• And Then There Were Five
• This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
• This Week in Schadenfreude
• Election Day, Eh
• (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part VII--Congress, the People
Thursday was an unusually slow news day, particularly in comparison to the daily fireworks shows that seemed to break out last week. And so, the big story of the day was tomorrow's planned "Justice for J6" rally, which looks like it's going to rebound on the Republican Party by being simultaneously a non-story, and yet a huge story. Huh?
Let's start with the non-story part of the equation. The fences are back up in Washington, the members of Congress are going to take the day off today (and tomorrow), and security is going to be dialed up to 11, because that is one more than 10. Some of the real whackadoodles, like the Proud Boys and Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have already taken a pass on the event. Donald Trump himself won't be getting within a hundred miles. Add it all up, and turnout is expected to be anemic; less than 1,000 people, and probably more like 600-700. So, one of the storylines will be "enthusiasm for Trumpism has waned badly."
At the same time, however, the event is going to get huge coverage. In part that is because the media likes shocking footage with lots of people screaming crazy things at the top of their lungs. But in part it is because this is a significant news story; something akin to the murderer returning to the scene of the crime. And so, it's going to lead every newscast on Saturday, and it's probably going to be the 1A story in Sunday newspapers, and it's going to be the main topic of conversation on the Sunday news shows. And, as a result, that relatively small number of folks is going to serve as a reminder of Trumpublican extremism, at a time when the Party is hoping to make voters forget. So, "remember what happened on Jan. 6" will be the other storyline that comes out of this.
Matt Braynard, the former Trump staffer who is organizing the event, appears to know that he's backed himself into a corner. He has demanded that attendees wear no pro-Trump clothing, and carry no pro-Trump signs. He tweeted that anyone who violates this order "will be assumed to be an infiltrator." Because anyone who looks at a picture of tomorrow's "festivities" and sees a Trumper there is going to say "Nah, there's no way that a true Trump supporter would go in for something like this." Right?
The former president also sees where this is headed; and in a barely comprehensible interview with The Federalist published yesterday, said that the event is a "setup" designed to make him look bad. Since the organizer is one of his own people, the "setup" portion is dubious, but the "make him look bad" portion is right on target. In any case, the Party is going to do whatever it can to make this disappear into the ether as rapidly as is possible. (Z)
Next year, 34 Senate seats will be contested, barring any unexpected developments. Of the 14 Democrats who are up, 13 have announced reelection bids, while none have announced their retirements. Of the 20 Republicans who are up, 11 have announced reelection bids (though one is wavering), and five have announced their retirements (Richard Shelby, AL; Richard Burr, NC; Roy Blunt, MO; Rob Portman, OH; and Pat Toomey, PA). That means that there are five senators whose status is unclear; the three Republicans and one Democrat who have yet to announce their plans, and the one Republican who is wavering. Here's a rundown of where those five currently stand:
- John Thune (R-SD; currently 60 years old): Thune is the senator who said he was running
again, but is now wavering. He would very much like to try his hand at being Minority Leader or Majority Leader, but
it's clear that the current Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Further, Thune
was somewhat critical of Donald Trump's actions on Jan. 6, which means there could be a primary challenge, with the
former president doing everything possible to steer votes to the challenger. The somewhat real possibility of a loss,
coupled with the increasingly distant possibility of a promotion, make him the person on this list who is most likely to
throw in the towel, in our view. If a serious, Trumpy competitor reveals themselves, that would probably do it. For
example, if Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) decides that a couple of years in the Senate would really help out her
vice-presidential résumé, since it did wonders for Kamala Harris, that would probably push Thune out.
- Chuck Grassley (R-IA; currently 88 years old): He has dodged "are you running?" questions
all year, but now he's telling anyone who will listen about all the Iowans who keep pressing him to run for reelection.
That is him trying to create the impression that he's being drafted to serve another term, and that he will only run
again because of his sense of duty to the people of Iowa. In other words, barring some sort of health crisis, he's
clearly running again. He previously said a decision would come by Nov. 1, but now he says it could come sooner.
