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Schumer to Republicans: The Train is Leaving in July

Many Democrats have (long-ago) concluded that all the Republicans want to do is stall and are negotiating in bad faith. The GOP doesn't want to modify the various bills their Democratic colleagues have proposed; they want to stop them through whatever means are at the Republicans' disposal. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also now had it with the game the Republicans are playing. Accordingly, he has announced a firm deadline of July. If a deal with the Republicans can't be reached by July, then the train is going to leave the station without the Republicans being on board and the Democrats are going to pass the infrastructure bill using the budget reconciliation process, which doesn't require Republican support if all 50 members of his caucus vote for it.

Republicans are working on a new offer, but it is expected to avoid new taxes by repurposing funds appropriated in previous COVID-19 relief bills but not spent yet. In other words, by cannibalizing the COVID-19 bill that Congress passed earlier this year, they can pay for infrastructure. But that move is effectively de facto repealing the relief bill. It is inconceivable that the Democrats will go for this, so the move is clearly in bad faith. The Republicans know it will be rejected immediately. A good-faith move would be to propose a scaled-down version of Joe Biden's proposal, leaving out some elements they especially dislike and raising some taxes to pay for it.

Schumer's move has apparently gotten the attention of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is expected to make a final offer today. It could be as large as $1 trillion, although it is not expected to raise taxes but to use money already appropriated for other purposes. If a bipartisan group of senators agrees to Capito's bill, Biden will be on the spot. Will he accept a bill that falls far short of what he wants or will he say no and go it alone? There are two key issues here. One is how to pay for it. Gutting the COVID-19 relief bill that already has been signed into law is a nonstarter for the Democrats. The other is the new definition of infrastructure. That used to be roads, bridges, tunnels, pipelines, airports, harbors, and other large public works projects. Maybe broadband Internet in rural areas falls under that. Maybe not. Taking care of old people definitely does not fall under the traditional definition of infrastructure and Republicans absolutely do not want to change the definition. But removing all the "soft infrastructure" will anger the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, leading to a rift that Biden can ill afford.

If Biden rejects the Republicans' final offer and the Democrats move ahead on their own in July as Schumer wants to do, the Republicans will act like they tried seriously and then try to blame the Democrats for the failure. If that works, the bipartisanship fetishists will get angry and blame the Democrats. But for most people, if the bill improves their lives before Nov. 2022, they are not going to care much whether one party or two voted for it. So if today's offer from Capito is finally serious, Biden will be in a huge bind. It will be a tough call: a skimpy bipartisan bill or a robust unipartisan bill.

That said, the July deadline works only for things the Democrats can do by reconciliation. Many items on their agenda cannot be done that way. For example, establishing a 1/6 commission can't be done that way. Republicans are likely to use the failure of the infrastructure talks as an excuse to block everything else the Democrats want. Unless the Democrats come to a consensus on reforming the filibuster—for example, by requiring filibustering senators to actually stand there and read the Alabama phone book—none of their other bills are going to pass.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been working on this angle by talking strategy with members of the Democratic caucus. He said they would bring a series of popular bills to the floor of the Senate for a vote. If the Republicans filibuster them all, that could generate enough public support for at least reforming the filibuster. If the public gets behind passing popular bills, that could be the push that is needed to get the two recalcitrant Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), to finally say: "They made me do it."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) doesn't expect the failure of the 1/6 commission to have much effect on the filibuster. However, when the Republicans filibuster H.R. 1 and H.R. 4, the new voting-rights bills, that might do the trick because it puts the Republicans on record opposing voting rights. That is not a position that is easily defended. But before H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 can even be put on the floor of the Senate for debate, all the Democrats have to agree to the precise content of the bills. Those discussions are now in progress and changes to the bills are likely before they are brought up for a vote. (V)

Trump Still Owns the Republican Party

A new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows that 85% of Republicans want to see candidates who agree with Donald Trump running for public office. Only 10% want to see Republican candidates who disagree with him. So it looks like the Trumpers outnumber the not-Trumpers by better than eight to one among Republicans. Among all adults the situation is different, with 39% wanting to see Trumpy candidates and 53% not wanting them. This puts Republican candidates in a real bind. To win the GOP primary, they have to be very Trumpy, but in the general election being Trumpy is a serious handicap.

