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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Battle Lines Are Forming
      •  The Lincoln Project Is Dying
      •  One Born Every Minute
      •  Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
      •  An Unforced Error for the Biden Administration
      •  Nevada Getting out of the Caucus Business, into the "Going Second" Business
      •  Perdue May Take Another Bite at the Peach

Battle Lines Are Forming

The impeachment trial is over, but the pain is just beginning for the GOP. As far as Donald Trump's supporters are concerned, you are either 100% with him, or you are the enemy. And so, they are driving a deep wedge into the Party as we speak (well, as we write, and you read).

To start, take a look at the 10 Republican Representatives who voted to impeach Trump and the 7 Republican senators who voted to convict. Only three of the former and one of the latter have thus far completely avoided efforts to censure them (censuring organ, or potential censuring organ, in parentheses):

Member Censured?
Rep. Liz Cheney (WY) Yes (Wyoming GOP)
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH) No
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA) Yes (Washington GOP)
Rep. John Katko (NY) No
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL) Yes (La Salle County GOP Central Committee)
Rep. Peter Meijer (MI) Yes (Calhoun County GOP)
Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA) Yes (Washington GOP)
Rep. Tom Rice (SC) Yes (South Carolina GOP)
Rep. Fred Upton (MI) Yes (GOP of Cass and of Allegan Counties)
Rep. David Valadao (CA) No
Sen. Richard Burr (NC) Yes (North Carolina GOP)
Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA) Yes (Louisiana GOP)
Sen. Susan Collins (ME) Pending (Maine GOP)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) No
Sen. Mitt Romney (UT) Pending (Utah GOP)
Sen. Ben Sasse (NE) Yes (Nebraska GOP)
Sen. Pat Toomey (PA) Yes (Westmoreland County GOP)

Keep in mind that a motion of censure carries no formal consequences (particularly for members like Toomey, who are retiring). It is entirely an emotional response, done to lash out at those who have "wronged" Trump. It is, to borrow from Freud, a purely id-driven maneuver. That makes sense, since The Donald (and many of his followers) are pure id.

In addition to his formal censure from the La Salle County GOP, Adam Kinzinger also got a rather more personal censure from...11 members of his own family. They sent him a handwritten letter that the Representative released to The New York Times. It's fairly brief, and it's worth reading the whole thing, we think, so here is the text:


Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God! We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principals [sic] and join the "devil's army" (Democrats and the fake news media). How do you call yourself a Christian when you join the "devils army" believing in abortion! We thought you were "smart" enough to see how the left is brainwashing so many "so called good people" including yourself and many other GOP members. You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so, sad!

President Trump is not perfect, but neither are you or any of us for that matter! It is not for us to judge or be judged! But he is a Christian! (If God can forgive and use King David in the Bible, He can do the same with President Trump.) Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, to just name a few, of many Pastors, who mentor President Trump, know that he is a believer! Obviously, you did not hear President Trump's "Christmas Message" to the American people (fake news media did not cover his message) where he actually gave the plan of salvation, instructing people how to repent and ask the Savior into their heart to be "Born Again"! (To believe in John 3:16) When was the last time you proclaimed your faith Adam? (Oh, we forgot you now belong to the "devils army."). You won't convince us otherwise with your horrible, rude accusations of President Trump! (To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.) We should list even more grievances against you, but decided you are not worth more of our time to list them. We have said enough!

You should be very proud that you have lost the respect of Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Greg Kelly, etc. and most importantly in our book, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and us!

It is now most embarrassing to us that we are related to you. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name. We are not judging you. This letter is our opinion of you!

Oh, by the way, good luck in your fund raising [sic] endeavors. We are sure we know there are many other good GOP and Christian supporters, that feel the same way we do. Also very disappointed with the many other GOP that have sided with the Democrats. (We should demand our money back!)

The following Kinzinger family members have asked that their names be added to this letter:


[names redacted]

P.S. For your information, many more family members, feel the same as we do. They just didn't have the courage to sign our letter or write their own letter! Not us, we are throughly [sic] disgusted with you!! And, oh by the way, we are calling for your removal from office! I have received numerous calls concerning your actions and egregious behavior towards our President of the United States, Donald J. Trump!

CC: Many conservative Republicans.

*President Trump has done more for the American people in four years, than you, the Rino's [sic], and Democrates [sic] have done in years!!

It's nice that Kinzinger's family isn't judging him (since that would be very wrong), they are just giving their opinion. It's also interesting to learn that the conservative media pecking order goes Limbaugh, Levin, and then everyone else. And who knew that Jesus, a man who said "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back" (Luke 6:30) regarded socialism as a sin on par with abortion? Such theological insight!