- Lisa Murkowski (R-AK; currently 64 years old): Of all the folks on this list, she has said
the least about her 2022 plans. Alaska's new ranked-choice system is a wild card that she's presumably still trying to
gauge. Further, Trump hates her, and is already lavishing support on a Trumpy challenger, Kelly Tshibaka (or, if you use
text-to-voice software, Kelly Chewbacca). Presumably, Murkowski is just lying low and avoiding unwanted attention from
her enemies, like Yoda during his time on Dagobah. She's got universal name recognition in Alaska, and enough money for
five campaigns, so she can hold off for a very long time. But we would be very surprised if Murkowski did not take on,
and defeat, Chewbacca...er, Tshibaka.
- Ron Johnson (R-WI; currently 66 years old): On one hand, he promised to serve only two
terms. On the other hand, he wants to run for a third term, and he wants to eventually move to the other end of
Pennsylvania Avenue. He says a decision is "on the back burner" for now, which is another way of saying "I'm definitely
running again, and I'm waiting as long as possible so maybe people will forget that whole silly two-term-promise thing."
- Pat Leahy (D-VT; currently 81 years old): As we've pointed out a few times, the previously red status of Vermont, the currently red status of junior colleague Bernie Sanders (albeit a different kind of red), and Leahy's long term of service mean that he's the only Democrat that his state has ever sent to the U.S. Senate. He's going to keep that streak going. He says he will make an announcement "after I go snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing." Forgive us for consistently translating these politicians' words, but what that means is "don't worry about my age when I run again, I'm still vigorous and fit." Truth be told, if he really is snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing at 81, then he surely is still vigorous and fit. Those activities ain't golf or shuffleboard.
In short, we don't see too many likely retirees here. There's Thune, though if he departs, he'll just be replaced by another Republican, so there will be no impact on the composition of the Senate. Actually, the likeliest retiree is Johnson, not because he'll abandon his ambitions, but because he's not too popular back home, and he may well be unseated by a Democrat. That would make him an involuntary retiree, of course, but a retiree nonetheless. (Z)
There weren't quite so many big stories sucking up oxygen this week, so things were a little busier on the candidate announcement front, particularly among would-be governors.
- U.S. House, New York: Former representative Max Rose, a centrist Democrat, lost his seat in the R+7 NY-11 to
Nicole Malliotakis (R) in a close-but-not-that-close election in 2020 (53%-47%). In 2022, he'll
for another bite at (that part of) the Big Apple (specifically, Staten Island). He might just have taken note of New York Democrats'
plan to gerrymander the map
six ways to Sunday, which will mean that whatever district Malliotakis is in next year will be way more blue than R+7.
Rose is probably also prepared to point out that Malliotakis supported Donald Trump in his "stop the steal" nonsense,
and also that she voted against the American Recovery Act but then turned around and took credit for it. New Yorkers are
not known for their tolerance for bull**it.
- U.S. House, Ohio: When Andrew Johnson was impeached, 10 Senate Republicans voted for
acquittal. None of them ever won another election. When Donald Trump was impeached (the second time), 10 House
Republicans voted in favor. They may well suffer the same fate as their fellow GOP-ers from 150 years ago. One of those
10, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH),
yesterday that he's going to retire. He said all the right things about putting family first and that he's tired of the divisiveness
of American politics. However, he was also very likely to be primaried, which is no fun.
- U.S. House, Wyoming: And speaking of Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, Rep. Liz Cheney (WY)
is getting closer and closer to her worst-case scenario: A one-on-one contest against a die-hard Trumper. State Rep. Chuck Gray (R)
yesterday that he's dropping out of the race, which leaves just two serious challengers to Cheney: the Trumpy state Sen. Anthony
Bouchard (R), and the Trumpy and Trump-endorsed lawyer and former RNC member Harriet Hageman. If Bouchard sees the
writing on the wall, and decides you can't run a Trumpy campaign against a Trump-supported Trumpy Trumpist, then Cheney
will be down to one opponent, and will need to think about updating her résumé. "The View" has an open
seat for a conservative right now...
