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Political Wire logo Trump Acolytes Poised to Push Out Senate Dealmakers
Florida Defunds Two School Districts Over Masks
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Angus King Says Vaccine Saved His Life
The Southification of Rural America
Colorado Sues to Remove Clerk Who Allowed Breach

Biden Is Pushing His Prescription Drug Plan

Joe Biden is taking a lot of arrows right now on account of the mess in Afghanistan. But is he talking much about it now? Yeah, a little bit, but his real focus is his plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs. He knows that 15 months from now, the voters will likely have forgotten Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, and various other wars in that part of the world. If he can say: "I lowered your drug prices," Republicans can hop up and down all they want about Afghanistan but it won't matter as much as the lower drug prices. Whether that will be enough to save the House from reapportionment, gerrymandering, and new restrictive voting laws remains to be seen, but he believes that tangible benefits to voters beats abstract claims that the withdrawal could have been handled better.

What Biden's plan does is allow Medicare to use its bargaining power to force pharmaceutical companies to sell it drugs at lower prices. This plan is part of the $3.5-trillion reconciliation bill. Lowering drug prices is very popular with groups the Democrats need to win in 2022. This kind of tangible benefit is probably going to resonate more than mask mandates, critical race theory, culture wars, Hunter Biden, Bengazi, Socialism, defund the police, and whatever else the Republicans throw at the Democrats. Lower drug prices are especially popular with seniors, who have traditionally skewed Republican and who tend to turn out in midterms in large numbers. When Republicans vote en masse against the reconciliation bill, Democrats are going to hammer them with: "Republicans opposed lowering the cost of your prescription drugs." That is a not a good place to be with seniors. Polls show that 87% want lower drug prices. The plan is also popular with 80% of Black voters and 77% of Latinos.

Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), who is from a key swing (D+1) district, says that the thing she most hears about from constituents is the price of insulin. If Biden can actually force the price down, it will definitely be noticed. If drug companies balk at cutting prices, Medicare can cut them off and go with generic drugs whose patents have expired and which are a generation behind current drugs, but which are almost as effective. That fear is going to force the drug companies to negotiate seriously.

One thing the Democrats need to do is talk much more about drug prices. Polling shows that half the public doesn't even know that provision is in the reconciliation bill. They talk about soft infrastructure, including universal pre-K and free community college, but the drug pricing provision is probably the most potent argument of all for the bill. According to pollster Celinda Lake, Democrats really need to hammer on it. (V)

Healthcare Industry Starts Pushing Back on Reconciliation Bill

One of the other health-related provisions in the $3.5-trillion budget reconciliation bill the Democrats want to pass is an expansion of Medicare to include hearing, vision, and dental benefits. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has said that is one of the biggest benefits of the bill. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who represents one of the most dentally-challenged states, is in favor of the bill, in no small part due to these added benefits. So if everyone from Sanders to Manchin likes the bill, it will sail through, right?

Not so fast. The empire is striking back. The Medico-Dental Empire that is. They don't have imperial stormtroopers, but they do have an army of something even scarier to members of Congress: lobbyists. It turns out quite a few health-industry lobbies don't like the expansion at all. They don't mind getting new patients, but they are afraid the reimbursement rates will be too low. The insurance industry, which makes good money selling seniors supplemental plans that cover hearing, vision, and dental costs don't like it one bit since it takes direct aim at lucrative policies that will be killed off if Medicare covers these items.

So these industries are going to have their lobbyists contact every potentially persuadable Democrat and argue that the cost—$350 billion over a decade—will break the bank, cause inflation, and make the sky fall. With some moderates, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), already insisting that the bill is too expensive, this part could get the axe. That would result in the somewhat awkward alliance of Sanders and Manchin fighting to save it.

Other possibilities are (1) a longer phase-in period, (2) skimpier coverage, (3) more cost sharing, or (4) means testing so only poor people get the benefits. The latter option might mean that the very poorest people get the benefits but one level up, people don't get the benefits and can't afford to pay themselves, so they don't get covered. This is not going to make them happy voters. Also, right now, Medicare is not means tested. Once some benefits are means tested, the dam has broken. The next time the Republicans are in power, they could make the entire program means tested. At first the cutoff might by substantial, say people making $100,000 or more don't get it, but then over time they could lower the cutoff until it is only for people making less than $10,000, effectively killing off the program. If the Democrats introduce means testing, in 20 years, the whole program could be gone, something Republicans would love.