In any event, one begins to understand why many Republicans (even those whose careers are ending, like Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio) held the line for The Donald. They could find themselves outcasts from the think tanks, the lobbying firms, and the media outlets they hope to land at. Their families could turn against them. They could be putting their very lives at risk; every one of the folks listed above has gotten death threats from angry Trump supporters. And we know full well that these people are armed, and are willing to use deadly force in defense of the Dear Leader.

The clear message here is that, in many states, there is no room in the Republican Party for those who do not worship at the altar of the Trump Family. After all, the people passing these motions of censure have enormous influence over candidates, funding, party rules, and the like. The Party is already well down a path that culminates in 40 or 50 or maybe even 100 candidates who are as far outside the mainstream as Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). This is going to leave non-Trump Republicans even more on an island than they have been for the past 4 years.

Two new polls released on Monday speak to this dynamic. The first, from ABC/Ipsos, reveals that 58% of Americans think Trump should have been convicted at the end of the trial. That is 10% more than after the first impeachment, and includes 88% of Democrats, 64% of independents, and...14% of Republicans. Clearly, the GOP and Trump's base have largely become one and the same, leaving a big chunk of the electorate with no party that really suits their tastes.

The second poll, from Gallup, finds that 63% of independents and 70% of Republicans would like to see the formation of a viable third party. In September, just 40% of Republicans felt that way. It is clear that there is some percentage that would like a non-Trump option (in other words, a more centrist option) while an additional percentage would like an even Trumpier option (in other words, a more populist/authoritarian option).

We remain skeptical that a true third party will emerge anytime soon. What is considerably more likely is a whole bunch of primaries in 2022 that feature a fire-breathing Trumper (backed by Trump, the state parties and Trump's base) facing off against a more moderate Republican (backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, the NRSC, the NRCC, and the remaining Republican moderates and Republican-leaning independents). It's going to be bloody, and in those cases where the fire-breathing Trumper comes out on top, the Republicans/centrists who do not love Dear Leader are either going to have to hold their noses and vote Democratic, or stay home on Election Day, or help deliver their Party even deeper into the thrall of the Trump movement. That is not a great position to be in, and it's not going to make it any easier for the Party to win close elections. (Z)

The Lincoln Project Is Dying

Whatever happens to the Republican Party in the next 2 years, it looks like the Lincoln Project won't be a big part of it. Former LP leader John Weaver was enmeshed in scandal last week when it came to light that he had been abusing his position of authority, and sending sexually explicit text messages to young men. Although Weaver was quickly ousted, the revelations nonetheless triggered an exodus of top LP figures this weekend, including Steve Schmidt, Kurt Bardella, Nayyera Haq and Tom Nichols. Preceding them out the door in previous weeks and months were Ron Steslow, Mike Madrid, George Conway and Jennifer Horn. That's pretty much everyone who was on the masthead.

It is somewhat unclear how much the LP really affected the election, since there's no great way to isolate their impact from the broader campaign. It's also unclear exactly how much the LP was about political activism, and how much it was about grift. After all, more than half the money that the PAC took in was sent to consulting firms run by LP leadership, who were thus paid handsomely for their "work." In any case, they appear to have reached their "Our American Cousin" moment. (Z)

One Born Every Minute

As long as we're on the subject of grift, let's talk a little bit about True the Vote. That is an organization founded by tea partiers in 2010 to "combat" voter fraud. Since it is a nonprofit, it is officially required to be nonpartisan. But given the organization's genesis, and its mission, well...who are we really kidding here?

Anyhow, as you might imagine, True the Vote was on the front lines of Donald Trump's fight to overturn the 2020 election results. And, with a lot of impressive talk about lawsuits and ironclad evidence of voter fraud, they hooked quite the whale in the form of businessman Fred Eshelman, who agreed to contribute $2.5 million to the cause. Somehow, some way, the lawsuits never seemed to gain traction, and the ironclad evidence was always just around the corner, requiring the expenditure of just a little bit more money. Mr. Eshelman, if you're reading this, please do get in touch with us, because we're aware of $12.5 million sitting in a Nigerian bank that can be repatriated to the U.S. if we just spend $10,000 in wire fees. If you front the $10,000, we'll gladly split the $12.5 million with you.

Eventually, Eshelman figured out that he'd been taken for a ride, and now he's sued in an effort to recover the millions he spent. It's hard to feel sorry for him, since he absolutely should have known better. The linked story lays out in detail how the grift operated (our parallel to the Nigerian scam is pretty on-point), and makes clear that, for many of the interested parties (including Donald Trump), "stop the steal" was primarily a scam designed to separate marks from their money. Because Eshelman is wealthy and can afford high-powered lawyers, he might actually get some of his funds back. For all the smaller pigeons, not so much. (Z)

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

One last item broadly on the subject of scams. Hiya is a company that sells both data and software designed to help people avoid unwanted phone calls. And each year they have been in business, they have commissioned a "State of the Call" report compiled by a market research firm. The latest entry is out, and it has some eye-opening statistics. In the United States, there are 129.5 million robocalls per day, or about 1,500 per second. And because so many of those calls are spam, or a scam, or some other entity the target does not wish to speak with, 94% of Americans do not answer calls from unrecognized numbers.

