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Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
Democrats won another hotly contested statehouse seat on Tuesday night, capturing a district on Florida’s Gulf Coast for their 36th state legislative seat flip of the Trump era.
Democrat Margaret Good defeated James Buchanan, the son of wealthy Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), by a seven-point margin in a suburban Sarasota-based district President Trump carried by almost five points.
The win is the latest for Democrats, who’ve captured Trump-leaning territory across the country, from Wisconsin to New Hampshire to Missouri to Virginia to Washington. And the 12-point shift towards Democrats in this contest is right in line with the average shift that’s occurred in statehouse races across the country towards Democrats since the 2016 elections.
Democrats took another victory lap.
“Representative-elect Margaret Good’s campaign was dedicated to the people of Sarasota County who are tired of Florida Republicans peddling a Trump agenda counter to their values,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee head Jessica Good said in a statement.
These wins show how committed Democrats are to turning out against Trump right now across the country, a factor that’s unlikely to change before this November’s midterm elections and a sign that at least one of the factors for a large wave election is firmly in place. And while this suburban seat isn’t as deep red as some others — a Democrat won it in 2006 and President Obama nearly won the county in 2008 — it’s a sign that Democrats can expand the map to areas they haven’t been able to compete in since those wave elections.
This race was highly targeted by both parties, with heavy spending on both sides, an endorsement from Vice President Biden and a visit from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in the election’s closing days.
Special elections make it easier for the more fired-up party to pull off huge upsets, and more Republican voters are likely to turn up for this fall’s midterms, making these races an imperfect stand-in of what the future will look like. But most real elections from the past year — as well as big gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey and Democrats’ shocking win in an Alabama Senate race — suggest Democrats are set up to win big next fall.
Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) almost blew his last election by choke-slamming a reporter for daring to ask him questions, then lying about how the assault happened. But in his mind (or at least his latest fundraising email), he’s still the victim.
Gianforte’s campaign sent out an email asking for money on Monday that included a claim that he’d not only had to beat beat his Democratic opponent but the “leftist media” in his special election last year.
“We were able to win a tough, close victory against the Democrats and the leftist media in the most expensive Congressional contest in Montana history,” reads the fundraising letter, signed by Gianforte.
That’s an interesting turn of phrase for Gianforte, who won his race last year even after tackling Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, breaking his glasses in the process, after Jacobs pressed him on his stance on the GOP’s Obamacare repeal plan.
He compounded that attack by lying about what happened, a story he later had to walk back. After pleading guilty to the attack he promised Jacobs an in-person meeting, which he’s since refused to hold unless Jacobs agrees that it’s off-the-record.
Gianforte’s six-point victory last summer came partly because much of Montana’s vote had already been cast via early voting when he attacked Jacobs. Democrats think they have an outside shot at defeating him in the Republican-leaning state.
Gianforte’s team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Senate Democrats have crushed their Republican rivals in campaign fundraising once again, the latest sign of a huge enthusiasm advantage as Democrats look to defend a tough map and widen their narrow path to the majority in the 2018 midterms.
Every Senate Democratic incumbent facing a tough reelection this year out-raised their opponent in the last three months of 2017, most by lopsided margins, according to recently filed Senate finance reports.
Nine of the ten Democrats who are up for reelection next year in states President Donald Trump carried raised at least $1 million in fundraising, and more than doubled the total brought in by their top opponent.
Six of those ten Democrats have at least five times as much cash in the bank as their nearest GOP opponent. No Republican running for a Democratic-held seat topped $1 million from donors in the last three months, the normal benchmark for a strong Senate fundraising quarter.
“Our members have a strong amount of support and enthusiasm and that’s reflected in those numbers,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told TPM on Thursday. “All of our members are doing really well.”
Democrats also posted impressive fundraising numbers in the two states where they have the best pickup opportunities. Rep. Jackie Rosen (D-NV) nearly doubled Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) numbers, with a $1.6 million quarter to Heller’s $820,000 (Heller still has $4.2 million in the bank to Rosen’s $1.8 million, however).
