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Political Wire logo Taliban Facing Backlash After U.S. Drone Strike
Victories by Trump Allies Showcase His Grip on GOP Base
Judge Rejects Bid to Delay Oath Keepers Trial
The Biggest Winner Last Night Was Abortion Rights
Biden to Sign Order Helping Patients Travel for Abortion
Pelosi Departs Taiwan

It was just pointed out to us that this site has its own Wikipedia page. However, it is a bit rusty and stops at 2018. If any of our readers are good at updating Wikipedia pages, updating it would be an easy project.

U.S. Drone Kills Top Al Qaeda Leader

Over the weekend, a U.S. drone strike killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahri. This has obvious national security implications since al Qaeda is still a threat to the U.S. and having the organization lose its leader will not only hurt it militarily but could also create a power struggle as new would-be leaders duke it out internally.

However, it could also have political fallout in the U.S. The Republicans are/were likely to bring up "Afghanistan" to hurt Joe Biden. But now that line of attack is much weaker. If the Republicans point out that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was messy (as military withdrawals always are), Biden can reply with (1) Barack Obama killed Osama bin Laden and (2) I killed his successor. That is likely to resonate more with voters than the messy withdrawal, whose terms Donald Trump set. So we think the political implications of the drone strike are at least as important as the military ones.

If you are interested in all the details of how Biden made the decision to kill the world's most wanted terrorist and how he pulled it off, CNN has an article discussing the plans and the strike. (V)

A Trumpist Might Be Elected Secretary of State in Arizona

Yesterday we had a rundown of many of today's key races. One that we overlooked is for the Republican primary for secretary of state in Arizona, a key swing state. A rare poll of a secretary of state race shows Trumpist election denier Mark Finchem leading the Republican field. If he wins, that could mean the end of honest elections in this important swing state.

The final poll, by OH Predictive Insights, has Finchem at 32% and his nearest rival, businessman Beau Lane at 11%. Lane's ads portray him as a smart businessman. Finchem's ads feature Trump. Two other candidates also are in the race but 41% of the voters are undecided. Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) has endorsed Lane and Trump has endorsed Finchem. Given battling endorsements, who knows what undecided voters will do.

Finchem is a state representative and in that capacity has endorsed wild conspiracy theories and backed the audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County done by the Cyber Ninjas. The audit was sloppy beyond all belief but in the end showed that not only did Joe Biden win Arizona, but he actually got a few more votes than the official tally.

Among Finchem's plans for the future is a decertification of the 2020 election results. There is absolutely no basis in law for that and even if it happened, Joe Biden would still have enough electoral votes and still be president. But it could set a terrible precedent and other states could do it as well.

This race is expected to be the most competitive secretary of state race in the country. Finchem knows that and is practically already demanding a recount if he loses. There is also a good chance that if he loses the initial count and also loses the recount, he won't concede. It seems that a lot of Trump voters don't care a whit about democracy. All they care about is power, and if democracy is collateral damage, so be it. They think it was nice while it lasted but now it is time to move on. (V)

Arizona's Election for Superintendent of Public Instruction Race Is Also a Battleground

The culture wars are going down further and further on the ballot every year. Now not only is the Arizona secretary of state race fully polarized but even the race for superintendent of public instruction is as well. Today's election highlights that.

The current Arizona superintendent is Kathy Hoffman (D), who has a background in education. After getting a masters degree in speech pathology from the University of Arizona, she taught pre-school before getting a job as a speech pathologist. In 2018, she was elected superintendent.

Her November opponent will be chosen by Arizona Republicans today. All of them claim that state classrooms are hypersexualized dens of iniquity where children are force-fed critical race theory. None of that is even close to being true, but who cares? There is an election to be won.

Hoffman, who is unopposed, has said it is disheartening that the people who want to run the school system hate it so much and distrust the schools so much. But they are not alone. Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) has also tried to undermine it in many ways, from creating a voucher program so students can escape the public schools to bans on sports participation by trans students.

Three Republicans are on the primary ballot. All three have similar contradictory platforms. On the one hand, they want to get politics out of schools. On the other hand, they want to rile up conservative voters by putting culture-war issues, like CRT, at the center of their campaigns, even though CRT is not taught in any Arizona K-12 school. One of the candidates is Tom Horne, a former state AG and former superintendent. He is probably the best known of the three. The second is real estate broker Shiry Sapir, who demonstrated her loyalty to the cultural wars by pulling her own children out of the public schools. The third is state Rep. Michelle Udall, a former math teacher and member of the famous Udall family, but running as a Republican.