At the moment, the difficulty in getting through to people is proving a real headache for those who are trying to contain COVID-19 outbreaks through contact tracing. But in the world of politics, of course, the problem is that it's really hard to do a poll if 94% of phone calls go unanswered. Beyond the costs of trying to find enough respondents, it surely must be the case that the percentage is even higher among some segments of the population (Young people? Trump supporters? Poor people who fear a collection agency is on the other end?). And it's hard to imagine what the pollsters might do to overcome this. Maybe they can arrange for their number to appear as 867-5309, in hopes people will be fooled into thinking that Jenny is calling. (Z)

An Unforced Error for the Biden Administration

The bubble in which the White House exists is very big and very thick, and it is easy for an administration to lose touch with public sentiment as time goes on. Lyndon B. Johnson famously ended up with a severe case of tunnel vision, as did Richard Nixon. It's supposed to take years, though, not weeks. And yet, the Biden administration committed an absolutely tone-deaf screw-up less than a month into the President's term.

At issue is Deputy Press Secretary T.J. Ducklo, who decided it would be a good idea to start dating a member of the White House Press Corps. That alone is enough of an ethical breach to be worthy of termination, but it gets far worse. When a (female) reporter wrote a story about the relationship, Ducklo tracked her down and told her that if the story was published, "I will destroy you."

So that was the end of the line for Ducklo, right? After all, that sort of behavior is unacceptable in any workplace, particularly in the MeToo era, and it's doubly unacceptable for a White House that has presented itself as 180-degrees removed from the jerk-laden, harassment-prone Trump administration. Remarkably, however, Ducklo still didn't lose his job, even after news of his threatening behavior went public. Instead, he was suspended without pay for a week, which is about as light a slap on the wrist as one can imagine (well, besides being acquitted in two separate impeachment trials). Finally, when the hue and cry became loud enough, Ducklo was compelled to resign.

In short, the administration managed to leave itself with the worst of both worlds. They no longer have the apparently invaluable services of Ducklo, nor can they claim the moral high ground. It sure looks like this was originally "handled" by White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield and/or White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and Ducklo's head finally rolled when White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain found out what was going on and got involved. Whoever blew this also deserves to be relieved of their duties; we'll see if any other folks in the White House press office get the ax this week. (Z)

Nevada Getting out of the Caucus Business, into the "Going Second" Business

Nevada Democrats have now reached the same conclusion that the citizens of 47 (or maybe 48) other states, 1 territory, 1 District of Columbia, and 1 group of Americans abroad have reached: caucuses don't make a lot of sense anymore. Maybe they once did, but with the population having grown tenfold since the caucus system first started, and with a number of recent fiascoes (like Iowa) fresh in the memory, the days of the caucus appear to be numbered. So, in 2024, the Nevada Democratic Party will roll the dice, go all-in on a primary, and hope they hit the jackpot.

At the moment, that leaves a very small number of caucuses still standing. Iowa still has them for both parties, but that could very well change. Wyoming's Democrats and Nevada's Republicans still officially have caucuses, but both were canceled in 2020, and who knows if they come back. North Dakota also has "caucuses" for both parties, but they are really just firehouse primaries, where people vote the same way as in a normal primary, except not in secret. And finally, Democrats in Guam, both parties in the Virgin Islands, both parties in American Samoa, and both parties in the Northern Mariana Islands have caucuses.

In addition to changing systems, Nevada Democrats also pushed the date of the vote forward, such that it will come second after Iowa (and thus before New Hampshire). The New Hampshirites are going to scream bloody murder, but there's a decent chance they lose this one. There is little justification for following a state that has a 95.9% white population (Iowa) with a state that has a 97.3% white population (New Hampshire). Given the Democratic Party's interest in trying to attract Latino voters, it makes sense to figure out which candidate might be able to do that by moving a 27% Latino state nearer to the front of the line. New Hampshire's constitution gives the secretary of state the authority to set the date of the primary in order to have its primary be the first in the nation. Of course, Nevada could also pass such a law. Then we would have a bit of a conflict. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction on fights between states, but we doubt Chief Justice John Roberts is itching to weigh in on this.

