Monday, October 31, 2016

Europe Markets Seen Lower On Rising Uncertainty Over US Election

By Silvia Amaro
October 31, 2016

European markets are expected to open lower on Monday as revelations over the weekend increased uncertainty over the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The FTSE 100 should open 29 points lower at 6,967; the German DAX is seen 27 points lower at 10,669 and the French CAC is also expected to open 24 points lower at 4,524.

The FBI announced last Friday evening that it was looking into additional emails as part of the ongoing investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The revelation could damage the chances of the Democrat candidate with over a week before election day.

Meanwhile, OPEC countries seem far from reaching an agreement over an oil-supply cut. After more than 18 hours of talks in Vienna over the weekend, there was no tangible consensus from non-OPEC producers over joining the proposed production cut.

Officials will be meeting at the end of November, hoping to have a final deal that boosts oil prices. However, the failed talks over the weekend sent prices on a downward trend during Asian trading. Brent was 0.5 percent lower at $49.46 a barrel and U.S. crude was down 0.39 percent at $48.51 a barrel.

The Bank of Japan started Monday a two-day policy decision, but analysts are not forecasting any changes in policy. Back in Europe, euro zone inflation and growth data is due out at 10.00 a.m. London time.

Article Link To CNBC:

Got Bank? Election Could Create Flood Of Marijuana Cash With No Place To Go

By Lisa Lambert 
October 31, 2016

Although the sale of marijuana is a federal crime, the number of U.S. banks working with pot businesses, now sanctioned in many states, is growing, up 45 percent in the last year alone.

Still, marijuana merchants say there are not nearly enough banks willing to take their cash. So many dispensaries resort to stashing cash in storage units, back offices and armored vans.

Proponents believe the Nov. 8 election could tip the balance in favor of liberalizing federal marijuana laws, a move seen as key to getting risk-averse banks off the sidelines.

Measures on ballots in California, Florida and seven other states would bring to 34 the number of states sanctioning pot for medical or recreational use, or both. That could push annual sales, by one estimate, to $23 billion.

The prospect for a market of such scale is adding urgency to calls for a national approach to marijuana that expands banking options. Law enforcement and Federal Reserve officials have expressed concern about the fraud and crime associated with un-bankable cash.

Nearly 600 dispensary robberies have been reported in Denver since recreational pot was legalized in Colorado three years ago.

"There's not a single human being who thinks there is any benefit at all in forcing marijuana business to be conducted on an all-cash basis," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon who has called for the decriminalization of marijuana since coming to Congress in 1996.

Money Laundering

The U.S. Justice Department said in 2014 it would not prosecute banks for serving state-sanctioned marijuana businesses. At the same time, the Treasury Department requires banks to report suspected drug crimes.

At last count, 301 banks were serving marijuana businesses, according to the Treasury Department. Many more have avoided the sector out of fear that making the wrong call could put them at risk, said Robert Rowe, a vice president at the American Bankers Association.

The National Cannabis Association is pressing Congress for a law that would hold banks harmless for handling pot cash, said Michael Correia, a lobbyist for the trade group. If California legalizes recreational use next week, the nation's biggest Congressional delegation will have a big stake in the issue.

In lieu of federal action, some states have tried their own fixes. Colorado created a credit union system for state-sanctioned marijuana businesses. But it fell apart when the Kansas City Federal Reserve denied a Colorado pot credit union access to the national payments system, which distributes currency and clears checks and electronic payments.

California has no such plans, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for the state’s Department of Business Oversight.

“This was a problem created by federal law,” Dresslar said, “and it needs a federal solution.”

In northern California, where growers serve state-sanctioned medical dispensaries as well as the black market, the Community Credit Union of Southern Humboldt stopped opening pot business accounts because of the red tape and uncertainty, said senior vice president Janet Sanchez.

“We’re not being asked to go over to the gun dealer and ask them if they’re making appropriate background checks,” she said.

Dispensary operators unable to find willing banks tell tales of subterfuge, recordkeeping nightmares and armies of security guards. Many open bank accounts and submit credit card charges in ways that obscure their true enterprise, such as “spa services.”

Susana de la Rionda has run a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary for 12 years and has had to find a new bank about once a year and submit to tax audits twice as often.

“I feel like a gangster,” she said.

Denver Relief dispensary founder Ean Seeb said operators always are trying workarounds to get cash into banks, including washing bills in fabric softener to hide the odor of pot. For a time, he said, one automated teller machine near a Denver mall drew lines every night of marijuana merchants, each depositing the maximum $500 in cash.

Weeding Out Risk

Partner Colorado Credit Union began working with state-sanctioned dispensaries two years ago and has developed elaborate protocols to minimize risk, including an initial vetting that can take three weeks. It uses armored trucks to take cash deposits directly from dispensaries to the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.

When the credit union spots a red flag, Chief Executive Sundie Seefried dispatches employees to pay the dispensary a visit, and she has closed two accounts for compliance problems. Seefried encourages operators to visit by keeping fine cigars in her office, and she stays in touch with regulators.

“Our program is designed with eyes on the business, eyes on the owner, eyes on the money,” she said.

With 95 dispensary members, Seefried said the credit union is at capacity, and she hopes more bankers will get involved. She fields calls for advice, speaks to industry groups and, earlier this year, shared what she’s learned in a book.

Despite the safeguards, Seefried said she takes nothing for granted. Every few months, she said she drills her staff to make sure they know what to do in the event of her arrest.

“What calls are you going to make?” she said she asks them.

“If you don’t have a little fear going into this because of the illegality at the federal level, you’re probably not the person to do this job,” she said.

Article Link To Reuters:

New York's Bitcoin Hub Dreams Fade With Licensing Backlog

By Suzanne Barlyn 
October 31, 2016

New York's financial regulator had sights set on becoming a global hub for innovations like bitcoin when it adopted trailblazing virtual currency rules last year. But the state lost that momentum when the agency's chief left, putting a licensing process in limbo and allowing rivals to catch up.

Since June 2015, New York has required virtual currency firms doing business there to get a "BitLicense" to hold customer funds and exchange virtual coins for dollars and other regular currencies.

Benjamin Lawsky headed the Department of Financial Services (DFS) when it developed those rules, acting as an early advocate of virtual currencies when other regulators were still skeptical.

Although it remains unclear whether such currencies will ever gain mainstream acceptance, they are now part of a broader, rapidly-growing industry that blends finance and technology, and which leading financial centers are keen to attract.

For companies, a stamp of approval from a tough regulator offered a chance to win over customers who remained dubious about the product. For New York, it was an opportunity to get ahead of rivals around the world that were also trying to woo "fintech" business.

Yet just after the regulations came into force, Lawsky left the agency. Some senior staffers with BitLicense expertise soon followed him out the door.

Since then, DFS has issued just two BitLicenses. Another 15 applications are still pending, with four others withdrawn and four denied, a spokesman said. Two more virtual currency companies have received trust charters, which treat them more like traditional banks.

"By putting the regulations together and having key staff members leaving almost thereafter, they really put the industry behind the eight-ball in terms of competing with traditional service providers," said Patrick Murck, a lawyer and fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Most companies that were operating in New York when the regulations took effect can still do business there while waiting for a license. However, start-ups may face trouble raising money or expanding their business, Murck said.

The virtual-currency industry is miniscule compared to traditional finance, but it has grown rapidly since bitcoin's launch in 2009. There are now other virtual currencies, and broader uses for underlying technologies that create and distribute them. (Graphic:

The bitcoin market is now worth about $10.7 billion, compared to less than $1 billion just three years ago, according to the information site CoinDesk.

Light Vs. Tough

As the market has grown, financial centers around the world have competed aggressively to attract new business. While some have relied on light-touch regulation, the appeal of New York's BitLicense was that it offered a clear legal framework.

However, the slow licensing process and strict requirements are driving some companies away.

An application costs $5,000 to file, and once completed, can run 500 pages - including everything from compliance manuals to executives' fingerprints, lawyers said. Regulators then drill deeper, asking for details of business models, organizational charts or ownership information.

BitLicense forces companies to "extract personal, private information" from users, creating a target for hackers, Erik Voorhees, chief executive of Switzerland-based virtual currency firm, said in an interview, explaining the company's decision not to do business in New York.

