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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Cheney and Stefanik Take Potshots at Each Other
      •  Poll: Cheney Had to Go
      •  Republican Voters Are Highly Engaged
      •  Republicans Want to Punish Poll Workers
      •  Neera Tanden Gets a Job
      •  Why Is D.C. Statehood So Hard?
      •  Missouri Republicans Fail to Rig the Senatorial Primary to Block Greitens
      •  Wood Sinks

Cheney and Stefanik Take Potshots at Each Other

It was inevitable. The former Republican conference chair and the current one are taking potshots at each other. Yesterday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) went on ABC's "This Week" and said: "It's my responsibility as an elected official, it's my responsibility as a leader, to lead and to tell the truth." The truth is that Donald Trump lost the election, but House Republicans don't want to hear that truth. She also said that many House members are worried about their own security. What she meant was any Republican who tells the truth about the election could be threatened and perhaps killed by an angry pro-Trump mob. She also said that Trump is dragging the GOP backwards.

Cheney was asked if she is planning to run for president. She refused to answer the question. Then host Jon Karl asked her if her father would like her to run. She admitted that, yes, Dick would love to see her run. But she added that he is not objective. This performance was pretty far from the full Sherman. That means she will keep running available as an option. It is very unlikely that she could get the 2024 GOP nomination, but if Trump decides to run and she challenges him, he will actually have to fight for it, especially if he is much less popular then than he is now. And if Joe Biden runs for reelection, the Democratic primary will not be very exciting, so many Democrats might temporarily register as Republicans in order to vote for Cheney and stick it to Trump.

The main job of the conference chair is communication, and the new one, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), was ready to go. She got on Fox News yesterday and said that it was Cheney who is trying to drag the Party backwards. She claimed that Republicans are unified and that Trump had major achievements, including historic accords in the Middle East, being tough on China, and passing COVID-19 relief packages. When Maria Bartiromo asked Stefanik if she expected the Republicans to capture the House in 2022, she didn't answer, but started talking about election integrity and election security. This is a sure-fire indication that she will be encouraging states to make voting more difficult and will vote against any more bills the Democrats come up with to block the states. (V)

Poll: Cheney Had to Go

House Republicans were pretty clear that Liz Cheney had to go, but what about Republican voters? A new CBS News/YouGov poll makes it clear that Republican voters agree. Eighty percent of them feel she was off message, unsupportive of Donald Trump, and/or she is wrong about who won the 2020 election, so she had to go. Many of them also believe that being disloyal to the Republican Party is also grounds for punishment. Among Republicans who feel she had to go, the main reasons are:

  • She's not on message (69%)
  • She's wrong about the 2020 election (57%)
  • She didn't support Trump (52%)
  • Disloyalty should be punished (34%)

The poll broke down what "supporting Trump" means to people. Republicans want Republican politicians to support Trump's views as follows:

  • On economic issues (89%)
  • On immigration (88%)
  • On leadership (80%)
  • On the media (77%)

In other words, the vast majority of Republicans (1) like tax cuts for the rich, (2) like separating migrant children from their parents and putting them in cages, (3) like a president who wants to be a king, and (4) are hostile to a free press. If these things are really true, it means that Trump wasn't some kind of aberration. He was simply the first one to realize what 40-45% of the country wanted and to give it to them. Expect more and better Trumps in the future. If the next one is slicker and more polished—say, Tucker Carlson—he might do at least as well as Trump, if not better.

The poll also asked if Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Two-thirds of Republicans said "no" and one-third said "yes." Nevertheless, Biden lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and Trump lives in Palm Beach, FL. Even Republicans know that. So the pollsters asked what Republicans need to do to win in 2024. Slightly over half (53%) said they should come with better ideas and policies and slightly less than half (47%) said they should change voting laws to make it easier for Republicans to win.

If this poll were taken of some third-world country with a shaky track record on governance, most people would say it is not ready for democracy. Now that appears to be true of the U.S. The overwhelming majority of one of the two major political parties doesn't believe in the results of a free election, wants an authoritarian leader, and wants to rig the rules so their side wins in the future. Throw in the role of religion with many voters and you've got Turkey rather than Venezuela. (V)

Republican Voters Are Highly Engaged

Democracy Corps, a Democratic outfit, has conducted a poll of Republicans in 11 battleground states and 13 battleground congressional districts to see how they feel about 2022. While we don't include partisan pollsters in our polling database or averages, once in a while there is a poll from a partisan pollster that is worth a news item, especially when it is not an "us vs. them" poll.