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) posted a similarly impressive $1.6 million, while Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) raised $1.1 million. Sinema has $5.2 million in the bank to McSally’s $1.8 million — a differential that will likely grow, as McSally faces a tough primary while Sinema has a clear field.
“It’s been better in January than it was in December… the tax bill and actually doing something has been helpful. But there are still some pretty good headwinds there,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose seat Sinema and McSally are running to fill, told TPM. “A lot of people aren’t happy with the direction of the party.”
Here’s the full fundraising chart:
Based on these tallies, there are signs that the Democratic map may further expand. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) pulled in a whopping $2.4 million, double Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) $1.2 million. While Cruz maintains a $6.4 million to $4.6 million lead in cash on hand, O’Rourke’s continued impressive numbers suggest he’ll have the money to compete in the expensive state.
These numbers follow a year-long pattern of bonanza fundraising for congressional Democrats, who bested their GOP counterparts by similar margins last quarter. Their continued solid fundraising has helped them further expand their cash leads in many states. And their fundraising dominance mirrors what’s happening elsewhere in Congress, where more than 40 House GOP incumbents were each out-raised by at least one Democratic challenger last quarter.
Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) all have more than $8 million in the bank, leagues ahead of their challengers, though recently announced self-funding Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) has the personal resources to match Brown, and billionaire Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will likely outspend Nelson if he decides to run.
There are few bright spots for the GOP, even in states where their candidates did relatively well.
While each of the three Republicans running against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) has almost $2.5 million in the bank, Donnelly now has $5.3 million stashed away, and his opponents will have to spend much of their resources to try to win the GOP primary. Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who posted the weakest quarterly numbers of any red-state Democrat facing re-election, has $4.7 million in the bank, significantly more than his best-funded challenger.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) posted an impressive $1.9 million in her quest to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). But her primary opponent, former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), hauled in almost $1.5 million. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) — whose candidacy Democrats hope will further expand the map — raised almost half a million dollars in his first month in the race. While Bredesen is millions of dollars behind Blackburn and Fincher in cash on hand, he’ll likely be able to close that gap while they fight out the primary.
Candidate cash isn’t all that matters in races, and Republican-aligned outside groups tend to spend significantly more on down-ballot elections. While Democratic campaign committees in the House and Senate have continued to outpace their GOP opponents, the Republican National Committee has continued to dominate the Democratic National Committee in fundraising over the past year, buoyed by its alliance with President Donald Trump and donors’ continued mistrust of the DNC. And Trump and Republicans have seen their poll numbers tick up from abysmal to merely problematic over the past six weeks, a sign that the expected Democratic wave may not be the tsunami many liberals are hoping to see.
But Democratic candidates’ continued cash bonanza is the latest sign that if that wave does come, they’re ready to surf.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a bipartisan deal to fund the government on Wednesday, a major breakthrough that could force the House to swallow the agreement to avoid a possible shutdown.
The deal would set federal spending for the next two years, boosting both defense and non-defense spending by a combined $300 billion and raising the debt limit for months. It also provides funding to battle the opioid addiction crisis and for natural disaster recovery, and extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another four years.
House leaders in both parties may not be thrilled they’ve been jammed again — and immigrant advocate groups have expressed fury that a deal to protect young immigrants brought here as children wasn’t included. But with one day before the government once again runs out of funding, it appears the Senate is likely to get a lot of what it wants.
The deal would end months of brinksmanship and uncertainty where Congress passed five short-term deals as lawmakers looked for a breakthrough agreement.
“This bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward,” McConnell said before praising Schumer in a rare show of bipartisan warmth.
Schumer returned the compliment.
“It should break the long cycle of spending crises,” he said. “At the end of the day I believe we’ve reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of.”
But those warm-and-fuzzies don’t extend across the Hill, with House lawmakers in both parties viewing the deal warily.
As Schumer and McConnell unveiled the deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) entered the third hour of a House floor speech demanding action on immigration reform to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from facing possible deportation. McConnell has agreed to an open debate on immigration, but it’s far from clear what deal the Senate might reach — and whether that would be palatable to President Trump and House Republicans.
