2018’s most volatile candidate (it’s Trump) isn’t on ballot
By ZEKE MILLER and CATHERINE LUCEY
Tuesday, September 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — Heading into the midterm elections, the most volatile candidate this year isn’t on the ballot.
But President Donald Trump still loves to take his freewheeling political style on the road on behalf of his fellow Republicans and he’s raring to go for the sprint to Nov. 6.
His eagerness to campaign for candidates — and protect his political flank — has led Republican officials and Trump’s political team to devise a strategy for managing the president’s time. It’s designed to keep him in places where he can be helpful.
They’re also determined to try to manage his unpredictability so the party’s strongest asset in turning out core GOP voters doesn’t end up doing damage instead.
There’s a constant effort to keep him on best behavior.
This past week, Trump heeded pleas from advisers and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, head of the GOP Senate campaign committee, to refrain from picking a favorite in the fractious Arizona primary, waiting until after the results were in to back the winner. Later, at a rally in Indiana for Senate candidate Mike Braun, the president largely stuck to his script, promoting his agenda and criticizing Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
“Senate Republicans will not get to where they need to go without the president this fall. That means doing exactly what he’s been doing,” said Josh Holmes, a longtime adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “The great danger in a midterm is an enthusiasm gap and there is nobody who can close the enthusiasm gap quite like the president.”
Aides believe Trump’s drawing power is critical to a strong turnout among the most loyal GOP voters, which is helpful in many statewide contests. But his presence could be counterproductive in many House districts where incumbents are struggling to hold onto voters in the center.
But this is a celebrity-turned-president who hardly is a selfless leader of his adoptive party. He launched his own re-election campaign weeks after his swearing-in last year, rather than waiting until after the midterm elections, as did his predecessors. With Democrats increasingly optimistic about retaking the House, Trump is motivated by self-protection. He’s keenly aware of the threats and investigations that could come his way if Democratic hold a majority in either the House or Senate.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and Trump created an unnecessary political firestorm with his delayed and muted response to the death of Sen. John McCain. Still, aides think he generally has grown more focused and disciplined entering the final push to the fall elections.
At his Indiana rally Thursday night, Trump stuck to familiar themes, talking about tax cuts and trade tariffs, slamming high-tech companies, railing against the Justice Department and calling MS-13 gang members animals. But he did not mention McCain, avoiding recounting the well-worn tale about the senator’s pivotal vote against the president’s health care bill.
After a week in which aides pushed Trump to rise above his personal grudges against McCain, the mere fact that Trump kept the senator out of his remarks was notable.
While Trump’s White House remains marked by turbulence, insiders said the political shop has managed to impose some discipline. On potential endorsements, for example, political director Bill Stepien and adviser John DeStefano bring Trump detailed binders on candidates’ voting records, including their past comments on Trump, where they have broken with the president and other details.
While Stepien and DeStefeno have gained influence, they must compete with other power centers. Vice President Mike Pence and the White House office of legislative affairs weigh in at times, and Donald Trump Jr. has proved a powerful influence.
Some races have proved complicated, as in the Arizona Senate race, where Kelly Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio both promoted their ties to Trump, as did establishment favorite Rep. Martha McSally. Trump stayed out of the race and McSally handily defeated the two more controversial candidates, averting what GOP operatives believed could have been a disaster for the party this fall.
In the Tennessee governor’s race, Rep. Diane Black also pushed for an endorsement. Trump stayed out of that race, which she lost, on the advice of staff.
But the president could not be persuaded to stay silent in other cases.
He supported Foster Friess in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Wyoming. Friess, who lost, was strongly backed by Trump Jr. Aides also had pushed Trump not to endorse Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his bid to be governor, but Trump did at the last minute, helping put Kobach over the top in the primary but making the race in November more competitive for Democrats.
Aides said they pick their battles with the president, prioritizing races that could swing the balance of congressional control.
For political travel, White House staffers, who are coordinating with party aides, have divided the electoral map into places Trump can be helpful and places where it’s better to send in others such as Pence, Cabinet secretaries or members of the first family.
“He’s prioritizing places where he’s performed well and where there’s a strong network of grassroots support,” said North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
When Trump makes a political trip, aides try to make sure the candidate meets the president at the airport, has time with him in the car and gets the right sound bites on stage. That script was followed Thursday with Braun; Trump called him a “special guy” and promised that Braun would “be a truly great senator.”
On Friday, as he praised a pair of North Carolina Republican candidates at both an official and political event, Trump was effusive in his praise before turning the spotlight on his own accomplishments.
Trump’s rallies also have served as a boost to the GOP’s massive email and voter contact database. Attendees are entered into the party’s system within 48 hours.
Republican National Committee staffers gather signatures on petitions from people waiting in line and register voters at the event. Within five days, those that have expressed an interest in volunteering are contacted to schedule their first session.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Mark Meadows is from North Carolina, not South Carolina.
Happy midterms! Here’s a rundown of the best political zingers in history
September 4, 2018
Professor of Journalism, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Chris Lamb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Labor Day marks the beginning of the decisive, final stretch of the U.S. political campaign season, when candidates prepare to debate one another by practicing their ad-libs or “zingers,” as they’re called, hoping to have the last word with voters.
I dedicated my book, “I’ll Be Sober in the Morning: Great Political Comebacks, Putdowns, and Ripostes,” to Dan Quayle, the former vice president who was left red-faced and stuttering by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen during a vice presidential debate in 1988.
In a political debate, the ability to deliver a response that leaves an opponent speechless can be a potent weapon. To win a battle of wits requires qualities that are rare – or at least medium rare – in politics – a good ear, good timing, a nimble brain and a sardonic wit.
