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Biden Tests His 2022 Strategy

On Friday, Joe Biden zipped across the Potomac River to Arlington to campaign for Terry McAuliffe (D), who is running for another term as governor of Virginia. It is a test of Biden's appeal and coattails. It also gives him a chance to practice the kinds of pitches he will make on behalf of other Democrats from now until the 2022 elections.

Biden first praised McAuliffe and noted that, in an off-year election, all eyes are on Virginia. He then started praising himself, singling out his management of the pandemic and the accompanying economic recovery. He also highlighted the $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he knows is popular. He also talked about his infrastructure plans and called for action on them.

It was all perfectly normal: A Democratic president out on the hustings helping a long-time Democratic insider running for reelection (albeit 4 years after McAuliffe left office due to the Virginia law that forbids anyone from running for a second consecutive term, but not limiting how many terms anyone can have in total). Three thousand people were all packed together tightly, listening to Biden. That in itself is amazing. A year ago, rallies like this one were impossible due to the pandemic. Now they are starting to happen again. Donald Trump has to get some of the credit (for setting up Operation Warp Speed and spending billions of dollars to develop a vaccine) but Biden gets even more of it for strongly encouraging people to get it and handling the distribution well. Biden's overall message is: "I am delivering on my campaign promises."

But Biden didn't stop with telling everyone how well he is doing. He also tarred McAuliffe's opponent, Glenn Youngkin (R), for being a Trumpist. As long as the polling tells Biden that Trump is still very unpopular with Democrats, then at every rally Biden goes to, he will accuse the Democrat's opponent of being a Trumpist (admittedly, in nearly all cases, correctly). The general pattern of praising his own achievements and tying some Republican to Trump is something that comes naturally to Biden, so we are likely to see more of it, especially if McAuliffe wins a resounding victory in November. (V)

Kinzinger Will Join the 1/6 Select Committee

As expected, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has added Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to the select committee that will investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. That means there will be at least two Republicans on the committee, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has already accepted appointment, giving it a bit of a bipartisan character. Kinzinger probably figures that Trump is going to go all out to defeat him in 2022, whether or not he is on the committee, so why not take a stand and at least profit from the PR and out-of-state money he might get from Democrats? He might also be planning a run for governor in Illinois, a blue state that dislikes Trump, but sometimes elects Republican governors. After Pelosi announced the appointment yesterday, Kinzinger said: "When duty calls, I always answer." He also said: "I will work diligently to ensure we get to the truth and hold those responsible for the attack fully accountable."

Pelosi would no doubt love to get more Republican on the committee, but she may have trouble finding any more who are willing in incur the wrath of Donald Trump and become a target of his in the 2022 primary season. Only two Republican House members have announced they are retiring, Kevin Brady (TX) and Tom Reed (NY). Brady probably wouldn't do it and Reed is toxic after getting caught in a #MeToo situation.

Going outside the House for Republican committee members won't work, because House rules require committee members to be sitting members of the House. Well, actually, it's a little more complicated than that. Here is the exact rule (Rule X, clause 10, section A):

Membership on a select or joint committee appointed by the Speaker under clause 11 of rule I during the course of a Congress shall be contingent on continuing membership in the party caucus or conference of which the Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner concerned was a member at the time of appointment. Should a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner cease to be a member of that caucus or conference, that Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner shall automatically cease to be a member of any select or joint committee to which assigned. The chair of the relevant party caucus or conference shall notify the Speaker whenever a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner ceases to be a member of a party caucus or conference. The Speaker shall notify the chair of each affected select or joint committee that the appointment of such Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner to the select or joint committee is automatically vacated under this paragraph.

In other words, not only must a committee member be a House member, they also have to be a member of the Democratic caucus or the Republican conference. So, if angry House Republicans decide to toss Cheney and Kinzinger out of the Republican conference, then they would lose their 1/6 committee seats (and all other committee assignments) until and unless they joined the Democratic caucus and were reappointed. It is legal to do this without being a registered Democrat—Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, are members of the Senate Democratic caucus. However, if the two representatives are forced to perform these bureaucratic gymnastics, then it will provide even more ammunition for opponents. "Rep. Cheney/Kinzinger agreed to serve on Nancy Pelosi's phony commission, and then even started caucusing with the Democrats. Can you say 'Republican in name only'?," is what the folks running against Cheney and Kinzinger in 2022 would say.