Quinnipiac also asked if people want to see Trump run in 2024. Among Republicans it is 66% yes/30% no. However, among all adults it is 30% yes/66% no. Starting a campaign in which 66% of the voters don't want to see you on the ballot is not a great place to be.

Quinnipiac also asked about the favorability ratings of the leaders of each party (plus Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY) with these results:

Politician Favorable Unfavorable Don't know enough
Joe Biden 49% 42% 6%
Donald Trump 37% 57% 3%
Nancy Pelosi 36% 49% 13%
Liz Cheney 29% 31% 38%
Chuck Schumer 27% 37% 35%
Mitch McConnell 15% 58% 26%
Kevin McCarthy 12% 33% 54%

The results are astounding and in some ways surprising. Neither of the Republican leaders in Congress scored above 15%. Both are deeply under water, McConnell by over 40 points. How can someone so deeply disliked remain the nominal leader of his party? In fact, the only member of Congress polled who even comes close to being above water is Liz Cheney.

The other thing that we consider astounding is that so many people don't know who Schumer, McConnell, and McCarthy are. They are in the news constantly, yet large swaths of the population don't know them well enough to have an opinion. This speaks to the political ignorance of the American people, unfortunately.

Another question is about whether Joe Biden is doing a good job. Among all adults it is 49% yes/41% no, but the numbers vary with different demographics. Among women Biden is at 58% approval, among college graduates he is at 57%, and among seniors he is at 56%. In addition, 85% of Black voters and 55% of Latinos approve of the job he is doing. Biden does worst among Republicans (9%), white men (35%), and white noncollege people (36%).

Finally, 44% of the respondents think the Democrats are moving in the right direction vs. 46% who think the Party is moving in the wrong direction. However, Republicans do much worse, with 30% thinking the Party is moving in the right direction and 57% thinking it is moving in the wrong direction. Given that Americans don't like the Republican Party much and don't like its leaders at all, it is perhaps surprising that it does so well in elections. But the secret ingredient seems to be the magnetic hold Donald Trump has on Republican voters. (V)

Is Wokeness Going to Destroy the Democratic Party?

Thomas Edsall has written an interesting column in the New York Times that takes a different view on the culture wars. Instead of focusing entirely on Democrats vs. Republicans, it looks mostly at Democrats vs. Democrats, and how that could help Republicans in the long run.

Fundamentally, the Democratic Party is a coalition of a number of different groups that don't have a lot in common, but tend to tolerate each other in order to get support for their particular causes. Affluent, professional, Tesla-driving suburban women who are worried about the planet remaining habitable don't have a lot in common with young Black men very much concerned with police violence and racial justice, but they coexist in the same party because the alternative is worse.

The various constituencies within the Democratic Party don't see eye to eye on everything, but many issues are more practical than emotional. Should the top corporate tax rate be 25%, 28%, or 35%? Democrats disagree, but that battle doesn't draw a lot of blood. Even fights over expanding Obamacare vs. switching to Medicare for all tend to be relatively polite. It is with "wokeness" issues that Democrats are deeply and fundamentally divided.

Edsall starts out by citing a poll that asked: "Do you agree with the statement: 'There are only two genders, male and female.'?" Democrats were badly split, with 44% agreeing and 48% disagreeing. Among Republicans, 78% agreed and 16% disagreed. On this and many more emotional issues, Democrats are not all on the same page. Splits on this and other wokeness issues are much more emotional and detrimental to Party unity than splits over corporate tax rates, health care, or other "mere" public policy issues rather than "worldview" issues. Republicans of various stripes, such as evangelicals and millionaires, are much more unified on these issues, generally supporting the least woke position. Herein lies a potential wedge issue the Republicans can exploit to set Democrat against Democrat.

The Democracy Fund poll cited above isn't the only one demonstrating that the Democrats are split while Republicans are not. A Pew Research poll in 2017 asked whether a person's sex is determined at birth. Among Democrats, 34% said yes and 64% said no. Among Republicans 80% said yes and 19% said no. By keeping trans issues at the forefront, Democrats are creating a wedge issue that divides their own party while unifying the GOP.

Defunding the police is another wokeness issue that is being used as a wedge by Republicans to set Democrat against Democrat. Many people take that at face value and believe that if the police were simply abolished, thieves and murderers and rapists would run wild. A slogan like "Reform the police" wouldn't work as a wedge issue like that.

