Monday, May 21, 2018

Democrats could blow this.

Sometimes the buffalo gets away.  

Trump is the buffalo

Democrats are digging deeper into their bunkers.

Yesterday this blog said we had passed the period of "peak Trump" and that Trump was losing support. He is being brought down, I wrote, by the same process that crippled Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, relentless accusers and investigators, now in the form of Michael Averatti and Robert Mueller. I likened it to this image, Averatti having grabbed and held onto the rear with the Stormy Daniels route to Michael Cohen and his "fixer" work for Trump, making room for Mueller to go for the throat with indictments. 

This buffalo is not doomed, not yet. Sometimes he gets away. He can slog his way to the middle of his herd where buffalo allies gore the lions. Sometimes the buffalo uses the terrain and can brush the lions off with tree branches.

Donald Trump has Republican friends, and he is governing to to pull those friends closer. He just announced that he is doubling down on the abortion issue, calling for de-funding of any organization that makes referrals to abortion clinics. His evangelical base will ignore Trump's private life, so long as he carries their message on abortion. The school shooting in Texas makes Trump's bond to the NRA that much more valued by gun rights advocates. Trump has his herd.

Trump knows the political terrain better than the Democrats. Democrats are tone deaf to the desire of a great many Americans for affirmations of national greatness. Many Americans want to feel pride in the home team. A black president, combined with increased immigration numbers from Latin America and Asia, created an atmosphere ripe for Trump's ethno-nationalism. Democrats have not co-opted those emotions and given them a progressive, inclusive channel of expression. Instead, they rejected messages of national pride as xenophobic, racist, and worst of all "Trump-like." Trump has terrain to use.
Click: In These Times

Currently Democrats are winning elections by going college-town left. There are Democratic pluralities within the "woke", educated, progressive Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren left. This might work for Democrats if progressives will let an economic leftist send the right message on American culture. A candidate from this perspective could choose to express a progressive form of national greatness patriotism and win back the White House. However, he or she may not be allowed to do that because the progressive left associates pride with prejudice. A candidate who speaks to patiortism and faith and national pride may not be sufficiently non-Trump. 

Democrats may allow the buffalo alone to claim the favorable terrain. 

Today we have a guest post.

Thad Guyer is an attorney specializing in representation of employee whistle-blowers. He was recently cited in The New Yorker as the attorney who made a powerful winning argument in a case involving digital hacking--New Yorker: Click here   He watches American politics from his primary home in Vietnam, and his perspective is data-driven, in contrast to the narrative and symbolic and allegorical perspective I bring to politics.  I see buffalo and lions; he sees poll results and trends.

He disagrees with me on Trump's trend.

Guest Post, By Thad Guyer

"Trump’s Low Approval Ratings are an Illusion”

Thad Guyer

Although Democratic pundits can’t make themselves cope with it, Trump was elected with the lowest approval ratings in first term recorded history. There is almost no evidence suggesting that his low approval numbers translate to electoral vulnerability.  If fact, the evidence is to the contrary.

First and foremost is the “generic preference poll” which has high historical accuracy for predicting which party will win in the midterms.  The Democrats' big lead has fallen from +14 to +3 (CNN) and to just +1 (Reuters).   It’s average is at its all time low since Trump was elected, down to 4.0%. (See, Real Clear Politics charts: Click Here.)

It is trending red.  Why is this important?  Because generic preference cannot statistically be disengaged from presidential approval.  This means either  the Real Clear Politics, CNN, Reuters etc. generic preference measures are off, or else the presidential approval numbers are wrong.  The “data journalists” at both Five Thirty Eight and the New York Times stand behind the former.  (See NYT, “Democrats are Dominating the Generic Ballot”:  Click Here
(We are no longer dominating, and consequently left-leaning media has all but stopped reporting the generic preference numbers they were touting loudly just four months ago).  This strongly suggests the Trump approval rating, just as it was when he got elected, is seriously off.  In a recent analysis in the Washington Post, some estimates are that Trump’s approval is probably 8 to 10 points higher than reported.

Second, a different but related data set— the “right direction” index—suggests Trump’s popularity is much higher than reported.   This index tracks whether likely voters think the country is moving in the right or wrong direction.  Unsurprisingly, the right direction and presidential approval numbers historically track together.  If a president’s approval is low then those voters also tend to say the country is headed in the wrong direction.  The problem is that Americans strongly believe the country is headed in the “right direction”, and give Trump credit and high marks on the polling subsets.  That is, while likely voters say their bottom line is that they disapprove of Trump overall, the subset measures of approval on the economy, job growth, foreign policy, etc. are much higher.  This index also suggests Trump’s popularity may be 8 to 10 points under-reported.  (See, Washington Post, “Has the Political Climate Improved--Marginally--for Republicans”, Click Here.