Democrats have been in a state of advanced panic ever since Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) was elected in Virginia by running on a platform of putting the parents in charge of the schools. They think that can be easily exported all over the country, even though that election was unique in many ways, including millionaire Youngkin's ability to self-fund his campaign. (V)

Court Battles over Dobbs Have Barely Begun

In their dissent in the Dobbs case, the three Democratic appointees on the Supreme Court wrote that the decision to overturn Roe was going to open a can of worms and result in a vast number of new lawsuits, all of which would end up in the Supreme Court. Sure enough, it is already starting.

The biggest fights will be over laws barring state residents from ordering abortion pills from a state where it is legal and laws banning interstate travel for the purpose of getting an abortion. In principle, regulating interstate commerce is a power reserved to Congress, but many red states are going to try to do it themselves and pray for a Supreme Court decision that says they can. Of course, that is going to lead to blue states banning people from traveling to red states for all manner of reasons. The Supreme Court could be at this for years.

Some Democrats are calling on Joe Biden for bold action. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) has said he has talked to Biden and urged him to make it clear that pharmacies in blue states have every right to ship abortion pills to red states and attempts to interfere with the USPS by red state officials will be treated harshly.

Attorneys general in red states are already anticipating action from Biden and preparing to sue to stop it. However, drug manufacturer GenBioPro, which makes and sells mifepristone, is fighting back and has already sued Mississippi to stop it from blocking its products from being sold there. If Mississippi can prohibit the sale of mifepristone, can Illinois block the sale of out-of-state opioids? Can New York block the sale of Florida orange juice or California ban the sale of Kentucky bourbon? It could be a nightmare. The original purpose of the European Union was to get rid of a mish mash of import regulations that the founding countries had on each other's products. It would be ironic if Europe succeeded and then the U.S. got to the same situation with thousands of bans and tariff barriers among the states.

The other contentious issue is out-of-state travel. Most legal scholars believe that the Constitution guarantees the right of any American to travel to any state without restriction and for any purpose. However, this has never been tested explicitly in court. If the Supreme Court says a state can ban its residents from traveling to another state for an abortion, can people travel to that state for other reasons? How will a state enforce that? Will every woman flying from Texas to California be forced to take a pregnancy test on the way out and also on the way back? What about bus trips? Trips in your own car? The six justices who voted to uproot Roe thought that decision would be the last one on this subject, but boy are they ever wrong. There are going to be endless cases on abortion for years to come.

But court battles aside, another big issue in the abortion wars is the widespread availability of fake pills sold by scammers. The scams vary from selling expired pills, which might or might not work, to out-and-out thievery in which the Website owner has no pills and does not intend to get any and is merely interested in stealing credit card numbers. The FDA has no subpoena power to find out who is behind these Websites, so it is buyer beware.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has said that there are 35,000 online pharmacies and 95% are illegal. They specialize in whatever drug is currently in the news and advertise it at a price below the normal retail price. If horse dewormer is the flavor of the month, they go with that. If it is misoprostol, that is their specialty. Some of the sites are actually legal and legitimate pharmacies, but outside the U.S. and are not allowed to ship drugs to the U.S., but they do it anyway. But it is impossible for consumers to tell which Websites are legitimate and legal, which are legitimate pharmacies but not legal in the U.S., and which are complete scams. For most people, if a name appears on the first page after a Google or Bing search, it is assumed to be OK. This is far from the truth, unfortunately. (V)

Do You Want to Play Nice or Do You Want to Win?

Democrats are at each others' throats again. That's not unusual, but most of the time it is about policy, not about ratf*cking. To paraphrase Hamlet, "To do or not to do, that is the question." The current battle is about the chairman of the DCCC, Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and his love of interfering in Republican primaries, usually to help Trumpy candidates win them because they are easier prey in November. One common objection to the practice is that sometimes the plan works, and an unhinged Trumpist wins the primary—and also the general election. Do the Democrats really want lots of clones of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in Congress?

