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More Democrats Are Yelling "Go, Joe, Go!"

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), that is. Bobby Kennedy wannabe Beto O'Rourke and DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison are the latest Democrats to hop onto the Manchin bandwagon, approving of his replacement for H.R. 1. It's not that they actually prefer his version to the one the House passed, but they want something passed and his compromise bill will get his crucial vote, which H.R. 1 won't. The theory here is better half a loaf than no loaf. Stacey Abrams is already on board the Manchin Express, so momentum is building.

O'Rourke poured it on pretty thick when he said: "I am so grateful for what Sen. Manchin has done and what he's doing right now." It is doubtful that he means it, but he understands that you don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Later he clarified that remark, calling it a good start. And given the politics of the Senate, it is the best the Democrats can do unless they keep the House and pick up at least one Senate seat in 2022.

Harrison was a bit more cautious. He said: "Many of us thought he was a 'no,' not only a 'no,' but a 'hell, no,' but it seems like he has softened his stance and he is willing to work to find some common ground to move forward."

So it is beginning to look like Democrats will fall in line behind Manchin's bill, possibly with a bit of tweaking. The top item they would like to get in there is a provision in federal law stating that any voter may get an absentee ballot without having to state any reason or meet any other conditions. If enough pork to begin the world's biggest pig farm were sent his way, it is at least possible that Manchin might accept that. He's been around long enough to know how the (pork) sausage is made. (V)

Catholic Bishops Vote to Draft a Statement That Will Rebuke Biden

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are more into supporting right-wing politicians than they are into saving souls. To them, religion is basically the cover story to hide their real goal: electing Republicans. So far, the Catholic Church has avoided turning itself into a chapter of the Republican Party, but those days may be nearing an end. On Friday, the conference of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement admonishing Catholic politicians, and perhaps denying them the sacrament of holy communion, if they support abortion. It would apply to all Catholic politicians, but there is little doubt that it is aimed specifically at the First Catholic, Joe Biden.

In a way, this is progress. During the 19th century, Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy were much despised and maltreated. When John Kennedy was elected president, most Catholics were overjoyed that the prejudice was reduced enough that a Catholic could be elected to the highest office in the country. At the time, many a Catholic family had a framed photo of Kennedy in their houses. Now, apparently, the Catholic hierarchy has decided that sacrificing the second Catholic president (and the first president with a life-long deep religious belief since Jimmy Carter) is fine with them in order to achieve its political goal of making abortion illegal.

It is true that the position of the Catholic Church is strongly against abortion, so in a sense the bishops are just defending church doctrine by denying holy communion to politicians who support abortion. However, it is worth noting that Pope Francis has issued an encyclical condemning the death penalty in the strongest possible terms. So if the bishops were just trying to force church policy on everyone, they would have had the draft read that holy communion should be denied to any politician supporting either abortion or the death penalty. But there is nary a word about the latter in the draft. After all, that would hit dozens of high-ranking Catholic Republicans (most of whom support the death penalty) right between the eyes. In the current House, 57 Republicans are Catholic; so are 10 Republican senators. If the bishops were consistent about demanding that they follow church doctrine on the death penalty as well as abortion, there would be a lot of unhappy Republicans in Congress.

Another hot button issue for the bishops is same-sex marriage. There they have a Biblical case. The Bible says: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22). However Leviticus also bans tattoos (Lev. 19:28), forbids playing football (Lev. 11:7-8), and condones slavery (Lev. 25:44-45). It also calls eating bacon and eggs, shrimp, and cheeseburgers abominations. Is Leviticus the word of God or is it not?

It is hard to have it both ways, though some religious folks claim that the New Testament represents a new covenant with God, and so the old stuff (or, at least, some of it) no longer applies. If so, well, the New Testament also has a few inconvenient thoughts on various subjects, like divorce. Matthew 5:32, for example, says: "But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Other passages, including Luke 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 reiterate these basic sentiments. Of course, only one living president is covered by these dictums; Donald Trump is twice-divorced, and one of his ex-wives was herself a divorceé when she married him (Ivana Trump, who was previously married to Alfred Winklmayr, a man who apparently could not afford many vowels). Despite this, neither the Catholics (nor anyone else) considered issuing a statement critical of Trump's marital history. The bishops seem to be fans of Catholicism à la carte, picking and choosing those parts of doctrine and the Bible that suit their political goals and ignoring those parts that don't. (V & Z)

Garcia and Yang Gang Up on Adams

If you don't understand the headline, think of it as "Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia decided to gang up on Eric Adams." Sorry. We couldn't resist. The Democratic primary for mayor of New York City is tomorrow, and all of a sudden there is an unexpected development. Two of the top candidates—failed presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former NYC sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia—are campaigning together just before the primary. New York City has only one mayor at a time and only one of them can get the nomination, so what's with rivals working together?

