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Political Wire logo Two Evacuated Afghans Sent for Further Review
Pandemic Is Bigger Risk for Biden Than Afghanistan
Conspiracy Theorist Reviewed Arizona Voter Signatures
Mail-In Ballots Look Good for Gavin Newsom
When ‘Rare’ Events Become Regular Events
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Supreme Court Finally Speaks Up...Kinda
      •  Biden's Approval Rating Sags
      •  Some Good News, Some Bad News for Herschel Walker
      •  This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
      •  Newsom Is Surging in Polls
      •  Angelenos Are Underwhelmed by Their Mayoral Options
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude

Supreme Court Finally Speaks Up...Kinda

Earlier this week, the restrictive Texas abortion ban went into effect, primarily because the Supreme Court declined to weigh in on a request for injunction. On Thursday, they finally did say something, issuing one of their quickly-becoming-infamous midnight docket rulings, in which they refused to grant the injunction. Since there were four dissents included with the otherwise unsigned order, we know that the three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts voted in favor of the injunction, while the five non-Roberts conservatives voted against.

Who knows what the future holds when this case, or the one centered on Mississippi's abortion law, makes it to the Supreme Court. On one hand, the Texas law is pretty clearly outside the bounds of the Constitution; the ACLU is even using the same hypothetical that we came up with, namely a blue state empowering people to sue gun owners. Further, the midnight order, which was actually announced just a couple of minutes before midnight Thursday, specifically says that the five no-injunction justices were not ruling on the merits of the law. On the other hand, the justices clearly want to limit abortion rights as much as is possible, and this gave them a convenient way to do it. Further, an injunction is, to some extent, a prediction about how future rulings might go. If a law is likely to be struck down, then it is probably best that it not be allowed to take effect. We presume that the five conservative justices have a pretty good idea of how the five conservative justices might vote in the future.

Whatever the case may be, the Supreme Court is playing with at least a little bit of fire here. To start, John Roberts dislikes abortion, and is probably a vote to restrict abortion rights when given a proper chance at it. However, he also clearly fought hard here for an injunction...and lost. Not only is this a sign of trouble in paradise, it's also a very clear indication that the Chief knows the optics here are very bad. And as we've written many times, the Court has no enforcement powers. It depends very much on its reputation and its moral authority in order to achieve compliance. The more they utilize shady judicial trickery, like the midnight docket, to make controversial decisions that run contrary to the wishes of the majority of voters, the greater the risk they undermine their own power, either by encouraging changes in the structure of the Court (e.g., Court packing), or else by giving presidents and other politicians cover to just ignore their rulings.

Democratic leadership is, of course, promising to take action. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has already committed to a vote on a bill, authored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), that would protect access to abortion. However, it is far from clear that the Speaker can whip the necessary votes, since some of the moderates in her caucus would possibly be committing political suicide in voting for the measure. Further, even if the bill clears the House, it will never secure approval in the Senate. Not only will it fail to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, it likely won't even get a majority, since Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) describes himself as "proudly pro-life."

The White House is also promising action, though what that has meant thus far is a declaration from Joe Biden that he will have the various executive agencies look into possible ways to protect abortion access in Texas. Time will tell what they come up with, but it's probably going to boil down to how willing Biden is to push the limits of his powers and, quite possibly, how willing he is to tell the Supreme Court to take their rulings and shove them. There are presidents who have been willing to flex their muscles like this when push came to shove, from Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln to Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy. We may soon learn if Biden is up for joining that list.

Meanwhile, the protests have already begun. Since the Texas law strongly encourages "illegal abortion" reports, to the point of imposing no penalties on people who out-and-out lie, various tip sites have already been flooded with false reports. For example, was set up by a group of Texas anti-abortion activists. And it has already received at least a thousand reports of illegal abortion procedures undergone by...Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX). Our staff physician is sleeping off the effects of $1 taco happy hour at the local bar, but we—admittedly, as non-experts—are pretty sure that's not possible.