GoCoin CEO Steve Beauregard told Reuters securing a New York license was not worth the effort: "It's too overreaching and burdensome, especially for the smaller companies," he said.

Marco Santori, who heads the digital currency practice of law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, said at least 15 firms were shunning New York. He has advised clients to focus on states like California, where, he believes, regulators are unlikely to take aim at digital currency companies any time soon. State lawmakers there recently withdrew a second proposal to regulate digital currency companies.

Other states are developing rules and awarding licenses at a faster clip.

Washington State, for example, has issued seven licenses to virtual currency companies since 2013 under its longstanding law for money transfer businesses. North Carolina has licensed two. A uniform virtual currency law that any state can opt into is also in the works, and there has been talk of a possible federal charter.

Internationally, some countries, like Japan, have moved to regulate aspects of digital currency trading, while others, like Bolivia, have banned it. Still others have sought to adapt tax policies and existing laws on money laundering and other illicit activity to the new market. The BitLicense, however, remains a unique approach.

In September, Deloitte ranked New York City No. 3 as a financial-technology destination more broadly, behind London and Singapore.

People familiar with the BitLicense process say the delay in appointing Lawsky's successor sapped some of the momentum.

The new superintendent, Maria Vullo, who took over in June 2016, told Reuters in an interview DFS is striving to clear the application backlog. The reviews had to be thorough, though, because of the risks involved, she said.

New York introduced its BitLicense after the collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based exchange that lost an estimated $560 million worth of customers' bitcoins.

"It's not a video game," she said. "It involves real money and taking deposits."

Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, a digital currency research and advocacy group in Washington, said the BitLicense's roll-out did not live up to its promise. Still, New York's leverage as a world financial center would make it hard for companies that want to grow to shun this market, he said.

"I think it's going to be rare that companies say, 'We're not going to do business in New York.'"

Article Link To Reuters:

Central Banks Weigh Different Policies Under Similar Constraints

By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The Bloomberg View
October 31, 2016

The central banks of Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. will hold policy meetings this week. These three systemically important institutions are inclined to implement new policy measures, albeit different ones. Yet all three may end up keeping their policy stance as is. Their individual and collective dilemmas illustrate the current policy funk facing the global economy, as well as the urgent need for a macroeconomic policy pivot on three continents.

With the release this week of the quarterly inflation report, the Bank of England is likely to reiterate its concern about the potential impact of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit on growth, trade and investment prospects. In keeping with its previous signals, and given the government's delay in spelling out a coherent strategy for exiting the European Union, the central bank would be inclined to put in place some additional policy “insurance” for the country’s well-being, including by cutting interest rates and, possibly, considering new balance sheet operations.

But the Bank of England also needs to acknowledge that the U.K.'s recent growth performance has been better than expected, even as inflation is increasing with the sharp depreciation of the pound. Together with growing -- and highly unfortunate -- political attacks on the central bank and its governor, particularly by members of the pro-Brexit camp, the rising risk of stagflation is likely to keep the bank on the policy sidelines for now.

The Bank of Japan faces another, similarly challenging policy dilemma.

After its surprising decision to venture deep into unconventional policy, including with negative policy rates, the Japanese central bank is committed to continuing to try to support growth and raise inflationary expectations. But its attempts to do so have been ineffective, if not counter-productive. And while the government continues to lag on the implementation of structural reforms -- the "third arrow" -- there is little to suggest that additional policy intervention would be any more successful this time.

The U.S. Federal Reserve faces the least challenging policy predicament when it comes just to economic and financial considerations, at least on paper. But that doesn’t take into account the bizarre politics of a highly unusual election.

U.S. third quarter gross domestic product growth came in last week at 2.9 percent, surpassing consensus expectations. Meanwhile, financial-market measures of inflation have been rising and labor market indicators have remained relatively solid. Along with what seems to be a wider recognition among a growing number of Fed officials of the rising risk of future financial instability, these factors would push the Federal Open Market Committee to be inclined to hike interest rates when it meets this week.

But the FOMC will be announcing its policy conclusions just a few days ahead of a very contentious presidential election characterized by many twists and turns that has featured questions about the political autonomy of the Federal Reserve, as well as its traditionally apolitical stance and the continued tenure of its chair, Janet Yellen. In this context, the likelihood of policy misinterpretation is significant, placing the Fed in a potential “lose-lose” situation. That means the FOMC is likely to choose the less visible and less risky policy path: delaying actions until after the elections..

The events of this week are likely to highlight again the extent to which good policy making on three continents is being undermined by “unusual uncertainty” caused by institutional and political factors. The outcome of the central bank meetings would show that these institutions, having been forced to carry too heavy a policy burden for too long, are now in an even more challenging phase.

And all three cases would reinforce the notion of the urgency of the policy pivot that I have described many times this year in columns and in my recent book, "The Only Game in Town." The shift would involve moving away from prolonged and excessive reliance on central banks and in favor of a more comprehensive policy response that includes pro-growth structural reforms, more balanced demand management, lifting pockets of excessive indebtedness, improving global policy coordination and strengthening the regional economic architecture in Europe.

Article Link To The Bloomberg View:

Syria: The Next U.S. President's First 100 Days

America’s goal should be ending the civil war, not regime change.

The National Interest
October 31, 2016

According to the Washington Post, there is already a lively debate among Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy advisers about what is to be done in Syria if she becomes the next president. Arguments are between those who call for more U.S. engagement—specifically in support of a safe zone for refugees and/or a no-fly zone—and those who fear that these measures are fraught with risks and are ineffective to boot.

As I see it, the first step ought to be a declaration that the United States is no longer seeking coercive regime change, but rather—for now—only a cessation of hostilities, leading to a negotiated settlement among the main parties involved. For the first four years of this tragic civil war, the United States insisted that President Assad had to leave as a precondition for negotiations; for the last year and a half, the United States has continued to hold this position but rephrased it to allow for some wiggle room. The position was based on the neoconservative theory that the United States’ mission is to push over those regimes that stand in the way of the global march to democracy (in Francis Fukuyama’s words, those still “stuck in history”) and the belief that the Assad regime was teetering on the brink of collapse anyway. It turns out that Assad held on and is gaining. Above all, we learn—surprise!—that when you demand that the leader of the party you need to deal with remove himself from power, he is most unlikely to accommodate you. (Nor has anyone explained why the United States believed that whoever would have replaced Assad would be any better.)

The same ambition also led the United States to keep looking for liberal, pro-democracy rebels to ally itself with, which turned out to be the smallest and weakest group of the lot, and not a very liberal one either. The humanitarian purpose of saving hundreds of thousands of lives and stopping millions more from being displaced and driven into neighboring countries and to Europe, should be the United States’ first goal. There is no way to reach this goal in the near future and to avoid Assad being part of a settlement, if one can be reached at all.

The second reason to change the United States’ focus is Russia. In some right-wing fantasy, the next president “stands up to Russia” and pushes it back out of Ukraine and the Middle East. In the real world, Russia is deeply invested in Syria and in the Assad regime. After the United States occupied Iraq, Russia lost one of the few nations in the Middle East over which it had a considerable measure of influence. Next went Egypt. Assad’s Syria is the only ally that Russia has left in the region (if one disregards its warming relations with Iran) and the only place in the Mediterranean where it has a major naval base and now an airbase. Keeping Assad in place is much more important to Russia than his removal and the dismantling of his regime are to the United States. Moreover, there is—like it or not—no pathway to ending the civil war without Russia’s cooperation. This is another reason the United States should let Assad stay for now, if he agrees to end the civil war and negotiates the partition of the country. (Granted, if he keeps gaining ground, any such deal might be hard to negotiate. Hence, the urgency of moving ahead with the quest for a settlement, which involves working with Russia rather than castigating it.)

True, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will be displeased. However, the Saudis have done little to contribute to a solution in Syria, they badly need U.S. support in the troubled war in Yemen and they are struggling with the drive to enact significant domestic reforms. They will overcome their disapproval. Turkey has been such a troublesome ally that not yielding to one of its wishes might show them that the United States is finished turning the other cheek. If that means Turkey stops participating in the fight against ISIS, and stops bombing the Kurds and removes its troops from Syria, the Middle East may well be better for it.