Despite the opposition from health-industry groups, the plan is not dead in the water. The AARP wants it as generous a benefit as possible. It has about 40 million members, and you can be sure it will tell its members to contact their senators and representatives and tell them very clearly what they want. Consequently, it is far from certain how this will play out in the coming weeks. (V)

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana hard while then-president George W. Bush was out in sunny Arizona attending then-senator John McCain's birthday party. Katrina caused 1,836 deaths and $114 billion in damage. Exactly 16 years later, on Aug. 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana. It appears to be a more powerful storm than Katrina, with winds of 150 MPH. If any of Joe Biden's staffers are reading this, we suggest telling him that going out to Arizona now to campaign for Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) would not be a good move.

Yes, Afghanistan is a mess, but Ida will force foreign news from the front pages for a few days. Biden can recapture his momentum if he makes it clear that saving lives in Louisiana is top priority now. He has the advantage of working with a Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, who will be happy to cooperate with Biden any way he can. Another advantage is that the water-control system in New Orleans has been improved since 2005. Pumps have been upgraded and diesel-powered backup generators are ready to be fired up. Levees have also been strengthened. Gates have been added to key canals to block storm surges. If all this technology works, Biden will be able to crow that he saved New Orleans, even though all the improvements were made long before he took office. All he needs to do is get the optics right and show that he is spending half his time talking to the head of FEMA about getting supplies down there and half his time talking to the governor about distributing the aid.

He understands that. Yesterday he announced: "We've pre-positioned food, water, generators and other supplies in the area. Power restoration and mobile communications support teams are also en route. We've also closely coordinated with the electric utilities to restore power as soon as possible." The first time Donald Trump opens his mouth on this, Twitter is going to be full of people contrasting Biden's action on Hurricane Ida with Trump's lack of action on Hurricane Maria.

One complication present now that wasn't present in 2005 is COVID-19. Hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and there isn't any room for new patients. However, what counts politically is not whether the result is any good, but whether the president and the governor appear to be woozy from lack of sleep because they have been working 20-hour days trying to save lives and get aid to people. If Biden is smart, he'll go down there as soon as it is safe—not because he can do any more on site than in D.C. (probably less, actually), but to show that he is on top of it and cares about Americans. Heaven help the Republicans if they say he should have been busy in the Oval Office trying to save Afghan lives. If Biden plays it right, the hurricane could, ironically, be a godsend for him. (V)

Texas House Passes Bill to Restrict Voting

Texans don't surrender. They knew they would lose but they fought bravely anyway. But in the end, they lost. The odds against them were too great. No we aren't talking about the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. We're talking about the battle of the Texas state legislature in 2021.

When Republicans in the Texas legislature drew up a bill to severely curtail voting rights in Texas, Democrats in the Texas House zipped off to D.C. to deny the Texas House a quorum and to try to get national Democrats to pass H.R. 1. After holding out in D.C. for weeks, eventually the Democrats went back to Austin. That allowed the Republican-controlled House to pass S.B. 1, which makes voting harder for people of color, people with disabilities, and others, especially in Harris County (Houston). The bill will now go back to the Senate to iron out some small differences, after which Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will proudly sign it into law.

Among other items, the bill prohibits many election changes that were introduced in 2020 and worked well. These prohibitions include bans on drive-through voting centers and 24-hour early voting. The bill forbids election officials from sending applications for absentee ballots to all voters, even those over 65, who are automatically allowed to vote absentee under Texas' law (others have to prove a need). The bill gives more power to partisan "poll watchers," who are often armed and who commonly intimidate minority voters. It also limits the power of people to help voters with disabilities to vote.

