The Morning Jolt

Elections

Bloomberg Expected to Enter Democratic Presidential Primary

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg approaches the microphones to speak to reporters in Washington February 27, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly is prepping to enter the Democratic presidential race; Kentucky’s Republican governor calls for a recanvassing of votes after apparently being defeated by his Democratic challenger; and a judge in Manhattan gives us the latest example of outrageous legislating from the bench, striking down a Trump-administration rule that would’ve protected the First Amendment rights of health-care workers.

Bloomberg Mulls a Bid in the 2020 Democratic Field

According to multiple reports, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is laying the groundwork to jump into the fray of the Democratic presidential primary. In fact, it seems he’s on the verge of filing official paperwork to declare himself a candidate. Although some of his advisers insist he’s still on the fence, Bloomberg has staff on the ground in Alabama attempting to gather enough signatures to qualify for the state’s primary.

Here’s more from the New York Times report:

Mr. Bloomberg and his advisers called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state. Aides to Mr. Bloomberg also reached out to Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

Mr. Reid said in a brief interview that Mr. Bloomberg had not explicitly said he was running for president but that the implication of the call had been clear. . . . Should Mr. Bloomberg proceed with a campaign, it could cause a seismic disruption in the Democratic race. With his immense personal wealth, centrist views and close ties to the political establishment, he would present an instantaneous threat to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been struggling to raise money and is already defending his ideologically moderate base on multiple fronts.

Mr. Bloomberg, 77, initially bowed out of the 2020 race because of Mr. Biden’s apparent strength, but he has since grown skeptical that Mr. Biden is on track to win the Democratic nomination and he does not see the two leading liberals in the race, Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as strong candidates for the general election.

This isn’t the first time that Bloomberg has toyed with the possibility of hopping into a presidential contest. He made the same tentative overtures in 2016, and reports indicated earlier this year that he was once again considering running. But he hasn’t yet taken the final steps to appear on a state ballot.

Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic strategist, told the Wall Street Journal that, if Bloomberg does enter the race, it would constitute a “big disruption.” “There’s plenty of obstacles, but the fact is, he’s got the resources to compete,” Trippi added, saying Bloomberg and his advisers likely wouldn’t think seriously about joining the contest unless they saw a realistic path to victory.

Some might view his candidacy as a response to the fact that, aside from Biden, the race’s frontrunners are actively pushing the party leftward at a rapid clip, endorsing policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, regardless of their exorbitant cost. And as the Times report notes, Bloomberg might face a particular struggle going head to head against these candidates, who rail against income inequality, as his wealth would make him an easy target for the argument that our political system allows the rich to have too much influence.

Bloomberg’s advisers suggest that he’s planning to make a final decision within days, and that makes sense — to be in real contention, he’ll have to make it onto the ballot in several states besides Alabama that have early filing deadlines, including New Hampshire, which also has one of the earliest primary contests. On top of that, it’d be tough for him to make it on stage for the upcoming Democratic debate later this month, as he would need to obtain 165,000 unique donors and several polls with at least 3-percent national support before the qualifying deadline next week.

After several months of suffering through a primary slog with upwards of 15 presidential hopefuls, the Democratic field clearly stands in need of a shakeup. It’s less clear that Bloomberg is the right man for the job.

Kentucky’s Defeated Governor Refuses to Concede

In perhaps the biggest news of Tuesday night’s elections, Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general Andy Beshear unseated incumbent Republican governor Matt Bevin. The only trouble? As of this writing, Bevin still has refused to concede the race. In his most recent statement on the matter, Bevin cited “a number of irregularities” in Tuesday night’s voting and noted that “there’s more than a little bit of history of vote fraud in our state.”

Bevin hasn’t presented any evidence of vote fraud, but his protestations aren’t entirely off-base. With 100 percent of precincts counted, the Republican governor trailed Beshear by only a little more than 5,000 votes, a narrow margin of about .4 percent. Based on both the close tally and Bevin’s refusal to concede, the Associated Press still has declined to call the race.

