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National Govt & Politics
5 weeks out, Trump optimistic about GOP election chances
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5 weeks out, Trump optimistic about GOP election chances

5 weeks out, Trump optimistic about GOP election chances
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

5 weeks out, Trump optimistic about GOP election chances

With Republicans playing defense in a number of races in Congress, President Donald Trump on Monday sounded a note of optimism about GOP chances to hold control of the U.S. House and Senate, saying he believes his party's candidates will be rewarded at the ballot box for an improving national economy.

"I think we're going to do well, although history is not on our side," the President told reporters in the White House Rose Garden, referring to losses which normally hit the party of the President in a mid-term election, with 1994 and 2010 prime examples of those major swings in Congress.

"Generally whoever holds the White House doesn't do well in the mid-terms, but the difference is that we have the greatest economy in the history of our country," the President said.

Where do we stand five weeks from Election Day?

1. The President tries to stoke GOP turnout. With campaign rallies this week in four states - Tennessee, Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas, President Trump is doing his best to get Republicans to turn out in November. The problem for the GOP has been obvious in a series of special elections over the past year - Democrats are turning out in higher numbers, while some Republican voters are taking a pass. Mr. Trump is trying to argue that voters should just imagine that he is on the ballot, because if the Republicans lose control of either the House or Senate - or both - then life will be much different for the President in 2019. That message was being sent out last night by Fox News in Tennessee.

2. It's not all bad news for Republicans. Before we get down into the numbers in the House and Senate, there is polling which shows some bright spots in certain races for the GOP. Republicans hope they can defeat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. A new poll out on Monday showed Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) continues to be one of the most endangered Democrats running for re-election, and the campaign arm of Senate Republicans was busy sending out that Garden State message.

3. Some evidence of ticket splitting. New Jersey is a good example of polling that shows voters maybe thinking about splitting their ballots. While Menendez might be in trouble for his re-election bid, a series of polls in House races in New Jersey have had very good news for Democrats, as a series of GOP seats in New Jersey seem to be in jeopardy for Republicans. There's also been polling evidence of Democrats doing better in races for Senate in Ohio and Tennessee, while Republicans have the edge in those same states in races for Governor. Ohio might be the best example, where Sen. Sherrod Brown was a big target for the GOP - but right now, he seems to be in very good shape for November.

4. What about voter enthusiasm? Every election is about turnout, but it's also about the underlying energy which spurs that turnout. Democratic strategists and pollsters believe they have the edge in that category, no matter numbers which show some recent gains for the GOP. In five weeks, everything might seem a lot clearer when the numbers roll in on Election Night. For now, Democrats have a lot of high hopes for wins in the House and Senate. Here's their take.

5. Can Democrats really win the Senate? The answer is, of course Democrats can win the Senate. But will they? That's a different kind of question. Sometimes what happens near Election Day is that a series of tight races all seem to fall the right way for one party. My father always talks about how that happened in 1958, in favor of Democrats. We saw it happen in 1980 for the Republicans in the Senate. If there is a "Blue Wave," that would tend to help push a few races over the top - but if the President can find a few states to interrupt that type of momentum, it might be the key to keeping the Senate in GOP hands. Right now it's 51-49, the barest of majorities - but Democrats need to have a lot of races go their way. One of those is in Nevada, where a new poll showed GOP Sen. Dean Heller trailing.