But Michigan is a weird special case. Maloney has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this ad:

It is only 30 seconds and gives you a good idea how ratf*cking works in practice. If you don't want to watch, the ad says that John Gibbs is too conservative and supports Donald Trump, things that many Republicans see as virtues. It is nominally an attack ad, but attacks Gibbs in a way that makes him look very attractive to conservative Republicans. Maloney's goal is to actually to get Republicans to vote for Gibbs, the guy he is nominally attacking. The only clue to something strange going on here is at the very end, the announcer says: "The DCCC is responsible for the contents of this advertising." We are pretty sure all of our readers know what the DCCC is, but most Americans have no clue.

The complication here, and what has made some Democrats angry, is that Gibbs is Trump's choice to unseat Rep. Peter Meijer in today's race in MI-03. Trump hates Meijer because Meijer voted to impeach Trump. Some Democrats feel that trying to defeat a guy who put the Constitution ahead of partisanship is dirty pool or rotten bean bag and just isn't cricket. But Maloney counters by arguing that he wants to hold the House and if he can get a weak candidate on the ballot in MI-03, that's another seat the Democrats can win, so too bad for Meijer. Yes, he is pro Constitution, but he is still a Republican and deserves to lose. But siding with Trump rubs some Democrats the wrong way.

One House Democrat, who didn't want to go on the record, said: "I'm so pissed I can't see straight, because I think Peter Meijer did the right thing. We're sending a message to Republicans that if you do the right thing, or if you vote with us, now we're going to go after you." However, not all Democrats are on this page. Another Democrat, who was willing to go on the record, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), said: "We're grumbling about going after a sitting Republican where we have a shot of picking up that seat? I think Peter Meijer's a decent guy, too. But this is about the numbers. We've got to do everything we can to keep the majority, or we've got Kevin McCarthy as the Speaker of the House."

So as usual, there are high-minded Democrats who would rather be right than be a representative and other Democrats who would rather be a representative than be right. The war continues. We'll know tomorrow whether the ploy worked. (V)

Capitol Rioter Gets 7 Years in a Different Federal Building

Guy Wesley Reffitt apparently likes to be in federal buildings as he spent some time in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In March 2022, a jury declared that he didn't belong there and found him guilty of obstructing the counting of the electoral votes, carrying a .40-caliber pistol into the building, and a few other matters. Yesterday Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced him to 7 years in federal prison. This is not only the longest sentence for a rioter so far, it is also the first time someone who demanded and got a jury trial for the riot has been sentenced.

The message to other people involved in the coup attempt couldn't be clearer. Yes, you have a right to a jury trial. Fine. Demand it. But you are going to get a sentence of many years in a different federal building. Maybe you would be better off cooperating with the feds to get a much lighter sentence in return for your assistance.

While the feds will appreciate any help other rioters now provide, it is unlikely that will help them nab bigger fish because none of the rioters met with John Eastman or Rudy Giuliani or even bigger fish before the riot. Still, testimony from a member of the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys could help nail their leaders and put them away for many years. Future potential rioters might take that into consideration the next time they are planning a coup. (V)

Lindsey Graham Renews Attempt to Quash His Subpoena

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) loves to talk. He is on talk shows all the time and loves to give interviews. But for some reason, he really does not want to talk to a special grand jury in Atlanta, which would welcome him with open arms and let him talk all day, especially about the two phone calls he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger just after the 2020 election. The grand jury is so eager to hear Graham talk, it even sent him a subpoena to welcome him to Atlanta. But Graham is apparently not interested and is trying to weasel out of it.

His latest move is to hire former White House counsel Don McGahn to try to get the subpoena tossed out. His argument is fairly technical, namely, that state courts can't subpoena federal lawmakers. If they could, prosecutors all over the country could subpoena federal lawmakers all the time and take them away from their busy schedule of making laws all day long. It remains to be seen if the judge buys this argument.

Graham's real problem is that very likely, like Trump, he told Raffensperger to find 12,000 more votes for Trump, and interfering with an election is a crime in Georgia. So is lying to a grand jury. So he would rather not show up and also not be held in contempt of court. What's a senator to do?

Graham's lawyers have also argued that his testimony would not be useful for D.A. Fani Willis' investigation. That's kind of an odd argument when she says it would be, but what does she know? Also in a court filing, Graham's lawyers wrote that in the calls he was specifically exercising his oversight responsibilities as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Apparently no one told Graham that the states run elections and the Senate Judiciary Committee plays absolutely no role in state elections.