There is not much the Texas Democrats can do now except try to educate voters about the voting options still available. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D), who recalled having to pay a poll tax when she voted prior to 1966, said: "Make no mistake: This is your bill. Your idea. And you would be responsible for the consequences. If you think that you're winning today by the things that you are putting in this bill, let me give you a prophetic statement: You will reap what you sow." Whether Texas Republicans will pay an immediate price for this bill remains to be seen. Nevertheless, if the U.S. sent observers to a third-World country just getting started on democracy and saw that the party in power had changed the election laws to favor itself, they would yell "Whoa! You folks haven't figured out this democracy thing at all." (V)

"H" Is for Hypocrisy, and Also for Hawley

In Nov. 2020, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to then-Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller demanding that troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan. He wrote: "The American people deserve an end to this war. They deserve to know their daughters and sons will not be put in harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary." Hawley was consistent—for a while. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the deal between Donald Trump and the Taliban to get American troops out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In April of this year, he said: "It's time for this forever war to end."

That was then. This is now, and his current approach is slightly different. He is now calling on Joe Biden to resign on account of withdrawing the troops and leaving the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan. He said: "It is now painfully clear he has neither the will nor the capacity to lead. He must resign." Hawley is a big fan of resignations. He has called for resignations of Anthony Fauci, Biden's entire defense and national security team, and the chief executive of Hong Kong.

After Hawley called for Biden to resign, a reporter asked him if he favored Kamala Harris becoming president. He refused to answer the question. He's not actually stupid. The act is just for the rubes. He has a B.A. from Stanford cum laude and a J.D. from Yale. He clerked for none other than Chief Justice John Roberts. He knows exactly what happens when a president resigns. He is simply betting that his constituents are too stupid to realize that when a president resigns, the veep becomes president, not the runner-up in the election. Or maybe he is betting that 2024 Republican primary voters don't understand what happens when a president resigns. It's one or the other, since Hawley knows very well what happens. This is hypocrisy writ large in 72-point Bodoni bold and underlined. Or, given how silly and transparent Hawley is being, maybe we should make that Comic Sans.

Not to be outdone, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) sent letters to Harris and the entire cabinet demanding that they invoke the 25th Amendment and declare Biden unable to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency. At the time we posted this, we were still waiting for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to up the stakes. Maybe she will call for George Soros to use the Jewish space lasers to vaporize the White House at dawn tomorrow.

In any event, the Republicans who live on Planet Earth are not sure what the best way to hit Biden on Afghanistan is. They know they can't actually do very much now, although the #3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), did call Biden "unfit to be commander-in-chief." Some of them are preparing to make the 2024 election all about Afghanistan. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is preparing to hold hearings on Afghanistan if he becomes chairman in 2023. He already sent a letter to the DNI, Avril Haines, telling her to preserve documents (so he can subpoena them in Jan. 2023). Of course Haines has a large legal staff and knows very well what she has to preserve and what she can toss in her office fireplace. She doesn't need Nunes' counsel on this matter. You might say she's not in the mooooooood to hear from him.

All these calls for Biden to resign are moving the U.S. closer and closer to a parliamentary system. In these systems, the government can be removed any time a majority in the parliament wants that to happen. However, in most of these systems, that results in a new election. If the MPs do this too frivolously, the voters can punish the opposition by giving the government parties even more seats. Would the Republicans really like a snap election in 2 months on the issue of whether U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan? If there were actual consequences to calling for Biden to resign, we suspect Hawley, Stefanik, and the others would keep their mouths shut. But since there are no consequences for them, they can act outraged and play to the gallery without fear of any reprisals. And now that this bridge has been crossed, we suspect that from now on, the opposition party is going to be calling at least once a week for the president to resign. This is going to be the new normal from now on unless the Republicans get smacked down by the voters for doing it. (V)

Too Many Progressives Spoil the Broth

The New York mayoral primary is now behind us, but Boston has a humdinger as well. Progressives love it and hate it at the same time. And it is all Joe Biden's fault. What Biden did was rip Marty Walsh out of the mayor's office and deposit him the office of Secretary of Labor, thus creating a free-for-all in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan (jungle) primary.

For 200 years, Boston has elected white men as mayor. That is certain to change this year, given the roster of candidates running. The problem for progressives is that they like too many of them and are having a lot of trouble choosing one. If they can't unite behind one or two candidates, a much more moderate candidate could win the November runoff. Here are the leading candidates, in alphabetical order:

  • John Barros: He would like to end the reign of white men by adding a Black man (himself) to the list. In fact, if there is going to be a man of any color, it will be a Black man because all the other candidates are women. He is the city's former chief of economic development. He ran for mayor in 2013 and lost but clearly hasn't given up. He is the son of immigrants from the Capo Verde Islands and is a lifelong resident of Roxbury and Dorchester. He is probably the least likely to win, though.