6. Can Republicans hold on to the House? Of course the GOP can stay in power - but there sure are an awful lot of Republican seats which are toss ups right now. A quick look at the Real Clear Politics rundown on the U.S. House shows you all you need to know at this point. Just look at the graphic below, and you see how many "Red" House seats are in the toss up category - 38 Republican and 2 Democratic. That's all you need to know. 38 GOP toss ups. 2 Democratic toss ups. That immediately tells you that Republicans are on the defensive. But, being on the defensive five weeks before Election Day doesn't mean you lose all those seats. Voters tend to "come home" to their party as Election Day nears, making the judgment of independents all the more important in a year like 2018.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

7. Why should you believe the polls? The President argued on Monday that he doesn't believe some polls which show Republicans behind in certain races. And actually, that could be an issue for the GOP in some areas, where people think the polls showing tough times for Republicans are 'fake news.' "I see polls that I know are false, having to do with certain of the races," the President said in the White House Rose Garden. The experts who closely follow House and Senate elections definitely see an edge to the Democrats in the House, and maybe an edge to the GOP in the Senate. But in the House, there are growing warning signs where the GOP is deciding not to spend money to help certain incumbent lawmakers. That is never a good signal, especially at the start of October.

The current make up of the House is 240 Republicans to 195 Democrats (that includes the 6 vacant House seats, assigning them the party of the person who most recently held the seat).

Those numbers mean Democrats need to win a net gain of 23 seats to get to 218 and a majority in the House. Republicans can lose one seat in the Senate, and still maintain a majority, with the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President.

Five weeks to go.

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Local News

  • There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms for Athens and northeast Georgia. The threat of severe weather, apparently diminishing overnight, nonetheless leads several school districts in south Georgia—Albany among them—to cancel classes for the day.  From Channel 2 Action News… There are several metro Atlanta counties under a Tornado Watch early Friday morning as a line of storms and rain move into the area. Severe Weather Team 2 has been tracking the system all week as it moved through the country. The Tornado Watch has been issued for Troup, Meriwether, Pike and Upson counties.
  • The University of Georgia gymnastics team begins competition in the NCAA Finals: the Gym Dogs are taking part in the tournament set for this weekend in Fort Worth Texas.  “We’re peaking at the right time,” says Georgia coach Courtney Kupets Carter. Oklahoma is ranked first going into the tournament. UGA is eighth.
  • A Newton County fine arts teacher faces two felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting students last month, authorities said. Christopher Ehren Matyas, born in 1980, of Covington, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority, according to a sheriff’s office arrest report. He was a teacher at Alcovy High School, and both school employees and students reported the alleged sexual assaults on March 22, according to the police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News. Newton County School District spokeswoman Sherri Davis sent the news station a statement that said, in part:  “School officials launched an investigation and immediately reported the allegations to local law enforcement. Mr. Matyas was removed from the classroom setting and placed on leave during the course of the investigation. He will not return to the classroom.” He’s out of jail on a $16,700 bond, records show.