Yet another polarizing issue is "cancel culture." Some Democrats argue that canceling someone is like boycotting them. Boycotts played a big role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and were generally seen as legitimate weapons then. If you don't like someone's behavior, you don't do business with them and if that hurts them economically, well, it's their own fault. Republicans argue that universities that won't let right-wing zealots speak on campus are against free speech, which they claim to support. But many old-fashioned liberals argue that the answer to hate speech is to oppose that speech, not to ban the speaker. For example, let the hater speak provided he or she is willing to answer questions from the audience for an hour afterwards.

James Carville, never one to mince words, recently said: "Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It's hard to talk to anybody today—and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party—who doesn't say this. But they don't want to say it out loud." When asked why, Carville said: "Because they'll get clobbered."

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote a book explaining why there is so little pushback against wokeness, even though it is clearly something that divides Democrats and helps Republicans. Some of his reasons are:

  • The younger generation perceives free speech as hazardous to minority rights
  • The purist side has more passion, focus, and organization than the pluralistic side
  • Universities are very image-conscious and have trouble resisting pressure from their customers (students)
  • Social media is a form of information warfare; anyone saying anything "wrong" can be dogpiled in minutes
  • Activists have discovered that by claiming to be traumatized by "bad" speech, they can get their way

In a nutshell, Democrats are often in a quandary. Do what you think is morally correct and lose elections or keep quiet about the evil you see and win elections. Republicans are conservative and generally want to keep the status quo, so they don't have this problem. (V)

Ticket Splitting Is on Life Support

Only 16 of the 435 representatives (4%) won a district that also went to the other party's presidential candidate in 2020. In 96% of the districts, whichever party won the presidential vote also won the House seat. The candidate didn't matter. All that mattered is that little (D) or (R) after the candidate's name. There was a time when people were proud to say: "I voted for the best candidate, regardless of party." Those days are dead and gone.

Currently only seven Democrats represent Trumpian districts: Cindy Axne (IA-03), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Jared Golden (ME-02), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Ron Kind (WI-03), and Elissa Slotkin (MI-08). Nine Republicans are in Biden districts: Don Bacon (NE-02), Mike Garcia (CA-25), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), John Katko (NY-24), Young Kim (CA-39), María Salazar (FL-27), Michelle Steel (CA-48), David Valadao (CA-21), and Beth Van Duyne (TX-24). Needless to say, all of these will be top targets in 2022.

A new analysis cited by Nathan Gonzales of Roll Call shows that the same effect is at play downticket. In over 90% of the state Senate and state House districts, the party that won the presidential vote there also won the seats in the state legislature. Specifically, 2,903 districts voted for Joe Biden and a Democrat for the state legislature. Similarly, in 3,294 districts, the voters picked Donald Trump and a Republican for the state legislature. In only 565 districts (less than 10% of the total) were the tickets split.

That said, while Democrats control Congress, Republicans control 61 of the partisan state chambers and Democrats control 37. Nebraska's unicameral legislature is nominally nonpartisan but is controlled by Republicans, so feel free to make that first number "62," if you like. While voters all over the country whine and moan about the lack of bipartisanship, maybe they should look in the mirror. If everyone votes a straight party ticket, what incentive do the politicians have to deal with the other party? If all that matters to the voters is the party label, why should anyone expect the politicians to think differently? (V)

Catherine Cortez Masto Is in for a Tough Race

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) has made history twice. She was the first (and still only) Latina in the Senate. In addition, as chair of the DSCC, she led the Democrats to win back the Senate in 2020. Now she will have a tough fight to hang onto her own seat in 2022.

Democrats tend to think of Nevada as a new blue state, like Virginia. It's not really. It is a swing state. Here are the presidential results since World War II. The color of the first column indicates which party won Nevada in that year.