While many on the left flank of the Democratic caucus are likely to vote against the deal because of its lack of a DACA fix, the main reason Senate Democrats forced a government shutdown late last month, many hardline House conservatives aren’t happy with how much the deal spends, or about the longer-term debt ceiling increase.
The Senate is usually pretty good at forcing the House to grimace and swallow its deals. But it’s not a slam-dunk that this can and will pass the House without more changes, and there may be more twists and turns before a government shutdown is averted.
Democrats on Tuesday pulled off another surprising special election upset, this time capturing a Missouri statehouse seat in a deep-red district that President Donald Trump easily carried in 2016.
Democratic candidate Mike Revis defeated GOP nominee David Linton on Tuesday night by a 4-point margin in a seat Trump carried with 61 percent of the vote just over a year ago, and which former President Barack Obama lost by 12 points in 2012. That’s a major swing — and the latest time Democrats have vastly over-performed their previous numbers this year as they look toward a potential wave election in the fall.
“Representative-elect Mike Revis’s victory tonight will undoubtedly send another shockwave through the GOP as we continue to run the best candidates focused on addressing local issues and improving their neighbors’ quality of life,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee head Jessica Post said in a statement.
Democrats have now picked up 35 state legislative seats across the country in special elections, while Republicans have picked up just four since Trump took office. This is the latest deep-red seat that Democrats have flipped and, like the party’s recent victory in a Wisconsin state senate election, indicates how revved up the Democratic base is.
There will undoubtedly be higher overall voter turnout in the 2018 general election, making it harder for progressive base enthusiasm alone to power a major wave. But this win, as well as Democrats’ improved numbers in a trio of other Missouri special elections they lost Tuesday night in heavily Republican areas, are the latest signs that white-hot liberal enthusiasm is creating new opportunities across the country for Democratic candidates, even in areas that have moved hard against their party in recent years.
That’s good news for Democrats across the country — including those staring down tough reelection fights, like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
President Trump and congressional Republicans have been on a bit of a hot streak as of late.
Their successfully passed tax cuts seem to have boosted them with Republican-leaning voters. They won the messaging war on the first round of government shutdown, largely because Trump stayed out of view during the fight. Trump managed to get through his State of the Union speech with at least as much coverage about Democrats’ refusal to applaud as his sometimes-divisive message.
That series of good breaks has helped Trump and congressional Republicans’ poll numbers tick up from abysmal to merely lousy, and boosted their hopes that the 2018 election might not be nearly as bad as many have feared. Trump’s approval rating has crept back up above 40 percent in some recent surveys for the first time in months, and Democrats’ lead has shrunk to the mid-single digits in many recent generic congressional polls, possibly not enough for them to win the House.
But in the last 24 hours, Trump made two new major gaffes that once again show his utter inability to stick with message discipline — and hint at how short-lived the Republican rally might prove to be.
On Monday, Trump accused Democrats of “treason” for refusing to applaud his State of the Union speech. On Tuesday, he threatened to shut down the government if Democrats don’t accede to his demands to drastically cut legal immigration in exchange for protections for DACA recipients.
Reporters didn’t even have to leave the room to get a view of how well that would play with vulnerable Republicans: Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), at the White House for an event about MS-13 gang violence, took the opportunity to publicly rebuke the president over his remarks.
“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” Comstock told him with the cameras present.
It was a smart move: Her suburban Northern Virginia district has a huge number of federal employees, and a large number of immigrants who voted for Hillary Clinton last presidential election.
But that wasn’t enough to dissuade Trump, who interrupted her reiterate his shutdown threat.
“You can say what you want. We are not getting support of the Democrats,” he replied.
Trump doubled down minutes later.
“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue. If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country,” he told reporters. “Without borders we don’t have a country. So would I would shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can’t speak for our great representatives here but I have a feeling they may agree with me.”
Comstock’s comments are great fodder for her argument that she’ll break with Trump and stand up for her voters, and will likely give her a personal boost in 2018. But the president will continue to dominate the election landscape, and other GOP lawmakers aren’t going to be nearly as lucky as to be in the room to call Trump out when he says things that will hurt their reelection chances.