This kind of argument smacks of desperation. Graham really doesn't want to betray Trump but even more so he doesn't want to betray himself. If asked under oath if he committed a crime, he would either have to admit it, which could open himself up to prosecution, lie about it, which would open himself up to perjury charges, or take the Fifth Amendment, which Trump has often said only guilty people do. Best case is to hire a smart lawyer like McGahn and try to make the subpoena go away, and that is exactly what Graham is trying to do. (V)

Fetterman is Laughing at His Opponent

The generic campaign ad these days has a man with a creepy voice intoning how bad the candidate's opponent is while dark scary scenes flash on the screen quickly. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA), who is an unusual candidate in so many ways, is also very different in terms of his ads. Last month he got Jersey Shore actress Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi LaValle to make a funny ad in which she addresses Fetterman's opponent, Mehmet Oz, and tells him he should come back to her beloved New Jersey, where he actually lives. No creepy voices or dark scenes at all. Just a pretty actress very gently pointing out that Oz should come back home because New Jersey misses him.

Now it appears that Fetterman is at it again , gently poking fun at Oz some more. The new ad features "The Sopranos" actor Steve Van Zandt also "gently" urging Oz to come back to New Jersey, where he belongs. Here it is:

The point of both ads is to tell everyone in Pennsylvania that Oz is a carpetbagger from New Jersey who doesn't understand Pennsylvania and its people. But rather than do it in the usual dark way trying to scare people, Fetterman is running friendly, funny ads that make the point that Oz lives in New Jersey, but in a way that people might remember better than scary ads.

If Fetterman wins big, there are going to be a thousand post mortems of his campaign to try to figure out if cute funny ads really work better than dark ones. If the conclusion is that they do, it could completely change the way admakers work and the kinds of ads they produce. It would be a huge shock to the system, especially to admakers who have always believed the only way to win is to scare the daylights out of the voters. (V)

How to Start a Third Party and Win

Last week we had an item about the new political party Andrew Yang and a couple of his friends are setting up. We kinda panned it. Now Tim Miller, a professional political operative over at The Bulwark (he was communications director for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, among other jobs), has written a piece about what it would take to create a third party that could potentially win an election, not just make the founders feel important.

Miller says there is a two-part test to see if a new party is viable. Step 1 is this:

Step 1: Will it attract a large number of real-world Trump voters?

Miller points out that in 1992, billionaire Ross Perot ran for president and even with his billions, he got only 19% of the vote and zero electoral votes. To win, a new party would have to do a lot better than that. And the only way it could do it is to attract a large number of real-world Trump voters as well as a large number of Democrats. Getting Democrats is easy. Just put together a rational plan to get things done and show how it could be funded and presto, you've got lots of Democrats. But if that is all you do, all you have done is fracture the Democratic vote and let the Republican win. No, to be serious, you need large numbers of Trump voters, as in, like 20-30% of them.

Then Miller asks the rhetorical question of: "Who are these Trump voters that you are going to get?" He starts out by pointing out that people who voted for Evan McMullin in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 are not Trump voters. They don't count. Nor do people who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. They are by definition not Trump voters.

What you need are people who really like Trump, not people who voted for him once or twice but who can barely stomach him. You need people who watch Fox & Friends and Hannity and swear they are right. What you need is people who:

  • support "Don't say gay"
  • want to build a wall on the Mexican border
  • hate the idea of men calling themselves women so they can participate in women's sports
  • think Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) did a great job handling COVID-19
  • do not trust anyone who even considers taking away their guns
  • are still furious with Colin Kaeperick for disrespecting the flag
  • are repulsed by anyone who thinks they can pick their own pronouns
  • hate woke culture with a passion

Miller's question is then what does Yangism offer these people that Trumpism does not? And remember, getting Democrats to sign up is easy, but if you don't get 20-30% of Trump voters to sign up, you're roadkill. That's step 1.

Now let's move on to Miller's step 2:

Step 2: Will it attract a large number of real-world Trump voters?

You may notice it is quite similar to step 1. That's because there is no step 2. There is only a step 1. He just wanted you to keep reading this far. So again, what exactly are you going to pitch to the Trump voters you want to peel off that is more attractive to them than what Trump offers? What politician could do this and not repel all Democrats? Ron DeSantis might pass the test and peel off 20-30% of Trump voters, but he won't get any Democrats, so you can't win a general election featuring Trump (R), some decent Democrat (D), and DeSantis (Y). All that would do is cannibalize the Republican Party the same way Sen. Joe Manchin (Y-WV) as Yang's man would cannibalize the Democratic Party without getting many real-world Trump voters.