Pelosi has also declared that Cheney will be able to hire her own staff. One person wants to hire is former Virginia representative Denver Riggleman, who lost a primary to a Trumper last year. Presumably, Kinzinger will be given the same privilege. There has been zero scuttlebutt about this, so this is just a guess, but it wouldn't be too surprising if he enlisted the services of Justin Amash, the Republican-turned-Libertarian former member who was the first (then-) Republican to support the impeachment of Donald Trump. All of this said, it is not necessary for every hire to be in place before getting the ball rolling, and the 1/6 committee is already hard at work gathering evidence. (V)

Trump Is Hard at Work Trying to Unseat Liz Cheney

One of Donald Trump's top-priority projects at the moment is defeating Liz Cheney next year. If he can demonstrate to other Republicans that he can bring down even high-profile members of the Party if they dare to rebel, they will all cower in fear of him even more than they already do.

However, you can't beat somebody with nobody. You also can't beat somebody with too-many bodies. Trump's concern is that half a dozen or more Republicans will enter the primary to beat Cheney and will split the vote, allowing her to get the GOP nomination with maybe only 20% of the ballots. The state legislature, which is already cowering in fear of the former president, is considering changing the election law to require a runoff in order to prevent this situation, but it hasn't done that yet.

So what Trump is busy doing is vetting all the would-be representatives, to find the right one to endorse. In Zoom calls to the wannabees, he is asking abut their policy positions on issues he cares about and their fundraising capabilities. His aides have drawn up a 53-question survey that applicants for Trump's endorsement have to fill out. And only 43 of those questions are: "Did Trump win the 2020 election, yes or no?" Candidates who pass the initial screening get to visit him at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ, where he is spending the summer, to make their case. Two of the frontrunners for Trump's endorsement are state Rep. Chuck Gray (R) and attorney Darin Smith (R). The interviews will start this week.

Trump has been surprisingly systematic and organized in his campaign to dump Cheney. He and his aides have been in contact with the Wyoming Republican Party since January discussing possible candidates. He has also been in talking to the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Finding the right candidate may not be so easy. At first Trump wanted Wyoming state treasurer Curt Meier, but Meier wasn't interested. In fact, none of the statewide elected officers are interested. They may know something that Trump doesn't know.

After that setback, Trump commissioned veteran pollster John McLaughlin to see how various potential candidates polled against Cheney. One of the ones who did well was state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R). He is conservative and Trumpy. What's not to like? Well, maybe the fact that he recently admitted to impregnating a 14-year-old girl a while back. While Trump might not be too bothered (he heartily endorsed Roy Moore, after all), some of his advisers probably pointed out that a track record like that might not be a plus in conservative Wyoming. Especially not since the age of consent for females in Wyoming is 16, making Bouchard guilty of statutory rape. "Vote for the rapist" doesn't strike us as a good campaign slogan. So the vetting process also has to look for stuff that might come out during the primary. In effect, Trump or his staff needs to run in-depth oppo research on all the potential candidates. It is not clear if this is going to happen, given Trump's view that he is really good at personnel selection without any help.

If the legislature doesn't institute a primary runoff, knocking off Cheney may not be so easy. Trump tends to pick the candidate who is most loyal to him, not the person who is the most conservative, the best fundraiser, the top campaigner, or the person most likely to win the general election. Also, Cheney has a secret weapon: her dad, who is still popular in Wyoming. In addition, she already has almost $3 million stockpiled, which is a lot for a cheap-to-advertise state like Wyoming. It is also ironic, but true, that she can appeal to Democrats who want to her to be the GOP nominee, just to poke Trump in the eye with a sharp stick. Democrats know there is no way a Democrat can win the seat, but they will clearly prefer an anti-Trump Republican to a pro-Trump Republican and donate accordingly. Thus, there is a real possibility that out-of-state Democrats will pour millions of dollars into Cheney's campaign. That money won't help much, but if in-state Democrats cast their primary ballots for her, even if they have reregister to do so, then that could save her bacon. (V)

Mark Warner: Infrastructure Bill Will Be Ready Today

Yesterday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), one of the members of the Senate gang trying to cobble together a bipartisan infrastructure bill, told Fox News' Martha MacCallum that he expected the gang to have an actual bill today. He also told her how important infrastructure is to the people of Virginia. But that isn't the issue. The real issue—as he well knows—is that the Republicans are insisting that the costs be fully paid for but have said that none of the funding sources that might cover it are acceptable to them. If, by some miracle, a bill is ready today, it can be brought up for a vote again, this time on the actual bill rather than on the placeholder that was voted down last Wednesday.

