• Mike Lee the Latest to Be Outed as a Traitor
• Democrats Are Going Try, Try, Try Again to Buy, Buy, Buy Again
• Blue Team Learns Its Lesson?
• Money Don't Get Everything (It's True)
• Donald Trump: Batter Up (Senate Edition)
• March... Sadness, Part XV (Final Four, Part I)
As of yesterday, if you are traveling in the U.S., and are leaving on a jet plane (or a prop plane, or any other kind of plane), you don't have to wear a mask. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida said so, in a 59-page decision. And after she issued her ruling, the TSA announced that it will abide by the decision while the government considers its options.
Was this a case of an "activist judge" who was "legislating from the bench"? Readers can decide for themselves, but we will point out the following:
- Mizelle is a Trump appointee. In fact, she is the youngest Trump appointee to the federal bench, and was 33 when
nominated late in his term.
- She was rated as "not qualified" for the job by the American Bar Association, which expressed concern that she had
only 8 years' practice under her belt, during which time she participated in... zero trials.
- The Supreme Court has considered the mask mandate three times, and allowed it to remain in place each time.
Mizelle was among a group of judges who were the first to be nominated by a defeated president, and confirmed, since the tail end of Jimmy Carter's term in 1980. This seems like the kind of thing that should be forbidden under the "McConnell Rule," but perhaps we misunderstood something.
It will be interesting to see what the Biden administration does next. They could appeal the decision, of course, but it would go to the very conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Further, the majority of Americans appear to want all anti-pandemic measures to end (even if the pandemic has not, you know, ended). And the airlines want the mask mandate to end. So, the White House might well let this one stand. It may be instructive that Team Biden had nothing to say on the question; usually these decisions are made well in advance of the judge's ruling being announced, since it's usually pretty easy to guess how it will shake out. (Z)
Them's strong words in the headline, but we're not sure what else to call it when a sitting U.S. Senator, having no evidence whatsoever of malfeasance, works feverishly behind the scenes to overturn a United States presidential election, and thus to overturn the will of the American people. Such is the case with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), according to new reporting from CNN.
This new information comes courtesy of text messages sent to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who must have needed to recharge his phone every couple of hours, since he seems to have been getting dozens of messages each day from every Trumper in Washington. Actually, there were two new sets of text messages that came to light. The first set came from Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who begged and pleaded with Meadows for some hard evidence of voting fraud, and then backed off when it was clear no evidence was forthcoming. The second set came from Lee, who begged and pleaded with Meadows for some hard evidence of voting fraud, and then went all-in on "stop the steal," even once it was clear there was no hard evidence to be had.
In particular, Lee asserted that he was entirely on board with any and all legal trickery that might be undertaken to stop Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the election. The Senator was particularly focused on persuading friendly legislatures in states that Biden won to support alternate slates of presidential electors. Lee claimed, in his text messages, that he was working on the project "14 hours a day." He also complained to Meadows that while he (Lee) was truly concerned about reelecting Trump, other "stop the steal" senators, namely Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), were only in it for themselves and their own glory. Boy, nothing gets by him.
It is quite clear that whatever Lee was doing, he did not expect this information to become public, and so presumably did not expect to gain from it electorally. When he spoke on the floor of the Senate on Jan. 6, he made no mention of the extracurricular activities he had been undertaking for the previous 2 months. And when this latest news broke, the Senator had no comment.
Lee's problem here, beyond the possibility that he gets into legal hot water, is that he's up for reelection this year, and in a state that, while it is red, doesn't care much for Donald Trump. And his opponents are already making a lot of noise about this. Former state representative Becky Edwards (R), his primary rival in the primary, sent out a statement that says Lee "enabled those seeking to keep themselves in power, no matter the consequences" and that "The moment Lee realized the gravity of Trump's attempts to undermine the 2020 election, he should have stopped researching the legality of such actions and stopped pressuring local legislators." And Evan McMullin, the former presidential candidate now running as an independent for Lee's seat, took to Twitter to ask:
Why did Sen. Mike Lee advise spurious legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election? And why did he hide those plans from both the public and the FBI in the days leading up to Jan. 6?— Evan McMullin (@EvanMcMullin) April 15, 2022
Lee is outpolling Edwards by a 3-to-1 margin, so Edwards has got a lot of ground to make up. But even if she can't do it in time for the primary on June 28, McMullin is going to be a thorn in Lee's side until the end. And all he, or Democrat Kael Weston, has to do is divide the vote such that their portion is a little bigger than Lee's. And in a real three-way race, 35-40% of the vote might be enough to get that done. (Z)
The Democrats would very much like to pass an infrastructure bill, since there is an election this year, and they might not have the federal trifecta again for years. Reconciliation is too juicy an opportunity to pass up, especially since the Republicans passed a giant tax cut the last time they were able to use the maneuver.
