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Political Wire logo McCarthy Delays Swift Passage of Social Spending Bill
GOP Donors ‘Furious’ with McConnell
Lawyer for QAnon Shaman Has Message for Trump
CBO Estimate Released for Budget Reconciliation Bill
Trump Endorses Paul Gosar
Top Kamala Harris Aide Leaves

All But Three Republicans Vote in Support of Gosar

When Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) posted an anime cartoon that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), he probably thought it was pretty funny. AOC and the Democrats didn't get the joke, so they forced a vote to censure Gosar. A censure is intermediate between a reprimand and an expulsion and requires only a majority of the entire House to be approved (expulsion requires two-thirds). Yesterday, the vote was taken and 207 House Republicans voted against the censure. Only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) voted for it. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) voted "present." Every Democrat voted for the censure, so it passed 223 to 207, a fairly close margin that makes clear that threatening to kill a member of Congress is fine with nearly all Republicans—provided it is a Democrat who is threatened, of course. As a consequence of the vote, Gosar has been booted from both of his committee assignments: (1) Natural Resources and (2) Oversight (of which AOC is also a member).

After Gosar posted the cartoon, AOC said: "A creepy member I work with who fundraises for neo-Nazi groups shared a fantasy video of him killing me." Yesterday, she noted that not only has he not apologized, he has doubled down. She also remarked that in a perfect world, Gosar would have been expelled from the House. Instead, it was a close vote. It is not surprising that nearly all Republicans voted against censuring Gosar: Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) sent them a memo telling to vote against it. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has not condemned Gosar. Instead he said that Gosar made a statement that he doesn't support violence and took the video down. That was good enough for McCarthy. Not surprisingly, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) thought that threatening to kill a member was no big deal. He argued "we have better things to do on the floor of the House of Representatives than be hall monitors for Twitter."

Ahead of the vote, Gosar was defiant, saying that the video depicting him killing AOC was not dangerous or threatening. Then he compared himself to Alexander Hamilton. While the vote was going on, Gosar sat in the back of the chamber keeping a low profile and chatting with fellow Republicans and basically ignoring the proceedings.

Censures are rare and generally are only done for serious offenses. The last censure was in 2010 against then-representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) for misusing federal resources, filing inaccurate federal disclosure forms, tax evasion, and shaking down corporations with business before the Ways and Means Committee, of which Rangel was chairman. The vote was 333-79, with most of the Democrats voting to censure one of their own. How times have changed. (V)

Meadows Is on the Hot Seat

Donald Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows has conceded that the indictment of Steve Bannon has put him "between a rock and a hard place." Bannon defied a congressional subpoena, was indicted for contempt of Congress, and undoubtedly plans on dragging the case out until Jan. 20, 2025, when his expectation is that a newly elected President Trump will pardon him. We have to admit that this took cojones, since it might not be possible to drag it out for more than 3 years. The courts are slow, but maybe not that slow. And even if he can drag it out, Trump might not win in 2024. Furthermore, even if Bannon can drag it out and Trump does win, with Trump, loyalty is often a one-way street (although see below). Bannon is clearly taking a big risk and Meadows is not so sure that he wants to go down that road as well. But he also defied Congress and is very likely to be indicted as well.

Meadows is trying to hedge his bets by reaching an "accommodation" with the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 coup attempt. He refused to say what he offered the Committee in return for not voting to hold him in contempt of Congress. Maybe he offered to testify in private. Maybe he offered to answer their questions in writing. Maybe he offered to supply documents in lieu of testifying. We don't know. We do know that the Committee is in the driver's seat here and can easily hold him in contempt and almost certainly get him indicted within a month. The ball is now in Meadows' court and he has only a few days to swat it back. If he can't make a deal with the Committee, a contempt charge and indictment are virtually certain.