It's all about gaming the new ranked-choice voting system. The two of them are working together to block Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Yang told supporters: "Kathryn Garcia is a true public servant" and asked them to mark him as #1 and her as #2 on their ballots. If enough people do that, then in the final round, it will come down to them and Adams will be eliminated. Both of them see Adams as a serious rival because (1) he is Black and (2) he is well known in Brooklyn, the most-populous borough. Both Yang and Garcia would rather face each other in the final round than face Adams, hence the joint campaign.

The mechanics of ranked-choice voting are simple: Each voter numbers up to five candidates, from first choice to fifth choice. It's the politics that are complicated, as in this case. Candidates want to try to get into the final round with the weakest opponent they can manage (and Yang considers Garcia weaker than Adams). They also want to make sure they are the fifth choice of voters who really prefer only fringe candidates, either on the left or the right. If a voter picks five far-left candidates, which is easy in New York, then probably on the fifth or sixth round, the ballot will be exhausted and discarded. If a far-left voter who loathes Adams and merely dislikes Yang grudgingly marks Yang as #5, that ballot will be a Yang vote at the end. So in ranked-choice elections, candidates talk to crowds of people who probably don't care for them one whit and say: "Put me down for last place." In reality, a ballot that has four fringe candidates on top and Yang as #5, is likely just as valuable to Yang as a ballot that has him as #1. Not all voters understand this, however.

Adams got the message pretty clearly and shot back that the duo were trying to keep candidates of color from winning—although Yang is Asian-American and thus also a candidate of "color," even if Adams doesn't like that. Whether Garcia is a minority has become a campaign issue. She was adopted at birth by Bruce and Ann McIver, who are definitely not Latinos. At 25 she married a Puerto Rican, Jerry Garcia (no, not the one for whom the ice cream flavor is named). She has two half-Latino children and constantly talks about that in an effort to get the Latino vote, which is about 29% of the population of New York City. So the leading candidates are an Asian-American man, a Black man, and a Latina-adjacent woman. It's New York, after all. Plus, white guys have gotten their chance 108 out of the last 109 times, so the case could be made that they've had their fair share of NYC mayoralties.

Polling has been sparse, in part because it is nearly impossible to poll a race with more than a dozen candidates, where voters can make five ranked choices. No candidate is much above 20%, which means the race will come down to whom the voters who prefer minor candidates pick as their fourth and fifth choices. While many voters may have already decided on their first and second choices, probably many have not yet picked #3, #4, and #5, so asking them now is pointless for pollsters. Another complication of this system is that the results won't be known Tuesday evening, and probably not Wednesday evening or Thursday evening, either. Maybe not this week. Maybe not this month. Stay tuned. For a long time.

Also on the ballot is the replacement for the retiring Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. The person chosen will probably be the one to argue the case against Donald Trump in court next year. According to The New York Times, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg will be charged this summer. If and when that happens, he is very likely to flip and be a witness against Trump in the trial, likely next year. Trump isn't the only factor in the D.A. race, though. Some of the candidates are emphasizing that the D.A. has been too harsh on people of color and minorities in general. (V)

North Carolina Republicans Want to Throw Out Ballots Arriving after Election Day

Under current law, absentee ballots in North Carolina that are postmarked by Election Day but which arrive up to 3 days later are counted. Republicans in the state legislature don't like that. The state Senate just approved S.B. 326 on a vote of 29 to 21. It will now go to the House, which is controlled by the Republicans and which is certain to pass it.

If S.B. 326 becomes law, then ballots mailed on Election Day have zero chance of being counted and ballots mailed one or two days before Election Day probably won't be counted either. Republicans believe this will hurt the Democrats because they believe Democrats are lazy and wait until the last minute to vote. In reality, no one knows for sure the partisan impact of such a law.

Part of the push is to suck up to Donald Trump. He said that election results should be known on Election Night. Obviously, if ballots arriving in the 3 days after have to be counted, that is impossible. If no ballots arriving after the mail delivery on Election Day are counted, then the results could be known on Election Night. But, in reality, that would not be true in a close election because the bill makes an exception for overseas civilian and military ballots. If the number of ballots sent overseas exceeds the top candidate's lead on Election Night, the election still can't be called until at least 3 days later, so the bill fails to achieve its stated purpose.