  • Andrea Campbell: She is a progressive Black woman who is a member of the city council and who served as president of the council from 2018 to 2020. Her mother died when she was young. She was raised by her aunt and uncle. Campbell has a B.A. from Princeton and a J.D. from UCLA. Her pitch is "15-minute neighborhoods," with jobs, services, and amenities within 15 minutes of all neighborhoods. She also is a big supporter of vaccination certificates and wants them required for all indoor activities in Boston.

  • Annisa Essaibi George: She is a white woman whose mother is Polish and whose father is Tunisian. She was raised as a Catholic, although her father was a practicing Muslim. She has a Master's in education and taught social studies in a Boston high school. She is also mother to triplets and a fourth son. She is councilwoman-at-large and thus represents all of Boston. She is a close ally of former mayor Marty Walsh. She also has locked up the support of the public safety unions and basically most of Walsh's coalition. Think of her as a female version of Walsh. And remember that Walsh won. George is also the most moderate of all the candidates. If the progressives split among the others, she will make the runoff and then has a very good chance of winning.

  • Kim Janey: As the acting mayor, Janey is probably the best known of the candidates. She is Black, but so are Barros and Campbell. She is also quite progressive. Several Black leaders support her. She was born in Boston and attended grade school there, then was part of the METCO (bussing) program for high school. At 16 she had a daughter and now is a grandmother. She started college at Smith, but had to drop out to care for her grandfather after her grandmother died. As the current acting mayor, she will be judged on how well she actually does the job, especially dealing with COVID-19. Her top issues are education, health, and housing.

  • Michelle Wu: As the longest-serving councilor running, Wu is almost as well known as Janey. She was born in Chicago, the daughter of immigrants from Taiwan. She moved to the Boston area to attend Harvard, eventually getting a law degree from Harvard Law School. There she was a student of her later mentor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She was the first Asian-American woman to serve on the city council. She is a progressive with a strong focus on the environment and is a strong supporter of the Green New Deal.

So the big question is whether George makes the runoff. If she does, she will have Walsh's coalition behind her and we may once again see a split between progressives and moderates (although George is fairly progressive for a "moderate"). If George doesn't make the runoff, then Boston will get its first elected minority or female mayor, or both. (V)

Redistricting the Great Lakes States

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball is continuing its series about the Great 2021 Redistricting Event. The current installment is about the Great Lakes/Midwest states, with Pennsylvania temporarily being made an honorary Midwest state. Here is a summary:

  • Illinois: We had an item on redistricting Illinois last week based on Politico's view, but Sabato's is also worth considering. Democrats control the process in the Land of Lincoln, but it will be tough to do much better than the 13-5 edge they have now. The state is losing a seat, so the Democrats' goal is to make the delegation 13D, 4R or maybe even 14D, 3R if they are lucky. Another priority is to make the district of Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) more friendly than its current R+5 composition. Still another is to make the R+3 IL-13 district more Democratic and try to oust Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). Doing all this will require a big bad map, but who is afraid of a big bad map? The Illinois Supreme Court is 4-3 Democratic, so it is probably not going to object. In short, the Democrats can probably pick up a net 1 or 2 seats here.

  • Indiana: In the 1980s and later, Indiana had famously competitive House races. Think Mike Sodrel (R) and Baron Hill (D) battling each other in four consecutive races in IN-09 in 2002 through 2008. One issue the Republicans, who control the process, have to consider is IN-05. It is R+9 but Donald Trump carried it by only 2 points last year. It is a fast-growing district that the map makers will try to make even more Republican. The Republicans also have an opportunity in the blue-collar IN-01 at the bottom of Lake Michigan, which is D+8. They probably can't oust Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-IN) in 2022, but if they make the district more Republican, maybe they can get rid of him later in the decade, which would make the state 1D, 8R.

  • Michigan: Like Illinois, Michigan is losing a House seat. But unlike Illinois, Michigan's map is drawn by an independent commission. Earlier this month, the commission put out a map splitting the state into 10 regions. After redistricting, Michigan will have 13 House seats, so regions don't map onto seats. However, the Detroit metro region has enough people for five seats. Anything from 8D, 5R to 5D, 8R is possible.