The penalty for contempt of Congress is up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 per count, and Bannon got two counts. Bannon is a multimillionaire and $200,000 means little to him. He is a true believer in Trumpism and might even be willing to accept the prison sentence if Trump isn't able or willing to spring him. Meadows' net worth is only $666,000, so a fine of even $100,000 is real money to him. And as a former congressman who might want to run for public office again, going to prison for 1-2 years is definitely not part of his game plan. G. Gordon Liddy, he is definitely not. (V)

Republicans Are Already Plotting Revenge for Bannon's Subpoena

When the Democrats asked the Dept. of Justice to indict Steve Bannon for thumbing his nose at a congressional subpoena (which it did), the Republicans warned of payback as soon as Jan. 3, 2023, when they hope to retake the House. For many Republicans, revenge is always near the top of their to-do list. Top allies of Donald Trump were already dreaming of hauling top administration officials before congressional committees to grill them on the Afghanistan withdrawal, the immigration situation at the border, and the DoJ's crackdown on threats against school board members. They can't wait to get that lovely subpoena power.

As one example, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) tweeted: "There are a lot of Republicans eager to hear testimony from [White House Chief of Staff] Ron Klain and [National Security Advisor] Jake Sullivan when we take back the House." In response to that, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), countertweeted: "If Ron Klain ever participates in a violent insurrection against the union, then I hope they would bring him in."

Republicans shouldn't get their hopes up too high, though. First, if they subpoena Klain or Sullivan, they might just show up. Hillary Clinton once spent 11 hours before a House committee answering pseudo-questions about Benghazi. If Republicans roar: "How did that mess in Afghanistan happen?" Sullivan might just calmly respond: "Because when Donald Trump was president, he made a foolish deal with the Taliban to withdraw by May 1, 2021. Joe Biden believes that when a president makes a deal with a foreign power, subsequent presidents are legally required to honor it, even if they disagree with it. Next question, please."

In addition, although it is doubtful that a former president can invoke executive privilege, a sitting president probably can. Consequently, if Sullivan or Klain doesn't want to answer some question, they could defer on grounds of executive privilege. If the boss backs them up, then they will be on far stronger grounds than Bannon was.

Another issue is that Sullivan or Klain could say he is happy to answer the question, but it involves classified information, so the answer can only be given in closed session, not in public, and only after every member of the committee has a security clearance. Since the point of the hearing would be to embarrass Biden, not to get information, holding a closed session would defeat the whole point of it. If Republicans demand open testimony, Klain, Sullivan, Biden, or all of them could say: "Republicans are putting national security at risk in order to grandstand." That is unlikely to work out well for the committee.

Finally, in the unlikely event some administration member tears up the subpoena and yells: "Nah, nah, nah," all the committee can do is take a vote on contempt of Congress and then politely ask AG Merrick Garland to indict the person. Garland could decide to take his good time to investigate, especially if the potential witness claimed he couldn't come due to executive privilege, national security, or both. In practice, that means revenge might have to wait until the next Republican president was inaugurated, along with a Republican Senate. The Democrats have a fair shot at not only holding the Senate next year, but maybe even picking up seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and possibly even North Carolina, so if they keep the Senate majority next year and hold it in 2024, even if Trump wins, a Democratic Senate in 2025 might just balk at confirming a Trump crony as AG.

In short, it is unlikely that payback will begin on Jan. 3, 2023, and might not even happen in January or February 2025. (V)

Trump Backs Another Challenger to Representative Who Voted to Impeach Him

Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump for trying to pull off a coup on Jan. 6. Trump is now focused like a laser on knocking over all 10 of them. Think of it as political bowling. He got Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to forgo reelection, and he's got Liz Cheney on the ropes. Now he has Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) in his sights. To get rid of Meijer, Trump has endorsed John Gibbs in the Republican primary. Gibbs was an assistant secretary of HUD in Trump's administration.