Finally, the millennial voter turn-out data suggests Trump is not as unpopular as younger voters tell pollsters. During the special elections and recent primaries, millennial turnout has been low.  Indeed, like Oregon, overall voter turnout nationally is down, meaning that voters who supposedly disapprove of Trump are not showing up at the polls to prove it. (See, The Atlantic, “The GOP’s Generational Bet”: Click Here.

The bottom line is that just as I said in Peter’s 2016 podcast series that the data was clearly pointing to a Trump win in November 2016, and that voters were lying about their support for Trump, I see the same data indicators for the midterms.  I also see the liberal media once again lulling Democrats into false confidence.   If the generic preference poll goes red as the trending suggests, the GOP will likely actually gain seats in Congress and the Senate.  And the reason for this is Trump’s popularity is both closeted and strong. 


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fox News: "Michael Avenatti is a beast. He's a beast."

Stormy Daniels is in Oregon. Michael Avenatti is on TV.

Fox News: "He keeps popping Donald Trump and all his friends in the mouth. . . . The Democrats could learn something from [Avenatti.]"

Avenatti: "We've disclosed some very damaging, accurate information."

Warrior: Shameless and ferocious.

Trump finally met his match.

Last month this blog made what in the financial world is called a "market call"--a prediction about the future course of the stock market. I said it was a moment of "peak Trump." I titled the post "Trump fatigue. It feels like a market top."  Click: March 20, 2018  The indications to me came from Trump's behavior. His tweeting had become frenetic, and I likened it to a boxer who was slugging wildly. I said that even with all Trump's advantages (incumbency, low unemployment, strong economy) the end was starting for Trump.

My timing was about right. But Trump is not just self-destructing. He is also being torn down.

Michael Avenatti cannot be stopped by Congressional majorities, nor is he part of a Justice Department hierarchy. He doesn't have to tiptoe. He cannot be voted out or fired. He is the lawyer for a civil case, and as Bill Clinton learned, courts have decided that civil cases against a president can move forward. They can compel documents. They can demand testimony. 

Head to head: Trump vs. Avenatti
Avenatti is a warrior and Democrats have needed one. He is the first person to emerge in the anti-Trump resistance who is the full parallel and twin of Trump. Trump fights hard and dirty. Trump accuses. Trump dominates the media. Trump says strong, outrageous things, with utter confidence. 

So does Avenatti.

Fox News is outraged. Why Avenatti has had a bankruptcy in his past!  Avenatti has too much debt! Where, exactly, Avenatti gets his money?  Avenatti has an ex-wife!  Avenatti creates a "carnival atmosphere."  He is on TV way too much!

Exactly. This is Trump's America. People love to watch an ugly fight.

Avenatti is another professional political wrestler in the arena, accusing, going for the throat, making salacious hints. Trump was a shameless "birther," suggesting he had secret evidence Barrack Obama was foreign born. Avenatti suggest he has photos of Trump naked, or at least detailed descriptions by Stormy Daniels of Trump's genitalia. Tit for tat. 

Bend. Salem. Tualitin.
Trump has had opposition, from Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, but both senators serve at the pleasure of others, a weakness. Robert Mueller serves at the pleasure of a chain of command and is under constant threat of being fired. Mainstream news media people serve corporate leadership and are constrained by wanting to preserve credibility for the next story. Trump faced asymmetric opponents and they all have vulnerabilities. 

Avenatti cannot be fired by the political system.. That gives him enormous power. Avenatti doesn't apologize or admit anything. He denies, pivots, and hits back. When Trump and Fox complain, Avenatti says "so what?" His client seems happy to conjoin her legal interests with Avenatti's media strategy. Publicity--and controversy--help her. She is in Oregon right now, performing. People can pay to see the woman Donald Trump had sex with. Ka-ching. She has noting to hide. Trump is the one with secrets.

If Trump and his allies want to make her more famous by criticizing her, do it. It just increases her value. If Trump or his allies demean her, and call her a trashy "porn star," it just serves to demean Trump, too. After all, Trump was the one sitting on her bed eager for sex in exchange for an appearance on The Apprentice. Is this tawdry? Yes. Tawdry for whom?  

When Trump didn't come through with a contract for an appearance on the show, but wanted more sex with her, she turned him down. She wouldn't take a bad deal from Trump. She was the one with the power and integrity. 