Next, the United States, working with other parties in the region, should recognize the need to redraw the map of what is now Syria and Iraq. The Kurds (the only real ally the United States has in this region other than Israel) deserve at least a fully autonomous region, if not a state. The Sunni parts of Iraq should be given a high level of autonomy, including the right to form their own self-defense units. Syria itself ought to become a federation of “states,” whose borders should be the subject of the multilateral negotiations. Finishing off ISIS as a territorial entity will become much easier once the other various fighting groups find out that they will have a place in the federated Syria.

One may disagree about some of these suggestions but the main point still stands: the United States’ goal should be ending the civil war and negotiating a redrawing of the map, rather than regime change. And there is no hope for progress without working with Putin’s Russia, however distasteful this may be.

Article Link To The National Interest:

The FBI Director’s Unworthy Choice

Comey acceded to the apparent wish of Obama that no charges be brought against Clinton.

By Michael B. Mukasey
The Wall Street Journal
October 31, 2016

We need not worry unduly about the factual void at the center of the FBI director’s announcement on Friday that the bureau had found emails—perhaps thousands—“pertinent” in some unspecified way to its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails while she was secretary of state.

True, we don’t know what is actually in the emails of Huma Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s close aide, but we can nonetheless draw some conclusions about how FBI Director James Comey came to issue his Delphic notice to Congress, and what the near-term future course of this investigation will be. Regrettably, those conclusions do no credit to him, or to the leadership of the Justice Department, of which the FBI is a part.

Friday’s announcement had a history. Recall that Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers for their confidential determination of whether those facts justify a federal prosecution.

Nonetheless, in July he announced that “no reasonable prosecutor” would seek to charge her with a crime, although Mrs. Clinton had classified information on a private nonsecure server—at least a misdemeanor under one statute; and although she was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information such that it was exposed to hacking by hostile foreign nations—a felony under another statute; and apparently had caused the destruction of emails—a felony under two other statutes. He then told Congress repeatedly that the investigation into her handling of emails was closed.

Those decisions were not his to make, nor were the reasons he offered for making them at all tenable: that prosecutions for anything but mishandling large amounts of classified information, accompanied by false statements to investigators, were unprecedented; and that criminal prosecutions for gross negligence were constitutionally suspect.

Members of the military have been imprisoned and dishonorably discharged for mishandling far less information, and prosecutions for criminal negligence are commonplace and entirely permissible. Yet the attorney general, whose decisions they were, and who had available to her enough legal voltage to vaporize Mr. Comey’s flimsy reasons for inaction, told Congress she would simply defer to the director.

That July announcement of Mr. Comey, and that testimony by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, also had a history.

When the FBI learned that two of the secretary’s staff members had classified information on their computers, rather than being handed grand-jury subpoenas demanding the surrender of those computers, the staff members received immunity in return for giving them up. In addition, they successfully insisted that the computers not be searched for any data following the date when Congress subpoenaed information relating to its own investigation, and that the computers be physically destroyed after relevant data within the stipulated period was extracted.

The technician who destroyed 30,000 of Mrs. Clinton’s emails after Congress directed that they be preserved lied to investigators even after receiving immunity. He then testified that Clinton aides requested before service of the subpoena that he destroy them, and that he destroyed them afterward on his own initiative.

Why would an FBI director, who at one time was an able and aggressive prosecutor, agree to such terms or accept such a fantastic story?

The search for clues brings us to an email to then-Secretary Clinton from President Obama, writing under a pseudonym, that the FBI showed to Ms. Abedin. That email, along with 21 others that passed between the president and Secretary Clinton, has been withheld by the administration from release on confidentiality grounds not specified but that could only be executive privilege.

After disclosure of those emails, the president said during an interview that he thought Mrs. Clinton should not be criminally charged because there was no evidence that she had intended to harm the nation’s security—a showing required under none of the relevant statutes. As indefensible as his legal reasoning may have been, his practical reasoning is apparent: If Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her nonsecure system, so was he.

That presented the FBI director with a dilemma that was difficult, but not complex. It offered two choices. He could have tried to proceed along the course marked by the relevant laws. The FBI is powerless to present evidence to a grand jury, or to issue grand-jury subpoenas. That authority lies with the Justice Department, headed by an attorney general who serves, as her certificate of appointment recites, “during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being.”

However, the director could have urged the attorney general to allow the use of a grand jury. Grand juries sit continuously in all the districts where an investigation would have been conducted, and no grand jury need have been convened to deal with this case in particular. If she refused, he could have gone public with his request, and threatened to resign if it was not followed. If she had agreed, he would have been in the happy position last week of having discovered yet further evidence that could be offered in support of pending charges. If she had refused, he could have resigned.

There is precedent within the Justice Department for that course. During what came to be known as the Saturday night massacre in 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, resigned rather than follow President Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Indeed, on his own telling, Mr. Comey threatened to resign as Deputy Attorney General unless the George W. Bush administration changed its electronic-surveillance program, although the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court later approved the feature to which he had objected.

Instead, Mr. Comey acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought. There is precedent for that too—older and less honorable. It goes back to the 12th century when Henry II asked, “who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” The king’s eager subordinates duly proceeded to murder Archbishop Thomas Becket at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral. That choice—to follow the sovereign’s wish—left Mr. Comey facing only further dishonor if he did not disclose the newly discovered emails and they leaked after the election.

And what of the future? Mr. Comey reportedly wrote his letter to Congress over the objection of the attorney general and her deputy. Thus, regardless of what is in the newly discovered emails, the current Justice Department will not permit a grand jury to hear evidence in this case. And because only a grand jury can constitutionally bring charges, that means no charges will be brought.

Which is to say, we know enough to conclude that what we don’t know is of little immediate relevance to our current dismal situation.

Article Link To The Wall Street Journal:

You May Miss The Election Madness When It’s Over

By Karol Markowicz
The New York Post
October 31, 2016

With the election that feels like it has gone on for the majority of our natural lives winding down, it seems crazy to imagine that when it’s finally over we’ll miss it. But it’s fairly common to do just that.

After the recriminations, the finger-pointing and all the post-mortems, we may find a hole in our lives where the election of 2016 used to be.

“Impossible!” go the cries from people who have been counting down the days until a winner is finally declared and we can all safely go back on social media again. And it’s true that this election, where 13 percent of respondents in a Public Policy Polling survey conducted last June chose “Giant Meteor” over either of the two major-party candidates, appears to have long worn out its welcome.

Headlines like “This is the worst presidential campaign in modern history” and “Trump and Clinton: The two worst things that could happen to America” have been standard throughout the race.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll released last week found that 81 percent of Americans wish this election was over already. Social media is filled with people who can’t wait until Nov. 8 and not because they so badly want to vote. People are sick of the election, and they’re definitely sick of the two candidates.

As Mary Kay Linge reported in The Post in May, “Both [Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton] have the lowest net favorability numbers ever measured. Clinton’s minus-20 would be by far the lowest in history — if not for Trump’s, which is even worse at minus-41.”

An uneventful, mellow election this has not been. Yet it’s precisely because the insanity of the race has ratcheted up the level of intensity and interest in the election to such an extent that a letdown seems inevitable.

The term “post-election hangover” is used to describe a variety of post-voting blues, and the more you’ve focused on the election, the more likely you are to experience it — no matter who wins.

Dr. Jonathan Friedman, director of psychology with The COR Group, says that supporters of both candidates “may wake up to a sense of emptiness and disillusion once the election has come and gone” due to the “immense amount of emotional and mental energy” people have expended during the campaign.

It’s true this campaign has been atypical, but it turns out hatred for a candidate inspires political passion not dissimilar from loving one. Hillary supporters might spend more time criticizing Trump than talking up Hillary (and vice versa) but the fact is that time and energy are being invested regardless. When that’s over and there’s no more arguing, persuading or cajoling left, it won’t be strange to miss it.

The losing candidate’s supporters will be sadder, of course. In 2004, Michael Moore famously took to his bed for three days after George W. Bush won re-election.

It’s not just the general election, either. Ted Cruz announced in March 2015, Hillary Clinton in April, Donald Trump in June. And there was at least a year, if not years, of intrigue and speculation before that. That’s a long time to be immersed in something that will suddenly end. Even those who aren’t very political will feel a big shift when the main news story of the last year and a half finally reaches a conclusion.

