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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  "Justice for J6" Quickly Turning into a Fiasco
      •  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

"Justice for J6" Quickly Turning into a Fiasco

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)

And Then There Were Five

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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,, Tshibaka.

  4. 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."

  5. 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)

This Week's 2022 Candidacy News

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 be back 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), announced 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) said 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 State.

  • 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, announced 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 joined 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)

This Week in Schadenfreude

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)

Election Day, Eh

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)

(Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part VII--Congress, the People

The second part of the reader predictions that are about Congress. Here are the lists we have already run:

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 decade.

  • 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
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Sep14 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part V--The Supreme Court
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Sep10 Biden Lays Down the Law
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Sep10 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep10 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part IV--The Biden Administration
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Sep09 Raising the Debt Ceiling Will Not Be in the Reconciliation Bill
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