Trump has mostly managed to stay out of his own way and stick to the script in the last few weeks, and that’s helped his party recover with independent voters. But his off-script moments regularly remind swing voters why many don’t like him while further infuriating Democrats, driving their election enthusiasm ever-higher. After a surprisingly disciplined stretch it appears he’s returning to his old ways once again — and that should alarm Republicans already facing a tough election map.
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) recently joined the radio show of an ardent conspiracy theorist who believes the 9/11 attacks may have been carried out by the “World Zionist Organization,” a curious choice for a man gearing up for another possible Senate run.
The controversial lawmaker is seriously considering a run against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year after losing a close and nasty race to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in 2014.
McDaniel still maintains that election was stolen from him, and appeared as a high-profile guest on internet radio host and conspiracy theorist Ian Trottier’s show to help his longtime friend and ally Ryan Walters promote his book “Remember Mississippi,” which makes the same argument.
Before McDaniel and Walters joined last week’s show, Trottier talked up the views of his previous week’s guest — Christopher Bollyn, a man who argues that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by an international Jewish conspiracy and has been labeled an anti-Semite by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Look, whether he’s accurate or not regarding the World Zionist Organization, the likelihood that they have at least a hand in what may have transpired on Sept. 11, 2001 is extremely high,” Trottier said. “I don’t know if that attack was a hoax. I don’t know if the research that he has done is accurate. But when you listen to him speak it sure as heck makes sense and it sounds like he’s right on a trail that leads right back to understanding exactly what happened. Because it’s becoming ever so common that taking the whole Bin Laden angle just doesn’t make any sense.”
The full show can be heard here:
That’s far from Trottier’s only conspiracy theory — he also touts JFK assassination plots, international banking conspiracies and claims that childhood vaccines cause autism. But last week, he mostly focused on another claim: That the 2014 GOP primary was illegally rigged.
“We fought, we ran, we feel like we won, obviously, and but for 40,000 Democrats that moved into the primary we would have won,” McDaniel told Trottier.
Walters said Democrats were “bribed” to vote in the runoff.
McDaniel finished in first place in the initial primary, but didn’t win a majority of votes, triggering a runoff. In that race, Cochran’s allies helped turn out enough establishment Republicans and Democrats to turn the tide, grinding out a 7,700-vote victory. McDaniel went to court to have that overturned, arguing that the Democrats had voted illegally. But the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out his case after he failed to file it on time.
Experts said then that there was little evidence of McDaniel’s claim of 15,000 fraudulent votes, and that his argument that Democrats were barred from voting in a GOP primary was simply wrong: It was legal for Democrats to vote in the GOP primary in the state if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in the first round.
That 2014 primary campaign had some of the shadiest acts in recent political history. A local tea party leader and McDaniel backer broke into Cochran’s wife’s nursing home to photograph her in an attempt to prove he was cheating on her with another woman. McDaniel claims to this day he had nothing to do with it. Another McDaniel backer allegedly involved in the break-in scheme later committed suicide while awaiting trial. Shadowy outside groups blasted McDaniel as a racist tied to the Ku Klux Klan in the race’s closing days, spurring African Americans to head to the polls against him.
“They trashed Chris as a racist, a bigot, somebody who was friends with the Ku Klux Klan,” Walters lamented to Trottier last week.
Their discussion mostly focused on Mississippi, with McDaniel and Walters largely ignoring Trottier’s tangents.
Both interviewees told TPM they had no idea about Trottier’s views when they went on the air.
“I’m not into the conspiracy stuff, and didn’t know the host was pushing any of it. I briefly joined the program as a favor to a friend and campaign volunteer who was working to sell his book,” McDaniel said in a text message.
“A friend connected me to the show, which I had never heard of, in order to help me publicize my book, and it was a last minute arrangement that all happened right at airtime,” Walters said in an email. “Had I known the host was pushing these types of conspiracy theories I wouldn’t have joined the program or called Chris to get on air. And I certainly do not agree with the 9/11 Truthers or those that believe in any Jewish conspiracy.”
But Walters’ claim that the interview was scheduled at the last minute doesn’t seem to hold up. Trottier plugged the scheduled interview in his previous threeweekly shows, meaning the interview was apparently on the books for at least three weeks.
