The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Yet Another Democrat Jumps into the Presidential Primary

Governor Steve Bullock (D, Mont.) gives a toast at the Governors’ Ball, in the State Dining Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., February 24, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Yet another Democrat hops into the 2020 primary field, Brett Kavanaugh sides with some unexpected colleagues to rule that iPhone users can sue Apple over app prices, and U.S. officials say Iran was likely behind the attack on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other ships over the weekend.

Montana Governor Enters the Democratic Primary

Montana governor Steve Bullock has become the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential nomination, bringing the grand total of Democrats running to 23. Bullock had reportedly been mulling the run for quite some time before deciding to enter the race, and he’ll officially launch his campaign today with a rally at a high school in Montana before making his way to Iowa for a series of campaign stops.

According to Morning Consult data from the first quarter of 2019, Bullock is among the 15 most popular governors in the country, and one of the top Democrats to make the list (13 out of the top 15 most popular governors are Republicans; the other Democrat is Delaware governor John Carney). But that fact makes Bullock’s decision to run for president a bit more puzzling.

In a field of 23 candidates, where Biden continues to lead the pack by double digits in many polls, it’s hard to imagine the Montana governor will have an easy time making an impression on primary voters. But it’s much easier to imagine Bullock putting up a decent fight against Republican senator Steve Daines, who is up for re-election in 2020.

Bullock is one of several rising Democratic politicians who declined to run for a Senate seat in order to run for president, along with Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and former representative Beto O’Rourke. Some Democrats would like to see Hickenlooper challenge Republican senator Cory Gardner for his seat this cycle, while many believe O’Rourke would have a decent shot at unseating Republican senator and former Senate majority whip John Cornyn.

In Georgia, meanwhile, failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — who has still refused to concede the governor’s race — has already declined to challenge Republican senator David Perdue for his seat this cycle. Abrams does, however, say that she’s still considering whether she’ll hop into the Democratic presidential primary.

These decisions must be frustrating for Democrats, who face a difficult but not impossible map in their effort to take the Senate out of GOP hands in 2020. They need to flip three seats in order to gain the majority, but not many of the Republican incumbents are particularly vulnerable. Susan Collins, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, is perhaps one of the weaker incumbents, but a recent poll found her leading a possible Democratic challenger by more than 20 points.

Meanwhile, Beto, Hickenlooper, and Bullock join nearly two dozen of their fellow Democrats in fighting over the same donors and primary voters, angling for a spot on the debate stage to somehow break out from the shadow cast by Biden and Bernie. Perhaps the problem is that there is essentially no downside to running for president. It’s a fairly easy path to more TV hits, more press attention, the possibility of a book deal, and so on.

Supreme Court Rules against Apple in Big Anti-Trust Case

In a 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the four unexpected members of the Court on Monday in Apple v. Pepper, allowing an anti-trust class-action suit against the tech company to proceed. The majority ruled that consumers can sue Apple over the high app prices that result from its monopolistic control over the “the iPhone apps aftermarket.”

The ruling merely allowed an original lawsuit, brought by a group of iPhone users, to proceed, but did not take a stance on the merits of that case. The class-action lawsuit deals with fees that Apple takes on sales in its App Store, which millions use every day. Apple charges developers up to 30 percent commission when they sell apps through the store, prevents them from selling those apps elsewhere, and has some influence over prices.

Writing for the majority, Kavanaugh upheld the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, determining that Apple, rather than app developers, controls the point of sale and therefore can be sued for exercising a monopoly over prices. From NR’s own Jack Crowe:

“It is undisputed that the iPhone owners bought the apps directly from Apple,” Kavanaugh wrote, splitting with a district court that previously held the app developers responsible for pricing.

Kavanaugh took issue with Apple’s defense that it does not have a monopoly because it doesn’t set the retail price for individual apps, pointing out that the fee the company charges developers (30 percent of sales revenue plus $99 annually) significantly affects retail pricing.

“In the retail context, the price charged by a retailer to a consumer is often a result (at least in part) of the price charged by the manufacturer or supplier to the retailer, or of negotiations between the manufacturer or supplier and the retailer,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Writing for the dissenting four justices, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “If the proximate cause line is no longer to be drawn at the first injured party, how far down the causal chain can a plaintiff be and still recoup damages?” Gorsuch also claimed that the majority opinion relied on “convoluted pass-on theories,” in which damages to the consumer inflicted by app developers are instead passed on to a third party such as Apple.

Iran Likely behind Attack on Saudi Tankers

U.S. officials report that Iran was likely behind the attack on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and a Norwegian ship over the weekend near the Persian Gulf. From the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on the incident:

The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and comes after a series of U.S. warnings against aggression by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.

The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible U.S. response. The U.S. has said in the past week that it was sending an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, a bomber task force and an antimissile system to the region after it alleged intelligence showed Iran posed a threat to its troops.

“If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran,” President Trump said while meeting with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House earlier on Monday.

Iran’s office at the United Nations didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates has blamed Iran for the attacks, while Iran’s foreign-ministry spokesman has said the incident should be investigated and called it dreadful, according to Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency.

It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Trump said when asked at the White House on Monday about the incident.

The Washington Post reports that the attack is more significant in light of U.S. sanctions on Iran:

The spike in tensions comes after the Trump administration’s decision to lift sanctions waivers from eight countries that import Iranian oil, in a bid to bring Iran’s exports down to “zero,” according to U.S. officials. Iranian imports had already plunged after the United States reimposed sanctions in November, following the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord. The expiration of the waivers is expected to inflict further pain on Iran’s already reeling economy.

According to a CBS News report, the scale of the alleged sabotage is not yet clear, although one Saudi official has said the tankers sustained “significant damage.” Just after the attacks were reported, oil prices rose and inflamed concerns that global oil supplies would be threatened, especially in light of the ongoing civil war in Libya and the crisis in Venezuela.

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