The conclusion is that three-quarters of Republican voters in the battleground states are solidly pro-Trump. This broadly agrees with the CBS poll cited above. The other quarter consists of more traditional Republicans. A more detailed breakdown is:

  • Donald Trump loyalist but not evangelical: 43%
  • Evangelical Trump loyalist: 24%
  • Other Trump-aligned Republican: 12%
  • Moderate Republican: 9%
  • Non-Trump conservative: 16%

It's pretty clearly Trump's party now. A large number of Republicans believe that Democratic politicians in cities stuffed the ballot boxes to steal Trump's victory. These voters have a deep hostility to Black people, undocumented immigrants, and Antifa. E pluribus unum? Not so much. Maybe the other way around. Whether Trump is driving their feelings or just exploiting them is hard to say, but his continued insistence that he won is definitely resonating with his supporters. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-CA) decision to dump Liz Cheney and replace her with a nominal (but fake) Trump supporter, Elise Stefanik, was clearly a wise one from the point of view of keeping the base happy. Trump's party is profoundly anti-democratic and will battle for the future of white people. They want to turn the clock back, which is why the slogan MAGA captures their views so well. It was a brilliant choice on Trump's part.

But the Democrats do have a not-so-secret weapon: the old white guy who is currently president and currently has a 49% approval rating among Republicans. As long as Democrats keep nominating bland old white guys, they can count on getting some Republican votes. The Democrats' problem is that candidates whom Republicans are willing to vote for are not the ones who excite young Democrats.

Trump's voters are keenly focused on the culture wars, open borders, and defunding the police. Unless Democrats can stop talking about these things, a very energetic base of Trump voters will definitely vote in 2022 and cause the Democrats to lose even more House seats than they did in 2020. The Senate is harder to predict because the Democrats have such a favorable map in 2022. But they also had a good map in 2020, along with good candidates and more money than Uncle Scrooge, and lost races they could have won in Montana, Iowa, North and South Carolina, and Maine.

Among Democrats, 86% plan to vote for a Democrat for the House and 3% plan to vote for a Republican, a difference of 83%. Among Republicans, 92% are going to vote for a Republican and only 2% will vote for a Democrat, a difference of 90%. So if the same number of Democrats and Republicans vote in 2022, Republicans will have a 7-point edge. In the horse race polls in the blue wall Midwestern states, the Democrats are up by 1%, but in the Sun Belt battleground states the Republicans are up by 1%. The very early conclusion is that the Republicans are very Trumpy and very energetic while Democrats aren't paying much attention to politics right now. That could change, but if it remains the same, 2022 could be a good year for Republicans. (V)

Republicans Want to Punish Poll Workers

The business of actually running elections falls mostly to elderly Americans with a sense of civic duty. Secretaries of state and county election officials all play their roles, but down in the trenches it is the poll workers, often older women, who check to see if voters are registered, hand them ballots if they are, and answer all manner of voting-related questions. They are the ones who make the elections actually happen but are paid very little for their efforts. Now Republicans want to target them.

In many states, Republicans are pushing for laws that make voting harder. One aspect of these laws that has flown under the radar is how it affects the poll workers on the front lines. Republicans believe there is massive fraud in elections, so they naturally suspect the poll workers of being the perpetrators. The new laws are intended to punish them for this nonexistent fraud. More than 20 bills in nine states establish harsh new penalties, including five-figure fines for local officials who make mistakes, errors, or any other technical violations of the election code.

Many of the violations that would be punished severely in the new laws are judgement calls. For example, in Texas, taking any action to make it harder for partisan poll watchers to observe the election would be heavily penalized. So if a partisan poll watcher, possibly armed, is standing very close to voters with the clear intention of intimidating them and a poll worker were to ask the poll watcher to please step a few feet away from the voters, that could be interpreted as a serious crime, possibly with a $10,000 penalty. If that law is enacted, are local officials going to tell poll watchers to please keep their distance? Don't bet on it.

In Florida, failing to have an election worker continuously supervise a drop box could result in major fines for whoever is assigned the job of watching the drop box. Taking a 5-minute bathroom break could lead to arrest and conviction. There is a default assumption in the new laws that poll workers are bad actors and need to operate in fear of their lives in order to get them to do their work correctly and according to the law. A likely consequence of these laws is that very few people will volunteer to be poll workers. Fewer poll workers, coupled with laws that make absentee voting difficult or impossible, will make lines at polling places much longer and will discourage many people from voting. Is this an accident?

Isabel Longoria, the nonpartisan election supervisor of Harris County, which includes Houston, said: "The nit-picking by poll watchers and the penalizing of even the smallest of innocent mistakes is going to, over time, drive our most experienced election workers away. And I think a better solution is to provide more resources for training and education to our election workers, rather than put more bullies in the polls." But empowering the bullies is what the new laws do.