To that end, the blue team is going to take another shot at getting something passed. The basic thinking is that now that Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed, and the war in Ukraine is not dominating Washington's attention, there's enough oxygen (and time) for this effort. The upcoming primaries, and general election, are surely lighting a fire under Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as well.
Both Schumer and the White House claim they have learned valuable lessons from the last, failed round of negotiations. And it would seem that the #1 lesson is "Don't negotiate in public, because it pisses Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) off." If so, then maybe we won't hear much about this until it approaches (or crosses) the finish line. That will presumably tell us if Manchin was legitimately angry, or if he was just using that as an excuse because he really doesn't want an infrastructure bill. Of course, there's also the Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) problem. Since she barely talks at all, unlike Manchin, we really don't know exactly what it's going to take to get her vote. Maybe a reporter can catch her in the restroom and get an answer to that question. (Z)
In the election of 2008, the Democrats were flying high. They not only elected the first Black president in U.S. history, they picked up 7 seats in the Senate (giving them 57, and then later 58, 59, and 60), and they also grabbed 21 seats in the House (giving them 256 to the Republicans' 178). However, the blue team failed to notice that those downballot elections are important, too. The Republicans did not make that same mistake, and managed to dominate municipal, county, and state legislative elections. The latter was particularly important, as it gave the red team control of redistricting in many states, a development that is still paying dividends for them a decade later.
It may just be that you can fool the Democrats once, but you can't fool them twice. The party big shots have noticed, along with everyone else, that the Republicans are trying to set themselves up to steal the presidential election of 2024 (as compared to the attempted robbery of the presidential election of 2020). And the red team is doing so, in part, by seeing to it that they control the people who count the votes. After all, as Boss Tweed supposedly said: "In counting there is strength." So, the Democrats are countering by trying to make sure that it is they who control the people who count the votes.
Specifically, a Democratic PAC called Run for Something is busily pitching a 3-year, $80 million dollar plan aimed at finding, training and supporting 5,000 candidates for local offices that oversee election administration, from county probate judges in Alabama to county clerks in Kansas to county election board members in Pennsylvania. The plan is to wage this battle in 35 different states, which are all the ones where election officials are chosen by voters.
Thus far, Run for Something has raised just $6 million of the $80 million they're hoping for, but they do have some time before 2024, and they've got the support of some mega PACs (but no MAGA PACs), among them American Bridge and Open Democracy PAC. It's true that $80 million is a lot of money (unless you're in bed with the Saudi royal family), but maybe they can convince rank-and-file Democrats that this is a better investment of their hundred bucks than a wild-goose-chase like donating to whatever Democrat is running against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
In an ideal world, these offices would not be sucked into the party wars in which the U.S. is now engaged. Indeed, in an ideal world, these offices wouldn't be elected at all, and would be filled by competent professionals, as is the case in Europe. But this is the way it is, and that being the case, the Democrats are showing some wisdom in trying to avoid the mistakes of 2008. (Z)
As long as we are on the subject of campaign spending, including pig-in-a-poke candidate donations, we'll remind you that the Q1 fundraising totals are rolling in (and we had an item on the subject yesterday). Are the totals interesting? We think so, which is why we wrote that item. Are they predictive? Maybe not so much.
There was certainly a time when "money raised" was a decent proxy for "voter support." But there are so many complicating factors these days that it's hard to draw firm conclusions from fundraising totals. Here are five issues to keep in mind:
- It takes money to make money: If you've got money, there are professionals out there who are happy
to help you shake down... er, solicit your supporters. But depending on which professionals you hire, and which supporters you target,
and how often you hit those supporters up, the cost-to-benefit ratio may not be so attractive. The case-in-point here is
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has much in common with Donald Trump, including that she's overall a dunderhead, but that
she has some pretty good political instincts. And her instincts tell her, correctly, that appearing at the top of fundraising lists
makes it seem as if she's wildly popular, and hard to beat. To that end, Greene spends vast amounts of money to bring more money
in, so as to create the appearance that her fundraising is very robust. The truth is that something like 75 cents of every dollar
donated goes into... finding more donors. As a result of this, although she
a little over $1 million in Q1, Greene reported a net loss for the quarter, as so much of that $1 million ($735,000) was spent
to raise the money in the first place.