Whether it’s Trump’s 3 a.m. tweets at whoever slighted him last that gets your goat, or Clinton’s painfully fake “chilling in Cedar Rapids” or claiming to carry hot sauce in her bag (or all of the above), the daily campaign drama will suddenly be gone.

When the FBI reopens the Hillary e-mail investigation with 11 days to go or Trump’s hot-mic comments disgust us all, it’s hard to say it’s not exciting.

What will fill the void?

In a 2010 article for CNN about combating post-election stress, Dr. Ivan Walks, a public-health physician and psychiatrist, suggested, well, going back to living your life.

“If you haven’t gone to church in a few weeks, go. If you missed your kids’ soccer game — all of the things that make up the rest of your life during the election lulls — then let them come back into your life.”

There might be something to the whole living-your-life thing. Maybe there’s actually more to life than politics. And if not, the election of 2020 should begin any minute now anyway.

Article Link To The New York Post:

History Repeats: A Nixonian Cover-Up In The Home Stretch Of The Campaign

Someday, we might learn the truth, but not if Hillary can help it.

By John Fund 
The National Review
October 31, 2016

Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign for president involved trying to conceal the truth about Watergate until after voters went to the polls. “The early part of the Watergate cover-up was actually successful,” noted a report from the National Constitution Center. Running against a gaffe-ridden, disorganized challenger whom he was able to vastly outspend, Nixon pulled out a victory, but the cover-up unraveled and the country went through two years of turmoil. If Hillary wins, will her cover-up unravel and leave her a weakened president hounded by critics?

No one is suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal is exactly like Watergate, but the parallels are certainly there. Indeed, Hillary began her public career as a House staffer on the committee that voted to impeach Nixon. Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the New York Times Book Review, recently noted in Bloomberg:

"If Hillary’s armor seems plated with Nixonian grievance, it is because, just like him, she feels outnumbered and defenseless. Nixon drew up lists of liberal “enemies,” Hillary closely tracks the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” . . . Hillary’s tasks for [the Watergate committee’s chief counsel] included drafting a memo on the inner workings of Nixon’s White House, its hidden grids of power and buried lines of authority, who reported to whom. The exercise gave Hillary “an intimate view of a president practicing the dark art of Washington politics, doing whatever necessary to maintain his grip on power,” Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., wrote in Her Way, a biography published in June 2007, five months after Hillary announced her first try for the nomination."

The parallels between Nixon and Hillary continue. Nixon set up an elaborate system to capture the flow of daily communication through tape recordings. Hillary’s obsession with control led her to use a private server. Nixon was suspicious of the bureaucracy and tightly limited information to just a few zealous aides. Hillary bypassed the State Department’s IT specialists and also relied on a few loyalists.

Even Bob Woodward, one of two Washington Post reporters who were key in uncovering Watergate, last year compared Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal to Richard Nixon’s tapes, noting the same penchant for stonewalling.

During the 1972 campaign, Nixon launched an all-out effort to minimize Watergate. His press secretary, Ron Ziegler, dismissed the event as “a third-rate burglary attempt.” Nixon himself called it a “very bizarre incident.” Anyone who suggested that all of the facts weren’t known was dismissed by Nixon as partisan or delusional. But Nixon’s cover-up had limits. He never destroyed his audio tapes, a decision that eventually led to his downfall. Hillary has used BleachBit in an attempt to permanently destroy her e-mails. Apparently, some of them have been recovered by the FBI, and it’s possible others will be found in the cache of e-mails on the computer shared by Hillary aide Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner.

What if the Hillary cover-up works, and she gains the presidency?

In a June 2015 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Hillary Milhous Clinton,” Evan Thomas, a former Newsweek editor and the author of a 2015 Nixon biography, wrote:

"There is every reason to believe that President Hillary Clinton would spend her presidency lashing out at her enemies as she ducks small scandals and possibly large ones. She would be aggrieved and dodgy. That is not to say that she would wind up like Nixon — threatened with impeachment and driven from office — but it does suggest how she would deal with the inevitable rocky times ahead."

The country paid a stiff price for ignoring doubts about Nixon and reelecting him to the presidency in 1972. There was enough evidence for them to be deeply concerned about how he would continue to perform in office. There is certainly ample evidence for all of us to worry about what a return of the Clintons to the White House would mean for the country. As I noted in a recent Fox News column, U.S. intelligence officials believe it’s likely that Hillary Clinton’s private server was hacked by foreign entities, as the e-mail of her aides John Podesta and Sidney Blumenthal certainly were. I note that “we have to acknowledge the danger that Hillary Clinton could be the target of international blackmail in the White House.” After all, Bill Clinton’s X-rated telephone conversations with Monica Lewinsky were captured by the U.K., China, and Israel, and at least one blackmail attempt was reportedly made in 1998.

Hillary certainly shares Richard Nixon’s penchant for secrecy and dishonesty and an obsession with enemies, and the WikiLeaks revelations show that even her closest aides are appalled at her bad instincts and her habit of digging in her heels, blaming others, and refusing to course-correct until it’s essentially forced upon her. If Hillary is elected, will be have to go through another “long national nightmare,” the memorable phrase Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, used to describe the consequences of Nixon’s cover-up?

Article Link To The National Review:

Comey And Clinton Agonistes

Hillary’s campaign tries to turn Saint James into Ken Starr.

By Review & Outlook 
The Wall Street Journal
October 31, 2016

All of a sudden Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign have discovered the virtues of transparency. And all of a sudden FBI Director James Comey, formerly Eliot Ness in the eyes of Democrats and the press, is J. Edgar Hoover. Such are the miraculous political transformations caused by Mr. Comey’s announcement Friday that the FBI has found more emails that may be relevant to Mrs. Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.

“It’s not just strange. It’s unprecedented, and it is deeply troubling, because voters deserve to get full and complete facts,” Mrs. Clinton said Saturday about Mr. Comey’s letter to Congress. That wasn’t her line when she created her personal email server to hide her correspondence from public-records laws, or when she claimed not to have sent classified information or did as little as possible to cooperate with Congress and the FBI.

Mrs. Clinton could still help voters out by coughing up her 33,000 missing emails. Or she could let her aide Huma Abedin explain to the press what she may have sent to estranged husband Anthony Weiner,whose laptop contains the new-found emails. But that kind of genuine transparency might be hard to contain. And with eight days until Nov. 8 the Democrats need someone else to blame for all of their previous lack of political transparency.

That means Mr. Comey, who over the weekend became the latest stand-in for the vast right-wing conspiracy. “By providing selective information, he has allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate in order to inflict maximum political damage, and no one can separate what is true from what is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts,” said a clearly agitated Clinton campaign chief John Podesta in a media call Saturday.

Look for more to come as Democrats attempt to mobilize their supporters to vote by turning Mr. Comey into Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr. This won’t be easy since Mr. Comey was appointed by President Obama, and Democrats have spent so many years praising Mr. Comey as St. James of the Beltway.

Maybe they should have listened to our warnings about Mr. Comey when he let his buddy Patrick Fitzgerald prosecute Scooter Libby on dubious charges; when he overreached against financier Frank Quattrone; or when he threatened to resign if the Bush Administration didn’t follow his orders on surveillance. Democrats hailed those events.

Mr. Comey’s original sin in the Clinton investigation was not demanding that Justice empanel a grand jury. He compounded that with his July soliloquy to the media exonerating Mrs. Clinton when that is the job of Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Mr. Comey’s friends are leaking that he felt he had to go public then because Ms. Lynch had compromised her credibility by meeting only days earlier with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac.

Mr. Comey’s public declaration undercut political accountability. And sure enough, Ms. Lynch responded by saying she would defer to Mr. Comey, essentially ducking her legal and political responsibility. Democrats and the media hailed Mr. Comey for his judgment.

Mr. Comey also told Congress at the time that the investigation was closed, and so he felt he was obliged to update the oversight committees when there was more information. No doubt he believed he had to do that before the election lest he be accused of participating in a cover-up if the new evidence later became public.

Ms. Lynch’s team is now leaking, and the Clinton campaign is amplifying, that Mr. Comey sent his Friday letter over the objections of Justice officials. But then why didn’t Ms. Lynch simply order him not to send the letter? The AG has clear line authority over the FBI director. Our guess is that she feared that Mr. Comey might then have resigned, which would have created an even bigger pre-election firestorm than an ambiguous letter.