- Governor, Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO)
got himself a husband
earlier this week, becoming the first openly LGBTQ+ governor to marry while in office (not too hard a distinction to
earn, since there have only ever been two openly LGBTQ+ governors, and the other—Kate Brown of Oregon—was
already married when she was elected). And not long thereafter, he
got his likely opponent
when he runs for reelection next year in the person of multimillionaire businesswoman Heidi Ganahl (R), who is the only
Republican currently occupying statewide elected office in Colorado. The office she occupies is...Member of the
University of Colorado Board of Regents, which is roughly ½-step above Dogcatcher General. This surely says
something about the odds of a Republican winning a major statewide office against a popular incumbent in the Centennial
- Governor, Michigan: The polls don't really support this conclusion, but apparently
a lot of Republicans think that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is vulnerable, and so they are coming out of the woodwork to run
against her. Former chief of the Detroit Police Department James Craig
became the latest
to throw his hat into the ring, making him declared candidate #9. He is Black, and says he was once a Democrat, but that
he now "identifies as Republican." Apparently, Republican Party membership now works like gender and sexuality. Feel free to tell
people that Donald Trump transitioned in 2014. Craig plans to run a tough-on-crime campaign, which is
not surprising given his background. He's the fourth or fifth GOP contender to announce that, though. In any event, the
fact that none of the nine announced Republicans has ever held office at the state level suggests that while
rank-and-file party members apparently think that Whitmer is ripe for a fall, the pros don't agree.
- Governor, Nevada: Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV) got unhappy news yesterday. The most dangerous challenger
available, assuming Pat McCarran is not resurrected after having been dead for 67 years,
he's going to mount a challenge. That would be former senator Dean Heller, who lost his seat to Sen. Jacky Rosen (D) in
2018, and who has decided he's not yet ready to be done with politics. Given Heller's name recognition and political
connections, this seat now becomes a real flip possibility. That said, there's still a fair bit of good news for
Sisolak. Nevadans on the whole
approve of him
(55% to 42%), and the state's Democrats are strongly behind him (77% to 10%). Further, the Republican primary is going
to be crowded, with five candidates already in, and probably two or three others coming. Finally, while Heller's defeat
at the hands of Rosen was close, it wasn't that close. She dispatched Heller 50%-45%, which is actually pretty
bad for an incumbent.
- Governor, Rhode Island: The governor's mansion in Rhode Island was vacated by Gina Raimondo (D), so she
could serve as Joe Biden's Secretary of Commerce. Given the state's strong blue lean, the next person to be elected governor will probably
also be a Democrat. But which one? State Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D), who is pretty centrist, was already in. And now she's been
by Seth Magaziner (D) who, despite being General Treasurer of Rhode Island, is going to run an outsider, "drain the swamp" campaign with
somewhat progressive policy positions. It's shaping up to be a slug-fest, even more so if the person currently in the governor's
office—former lieutenant governor Daniel McKee (D)—also decides to jump in.
- Governor, Wisconsin: Trumpy Wisconsin Republicans wanted former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) as their standard-bearer, and they got her last week. Non-Trumpy Wisconsin Republicans liked the cut of lobbyist Bill McCoshen's (R) jib. This week, he decided it just isn't worth it, and said he's not interested. The GOP will be happy to avoid a tough primary, but Kleefisch remains a big underdog to Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI), who is running for reelection.
We will see what next week brings. (Z)
The theme of this week's entry is mask/vaccine mandates; we have a number of items that, in various ways, will give satisfaction to those who believe in such things.
The first story was brought to our attention by B.B. in Newtown, PA, who saw it on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. It would seem that Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold (guess which party) is a big fan of corporations being allowed to do whatever they want, until such time that they want to enforce mask mandates. Then, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she immediately transforms into Che Guevara, and tries to stick it to The Man. Alaska Airlines grew tired of fighting with her over her refusal to keep her mask on, and so they banned her from their airline.
As many readers know, Alaska is none-too-easy to traverse without air travel. Further, Alaska Airlines has the only regularly scheduled route between Reinbold's home in Anchorage and the state capitol in Juneau. As a workaround, she drove 700 miles through none-too-safe-to-drive terrain, and then took a 5 hour ferry. That's replacing a commute of less than 2 hours with one that takes about 20 hours. Totally worth it, right? If Reinbold does not change her mind, or the muckety-mucks at Alaska Air don't change theirs, she's either going to have to quit her job or commit to regularly making the worst commute in America that does not involve the George Washington Bridge.
Meanwhile, we mentioned the Pastafarian religion on Monday, in an item about what is, and what is not, a religion. Many people have been anxiously waiting for the church to take a stand on the vaccine situation, and—as reader J.S. in Den Haag, Netherlands—brings to our attention, they finally have. They will now allow adherents to request a letter that states that, as a matter of church doctrine, they are simply not allowed to interact with, or work alongside, anyone who has not been vaccinated. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a demanding (and yet also delicious) god.