The lion grabs the rear and hangs on.
But wait. Isn't the Stormy Daniels thing all about sex, and hasn't the public already decided that they don't care about Trump and sex? His base supports him anyway.  

That is true.  

The problem for Trump is that Stormy Daniels led to Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and Michael Cohen led to where Trump is legally and politically vulnerable: financial crimes with Russians and contacts between Trump associates and Russians. Avenatti is relentless and vicious and he accuses and he demands. He is a legal bully and he looks good on TV and he is articulate and absolutely confident. His punches hurt.

The facts, plus Avenatti as the relentless accuser, all pull the sex stuff into the Russian collusion and financial stuff. Robert Mueller and Michael Avenatti are a team, and Avenatti cannot be fired.

The period of "peak Trump" is behind us. This is now the slow unraveling for Trump. The buffalo has horns and the buffalo is big, and it can be a long fight, but the lion has a strategy of biting and holding onto the buffalo's back until a fellow lion comes in for the throat.

Avenatti is the lion hanging on. Mueller is the lion that has come for the throat. Trump is the buffalo.

[UpClose with Peter Sage is a daily blog that comments on Oregon and national politics. Bookmark the site and return often. Or, better yet, subscribe by email and get home delivery about noon every day. This is a free, totally non-commercial site. My goal is to figure out what is happening in this crazy world, and then to write about it fairly.  There are about 1000 regular readers every day.]

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Minorities can move majorities.

A farm bill just got de-railed in the House of Representatives. It is all about immigration. Yes, immigration.

1.  A majority of House members want immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for people brought to America as young children. These are the DACA kids. A majority of Americans support this action.  

2.  That majority would be bi-partisan, consisting of House Republicans and Democrats.  Without a Democratic votes, there isn’t a majority.

3.  House Republicans in competitive districts favor the bill. They fear being characterized as unrealistic and heartless, since some of these DACA kids have known no country other than the USA. Some DACA kids have served honorably in our military. It is a bad issue for Republicans in most Districts, so these Members want a deal.

4.  The House members in the Freedom Caucus, representing bright red Districts, disagree. They say their own elections, and the presidential election, create a mandate by Americans to remove people who are here illegally. It isn’t “cruel.” It is obeying the law and the American people have spoken.

5.  The Freedom Caucus wanted to send a message to Speaker Paul Ryan not to accommodate those nervous moderate Republicans who want to protect their seats by supporting a DACA bill.

6.  The Freedom Caucus voted as a block to oppose the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is important to rural Republican Members of Congress, since it provides price supports and other subsidies for farmers. Ryan and moderate Republicans got the message: give us what we want on immigration or you won’t get what you want on a Farm Bill.

7.  Leverage.  The Freedom Caucus minority can force a majority of the Congress to adopt a policy on immigration that pleases a minority of congressmen representing a minority of Americans. Minority rule.

Summary: it may well be smart politics, but it is the kind of maneuver that makes the job of being Speaker miserable. The Freedom Caucus believes it is carrying out the mandate of the 2016 election, even as it confounds majority opinion on an issue. It is how the system works, but it leaves a lot of people confused and frustrated. It is one of the reasons Americans give a 16% approval rating to Congress, and why a great many people have given up on politics and do not vote. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Campaign 101: "Frontrunners" stay in front

By election day candidates sift out into tiers: candidates with a chance to win, and the others.

Presumed frontrunners get the attention and their support snowballs. Voters don't want to waste their votes on a hopeless situation. 

Money matters

Oregon Congressional District 2

McLeod-Skinner  Photo:  Dasja Dolan Creative Photography.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner's early successful one-on-one communication to individuals and groups got translated into early money and support. She built on that with tee shirt visibility at forums, then victory in straw polls.  She made herself stand out, so when politically active Democrats talked about the pros and cons of the seven candidates, the word spread that McLeod-Skinner was probably ahead of the others.

That idea fed on itself.

The activist, involved voters who influence others looked for signs that candidates were viable.  Eric Burnette got a Teamster endorsement, which was a powerful signal, plus he got the endorsement of a Rogue Valley Our Revolution group, another powerful signal. But his snowball stopped growing, so he fell back from a potential leader to one of the pack. 

Tim White never raised any money, so his campaign was definable as a vigorous niche but one that was not taking off. 

Michael Byrne defined himself as electable because he was the sort of person who should be elected but will not be, and the notion that "stuck" was the second half of that.  