Anyhow, Republicans wanted a war on reproductive choice, and now they've got one. We shall see where it goes. (Z)

Biden's Approval Rating Sags

The latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll is out, and it has (moderately) bad news for Joe Biden: His approval rating is currently the lowest it's ever been. Specifically, with 44% of respondents giving him the thumbs up, and 49% giving him the thumbs down, he's 5 points underwater. That's a little on the low side, compared to other polls, but only a little. FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregator has him at 46.2% approval, 48% disapproval right now.

We don't think this actually reveals much of anything about the future political prospects of Biden, or of his fellow Democrats. He's in the midst of an ugly chapter of his presidency, between Afghanistan, and Hurricane Ida, and the COVID surge, and the abortion controversy. And yet, he's still pulling numbers that are dangerously close to Donald Trump's ceiling while he was president. Undoubtedly, Biden will rebound as some of these things move into the rearview mirror. Further, someone who disapproves of Biden isn't necessarily going to vote for a Republican if they disapprove of that Republican even more.

What these polls really speak to are the differing natures of the current party coalitions. The party of Trump has the loyalty of about 40% of the population. It is exceedingly difficult for the GOP to increase that number, but scandals, bumps in the road, policy setbacks, attempts at fomenting insurrection, etc. don't seem to eat away at the total, either. And given the wonkiness introduced by the Electoral College, gerrymandering, etc., a sizable minority of voters is enough to remain competitive, at least at the moment. Or, more accurately, it's enough to remain competitive if most of the Trumpers show up to the polls. Whether they will do that when Trump himself is not on the ballot is the $64,000 question in 2022.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have a pretty loyal base that is about equal in size to the loyal base of the Republicans. They also generally have the affections of another 10% or so of the population, but that 10% is willing to stay home, vote third party, etc. if they are not happy. And it's that 10% that basically decides national elections (as well as many state-level elections) these days. As we say, we would expect most of them to be back on Team Biden by the time the elections come next year, between negative things like Afghanistan fading in people's memories, and positive things like the infrastructure bills inspiring warm feelings. (Z)

Some Good News, Some Bad News for Herschel Walker

Thursday was relatively big news day on the Herschel Walker front, as he makes his way through his first month as a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Georgia. After flipping a coin, we'll start with the good news for him: He received Donald Trump's formal endorsement. Actually, to be precise, and to use the former president's words, it was his "Complete and Total Endorsement." You know that Trump wrote it himself, since three of the four words are capitalized, none of them appropriately. Anyhow, there are many politicians who, if they officially landed Trump's endorsement, would be dancing in the streets right now. In Walker's case, the endorsement was basically a formality, so it's only moderate good news for him, and not big-time good news.

And now, the bad news. Yet another skeleton has emerged from Walker's closet. In 2002, a Texas woman filed a criminal complaint against him, claiming that he stalked her and threatened her. The complaint does not appear to have been investigated, and it certainly didn't lead to any sort of prosecution. However, this is the third woman to come to light who made the same basic claims against the aspiring U.S. senator. And where there's smoke, there's usually fire. Further, and more importantly, voters are not held to the same standards of evidence that juries are. If voters think he's an abusive creep, they are free to vote based on that feeling, whether it is correct or not.

If a candidate has some not-so-great things like this in their past, then it's probably best for them that those things come to light long before the election, rather than weeks before the election. That said, Walker's shortcomings are so substantive, it's hard to see how he overcomes them. The pros know this, so many of them are going to be working hard to see that Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black gets the Republican nomination. In other words, a civil war is brewing, in a state that knows a fair bit about the damage that civil wars can do. (Z)

This Week's 2022 Candidacy News

Beyond the rather important U.S. Senate race in Georgia, there has been movement in a whole bunch of other races across the land in the last couple of weeks:

  • U.S. Senator, North Carolina: Rep. Ted Budd (R) is Donald Trump's candidate. And like Herschel Walker, Budd has a few skeletons in his closet. This week, a rather sizable one came to light. He's running as ultra-pro-farmer in a state that has many farmers, but in all of his "I love farmers" rhetoric, Budd somehow forgot to mention that his family had an ownership stake in AgriBioTech, and that when AgriBioTech went bankrupt, it screwed North Carolina farmers out of millions of dollars. Now we begin to understand why Trump likes Budd so much; businessmen of a feather flock together, it would seem. Anyhow, allies of Budd/Trump are paying for ads right now reminding North Carolinians that Budd has the former president's endorsement, and that maybe they should forget about the whole AgriBioTech thing. Given Budd's liabilities, it is probable that the pros will try to undermine him in the primaries in favor of a more electable candidate. So it's another budding civil war. Or, should we say Budd-ing civil war?