Ultimately, the declining power of caucuses and of small states will make it harder for a would-be president to execute a come-from-out-of-nowhere campaign, but since the last would-be president to successfully do so was Jimmy Carter in 1976, not too much will be lost. (Z)

Perdue May Take Another Bite at the Peach

David Perdue represented Georgia in the U.S. Senate for 6 years until he was unseated by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA). The former senator thinks he might want to do so for another 6 years. And to keep that option open, Perdue filed a statement of 2022 candidacy on Monday night, so that he might challenge Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), who has to run again because he's finishing out Johnny Isakson's term. Perdue said that he's not making any commitments, as yet, but advisers say he's all but certain to run.

If Perdue does throw his hat into the ring, he's got two things going for him: (1) name recognition, and (2) $5.7 million left in his campaign war chest. However, he will also have a hard row to hoe. To start, he is likely to draw multiple primary challengers. The former senator hugged Donald Trump close in 2020, and he will probably have to tack even harder right to shore up that faction in 2022. If former Republican representative Doug Collins, who lost a primary to Kelly Loeffler, decides to try again, it will be a right-wing fun fest. That leaves him open to a centrist challenge, particularly in trending-blue Georgia, and will also make it tough for him to pivot back if he survives to the general. Further, Perdue still has the same baggage he had in 2020, namely the suspicion that he traded on insider information to make money off the pandemic.

Finally, Ossoff was the weaker of the two Democratic candidates in 2020, and Perdue still couldn't topple him. Facing the much stronger Warnock will be tougher. In 2020 Perdue ran against a white Jew who had never been elected to public office and lost. In 2022 he would be facing an incumbent Black senator in a state that is 33% Black. Assuming that Warnock gets pretty much all of the Black vote, Perdue would need almost three-quarters of the white vote. Can a really Trumpy guy with a scandal in the background pull that off in a state that is trending blue, especially in the suburbs where midterm turnout is high? It is races like this where we may discover what the future of the Republican Party holds. Perdue will need a lot of things to go right if he wants to return to Washington. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb15 Takeaway Time
Feb15 How Brave Were the Anti-Trump Seven?
Feb15 Poll: Americans Believe Trump Was Responsible for the Capitol Riot
Feb15 But Will the Senate Vote Even Be an Issue in 2022?
Feb15 Some in Congress Want a Bipartisan Commission to Examine the Riot
Feb15 McConnell Is Now Leading a Fractured Republican Party
Feb15 Trump Is Coming Out of Hibernation
Feb15 Are the Democrats Powerless Now?
Feb15 Trump's Business Partners Are Squeezing Him
Feb14 Unimpeachable
Feb14 Sunday Mailbag
Feb13 The Defense Rests
Feb13 Saturday Q&A
Feb12 Send in the Clowns
Feb12 What's Next for the Republicans?
Feb12 It Will Be a Taxing Year for Trump
Feb12 Former Republican Officials Consider Forming Center-Right Party
Feb12 Biden Administration Grapples with COVID-19
Feb12 Biden Administration Also Grapples with Clemency
Feb12 Diplomatic Unity?
Feb11 The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, A Tragedy in Three Acts
Feb11 Atlanta DA Has Opened a Criminal Investigation of Trump's Call to Raffensperger
Feb11 Senate Judiciary Committee Will Hold a Hearing on Merrick Garland Feb. 22-23
Feb11 Poll: Huge Majority Wants COVID-19 Relief Bill to Pass
Feb11 Biden Can Now Find Out What Trump Said to Putin
Feb11 Republicans See Themselves as the Party of the Working Class
Feb11 How the Republicans Plan to Win Back the House
Feb11 Nearly 140,000 Voters Left the Republican Party in January
Feb11 "Trump in Heels" Frustrates Virginia Republicans
Feb11 Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows
Feb10 There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way...
Feb10 Lessons Learned
Feb10 Good News, Bad News for Fans of a $15/hour Minimum Wage
Feb10 Biden's Getting His Cabinet, Slowly but Surely
Feb10 Democrats Focus on the Suburbs
Feb10 Presidents' Best Friends
Feb10 About Those 1980s Movies...
Feb09 Deja Vu All Over Again
Feb09 Parscale Suggests Trump Run as Martyr in 2024
Feb09 Raffensperger's Office Launches Investigation into Trump Phone Call
Feb09 No DeJoy in Mudville (at Least, Not Yet)
Feb09 Red-colored Sharks Are Circling Newsom
Feb09 Fetterman Throws His (Sizable) Hat into the Ring
Feb09 Rep. Ron Wright Succumbs to COVID-19
Feb08 Key Questions about Trump's Trial
Feb08 The Trial Could Be a Public Relations Disaster for the Republicans
Feb08 No More Dog Whistles
Feb08 Biden Doesn't Think the $15/hr Minimum Wage Will Be Allowed in the COVID Bill
Feb08 Trump Won't Get Intelligence Briefings
Feb08 Fox Is Worried