- Out-of-state money: As we note above, there is a propensity to target the most-hated members of the
opposition party rather than the most defeatable members of the opposition party or the more promising members of the donor's party.
So, a disproportionate amount of cash flows from out of state to whoever is opposing Ted Cruz, or Marjorie Taylor Greene, or
Lauren Boebert. This tells us little about the candidates who benefit from this largesse, or their chances of victory. Democratic
donors are particularly guilty of this, and the party pooh-bahs are
that tens of millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars in donations will be wasted in 2022 on longshot Democratic candidates,
as happened in 2020.
- So many hands out: These days, there are a lot of places a politically involved person can
send their cash. There are the candidates, of course, and their affiliated PACs. There are the various campaign
committees, like the National Republican Congressional Committee, or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. There
are the central committees. There are the political PACs, like EMILY's List or Lets Get to Work PAC. There are the
lobbyists and activists, like the NRA and the ACLU. It is really hard to figure out how much money all these entities
are taking in or, more importantly, what it all means.
- Dark money: More on the point of "how much money these entities are taking in," it's also easy for
PACs to hide their donors, and sometimes even their overall takes, courtesy of Citizens United. To take a current example,
there is a
mysterious super PAC called Justice Unites Us PAC that has dropped $846,000 on Carrick Flynn in the crowded Democratic
primary in OR-06. Is this some portion of the Democratic establishment putting their finger on the scale without
admitting to it? Is it Republican rat**cking? Is it something else? Nobody knows. Well, somebody knows, but that
somebody isn't talking.
- Donors are not random: These days, small donors are preferable to big donors, since 1,000 $100 donors have ten times as many votes as 100 $1,000 donors. Further, the small donors can be hit up again and again, whereas the larger donors hit the cap ($2,800 per election) pretty quick. But whether one has many small donors or many large donors, or both, it does not necessarily tell us how many votes one might get. Donors are generally older, better-educated, wealthier, and more politically informed than the average American. Someone who appeals to those demographics (say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA) is going to outperform someone who appeals to a working-class, less-dialed-in demographic (say, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, D-PA). So, Warren's fundraising might give a false impression of higher support than she actually has, and Fetterman's might give a false impression of lower support. Fundamentally, a large number of moderately supportive voters (i.e., the type who don't donate) is far more valuable than a smaller number of fanatically supportive voters (i.e., the type who donate regularly). If you don't believe us, get in your time machine, go back to 2016, and ask Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
As we've written many times, it's better to have more money than your opponent has instead of having less. And direct comparisons are sometimes helpful, particularly if candidate [X] in a race has raised five times more than their closest opponent. But overall, fundraising is not a great proxy for polling. (Z)
To hear Donald Trump tell it, he was a serious baseball prospect, and would have played in the major leagues if the money was better. To hear anyone else tell it, he was a benchwarmer who batted well below .200 (and thus well below the Mendoza Line), and his only hope of wearing a major league uniform was if some team had hired him as a batboy. This, then, would be one of those very, very rare occasions where the former president exaggerated his past exploits.
These days, a different Trump batting average is of interest, namely his batting average on his endorsements. In theory, if he does well, he's still a kingmaker (well, a memberofcongressmaker, or a governormaker). If he does poorly, then his grip on the Republican Party weakens all the more. The question, however, is: What would be a good batting average for him? And what would be a bad one? Yesterday, we wrote: "If he hits .350, he would be an extraordinary baseball player, but even at .500, he would be a terrible politician." Today, we thought we would look a bit more closely at that question, focusing on his U.S. Senate endorsements. He currently has 16 live endorsements (the 17th was Sean Parnell, who dropped out). Here are those 16:
|South Carolina||Tim Scott||None||None|
|Alaska||Kelly Tshibaka||None||None (due to top-four primary)|
|Nevada||Adam Laxalt||Laxalt 57%, Sam Brown 19%, Bill Hockstedler 1%||Minimal|
|Georgia||Herschel Walker||Walker 64%, Gary Black 9%, Latham Saddler 5%||Minimal|
|Utah||Mike Lee||Lee 67%, Becky Edwards 19%, Evan Barlow 6%||Minimal|
|North Carolina||Ted Budd||Budd 40%, Pat McCrory 27%, Mark Walker 8%||Moderate|
|Pennsylvania||Mehmet Oz||Oz 23%, David McCormick 20%, Kathy Barnette 18%||Moderate|
|Ohio||J.D. Vance||Josh Mandel 28%, Vance 23%, Mike Gibbons 14%||Significant|
As you can see, in a sizable majority of the races where he has endorsed, Trump is all-but-guaranteed to be on the right candidate. In 10 races there is essentially no chance his candidate loses; the race is so lopsided nobody is even bothering to poll it. In another three races, it would take an October surprise (well, a May surprise or a June surprise) to change the trajectory of the race. That means that, barring unexpected developments, Trump is going to go 13-for-16, minimum. In other words .813 is his floor, his personal endorsement Mendoza Line.