So Miller comes to the same conclusion we did, but from a different angle. No third party is going to get anywhere any time soon. (V)

Wood Files to Run as an Independent Senate Candidate in Missouri

Third parties never make it (see above). What about independent candidates? Generally not, although they sometimes act as spoilers, pulling more votes from one party than the other and thus affecting the election. In that light, it is noteworthy that former U.S. Attorney John Wood has filed to run for the Senate in Missouri. His effect on the race is likely to depend largely on whom the Democrats and Republicans nominate, something we will know tomorrow.

Wood worked with the Select Committee investigating the coup attempt, so he believes in the Constitution. You can't take that for granted anymore, unfortunately. But that doesn't mean he is a Democrat. No, in fact he has explicitly said that he does not support Joe Biden's agenda. In our polarized world, that means he is a Republican. As such, why did he file? There are plenty of Republicans already running. Our best guess is that he is afraid that Eric Greitens might win the primary today. That would pose a problem for Missourians who are Republican but don't want to vote for a person who committed sexual assault and child abuse. But in reality, if Greitens wins and many Republicans vote for Wood, that will help the Democrats, which he doesn't want. However, if Vicky Hartzler or Eric Schmitt wins the primary, Republicans will vote for the actual Republican in the general election and Wood won't get any votes. We will know tomorrow if his candidacy makes any sense. In truth, we don't see any scenario where it makes sense at all. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug01 Primary Action Resumes Tomorrow
Aug01 Republican Senators Don't Want Trump to Run
Aug01 Kellyanne Conway Is Advising Trump to Wait Until after the Midterms to Announce
Aug01 In Politics, a Week Is a Long Time
Aug01 Poll: Abortion Is Motivating Democrats More than Republicans
Aug01 Don't Believe Everything You Read
Aug01 Some Republicans Want a New Constitution
Aug01 Pelosi Is Going Somewhere
Aug01 And Then There Was One
Aug01 The DNC Will Delay a Key Vote Until after the Midterms
Aug01 Inflation Is Way Up in the Eurozone
Aug01 Ruben Gallego Is Fundraising Off a Senate Race He Hasn't Even Entered Yet
Jul31 Sunday Mailbag
Jul30 Saturday Q&A
Jul29 CHIPS Will Soon Be Law
Jul29 RNC Hits Trump Where It Hurts
Jul29 Andrew Yang, Meet Maurice Duverger
Jul29 Vote by Mail Is Expanding in the Northeast
Jul29 Does the Constitution Ban Restrictions to Voting Rights?
Jul29 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jul29 Insert Headline Here
Jul28 We Have a Deal?
Jul28 Hello, Mr. CHIPS
Jul28 Fed Raises Interest Rates by 0.75% Again
Jul28 Hutchinson Is Cooperating with the Dept. of Justice
Jul28 Is This Another Hint?
Jul28 Buttigieg Leads Biden in a Poll of New Hampshire Democrats
Jul28 Alex Lasry Has Exited the Wisconsin Senate Race
Jul28 Thousands of North Carolina Felons Can Vote in November
Jul28 The Country Is Splitting into Two Irecconcilable Blocs
Jul27 CNN Gets Behind the Robes
Jul27 Russia Throws Fire on the Gasoline
Jul27 It's a Crime!
Jul27 Hate The Game, Not the Playa
Jul27 Right-Wingers Don't Like Gay Marriage
Jul27 Greitens Is in Trouble
Jul26 WSJ Also Abandons the S.S. Trump
Jul26 Newsom Gunning for Guns... and More
Jul26 Texas Gubernatorial Race Is Getting Interesting
Jul26 Scott Concedes that Republican Senate Candidates Have Money Problems
Jul26 Nelson Is Out in Wisconsin
Jul26 Hulu Won't Run Democrats' Ads
Jul26 History Lesson: Separation of Church and State
Jul25 What We Learned from the Hearings
Jul25 New York Post: Trump Is Unworthy to Be President Again
Jul25 Trump Has a Plan for a Second Term
Jul25 Select Committee May Subpoena Ginni Thomas
Jul25 Fani Willis Is Building a Broad Case
Jul25 Democrats Have Interjected Themselves into GOP Primaries
Jul25 Voter Registration Is Catching Up with Elections