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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Toto, I Have a Feeling the Problem Isn't Just Kansas Anymore
      •  She Went There
      •  Republican Senators Try to Clean Up Their Mess
      •  U.S. Government Sues Idaho

(Z) thanks everyone who sent their best wishes on a speedy recovery. As you can see, there has been enough of a bounce-back to resume blogging duties. That does not mean "100% recovered," though, so please be gentle as you read today.

Toto, I Have a Feeling the Problem Isn't Just Kansas Anymore

It's true that Dorothy Gale dressed in blue, but that was back when blue was the Republican color, so we think it works. Yesterday was a big day at the ballot box; we'll take it state by state, starting with the biggest result of all:

  • Kansas: Polling suggested that the ballot initiative on whether or not to remove abortion protections from the state constitution was going to be fairly close. So, the Republicans rallied their ground forces and the Democrats rallied theirs. Assuming that the polls were correct, and that the initiative passed or failed by a few points, then both sides could have claimed victory, and it would have been difficult to assign too much significance to the result.

    That is not how it turned out, however. With 95% of the ballots counted, Kansans are set to reject the initiative by nearly 18 points, 58.8% to 41.2%. That is nothing short of staggering. And we honestly have no idea how Republicans will explain it away. Before last night, they might have told themselves that it's only blue states where abortion rights are popular. But Kansas is very red; as we have often pointed out, the state hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Hitler invaded Poland. Alternatively, the Republicans might have counted on Christian voters to carry the day. But nearly 80% of Kansans identify as Christian, so apparently not. Another possible explanation/excuse might be something along the lines of "Well, if it's a small state, and if Democrats are extra-motivated, that might produce wonky results." But there are, as of this writing, 534,134 votes to reject the Amendment. Gov. Laura Kelly (D) got just 259,306 votes in her primary and the three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate combined for 254,953 votes in theirs. So, it sure looks like more than half the votes to reject the amendment came from Republican voters.

    It's only one data point, but it's a pretty profound one, and who knows what the Republicans do with it? If they back off on outlawing abortion, a big segment of the base will be furious, and the Party will also be failing to capitalize on a victory it's fought nearly 50 years for. On the other hand, if Republicans stay the course, they're going to be stuck with an issue that's apparently a pretty big loser in many/most states. And Kansas, incidentally, is a partially closed primary state. Unaffiliated voters (29% of Kansans) can request either party's ballot, but Republicans (45%) and Democrats (26%) can only vote in their own party's primary. So while it is possible that some of those Republican pro-choice voters will otherwise stay loyal to the party, there's no guarantee of that. They could not vote for a Democratic politician last night, but they could in November.

    We'll offer two other observations for now. First, it does not help the Republicans that the most fanatically anti-choice officeholders tend to be at the state level. Even if, say, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wakes up this morning and realizes that some serious cooling of the jets needs to take place, imposing discipline on the party nationwide may not be possible. Second, the Democrats now have a pretty good playbook, it appears, when it comes to rallying voters around this issue.

    In other Kansas news, Kelly easily won the right to run for reelection. She will face state AG Derek Schmidt, who is an election denier, a climate change denier, and a good friend of former state Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And speaking of Kobach, he's wacky enough that Kansans rejected his gubernatorial bid and his U.S. Senate bid, but he's back for another bite at the apple. He's now the Party's nominee for state AG; he'll face Chris Mann (D), a centrist former cop and prosecutor who could very well win this race. The U.S. Senate race will, as expected, feature Sen. Jerry Moran (R) squaring off against very devout Methodist minister Mark Holland, who is about to gain personal insight into what it's like to be crucified.

  • Arizona: The Democratic half of the gubernatorial race was drama-free, as state Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) easily swatted away the other aspiring Democratic governors, taking 72.8% of the vote (with 71% reporting). On the Republican side, by contrast, it was and is a see-saw battle. When most outlets wrapped their night's coverage, the Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Mike Pence-endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson was leading by about 5,000 votes. Late in the evening, the balance shifted in favor of the Donald Trump-endorsed Kari Lake. As of this writing, it's 45.7% for Lake and 44.9% for Robson (with 78% reporting). This one could clearly go either way, though we would venture to guess that the write-in votes will favor Robson, and will carry the day for her.