In a statement on Wednesday, Bevin said he plans to ask for an official recanvassing of votes. Here’s what Politico reported about his remarks:

Without providing details, Bevin cited “thousands of absentee ballots that were illegally counted,” reports of voters being “incorrectly turned away” from polling places and “a number of machines that didn’t work properly.” He said his campaign would provide more information as it is gathered, and he did not take questions from reporters.

“We simply want to ensure that there is integrity in the process,” Bevin said at the close of his statement. “We owe this to the people of Kentucky.”

According to the New York Times, candidates in Kentucky are permitted to request a recanvassing for any reason — which requires counties to re-tabulate the results on voting machines — but the state does not hold actual recounts for gubernatorial elections, meaning that there will be no reexamination of ballots.

A University of Kentucky law professor told the Times that, if the recanvassing doesn’t flip the race and Bevin wishes to further challenge the results, the sitting governor could formally contest the election before the state legislature. Then, a group of eleven randomly selected members (eight from the House and three from the Senate) would hear arguments and forward a recommendation to the entire legislature for a vote. The Kentucky legislature is predominantly Republican.

Given that, aside from the gubernatorial race, every Republican running statewide in Kentucky won his or her race by at least 15 points, Bevin’s loss came as a bit of a surprise. But even so, the Republican was ranked by Morning Consult data as the least popular governor in the country, and it’s easier to believe that his loss was the result of his highly controversial first-term policies than it is to buy his tenuous argument about irregularities.

No More Conscience Protections for Pro-Life Health-Care Workers

A federal judge in New York has reminded us once again of how, in the Trump era, courts are quick to strike down rules that, under any other circumstances, likely would be deemed perfectly acceptable.

This time, it was Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who issued a 147-page decision striking down a Trump-administration rule that would have protected the First Amendment rights of health-care workers with moral or religious objections to abortion, physician-assisted suicide, or elective sterilization.

The rule was scheduled to take effect on November 22 after having been announced by the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year. But the policy faced an immediate legal challenge from the attorneys general in 19 Democratic states, along with a number of abortion-advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood.

And those challengers won the day. Engelmayer deemed the HHS rule improperly coercive and in particular said the department could not enforce such a policy by leveraging federal funding against violating organizations. The rule would have required federally funded clinics and research institutions to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws.

“Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it,” Engelmayer wrote in his decision.

In her statement cheering the results, New York attorney general Letitia James described the HHS rule as “an unlawful attempt to allow health-care providers to openly discriminate and refuse to provide necessary health care to patients based on providers’ ‘religious beliefs or moral objections.’”

Notice those scare quotes. They’re a common tactic not only from progressive lawmakers and officials when it comes to describing religious freedom and morality, but they also crop up routinely in media coverage of these issues. Our own David Harsanyi hit the nail on the head on this point in a Corner post yesterday:

One of the ways journalists like to intimate bad faith is by placing quotation marks around perfectly factual phrases like “religious freedom” or “conscience.”

Now, it’d be another story if there were comparable journalistic standards for the usage of “gun safety” or “pro-choice,” or any of the thousands of debatable labels that have been appropriated for partisan purposes, but there aren’t. It is a standard almost exclusively deployed for “controversial” topics — which, loosely translated, means “conservative positions.” . . .

CNN does us a favor and skips any pretense of impartiality altogether, informing readers that a federal judge in New York had scrapped the “so-called conscience rule, which lets health care workers who cite moral or religious reasons opt out of providing certain medical procedures, such as abortion, sterilization and assisted suicide.” (Incensed italics mine.) The insertion of “so-called” is, of course, a loaded term that implies, without any evidence, that people with moral objections to abortion might be faking it for some unknown reason.

And now a federal judge has decided — in an insult to the First Amendment — that Americans, religious or not, who prefer to remove themselves from procedures that end a human life can receive no relief from administrative policy.

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