  • U.S. Representative, Missouri: MO-07 is quite red (R+24), and will surely remain so regardless of what happens with new district maps. It's also being vacated by Rep. Billy Long (R), who wants a promotion to U.S. senator and is running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt (R). This week, two different state senators jumped into the race; Eric Burlison, who has crazy eyes (click on the link and look at the picture if you want to see for yourself), and Mike Moon. This is going to be one of those "Who's the Trumpiest?" races, and whoever comes out on top in the primary will be Long's successor.

  • U.S. Representative, Florida: Newcomer Eddie Geller, who is pretty lefty, is getting a lot of attention for his announcement video, which clearly references the opening credits for the show "Full House," but which we suspect was substantially inspired by the surreal video satire "Too Many Cooks." Anyhow, attention is nice, but Geller is running in FL-15, which is R+6, and is represented by someone who is running for reelection, namely Rep. Scott Franklin (R). So, the would-be congressman has an uphill battle here.

  • U.S. Representative, Iowa: IA-01 is R+4, and might become a little less Republican once the new maps are out. Meanwhile, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R) is a first-termer who won her seat by less than 3 points in 2020. State Sen. Liz Mathis (D) thinks that makes Hinson vulnerable, and so announced a run for the seat last week. The two campaigns are already trading potshots, with Mathis painting Hinson as a far-right Trump fanatic, and Hinson slurring Mathis as "Liberal Liz" and as a future Nancy Pelosi puppet. This despite the fact that Pelosi is presumably in her final term as speaker right now, given the agreement she made with her caucus when the Democrats retook control of the lower chamber of Congress.

  • U.S. Representative, Colorado: CO-08 doesn't yet...exist, since new maps with Colorado's shiny new congressional district haven't been adopted. That doesn't mean that ambitious folks aren't vying for the seat, however. State Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D), who is a physician in addition to being a politician, just joined the field. She's pretty lefty, and will base her campaign on healthcare/pandemic management, as you might imagine. There is a general expectation that the new district will be somewhere in the D+5 range, so "pretty lefty" might be just what the doctor ordered.

  • U.S. Representative, Texas: Immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros (D) is very progressive, and nearly managed to primary the more moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) in 2020. And she has decided that she would like another bite at the apple. National Democrats will be praying that she loses, and will do what they can to put their thumbs on the scale for Cuellar. His district, TX-28, is a prime candidate for gerrymandering shenanigans, and is likely to be tough even for him to hold onto. If Cisneros knocks him off, the district is probably a lost cause for the blue team.

  • Governor, New York: Apparently, there is no political office that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) does not think he's qualified for. After a disastrous presidential run, he's now thinking that he might make a fine governor. We don't exactly have our fingers on the pulse of New York politics, but we do have the general impression that de Blasio is not wildly popular these days. That said, if it ends up a three-way race among Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), New York AG Letitia James (D), and de Blasio, they could split the moderate vote and the upstate vote, and he could come out on top thanks to the progressive vote and the NYC vote. And if he does, he would almost certainly go on to win the governorship.

  • Governor, Kansas: Kansas currently has a Democratic governor, namely Laura Kelly, primarily because the candidate the Republicans ended up with in 2018 (Kris Kobach) was odious to so many independents and Republicans. Quite a few Republican politicians think they've got a chance to knock Kelly off, and to restore normal order to the Sunflower State. The challengers' ranks were thinned by one this week, as former governor Jeff Collyer dropped out following a prostate cancer diagnosis. State AG Derek Schmidt (R) is still in the race, and has to be considered the favorite at this point, though the departure of the rather intimidating Collyer might inspire additional Republicans to enter the contest.