Trump doesn't actually care if Gibbs is elected to Congress. He just wants to punish Meijer. The district in question is MI-03, which includes Grand Rapids, some northern suburbs, and three rural counties to the east stretching not quite to Lansing. It has a slight Republican lean (R+6) but once was represented by Libertarian Justin Amash. It is 80% white and 9% Black. Gibbs is Black and it is not clear if he could win the primary there since most of the Black voters in Grand Rapids are Democrats. From the point of view of the Republican Party, having a white incumbent running in a swing district that is mostly white is a better proposition than having a Black challenger who has never been elected to public office running for an open seat. But Trump doesn't care what is good for the Republican Party. He just wants to punish everyone who has opposed him.

Here is the 2022 status of each of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump:

District Incumbent PVI Status
CA-21 David Valadao (R) D+5 Running; no Trump endorsee yet
IL-16 Adam Kinzinger (R) R+8 Retiring
MI-03 Peter Meijer (R) R+6 Fighting for survival against Trump endorsee John Gibbs
MI-06 Fred Upton (R) R+4 Fighting for survival against Trump endorsee Steve Carra
NY-24 John Katko (R) D+3 Running; no Trump endorsee yet
OH-16 Anthony Gonzalez (R) R+8 Retiring
SC-07 Tom Rice (R) R+9 Running; no Trump endorsee yet
WA-03 Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) R+4 Fighting for survival against Trump endorsee Joe Kent
WA-04 Dan Newhouse (R) R+13 Running; no Trump endorsee yet
WY-AL Liz Cheney (R) R+25 Fighting for survival against Trump endorsee Harriet Hageman

Note that four of the districts are swing districts: CA-21, MI-06, NY-24, and WA-03 (at least with the current maps). If Trump succeeds in knocking off any Republican incumbent it will be an open race, probably with an inexperienced Trumpy Republican challenger. The net result of Trump's efforts could be that the Democrats flip up to four seats in the House. Needless to say, if the Democrats end up with a 218-217 majority, it will be a direct result of Trump's efforts. While the base will cheer him on for his great efforts, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will not be so happy, although he probably would be too chicken to say so in public. (V)

Why Do Voters Like Democratic Policies but Dislike Democrats?

It has been a fact for decades that people overwhelmingly prefer Democratic policies on most issues, but many of them still vote for Republicans. Why? At first glance it doesn't seem to make sense, but further investigations give a clue as to what is going on. The voters aren't stupid. They just have a different agenda than some people might expect. A Democratic consultant in Virginia, Danny Barefoot, just ran three focus groups in Virginia with a total of 96 women, all of whom voted for Ralph Northam (D) for governor in 2017, Joe Biden (D) for president in 2020, and Glenn Youngkin (R) for governor in 2021. The big question is: How come? What's with the (D) (D) (R) pattern? The groups were roughly proportional to the population in terms of white, Black, and Latina.

What Barefoot discovered is that while most of the women overwhelmingly agreed with the Democrats on policy, when asked about which party had cultural values closer to theirs, the Republicans won. And when they voted, the cultural values won out. One issue that was important to them was education. One of the women said that, after they were forced to sit at home and be de facto teachers for a year, to hear Terry McAuliffe say that they should butt out of education was a huge insult. School closures were also a big deal. They wanted their kids to go to Real School, not Zoom School, virus or no virus. Also, they were afraid of the kids being indoctrinated. That is hardly a surprise given that the remaining Koch brother was secretly funding conservative groups to push this idea hard. And then there is critical race theory.

For voters already prejudiced against Black people, CRT is a dog whistle, but for voters not so inclined, the perceived elitist attitudes of the Democrats is a big turn off. One voter remarked that if she uses the "wrong" word for something, they label her a bigot. That's almost guaranteed to turn the person into a Republican voter. Permanently. Issues be damned. Democrats have not absorbed this lesson yet.