And actually, continuing on that note, there is this story, also sent in by J.S. in Den Haag, who is clearly on top of the schadenfreude beat. A hospital system in Arkansas was getting a lot of demands for vaccine exemptions on the basis that the vaccines were developed using fetal-cell lines, which conflicts with Christian employees' beliefs. The hospital has decided they will grant such exceptions, as long as the employees also forgo other medicines developed using fetal-cell lines, including Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, ibuprofen, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, albuterol, Preparation H, MMR vaccine, Claritin, and Zoloft. Hospital administrators say their goal is twofold: (1) to identify people with real religious concerns, and (2) to educate people about how widely used fetal-cell lines are. We can find no information about how well this has worked out, but it certainly has to gladden the hearts of folks who would like to see religious-exemption pretenders hoisted by their own petards. And that is pretty much the definition of schadenfreude. (Z)
By virtue of the snap election called by PM Justin Trudeau, Canadians have a federal election on Monday. The voting is already underway, of course, and the Great White North has seen record numbers of people (5.8 million) turning out for early in-person voting, but has had a relatively small number of ballots cast by mail. Undoubtedly, Canadians are concerned about possible malfeasance by Quebec-born Postmaster General of Canada Louis de Joíe. (Note: Please don't write in to correct us; we know Canada doesn't really have a Postmaster General anymore. In fairness, the U.S. doesn't really have a Postmaster General, either. At least, not much of one.)
It would be improper for a sitting U.S. president to make an endorsement in the election. That wouldn't necessarily stop all the men who have occupied that office recently, but it did stop Joe Biden, so he hasn't spoken up. Barack Obama is not so encumbered, however, so he endorsed Trudeau yesterday, just as he did in 2019. Some of Trudeau's opponents cried foul, though because of their accents, it sounded like they were complaining about a baby horse. As it turns out, it's legal in Canada for foreigners to make endorsements, as long as they are not paid for it. That's good for Trudeau, because there's a decent chance that Obama is more popular among Canadians than he is.
Trudeau was hoping to return a clear majority, but while he and his Liberal Party of Canada were flying high in polls before the election was called, they are now in a pitched battle with the Conservative Party of Canada. Team Trudeau looks to be about 10% to win a majority, 60% to return a minority government, and about 30% to be outpolled by the Conservatives and to hand over the PM job to Erin O'Toole. That may look like a female name when spelled that way, and since 2000 or so it has been. But O'Toole was born in 1973, which was the peak year in both Canada and the U.S. for bestowing that name upon male children (39 boys in Canada, 321 in the U.S.). So, no matter what happens on Monday, Canada will be at one female PM (Kim Campbell) and holding.
Whether the PM, as of Tuesday, is Trudeau or O'Toole, Biden should have no difficulties working with them. What counts as a center-right party in Canada (i.e., the Conservatives) counts as a left-wing party in the U.S. (i.e., the Democrats). So, Biden and O'Toole see eye-to-eye on most issues (except, possibly, a carbon tax), while the President already knows and likes Trudeau. The biggest story that might come out of this, at least from the American perspective, is if the polling is way off, and the results come out much different than expected. Then there will be another wave of "the pollsters don't know what they are doing anymore" stories. (Z)
The second part of the reader predictions that are about Congress. Here are the lists we have already run:
- Part I: Donald Trump
- Part II: Trump's Family and Supporters
- Part III: Right-wing Politicians and Media
- Part IV: The Biden Administration
- Part V: The Supreme Court
- Part VI: Congress, the Legislation
And now, some guesses about what will happen with the Capitol Hill gang:
- D.A. in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: The Senate will flip to the Democrats in 2021, either via
the Georgia election results or by one of the "moderate" GOP senators going independent and allowing
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to take up the Majority Leadership. This will be seen as a political boon to the GOP, as they will be able to run
2022 against the Senate Majority, but will backfire as I expect Senate to remain with Team Blue for the rest of the
- M.T. in Cincinnati, OH: Chuck Schumer will still have problems finding a spine, but Nancy
Pelosi will loan him one of her brass ones to help him cope.