Democrats and Mrs. Clinton are now demanding that Mr. Comey release more details, and our sympathies are also toward airing this out. But Mr. Comey can’t make more information public if it would compromise the FBI’s investigative trail, and finishing the probe in a week is highly unlikely. Thus the Clinton campaign’s sudden demands for transparency have the political virtue of making her sound unworried while knowing nothing more is likely to come out before Election Day.

The other Clinton line is that there’s nothing in these emails to worry about, though no one outside the FBI and the Clinton campaign knows. It’s hard to believe, however, that Mr. Comey would have risked the wrath of his former Democratic defenders by sending that letter to Congress if his agents hadn’t discovered something potentially serious. The Journal’s Devlin Barrett also reported Sunday on months of dissension between the FBI and Justice over the agency’s separate probes into the emails and the Clinton Foundation.

Donald Trump is reacting to this with his usual overkill, asserting without evidence that the new emails may be those missing 33,000. But the legal and political blundering at Justice and FBI feed his message that the executive branch needs to be swept clean to end a culture of corruption. Mr. Comey is no hero, but neither is he responsible for Mrs. Clinton’s potential legal jeopardy. She has built her own career monument of deception and public mistrust.

Article Link To The Wall Street Journal:

The Secret Forces That Could Lead To A Trump Victory

By Michael Walsh
The New York Post
October 31, 2016

Driving across the country last week, it seemed hard to believe an American presidential election is happening a week from Tuesday. Few campaign signs sprout from urban lawns; partisan billboards along the highways are scarce. Away from the coasts, the talk on the radio is largely of football and Jesus, not politics. It takes a moment, hearing a spot in North Carolina for a US Senate candidate, to realize the voice belongs to President Obama, interrupting some country music.

Oh, there’s plenty of chatter about it in the raging echo chambers of talk radio and TV cable news, and in the cocksure journalists’ fun house known as Twitter, where in-the-tank reporters and dispossessed campaign consultants, smarting over their collective defeat in the primaries, smugly assure each other that Donald Trump will lose in a landslide.

But what if the widely swinging polls, turnout models and forecasting mechanisms are all wrong? What if the unique historical circumstances of this election — pitting the female half of a likely criminal family dynasty against a thin-skinned bull-in-a-china-shop businessman — have invalidated conventional wisdom? What if the ranks of shy voters storm the polls and, in the words of Michael Moore, deliver the biggest rebuke in history to the establishments of both parties?

What if, far from having a lock on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. come January, Hillary Clinton’s margin-of-error lead — currently between 4 and 5 points in the RealClearPolitics average of multiple national polls — turns out to be a Potemkin village, dependent on high turnout among blacks and other minorities and on getting late deciders to turn her way?

What if, in fact, the opposite happens — that Trump’s appeal to the disaffected white working class (many of them Democrats) in coal-mining and Rust Belt states outweighs the Democrats’ traditional advantages in the big cities, flipping a state like Pennsylvania from blue to red?

Welcome to the hidden election, where those who say they know what’s going to happen don’t, and those who do know will make their voices heard on Nov. 8.

Nationally, Clinton holds 3.8 points over Trump in a four-way race that also includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. But polls may not be everything this year.

Indeed, Hillary has suffered a major polling meltdown over the past week or so, hurtling from a 12-point lead to 4 points in the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.
The WikiLeaks revelations about her campaign’s dirty tricks, the pay-to-play nature of the Clinton Foundation, the astonishing personal enrichment of the Clintons via politics and the electrifying news Friday afternoon that the FBI is reopening its investigation into her use of a private e-mail server are finally taking a toll.

Spurning the poll-based forecasts in favor of historical analysis, professor Helmut Norpoth at SUNY Stony Brook — who’s correctly predicted the last five presidential elections — gives the nod to Trump, 52.5-47.5 percent. Meanwhile, an artificial-intelligence system developed in India that takes into account data from Google, YouTube and social media says Trump’s “engagement data” points to a GOP victory.

So, if the conventional wisdom is wrong, what’s Trump’s plausible path to 270 electoral votes? In 2012, Mitt Romney won 206 electoral votes to Obama’s 332. But recall that the Electoral College is a zero-sum game; every vote that switches is both a plus and minus, so that’s not quite as big a margin as it might seem.

Current thinking has it that there are 11 battleground states that could go either way: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. In these states, with a total of 146 votes, the election will be won or lost.

"Welcome to the hidden election, where those who say they know what’s going to happen don’t."

Throw out the first tier of Colorado (nine electoral votes), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10), which are likely to stay blue; in the RealClearPolitics poll averages, Hillary Clinton leads by 6.2 to 8.8 points in this group.

A second tier would include Iowa (six), Nevada (six), and New Hampshire (four); of this group, Trump currently leads only in Iowa, by 1.4 points. But a win in any one of these could well provide a crucial margin of victory for him after the main battlegrounds of Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20) and Virginia (13).

Because here’s the good news for Trump: Despite the structural advantages in the Electoral College the Democrats currently enjoy — they start with New York (29), Illinois (20) and California (55) already in their pockets — the truth is that Trump need only retain the states Mitt Romney won in 2012 (including, critically, North Carolina) and then flip these three battleground states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. That would give him a 273-265 victory.

Right now, the RCP numbers show Clinton up 0.7 points in Florida, Trump up 1.1 in Ohio, and Clinton up 5 points in Pennsylvania. Still, RCP has just put Pennsylvania into the “toss-up” category, including Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and even Texas. And it’s likely that those four red states will remain true to form, barring a complete Trump collapse in the last week of the campaign.

Let’s take a look at each:

In Florida, Hillary will have the usual Democrat advantage in and around Miami and the university towns of Gainesville and Tallahassee. And the GOP’s hold on the Cuban √©migr√© vote has softened over time, especially in the aftermath of Obama’s normalizing of relations with the Communist country. But Trump benefits from a certain favorite-son status (he owns Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach), has extensive business interests in the state and will easily win the rural and western parts of the state, while siphoning off some Jewish votes due to his adamantly pro-Israel stance. Clinging to a mere 0.7 percent lead in the RCP aggregates, Hillary’s head cannot rest easy in the Sunshine State.

Down-ballot leading indicator:
Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio is up 5.6 points over challenger Patrick Murphy.

Prize: 29 electoral votes.

In Ohio, Trump has successfully wooed the working class, so much so that the Clinton campaign has pretty much given up on the bellwether state. Only one state poll shows Clinton with a small lead, while others give it to Trump by up to 4 points. Ohio is the very model of a Trump state, with a large industrial working class that’s seen jobs exported and its livelihood threatened; sure, Cleveland will roll over for Hillary, but look for Trump to be strong elsewhere, especially in the coal towns along the Pennsylvania border.

Down-ballot leading indicator: Incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman is demolishing former governor Ted Strickland, leading by almost 16 points in the RCP averages.

Prize: 18 electoral votes.

Things are tougher in Pennsylvania, a state that performs a quadrennial fan dance to tease the GOP, but then reverts to type as after-hours votes from Philly and Pittsburgh come flooding in. The RCP averages show Clinton with a healthy 5.2-point lead, but savvy observers know you have to also figure in a small but significant vigorish for the Democrats as last-minute poll irregularities are discovered, Democrat lawyers get emergency injunctions to keep polling places open and boost minority turnout, and ballots fall off trucks or are discovered in locked rooms. A Trump wave, especially among disaffected Dems and outsourced steel workers, could flip the state, but it will still be hard.

Down-ballot leading indicator: Incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey clinging to a 1.3-point lead over challenger Katie McGinty in a state that often retires new GOP hires after one term.

Prize: 20 electoral votes.

If Trump loses Pennsylvania, his next-best chance to close the deal comes from Virginia and Iowa/Nevada, where the combined 19-25 electoral votes would just squeak him over the line. But thanks to the metastasizing numbers of federal employees in the northern Virginia DC suburbs, the Old Dominion is no longer a sure thing for the Republicans; Hillary is currently up 8 points. Neither is Nevada, Harry Reid’s service-employees fiefdom, where Hillary leads by 2 points.

Meanwhile, consider this: If Trump loses Pennsylvania and Virginia, but (in addition to Ohio and Florida) wins New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada, the race ends in a 269-269 tie. Then it might come down to a single congressional district in Maine or Nebraska (neither a “winner take all” state) or even wind up in the House of Representatives.