A related study released after the Virginia election divides the white working class into three roughly equal groups. One of them consists of hard-core right wingers who believe that Senate Majority Leader Chuck "Wall Street" Schumer (D-NY) is a flaming Socialist and a traitor. They are hopeless and approaching them is a waste of time. Another group votes for the Democrats. The third group are the "cultural traditionalists." They don't follow the news closely, but tend to be open-minded. They respect old-fashioned religion, but don't want to force theirs on everyone. They are traditional patriots but are tolerant of diversity and pluralism. They are easygoing and believe in the "American way of life." At first they didn't like same-sex marriage, but when it became the majority view, they went along with it. They think government is often inefficient and politicians are corrupt, but they don't think the concept of government itself is inherently evil. They just want it to work better.

More to the point, they see the Democrats as representing the interests of educated liberals and minorities but ignoring "ordinary" Americans like themselves. They don't mind having their kids learn about slavery, but also want them to learn about all the good things America has done over the years. They perceive the Democrats (and CRT) as saying "America has always been a despicable country, starting with the genocide of the Native Americans, continuing through slavery and Jim Crow, and following that up into the modern age with evil police who slaughter unarmed Black people right and left." They simply don't buy that. One woman defined CRT as telling children about the worst of our past. This group is potentially gettable, but absolutely, definitely not by scolding people for their word choices or by talking ceaselessly about rogue cops. The Democrats need to change their image and become much more patriotic and positive about America to get these people. Focusing only on what's wrong simply doesn't cut it. But that's what some Democrats do. All the time. How about: "Yes, the federal government put Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II, but at the same time millions of young Americans risked their lives to save the world from domination by evil dictators. We're not perfect, but no other country did what we did and we can be proud of that"? Whole different message.

At the end of the focus groups, Barefoot asked the women if they would have changed their vote if the bipartisan infrastructure bill had passed before Election Day. Over 90% said no. One woman asked: "What does that have to do with anything?" Put in other words, for these voters, the issues aren't so important. It's Democrats' attitudes, especially those of Democrats on the far left, that matter.

Jacobin, a Socialist magazine, ran an interesting survey. Instead of asking respondents about the "issues," they concocted prototype candidates and asked which were the most appealing. To the amazement of its editors, the most popular prototype was a "mom or pop small business owner." Teachers, construction workers, and veterans came in next. Fortune 500 CEOs were despised. There was no evidence at all that people wanted democratic Socialists or their policies. There was a lot of evidence that woke messaging worked against all candidates. There is plenty to digest here, but free college isn't part of it. (V)

Infrastructure Bill Tries to Reverse Road Racism

Robert Caro's famous biography of Robert Moses describes how New York's master builder worked racism into his designs. He did things like routing highways through the middle of thriving Black neighborhoods to destroy them, or sometimes between Black and white neighborhoods to separate them. One of us (V) experienced this first hand when Moses decided to route a major highway through the building he was living in as a child, forcing his family to move. Moses also designed some underpasses below main roads with a low clearance, with the consequence that buses full of Black kids couldn't get to the beach easily and quickly. However, the low clearances did save money, so there might have been a financial motive in addition to a racist one.

The newly signed infrastructure bill has $1 billion in it specifically to try to reverse some of this old racist infrastructure. A billion dollars is not going to fix all the problems by a longshot, but at least is a symbolic gesture that recognizes what happened and tries to repair at least a little bit of the damage.

Some urban planners want to put highways that divide communities underground and use the resulting land for parks. But doing this is time consuming and expensive. The Big Dig in Boston, which put a 1.5-mile stretch of road underground, took 25 years and cost $22 billion. But that was an exceptionally difficult project in a compact city with few alternative options. Even accounting for the possibility that things will be a bit faster and cheaper elsewhere, $1 billion is a drop in the bucket, though it does give Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg some nice talking points.

Has this become political? Master urban planner Ted Cruz (R-TX) certainly wants it to be:

Cruz tweet- The roads are racist. We must get rid of roads.