  • Minnesota: Early projections predicted that Minnesota would lose one of its 8 seats, but in the end it kept them all. Currently the split is 4D, 4R and the districts fall entirely along partisan lines. The four Democrats are in districts Biden won and the four Republicans are in districts Trump won. Gerrymandering will be impossible since the Republicans control the state Senate and Democrats control the state House and the governor's mansion. However, the Republican districts are losing population and the Democratic districts are gaining population. But with the power to draw the map split, only small tweaks favoring neither party are likely.

  • Ohio: Ohio is yet another Midwest state losing a seat. Republicans did a great job of gerrymandering in 2010, giving them a 4D, 12R map. It is also getting redder in each presidential cycle. It used to be a key swing state but Donald Trump won it by 8 points in both of his elections. The most likely seat to go is Tim Ryan's D+7 district, OH-13. He is running for the Senate so it would be an open seat if it is kept. A complication is the new rule about redistricting. A 2018 constitutional amendment limited gerrymandering somewhat. The state's 65 smallest counties cannot be split over districts at all. The next 18 smallest can be split only once and the five largest can be split only twice. Cuyahoga (Cleveland) is currently split four ways, so that has to change. The legislature gets first crack at the map, but the map has to be approved by majorities of both parties and three-fifths of each chamber. If that fails, a seven-member commission gets the next shot, but that succeeds only if at least two members of each party approve the map. If that fails, the legislature can draw the map with a simple majority in each chamber, but that map is valid for only 4 years, not 10 years. Most likely, the map will be 2D, 13R or 3D, 12R or maybe even 4D, 11R, but only for 4 years.

  • Pennsylvania: Still another state losing a seat. The delegation is currently 9D, 9R and with the Republicans controlling the legislature and Tom Wolf (D) living in the governor's mansion, so a stalemate can be expected. If that happens, the state Supreme Court hires a special master to draw the map. But even a fair map could endanger Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright (both D), who are in almost even districts. In Bucks County, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) is also in a swing district that could change, but he gets a fair number of crossover votes and might survive no matter what happens to his district. Philadelphia has two massively Democratic districts, D+25 and D+41 respectively, so nothing will dislodge those members. The Philadelphia collar districts, PA-04, PA-05, and PA-06, are all occupied by Democratic women who will probably survive redistricting. Moving west to PA-10 through PA-14, they are all Republican, ranging from R+6 to R+22 and all occupied by Republicans. That is unlikely to change. So which seat will have to be eliminated? It could be one of those, since those counties are losing population. But there are too many people for four districts, so Republicans from those districts will have to go somewhere else, making the recipient districts more Republican.

  • Wisconsin: The Badger State is neither gaining nor losing a district. The big news here is that Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) is retiring from his EVEN district. Since the Republicans control the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers is Democrat, the courts will probably have to step in to draw the map. But given population shifts, Kind's district, WI-03, is likely to become more Republican, allowing the GOP to get a 2D, 6R map, even though the state is evenly divided.

In short, only Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio can be gerrymandered, and there are restrictions on Ohio. All in all, the new maps are likely to help the Republicans to net maybe one or two seats, probably not more. The region still remains one of the most balanced parts of the country. (V)

Longshot Candidates Sometimes Raise Huge Amounts of Money

Back when America was great, campaigns were largely funded by wealthy donors who knew what they wanted and were pretty adept about understanding risks and getting a good return on their investments. This meant mostly funding candidates who had a decent chance of winning. The donors understood that pouring money into the campaign of someone who was almost certain to lose was not a good investment. Also, donors mostly funded candidates in races where they had a direct interest and knew that if their candidate won, he or she would be sympathetic to their wishes.

The Internet has changed all that. Would you believe that the 2022 House candidate who has raised the most money so far is a totally unknown Democrat who has never run for public office before and is running against a well-known incumbent in an R+27 district that he has virtually no chance of winning? It's true. We'll give you a hint. His name is Marcus Flowers. Does that help? We didn't think so. OK, one more hint: His opponent is Marjorie Taylor Greene. Are you having a Eureka! moment now?