  • Governor, Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown (D) is term-limited, so she'll be leaving office once her term expires. This week, Speaker of the Oregon House Tina Kotek (D) threw her hat into the ring for the chance to replace Brown. Kotek is the highest-profile person to enter the race on either side of the aisle and, given the blue hue of Oregon, is the presumptive favorite. She is also a lesbian and so, if elected, would become the first openly lesbian state governor in U.S. history. Further, Brown is bisexual, so it would be the first time an openly LGBTQ governor handed off the reins to another openly LGBTQ governor. The times they are a-changin'.

  • Governor, Minnesota: State Sen. Michelle Benson (R) became the latest member of her party to join the race; the Republican primary field now includes seven people, of whom three are viable. She comes from a town called Ham Lake, which is quite a name, and her platform basically boils down to "I don't hate Donald Trump, but I don't worship him, either." The size of the GOP field might seem to suggest a pickup opportunity here, but probably not. Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) hasn't officially declared he's running for reelection, but he has pretty heavily hinted that he's planning to do so. Plus, Minnesota is pretty blue these days, and has a pretty deep bench on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor side of the aisle, so even if he doesn't run, the party will probably still keep the governor's mansion.

  • Governor, Michigan: There was some amount of support among Republicans (it's not clear how much) for a gubernatorial run by former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She has no real qualifications for the job, but that's not stopping Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is likely to be elected as Arkansas' next governor next year. Anyhow, DeVos has announced that she's not interested in challenging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) who, unlike her neighbor Walz, has already declared her intent to run for reelection.

That, then, is the latest. There will be a bunch more next week, and every week for...the rest of the year, at least. (Z)

Newsom Is Surging in Polls

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) was getting some too-close-for-comfort polling numbers for a few weeks, but the latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has him moving back onto firmer ground. According to PPIC, 59% of voters want to keep the Governor, while just 39% want to give him the heave-ho. This tracks pretty well with other polls of the race; according to FiveThirtyEight's aggregator, polls have an average of 52% for retention and 44% for removal.

PPIC's conclusion, based on the questions they asked, is that voters are generally satisfied with Newsom's pandemic management in the midst of the Delta variant surge. The "Do you think Newsom is handling the pandemic well?" responses were 59% yes/39% no, which means they were identical to the keep him/throw him overboard responses. For our part, we continue to believe that the emergence of Larry Elder as the almost-certain replacement for Newsom, should the Governor be recalled, has served to scare Democrats into falling in line.

In any event, the voters' views of Newsom at this moment are very important, very possibly more important than their views on Election Day. The decisive votes are going to be from somewhat-low-investment folks who will either send their vote in by mail, or just won't bother. The more of those folks who pull the trigger now, the more insurance he has on Sept. 14. (Z)

Angelenos Are Underwhelmed by Their Mayoral Options

Pop quiz time: Los Angeles has had 42 different people, all of them men, serve as mayor (some of them on multiple occasions). How many of those 42 went on to higher office after their term in the mayor's office was complete? Take your best guess; we'll get to the answer a little later.

In any event, Los Angeles is likely to choose a new mayor very soon. The current occupant of that office, Eric Garcetti, is on the cusp of being confirmed as the ambassador to India. Barring the unexpected, then, he'll vacate the mayoralty in the next few weeks. And if he's not confirmed, he's still term limited. Exactly when his replacement will be chosen is up to the city council (will they call a special election or not?), but either way the jockeying to replace him has begun.

The problem, from the viewpoint of many Angelenos, is that the jockeying has thus far produced two very un-exciting horses. The two "name" candidates who have declared their intent to run are City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Councilman Joe Buscaino. They are both fairly bland, basically centrist white guys with long careers in city hall. Feuer's signature issue is gun control, Buscaino is running on "cleaning up" the city's homeless problem.

A fair number of city residents would like to see a candidate who is (1) a minority, or (2) not a man, or (3) not a city hall insider, or (4) more than one of these things. Southern California has no shortage of promising folks who check one or more of these boxes and, in particular, there is a groundswell of support for Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) to mount a mayoral campaign. Undoubtedly, once the status of Garcetti is settled, and once the timeline for picking his replacement is figured out, at least one candidate who is progressive/a minority/a woman will jump in. Right now, many of the top-flight candidates are trying to avoid having a target on their backs for as much as 14 months.