British politician Winston Churchill understood the secret behind the spontaneous putdown.
“All the best off-the-cuff remarks are prepared days beforehand,” he said.
The ability to deliver a sharp wisecrack can be a potent political weapon. A verbal comeback can be both a bludgeon to injure an opponent or a shield to deflect a opponent’s unwanted advances.
But perhaps most importantly, it can establish one’s superiority over his or her rival. In the dog-eat-dog world of politics, nobody wants to end up as the bone.
What makes a good comeback?
Churchill, whose trenchant wit is prominently featured in my book, inspired the book’s title. As the story goes, Churchill was drinking heavily at a party in 1946 when he bumped into Bessie Braddock, a political rival.
“Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk,” Braddock scolded him.
“Bessie, you are ugly, and what’s more you are disgustingly ugly,” he responded. “But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
Churchill’s wit could cut deeply. This approach works better in England than in the United States, where a sarcastic quip may regale party loyalists but runs the risk of turning away undecided voters. Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Dole twice ran for president and lost each time in part, observers said, because his sense of humor was widely viewed as mean-spirited.
By contrast, Abraham Lincoln’s humor was often self-deprecating, which elicited sympathy from the audience rather than scorn. During one of Lincoln’s debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Douglas called Lincoln “two-faced.” Lincoln responded by saying, “I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, would I wear this one?”
Turning the tables
During one of the Democratic Party presidential debates in Iowa in 2007, a journalist asked then-Sen. Barack Obama how he could promise a significantly different foreign policy from former President Bill Clinton, given that several of his advisers once worked for the Clinton administration.
Before Obama could answer, Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and the front-runner to win the Democratic Party’s nomination, interrupted him.
“I want to hear that,” Clinton said, provoking laughter.
Obama paused momentarily and replied, “Well, Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well.”
The audience laughed, and so did the other Democratic candidates on stage – except for Clinton, whose self-satisfied smile turned to a grimace.
Clinton scored political points of her own during a presidential debate in 2016. When Republican candidate Donald Trump said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “no respect” for Clinton, she responded: “That’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president.”
Trump then countered with “No, puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet.”
When Trump feels wronged, he goes on Twitter and responds with the finesse of a knee to the groin. His comebacks are more like something you would hear on an elementary school playground than something you could read in my book.
Trump called Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former staffer, “a dog”; Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary”; and “Cheatin’ Obama.”
Technology makes it possible for Trump’s insults to live forever on Twitter. But technology has also makes it possible to preserve videos of memorable comebacks such as the following:
When Ronald Reagan ran for a second term as president in 1984, he was in his 70s and critics wondered if he still had the vitality for the office. This criticism intensified when Reagan struggled during his first debate with Democratic challenger Walter Mondale.
At the beginning of the next debate, a reporter raised the question of his age to Reagan, who was prepared with a response.
“I want you to know that I will not make age an issue in this campaign,” Reagan said. “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Reagan was easily re-elected.
In 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush selected little-known Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate. The youthful Quayle deflected concerns about his age and inexperience by comparing his experience to John F. Kennedy, who also had relatively little political experience before seeking the presidency in 1960.
Quayle’s handlers told him not to bring up the comparison during his televised debate with the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Lloyd Bentsen. Quayle ignored the advice.
When the issue was raised during the debate, Quayle answered, “I have as much experience … as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.”
Bentsen was ready.
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Who wants to join a union? A growing number of Americans
August 30, 2018
George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management Professor, Work and Organization Studies Co-Director, MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research, MIT Sloan School of Management
Ph.D. Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Erin L. Kelly
Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies Professor, Work and Organization Studies, MIT Sloan School of Management
Ph.D. Student, MIT Sloan School of Management
Funding for this research was provided to the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Good Companies Good Jobs Initiative by the Hitachi Foundation and by the Mary Rowe Fund for Conflict Management.
Only 10.7 percent of American workers belong to a union today, approximately half as many as in 1983. That’s a level not seen since the 1930s, just before passage of the labor law that was supposed to protect workers’ right to organize.
Yet American workers have not given up on unions. When we conducted a nationally representative survey of the workforce with the National Opinion Research Corporation, we found interest in joining unions to be at a four-decade high.
Four times higher
The results obtained from nearly 4,000 respondents show that 48 percent – nearly half of non-unionized workers – would join a union if given the opportunity to do so.
That marks a sharp increase from about one-third of the workforce expressing this preference in 1977 and 1995, the last two times this question was asked on national surveys. The scale of this change indicates that 58 million American workers would want to join a union if they could, quadruple the number of current union members.
A question of influence
One of the strongest predictors of who might join a union is the size of the gap between the amount of say or influence they expect to have at their workplaces and their real-life experience.
More than 50 percent of the workers who took part in our survey reported they have less say than they feel that they ought to have, what we call the “voice gap,” on key issues such as benefits, compensation, promotions and job security. Between a third and half of the workers we surveyed reported a gap between expected and actual say or influence on decisions about how and when they work, safety and protections from discrimination.
While workers are clear on what they want, the reality is few workers who don’t belong to unions will get to join one, since fewer than 1 percent will experience an organizing drive at their workplaces. Also, fewer than 10 percent of all these efforts to unionize and get a collective bargaining agreement succeed when employers resist.
Recognizing these obstacles, unions are turning to new strategies for improving working conditions. Perhaps the best example is union support for a US$15 minimum wage that would primarily benefit workers who aren’t their members.
Several new organizing efforts are taking shape, benefiting everyone from South Florida tomato pickers to baristas toiling in a Starbucks near you.
But unions and these new forms of advocacy can’t get workers the voice they expect on their jobs until U.S. labor laws become stronger.