit.
Libertarian Allen Buckley said Isakson voted for $7 trillion of the country’s debt, and the campaign of Democrat Jim Barksdale said Wednesday that Georgia’s senior senator helped contribute in a major way to the $12 trillion increase in the debt that’s made it onto the books since he came to Washington in 1999.
From the Barksdale campaign:
“In 1998, the year before Isakson went to Washington, the national debt stood at $5.5 trillion. By 2015, it had more than tripled to $18.2 trillion. During that period, Isakson has been a consistent vote to raise the national debt limit, voting to do so at least eight times.”
Our colleagues over at Politifact Georgia rated Buckley’s claim as “mostly true.” Isakson’s campaign said the senator’s opponents “are trying to mislead.” This was sent our way from an Isakson campaign spokeswoman:
“Johnny led the fight and voted against trillions of dollars in unnecessary spending: against Obamacare, against the Obama stimulus, against $5 trillion in debt ceiling increases and for the Budget Control Act, which cut spending by over $2 trillion and according to the Heritage Foundation, ‘has shrunk the size of government more effectively than any budget tool in a generation.’ Johnny even fought the Democrats in Washington who oppose a balanced budget amendment.
For additional perspective, Johnny voted against six of the last eight increases, supporting only the Budget Control Act mentioned previously, and the vote that ended the government shutdown in 2013.”
Debt limit politics are nothing if not messy. Once considered routine and uncontroversial business on Capitol Hill in order to stave off a damaging default, it’s increasingly become a political tool.
In the Obama era, Republicans have sought to use the debt limit to prompt major policy concessions from Democrats. The latter, meanwhile, has held firm that a “clean” increase -- without any policy changes -- is non-negotiable. Essentially, it’s been a game of economic chicken.
We've got at least one three-way U.S. Senate debate in the offing. Libertarian Allen Buckley tells us he's received his invite to Georgia's traditional cage-match debate at the state fairgrounds in Perry on Oct. 11. So we've got at least one three-way debate in the offing.
You’ll remember that Buckley has been calling for debates for months now. Earlier this month, Democrat Jim Barksdale has challenged Isakson -- and only Isakson -- to six match-ups around the state focused on the economy.
The Barksdale campaign said Wednesday it had yet to hear a response from Isakson. But Isakson’s spokeswoman said the incumbent’s campaign manager Trey Kilpatrick called his Barksdale counterpart on Monday “to begin discussions.” “And as of Wednesday night, we had not heard back.”
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, who has found himself in hot water lately for comments about Jewish settlers in the disputed West Bank, has been on somewhat of an apology tour lately with some of the Jewish groups that helped get him elected a decade ago.
The Lithonia Democrat sat down recently with Michael Jacobs, the editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. Their hour-long interview is certainly worth a read, but here are few interesting snippets.
Right out the gate, he apologized for comparing Jewish settlers to "termites":
"First, let me start by apologizing to you and to all of your readers for my very insensitive and ignorant remark. Ignorant is just unknowing, as opposed to stupid, but it was an ignorant remark. And now that I know about the history of insects, animals and things like that to describe Jewish people, I’m mortified by my use of the term, not referring to people, but referring to the settlement process. It just got way too close. It was inappropriate, ignorant, insensitive, and it offended and hurt a lot people. So my apologies — can’t extend them enough to the people who are my friends."
He also went on to discuss his recent trip to the West Bank:
"As far as my trip to Palestine, I was alarmed at the deterioration of conditions and the spirit of the Palestinian people, who want peace, but peace appears to be more and more unlikely, peace based on a two-state solution."
On the American role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
We can get caught up in the tit-for-tat violence and inappropriate conduct, but I want to focus on the causes. I want to remove those causes. I want to help remove those causes. We can all sit back in our armchairs from across the water and try to micromanage or microdirect what others do when we’re not there, and I certainly don’t seek to do that. But I can see a big picture, and we do need to solve some issues that produce tension, produce violence. We need to remove those conditions and thus remove the cause of the violence."
Johnson also discussed political correctness, why he initially spoke to a group that supports boycotting and divesting in Israeli products and businesses and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's recent decision to continue police training programs with Israel. Read the whole interview here.