And speaking of upwardly mobile, we wrote this item because there is a presumption that the L.A. mayor's office is a potential launching pad for candidates of national importance. Garcetti, for example, was regarded briefly as a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and was regarded for considerably longer as a possible Joe Biden running mate. On the other hand, we almost didn't write this item because there is no particular reason to think that the presumption is true. Los Angeles is not Chicago; the mayor does not have an outsized influence on state or national politics. And as to moving on to higher office, if you assume Garcetti will be confirmed, and you believe that serving as ambassador to India is a higher office than serving as mayor of Los Angeles (we think it is, but it's not a slam dunk), then he will be just the second L.A. mayor ever to leave that office and move on to something bigger and better. While many San Francisco mayors have been promoted upward, most notably Dianne Feinstein, the only L.A. mayor before Garcetti to move on to political office of any sort is Antonio F. Coronel, who led the city for one year and one day in 1853-54, and then was elected state treasurer in 1866. For the 40 mayors of Los Angeles who were not Coronel or Garcetti, the office was their final (and often only) political post. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

Our subject this week is Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.), the fellow who briefly served as Donald Trump's National Security Advisor. There are a fair number of people out there who might like to see him get some comeuppance, either for his dubious behavior while still in the military, or for his illegal behavior afterwards, or for his borderline traitorous over-the-top pro-Trump rhetoric. Even some Republicans might feel that way, since he embarrassed the Party with his lies and his shifty behavior. Certainly, anyone who is a big fan of Mike Pence, assuming such people exist, would be none-too-friendly toward Flynn.

This week, Flynn finally got a tiny bit of that comeuppance. It's not the prison term he deserves, and that he would have gotten if not issued a presidential pardon. What it is, however, is a wee bit of public humiliation. What happened is that JPMorgan Chase canceled Flynn's credit cards. The explanation they (appear to have) sent to Flynn: "After careful consideration, we decided to close your credit cards on September 18, 2021 because continuing the relationship creates possible reputational risk to our company."

Flynn, as you might guess, blew a gasket, posting a message to social media complaining that "Chase Bank has gone full blown woke!" It did not occur to him, perhaps, how poorly this reflects upon him. Do you know how sleazy you have to be for a credit card company to worry that you'll bring down their reputation? Anyhow, he's not headed to the Big House, but at least it's going to be a bit harder for him to buy a Big Mac. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep02 Biden Blasts Texas Abortion Law
Sep02 Early Snapshot of Recall Election Looks Good for Newsom
Sep02 Iowa Is Full
Sep02 A Simple Fix to the Voter ID Issue that Nobody Wants
Sep02 The Electoral Count Act Needs Some Updating
Sep02 Why Southerners Aren't Vaccinated
Sep02 Miami-Area House Races Will Be a Key Battleground in 2022
Sep02 2024 Senate Map is Deadly for Democrats
Sep02 The Battle of the Fed Heats Up
Sep01 Biden Speaks on Afghanistan
Sep01 FEAR in America, Part II: Afghanistan
Sep01 Abortion Is Now Basically Illegal in Texas
Sep01 GOP House Members Rattle their Sabers
Sep01 Where In the World Is Kamala Sandiego?
Sep01 Today's California Recall Drama
Sep01 When The News Breaks--Today's News Media, Part I: Sometimes the Reporter Is In the Story
Aug31 The War Is Over
Aug31 Under the Roe-dar
Aug31 750,000 Households Could End Up Losing Their Homes
Aug31 A Fine Time for Feinstein to Resign?
Aug31 Cawthorn "Worried" about Bloodshed
Aug31 FEAR in America, Part I: The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
Aug30 Biden Is Pushing His Prescription Drug Plan
Aug30 Healthcare Industry Starts Pushing Back on Reconciliation Bill
Aug30 It's Deja Vu All Over Again
Aug30 Texas House Passes Bill to Restrict Voting
Aug30 "H" Is for Hypocrisy, and Also for Hawley
Aug30 Too Many Progressives Spoil the Broth
Aug30 Redistricting the Great Lakes States
Aug30 Longshot Candidates Sometimes Raise Huge Amounts of Money
Aug30 Old Testament Meets New Testament--with Newsom in the Middle
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