Warner also said something perhaps more even interesting than a sighting of the elusive bill. He said he would support a carve out to the filibuster to allow H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 to pass with only 51 votes. Minority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) is also in favor of a carve out. It may well be that when push comes to shove, the Democrats will go for a carve out on voting rights rather than reinstituting the talking filibuster. But we are not there yet and it could go either way. Or no way. (V)

Eighteen States Have Already Passed New Voting Restrictions

As we have pointed out repeatedly, many Republican-controlled states (and no Democratic-controlled states) are hard at work making voting harder. The count of states that have actually passed new laws doing so is now eighteen according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which is keeping score. Here they are, from Nevada to New Hampshire

States with new restrictive voting laws,
to wit, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida
and New Hampshire.

Florida, Georgia, and Iowa have passed broad bills covering many areas of voting, in nearly all cases reducing the number of ways voters can cast a ballot. Just because a state hasn't passed an omnibus bill, however, doesn't mean it is pro-voting. Many states have simply passed a bunch of separate laws, each targeting some aspect of voting. For example, seven states, laws have passed laws among others, making it easier to purge voters from the rolls (e.g., for not voting in two consecutive elections).

Other bills go after early voting, absentee voting, and other aspects of voting. Typically the choice of an omnibus bill that does all the damage in one bill vs. a collection of separate bills has to do with local politics. If a bill hits voting in, say, eight ways, but there are some Republican state senators who strongly oppose one of the ways, then an omnibus bill might get shot down if enough state senators really oppose some parts of it. By having separate bills, It doesn't matter in most cases if a different bunch of state senators opposes each one, as long as each one can get a majority. A number of state legislatures are hard at work on new bills, including the Texas one, which is temporarily stymied because all the Democrats have left the state, denying the Republicans a quorum. (V)

A Possible New Front in the Culture Wars: the Draft

Under current federal law, male citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register with Selective Service so they can be drafted in the event of a war. Women are exempt from registration, even though women now serve in all roles—including combat roles—in the armed forces. A bill making its way through Congress would change that and require women to register for the draft as well. Democrats, including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed (D-RI), which is working on the bill, approve the idea. Conservatives oppose it, presumably because women are too dainty to fight wars. After all, no enemy would be scared of a 120-pound woman piloting a B-1 bomber, right? Specifically, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) oppose registration for women and voted against the bill. Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) also oppose it, but aren't on the committee. They could oppose the bill when it comes up in the full Senate, though.

The debate about registration began in 2015, when women were first allowed to take part in combat (e.g., to fly combat aircraft in war zones). Congress kicked the can down the road and created a blue ribbon commission to study the problem. The commission has now reported back and concluded that if men have to register, women should be required to register as well.

Some folks on the see this as an excellent "culture wars" issue for 2022. Russ Vought, who directed the OMB under Donald Trump, put it this way: "No, you are not drafting our daughters." Whether that will catch fire remains to be seen. Most anti-feminists are on the right and it could.

On the other hand, a group of members of Congress, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), want to abolish the Selective Service system altogether and have no one register. They called it "expensive, wasteful, outdated, punitive, and unnecessary." A possible compromise (which no one is championing right now) is to first require women to register and then to abolish the Selective Service system completely. (V)

Herschel Walker's Turbulent Past Emerges

Donald Trump has been urging former football player Herschel Walker to challenge Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) next year. Walker hasn't decided yet, but the mere possibility that he might run has caused AP reporters to start digging into his past a bit. Some of what they have found is now starting to come out and it could affect how well he does if he enters the race. Knowledge that the media already has exposed some unpleasant details of his past life, and that they would become part of the campaign, could very well influence his decision about whether or not to throw his helmet into the ring.