Year Democrat Pct. Republican Pct. D margin Bellwether?
2020 Joe Biden 50.1% Donald Trump 47.7% 2.4% Yes
2016 Hillary Clinton 47.9% Donald Trump 45.5% 2.4% No
2012 Barack Obama 52.4% Mitt Romney 45.7% 6.7% Yes
2008 Barack Obama 55.2% John McCain 42.7% 12.5% Yes
2004 John Kerry 47.9% George W. Bush 50.5% -2.6% Yes
2000 Al Gore 46.0% George W. Bush 49.5% -3.5% Yes
1996 Bill Clinton 43.9% Bob Dole 42.9% 1.0% Yes
1992 Bill Clinton 37.4% George H. W. Bush 34.7% 2.6% Yes
1988 Michael Dukakis 37.9% George H. W. Bush 58.9% -20.9% Yes
1984 Walter Mondale 32.0% Ronald Reagan 65.9% -33.9% Yes
1980 Jimmy Carter 26.9% Ronald Reagan 62.5% -35.7% Yes
1976 Jimmy Carter 45.8% Gerald Ford 50.2% -4.4% No
1972 George McGovern 36.3% Richard Nixon 63.7% -27.4% Yes
1968 Hubert Humphrey 39.3% Richard Nixon 47.5% -8.2% Yes
1964 Lyndon Johnson 58.6% Barry Goldwater 41.4% 17.2% Yes
1960 John Kennedy 51.2% Richard Nixon 48.8% 2.3% Yes
1956 Adlai Stevenson II 42.0% Dwight Eisenhower 58.0% -16.0% Yes
1952 Adlai Stevenson II 38.6% Dwight Eisenhower 61.5% -22.9% Yes
1948 Harry Truman 50.4% Thomas Dewey 47.3% 3.1% Yes

As you can see, Nevada is a pretty good bellwether, voting with the national winner in 17 out of the 19 presidential elections since World War II. In 9 of these elections, the Democrat won and in 10 of them the Republican carried the state. That's about as balanced as you can get. In the last two, the winner's margin in Nevada was 2.4%, so it was pretty close. Democrats have had better luck with the Senate since the 1940s, winning 17 elections to the Republicans' 8, but those are often close, too. Cortez Masto herself won in 2016 by just 2.4%. In any event, Politico expects Cortez Masto's reelection race to be a real barnburner and has a long article about it.

Nevada is unusual among states in that a very large piece of its economy is based on tourism (including gambling). Hotels and casinos have been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, so the economy has been devastated in a way not true of neighboring states like Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and California. Like it or not, Cortez Masto is going to have to run in a state with a lot of unemployed, unhappy people. To make it worse, unlike Florida, which also has a big tourism sector, people come to Nevada to gamble, not to sit in the sun. When people's budgets are tight, flying off to Las Vegas to gamble away the last bit of their savings may not be high on everyone's to-do list.

A lot depends on what the Republicans do. If they have an all-out Trump vs. not-Trump primary, that will help Cortez Masto. However, NRSC chairman Rick Scott (R-FL) is doing everything he can to recruit former state AG Adam Laxalt. Laxalt is the product of an affair between former senator Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt, the daughter of former senator (and governor) Paul Laxalt. So both Adam's father and grandfather were U.S. senators. With that kind of pedigree, both the Trumpers and anti-Trumpers can probably agree on him. The only catch is that the Laxalt name is not always the winning number in Nevada. Laxalt junior ran for governor in 2018 and lost by 4.1 points to Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV). Still, he is very well known and probably the best candidate the Republicans have. But he hasn't yet said he will run.

Also working against Cortez Masto is that progressives have taken over the state party, so the Republicans will be screaming "SOCIALIST! SOCIALIST! SOCIALIST!" at Cortez Masto at the top of their lungs, even though she is relatively moderate. She has worked with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH) on bills that have helped keep Nevada's tourism industry afloat. She has already started to put distance between herself and the state party to fend off the expected attacks.

As a Latina, Cortez Masto ought to have an edge with the Latino vote, but she will have to work for it. Joe Biden's share of the Latino vote in Nevada in 2020 was 8 points below Hillary Clinton's share in 2016. She is going to have to find a way to win them back. And she will have to do it in English since she doesn't speak Spanish. Her mother's family is from Italy and her father was a second-generation immigrant from Mexico who rarely spoke to her in Spanish. Consequently, some Latino voters are not going to buy into her being a "real" Latina. (V)

Missouri Congressman Met with Trump about Senate Race

The race to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is heating up. Disgraced former governor Eric Greitens (R) is already in. So is Missouri AG Eric Schmitt (R). Lawyer Mark McCloskey (R), who pointed a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters, has announced that he is running. Now another Missouri Republican is about to jump into the primary. It is Rep. Jason Smith, who represents MO-08 in the House. With a PVI of R+24, it is the most Republican district in the state, just edging out the R+23 MO-07, represented by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO).

