June 7, 2024

Thought of the Week:

I threw my charity golf tournament earlier this week; it was the 18th annual SMGA Charity Golf Classic. Each year, for the past eighteen golf seasons, the tournament has been the SMGA’s largest single-day fundraising event, bringing in on average more than $100,000 in revenue. While final figures aren’t yet available for this year’s edition, the tournament has raised nearly $2 million to support the mental and physical rehabilitation of post-9/11 veterans through the game of golf. Beginning with one teaching professional and five veterans at a single location less than 10 miles away from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the program has expanded to 8 chapters, 21 host locations, and a subsidiary, the American Golfer Program, that operates in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Going into 2024, the program had served over 5,000 veterans, given away more than 3,500 custom-fitted club sets, offered thousands of individual lessons, and held hundreds of clinics. Played on the first Monday in June, at the club I learned to play golf on, players and sponsors in the event include family; college teammates; lifelong friends; and a growing list of corporate sponsors—Stepstone, Chubb, Sciolex, Washington Commanders, Baltimore Orioles, Anheuser Busch, TaylorMade, Adidas, Orange Theory Fitness, and many others. Like past years, we saw the Special Forces Association Parachute Team deliver the American flag from 12,000 feet prior to the national anthem; we featured a hook and ladder truck from Rockville, MD’s, Station 31, Fire Department; and we had an SMGA Purple Heart veteran share his story with the entire field. This being a presidential election year, this being Washington, and this being an event held just days after former president Trump became the first American president to be convicted of a crime, there was an added buzz around the tournament. After all the handshakes, hugs, and congratulations, I’d hazard that no fewer than 30 players asked me for my take on how the conviction might impact the election. While a golf tournament, at a country club, filled with corporate donors is surely not a place one would argue that attracts a bipartisan crowd, the overwhelming sentiment was that Democrats had pushed things a step too far. I tend to agree. Sure, hundreds of House and Senate candidates will now have to run for reelection with a convicted felon at the top of the ticket. And yes, the Biden-Harris campaign and every pro-Democratic group in the country will remind voters of this each day between now and November 5th. But the former president raised more than $70 million in the two days immediately after his conviction, which, at the least, is an indication that the conviction boosted GOP support and galvanized the Republican base around the former president and quite possibly GOP candidates and incumbents up and down the ticket. Historically, an angry voter is a motivated voter, and Trump supporters are livid following this verdict. In fact, even Trump-skeptical members of Congress like Senator Collins (R-ME), who voted to impeach the former president, and Rep. Bacon (R-NE), who represents one of the most hotly contested swing districts, have made statements critical of the verdict and New York District Attorney Bragg. Their comments are an indication that even the most moderate of Republicans view the conviction as a politicization of the judicial system. To date, polling following the verdict has been mixed. While too soon to draw any hard conclusions, a poll from Reuters showed that 15% of Republicans and 25% of independents were less likely to vote for Trump after the verdict, but a Morning Consult survey showed that more independent voters view the charges against Trump as politically motivated than before the verdict. Regardless, the guilty verdict is unlikely to be a decisive election event; it could easily be eclipsed by candidate gaffes, debate performances, or age/health issues. And the economy, immigration, and geopolitical events are all issues that I suspect will factor more heavily into voter decisions. It’s hard to believe that a conviction, even a felony conviction, on paying money to conceal an affair would be enough on its own to change minds, particularly when one considers that the entire matter has been well known by voters for years. Former president Trump is scheduled to be sentenced in five weeks on July 11, and the Republican convention will kick off in Milwaukee on July 15.

Thought Leadership from our Consultants, Think Tanks, and Trade Associations

Bloomberg Government Predicts that Politics Will Edge Out Legislating as Congress Braces for Election. Congress is about to embark on a summer-long slog as lawmakers attempt to make progress on priorities such as defense, spending, and confirming nominees before election pressures bring any serious legislating to a standstill. The calendar crunch leaves little time to grind through complex legislation. In fact, one or both chambers are in session for just under half of the 22 weeks before the election. Both chambers will be out in August for their traditional recess and all of October in the run-up to the election. Two weeks of July are reserved for Republicans’ national convention and the July 4 holiday, while Democrats hold their convention in August. Although lawmakers will need to pass stopgap funding to keep the government open at the start of the new fiscal year in October, other substantive issues will be delayed at least until the lame-duck session and more likely into the new Congress. Look for votes on noncontroversial items, such as post-office naming, or political messaging bills that stand little chance of becoming law but are intended to help the parties rally supporters before an election where control of both chambers is at stake.