Negative partisanship has been a hugely powerful force in fundraising. Not that there is anything special about Flowers. Any Democrat who filed to unseat Greene and who was handy with social media could have raised the $2 million he has so far. In fact, candidates running against any high-profile member of the House can count on people who hate that member to pony up, even if the challenger has no chance of winning. And it works both ways. In 2020, Republican challengers to Democrats Lois Frankel (FL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Kweisi Mfume (MD), Adam Schiff (CA), and Maxine Waters (CA) raised over $2 million each. They also lost by 20 to 45 points.

In a few cases, the incumbent is not high profile. Frankel is an example. But her opponent, Laura Loomer, is very high profile in conservative circles and would have brought in big bucks in any race she entered, no matter how hopeless. People showered money on her to show support for her right-wing conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim speeches. Nearly all the money these fringe candidates get is via the Internet using ActBlue or WinRed, which makes it easy for people to send $10 or $20 to their favorite nutcake. The barrier to donating is so low now that people do it on a whim, either because they hate the candidate's opponent or love the candidate's position on something. Whether the candidate has a snowball's chance in Hell of winning is often not a factor anymore. This effect even has a name: rage-donating.

Of course, when the candidate is running against someone who the other party's supporters really hate with a passion and the candidate has a chance to knock the incumbent off, the money really flows. For example, Amy McGrath (D) raised an astounding $96 million in 2020, but she was running to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in Kentucky, someone who is not terribly popular among Democrats. Even more astounding is the $132 million Jaime Harrison raised running against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Both McGrath and Harrison lost by double digits, but they were strong candidates who ran good campaigns and had boatloads of money. They could have won, but their states were just too red for money to overcome.

Sometimes long-shot candidates do win. Ocasio-Cortez is a good example. And because it does happen sometimes, the long-shot candidates (and their donors) think: "Maybe lightning will strike and we'll win this one." As a consequence, we are likely to see more long-shot candidates in the future, especially ones running against controversial incumbents who are widely hated by the other party. Of course, giving money to a hopeless candidate just because you hate his or her opponent is actually a bad strategy. If all the money that is flowing to Flowers instead went to the DCCC, it might help some little-known Democrat win a close race and actually pick up a House seat. But for many people, making a statement is more important now than actually winning. (V)

Old Testament Meets New Testament--with Newsom in the Middle

One of the guiding principles of the Old Testament (other than telling you what not to eat) is "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." The New Testament is more "Turn the other cheek." The two concepts are barrelling toward a head-on collision in California. As most of our older readers no doubt vividly remember, in the spring of 1968 the Vietnam War was raging, along with massive street protests about it. An unknown anti-war senator, Eugene McCarthy (DFL-MN), decided to work within the system and entered the Democratic primaries to challenge then-president Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination. The plan was to give the kids another way to express their outrage and send LBJ a message. McCarthy almost beat Johnson in the March 12 New Hampshire primary (42% to 49%). Johnson was shocked by his meager victory.

McCarthy was never a serious or viable candidate, but 4 days later, Bobby Kennedy, who most definitely was a viable candidate, jumped in. On March 31, Johnson withdrew from the race, almost certainly due to the competition from the well-known and popular Kennedy. LBJ didn't want to lose to anyone, but he didn't want to lose to Bobby Kennedy most of all. On June 4, Kennedy beat McCarthy in the all-important California primary. Hubert Humphrey had more (favorite-son) delegates at that point even though he hadn't entered any primaries. However, if the McCarthy delegates switched to Kennedy on the second ballot at the convention, Kennedy probably would have gotten the nomination and beaten Richard Nixon in November. That was not to be, however, because just after Kennedy gave his victory speech in Los Angeles in the morning of June 5, he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian zealot. That shot probably lengthened the Vietnam War by 4 years and changed the course of history. Sirhan was captured, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death, but in 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty retroactively so Sirhan's sentence was changed to life in prison.

According to state law, Sirhan is now eligible for parole. Actually, he's been eligible for a while. But now, a two-person subcommittee of the parole board has recommended the release of the 77-year-old Sirhan, saying that he is no longer a threat to anyone. This decision is very controversial, pitting people who see Sirhan as a heinous monster who deserves to rot in prison until he is dead (and maybe then some) vs. those who believe in redemption. Ultimately, the final decision is up to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). He is lucky that he will have until after the recall to decide, but he will come under pressure to announce what he will do before the recall. Whatever he says will alienate some Democrats.