As the campaigns draw to a close, however, it’s crucial to remember that polls are only one aspect of the race. Still little understood is Trump’s lead in the unconventional metrics of social media. Consultants and reporters like to crow that rally sizes (huge for Trump, miniscule for Clinton unless she has Michelle Obama by her side) are not predictive of electoral success.

There’s little question that the Trump-Pence ticket has generated far more visible enthusiasm among its supporters than the dour Washington death march of Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Less remarked is Trump’s overwhelming superiority on social media, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where Trump’s page has double the “likes” of Clinton’s (10 million to 5 million). Further, Trump is said to average 30,000 viewers on live-streamed YouTube events, compared to Clinton’s mere 500.

Clinton has big money on her side, but Trump has big motivation. Both the “intangibles” and AI models showing a Trump victory take these factors into account.

The truth is, this is an election not just between Clinton and Trump but a whole raft of political antagonists in Barack Obama’s “fundamentally transformed” America: urban vs. rural; old vs. young; makers vs. takers; taxpayers vs. recipients; white collar vs blue collar; Harvard vs. the heartland; manipulative consultants and biased reporters vs. honest Americans who, however naively, believe that their vote really does matter.

Many have felt apathetic or disenfranchised for decades.

The question is: How many of them are there and are there enough of them to hold the GOP line and deliver the three crucial states to Trump? We’ll soon find out.

Article Link To The New York Post:

Senate Map Remains A Tossup In Final Week

By James Arkin
Real Clear Politics
October 31, 2016

The battle for control of the Senate remains a tossup heading into the final week of the election, with both parties scrambling to add money in critical battleground states and polls showing many of those races well within the margin of error.

Democrats still believe they are on track to win a slim majority, but Republicans intend to go on offense after Friday’s news that the FBI is investigating new emails potentially relevant to its probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. Democrats, meanwhile, are continuing to tie down-ballot Republicans to Donald Trump, hoping that a potential loss by the nominee in key battlegrounds will drag other Republicans down with him.

Republicans are confident they will hold on to seats in Florida and Ohio, though a Democratic outside group transferred more than $1 million to Florida last week to try to keep that race competitive. Meanwhile, Democrats believe they will win races against GOP incumbents in Illinois and Wisconsin, although Republicans argue the latter contest has narrowed recently; indeed, the same Democratic outside group added $2 million to bolster former Sen. Russ Feingold, who’s running against Sen. Ron Johnson.

That leaves six races that will likely determine the Senate majority: Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Democrats currently lead in just two of those races, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages, and if election results fall along the same lines as the averages, Republicans would hold a slim one-seat majority. If Democrats can flip just one other seat, based on current polling averages, it would be enough to give them a majority if Clinton wins the White House and Sen. Tim Kaine becomes the tie-breaking vote as vice president.

Both parties are scrambling to make their closing arguments, beef up their advertising and get out the vote in the final days of the raucous campaign. Senate Majority PAC, a leading Democratic super PAC with ties to Minority Leader Harry Reid, raised $19 million in the first three weeks of October, while the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has raised more than $30 million this month. Though the overall Senate picture remains a close battle, some nonpartisan analysts give Democrats a slight edge.

“I am fairly confident that [Democrats] will get to at least 51 seats,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Here’s a look at the states that will determine the majority:


Democrats hoped they’d be able to lock up the Keystone State, where Clinton leads by 5.8 percentage points in the RCP average and Trump hasn’t led in a public poll since July, but freshman Sen. Pat Toomey has shown an ability to outpace Trump by a significant margin.

Toomey has declined to say whether he supports Trump, something Democrats have hammered in their messaging throughout the campaign. The incumbent is relying on his conservative credentials to carry him in heavily Republican parts of the state, while hoping that his more moderate stances, such as his work on a gun-sale background check bill in 2013, could sway some moderate and independent voters in the area around Philadelphia.

Democrats are trying to rally their faithful in Philadelphia and the collar counties, hoping that high turnout will lift Clinton to a significant victory and carry McGinty over the top. Popular Democrats including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, President Obama and Vice President Biden, have campaigned in Pennsylvania to help lift McGinty, who currently leads by two percentage points in the RCP average.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire may be the closest race heading into the final stretch. Both candidates -- freshman Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and two-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan -- are extremely well-known and popular in the state. They will participate in their sixth and final debate Wednesday, and New Hampshire’s 1.3 million residents likely know nearly everything about their candidates.

Ayotte has had perhaps the most tortured road, thanks to Trump. She first said she would support but not endorse him, then called him a role model before walking that back and ultimately withdrawing her support. That disavowal enabled Ayotte to focus exclusively on local issues in recent weeks, but Democrats have continued to attack her on the standard-bearer, and still believe Ayotte will pay a price both with moderates turned off by her early support of Trump and conservatives frustrated by her withdrawal of it.

Ayotte’s campaign hasn’t just been playing defense, however. The candidate attacked Hassan for her support of Clinton amid concerns over the former secretary of state’s email situation, and claimed the governor has run a cookie-cutter campaign, simply adhering to her talking points. More than in any other race, Ayotte and New Hampshire Republicans have argued that the opponent would be a rubber stamp for Clinton’s agenda should the Democrat win the White House. Both parties have largely ignored volatile polls in the race, and believe it will stay within the margin of error until Election Day. Ayotte currently leads by 2.7 percentage points in the RCP average.


Nevada represents the only chance Republicans have to pick up a seat currently held by a Democrat, which would give their slim majority a significant buffer. That, plus the personal pleasure most Republicans would take in flipping Harry Reid’s seat, have made this their top target. Polling for much of the summer and fall showed Rep. Joe Heck, the Republican candidate, with a relatively safe lead over former Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Much of this race has become a proxy fight, with Democrats tying Heck to Trump and Republicans tying Cortez Masto to the Senate leader, who has built up the Democratic Party in the state and essentially hand-picked Cortez Masto to succeed him in Washington.

But Democrats believe they’ve seized momentum in the race after Heck became one of more than a dozen Republicans to withdraw their endorsements of Trump in the wake of audio in which Trump made lewd comments and boasted of making unwanted sexual advances. Some Republicans in the state expressed frustration with Heck over the decision, and Democrats hope that if there is high Democratic turnout and Clinton wins even a narrow victory -- she currently holds a slight edge in the polling average -- Cortez Masto will be able edge out Heck.

They are also counting on a depressed Republican turnout, and hoping that some conservatives who back Trump would decide against supporting Heck over his disavowal of the GOP nominee (he has declined to say whom he will vote for, according to Talking Points Memo, other than to say it won’t be Clinton). Yet Heck still has a slight edge in the state, leading by 0.4 percentage points, according to the RCP average.


The Show Me State represents perhaps the biggest surprise of the cycle, although Democrats have been confident about this race since Secretary of State Jason Kander, a 35-year-old Afghanistan War veteran, announced his candidacy in early 2015. They have relentlessly attacked freshman Sen. Roy Blunt as a D.C. insider, criticizing the fact that his wife and son are political lobbyists, and saying that Blunt has abandoned Missouri. The incumbent’s campaign has pushed back on these attacks, but some Republicans think they have impacted the race because Blunt didn’t prepare early enough for a competitive race.

The top of the ticket isn’t having a major effect on this contest, with Trump on pace to win Missouri and Clinton not competing there. But Kander believes he’ll be able to woo some Trump voters with his outsider message, which could allow him to run ahead of the presidential ticket.

“Those same voters are not then going to the next line on the ballot and voting for somebody who’s been in Washington for 20 years and has made Washington work for them and not for Missourians,” Kander told RCP last week.

Blunt, meanwhile, has been working hard to bring the GOP faithful home, and would be able to stave off an upset if most Republicans vote for him. He campaigned last week on potentially being the “51st Republican senator” and talked about the implications of that in terms of Clinton’s agenda and the Supreme Court.

“I don’t think there are going to be very many Donald Trump-Jason Kander voters,” Blunt said in an interview. He currently has a one-point lead in the RCP average.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State is, like Missouri, one Republicans didn’t expect to be hyper-competitive. But several factors, including Clinton’s consistent lead in the state, the competitive governor’s race and backlash over the controversial law requiring people to use restrooms based on the gender on their birth certificate, have made North Carolina competitive.