Raz Mason, too, was stuck looking unable to get big traction. J

im Crary's failure to raise individual money sent a signal that his signature issue was not motivating activists. Individual money can be raised--look at Jeff Golden and Jamie McLeod-Skinner--but the failure of Crary and the other four candidates to do so confirmed a second tier status.
By election day the focus was on McLeod-Skinner and Neahring

Failure to raise money sends a signal of a non-viable campaign.

Jennifer Neahring broke into the top tier. She had endorsements from the Bend Bulletin, plus some Democrats and well-respected physicians, some of whom donated. The money she raised allowed her to do mailers and TV ads. This sent a message: Neahring had a real shot at winning. Would her media excite voters?  It might. She had a shot. She was a contender.

By election day it was a two person race: McLeod-Skinner and Neahring, with Jim Crary--maybe, possibly--having some support out in very rural counties where he had spent time.  The election night totals confirmed this. McLeod-Skinner and Neahring stood way out in front, Crary a distant third, and everyone else stuck at the 5% of friends and true believers.

The Medford-Ashland State Senate Race

Frontrunner, then winner.

Athena Goldberg demonstrated something that Julian Bell and Kevin Stine did not do. She showed she had endorsements and significant financial and volunteer support from unions and organizations that traditionally support Democrats. It immediately distinguished her as someone running a very strong campaign. Her Voters Pamphlet page--with its prominent list of endorsements that might have gone to Golden, but did not--was especially powerful. She appeared to be taking support from people who had supported Golden in years prior. It positioned her as a frontrunner.

Meanwhile, Jeff Golden had raised early money from a hundred activist Democrats at an announcement party in 2017 and continued to do so. His position as a frontrunner was not eclipsed by Goldberg because he had something immeasurable, but clearly real and important: local support. Golden gained both the money raised and the credibility of having a campaign that could raise money. That made Golden another front runner.  It was a two person race.

Voters who thought strategically saw the candidates in tiers: Goldberg and Golden were viable candidates. Julian Bell and Kevin Stine were not because neither Bell nor Stine demonstrated they had the tools (money or pre-existing fame) to win. This missing piece creates a compound effect. No donor wants to waste money on a non-viable campaign, so their campaigns get weaker. No doubt voters who actually liked and preferred Bell or Stine voted for Goldberg or Golden. Many voters want to affect who wins, not whether a losing candidate gets 5.1% of the vote or 5.2% of the vote.

 By election day Golden and Goldberg captured 89% of the vote between them.

Does this mean that money is all important? Am I saying that the reason these four candidates had strong campaigns and the other seven did not was all about the money?

Not quite.

Two person race: Goldberg and Golden
I am saying that signals of viability are essential. Money is just one of them.

There are other ways to signal that one is "special" and that ones campaign has viability. A big public endorsement by Governor Brown or Senators Wyden or Merkley would have done it. Fame and a good reputation earned by being an incumbent politician or sports star or business person or military hero or well known media personality--any of those would have done it. But if candidates lacks those, they can distinguish themselves by proving they have support by raising local money (Jeff Golden and Jamie McLeod-Skinner) or get prestigious endorsements and money (Athena Goldberg and Jennifer Neahring.)

Otherwise voters consider you an also-ran. The result is a two-tier contest: the viable candidates and the nice-people-who-wont-win candidates.

Money raised is a signal.

[Note: I am grateful to Kevin Stine, Medford City Council Member and candidate for State Senate, for his astute, insightful post election comments about the campaign. He articulated the snowball effect of being thought a winner--and the frustration of being stuck in the lower tier, which also compounds a campaign downward.] 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Guest Post: Partisan Litmus Test

A Democratic Guest looks at Jessica Gomez

Art Baden:  "I came away from the conversation impressed by Ms. Gomez." 

We might have a very good, useful campaign, with two candidates who would be independent enough to change the Oregon legislature if elected.  But parties don't want independent thinkers.  They want loyalists.

Democrat Jeff Golden and Republican Jessica Gomez will face off as candidates to be the Medford-Ashland State Senator, District 3. Jeff Golden won the nomination without the support of the upstate Democratic Party and its allied organizations. His refusal of PAC money, even from "good" organizations, was a deal killer for them. After all, if he thinks their money is tainted then he must think there is something wrong with them and how they exercise influence, so if he rejects them, they reject him. Golden's campaign will test whether voters--and the general political system--will accept a candidate who is bound and determined to be independent.