When TPM pointed out that Trottier had been talking up the scheduled interview for weeks, Walters admitted that he’d committed earlier but said McDaniel never did — which he said is why McDaniel joined at the end of the show after Walters had been on for a while. He refused to say who had connected him to Trottier.
“It was scheduled by a friend (I’m not giving out that name without their permission) a few weeks in advance for both of us but Chris had never confirmed anything because of his heavy work load. That’s why he wasn’t on most of the program. He’s busy with the state senate session. I just tried to get him on the program toward the end at the last minute in the hopes he was available,” he said in an email late Thursday night.
McDaniel didn’t answer directly when asked if he would have done the program if he had known about Trottier’s views.
“I’ve never heard the program. I have no idea what positions they hold,” McDaniel said.
He didn’t respond when TPM asked again in a follow-up text message, or explain when he’d agreed to do the program. Trottier didn’t respond to an interview request.
McDaniel, an attorney and former radio host, has a long history of controversial statements on race and gender. He made headlines last year for attacking the women’s march, claiming that “almost all liberal women are unhappy.” In older comments McDaniel blamed hip-hop for gun violence, threatened to stop paying taxes if Congress authorized slavery reparations and said one of the only useful Spanish words he knew was “mamacita,” an apparent joke about cat-calling Hispanic women.
McDaniel has been seriously mulling a race against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year, along with a possible run for lieutenant governor, but has delayed making any final decisions, a sign that he’s also waiting to see whether Cochran’s poor health forces him from office.
An outside group partly funded by the billionaire Mercer family, Remember Mississippi (with the same name as Walters’ book, based on the rallying cry for those who think McDaniel was robbed in 2014), has collected $1 million to back a possible McDaniel run. McDaniel has also worked closely with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as he gears up for a potential run, and joined Bannon in Alabama last year as he promoted Roy Moore’s Senate campaign.
McDaniel stood by Moore through the bitter end last year, even after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers and Moore’s wife claimed they weren’t anti-Semites because “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”
“The establishment strikes back. But tomorrow is a new day. Don’t lose hope,” McDaniel wrote on Facebook after Moore’s loss.
This story has been updated to include Walters’ latest response.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) won’t run for another term, he announced Wednesday, making him the latest GOP chairman to announce he’s heading for the exits in recent months.
“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political elected office,” Gowdy said in a statement. “Instead I will be returning to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.”
His announcement makes him the ninth Republican committee chairman to announce he’s leaving, the second this week alone, and the second Oversight chairman in less than a year, as former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) quit to take a job at Fox News last year.
Gowdy’s retirement will leave the GOP without one of their most aggressive bulldogs. The former prosecutor relentlessly led Republicans’ Benghazi investigation, a push that effectively damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He’s long expressed interest in becoming a federal judge. A seat on the Fourth Circuit Court, which covers South Carolina, became vacant just yesterday, and the current U.S. attorney in South Carolina is serving in an interim role
House Republicans have been retiring at record rates this year, outpacing even previous wave elections. There are now 34 GOP lawmakers who won’t be back next year. But unlike some others, Gowdy isn’t leaving because of a potentially tough reelection fight. His Upstate South Carolina seat is safely Republican — President Trump won it by a 25-point margin.
The Justice Department has dropped its plan to retry Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on corruption charges, an abrupt about-face that keeps him from another arduous trial and likely protects his place in the Senate.
The decision comes one week after a federal judge acquitted Menendez and his co-defendant, wealthy patron Solomon Melgen, of seven of the 18 counts they faced. An earlier trial had ended in a hung jury — with a reported 10 of the dozen members of the jury supporting acquittal.
“Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges,” a DOJ spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
It’s become significantly more difficult to prosecute politicians for corruption since the Supreme Court tossed out former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) conviction in 2016, and while the accusations that Menendez helped Melgen with his business interests as well as getting him visas for young women he was seeing in exchange for campaign contributions are rather unsavory, under current law it appeared unlikely that he’d be convicted.
Menendez celebrated the news.