In Iowa, a new law creates fines of $10,000 for "technical infractions." This has set the 99 county auditors against the Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate. One of the auditors, Pat Gill of Woodbury County, didn't think all the election workers would decline working in 2022, but he did say all it would take would be for one election worker to be fined $10,000 for a mistake or judgement call someone didn't agree with, and then there would be no one to actually run elections.

Some of the Republican bills also target state and county officials. In Arizona, one bill would make it a felony for a county official to send an absentee ballot to anyone who had not specifically requested one, as was widely done in 2020. Another bill would make it a felony to modify any election-related deadline, as many officials did in the face of the pandemic.

If these and similar laws pass, it may soon be impossible to find the millions of election workers who actually run elections, resulting in closed precincts and complete chaos, effectively disenfranchising tens of millions of voters. If the goal is to end democracy, this could be a far more effective technique than passing laws limiting absentee ballots, early voting, and so on. (V)

Neera Tanden Gets a Job

Joe Biden nominated Neera Tanden, who is very close to the Clintons, to be Director of the OMB. It didn't take long for him (and her) to discover that she is not very popular in the Senate and the votes for confirmation were not there. When it became clear that she would be rejected, she withdrew.

But Biden still likes her a lot. She is a competent no-holds-barred woman of color and Biden would have taken a lot of flak from the left wing of his party if he just abandoned her. So he didn't. Instead, he appointed her to be senior White House adviser, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. In a way, whispering in the president's ear every day is arguably an even more powerful role than crunching budget numbers. Ask Stephen Miller.

One of her tasks will be to review the U.S. Digital Service, a project to make the government more accessible to Americans by providing them information and delivering better services. Some of its current projects are:

  • Changing how the government hires technical talent
  • Modernizing the Medicare payment system
  • Helping veterans upgrade their discharge status
  • Empowering beneficiaries with their own health data
  • Simplifying veteran-facing services
  • Helping schools keep students safe
  • Improving how the government buys technology
  • Implementing a new quality-based Medicare payment system
  • Modernizing our immigration system

As you can see, it is a mess and needs a lot of work. It doesn't have any focus at all. Some of the projects are of interest to ordinary citizens, but some are directed at other government agencies. What Tanden could possibly do is split it into two parts. One would allow ordinary citizens to get government services, like signing up for Obamacare, applying for a green card, etc. The other would be about coordinating the federal, state, and local governments. Both of them have real potential to make government a positive force in people's lives. If Tanden could pull off this one thing, it would have a huge impact. (V)

Why Is D.C. Statehood So Hard?

People have been proposing statehood for D.C. for over 100 years, but it still hasn't happened and may not happen now. Politico Magazine has taken a look at what the issues are. Here is a summary of the major points:

  • D.C. wasn't intended as a state: The Constitution is quite clear: The national capital was never intended to be a state. The idea is that Maryland and Virginia would cede a bit of land where Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court were to be. Nobody was supposed to live there except the president and his family. If nobody was living there, it obviously wasn't supposed to be a state. If Congress admits D.C. as a state, it is a certainty that someone will sue. When the case gets to the Supreme Court, the originalists will surely say that the original intent was that the capital was not supposed to be a state.

  • A bit of self rule: When ordinary people started living in D.C., Congress eventually and grudgingly gave the people there a bit of power in the form of a city council and a mayor. But only a little bit and as a city, not a state. Attorneys general from Bobby Kennedy to Ed Meese have said that since the Constitution makes the District's function clear, only a constitutional amendment can change that and grant it statehood.

  • There's a workaround: Once people began moving in and staying there, the issue of "no taxation without representation" showed up. As far back as 1803, some people argued for retrocession, basically giving most of the District back to Maryland. Republicans like that idea now. Democrats don't. Maryland doesn't want it. Retrocession is not going to happen.

  • The workaround doesn't work: The current plan is to split the District into a new state, Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, and the national capital. That sort of gets around the problem, but creates a new problem. In 1961, the 23rd Amendment was ratified, giving D.C. residents three electoral votes. This means that the new state would get three electoral votes based on its population but that the capital would also have three electoral votes. How would the latter three be chosen if the only residents are the president and his family? Would they get three electoral votes? And presidents normally vote in their home states, not in D.C., so there would be no voters. Could homeless people camping out on the Mall vote? This would give, say, 100 homeless people quite a bit more power than even Wyoming voters. Congress could declare that the capital's three EVs go to the winner of the national popular vote, but this would surely be challenged in court.