Jessica Gomez has the potential to play essentially the same role, but from the Republican side. She might be essentially independent, having come into the campaign as someone outside the national Trump-style GOP. She would be a return to an earlier form of GOP thinking, the Main Street moderation of John Dellenback, Mark Hatfield, Tom McCall, Bob Packwood.

it will be a struggle. 

I witnessed the pressure on her when she talked for a half hour on the Bill Meyer show. The host pressed her to march through a checklist of approved Republican positions. She had reservations and qualifications, but on issue after issue, she managed to come down on the side of lowering taxes, preserving gun rights, saying taxpayers shouldn't pay for abortions, opposing efforts to deal with climate and greenhouse gases.   Click for the KMED archives. 7:35 a.m.

I thought she passed the test. Apparently not.

Gomez came within 2% of losing the Republican primary to Curt Ankerberg, a candidate whose temperament, qualifications, legal difficulties, and self-admitted impairments make him manifestly unsuited for public office. (Yesterday I quote Ankerberg at length. Readers can judge for themselves what kind of office holder he would be.)

Ankerberg did the political system one big favor. His near-victory demonstrated that a great many GOP voters want a true-believing, inner directed Republican conservative, someone passionately anti-tax, anti-abortion, anti-restriction on guns, anti-climate change, anti-immigrant candidate.  Or, perhaps it was a rejection of the process, unhappy that she was plucked from GOP obscurity, anointed by party leaders. In either case, Republican voters nearly made a suicidal choice, and like any near-suicide, it is a sign of trouble.

Art Baden describes a meeting with Gomez. He is a retired insurance broker, from New York and then Chicago, who retired in Ashland. He has been active in Democratic party campaign circles. He has observed the power of party litmus tests in campaigns and in legislatures. I consider his favorable encounter with Gomez to be a promising sign for Oregon. (Likewise, I consider Jeff Golden's own independence from the upstate Democratic party Unions and PACs, a promising sign.) Maybe there is some middle ground and room for respectful dialog in Oregon politics.

Or maybe not  Jessica Gomez may find she cannot be a viable candidate if she remains the person she was when she spoke with Baden. Curt Ankerberg--and the people who voted for him--will not tolerate that kind of Republican.

Guest Comment by Art Baden

Art Baden

Entertaining as Mr. Ankerberg's ad hominem attacks on Mr. Sage are (as a graduate of a public land grant university, I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Peter’s elitist Harvard degree), I'm more interested in Ankerberg’s political analysis and opinions of his party's SD3 candidate, Ms. Gomez. And surprisingly, I agree with him!

I espied Ms. Gomez last month at the Pear Blossom Festival, and always happy to make the acquaintance of another immigrant from the Old Country (Long Island), I introduced myself and asked her why, at this particular time, with Mr. Trump as the leader of the Republican Party, she, who claims she voted for Hillary Clinton, a Latina woman, would join the Republican party and run for the State Senate. 

Ms. Gomez told me that she did not resonate with what Republicans were doing nationally. The impetus for her conversion was her experience as a small business owner, specifically her frustration with what she believed was over-regulation and red tape from the State, bloated State bureaucracy, and concern about the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and its potentially devastating effects on our State government and overall economy.

I asked her why she felt she'd be more effective in bringing solutions as a member of a Republican minority in Salem, rather than as a member of a Democratic supermajority. Her answer was that the Democratic legislators were too beholden to the public employee unions to honestly address PERS.

I came away from the conversation impressed by Ms. Gomez's intelligence, her willingness to dialogue with a partisan of the opposing camp, and her effective communication skills. But I didn't get any sense that she shared any philosophical space with the Republican Party as it is increasingly being defined by Donald Trump - nativist, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion rights, pro-gun, anti-free trade, climate denying, etc.

And I suspect that the 48 % of her fellow SD3 Republicans who voted for Mr. Ankerberg didn't get that sense either.

The Republican party used to be a big tent, or at least purported itself to be one. Is there space in the Trump Republican Party tent for Jessica Gomez?

But what of the Democratic Party tent? We have a Democratic SD3 candidate who won his primary without the support of the Public Employee Unions. Athena Goldberg proudly claimed the endorsements of public employee unions. Mr. Golden presented himself as independent of PACs and interest groups of all stripes. He won. It will be interesting to see how, in the general election campaign, he now addresses the issues which Ms. Gomez claims drove her conversion to the Republican Party.

Is there a litmus test for Democrats: "thou shalt not disagree with public employee unions?"