    In the U.S. Senate race, Trump definitely got his candidate in Blake Masters (R), who has claimed 38.7% of the vote (with 76% reporting). That easily outdistances businessman Jim Lamon, who is in second place with 28.9% of the vote. Masters is a mediocre candidate with a history of... concerning (translation: pro-Nazi) statements, in addition to being an election denier. He's being kept afloat by money from tech billionaire Peter Thiel. His opponent, of course, will be Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ). We don't see how this seat can be seriously considered to be in play at this point.

    Beyond that, Republicans chose election deniers for the other statewide offices because that's all there was to choose from. In particular, the Republican candidate for secretary of state is Mark Finchem, who is completely in the bag for Trump. If he is elected to run Arizona's elections, the Democrats have a big problem going forward as he will be happy to find as many votes for Trump as needed.

  • Missouri: The Republicans got better news from the state that has the other (larger) part of Kansas City, as they managed to bring down former governor Eric Greitens (R). If he'd gotten the U.S. Senate nomination, the GOP would have needed to hitch its wagon to a sexual reprobate and would have had to sink tens of millions it doesn't have into the Show Me State, or else risk losing what should be a safe seat. However, after leading in polls for much of election season, Greitens ended up finishing in third place.

    Instead, the Republican candidate will be state AG Eric Schmitt, who claimed 45.7% of the vote with 95% reporting. Schmitt's pretty right wing, and might well shoot himself in the foot thanks to his loose lips problem, but he's a far better candidate than Greitens. They do have the same first name, however, which Donald Trump cleverly took note of, issuing a last-minute endorsement of "Eric..." If the former president tries to claim that his "endorsement" mattered, he should be laughed out of the building. Truth be told, we believe he was actually endorsing Eric Burdon. After all, Burdon sang very compellingly about the downsides of sleeping with prostitutes. The Democrat in this contest will be beer baron Trudy Busch Valentine. With her family money and with abortion rights being the apparent issue of the day, maybe she can make a race of this. We wouldn't bet on it but, then again, we don't have beer baron money laying around.

  • Michigan: Tudor Dixon (R) has no political experience, but she does have two things going for her: (1) the backing of the wealthy DeVos family, and (2) the endorsement of Donald Trump. We will let you decide which of those two things best explains her 19-point shellacking of businessman Kevin Rinke, 40.5% to 21.5% (with 77% reporting). We suspect the conclusion you reach will be different from the one the former president reaches. Dixon will now face off against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI).

    The other interesting race in the Wolverine State was in MI-03. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) had the temerity to vote in favor of the second Trump impeachment. So, Trump threw his (considerable) weight behind John Gibbs, an official in the former president's administration. Gibbs is pretty far right, so the DCCC engaged in extensive ratfu**ing on his behalf. And both Trump and the DCCC apparently got their man, as Gibbs came out on top 51.8% to 48.2%. Only 55% of the vote is in, and that's pretty close, so we would think that this one would still be up in the air. However, the AP called it and Meijer conceded, so the missing ballots must come from more conservative counties.

  • Washington: While voting to impeach Donald Trump might be the kiss of death in a purple or red state, it may not be so in a blue state. As we noted on Monday, Washington uses a top-two primary system, and at the moment Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) is in second place in her primary with 24.5% of the vote, while Rep. Dan Newhouse (R) is leading in his with 27.3% of the vote. Both, of course, voted to impeach. While the Washington system can theoretically produce a single-party general election, it does not appear that will happen; Marie Perez (D) is leading in the Herrera Beutler primary with 31.8% of the vote and Doug White (D) is in second place in the Newhouse primary with 26.0%. That said, a little less than half the vote has been reported in these two districts, so things could still change. And we have no idea how these results might translate to the general election. For example, were there Democrats who voted in support of the impeachers, just as a tip of the hat? Maybe. Or, alternatively, some Democratic ratfu**ers? Could be. Who knows?

    In the U.S. Senate primary, Sen. Patty Murray (D) easily came out ahead, with 54.0% of the vote. She will face the very Trumpy Tiffany Smiley (R), who has no political experience, and whose pitch appears to be that she was born on a farm and that her husband was wounded in Iraq, causing him to lose his sight. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has refocused its spending, with big ad buys in Washington and Colorado, and so is presenting this as a "pickup opportunity." Given that Murray apparently already has the backing of 54% of the electorate, and given how blue Washington is, we're not so sure about that. The choice to invest in Smiley (and Joe O'Dea in Colorado) may be less about the two of them and more about how lousy the Herschel Walker (GA) and Mehmet Oz (PA) campaigns are.