So, at the moment, there are just three Senate races where we might get any useful information whatsoever, and only one (Ohio) where Trump has actually stuck his neck out. He could still wade into the Missouri and Arizona Senate races, which would give us some additional useful data points, since those are competitive. On the other hand, he could endorse in several other states, most obviously Oklahoma, where the Republican primary is a slam dunk, and where he would be sure to increase his batting average.
The bottom line is that, even when all the Senate primaries are over, we probably won't be able to draw too many conclusions about Trump's ongoing power, unless the handful of more risky candidates he's backed either win big or lose big. But maybe his gubernatorial endorsements will be more meaningful? We'll take a look at those tomorrow. (Z)
The end is near! Here are the results of the left half of the Not-so-Elite-Eight (that's left in terms of physical location on the bracket, definitely not in term of politics):
- Executive Branch: #1 Former president Donald Trump (92.9%) defeats #15 Former attorney general William Barr (7.1%)
Our Take: A bloodbath. But don't believe Rudy Giuliani when he says Trump actually got 99.99% of the vote.
F.S. in Cologne, Germany: I vote neither for Donald Trump nor for William Barr. If Trump wins this duel, he will be a winner in losing, which makes him a winner. If Trump loses this duel, he will be a loser in losing, which makes him a winner, too. So, in both cases, Trump would be a winner. But Trump doesn't deserve to be a winner. Therefore I don't vote for anybody and hope it will be a draw, then Trump wouldn't be a winner. That is the only acceptable outcome.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA: This one definitely went into overtime. It might seem like a no-brainer, but in many ways Trump is a creature of Barr and his ilk, one that they've been building for 40 years. Barr saw his chance to give as much power to Trump as he could and to lie for him and cover up his abuses in office. In the end, though, Trump had the power and deliberately used it to destroy lives, exact revenge, enrich himself and his family and instigate a coup and prevent the peaceful transfer of power. He should take the title.
D.R. in Cincinnati, OH: The evil that Trump did lives after him; there is no good to be interred with his bones.
M.B. in Pittsboro, NC: This was a harder choice than I was expecting because Barr has some brains and should know better than to write that irresponsible memo absolving Trump after the Mueller Report. His entire modus operandi was obviously to kiss up to his bosses, no matter what tortures or crimes they put forward, be they W or DJT. But in the end, Trump's ignorance is not sufficient exoneration. He has no moral compass whatsoever and always acts in his own self interest. He cares nothing for others. He is vindictive and vengeful. And worst of all, he is a smooth deliverer of absolute lies, with a street-smart style that appeals to other ignorant people who feel that society has wronged them. He is vile and dangerous, and we must assure that he never gets his hands on the levers of power again.
- Legislative Branch: #1 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 91.1%) defeats #10 House Minority Leader
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, 8.9%)
Our Take: Another bloodbath; the student has yet to surpass the master. Oh well, it means the #1 seeds in both of these brackets made it to the Final Four, which is how it's supposed to work (though it definitely didn't work that way on the other side of the bracket).
D.E. in Lancaster, PA: McConnell vs. McCarthy is no real contest. McCarthy is a spineless worm waiting for his Lord and Master to tell him what to do, think or feel. After voting against McConnell in the previous rounds, the Minority Leader took me to school by showing what a true Machiavellian he is by saying he would still vote for Donald Trump even though he thinks Trump egged on the Capitol riot. Power and Party over decency and ethics all the way with Moscow Mitch. He's a three-decker sauerkraut-and-toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!