  • A White County judge denies bond for Mitch Simpson. The former Cleveland car dealer closed his auto lot earlier this year; he was arrested in March on theft charges.From WSB TV…   A north Georgia car dealer was denied bond Thursday in what’s now being described as a more than $2 million fraud and theft case, prompted by a Channel 2 investigation. Mitch Simpson was arrested and charged with three counts of felony theft by conversion late last month. They were tied to unpaid state vehicle taxes in which nearly 60 buyers say they paid Mitch Simpson Motors for their purchases, but their TAVT taxes were left unpaid and their titles were never delivered. Those purchases spanned a time period between late 2018 and early 2019, right before the Cleveland dealership shut its doors, and the buyers came to Channel 2 after unsuccessful attempts to contact Simpson. Soon the Georgia Department of Revenue began working with the White County Sheriff’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the case. On Thursday, the Georgia DOR filed two additional theft charges in the case and argued against bond in Simpson’s case. A prosecutor revealed a much larger, complex case while highlighting Simpson’s 2011 federal conviction in a car loan scam. He served probation in the case, while several other co-defendants went to federal prison. In addition to $385,000 in unpaid vehicle taxes that were collected, prosecutors say Simpson failed to pay multiple floor planning companies $780,000 for vehicles they financed. Those companies essentially act as a bank for car dealerships, lending them the money to provide inventory on car lots. In a third tier of the ongoing investigation, prosecutors allege Simpson double and sometimes triple-financed the same vehicle through the lenders, pocketing about $1.3 million. Simpson’s attorney hit back at those allegations after a state investigator told the court Simpson’s personal bank records had been subpoenaed but not yet analyzed. Search warrants netted titles and documents from Simpson’s Habersham County home, as investigators say evidence was taken out of the car dealership building. “He has a compelling story, and there are certainly issues with the state’s case,” defense attorney Jeff Wolff told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. Wolff highlighted in court that Simpson simply managed the namesake lot and that it was owned by his former in-laws.  No one else has been charged in the case, and employees of McGregor Financial, the dealership’s in-house financing company, have cooperated with investigators. They’ve maintained their role was financing and Simpson had access to accounts and paid the bills, according to investigators’ testimony. “It was an underfunded business,” Wolff said. “And that’s a large gap between an underfunded business and criminal enterprise.” About a half-dozen friends and family members served as character witnesses for Simpson, arguing against a notion that he’d serve as a flight risk in this case. Perhaps his strongest supporter was his 86-year-old mother, Elsie Hogan, who said Simpson never had a desire to leave his north Georgia roots, even when he faced trouble in his earlier federal case. “He says he’ll never fly until he gets his wings and goes to heaven,” Hogan said. Hogan also revealed she’d used yard sale money to pay for Simpson’s heart medication while he was in jail. She pushed back against any suggestion that he’d profited from stolen car lot funds. “He has no money at all. He has nothing. He has nothing, sir,” Hogan said, answering Wolff’s questions. Nonetheless, Superior Court Judge Joy Parks ruled against bond in the case, citing the complexity and seriousness of the newly-revealed allegations. A grand jury is set to convene in June. The good news for Simpson’s car buyers is that they are receiving their titles. Fifty-three of the car buyers affected are from Georgia, and the state says it worked with those floor planning companies to get the missing titles. “We've been able to obtain 52 (titles) with the help of the Attorney General's Office. It's been a great win for us,” said Josh Waites, director of special investigations for the Georgia Department of Revenue. The department says it continues to receive complaints tied to purchases from Simpson. Outside of court, car buyers Paul Cleiman and Justin Mathis thanked Channel 2 for exposing the case. Both men have either received titles or expect them any day after four months of uncertainty. “It’s been a long battle,” said Mathis. “We appreciate you, Nicole. We wouldn’t be here today without you.” 'I don’t think it was getting any attention until you stepped in and got the Department of Revenue involved,” Cleiman said. “We need justice, and I think that’s been served today for now.”

