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Witcover: Mixed views on a 'blue wave' rising

Primary election voting across the country last Tuesday gave Democrats grounds to hope strong turnout by the faithful in the November midterm congressional elections will give them control of the House of Representatives, where any impeachment effort against President Trump would by law begin.

In California, where numerous Republican seats are judged to be in jeopardy, the party of FDR, the Kennedys and Obama can crow about the results. A Democrat, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, led the slate in a rare arrangement whereby the top two finishers for governor to replace term-limited Democrat Jerry Brown will be on the ballot.

The second spot went to a little-known Republican businessman, John Cox, who beat out former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat, whose success could have eroded Mr. Newsom's vote in the general election. State election laws prohibited Villaraigosa's mayoral identification on the ballot, and instead he was listed only as a public policy adviser.

Now Mr. Newsom, with solid Democratic support in the party's strongest state, will face Mr. Cox, who has been endorsed by Mr. Trump in what may be a kiss of death in this anti-Trump stronghold.

The president, in his customary habit of making silk purses out of sow's ears, tweeted: "Great night for Republicans! Congratulations to Jack Cox on a really big number in California. He can win. Even Fake News CNN said the Trump support was really big...So much for the big Blue Wave. It may be a really big red wave. Working hard!"

The nearly complete results, however, gave Newsom 33 percent to 22 for Cox and 13.5 for Villaraigosa, despite the Democratic split and Mr. Trump as usual taking credit for putting Cox on the ballot in the fall.

Of the state's 53 congressional districts, in the early counting the Democrats won in at least 30 of them to only 12 to the Republicans. The Democrats need a pickup of 23 seats nationally to take over the House in November.

The Democratic dream of a blue wave then is somewhat clouded by the rosy economic picture, as Mr. Trump can focus on the very favorable economic numbers reported last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They showed that 223,000 new payroll jobs were created in May and unemployment had dropped to 3.8 percent, the lowest in many years, including among black and Latino workers.

Mr. Trump breached longtime custom of allowing the bureau to release the numbers by tweeting in advance and crassly presenting them as his prediction. He fibbed again, saying he was optimistically looking forward to the good numbers when he already had them in hand. So it goes in Trumpland.

It's often said that voters customarily vote "with their pocketbooks," depending on how the state of the economy treats them. If so, that factor could counter the strong public revulsion to Mr. Trump's personal crudity and serial lying outside the cocoon of his worshipful political base.

For all the furor over his words and behavior, particularly considering his record of alleged sexual abuse, his support in most public-opinion polling has hovered around 40 percent, and was even creeping up slightly.

His latest overt assault on his own Justice Department and FBI, accusing them of implanting an "spy" in his campaign organization, and insisting he has the right to pardon himself, should put him beyond the pale to most patriotic Americans.

Instead, he acts as if, as president, he is constitutionally above the law and can pardon anyone, presumably even himself.

Wake up, America! Huey Long is back, along with Richard Nixon, who with a straight face said on television 44 years ago that if the president says something is legal, that makes it so.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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