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Biden Called Liz Cheney After Her Primary Loss
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sorry, Liz
      •  Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...
      •  ...And Cancels Some More Student Loan Debt
      •  Weisselberg to Plead Guilty...
      •  ...And Federal Judge to Rule on Trump Affidavit
      •  T.J. Cox Arrested
      •  Fetterman Campaign Turns Crudité
      •  Rubio in Trouble?

Sorry, Liz

Normally, there isn't going to be much drama when two small, red states hold primaries. However, in case you haven't noticed, things ain't exactly normal these days.

Let's start with the race that everyone was watching, despite the fact that everyone knew how it would turn out. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) lost her primary, big-time. Donald Trump-backed Harriet Hageman (R) took 66.3% of the vote, as compared to 28.9% for the daughter of Dick. By all indications, there was substantial Democratic crossover. Cheney won one of the two Wyoming counties that went for Joe Biden in 2020 (Teton County), and she collected 49,316 votes, while the three Democrats running in that primary combined for just 7,233. The problem is that there just weren't enough Democrats in Wyoming to save the Representative, given how few Republicans stuck with her.

Although she knew what her fate would be, Cheney soldiered on like a champ. The day before the election, she released a video in which she talked about the threats to democracy and invoked Abraham Lincoln. In her concession speech last night, she again invoked Lincoln (and U.S. Grant):

Lincoln and Grant, and all who fought in our nation's tragic Civil War, including my own great-great grandfathers, saved our union. Their courage saved freedom. And if we listen closely, they are speaking to us down the generations. We must not idly squander what so many have fought and died for.

Cheney made clear she is far from done with her fight to end Trumpism. She didn't exactly say what's next for her, though she did note that Lincoln once lost a House election and then went on to be elected president. That's not actually true; he never lost a House election. But it sounds good, and it certainly seems to be a pretty big hint.

That said, we continue to take the view that anyone who would vote for Cheney is, in her absence, a hold-your-nose-and-vote-Democratic type. So, a presidential campaign—as an independent, or a Libertarian—might be counterproductive. Undoubtedly, she'll run some polls and won't jump in if it would do more harm than good. If she really wants to hold true to the Lincoln example, he was out of politics for roughly a decade, from 1846 to 1856. That meant that he was not damaged by the controversial events of those years, since he had nothing to do with them. So, if Cheney wants to go away and quietly lobby, or teach, or serve as a pundit, and then maybe come back in 5-6 years and try to reinvent the GOP, that may work.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about other possibilities for Cheney, Wyoming has had a sore loser law since 1973. So, she's done for this election cycle. And the possibility of a Democratic-plus-some-Republicans coalition unifying to elect her Speaker of the House (and to deny Kevin McCarthy, R-CA) is slim. If the Democrats are in the minority, they might sign on to such a scheme. But there's no way Cheney would get any Republican support. Inasmuch as she's the 8th of 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment to get booted out of office, supporting Cheney for speaker would be career suicide for any member of the House GOP conference.

In other Wyoming election news, Gov. Mark Gordon (R-WY) was renominated, and will surely be reelected. And a Trump-backed election denier, Chuck Gray (R), landed his party's nomination for Secretary of State and is just as likely as Gordon to win in November. That means that in the oh-so-realistic scenario where Joe Biden or some other Democrat wins ruby red Wyoming, there will be someone in place to potentially steal those EVs back for the Republicans.

Moving on to the returns in Alaska... it's hard to know what to make of them. Nobody's been paying all that much attention to the gubernatorial race, but the numbers there so far (with 60% reporting) are instructive. Incumbent Mike Dunleavy (R) easily led the field with 42.2% of the vote. Also advancing will be Democrat Les Gara (22.1%) and nonpartisan entrant Bill Walker (21.5%). The fourth candidate to make the ballot is not yet known, but will be one of two Republicans who finished in the single digits. Needless to say, when the general election takes place, with its ranked-choice voting, it's going to matter an awful lot who is ranked second and third on a lot of voters' ballots. Dunleavy is presumably safe, but it's not a slam dunk, since 57.8% of voters checked the box for "not Dunleavy."