In 2020, 14,000 ballots were postmarked by Election Day but didn't arrive until after it. This means that the Postal Service can disenfranchise voters by simply being slow, something Postmaster General Louis DeJoy planned on doing in 2020, but the word leaked out too early. Republicans say that if the law passes, voters should adjust their behavior and vote earlier.

It is not a sure thing that the Republicans will get their way, though, as Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is likely to veto the bill and the Republicans do not have super majorities in both chambers to override that. This bill illustrates the reason that Cooper didn't run for the Senate last year. The lieutenant governor is a Republican and Cooper was afraid that if he had run for the Senate, the lieutenant governor would have run for governor and won, allowing bills like this one to become law. That said, if Cooper had run for Senate, he might very well have won, particularly if he was able to keep his zipper in the full upright and locked position. If he had, then the Democrats would have 51 votes in the Senate, which might have changed the calculus there, and might possibly put the party in a position to prohibit shenanigans like this nationwide. So, maybe Cooper made the right tactical choice and maybe he didn't. (V)

Georgia Will Soon Purge 100,000 Voters from the Rolls

Back when Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) stood up to Donald Trump and refused to "find" 12,000 new votes for him, Raffensperger was a hero to Democrats. His honeymoon period is now over. On Friday, he announced that he was going to purge 100,000 voters from the rolls to "keep them up to date." The 100,000 voters being purged consist of 67,000 people who sent the USPS a change-of-address form and another 32,000 that had election mail returned. The partisan breakdown of these people isn't known, but folk wisdom says that poor Democrats move more often than affluent Republicans. Certainly, Democratic politicians are much more willing to find voters and give them a chance to stay registered as opposed to using a blunt instrument like this.

Raffensperger is running for reelection in 2022 and is facing Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) in a primary. Hice has said that, when needed, he will "find" votes if that is what it takes for Republicans to win. So Raffensperger needs to counter this by showing that he, too, is a loyal Republican. By talking about "purging voters," he may gain some credibility with the Republican base, even if it turns out that the partisan effect is small. (V)

First Hearing Is Scheduled in Smartmatic's Suit against Fox News

Last week, the Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit that 18 states brought against the ACA because they couldn't show they were damaged by it. Such will not be the case in the lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, which is suing Fox News for claiming that Smartmatic rigged the machines against Donald Trump. It should not be too hard for Smartmatic to show the damage to its reputation at the very least, and probably actual damages from lower sales to election jurisdictions that are nervous about buying the company's machines. Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion suit against Fox News, some of its anchors, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani. Fox and the others naturally want the case thrown out.

On Aug. 17 at 9:30 a.m. the defendants will get the chance to show that Smartmatic wasn't injured by their claims. New York Judge David Cohen has scheduled a hearing then to give them a chance to convince him that the case should be dismissed right off the bat, with no trial. Good luck with that. Generally, if you loudly proclaim that a company's product is not only defective but intentionally defective, most judges are going to give the company a chance to defend itself in a trial.

The various defendants are going to use various defenses. Fox and its anchors will claim lack of malice—that is, that they didn't mean to hurt the company when they claimed that their product was rigged in favor of Biden. That Smartmatic was harmed was merely an unfortunate accident of its claim, for which the network bears no responsibility. Powell will make that argument and will also claim that the court has no jurisdiction over her.

By September, we will probably know how the judge rules. It is hard to imagine the lawyers claiming with a straight face that they had no idea that accusing the company of election fraud—with not a shred of evidence that it was true—would make election officials skittish about buying its products in the future. Even if the election officials didn't believe a word of the claims, they knew that voters might protest loudly if faced with a Smartmatic machine, absent a trial in which the courts ruled that it had been libeled and the claim was completely false. If the case goes to trial, it will almost certainly ultimately end up in the Supreme Court, which will have to decide if it is OK for a media outlet to tell out-and-out lies that damage a company and get away with it. Needless to say, if the Court rules that it is OK, the media landscape will be forever changed and TV, Internet, and print journalists will be able to lie about anything and everything with no consequences down the road.