Although the $1 billion won't build a lot of roads, if it simply goes for the planning of new roads that help alleviate the racist history of old roads and lets the states carry out the plans with their own money, it might still be helpful at eradicating a shameful legacy. (V)

When Will the Voters Notice the Improved Infrastructure?

Democrats are hoping that the infrastructure bill will save them in 2022, but there is a problem with that hope: Very little construction will have been completed by Nov. 2022, so there won't be a lot for voters to see. And construction typically is messy, forcing traffic to detour and generally slowing things down, so drivers and voters will get the downside of the infrastructure plans before they get the upside. However, by Nov. 2024, some projects will be completed, giving the Democrats bragging rights in the presidential election.

The money in the new law will be disbursed using two mechanisms. Some of it will go through the Dept. of Transportation to the states based on a population-based formula. The states will then use it to carry out transportation-related projects they have already planned or will soon plan. This process is well established, everyone knows how it works, and states can get going fairly fast. A fair chunk of money can go out in the next 6 months. Of course, then the states have to make decisions about which projects to fund, have to put out requests for bids, then choose contractors who will have to buy supplies and hire workers. It is unlikely many spades will go into the ground in 2022. The easiest projects to get going quickly are straightforward repair projects. If a key road needs to be resurfaced or a bridge has to be repainted, that can start fairly quickly. But if a new road has to be constructed so an existing racist road can be removed (see previous item), the route planning alone could take months or more. Rail projects can also start quickly since much of the rail money goes to Amtrak, which already has many plans ready to start as soon as the money is there.

The other mechanism is via specific direct grants from the DoT. Over $100 billion will take this route. It will take a while. It is intended for new projects that will help mitigate climate change or help improve transportation access for underserved communities. Susan Howard, the program director for transportation at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said: "The competitive grants will probably be the slowest to come out. It will be a real heavy lift for DOT to get this level of discretionary funding out the door." In other words, 2022 is out of the question and maybe not a lot before 2024, either. First, the DoT, meaning Pete Buttigieg, will have to draw up criteria for the grant proposals. Only then can the grant-writing process even start. This will take many months.

There will be an economic impact, of course. Construction jobs will be created in the short term and more efficient transportation systems will be available in the long term. Moody's has predicted that the new law could create 800,000 jobs. S & P Global put the number of jobs at 884,000. However, the impact of this kind of project is always much more during a recession, when people are desperate for jobs. Currently, workers are quitting their jobs at a high rate, so the impact may be less. In any event, the brunt of the effect will be after the 2022 election, not before it, but a fair amount may be before the 2024 election, certainly in terms of job creation, even if many projects will not be completed until after 2024. (V)

Trump Blasts Broken Old Crow--Again

Donald Trump loves to give people names like "Sleepy Joe Biden," "Low-energy Jeb Bush," "Crooked Hillary Clinton," "Adam Schitt," "Mr. Magoo (Jeff Sessions)" and others that would make any third grader proud of himself. Yesterday in an invective-filled statement, he labeled Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "Broken Old Crow." Among other things, Trump said: "McConnell is a fool and he damn well better stop their 'Dream of Communism' bill and keep his Senators in line, or he should resign now, something he should have done a long time ago." The "Dream of Communism Bill" is the bill that would make it possible for the Treasury to pay the bills for programs Congress approved years ago. Trump was never big on paying his own bills, but saying that paying your bills is Communism is new. Also new: calling McConnell "Broken Old Crow." In the past, it was just "Old Crow." McConnell said he considers that an honor because the favorite bourbon of legendary Kentucky senator Henry Clay was—you got it—Old Crow. The full text of Trump's statement is here.