And then there is the Senate race. If anyone got good news last night, it was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R). She got 43.3% of the vote, to easily advance, while the Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka got 41.0%. So, the Senator has a slight edge. Further, the third-place finisher will almost certainly be Democrat Patricia Chesbro, who claimed 6.2% of the vote. It's basically inconceivable that someone would vote Chesbro #1 and the ultra-right-wing Tshibaka #2, so you have to imagine that virtually all of that 6.2% will migrate to Murkowski when the ranked-choice ballots are tabulated in November. And 43.3% plus 6.2% is 49.5%, which means that Tshibaka would need to claim pretty much all the other votes, including the ones that went for multiple Democrats, independents, and nonpartisan candidates yesterday. Point is, it looks like Murkowski is pretty safe.

Finally, the two House races. Alaska doesn't have two seats in the House, of course, but they do have a deceased representative who needs replacing, and so yesterday featured both a special election for the rest of Don Young's term and a regular election for a full term to commence in January 2023. Thus far, as you might expect, the results in both elections were very similar. In the special election, Democrat Mary Peltola leads with 37.5% of the vote, Sarah Palin (R) is right behind her with 32.3%, and Nick Begich (R) is in third with 28.8%. There hasn't yet been time to process all the votes, much less go through the ranked choices, but obviously the second choices on all those Begich ballots are going to matter a great deal. We find it hard to accept that a bunch of Republicans would break roughly 80% for a Democrat, so we have to assume that Palin is headed to Washington once all the numbers are in. On the other hand, more than 60% of Alaskans don't like her anymore, so who knows?

As to the full term, each candidate collected fewer votes than in the special election because there were more than 20 people on the full-term ballot. Once again, Peltola leads (34.8%), Palin is in second (31.7%) and Begich is in third (27.2%). The other candidates combined for less than 5% of the vote; the fourth person to advance will probably be Republican Tara Sweeney (3.4%). In November, the second-place choices on those Begich ballots and those Sweeney ballots are again going to be decisive. Once we see how the special election turns out, we'll have a pretty good clue as to how the general is likely to turn out.

That's the news from America's 48th and 50th most populous states. Next week, the states will be a wee bit larger, as Florida and New York take their turn. (Z)

Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is now law. Having been passed by the Senate early last week and by the House late last week, the bill was signed by Joe Biden as a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. "With this law, the American people won, and the special interests lost," Biden declared.

We've already written a great deal about the bill, and don't want to bore you with a lengthy recapitulation. So, we'll just do a brief one: This gives the Democrats something very substantive to run on this cycle and, combined with the abortion issue, should allow them to keep the expected damage to a minimum. The Party will likely hold the Senate. As to the House, that chamber will probably slip out of the blue team's hands, though it's not a certainty anymore.

Inasmuch as you've already read what we have to say, we thought we'd run down what other folks are saying. First, some comments from left-leaning commentators:

  • Nitish Pahwa, Slate: "Following Donald Trump's outright climate denial and the foisted climate goals of Barack Obama, this isn't just a relief. Biden can now claim the best presidential record on the environment since, well, Richard Nixon. He is almost certainly the most effective climate president since global warming became a mainstream concept in the 1980s."

  • Adam Sobel, CNN: "There has never—never—been climate legislation anywhere near this substantial passed in the United States. Not only do these emissions reductions truly matter on their own, but they show that it's politically possible -- that enough people care about the climate problem that it can be addressed by our political system. And they allow us to look other nations in the eye as we ask them to do their parts too."

  • Larry Levitt, The New York Times: "The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest health reform initiative since passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, more than a decade ago. And the fact that this new legislation passed despite the opposition of the drug industry—which, along with most insurance companies and hospitals, largely supported the A.C.A.—makes it, in a sense, even more of a statement about what's politically possible in reforming the health system."

  • Paul Krugman, The New York Times: "This is a very big deal. The act isn't, by itself, enough to avert climate disaster. But it is a huge step in the right direction and sets the stage for more action in the years ahead. It will catalyze progress in green technology; its economic benefits will make passing additional legislation easier; it gives the United States the credibility it needs to lead a global effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions."

  • William S. Becker, The Hill: "The IRA and infrastructure bills alone will not take care of America's contribution to the global mission to stabilize the climate. But, they are a welcome crack in the political dam that has blocked federal leadership against climate change for 30 years. We still need to blow the dam wide open."