- J.D. in Olathe, KS: Mitch McConnell will step down as Minority Leader, giving
his position to Sen. Shelley Capito Moore of West Virginia or Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
- A.M. in Toronto, ON, Canada: Moscow Mitch will resign/retire.
- B.M. in Hood River, OR: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will come out of the closet, turn
independent and caucus with the Democrats.
- J.K. in Ocean City, NJ: The make-up of the Senate, by 2022, will be 51-49 GOP, with
Joe Manchin (D-WV) switching parties at some point.
- E.H. in Stevens Point, WI: Republican opposition in the Senate will not be monolithic;
three or four GOP Senators will join the Democrats on at least two major pieces of (fairly centrist) legislation.
- B.W. in Easton, PA: The legislative branch will be a recurring headline. As many as 6
senators will fail to finish their terms in 2021 and as many as 20 House members will no longer be in the House on Dec.
31, 2021. The Four Horsemen of Scandal, Death, Early Retirement and Criminal Investigation will come calling. One or two
might just quit out of frustration.
- D.R. in Anaktuvuk Pass, AK: One of the following will die in 2021: Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, or Nancy Pelosi.
The next entry will cover the pandemic. (Z)
Wow. Quite a few people accepted our challenge to find the Beatles lyrics incorporated into each of the seven items on Wednesday. That may just say something about the demographics of our readership. We could have given you a list today of everyone who swept all seven, but there were quite a few excellent comments as well. We'd like to share some of those, but that will take more time to put together. So, watch for that next week, and until then, there's still time to send your answers in, if you haven't already.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep16 Boston Will Soon Get Its First Elected Female Mayor
Sep16 Biden Is Talking to Manchin and Sinema
Sep16 Biden's Child Tax Credit is Popular in Red States
Sep16 New York Legislature Takes a Bite at the (Big) Apple
Sep16 Democrats' House Targets Are Vanishing
Sep16 How Realignment May Change the Democrats
Sep16 Judge Rules that E. Jean Carroll's Lawsuit against Trump Can Proceed
Sep15 You Win Some, and You Newsom
Sep15 House Ways and Means Committee Has Decided on Means
Sep15 Yang Apparently Has a New Gang
Sep15 Woodward to Give Trump the Dick Treatment
Sep15 When The News Breaks--Today's News Media, Part III: Meghan McCain
Sep15 Nassib Has Three Tackles, One Sack in Raiders Win
Sep15 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part VI--Congress, the Legislation
Sep14 Danke Schoen
Sep14 Blinken Doesn't Blink
Sep14 Money for Nothing
Sep14 Back in the Saddle Again
Sep14 This Is What Bad Optics Looks Like
Sep14 Chris Christie's Customers Aren't Buying What He Is Selling
Sep14 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part V--The Supreme Court
Sep13 Unity for a Day, Then More Divisions
Sep13 Bush Calls Out Domestic Terrorism
Sep13 Christie Attacks Trump Directly
Sep13 Poll: Republicans Evenly Split on 2024 Trump Candidacy
Sep13 Lexico-Political Battles, Part I: What's a Woman?
Sep13 Lexico-Political Battles, Part II: What's a Religion?
Sep13 Redistricting Will Help the Republicans
Sep13 Breyer: Politics Could Factor into When I Retire
Sep13 New Poll: Newsom in Strong Position for Tuesday's Recall Election
Sep12 Sunday Mailbag
Sep11 Saturday Q&A
Sep10 Biden Lays Down the Law
Sep10 Garland Picks His Angle
Sep10 Boxer Has Some Advice for Feinstein
Sep10 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Sep10 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep10 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part IV--The Biden Administration
Sep09 Schumer Calls Manchin's Bluff
Sep09 Raising the Debt Ceiling Will Not Be in the Reconciliation Bill
Sep09 Florida Judge Rules against DeSantis
Sep09 Trump Picks a Horse in Wyoming
Sep09 Harris Campaigns for Newsom
Sep09 Pennsylvania Wants to Copy Arizona's Election "Audit"
Sep09 When The News Breaks--Today's News Media, Part II: Politico Has Itself Become Political News
Sep09 School Boards Are the New Battlegrounds
Sep09 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part III--Right-wing Politicians and Media
Sep08 Time for Some Answers on Afghanistan
Sep08 Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better