One bit of oppo research was actually released by Walker himself in a book he wrote in 2008. In it, he revealed that he has suffered from mental illness in the past, specifically dissociative identity disorder. He said that he had as many as a dozen different personalities. He also said he had violent urges and at least once contemplated playing Russian Roulette. Anti-Walker super PACs could have a field day with that. Some might make satirical ads. Others might just say he is dangerously unstable. Things have changed some since Sen. Thomas Eagleton was driven off the 1972 Democratic ticket for having a history of mental illness, but maybe not that much.

Meanwhile, what is new, skeletons-wise, is the discovery that 4 years after his wife sued him for divorce, Walker was still physically abusive and threatening her. In 2005, his ex, Cindy Grossman, went to court to get a protective order after he said he would kill her and her boyfriend. How's that going to play with voters who have been threatened by an ex (or even those who haven't)? According to an affidavit from Grossman's sister, Walker once called asking where his ex-wife was. For some reason, the sister told him and he said he was going to shoot both Grossman and her new boyfriend in the head. Then it happened again. That will lock in the stalker vote, but maybe not so many other demographics. The charge was credible enough for a Texas judge to grant the protective order and forbid Walker from possessing a firearm. When a Texas judge orders someone to give up their gun, you know it is serious.

Walker has also said that he has a chicken processing plant in Arkansas that grosses over $70 million a year and employs hundreds of people. Yet he applied to the Paycheck Protection Program last year claiming just eight employees. He got $182,000 in aid. This looks similar to Donald Trump telling banks how valuable his property is and telling the tax authorities how little it is worth. Maybe Trump recognizes a kindred spirit in Walker. The AP talked to Walker's business associates and they said he doesn't own any chicken processing plants at all. He merely licenses his name to one. That would raise the issue of whether he was entitled to the $182,000.

Court records from a 2018 lawsuit depict Walker as a temperamental and unreliable business partner who persistently complained that his partners were trying to cheat him. This might well just be the tip of the iceberg. If Walker enters the race, Warnock will probably hire an oppo research team immediately. And if he doesn't, the national Democrats might just do it for him in order to dig up more dirt showing Walker as unreliable, deceitful, violent, and paranoid. In fact, after the AP report, it would surprise us if they weren't already at it. If the campaign against Walker was essentially: "He is a great football player but a truly despicable and dishonest person," that woulld take some of the luster off his candidacy. (V)

Republicans Are Flocking to the OH-15 Special Election

Last week, we had an item on the nasty Democratic primary in OH-11, which pits Nina Turner against Shontel Brown. But that isn't the only upcoming special election in Ohio. There is also one in OH-15. Unlike OH-11, which is D+32, OH-15 is R+7, so the biggest battle for the seat from which Steve Stivers resigned to lead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is on the Republican side.

Like OH-11, OH-15 has been heavily gerrymandered. It is more compact that OH-11, but still contains parts of 12 counties. The biggest gerrymandering was done around Columbus, including and excluding portions of the metro area with great care. Here is the map:

Map of OH-15

Most of the interest in the race is once again about how much power Donald Trump has and whether any Republican can win a primary without his endorsement. Trump is behind Mike Carey, a coal lobbyist who has raised $460,000, mostly from donors in the coal and mining industries and from out-of-state donors.

Second in the money race is state Sen. Bob Peterson, who has raised $455,000. State Rep. Jeff LaRe, a farmer and former deputy sheriff, is third with $227,000. He is running on a law-and-order platform. He talks tough on border control, which is important in Columbus since the nearest border crossing with Mexico is a mere 1,300 miles away. Maybe he is worried about illegal immigrants from Canada, which is a bit closer and, as readers of this site know, much scarier. In any event, LaRe has the backing of departing Rep. Steve Stivers (R), which could counter Carey's endorsement from Trump. Eight other Republicans are also in the race, but they haven't raised so much.

If endorsements matter, however, then Ron Hood might stand a chance. He has the backing of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). But Ruth Edmonds has the support of Debbie Meadows, wife of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who has worked tirelessly to help elect Republican women in the past, has suddenly lost her long-time interest in helping women, even though she could have helped Edmonds. Nope, she knows which side her bread is buttered on and is supporting Trump's pick, coal lobbyist Carey.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Allison Russo has almost no competition and is likely to be the blue team's standard bearer. The primary is on Aug. 3 and the general election is on Nov. 2. (V)

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