The Morning Jolt


Finally, Some Good Electoral News for Republicans

West Virginia Senatorial candidate Don Blankenship watches election results in Charleston, W.Va., May 8, 2018. (Lexi Browning/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: West Virginia Republican primary voters leave “Cocaine Mitch” and the rest of the GOP breathing easier; two Indiana Republicans learn a hard lesson about the unpredictable dynamics of negative campaigns and attack ads; a debate about whether states such as Wisconsin need more legal immigrants to make up for a worker shortage, and where you can find me on your televisions.

West Virginia Republicans Make the Right Choice

Whew! Was all of that worry about Don Blankenship much ado about nothing? Blankenship finished with just under 20 percent.

The Blankenship panic probably reflects what occurs when there’s a dearth of reliable polling in a state primary, coupled with a hangover from the GOP’s Roy Moore debacle in Alabama. (The fact that West Virginia Republicans rejected Blankenship pretty thoroughly makes the Alabama Republican primary voters look even worse. This isn’t a national madness, driving Republicans to support the wildest, most controversial and outrageous nominee available.)

The Environmental Protection Agency, under Scott Pruitt, is finalizing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, and debating whether to offer an alternative replacement plan. The Clean Power Plan was an initiative of the EPA under the Obama administration, aiming to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generators by one-third by 2030. To the coal industry, the proposal was an effective declaration of war.

A big reason the Clean Power Plan never went into effect was West Virginia state attorney general Patrick Morrisey. A lot of GOP state attorneys general opposed the plan, but Morrisey and his team wrote the brief that persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to delay enforcement until lower courts finished reviewing legal challenges to the new regulations. That decision in February 2016 was initially seen as a temporary holdup for the Obama plan — until Trump won the election.

It might be an exaggeration to say, “Patrick Morrisey saved the coal industry,” but it’s not a wild exaggeration. The Obama administration aimed to make coal too expensive to use through regulations, and Morrisey helped prevent it from ever going into effect. Morrisey has already won two statewide races.

Learn more about the GOP Senate candidate in this profile from last year.

Another Hard Lesson about the Limits of Negative Campaigning

A familiar phenomenon: Candidate A goes negative. Candidate B goes negative in response. Candidates A and B get involved in an escalating tit-for-tat in negative attacks. Then, when the election comes, the voters shift . . . to Candidate C. Sometimes it’s driven by the candidates, but my suspicion is that politics, particularly Republican politics, is awash in tired, uncreative, paint-by-numbers consultants who once won a race through negative attacks and came away convinced that “going negative” was a magic wand to that could salvage lousy candidates. Yes, it sometimes works. It usually helps if the arguments against the opponent are compelling and fresh. (I still can’t believe that there are campaigns that think “He only voted in X of the past [larger than X] elections” is a devastating slam.)

Call me crazy, but I think voters want a positive vision of the future and a plausible roadmap to getting there. Sure, Donald Trump attacked Hillary Clinton early and often throughout 2015 and 2016, but “Make America Great Again” is not all that different from “hope and change.” Amidst all of his usual schtick, Trump painted a picture of an America secure behind a southern border wall, safer walking down the street under “law and order,” prospering under tax cuts, confident in the judicial system with judges who wouldn’t attempt to legislate from the bench, safer beyond our shores with ISIS bombed to oblivion and a larger, more advanced U.S. military, and paying more at the store because of tariffs on imported goods. Okay, maybe that last part wasn’t quite so bright and cheery.

Congratulations, Mike Braun.

In a huge upset against two well-established names in Indiana Republican politics, wealthy businessman Mike Braun won Indiana’s high-stakes GOP Senate primary.

Braun, who fueled his bid with millions of dollars of his own money, defeated U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita in what has been called the nation’s nastiest and most expensive U.S. Senate primary.

The Associated Press called the race at 8:48 p.m. with Braun garnering 41 percent of the vote and Messer and Rokita receiving about 29.5 percent each.

Braun, a former state lawmaker and owner of a national distributor of auto parts, painted himself as an outsider with real world experience who could shake up Washington. He entered the race in August after Messer and Rokita had already spent months attacking each other.

At a victory party at a brewery in Whitestown, Braun told supporters that the race came down to whether people were happy with business as usual. He called politicians who come from the private sector the “new dynamic we need in Washington.”

Braun will now face off against Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is widely considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the November election. The race will be one of a handful that determine which party controls the Senate next year.

Are America’s Employers Facing a Worker Shortage?

Today I’m scheduled to appear on HLN around 12:30, discussing legal-immigration levels, particularly the argument that some states might need more immigration to keep their economies thriving:

Wisconsin faces a demographic time bomb as baby boomers flood into retirement in the coming years. While there may not be a labor shortage right now, business leaders and employers are concerned about what the future holds in a state with fewer people of prime working age and a relatively low birth rate. It’s a challenge that may be compounded by the opening of the massive new Foxconn factory in Racine County.

Kurt Bauer, president of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, is one of those ringing the demographic bell.

“We need to retain every born-and-raised Wisconsinite we can,” he said. “We need to get as many of the 29% who are of working age but not currently in the workforce off the sidelines. We need to draw in out-of-staters, including Illinoisans, Iowans and Minnesotans. And we also need legal immigration at really all skill levels. Of course, we need Washington’s help to make that happen.”

One in four Wisconsin manufacturing workers is at least 55 years old — that’s nearly 125,000 workers in the state’s most important industry, marching toward retirement, Census figures show.

The United States continues to welcome more than one million legal immigrants per year: “Approximately 1.13 million aliens obtained Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, compared to 1.18 million in FY 2016.” That seems like a lot. It’s been around a million a year since 2001. As Marco Rubio and other lawmakers have observed, no other country in the world even comes close — other than Germany at the height of the refugee crisis.

And while Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is really low — just 3 percent statewide! — wage growth has been . . . eh, just okay in recent years. The state’s average weekly wage actually dropped by ten dollars a week last year. I’d ask the state’s employers, if you really want to retain every born-and-raised Wisconsinite possible, draw in out-of-staters, and bring in those off the sidelines . . . have you tried giving your workers a raise? You’re using the word “need,” but are we really seeing wages that reflect a need?

ADDENDA: In addition to HLN, I’m scheduled to appear on CNN International around 2:30 p.m. Eastern today.

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