D.M. in San Francisco, CA: Mitch McConnell single-handedly destroyed all three branches of government. Any Democratic senator will tell you—I've talked to a few of them—that McConnell doesn't give a turtle's a** about governing, or about the good of the country. He wants one and only one thing: more power for Mitch McConnell. In the battle of the Mc's, the turtle wins the race in a cakewalk.
B.G. in Kalamazoo, MI: McConnell is a toad, is bad for our country, is not an honest broker, and is one of the worst ever. But McCarthy signed on to an amicus brief in the AG lawsuit late 2020. He openly tried to prevent the winner of a presidential election from taking office. He has no business ever sniffing power again in a democracy. The fact that he has a lot of company, and that there are others who tried even harder, does not change that. He should never be trusted again. And really, every single time someone talks about his stance on democracy, or elections, or government without mentioning that he openly participated in a coup attempt, that's irresponsible.
D.S. in Lakewood, OH: I know we have to consider future damage, but it's hard to imagine that the relatively young McCarthy could ever do more damage than McConnell. If he does regain the speakership, I would bet McCarthy goes the way of Paul Ryan and John Boehner (can't take the heat, cry, write a book).
The left side of the Final Four looks like this:
Here are the ballots for the Final Four:
This time, we need your responses by Thursday, April 21, at 11:59 p.m.—and, of course, your comments. (Z & V).
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr18 Voters' Worries about Crime Are Upstaging Progressive Priorities in Los Angeles
Apr18 Trump As Boss Tweed
Apr18 Biden Is in Trouble with Latinos...
Apr18 ...and with Young Voters As Well
Apr18 The 2024 GOP Invisible Primary Is Heating Up
Apr18 Candidates Are Raising Big Sums
Apr18 Crossover Districts Are Vanishing
Apr18 Disney Switches Enemies
Apr18 What Will Trump Do in Pennsylvania?
Apr17 Sunday Mailbag
Apr16 Saturday Q&A
Apr15 DeSantis Has His Map...
Apr15 ...Not to Mention His Abortion Ban
Apr15 RNC Makes It Official
Apr15 Trump Is about to Endorse Vance...
Apr15 ...But His Own 2024 Plans are Hazy
Apr15 The Pendulum Has Swung Back on Crime...
Apr15 Feinstein Allegedly Unfit to Serve
Apr15 This Week in Schadenfreude
Apr15 March... Sadness, Part XIV (Others, Round 4)
Apr14 Biden Announces Another $800 Million in Aid to Ukraine
Apr14 What Happens if Putin Uses Poison Gas in Ukraine?
Apr14 Democrats May Change the Presidential Nomination Process
Apr14 Governing Is Tough
Apr14 Maybe the Democrats Won't Be Wiped Out in November
Apr14 Trump's Power Continues to Wane
Apr14 Progressives Don't Have a Candidate for 2024
Apr14 But They Might Have One in Wisconsin in 2022
Apr14 Demographics Meets the Supreme Court
Apr14 Trial Date in Defamation Case against Fox News
Apr14 March... Sadness, Part XI (Legislative Branch, Round 4)
Apr13 Ghosts of Carters Past
Apr13 Biden Uses the 'G' Word
Apr13 A Pretty Bad Week for New York Democrats, Part I...
Apr13 A Pretty Bad Week for New York Democrats, Part II...
Apr13 It's Also Been a Pretty Bad Week for the DSCC, for that Matter
Apr13 Even Mitt Romney Doesn't Know What the Hell He's Doing, Apparently
Apr13 March... Sadness, Part X (Judges and Governors, Round 4)
Apr12 Biden Is Gunning for the Guns
Apr12 Trump's Grip Is Slipping...
Apr12 ...While DeSantis' Is Getting Firmer
Apr12 Hunter Biden, Meet Jared Kushner...
Apr12 First Poll of the Alaska House Race Is In
Apr12 In Mexican Stunt Election, Nobody Really Won
Apr12 March... Sadness, Part XI (Executive Branch, Round 4)
Apr11 Cheney Says There Is No Battle Inside the Select Committee
Apr11 Republicans Promise to Rein in Biden If They Capture Congress
Apr11 Democrats Try to Appeal to Ukrainian-American Voters
Apr11 Putin May Interfere in 2024 Elections