“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail. I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion,” he said in a statement. “I have devoted my life to serving the people of New Jersey, and am forever thankful for all who have stood by me. No matter the challenges ahead, I will never stop fighting for New Jersey and the values we share.”
Menendez faces reelection this year, and an ongoing trial would have cast a dark cloud over him and possibly could have ended his career. But New Jersey Democratic power-brokers including Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Cory Booker and (most importantly) party boss George Norcross had all rallied around him, all but erasing any chance of a serious primary challenge. While Menendez’s approval ratings are currently in the toilet, it’s hard to see the GOP mounting a serious challenge against him in the Democratic-leaning state now that he won’t be facing trial.
Democrats gave President Trump a chance in his first joint address to Congress last February. After a year of norm-shattering and race-baiting, they weren’t so polite.
Many congressional Democrats sat stonily as President Trump entered the House chamber Tuesday night, refusing to join in the normal bipartisan applause for the president. They audibly groaned during many portions of his speech. Lines tailored for bipartisan applause landed flat. Democrats snickered when Trump described his hardline immigration plan as “bipartisan.” Many wouldn’t even clap when Trump proclaimed “the state of our union is strong.” And when he laid out false claims about family migration visas, more than a handful yelled “lies” at the president.
State of the Union speeches are rarely bipartisan love affairs, but a year into Trump’s presidency, his often-partisan speech and Democrats’ harsh reaction put on display just how divided he’s left America.
“The immigration portion was so xenophobic and anti-immigrant and that’s just not the foundation of America,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) told TPM after the speech. “I’ve always felt like you should stare a bully in the face and never walk away from a fight and it’s clear to me that this president has it out for people who don’t look like him, who are not of the same background, and that’s anti-American.”
“His speech was stoking the flames of xenophobia and racism in our country,” she continued, slamming Trump for his veiled attack against NFL players who’ve chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans. “I chose to come because I respect the office. But what’s clear from listening to his speech is he doesn’t respect the office. He wasn’t talking about all Americans, he wasn’t talking to all Americans tonight, he was talking to a select group of his base.”
She wasn’t alone in her fury.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) told TPM she wasn’t one of the Democrats who shouted “lies” at the podium during Trump’s speech — “I yelled ‘wrong.'”
“We got teleprompter Trump tonight,” she said. “All of that belies the kind of actions he’s taken in a full year as president. He has not shown compassion. He’s not shown love. In trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act he’s not shown any care about the health issues for millions of Americans. … We’ve had a year of totally outside the norm behavior as president.”
Dozens of Democratic congresswomen wore all black, wearing “time’s up” pins to honor the #metoo movement that has been partly spurred by Trump’s treatment of women. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus wore ties and scarves with kente African print patterns, a visible protest of the president’s “shithole countries” comment.
Democrats’ palpable hostility didn’t go unreturned. Republicans noticed Democrats’ silent protests and responded by trolling them, seeming to drag out their first standing ovation as long as possible as they goaded their colleagues across the aisle. They broke into long chants of “USA” twice during the speech.
“I can’t believe they wouldn’t stand for America,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told TPM as he exited the chamber after the speech.
Democrats were furious about particular lines — the “stand for the national anthem” line, his falsehoods about so-called “chain migration,” his line that “Americans are dreamers too.”
“It was hurtful because I think he was trying to diminish them,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who stormed out near the end of the speech, told reporters afterwards. “That’s what we’re trying to say, that ‘dreamers’ are Americans. … for a man who says he cares so much, why belittle them?”
Plenty were annoyed that Trump didn’t offer specifics on bipartisan areas like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and paid family leave. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) started off clapping during Trump’s infrastructure comments and ended with a scowl, standing and rubbing his fingers together in a “show me the money gesture” during his remarks.
But the last year clearly overshadowed the speech itself — including for many Democrats from states Trump won in 2016.
“The president said almost nothing to try to bring us together. It was a continuation, now twelve months in a row, of divisive language almost to the point of name-calling in how he did that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told TPM. “He seems to have no interest in governing to and with and for the two-thirds of the people of the country that don’t seem to much like him.”
Correction: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “you lie” at President Obama during a joint address on health care policy, not a State of the Union address, as this post originally stated.