He will probably try to finesse the issue by saying that he is waiting to get the report from the full parole board so he can study it carefully. He has rejected parole requests in the past, but this one is extremely high profile. Whatever he decides will not fly under the radar. Making it worse, the Kennedy family is deeply divided over the parole request. Two of Kennedy's children, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who was a teenager in 1968) and Douglas Kennedy (who was a toddler in 1968) support releasing Sirhan. Junior, who is a well-known conspiracist, doesn't believe Sirhan was the assassin.

On the other hand, six of Bobby's other children were devastated by the recommendation and absolutely do not want Sirhan freed. In a joint statement released late Friday, they wrote: "He took our father from our family and he took him from America. We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release. We urge the Parole Board staff, the full board and ultimately Governor Newsom, to reverse this initial recommendation. It is a recommendation we intend to challenge every step of the way, and we hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us."

Sirhan has said he doesn't remember the murder. As if the premeditated assassination of a leading candidate for president in cold blood for political reasons (Kennedy supported Israel) is something that happens every day and is easy to forget when you have been in prison for it for 50 years. Could happen to anyone, after all.

Newsom undoubtedly does not want this hot potato so close to his recall election. Republicans on the whole, even evangelical Christians, tend to believe in revenge at least as much as they believe in salvation and are probably going to come down against parole. A complicating factor, though, is that although Sirhan is an Arab, he is not a Muslim. He is a Christian. So their slogan can't be "Death to Muslim terrorists." Yelling "Death to Christian terrorists" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug29 Sunday Mailbag
Aug28 Saturday Q&A
Aug27 From Bad to Worse
Aug27 Who Saw This Coming?
Aug27 SCOTUS Nixes Eviction Moratorium
Aug27 TrumpWorld Legal Blotter, Part I: Trump Sued
Aug27 TrumpWorld Legal Blotter, Part II: Trump's Lawyers Sanctioned
Aug27 The Grift of the Magai
Aug27 This Week in Schadenfreude
Aug26 Jan. 6 Select Committee Starts Asking for Documents
Aug26 House Passes H.R. 4
Aug26 The Census Has Some Good News for Democrats
Aug26 Poll: Floridians Do Not Want DeSantis to Run for President
Aug26 Kristi Noem Opens Her 2024 Campaign in South Carolina
Aug26 Eric Schmitt Sues to Block Mask Mandates
Aug26 Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Trumpiest of Them All?
Aug26 Business Are Starting to React to Biden's Call for Companies to Get Tough on Vaccines
Aug26 Israel's Prime Minister Will Visit Biden Today
Aug26 Kinzinger's Goose Is Cooked
Aug25 Biden Stays with August 31
Aug25 What's Next for the Taliban?
Aug25 They Have a Deal
Aug25 SCOTUS: Refugees Must Remain in Mexico
Aug25 Walker Will Run
Aug25 Another Republican Is Sued for Defamation
Aug25 One-and-a-half Million Votes
Aug24 In Arizona, No News Is...No News
Aug24 Pfizer Vaccine Gets Full FDA Approval
Aug24 Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Aug24 House Leaders Herd Cats on Both Sides of the Aisle
Aug24 New York Has a New Governor
Aug24 In California, Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
Aug24 56,000 North Carolina Felons Regain the Right to Vote
Aug23 Republicans Have Done Well in Special Elections This Year
Aug23 Pelosi Wants to Pass Infrastructure Bills by Oct. 1
Aug23 Austin Speaks the Truth
Aug23 Foreign Policy Performance Is a Poor Predictor of Elections
Aug23 H.R. 4 Is about Court Reform
Aug23 Trump Campaigns for Brooks in Alabama
Aug23 Redistricting in the Midwest and Mountain West
Aug23 Democrats Are Trying to Put Together a Strategy for the State Legislatures
Aug22 Sunday Mailbag
Aug21 Saturday Q&A
Aug20 Biden Holds Forth on Afghanistan
Aug20 Three Senators Test Positive for COVID
Aug20 Man Arrested for Threatening to Bomb Capitol
Aug20 In California, the Drama Intensifies...
Aug20 ...And in Arizona, the Drama Nears Its Denouement...
Aug20 ...While in Texas, the Drama Ends
Aug20 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News