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Sore losers? Wisconsin GOP seeks to strip powers of elected Dem governor

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 23, 2017.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — Less than a month after losing the state’s races for governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to strip the powers of the incoming Democrats, representing a brazen partisan power grab in this important battleground state.

State GOP lawmakers will hold a hearing Monday on their package of efforts to weaken Gov.-elect Tony Evers — who beat Republican Scott Walker in November, 49.6 percent to 48.4 percent — and could approve the measures as early as Tuesday, per The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Republicans proposals in this lame-duck session include, the paper adds:

  • making it difficult for Evers and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, to withdraw from the GOP lawsuit challenging Obamacare;
  • eliminating Evers’ ability to choose a leader of the state’s Economic Development Corporation;
  • limiting early voting in elections to just two weeks (a similar effort was found unconstitutional in 2016);
  • moving the state’s 2020 presidential primary from April to March, to potentially reduce the turnout for a state Supreme Court contest set for April;
  • and requiring Evers to get permission from state lawmakers to ban guns in the state Capitol.

Evers has cried foul. "I view this as a repudiation of the last election. I will take any steps possible to assure the people of Wisconsin that I will not invalidate those votes," the governor-elect told the Journal Sentinel over the weekend.

Republicans maintain they’re correcting giving outgoing Gov. Scott Walker too much power. "Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. Walker and I'd be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that," the Assembly’s GOP speaker told reporters after the election.

No matter the rationale, what Wisconsin Republicans are trying to do isn’t a good look for American democracy — changing the rules after you lose. (The essential question to ask: Would they be making these moves if they won in November?) Indeed, it’s similar to what we saw two years ago in North Carolina, where Republicans worked to curb the powers of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

And it would be quite the political epitaph for Scott Walker, who came into power in 2011 by taking away collective-bargaining power from public employees, who survived a recall in 2012, who was re-elected in 2014, who ended his 2016 presidential bid prematurely and who lost his re-election race last month.

Today’s GOP isn’t Bush 41’s party anymore

The big political news over the weekend, of course, was the passing of former President George H.W. Bush; he was 94 years old.

His remains will travel from Houston to Washington D.C, where he will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol and where a funeral ceremony will be held at the National Cathedral on Wednesday. After that, his remains will return for Houston for another funeral service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, and then he will be taken to Texas A&M University.

Politically, what stands out about Bush’s passing is how different his party — and his presidency — looks from the current GOP and current president. He raised taxes to help balance the budget (despite his “read my lips” promise), while the current GOP continues on its tax-cutting course.

He separated campaigning (which he did in brutal fashion in 1988) from governing, while the current president launched his re-election campaign as he was being inaugurated.

And he stood for world and international order after the collapse of the Soviet Union (“The restraint, the caution, the lack of spiking the football that they showed was, I think, an enormous achievement,” Barack Obama said of Bush and his presidency on “60 Minutes”), versus “America First.”

To be sure, all parties change from their past presidents. (Remember when Bill Clinton declared that the “era of big government is over”?) But the transformation of the Republican Party from Bush 41 to Bush 43 to Trump has been remarkable.

NYT: No 'course correction' for GOP after big midterm losses

The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin: “With a brutal finality, the extent of the Republicans’ collapse in the House came into focus last week as more races slipped away from them and their losses neared 40 seats. Yet nearly a month after the election, there has been little self-examination among Republicans about why a midterm that had seemed at least competitive became a rout.”

“President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.”

Last week, we asked where the pivot would be for Trump and GOP. Well, it looks like there’s been no pivot.

Investigation of voter fraud continues in NC-9 race

Here’s the latest on the allegations of voter fraud in that congressional election in North Carolina: “North Carolina officials voted Friday to continue investigating fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, potentially delaying certification of the results for weeks and leaving open the possibility that a new election could be called,” the Washington Post writes.

“The decision cast new uncertainty on the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by only 905 votes out of 283,317 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection that Harris won the southeastern North Carolina seat. The inquiry further roiled a state already divided over issues of voting rights, voter suppression and fraud.”

More: The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested. Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.”

The uncalled House races of 2018 (one)

CA-21 (NBC retracted its call of Republican David Valadao as the winner)

Democrats are currently at +39 under NBC’s count, and they’d be at +40 if they end up winning CA-21.

Trade ceasefire with China boosts global markets

“A truce between U.S. and Chinese leaders on trade tariffs provided boosted global markets on Monday, fueling a nearly one percent surge on world stocks and pushing emerging currencies higher against the dollar,” per Reuters. “The gains came after China and the United States agreed at the weekend to halt additional tariffs on each other. The deal prevents their trade war escalating as the two sides try to bridge differences with fresh talks aimed at reaching a deal within 90 days.”

Nadler: Cohen revelations are proof that Russians had 'leverage' over Trump

Meanwhile, “New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that new revelations from one of President Trump’s allies amount to proof that Russia had ‘leverage’ over Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign,” NBC’s Ben Kamisar writes.

“In an exclusive interview on ‘Meet the Press,’ Nadler said that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s admissions last week related to his role in securing a Trump Tower in Moscow during the time of the GOP presidential primary raise the specter of a compromised presidential candidate, and now president, that should trouble the American people. ‘The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him,’ Nadler said.”

Ex-Obama aides say Beto reminds them of the ex-president

And in 2020 news, here’s NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Rep. Beto O'Rourke may have lost in Texas, but he's winning in Obamaland. Aides to the former president and the man himself say O'Rourke's campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gave them flashbacks to Obama's precocious political rise and has positioned the young white congressman as an early if unlikely heir to the first black president's ‘hope and change’ mantle.”

“Obama and his coterie are personally closer to any number of other potential candidates, especially former Vice President Joe Biden, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a photograph of Obama and O'Rourke together. Obama didn't even endorse O'Rourke in his Senate campaign. But in O'Rourke, Obama veterans see not only an inspiring political celebrity, but, like Obama, a tactical innovator who eschewed the political industrial complex of pollsters and consultants and used technology in new ways to connect directly with supporters and multiply the force of his fundraising and ground game.”