Eurasia Group Says President Biden’s Border Plan is High Risk, High Reward. The executive order that took effect earlier this week represents an attempt by the White House to gain the upper hand on one of its weakest campaign issues—and on which, unlike on the economy, the president can pull policy levers that might make a difference. The issuance of the order represents a bet that Biden stands more to gain with moderates by appearing tough on the border than he stands to lose with progressives by adopting what they see as a right-wing position on the issue; it’s a risky move with unclear payoffs. Congressional Democrats facing tough re-election campaigns in red-leaning districts have praised the order, while prominent progressives like Senator Warren (D-MA) have said the order is the wrong move. The order is intended to limit daily encounters to between 1,400 and 4,000 at the southern border—down from the 6,000+ daily encounters so far this year. This would represent between a 30%-75% reduction in the flow of migrants at the border if it is sustained through the rest of the year. Its economic impact will be relatively limited in the near term, given the time lag in the granting of work permits to asylum seekers and agricultural employers’ increasing reliance on the uncapped H-2A temporary visa program. Changing the minds of independents who rank immigration as one of the top two issues in the campaign will be difficult, given record-high migration numbers thus far in Biden’s term, and the high bar for changing people’s perceptions of past performance is a constraining force on Biden’s potential political upside.

Eurasia Group Contends that By Moving Too Aggressively, California has Damaged its Ability to Shape Policy in Other States. Virginia will stop following California’s standards for car emissions that would have required every new car sold in the state to be fully electric by 2035. While Virginia lawmakers had voted to align the state’s car emissions standards with California in 2021, when Democrats had full control over the legislature and governor’s office, GOP Governor Youngkin’s abandonment of California’s emission standards suggests that states that had aligned with California on climate policy will begin to defect en masse as the targets become increasingly unrealistic. Connecticut Governor Lamont, a Democrat, retreated earlier this year from a proposal to adopt California’s standards after facing opposition from his own party in the state legislature. By setting targets designed to push the envelope of what is economically and technically feasible, California is limiting its ability to influence policy nationwide. States are likely to take on a larger role in regulatory standard setting—especially on climate and environmental issues—in the coming years as federal regulatory authority weakens under political and court pressure, and without California as a unifying force, policies will become more divergent, and the cost of compliance will increase.

“Inside Baseball”

To Nuke or Not to Nuke—the Filibuster. Many believe the debate over scrapping the Senate’s filibuster was over when Democrats couldn’t find the votes a few years ago to kill it; however, it’s very much a live issue on Capitol Hill. Two of Democrats’ most ardent filibuster defenders are retiring at the end of this Congress—Sen. Manchin (I-WV) and Sen. Sinema (I-AZ). Plus, Republicans are favored to take control of the chamber and could be under pressure from former President Trump to scrap the 60-vote threshold. Punchbowl News posed the following question to top Republicans: Can you guarantee that a GOP Senate majority won’t move to gut the filibuster, even if doing so would help advance their agenda? The overwhelming response was that Republicans would hold the line regardless of the inevitable pressure from a Trump White House. Sen. Tillis (R-NC) even said he’d resign from the Senate if his party gets rid of the filibuster. But several Democrats suspect that Republicans would move to gut the 60-vote threshold the moment it benefits them. A GOP trifecta—control of the House, Senate, and White House—could be the impetus for such a move. Interestingly, however, Sen. Manchin has strongly hinted he’d trust Republicans more than Democrats when it comes to keeping the filibuster intact.

In Other Words

“Because they got RICO charges,” Hip hop artist 50 Cent on why former President Trump  appeals to Black voters.

“I’m a very innocent man,” Former President Trump following his 34 felony convictions.

Did You Know

There are three reported arrests of Ulysses S. Grant by officers of the D.C Metropolitan Police Department, all for speeding by horse. The first two were in 1866, while Grant was commanding general of the U.S.; the third occurred in 1872, when Grant was serving as the president of the United States, making President Grant the only American president to have been arrested while in office.

Graph of the Week

Almost two-thirds of Americans considered middle class said they are facing economic hardship and don’t anticipate a change for the rest of their lives. By many measures, the economy is strong, with robust labor, housing, and stock markets, as well as solid GDP growth. But the data don’t capture the financial insecurity millions worry about. In a large poll, 65% who earn more than 200% of the federal poverty level—at least $60,000 for a family of four—said they are struggling financially. A sizable share of higher-income Americans also feels financially insecure; the survey showed that a quarter of people making over five times the federal poverty level—more than $150,000 for a family of four—worry about paying their bills. Overall, nearly 6 in 10 feel that they are struggling. About 40% of respondents were unable to plan beyond their next paycheck; 46% didn’t have $500 saved; and more than half said it’s difficult to manage current debt. The rise in interest rates, coupled with high levels of outstanding debt, explains the disconnect between economic indicators and how many Americans feel financially. Consider that one in five have at least $10,000 saved, but 28% have no savings at all, and one in six say they must decide which bill to pay first on a regular basis. The findings track with the Federal Reserve’s survey of household economics. In that poll, while half could cover a $2,000 expense, 18% said the largest emergency cost they could handle using only savings was under $100, and 14% said they could afford an expense of $100 to $499.

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