As I am hopeful (although increasingly despairing) to see Republicans standing up against Trump and reactionary orthodoxy; I'm also hopeful to see Democrats speak some truth about PERS and wasteful gov't spending. If Democrats ignore these issues, we not only relinquish our moral authority and intellectual integrity, we also risk losing a rare opportunity for a blue wave in 2018.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Curt Ankerberg: 48% of the vote in the GOP Primary

GOP candidate for State Senate submits a comment.

Ankerberg came very close to winning the Republican nomination for State Senate, with 47% of the vote, notwithstanding having been outspent 40 to 1, and having almost no campaign.  I have decided that banning him from this blog only served the purpose of giving him un-warrented credibility. 

Here is the comment I received from him Wednesday afternoon:

Curt Ankerberg
"Speaking of jerks, you're a jerk, Peter. I willingly spoke with you, and was courteous with you. What did I get from you in return? Disrespect. You discounted and demeaned me from the start. You're a Harvard elitist, with a bullshit degree. Thus, you get disrespected in return. Undoubtedly, you got rich serving the rich, so you're beholden to them now. You absolutely have no clue about the republican party, or conservatives. You're just a know-nothing blow-hard. Gomez is not a republican, and she never will be. She's no more a conservative than you are. Conservatives will abandon her in droves in November. Golden will beat her 65% to 35%. As for my issues, you won't get the entire story from the the leftist Mail Tribune. I don't give a damn what you think about my issues. I was legally blind, and I had hydrocephalus, and I was incapable of dealing with my daily issues. You're a pansy-ass, and a hangnail would incapacitate you."  

Jessica Gomez has a problem.

So do Kate Brown and Knute Bueller. Conservatives aren't ready to "settle."

Republicans are on the lookout for RINOs.

Kate Brown won decisively statewide, but there are conservative Democrats and candidate Ed Jones found them with 9% of the vote statewide, and some 20-30% of the vote in agricultural, rural counties. Jones ran to her right. His website and platform celebrate farmers and Christianity and gun rights, and opposes property taxes, regulations generally, and taxes on business. He spent no money and had no campaign. Brown loses conservative votes, which makes sense for a Democrat.

Republicans need conservative votes. Knute Buehler won with 47% of the vote, which made him the winner in a three way race, but added together, Sam Carpenter and Greg Wooldridge won 48%. Buehler outspent each of them ten to one

Buehler, they said, was wrong on abortion and weak on immigration and guns. He was a RINO. The returns demonstrate that a great many Republicans did not want to nominate a moderate, Rhodes scholar, Bend physician with an excellent shot at winning the governorship in blue Oregon. They wanted a real Republican.
Jessica Gomez: 52%

That brings us to Jessica Gomez.

She is a Medford businesswoman, who won election with 52% of the vote, versus 47% for her opponent, Curt Ankerberg. (I have decided to stop the embargo of Curt Ankerberg's name because I consider her narrow victory over Ankerberg to be so startling and ominous for Gomez that it requires discussion.)  I want readers to know who she nearly lost to.

Gomez's and her Leadership Fund allies raised and spent some $90,000. She had the backing of the local newspaper which relentlessly--in editorials, in news copy, and in headlines--denounced her opponent, calling him manifestly unfit for office. On her behalf the state party sent a mailer to voters outlining Ankerberg's legal problems for failure to pay taxes, plus his own defense that he was too physically and mentally impaired to file an accurate tax return. 

Curt Ankerberg spent essentially nothing. He has no web page and no apparent social media presence. His word-of-mouth reputation is that he is frightening and vicious, someone who lashes out at others with bizarre, profane inventions and accusations. 

Yet almost half of Republicans voted for him anyway.  Who is this guy, who could receive almost as many votes as Gomez?

While preparing this post I received the following email, which provides both an analysis of the race and an insight into Ankerberg. It was from an "anonymous" source, written in the style and tone of multiple similar emails. The author refers to Curt Ankerberg in the third person, although I am confident Ankerberg is in fact the author.

"Peter, you're a jerk. Curt Ankerberg got 48% of the vote, and he only spent $2,800, while Jessica Gomez spent $100,000 to get 52%. He was also smeared mercilessly by the Mail Tribune. He didn't run against Gomez. He ran against the GOP good old boy political machine. You don't know shit. He would have won if not for the Mail Tribune. You've discounted and dissed on him from the start, and put him down. The fact is that he's the giant here, and you're the midget. Let me tell you what. Jeff Golden will kill Gomez in a landslide. Gomez was afraid to debate Ankerberg. Golden will kill her. Conservatives don't support Gomez, and she won't get their vote in November. Conservatives won't vote for Gomez. They also won't vote for GOP Chamber of Commerce whores Kim Wallan and Rick Dyer. Expect a democrat sweep in November. The GOP candidates named above don't have the loyal support of conservatives, and they'll have shallow support in November."