Dominion Voting Systems has also sued Fox. Of course, Fox wants that suit dismissed as well, but an initial hearing hasn't been scheduled yet. (V)

Trump Endorses in Alaska Senate Race

Donald Trump is actively involved in the 2022 elections, including Senate races, gubernatorial races, and in at least one case (Georgia), the race for secretary of state. One race that he cares a lot about is the Alaska Senate race in which Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is going for her fourth full term. She was originally appointed to the Senate by her father, to fill a seat that he had vacated to become governor. Trump hates her because she voted to uphold the election for Joe Biden, so she has to go. Now Trump has found a vehicle for getting rid of her: Kelly Tshibaka, who is running as a Republican, and is the former Alaska Dept. of Administration Commissioner. Trump has now formally endorsed Tshibaka.

For once, Trump is sticking his neck out. Murkowski is very well known in the state, having been a senator since 2002, and a member of the Alaska state House before that. Knocking her off will be pretty tough, and she is used to tough elections. In 2010 she lost the GOP primary, ran as a write-in candidate, and won. Meanwhile, Tshibaka is certainly more Trumpy than Murkowski is, but she's also expressed views that are not very mainstream, even for the MAGA crowd. For example, Tshibaka has argued that homosexuality is "caused" by childhood sexual abuse, and that watching the "Twilight" movies can turn children away from God and toward witchcraft. Given that the would-be Senator scrubbed these statements from the Internet before declaring her candidacy, she knows they aren't going to be helpful to her. If Murkowski defeats Tshibaka, it will show Trump as a paper tiger starting in 2023, something he can ill afford.

What greatly complicates the race is the new top-four system. The primary is nonpartisan, with the top four primary finishers advancing to the general election. Given her widespread name recognition and popularity, Murkowski is virtually certain of making the top four, along with Tshibaka, at least one Democrat, and one other candidate. The general election uses ranked-choice voting. The problem for Trump is that many Democrats will hate any Trump-backed candidate but don't really hate Murkowski that much, if at all. That means many Democrats will rank the Democrat first and Murkowski second in the general election. Assuming that no one gets 50% + 1 in the first round, the general election will go to multiple rounds. If the Democrat is eliminated in the first or second round, many of the Democratic votes will go to Murkowski, along with plenty of Republicans who like her personally and who voted for her in 2004, 2010, and 2016. The combination of Murkowski-Republicans plus most of the Democrats will be tough for Tshibaka to beat, especially since Alaskans are a fairly independent bunch, having elected an independent/third-party governor in 1990 (Wally Hickel) and again in 2014 (Bill Walker), not to mention Murkowski herself as an "independent" in 2010. One thing is fairly sure: It will be an exciting race to watch, with tons of out-of-state money pouring in. (V)

Democrats Are Not Wild about Nikki Fried

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is up for reelection in Florida in 2022. Democrats would really, really love to knock him off, not only because they don't like how he has governed Florida, but because he is one of the GOP's top presidential prospects in 2024 if Donald Trump decides to sit it out (or a jury decides that for him). But you can't beat someone with no one. Only one Democrat holds statewide office in Florida: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Fortunately (or not), she has already announced that she is running against DeSantis is 2022.

That ought to be good news for Democrats: An ambitious young (43) woman who has already won statewide election is running to topple the governor they hate with a passion. But many Florida Democrats are not all that thrilled with her. The problem is that the agricultural commissioner does more than watch the orange trees grow and cheer them on. She also oversees 19 offices that regulate renewable energy, pesticides, concealed weapons permits, and even roller coasters, among other things. Progressive Democrats fault her for not taking a strong stand on all manner of environmental issues, from energy conservation to groundwater pollution. The Sierra Club recently gave her a C-minus on climate change. DeSantis did even worse, with a D-minus. Similarly, she also has been neutral on raising the state's minimum wage to $15/hour, something big agribusinesses are violently opposed to. DeSantis, of course, has been outspoken in his opposition. Progressives don't like picking the lesser of two evils. It's not their thing.

Fried doesn't have the Democratic nomination locked up, however. Running against her is Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), who is not exactly a paragon of progressivism himself. His resume consists of being education commissioner, attorney general, and governor of Florida—all as a Republican. In 2012, he switched horses and became a Democrat. He ran for governor again in 2014, as a Democrat this time, and was beaten by now-Senator Rick Scott (R-FL). In 2016, Crist won a House seat. Technically he is (D-FL) but for a lot of Democrats he is (Opportunist-FL). On a few issues, he is to the left of Fried, but his allegiance to the Democratic Party is a bit weak.