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his staff will spend hours breaking down film of the G-Day Game exhibition, and the players will, too. But there are some things that don’t require any sort of instant replay and should have been obvious to all. Here are three quick takeaways from the Bulldogs’ annual scrimmage: Backup QBs better than expected For all the hand-wringing that took place when Georgia’s primary backup transferred to Ohio State, the Bulldogs look to be in good shape at the position. Saturday wasn’t Jake Fromm’s best day, but everyone has seen enough from the rising junior and team captain to know he’ll deliver in 2019. RELATED: Jake Fromm ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ Former UGA walk-on and junior college QB Stetson Bennett and early enrollee D’Wan Mathis were two of the most pleasant surprises for many in the G-Day Game, however. Teammates saw what Bennett could do in bowl practices in 2017, and Smart said during the SEC Network broadcast that he had already seen what Mathis was capable of during spring drills. But for Bennett and Mathis to look so good — each in his own way — with the bright lights showing and fans in the stands had to help the coaches sleep easier while validating James Coley’s promotion to offensive coordinator for the few remaining doubters. Bennett was the most efficient quarterback on the team on Saturday, looking comfortable in the pocket when taking snaps for the Red Team and Black Team. Bennett was a combined 12-of-23 passing for 210 yards with a TD and no sacks. The 6-foot-6 Mathis showed off his big arm (a well-placed deep pass was dropped) and eye-popping foot speed. The freshman from metro Detroit was 15-of-28 for 113 yards with an interception, but he also had a 20-yard scramble and caught a 39-yard TD pass on a trick play. Secondary on point Georgia’s award-winning film crew has put out tremendous highlights on its Twitter account through spring and, let’s face it, the sight of a receiver skying high to catch a pass is more pleasing to the football eye than a DB deflecting a pass. But Saturday showed us what else has been happening behind the walls Smart has put up around the program, and it didn’t take long. Eric Stokes burst on the scene at Missouri last season, and since then it seems at each turn he’s making plays and standing out. Stokes’ Pick-6 of Fromm on the opening drive was a “Wow” moment, and the first-team secondary made lift hard on the starting quarterback the rest of the day. The UGA quarterbacks were a combined 43-of-83 for 489 yards with 3 TDs and 2 interceptions — and were sacked seven times. Considering the quarterbacks weren’t “live,” and the defense was laying off on big hits, those are not overly impressive passing numbers. Mark Webb had 3 pass break-ups to lead the secondary, and William Poole and D.J. Daniel each had 2. In addition to Stokes’ interception, Latavious Brini also had a pick. There were only two runs of 20 yards or more — Swift had a 27-yarder, and Mathis sprinted for 20 — and two conventional passes that went for more than 25 yards. Early enrollee Lewis Cine, the No. 3-ranked safety in the 2019 class, had 8 tackles — sharing team-high honors with returning safety starter Richard LeCounte.   Eric Stokes talking about his Pick-6 at the beginning of #GDay pic.twitter.com/Tt4gVHsLtb — 960 The Ref (@960theref) April 20, 2019   Program locked in The Georgia G-Day Game had every reason to be a flop, the cold, damp and windy weather was horrid, and one of the most electrifying players on the team was sidelined by illness. Instead, more than 50,000 Bulldogs tuned out and the Red Team and Black Team came sprinting out of different tunnels and played with great exuberance. A mic’d up Smart put the showbiz aside, interrupting questions and breaking sentences mid-stream to coach his team with every bit of the same fervor he shows in practice each day. Everybody on the team was intent on having their best day, which only seemed to make Fromm feel worse in the post game as he repeatedly beat himself up over his performance. That’s how intense and locked in the Georgia football program is right now, from the fan base, to the head coach, into the locker room and spilling out on the field Saturday. Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Matt Landers discusses his G-Day performance WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game Georgia G-Day Game football report card   The post 3 takeaways from G-Day: Georgia football quarterbacks surprise appeared first on DawgNation.
  • G-Day in Athens is much more than what happens on the field of play. 
  • ATHENS — Clearly, the Georgia Bulldogs have big plans for Matt Landers. Believe it or not, they’re not based on him throwing touchdown passes. Landers, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman receiver from Pinellas, Fla., was unable to haul in a touchdown catch during the G-Day Game on Saturday. But he threw for one. The 39-yard TD throw came on a reverse off a lateral from running back James Cook and it was caught by quarterback D’Wan Mathis midway through the third quarter. That gave Landers something Mathis wanted — a TD pass — and Mathis something Landers wanted — a TD catch. But nobody was complaining afterward. “I didn’t see that coming,” Landers said with a laugh. How could he have? Landers said they didn’t even practice the play. He said it was something that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley drew up for the Black Team during Friday’s meeting-room