Some Republicans in Washington expressed frustration with Sen. Richard Burr, a two-term incumbent who chairs the intelligence committee, for not getting his campaign off the ground quick enough in a difficult environment. But Burr has campaigned aggressively in the final weeks of the election, hitting his opponent, Deborah Ross, for her work lobbying for the ACLU in the 1990s. (His campaign has released multiple attack ads citing a memo in which she raised concerns about legislation creating a public database for sex offenders.) Ross’ campaign has pushed back, arguing the Republican attacks misrepresent her position at the time.

Ross is not well known statewide, having only served in the state legislature, but she has campaigned aggressively to increase her name ID. Clinton has given her shout-outs during rallies in North Carolina, hoping to lift her campaign. Burr, meanwhile, hasn’t shied from supporting Trump, and appeared at a conservative rally Friday headlined by the nominee’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Burr has outpaced Trump in many recent polls but currently has just a one-point edge over Ross in the RCP average.


Democrats got a boost in their chances to take back the Senate when Indiana’s Evan Bayh, who served two terms as both senator and governor, decided to enter the race over the summer. Since then, Republicans have hammered him over how much time he spends in Indiana versus Washington, his work for a major Washington law firm and various organizations after his Senate career, and meetings with some of those organizations during his final year in the Senate.

Republicans believe they’ve made a major dent in Bayh’s popularity in the Hoosier State, which could help lift Rep. Todd Young, who’s challenging him. But Bayh maintains a 3.7 percentage point lead in the RCP average, and Young has yet to lead in a public poll of the state. Donald Trump is on track to win Indiana on the presidential level, but Bayh is counting on support from some crossover voters.

Article Link To Real Clear Politics:

Polls Show Battleground Map Tightening

Hillary Clinton's once-decisive Electoral College advantage is narrowing.

By Stevan Shepard
October 31, 2016

New polls released Sunday in key battleground states suggest Hillary Clinton’s once-decisive advantage in the Electoral College is narrowing, raising the prospect that the bombshell letter FBI Director James Comey sent to Congress on Friday could further tighten the race.

Two new surveys show an erosion of Clinton’s advantage in vote-rich Florida. But at the same time, Clinton is ahead in new polls in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania — and victories in both states next month would likely clinch the presidency.

The new polls were conducted almost entirely before Comey’s letter leaked to the news media — a fact about which Trump crowed in a Twitter message on Sunday morning.

“We are now leading in many polls, and many of these were taken before the criminal investigation announcement on Friday – great in states!” Trump tweeted.

It’s not clear what impact, if any, Comey’s announcement will have on the race. The first data point, an ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll conducted over the past two nights, suggests voters haven’t been moved significantly in the immediate wake of the Comey letter.

Still, now that Trump has at least pulled even in Florida, if not narrowly ahead, Clinton’s Electoral College firewall is looking more vulnerable — even without the volatility the resurgence of the email story has introduced over the race’s final stretch.

In Florida, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Clinton and Trump tied in a head-to-head race, 46 percent to 46 percent. In a four-way matchup with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, the poll, which was conducted last Tuesday and Wednesday, gives Clinton a nominal, 1-point lead.

But a Siena College poll conducted for the New York Times “Upshot” is better for Trump. The Republican leads by 4 points in the four-way matchup, 46 percent to 42 percent, and he has a 3-point lead in a head-to-head matchup with Clinton, 48 percent to 45 percent.

Both polls appear to confirm the race in Florida has moved toward Trump — first suggested by a Bloomberg Politics survey released last week giving Trump a 1-point lead over Clinton in a head-to-head matchup.

The two surveys differ slightly in ways that explain the overall variance between them. Trump is doubling up Clinton among white voters in the Siena poll, leading 58 percent to 29 percent. His lead is slightly smaller in the Marist poll: 54 percent to 34 percent. Both polls, however, showed Clinton and Trump winning similar percentages of voters who identify as members of their respective parties, with self-identified independents tilting toward Trump.

But while Trump has surged in Florida, he is still behind in two states critical to any Electoral College comeback: North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Losing both states, worth a combined 35 electoral votes, would foreclose most realistic paths to victory for Trump.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll in North Carolina, also conducted last Tuesday and Wednesday, gives Clinton a 6-point lead over Trump, 50 percent to 44 percent. Clinton’s margin holds when Johnson is included as an option, 47 percent to 41 percent. (Stein isn’t on the ballot in North Carolina.)

That poll shows a large education gap. Among white voters with a college degree, Clinton leads by 9 points, 50 percent to 41 percent. But Trump has a 44-point lead with white voters without a degree, 69 percent to 25 percent.

The race was a bit closer in a CBS News/YouGov survey released Sunday. That poll — conducted with online interviews last Wednesday through Friday — includes interviews on the day Comey’s letter leaked and shows Clinton ahead, 48 percent to 45 percent.

Clinton’s lead is even larger in Pennsylvania, according to a CBS News/YouGov online survey there, also conducted Wednesday through Friday: 48 percent to 40 percent. That’s similar to Clinton’s lead in a Muhlenberg College poll conducted Oct. 20-26 for the Allentown Morning Call: 46 percent to 41 percent.

Nearly all the interviews for the battleground-state polls released on Sunday were conducted before congressional Republicans disclosed a letter Comey, the FBI director, had sent to Capitol Hill, informing a number of relevant congressional committees that the bureau is planning to investigate additional emails possibly related to Clinton’s improper use of a private server while secretary of state.

It’s too early to assess the fallout of Comey’s letter, but the first hints emerged Sunday in the form of the ABC News/Washington Post daily tracking poll. The initial evidence indicates voters aren’t moved by the new disclosure to large degrees.

First, the horse race: On Saturday morning, Clinton held a 2-point among likely voters surveyed last Monday through Thursday, 47 percent to 45 percent.

Sunday’s tracking poll release dropped interviews conducted last Monday and added calls made to voters Friday night, after news broke of Comey’s letter. The overall matchup changed little: Clinton now leads, 46 percent to 45 percent. But three of the first four nights of interviews were conducted before the Comey letter. (The first entirely post-Comey look at the race is slated for Wednesday morning, when the tracking poll will be comprised of interviews from Friday through Monday.)

But in the wake of Friday’s letter, pollsters added a question, informing respondents that “the FBI has announced it is reviewing additional emails in connection with its investigation of Clinton’s handling of classified information when she was secretary of state,” and that “Clinton said she did not mishandle classified information.”

Only about a third of likely voters, 34 percent, said the issue made them less likely to vote for Clinton. A majority, 63 percent, said it makes no difference.

The voters who said it made them less likely to vote for Clinton are mostly those who were already unlikely to support Clinton. A majority of Republicans, 52 percent, said the issue made them less likely to vote for Clinton.

Meanwhile, only 7 percent of Clinton supporters and 13 percent of self-identified Democrats said it made them less likely to vote for Clinton. Those are small percentages, but in a closer race, they will be the voters to watch — both nationally and in key states — as the issue develops over the final nine days of the election.

Article Link To Politico:

Cubs Stay Alive With Win Over Indians

By Larry Fine 
October 31, 2016

The Chicago Cubs kept alive their World Series hopes by beating the Indians 3-2 in Game Five at Wrigley Field on Sunday to send the best-of-seven Major League Baseball championship back to Cleveland.

The Indians lead the series 3-2 ahead of Game Six on Tuesday.

Chicago's quiet bats came to life in the fourth inning with three runs, sparked by a home run from Kris Bryant and four more hits that followed that allowed the Cubs to hold on to the dream of winning their first World Series in 108 years.

On the brink of elimination, Cubs ace starter Jon Lester turned in a strong six innings to reignite roars from the home crowd and flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman did a yeoman's job in registering the last eight outs to preserve the must win.

"It didn’t feel like an elimination game," said 24-year-old third baseman Bryant. "Jon (Lester) doing his thing, Chapman coming in for eight outs. That was an unbelievable win."

Rizzo, who followed Bryant's blast with a double off the wall in right and came around to score, had a different take on the mounting tension in the win-or-go-home thriller.

"High anxiety and a lot of deep breaths," Rizzo said about dealing with the pressure. "Every pitch gets bigger and bigger as the game goes on.

