The Morning Jolt

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For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the Illinois primaries.

Austin Bomber Kills Himself with One of His Own Devices

Perhaps the campaign of terror that menaced Austin, Texas, is finally over. The CBS affiliate in Austin has a photo of the now-dead suspect, a not terribly detailed security-camera image of an white male with light blond hair, wearing a blue ball cap. He’s wearing gloves indoors.

He’s been taken out of the picture, but the questions about his motive remain:

The suspect in a string of bombings in Austin is dead, interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed early Wednesday.

The name of the suspect, described only as a 24-year-old white man, has not been released, pending notification of his family, Manley said.

Although police are still investigating the possibility of accomplices, he said, “we believe this individual is responsible for all of the incidents in Austin.”

Manley urged the community to remain vigilant for possible other explosives, adding that “we do not know where (the suspect) has been in the past 24 hours.”

Police have not identified a motive for the string of bombings, Manley said.

Investigators identified several leads but the case really broke in the past 24 to 36 hours, the chief said.

He described how authorities tracked down the suspect’s vehicle to a Round Rock-area hotel. Police began following the suspect’s vehicle, and as SWAT approached, the suspect detonated a bomb in the car, Manley said.

One officer was treated for minor injuries.

“We know when he bought some of the components . . . It was fairly recently,” said Fred Milanowski, special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Fortunately we were able to do some digging and find this individual over the past 48 hours,” he said.

Milanowski described the device used in the car as a “significant explosive device,” but did not provide any other details.

He said the suspect was in the parking lot of the hotel, which has been swept by technicians and bomb-detection dogs.

“We are fairly comfortable there is (no threat) out in the open there,” Malinowski said. He did not say if the suspect was staying in the hotel.

Four bombs had exploded in Austin since March 2, killing two men and injuring four people. A fifth bomb exploded early Tuesday at a FedEx sorting facility in Schertz, about 60 miles southwest of Austin. A package containing what was believed to be an unexploded bomb was found Tuesday at a FedEx distribution center in Austin. Authorities believe the FedEx packages were sent from the FedEx retail store in Sunset Valley.

As a Texas reporter put it earlier this morning, “For the first time in weeks, Austin will wake up with a sense of relief.”

Trump Can’t Afford to Lose Many Supporters

A new Morning Consult poll finds 58 percent of voters saying the Trump administration is running either somewhat or very chaotically. What probably really ought to worry GOP lawmakers is that 28 percent of self-identified Republicans say the Trump administration is running “somewhat chaotically” or “very chaotically.”

Two numbers jumped out at me recently.

Trump votes in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district in 2016: 215,102.

Rick Saccone votes in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district in 2018: 113,186.

Caveats: This is a special election in March, instead of a presidential election in November. Turnout should be way down. A political fact of life is that a decent chunk of the electorate only pays attention once every four years.

But this still means about 102,000 Trump voters either couldn’t be bothered to vote, or voted for the Democrat, just a few days after a Trump rally for Saccone.

Donald Trump won the presidency with 46.2 percent of the vote. Maybe that’s his ceiling. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump’s approval rating is in the low 40s or high 30s, depending upon which pollster you examine. In fact, if nine out of every ten Trump voters still love him, and tell a pollster they approve of the job he’s doing, you would get . . . 41.58 percent, which is right around where his numbers have been lately.

But Donald Trump was elected with the votes of a decent number of reluctant Republicans, and/or some voters who didn’t love him but were willing to roll the dice on him rather than accept four years of President Hillary Clinton. Trump doesn’t have that contrast with Hillary Clinton for him anymore. He’s not being evaluated based upon his promises and his potential, but on his performance.

Yes, a big chunk of the “Trump base” still loves him and everything he does — probably around 90 percent of the people who voted for him. But that remaining 10 percent matters for Trump and for the Republican party — particularly because he energizes Democrats as much as he energizes Republicans. And if he’s bringing blue-collar former Democrats into the party, he’s driving college-educated suburban women out of the party.

Meanwhile, in Illinois . . .

When Bruce Rauner won the 2014 gubernatorial election in Illinois, there was quite a bit of rejoicing among Republicans: Hey, we can even win in Barack Obama’s home state. The Chicago machine is beatable! Illinois could start shifting from blue to purple the way Wisconsin and Michigan have!

Four years later, conservatives have found Rauner’s reign deeply disappointing. Our John J. Miller summed up the damage by the end of 2017: “[Rauner] signed what may be America’s most radical abortion-funding law after vowing to veto it. The betrayal capped a season of defeats for conservatives, including an income-tax hike, a big bailout of Chicago’s public schools, and turning Illinois into what critics of illegal immigration are calling a ‘sanctuary state.'” Yes, he had to work with a heavily Democratic state legislature, but as Miller lays out, Rauner’s once-ambitious reform agenda was gradually whittled down to window-dressing and acquiescence to a lot of Democratic priorities.

With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats? The editors of National Review endorsed primary challenger Jeanne Ives.

Last night, Rauner won . . . by about three points. This is not a united Illinois GOP.

“This primary election was hard fought. Yes,” Rauner said, offering congratulations “to my opponent on her principled stand,” though he did not use Ives’ name.

“To those of you around the state of Illinois who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear: I have heard you. I have traveled the state and I have listened to you,” Rauner said. “While we disagree on some things, let’s commit to working together on what unites us — the reforms we need to save our state.”

For her part, Ives did not say during her concession speech that she would support Rauner in the fall.

Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, an Ives backer, said the primary “showed that Gov. Rauner has a lot of work to do to try and gain back the trust of Republican voters. . . . The ball is in Rauner’s court to take actions to show that he actually wants conservative support.”

It’s Illinois, it looks like a tough year for Republicans, and the state GOP is deeply divided. Don’t buy any green bananas, governor.

Elsewhere in Illinois, our Alexandra DeSanctis covers incumbent Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski’s survival of a tough primary challenge; he remains standing as almost literally the last of the pro-life Democrats:

Along with being one of three House Democrats to vote for the Pain-Capable bill, he was one of only five to vote in January for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which offers legal protection to infants that survive abortion procedures. In other words, 183 Democrats in the House opposed a bill prohibiting doctors from allowing newborn infants to die of neglect after botched abortion.

This is today’s Democratic party, and Lipinski is one of the few bulwarks against a total transformation on abortion that has been underway since Roe v. Wade. While the Blue Dog Democrat has drawn plenty of fire from progressives in recent years — when he voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, for example, citing its unsustainable budget — the momentum for Newman’s primary threat was driven by abortion-rights groups frustrated with his consistent support for pro-life legislation.

Keep in mind, Lipinski’s pro-life views don’t make him an across-the-board “conservative Democrat” by any stretch of the imagination. Lipinski’s lifetime ACU rating is 19 out of 100.

ADDENDA: If you’ve ever wanted to see our Jay Nordlinger quote C+C Music Factory, here it is.

Yesterday’s taping of The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg was hilarious and insightful. Look for it here sometime today.

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