Many Democrats had hoped that Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a fiery Democrat, would run against DeSantis, but she opted to run against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) instead. In a way, that is better for the blue team since winning the Senate seat but losing the governor's mansion is better for them than the reverse, so having your strongest candidate enter the more important race is theoretically better. The only problem is that DeSantis didn't do a great job dealing with COVID-19 and is in a weaker position than Rubio. Also, Rubio has a lock on South Florida and the Latino vote, so knocking him off will be tougher than knocking off DeSantis. The bottom line is that Democrats will have to choose between two gubernatorial candidates, neither of whom excite a substantial part of the Party, while the candidate who does excite them is running against a hard-to-beat two-term senator. (V)

Poll: Chuck, Time for You to Pack Your Bags and Leave the Senate

Sixty-four percent of his constituents want Chuck to go home and not run in 2022. Among women it is 70%. We aren't talking about Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), though, but instead Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who would be 95 at the end of his eighth term if he runs and wins and lives. Even for the Senate, that is getting long in the tooth.

If Grassley runs, he is the favorite and in a 50-50 Senate, every seat matters. But if the voters think he is too old for the job, his primary opponent(s) main argument could be that Grassley is simply too old for the job. Months of ads saying that he is too old could influence the general election. While Iowa is reddish, if the Democrats can find a vibrant young state senator who is constantly filmed jogging, playing tennis, and even shoveling snow (or other things that Iowans often have to shovel a lot of), Grassley might be beatable. If Grassley were to announce now that this is his last rodeo, if would give Republicans plenty of time to prepare. But if he holds off making a decision until late in the fall, it could lead to a scramble. So far he is keeping quiet. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun20 Sunday Mailbag
Jun19 Saturday Q&A
Jun18 SCOTUS Takes Center Stage
Jun18 McConnell Promptly Shuts Manchin Down
Jun18 American Racism, Past and Present
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part I: Immigration
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part II: Trump for Speaker
Jun17 Biden and Putin Met and Nothing Happened
Jun17 Manchin Is Open to a Mini-H.R. 1 Bill
Jun17 Schumer Is Following Two Paths on Infrastructure at the Same Time
Jun17 DSCC Will Spend $10 Million to Protect the Vote
Jun17 Mayors Have Had It
Jun17 Trump Is Struggling to Clear the Field in Senate Primaries
Jun17 Dept. of Justice Will Focus on Domestic Terrorism
Jun17 Biden Will Double Number of Black Women on Appeals Courts
Jun16 Bipartisan Bill Has One Foot in the Grave (and the Other on a Banana Peel)
Jun16 1/6 Realities Diverge in Congress
Jun16 Surprise! White House Pressured DoJ to Help Overturn Election
Jun16 Many Things Are Coming Up Roses for Progressives
Jun16 There's Good News and There's Bad News on the COVID-19 Front
Jun16 Florida Does an End Run around the Rules
Jun16 Kushner Signs Book Deal
Jun15 VP I Is Going to Be a Tougher Challenge than QE II Was
Jun15 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Is in Trouble
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part I: The Calm Before the Storm
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part II: McConnell Admits What Everyone Already Knew
Jun15 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun15 Virginia Governor's Race Could Be a Barnburner
Jun15 Adams Looks to Be in the Catbird Seat
Jun14 Biden Doesn't Stomp Out of G7 Meeting
Jun14 McConnell Tries to Exploit Biden's Weakness
Jun14 Collins Clarifies How the Gang of 10 Will and Will Not Pay for Its Infrastructure Bill
Jun14 The States Are Proving Manchin Wrong
Jun14 Justice Dept. Is Going to Look at Barr's Spying on Democrats...and Republicans
Jun14 Nevada Is Helping Iowa Stay First
Jun14 Republicans Are Complaining about 2024 Debates Already
Jun14 Israeli Parliament Approves New Government
Jun13 Sunday Mailbag
Jun12 Saturday Q&A
Jun11 We Have a Deal...Or Maybe Not
Jun11 FBI Is Not Investigating Trump's Role in Insurrection
Jun11 Senate Confirms First-Ever Muslim Judge
Jun11 Omar Ruffles More Feathers
Jun11 Sinema, Boebert May Be Playing with Fire
Jun11 A Possible Answer to the Manchin Mystery
Jun11 Dumbest Member of Congress Unwisely Opens His Mouth
Jun11 California Democrats Move the Goalposts a Bit
Jun11 About Those Vaccine Incentives...
Jun10 Biden Goes to Europe
Jun10 Gang of 10 Wants to Do Infrastructure without Raising Taxes