"Great win, to set these fans off with a win. Now we get to go back to Cleveland and take care of business."

Chapman, whose longest outing this season was 2 1/3 innings, was asked to go one out longer when Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought him in with out in the seventh and a man on first and the score 3-2.

But the Cuban-born reliever poured his 100 mph-plus fastballs in to overpower the Indians, striking out four on his way to the critical save.

Lester, who yielded two runs on four hits while striking out five, registered the victory. Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer took the loss, his second of the Series.

Before the game, spirits did not seem as high among fans compared to the first two games played in Chicago, as revelers seemed subdued, wary of a third straight loss at Wrigley.

But by the end, the crowd was roaring and after Jose Ramirez struck out to end the game, fans inside and outside Wrigley stood and sang the team song with the title dream still alive.

"I'm feeling amazing," Nicole Herrington, who lives a few blocks from the stadium with her husband and four-month-old boy, told Reuters. "We can't believe that they are not (going to win).

"It's been unbelievable. One hundred and three wins in the regular season. They got to take it in Cleveland. They have to take it in Cleveland.

"How can we not win it now?"

Chicago’s Jake Arrieta, the Game Two winner for the Cubs, is scheduled to start Game Six on Tuesday against Josh Tomlin, with a Game Seven to be played in Cleveland on Wednesday if needed.

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Monday, October 31, Morning Global Market Roundup: Asia Stocks Make Shaky Start As FBI Review Of Clinton Emails Rattles Markets

By Nichola Saminather
October 31, 2016

Asian stocks got off to a shaky start on Monday as investors were rattled by news that the FBI is planning to review more emails related to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's private server, just a week before the election.

Federal investigators have secured a warrant to examine newly discovered emails, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Clinton had opened a recent lead over her unpredictable Republican rival Donald Trump in national polls, but it had been narrowing even before the email controversy resurfaced.

The Mexican peso, which strengthens along with the chances for a Clinton win, fell, while the U.S. dollar remained weak against other major currencies.

"There seems little doubt that a Trump victory would trigger selling in stock markets from current levels," Rick Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, wrote in a note.

"This has traders nervous as they start the week assimilating fresh news on Hillary Clinton’s email problems."

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit a six-week low on Monday before recovering up 0.2 percent. It is set to end the month down 1.6 percent.

Japan's Nikkei, which touched a six-month high on Friday, slipped 0.4 percent on Monday, but remains poised for a monthly increase of 5.5 percent.

China's Shanghai Composite index fell 0.4 percent, paring gains this month to 2.9 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid to a two-month low but revived to gain 0.3 percent, on track for a 1.1 percent loss in October.

On Friday, Wall Street and the dollar closed lower, after Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey sent a letter to the U.S. Congress informing it that the agency is again reviewing emails related to the private server Clinton used when she was secretary of state.

Markets have tended to see Clinton as the candidate of the status quo, while there is greater uncertainty over what a victory for Trump might mean for U.S. foreign policy, international trade deals and the domestic economy.

Comey had decided in July that the FBI was not going to seek prosecution of Clinton for her handling of classified materials.

Trump had fallen in the polls for most of the past six weeks, but an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday showed Clinton with a statistically insignificant 1-point national lead.

The dollar hit a three-week high against the Mexican peso on Friday before closing up 0.7 percent. It retained most of those gains to trade at 18.9492 peso on Monday.

A Trump victory has been viewed as a key risk for the Mexican currency given his promises to clamp down on immigration and redraw trade relations with the country.

The dollar gained 0.1 percent to 104.885 yen on Monday, and remains up 3.5 percent for the month. On Friday, it hit a three-month peak after third-quarter U.S. economic growth beat expectations, before ending the day down 0.4 percent on the news about the Clinton email investigation.

The euro retreated 0.25 percent to $1.0964 after jumping 0.9 percent on Friday. It is poised to end October with a 2.5 percent loss.

Adding to the list of potential market-moving events this week is a raft of factory PMI data on Tuesday for many economies; central bank policy meetings, including Japan and Australia on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday and the Bank of England on Thursday; as well as U.S. October non-farm payrolls on Friday.

Oil prices extended their slide - driven by renewed oversupply concerns - and have surrendered most of the gains made in the first half of October. They are set to end the month with meager gains.

The latest oil woes were prompted after non-OPEC producers failed to make any specific commitment to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in limiting output to support prices on Saturday.

U.S. crude slid 0.4 percent to $48.51 a barrel on Monday, up 0.6 percent for the month, while global benchmark Brent also retreated 0.4 percent to $49.47, up 0.8 percent in October.

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FBI Obtains Warrant To Examine Clinton Emails

By Mark Hosenball and John Whitesides 
October 31, 2016

Federal investigators have secured a warrant to examine newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton's private server, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday, as a prominent Democrat accused FBI Director James Comey of breaking the law by trying to influence the election.

The warrant will allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine the emails to see if they are relevant to its probe of the private email server used for government work by Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Comey came under heavy pressure from Democrats on Sunday to quickly provide details of the emails, as Clinton allies worried the prolonged controversy could extend beyond the Nov. 8 election and cast a shadow over a Clinton transition if she wins the White House.

Comey's disclosure of the email discovery in a letter to Congress on Friday plunged the final days of the White House race between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump into turmoil. Clinton had opened a recent lead over Trump in national polls, but it had been narrowing even before the email controversy resurfaced.

The unexpected turn in the email controversy shook financial markets' conviction of a Clinton victory in the election and the U.S. dollar slipped against major currencies in early Asian trading on Monday.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Comey on Sunday suggesting he violated the Hatch Act, which bars the use of a federal government position to influence an election.

"Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law," Reid, a senator from Nevada, said in the letter to Comey.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook questioned Comey's decision to send a letter notifying Congress of the email review before he even knew whether they were significant or relevant.

Comey's letter was "long on innuendo, short on facts," Podesta said on CNN's "State of the Union" program, and accused the FBI chief of breaking precedent by disclosing aspects of an investigation so close to the election.

"We are calling on Mr. Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here," Podesta said, adding the significance of the emails was unclear.

"He might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of a presidential campaign, so close to the voting," Podesta said.

Comey's letter was sent over the objections of Justice Department officials. But those officials did not try to stop the FBI from getting the warrant, a source familiar with the decision said, because they are interested in the FBI moving quickly on the probe.

Sources close to the investigation have said the latest emails were discovered as part of a separate probe of former Democratic U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Weiner is the target of an FBI investigation into illicit text messages he is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. The FBI already had a warrant to search Weiner's laptop in that probe, but needed a warrant to look at the material that might be related to Clinton.

'Check On Corruption'

Sources familiar with the matter said FBI agents working on the Weiner investigation saw material on a laptop belonging to Weiner that led them to believe it might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton's email practices.

Trump has highlighted the issue as proof for his argument that Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy.

"We have one ultimate check on Hillary's corruption and that is the power of the vote," Trump told a rally in Las Vegas on Sunday. "The only way to beat the corruption is to show up and vote by the tens of millions."

Comey, who announced in July that the FBI's long investigation of Clinton's emails was ending without any charges, said in his letter the agency would review the newly surfaced emails to determine their relevance to the investigation of her handling of classified information.

Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, said he filed a complaint over Comey's actions with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations.

"We cannot allow F.B.I. or Justice Department officials to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations concerning candidates of either party while an election is underway. That is an abuse of power," he said in a column in the New York Times.

But Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Columbia Law School, called the allegations that Comey improperly tried to influence the election "inane."

"Comey’s critics cannot show his letter violated the Hatch Act unless they can prove that the FBI director was intending to influence the election rather than inform Congress, which was Comey’s stated aim," said Richman, who said he had advised Comey on law enforcement policy but not this issue.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday showed Clinton with a statistically insignificant 1-point national lead on Trump. About a third of likely voters in the poll said they were less likely to back Clinton given Comey's disclosure.

Clinton, who told a Florida rally on Saturday that Comey's letter was "deeply troubling," did not address the issue directly on Sunday but referred vaguely to voters overcoming a "distraction."

"There’s a lot of noise and distraction but it really comes down to the kind of future we want and who can get us there,” she told a packed gay nightclub in Wilton Manors, Florida, where hundreds of supporters who could not get in lined the streets outside.

"We don’t want a president who would appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn marriage equality,” she said.

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