Next up is Tennessee, on Thursday, and then Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin next Tuesday. (Z)

She Went There

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she planned to visit Taiwan during her trip through the Far East. China pitched a hissy fit and said she better not. So, she went. China responded with an even more impressive hissy fit, sending warships to surround Taiwan while she visited.

Taiwan is an extremely important diplomatic and trade partner for the United States, and many Americans have close ties to the nation. China has been increasingly assertive about infringing on Taiwanese sovereignty, and making clear that the U.S. government knows that and is not happy about it was the purpose of the trip. The Speaker explained as much in the op-ed she published yesterday. When the Chinese government insisted that Pelosi not come, well, that 100% guaranteed that Pelosi would make the trip. The U.S. simply cannot allow the message to be sent that the Chinese get to dictate American diplomatic affairs.

Vast numbers of people on the right, and some on the left, have criticized Pelosi's alleged recklessness. That appears to be a misreading of the situation to us. Yes, Joe Biden made frowny faces when asked about the trip, but he pointedly made no public statement asking Pelosi to call it off. Further, even if he did not want to publicly embarrass her, he could have made one phone call and asked her not to do it, and she surely would have complied. You don't get to be speaker if you're a maverick. So, of course she was working as a de facto emissary of the White House. However, she's far enough removed from Team Joe to give the president plausible deniability. And although she's a very high-ranking official, her career at the loci of power is about to come to an end. So, it's not like asking, say, Mark Kelly, to assume the risk that this could be an anchor around his neck for years. (Z)

Republican Senators Try to Clean Up Their Mess

Several months back, the Senate passed the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 by a vote of 84-14. It expands healthcare access for 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits. The House took up the legislation, made a few adjustments to clarify some of the language therein, and passed it as well. Then, it headed back to the Senate where, somehow, 25 senators had a change of heart. So, the bill was suddenly subject to a filibuster.

The official story from the right side of the aisle is that they filibustered in order to add some amendments to the bill. Maybe that is true, although it doesn't explain why those amendments were not a concern the first time the bill came to the Senate floor for a vote.

There's also an alternate explanation. The re-vote in the Senate took place about an hour after the CHIPS bill was passed and then Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced they had worked out a reconciliation bill after all. In other words, the re-vote happened at a time when Republicans were hopping mad. And the video showing several Republican senators fist-bumping after successfully imposing the filibuster does not jibe well with the "we just wanted to add some amendments" argument.

The blowback was massive, from Democrats, from veterans' groups and from... TV comedian Jon Stewart, who has taken a rather sizable role in lobbying for the bill. It would seem that the Republicans decided the optics here were not too good, and so when the bill came up for a vote yesterday, it passed 86-11.

In the end, the truth of the situation doesn't matter nearly as much as what voters believe. At very least, the sequence of events makes it look like the Democrats wanted the bill and the Republicans were reluctant. More probable, we think, is that it will look to many voters like Republican politicians were willing to sacrifice injured veterans in a fit of pique. Note, incidentally, that the two senators most clearly fist bumping in the above video are Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), neither of whom has come within a country mile of serving in uniform. (Z)

U.S. Government Sues Idaho

This isn't as dramatic as opening military bases to abortions, or other such ideas, but it is an option that has a decent chance of succeeding, long-term. Yesterday, just hours before the news out of Kansas (see above), the Department of Justice filed suit against the state of Idaho, arguing that the state's new anti-abortion law is in conflict with federal law.

The specific federal law in question is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986, which requires that anyone who visits an ER must be stabilized and treated. The argument, obviously, is that if doctors are forbidden to perform abortions necessary to saving a mother's life, or are subject to prosecution when dealing with things like miscarriages, then those doctors cannot abide by the federal law.

Idaho was targeted because their law is particularly extreme. However, the basic argument should be viable in quite a few red states. And the Department of Justice's case is pretty strong. That said, this will eventually end up before the Supreme Court, and with this Court, who knows?

In other abortion-related news, Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order today directing the Dept. of Health and Human Services to figure out how to help women who need to travel out of state for an abortion. A federally financed Abortion Express bus service would violate the Hyde Amendment, so Secretary Xavier Becerra will have to put on his thinking cap and come up with something else.

For geographically inclined readers, we refer you to the map of the U.S. above. Now that abortions are going to stay legal in Kansas, we note that three states that are going to ban abortions, Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma, border Kansas and another one (Iowa) is pretty close. No doubt Kansas will get some pregnant visitors from those states in the coming months and years. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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