This blog has received multiple, often daily, emails in the same vein, some signed by Curt Ankerberg, some "anonymous." Here is a sample, which I show so that readers can get a better feel for Ankerberg, through his own words.

May 14:  "After Ankerberg beats Gomez on Tuesday, then Peter Sage can kiss Ankerberg's ass. No conservatives will be voting for Gomez, even though Sid DeBoer has ordered his boy Peter to say so."  (signed: Anonymous)

Ankerberg: vile, profane, vicious
April 27: "I have ZERO respect for you. You don't have a fucking clue what's going on." (signed: Ankerberg.)

April 27: "When a politician has been bought, then you refer to them as a "whore of special interest groups. . .  Jessica Gomez has received approximately $75K in campaign contributions. . . . Real republican know where I stand on the issues. I've completed numerous questionnaires, and I've been on the Bill Meyer Show many times. People know me, and where I stand. They know nothing about Gomez, because she's kept it secret, because her positions are not the same as the GOP voters. Oregon has real problems that won't be solved by an empty suit. . . . I may lose the election, due to the smear campaign from the Mail Tribune, and the fact that I'm only spending $3K of my own money versus Gomez's $75K from lobbyists, but as it stands today, I think that I have a 50/50 chance of winning. That should make a lot of good old boys (like your ex-clients) shit their pants." (signed: Ankerberg)

April 20: "If you were the Chamber and wanted $20 million in free gifts from the city and Curt Ankerberg stopped your deal, would you hate Curt Ankerberg? YES. I've stopped a number of their deals. They hate me for it. They clearly know where I stand. I'm their public enemy number one. EVERY politician supported by the Chamber has been bought by them. That includes Rick Dyer, Bob Strosser, Kim Wallan, Jessica Gomez, Dick Gordon, Tim Jackle, Mihael Zarosinski, and Tim D'Allesandro, among others. I can't be bought." (signed: Ankerberg.)

What does this mean for Jessica Gomez?  

1. Ankerberg may well be accurate in his assessment of the GOP electorate. He did, in fact, nearly win. He asserts that the real GOP electorate is expressed by people who listen to talk radio, including the Bill Meyer show, and not the Jessica Gomez-Knute Buehler kind of Republican. He says his points of view on sanctuary cities (against), gun registration (against), abortion (against) reflect the Republican electorate, and hers do not..

2. Ankerberg is personally vile and disagreeable. He falls into vicious accusations and angry rants. His character is widely known and discussed, and yet almost half of GOP still voted for him, a candidate manifestly unsuited for public office. To pick Ankerberg over Gomez?  Really?  

Do half of GOP voters think her a RINO?
I consider this an ominous portend for Gomez. 

This suggests that a great many people actively agree with what he is saying--indeed, agree so strongly with his message that they overlook the multiple and widely publicized problems of the messenger. It is an astonishing rejection

But rejection of what?

Possibly they are rejecting Gomez personally or as a candidate. Maybe they see her as a RINO and that matters to them.  She comes across as warm and sincere and a community-builder.  Perhaps that makes her seem weak or not angry enough to catch the Republican mood.

Or, perhaps they are rejecting the process of her selection by Alan DeBoer and the state party as his successor. Maybe it seemed too much like an arranged marriage. 

Or, perhaps it is a rejection--or backfire--on the Mail Tribune's criticism of him. The Tribune's relentlessly negative coverage may have made Ankerberg seem like a victim of an overwrought newspaper whose feelings are hurt by his ugly condemnation of them. He refuses to talk with the Tribune. Possibly Republican voters respect him for that.

Gomez's task will be to re-asure GOP voters that she is Republican-enough for them.  A write-in campaign from the right or a libertarian campaign would likely be devastating for her, giving an electoral alternative to an accused RINO. There is also the risk that Party generated advertising that attempts to make Gomez look good by making her opponent Jeff Golden look bad will backfire. Indeed that is the history of nasty negative campaigning in this senate district. Maybe we already witnessed an iteration of the backfire--a campaign mailer is considered biased and unfair because it quotes a sharply negative newspaper story, giving her two degrees of separation from the attack, but still herself the victim of it. 

There will be other items to consider in future blog posts, but for today political observers are wondering what it means that Gomez had every possible advantage, and Ankerberg had every possible disadvantage, and Ankerberg still nearly won.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Election Day Wrap-up

Self Government in America.