McConnell may be the most powerful Republican in the country, but he is probably the least popular one, and not only with Trump. Still, he has a pretty good grip on his caucus and is not likely to lose his leadership role in the Senate any time soon. Trump is not one to think ahead, but in the event that Trump is elected in 2024 and McConnell is then majority leader, their relationship will be—how shall we put this gently—frosty, at best. If you combine an elephant and a turtle, you get something with a hard shell and a long memory. Trump will then be dependent on McConnell for getting nominations, bills, and other things through the Senate. Anyone who thinks McConnell will be a rubber stamp for Trump, especially after this tirade, has another think coming. Yes, McConnell will ram through conservative judges, but for everything else, the arrows will just bounce harmlessly off his hard shell and he will show Trump who is really in charge. (V)

A Loss in 2022 May Help the Democrats in 2024

Thomas Edsall, a cautious New York Times columnist who is definitely a numbers guy, consulted many political experts and wrote a long column about the 2022 and 2024 elections based on history, statistics, and what numerous political observers think. Executive summary: 2022 doesn't look good for the blue team, but that might just have a silver lining for 2024.

As to 2022, let's start with the history of midterms. Here is the bleak news for the Democrats:

Historical losses for the president's party in the midterms; they pretty much always lose seats

The only times the president's party picked up seats in the midterms were 1998 (after the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a consensual affair) and 2002 (after 9/11). All the other times, the president's party lost seats in the House. The Senate was only marginally better. In a recent generic congressional poll, 51% of registered voters will vote for the Republican and 41% for the Democrat. That's the biggest lead for the Republicans in the history of this question. This will translate into a loss of 30-50 House seats. And in the eight states expected to have the closest Senate elections, Republicans win the generic poll 58% to 35%. Robert Shapiro, a political scientist at Columbia, said all the news is bad news for the Democrats: the economy, Afghanistan, immigration, crime, inflation, gas prices, CRT, and the Democrats being woke. And then the endless bickering in Congress. The bad news is overwhelming.

One theme that kept coming up is that while many of the items in the infrastructure bill are popular, Joe Biden has not demonstrated mastery. Congress eventually, after months of infighting, managed to pass a much smaller bill than Biden wanted and Biden was barely involved. He wasn't driving the show. He wasn't a leader. He was passive. People want a leader. Biden is not acting like a leader.

Edsall asked numerous experts about 2022. Robert Stein of Rice University said: "My guess is that Republicans are poised to take the House back in 2022 with gains above the average for midterm elections. Since 1946, the average seat gain for the party not in the White House is 27 seats. The best the Democrats can do is hold at the average, but given the Republicans' advantage with redistricting, my guess is that the Republicans gain 40+ seats." Ooof. Martin Wattenberg of the University of California at Irvine said: "It would take a major event like 9/11 to keep the Democrats from losing the House." But he was much more optimistic about the Senate due to the map and the candidates.

On the "positive" side for the Democrats, Bruce Cain of Stanford said: "It is quite possible that losing in the 2022 midterm is the best path to winning the presidency in 2024. It will put the Republicans in a 'put up or shut up' spot." In other words, when nothing happens in 2023-2024, Biden can blame the Republicans. Cain also said: "In retrospect the worst thing that happened to Biden was the Democrats winning the two seats in Georgia. It raised expectations among some in his party that they could go left legislatively while the political sun was shining when in reality the political math was not there for that kind of policy ambition." If Mitch McConnell were Senate Majority Leader now, the Democrats wouldn't get anything done, but the Republicans would take the blame for it.

Gary Jacobson of the University of California at San Diego said: "Things touching on competence (Afghanistan, border, congressional inaction) are probably the most important in driving down Biden's ratings, but for the future, it is inflation and the general economy that will matter most."

Herbert Kitschelt, a political scientist at Duke, said: "Biden was elected as a moderate to put back some sanity into government through a steady hand and incremental reforms. Instead, a wing of the Democratic Party took the 2020 election in which the Democratic Party lost a surprising number of House seats as a voter mandate to implement a pretty fundamental program of social reform and sociocultural change." Or in other words, people wanted calm. They didn't ask for a new FDR. Losing 13 seats in the House and a 50-50 Senate is not a mandate from the voters for massive social change.