As required by Republican Party rules, Smith had to first ask permission from Donald Trump, which he did earlier this week in Trump Tower. Neither Smith nor his campaign manager discussed the details of the meeting.

With multiple Republicans already in the race, Trump's endorsement is critical if the Party is to nominate someone other than Greitens, who is widely regarded as vulnerable. The Republicans' problem, over which they have little control, is that Trump is likely to inspect all the people kissing his...ring and then pick the Trumpiest of all. That person might not be the strongest candidate, though. Therein lies the rub. Specifically, Schmitt is probably the strongest Republican candidate for the general election since he has already won statewide office, but he might not be the Trumpiest. He is certainly very conservative, but conservatism is not what Trump looks for in a candidate. What he wants is blind obedience, and some of the others might score higher in that critical dimension. (V)

Yang Is Losing His Grip

Andrew Yang is almost as implausible a candidate for mayor of New York City as Donald Trump was for president of the United States in 2015. He has no experience in elected office and his platform ("make New York fun again") is silly. However, unlike Trump, Yang is smart and learns quickly. Early polls showed Yang in the lead for the Democratic nomination despite there being half a dozen more qualified candidates in the race. The primary is on June 22.

With less than a month to go, a couple of new polls show Yang slipping. A Core Decision Analytics poll released yesterday has Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the lead now. Adams is at 18% and Yang is at 13%, down from 28% in January. In third place is Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 11%.

In another poll, from Emerson College and WPIX-11, Garcia is first, Adams is second, and Yang has dropped to the third slot. One possible reason for Yang's slippage is that with the primary getting closer, people are starting to pay attention. Yang had his 15 minutes of fame during the presidential primaries. Adams, a former cop, is well known in Brooklyn, but less so in the four other boroughs. The garbage lady was completely unknown until the New York Times and the League of Conservation Voters endorsed her. That definitely put her on the map. And the garbagemen's union (Teamsters Local 831) also endorsed her. Union endorsements carry some weight in New York City. If Garcia gets the Democratic nomination, she would almost certainly become the first woman to lead the City.

Now that people are starting to look more closely at the race, Yang has come under criticism for rarely voting in city elections and having gaps in his knowledge of city politics. The New York Daily News ran this editorial cartoon:

Andrew Yang as tourist

Yang immediately denounced it as racist. The Daily News defended it, arguing it is about Yang's lack of connection to New York, not his race.

As life is slowly getting back to normal and the pandemic is no longer the top issue, the second issue, and the third issue, other issues are starting to pop up. In particular, crime, taxes, and the city budget are starting to push COVID-19 out of the way. Endorsements still play a role in New York politics and Garcia, who is white, has snagged those of the Times and the News. Adams, who is Black, nevertheless got the endorsement of the very conservative Rupert-Murdoch-owned New York Post. Yang hasn't gotten any major local media endorsements.

Technically, there are 40 or so candidates in the race. But if the current trend continues, the race may come down to Garcia vs. Adams. If you want a rundown of all the major candidates, see this article, which discusses the top ones.

One complication here is the new use of ranked-choice voting. If no candidate gets 50%, a lot will depend on the minor candidates' 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choices. If people don't understand that and don't make multiple choices, their ballots may end up being thrown out in the end. (V)

Former Virginia Senator John Warner Is Dead

Former Republican senator John Warner of Virginia, a towering figure, died on Tuesday. Warner fought in two wars (World War II and Korea), was secretary of the Navy, and then served five terms in the Senate, including a stint as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He was a man of principle, integrity, wit, and charm.

Warner was a Republican back when Republicans wanted to govern. He felt that the job of the Senate was to pass bills that would help the country. He didn't always agree with his colleagues across the aisle, but he was always gracious with them and always interested in finding common ground. He definitely also put country before party.

Warner was a loyal Republican, but he was also pro-choice and wanted to put some sensible restrictions on gun ownership. Further, he was a bit of a maverick on foreign policy and joined with former senator John McCain in opposing the use of torture at any U.S. military facility.

He never liked extremists in his own party and opposed the candidacy of Oliver North for the Senate. In 2016 he backed Hillary Clinton. In 2020, he supported Joe Biden. He even backed Sen. Mark Warner (no relation) in 2008, even though the two had faced off in 1996. He once told a reporter that at the end of life, the only thing left is one's integrity. They don't make them like that anymore. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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