I write about politics and political messages that engage and persuade. This blog attempts to fill an unmet need for information on contested races.

Greg Walden is the incumbent and is presumed safe for re-election. As Chair of the House committee that oversees legislation on health care delivery, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and energy, his views matter to every reader. Seven Democratic candidates are presenting themselves as alternatives. This blog looked closely at Greg Walden and the seven Democrats who hope to replace him. 

In the past 75 days (March, April, and May) this blog had 26 posts on Congressional candidates. The posts average about 1,000 words. Coverage of the congressional race was minimal to non-existent in local and statewide media.

I tried to fill that gap. I outlined the policies, biography, campaign themes, and hoped-for path to victory of all seven challengers: Eric Burnette, Michael Byrne, Jim Crary, Raz Mason, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Jennifer Neahring, Tim White. Six of the seven will lose, but it wasn't a waste of time. Each got their shot. Greg Walden will serve the District better if he knows he has a viable, well-known challenger, and voters need some basis beyond the Voters Pamphlet and local media to learn about them.

Which Democrat will win the nomination?  I don't know. But my observation from here is that Jamie McLeod-Skinner had the most effective outreach to likely voters, and that Jennifer Neahring has the largest media presence and simplest brand. I expect one or the other will win.

State Senate:  
There are five candidates for this race. Jessica Gomez is the Republican picked by her party to be the nominee--to be confirmed by the popular vote today. There are four Democrats, each of whom have personal and political stature: Julian Bell, Athena Goldberg, Jeff Golden, and Kevin Stine. This blog has had 31 posts regarding  these candidates and their messages. This blog looked closely at their campaign messages, their speeches, their Facebook posts, their videos, and their overall presence and manner in front of others. I compared them and commented. 

Who will win? I don't know. But my observation is that Democrats Jeff Golden and Athena Goldberg have the most effective campaign for that nomination. I expect one or the other will win. Jessica Gomez is essentially running un-opposed. (I have expunged references to an opponent. I consider the emails and comments I had received from him to be extreme and bizarre.)

What about the remaining 18 posts of the 75? I wrote about Trump and the Mail Tribune. Trump is always in the news. I warn Democrats: "It's the economy, stupid." Trump is  claiming credit for turning around the economy. It turned around under Obama and Trump is continuing a trend, not starting one, but Democrats absolutely blew the messaging on this. Trump could be re-elected. This was political malpractice on the Democrats' part.

I wrote about the Mail Tribune and its erratic subscription prices. The longer a person is a subscriber, the higher the subscription price. Really. Nice young people at the Tribune subscription booths at the Pear Blossom parade and at Art in Bloom eagerly offer one year subscriptions for $110/year. Then, the paper will nudge the price upward in subsequent years if you stay a loyal subscriber. People end up paying vastly different prices--$110 to $440. This struck me as bad for their reputation as a trusted news source, since the Tribune was failing openly to tell people something their loyal readers might find important, that prices varied, a lot.

So I wrote about it. The Tribune went apoplectic. The kerfuffle brought lots of attention to their subscription prices and to this blog. In the meantime i pay $370/year. I now realize I could be paying way less--as could my readers--but didn't know to ask. Now you do.

Low cost subscriptions.
We actually need more and better local journalism, not less. I wish they had been doing profiles on these candidates. I wish they charged nearly everyone the same published rate, or at least had a transparent rate system. 

If some people, like me, who care about local journalism wanted to pay way more, maybe they could establish a 501-C-3 charitable Foundation to Benefit Local Journalism. The Foundation would take my donation and give it to the Tribune so they could hire reporters. I would happily help them out. But it seems weird to be paying three times as much for my subscription as my neighbor does for his.

What's next.
I expect to keep writing, now focusing on the single nominees on the ballots for State Senate and Congress and, of course, whatever Trump does. I will start doing observations and comments on the State Representative race for the Medford district, plus two county commissioner races here. 

There was almost no news coverage of the multiple Republican candidates for nomination for Governor, and that put voters at a disadvantage when trying to decide between the three candidates with viable campaigns: Knute Bueller, Sam Carpenter, or Greg Wooldridge. I will add the Governor's race to the campaigns I follow closely.

People I write about have told me they don't think I am fair to them. Of course not. (They think I advantage the other candidates.) Candidates want cheerleaders and fans. It is only natural.

But if I were a cheerleader I wouldn't notice the problems faced by the people I like, nor the strengths of counter-arguments of people I don't expect to vote for. I do my best to be fair and reasonable.