In short, not focusing on things people care about (inflation) and fighting to the bitter end for things people don't care about combined with terrible messaging and bad historical precedents look to give the Democrats big trouble in 2022. But it is certainly possible that Republicans will hugely overreach in 2023—for example, by impeaching Biden for the Afghanistan/immigration/inflation—and will turn the country against them by 2024. To the extent that the Marjorie Taylor Greene wing of the GOP takes over the Party next year and Trump starts making outrageous statements in the run-up to 2024, that is a real possibility. But having Biden act like he is in charge, having the Democrats in Congress get their act together, and having the Democrats stop disrespecting non-woke white working-class people wouldn't hurt either. (V)

Another House Democrat Is Retiring

Rep. George Butterfield, who has represented eastern North Carolina in Congress since 2004, is expected to announce his retirement today. He is a mere 74, so the issue is not really his age. And he won the D+17 NC-01 district in 2020 by a reasonably comfortable 8 points. So what's the problem?

In a word: gerrymandering. The Republican-controlled state legislature changed his district, taking Democratic-leaning Greenville out of it. This changes the PVI from D+17 to D+1, making it ripe for a GOP takeover. Butterfield clearly didn't like the looks of that and decided to get out while the getting was good. In a red wave, the district could easily flip. He is the second North Carolina Democrat in what was a D+17 district to call it quits. Rep. David Price (D-NC) also saw his district radically changed and decided to retire. As more congressional maps come into focus, we are likely to see more representatives call it quits due to their districts being made far less favorable to them. And since the Republicans are in charge of map making in all the big states except California, New York and Illinois, many of the upcoming retirements will likely be Democrats. (V)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is a Shoo-in for Governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders' only government experience (other than talking to her dad, who was once governor of Arkansas) is lying in public for Donald Trump as his press secretary. After leaving Trump's employ she needed a job, so she decided to run for governor of Arkansas. It pays well ($152,000), is indoor work, and doesn't require any heavy lifting, so she was naturally attracted to the job. Besides, if she has any questions about what to do, dad is still around to help.

At first, people thought this was a joke since she is utterly unqualified for the job. This observation led a couple of much more qualified people to enter the gubernatorial race, as well. One was Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R-AR). After all, the lieutenant governor is nearly always a plausible candidate to succeed a term-limited governor—in this case, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR). Griffin worked his way up the tree. He was a U.S. attorney, a member of the House of Representatives for AR-02 for two terms, and then lieutenant governor for two terms. But 2 weeks after Sanders jumped in and got Donald Trump's endorsement, Griffin jumped out.

Another serious candidate was Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge (R). She entered the race 6 months before Sanders. After law school, she clerked for a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, became a prosecutor, and was later deputy counsel for the NRCC and after that general counsel for the RNC. Then she went into private practice and ran for the AG position from there, serving two terms as the state's top cop, so she has won two statewide elections, the one in 2018 by 27 points. AGs often run for governor (see: James, Letitia) and sometimes win (see: Spritzer, Eliot, and Cuomo, Andrew). At first she did well, but when Sanders jumped in and began raising stupendous amounts of money (with help from Donald Trump's base) she saw that she was clearly outgunned. So far Rutledge raised $1.6 million to Sanders' $11 million. Rutledge figured that she had no chance and has now also dropped out. Instead, she will run for the vacant lieutenant governor's position. It's kind of a booby prize, but after Sanders is term limited in 2030, Rutledge (who is only 45 now) can try again.

So with no major primary opponent left and Trump's help, Sanders is pretty much a shoo-in. Well, technically, there is a general election for governor in Arkansas. Four people nobody has ever heard of have filed to run as a Democrat and one of them will win the nomination only to go on to be crushed like a bug by Sanders in Nov. 2022.