  • The 23rd Amendment problem: Having both Douglass and the capital having three electoral votes clearly is not a good idea. The long-term solution would be to repeal the 23rd Amendment. But which party would go first? Suppose the Republicans in the Senate balked at granting statehood to Douglass until the 23rd Amendment was repealed. So the state legislatures eagerly repealed it. Then the Senate Republicans changed their minds and blocked statehood anyway. Democrats would not be amused. However, Republicans would not go for first making Douglass a state and then repealing the 23rd Amendment, for fear the blue states would not ratify rescinding the 23rd Amendment. There is no solution that will please everyone and since the Democrats control Congress and Republicans control a majority of state legislatures, there isn't any clean solution, since the parties don't trust each other.

This doesn't mean it can't happen. If Democrats split up the District into the capital and Douglass and ram through a statehood bill, then propose a new constitutional Amendment to repeal the 23rd one, the ball will be in the Republicans' court. If the state legislatures refuse to ratify it quickly, then Joe and Jill Biden could announce they are planning to vote in the capital in 2024 and if they both vote for the same person, that person would get the three electoral votes. This might speed up the process of ratification. (V)

Missouri Republicans Fail to Rig the Senatorial Primary to Block Greitens

Disgraced former Missouri governor Eric Greitens (R) is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). If you don't know the backstory, just think of him as the second coming of Todd Akin, he of "legitimate rape" fame. Very briefly, on paper Greitens is a strong candidate. He has a Ph.D. from Oxford and served four tours as a Navy SEAL, some of which was spent targeting Al-Qaeda. During his service, he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. This was enough to get him elected governor of Missouri in 2016.

However, in reality, he is a creep. He had an extramarital affair with his hairstylist during which he blindfolded her and taped her hands to exercise rings above her head while she was naked. Then he took photos of her in that position and threatened to release them if she told anyone about the affair. Somehow, a St. Louis television station learned about this and just before it was about to broadcast the story, Greitens admitted it and asked for thoughts and prayers. This was too much even for the Republican-controlled legislature, which convened a special session specifically for the purpose of impeaching him. He beat them to it and resigned. Now he wants a second chance at public office.

The Republicans in the legislature are scared to death that he will get the GOP nomination due to his (partial) term as governor, military record, and universal name recognition in the state vs. a large pack of lesser known candidates who are likely to split the anti-Greitens vote. At the moment, Missouri law requires only a plurality to claim the nomination. If Greitens is the nominee and the Democrats can find a decent candidate, there is a good chance of many disgusted Republicans voting for the Democrat, who might just win.

So there was a last-minute movement in the legislature to change the law to require a runoff if no one gets to 50% in the primary. That way, Greitens would face a single Republican opponent who would have a better chance of defeating him, especially if all the anti-Greitens voters coalesced behind his opponent. Luckily for Greitens (and the Democrats), the legislature couldn't get its act together and pass the runoff bill before it adjourned for 2021. (It did manage to pass an even higher-priority item, though: a tax cut for all but the poorest Missourians.)

A number of states, including Missouri, have part-time legislatures to save money, so the adjournment for the rest of the year might just save him. Or it might not. The legislature also failed to renew the tax on medical providers that brings in billions that the state badly needs. For this reason, Gov. Mike Parson (R-MO) will probably call a special session of the legislature sometime before September to renew the tax. While they are at it, they may also try to pass the runoff bill again. (V)

Wood Sinks

Conspiracy theorist and all-out Trumper Lin Wood recently moved from Georgia to South Carolina to run for chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party—against Drew McKissick, who is so Trumpy he canceled the 2020 South Carolina primary and just handed all the delegates to Donald Trump. Wood's stunt didn't work: McKissick beat him 68% to 28%. Wood's campaign basically consisted of calling McKissick names, like "moderate" and "cheater." He also attacked McKissick for not doing enough after the election to help Trump. Of course, there was little he could do since Trump won South Carolina and McKissick could hardly interfere in another state, even a neighboring one like Georgia.

McKissick, a two-term incumbent, barely bothered to respond. The state chair is chosen by party activists and most of them are smart enough to detect a carpetbagger when they see one. Still, 28% is a pretty good showing for an out-of-stater who just showed up to run against a very Trumpy insider. The reason that McKissick got only 68% is that at a recent forum he grudgingly admitted that Joe Biden is president. Them's fightin' words in South Carolina.

One factor that worked against Wood is the pandemic. He is an accomplished trial lawyer and a fiery speaker. If the convention had been held in a big hall, he could have wowed the audience before the voting with a fire-breathing speech praising Trump to the moon and denouncing McKissick as a moderate. But the pandemic got in the way. Instead of a single big meeting, there were small meetings in each of the state's 46 counties and decentralized voting. This negated Wood's key strength.

Nevertheless, the fact that a carpetbagger who is a loony liar could get 28% against a guy who is so Trumpy that he canceled the primary to protect Trump says something about where Republican activists are these days. No amount of Trumpiness is enough to satisfy everyone. No matter how much you have, some people will demand more. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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