preparations. Coley made it clear they were going to run it on Saturday. They just weren’t sure when or how well it would work. “It worked,” Landers said with a laugh. “We didn’t practice it at at all. We just went over it. Coach Coley drew it up and we came out here and did it today. It just worked.” To perfection, in fact. It’s nothing that we all haven’t seen in little league, or somewhere along the line. Running back James Cook went left and took a handoff from Mathis, who went right. So did Landers, coming from the left side of the field on a revers. “The DB that was on me came on a blitz and they tackled Cook, so they thought the play was over,” Mathis said. “When he pitched it to me, I saw D’Wan wide open and I knew that was my chance to throw. The ball came out good and we executed and scored.” That was a fun play, but not really what Landers was focused on coming into Saturday’s scrimmage or going out. Landers was targeted early and often in Saturday’s G-Day Game. In the end, though, he came away with only two catches for 54 yards. That 52 of those yards came on one catch did help him process the disappointment. “Really it’s just getting an opportunity,” said Landers, who was a 3-star prospect coming out of St. Petersburg High Schoo. “Seeing that a lot of guys left, I knew I was going to be the guy that had to step up. I’d been hearing I have a lot of potential, but I just wanted to go out there and see for myself.” Landers was targeted on deep balls at least two other times on Saturday. But he was unable to come down with either one, a point of contention for coach Kirby Smart. “We’ve seen flashes of really good things from Matt; we’re seeing more of those flashes; with those flashes, we’ve got to see him come down with some 50-50 balls,” Smart said. “There were a couple of balls I thought he should have pulled down early and get going. He’s become a better special teams player, too. He’s able to contribute and been more competitive. We need Matt to really step up for us.” That’s not the first time Landers has heard that. He has been hearing it from receivers coach Cortez Hankton and pretty much everybody else who sees him practice every day. With the departures of leading wideouts Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin, it’s hard not to notice the tall kid from Florida who also happens to be one of the team’s fastest players. “He’s fast, he’s got great hands, he comes out of breaks great. He’s a special talent,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said. “He’s still trying to get everything together but, gosh, he’s really good. I love throwing to him. Nobody’s telling us to do that. We just believe in him.” Obviously the Georgia coaches share that belief. They must to trust him to take a pitch and throw a bomb downfield without ever rehearsing it in practice. But that’s not what the Bulldogs are looking for from Landers. Catching balls should be good enough from now on. “Matt’s had a good spring,” Smart said. “Matt’s level of consistency has to improve. Matt has to play to Matt’s standard all the time.”   The post WATCH: Matt Landers on his TD pass and trying to crack Georgia’s WR rotation appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t take any hits in the G-Day Game on Saturday. Good thing, because Fromm spent most of the post game beating himself up. This, despite his Red Team winning the annual scrimmage over the Black Team by a 22-17 count at Sanford Stadium. “ It is what is it, everybody else on offense played really well, and I didn’t play up to the standard that I wanted to play,” Fromm said. “But as an offensive unit, we played well, we moved the ball.” Fromm was 14-of-29 passing for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception Fromm, it’s worth noting, ranked fifth in the nation in passing efficiency last season. Sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes picked off Fromm’s second pass attempt of the game and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Junior go-to receiver J.J. Holloman slipped on the play, and that enabled Stokes to jump the route, and he out-fought Holloman for the football. Fromm, the only returning permanent captain from the 2018 season, declined to place any blame on anyone but himself. “Every now and then there’s that game,” Fromm said. “(A) ball that’s a little wet when it’s a little windy.” Fromm conceded the offensive playbook was watered down. Georgia obviously was not wanting to show the new elements coordinator James Coley has added.   But, Fromm pointed out, the defense was limited, too. “It’s a couple factors, obviously some days you have it, some days you don’t,” Fromm said of his uncharacteristically mediocre stat line. “It being a spring game, pretty bland on offense. “We definitely take a lot of things off the table, but that’s part of it, and so did the defense. They did a really good job and made some plays.” Fromm was also complimentary of a Georgia fan base that put more than 50,000 in Sanford Stadium despite temperatures in the 40s on a damp and windy day. “I’m super thankful to the fans that came out with it being Easter (weekend), “ Fromm said, “it being a rainy day, and we’re super thankful for the fans who came out today, showing their love and getting to watch the work we’ve been putting in this spring.” Georgia football QB Jake Fromm Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game   The post WATCH Georgia QB Jake Fromm: ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ in G-Day Game appeared first on DawgNation.