This whole show demonstrates two things. First, an utterly unqualified candidate can clear the field in a deep red state with only Trump's endorsement. Second, while total and unquestioned loyalty to Trump usually doesn't mean that Trump will do anything to help you, once in a while even he shows some loyalty to people who have helped him and then does something to help them. But this is still the exception rather than the rule. How well Sanders governs Arkansas remains to be seen, but if she hires dad as a special assistant to the governor and gives him an office next to hers and listens to the Republican leaders of the state legislature, she might be able to make a go of it. (V)

Trump's Hotel in D.C. Will No Longer Have His Name on It

The Trump organization is going to sell the lease for the Trump International Hotel in D.C. to an investment group for $375 million. The investment group is working with the Hilton Hotel chain, which will rename it as the Waldorf Astoria, a Hilton brand. Trump's name and brand will be completely expunged. The GSA has to approve the deal because the federal government owns the property, but there is no reason to think the GSA will block it.

This amount just happens to be roughly the amount of debt Donald Trump has coming due in the next couple of years. Depending on how much of a mortgage Trump has on the hotel, the sale could make a big dent in his debt.

Part of the reason Trump sold the hotel (other than his immediate need for cash) is that during his presidency, the hotel lost $70 million. And this despite conservative groups and foreign governments specifically holding big bashes there to curry favor with Trump. Dumping a money-losing property to generate cash to pay off debts actually sounds like a smart business move, no matter how much it may injure Trump's fragile ego. No doubt Trump will frame it as "Boy was I smart to dump this turkey" and his base will buy it, as usual. Just imagine how he might tout his brilliance if he manages to sell the Trump National Doral golf resort in Florida, which lost $162 million from 2012 to 2018. (V)

Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 50-41)

The feedback is about 90-10 that readers are enjoying this palate-cleansing feature, which is good, because it has a ways to go. Here are the three entries that have run so far:

And now we break into the top 50:

  1. Memento (2000; Christopher Nolan, dir.): Unforgettable—unless you're Leonard, that is. (F.B. in Los Angeles, CA)

  2. Harold and Maude (1971; Hal Ashby, dir.): Harold, a death-obsessed 20-year-old who fakes elaborate suicide attempts in an effort to get his mother's attention, meets Maude, a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor. They fall in love, teaching each other about the joys of life and death, all played out to a soundtrack by Cat Stevens. A romantic comedy, but one which will change the way you look at life. (G.R. in Tarzana, CA)

  3. Goodfellas (1990; Martin Scorsese, dir.): Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro are awesome. This film reveals how the mob flourished for so long and why the FBI and other law enforcement agencies ignored it. (L.B. in Ramona, CA)

  4. The Third Man (1949; Carol Reed, dir.): Unbelievable cinematography, an unbelievable soundtrack, and an unbelievable performance by Orson Welles. (F.J. in Chicago, IL)

  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; George Roy Hill, dir.): Robert Redford and Paul Newman. A standout winner in the not-quite-action, not-quite-humor category. (T.C. in Danby, NY)

  6. Network (1976; Sidney Lumet, dir.): Seems quaint now, but before Fox News it was stunning, and then to see it all come true... (E.H. in Washington, DC)

  7. Aliens (1986; James Cameron, dir.): The sequel to the classic is a wonderful homage to the original with an even greater emphasis on female power. (A.R. in Los Angeles, CA)

  8. The Big Lebowski (1998; Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, dirs.): Impeccably written comic send-up of the film noir genre quotably captures the essence of Los Angeles in the 1990s. It's a hilarious Chinatown with an amazingly colorful cast of characters. (J.G. in San Diego, CA)

  9. The Silence of the Lambs (1991; Jonathan Demme, dir.): This hypnotic film is an unflinching look into the primal abyss of darkness—and yes, the darkness looks back at you when you realize the lambs really never stop screaming. Amazing that a subject so dark can nonetheless be so beautiful. (D.E. in Lancaster, PA)

  10. Paths of Glory (1957; Stanley Kubrick, dir.): Gritty... There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die. (D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME)

Tomorrow: Nos. 31-40. (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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