And some comments from right-leaning commentators:

  • Joe Concha, The Hill: "The Democrats tried naming a bill Build Back Better. And when that failed, they called it the Inflation Reduction Act. There seems to be a reflex in Washington to use names to market legislation that have little or nothing to do with the content of the legislation. And when Democrats do it, they know a mostly-friendly media won't call them on it. But if the Inflation Reduction Act doesn't actually reduce inflation, voters just might."

  • Liz Peek, Fox: "Its very name is so non-credible that even liberal media outlets like CNN and The New York Times have dumped the "Inflation Reduction Act" handle, and now describe it as the 'Climate and Healthcare Bill.' That figures; recent polling finds that only 12% of Americans think the package will actually reduce the cost of living, while 40% expect it will increase inflation. That assessment reflects the near-universal repudiation of the legislation's inflation-fighting credentials by analysts at Penn Wharton and elsewhere. Democrats will struggle to tout an essentially dishonest bill."

  • Brandon Morse, RedState: "As even socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont pointed out, there's nothing in the Inflation Reduction Act that would actually help reduce inflation. The CBO report showed that this bill would do little to nothing to reduce the swelling and would actually cause more of it, yet Democrats seem less concerned about that to the point of not even wanting to talk about it. What the bill does do is infuse the IRS with billions of dollars and hire an army of IRS agents with the primary task of 'enforcement.' Interestingly, Democrats didn't seem to want to mention that about the bill either. It's pretty clear that the Democrats have, once again, used a crisis to push their own agenda. Anyone who actually bought into the promises that it would help the economy, especially Republicans, are fools."

  • Brad Polumbo, Newsweek: "President Biden signed the 'Inflation Reduction Act' into law on Tuesday, a behemoth tax-and-spending plan ostensibly intended to reduce inflation, grow the economy, and address climate change. Progressive Democrats like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are already celebrating this major political victory. But if they were honest with themselves, progressives would admit that while it might be a political success, the actual details of this legislation betray the working-class people they claim to care about."

  • Marc A. Thiessen, The Washington Post: "A more accurate name for the bill might be the 'IRS Enforcement Act.' The bill increases the budget of the Internal Revenue Service by $80 billion over 10 years. What might the IRS do with all that money? The Biden administration has told us. In May 2021, Biden's Treasury Department produced a 22-page analysis of his American Families Plan agenda, which said that adding nearly $80 billion in new resources over 10 years to the IRS budget would allow it to hire 86,852 full-time employees over the next decade—to audit more returns and pry more money out of taxpayers to fund the administration's radical climate agenda."

As per usual, it's like the two sides are talking about entirely different bills. That said, the themes are clear. The lefties are laser-focused on the unprecedented investment in the environment. The righties have zoomed in on the likelihood that the bill won't affect inflation much, and are arguing that the legislation will unleash an IRS-led reign of terror. Those are pretty likely to be the main talking points for the next 80 days or so. (Z)

...And Cancels Some More Student Loan Debt

Joe Biden didn't just sign the Inflation Reduction Act into law yesterday; he also canceled another $3.9 billion in student debt. This time, the beneficiaries are 208,000 folks who attended the for-profit ITT Tech, an educational institution of dubious merit that shut down in 2016.

Many politics-watchers are waiting breathlessly to see what Biden is planning to do about student-loan debt. And while they have been waiting, he's discharged a grand total of $32 billion in loans. One wonders if the piecemeal approach is the grand strategy here. That is to say, the President cancels debt a few billion here and a few billion there, always to the benefit of particularly worthy recipients (victims of for-profit schools, or maybe students who went into public service, or maybe underserved minority students, etc.). We shall see, but this would certainly help explain why there's been no grand pronouncement despite the election being less than 3 months away. (Z)

Weisselberg to Plead Guilty...

This story is either very anticlimactic... or it's not. The details are fuzzy enough that we just can't say quite yet. What we do know is that it was announced yesterday that former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has apparently agreed to a plea deal, by which he would serve 5-6 months in the hoosegow as punishment for cheating on his taxes for the past 15 years.

Obviously, the $64,000 question here is: What, exactly, were the terms of the plea deal? If Weisselberg agreed to cooperate with investigations into Trump Organization finances, and to flip on his former boss (i.e., Donald Trump), then this is pretty big news. On the other hand, if Weisselberg is going to get away with keeping his lip zipped, then this will feel an awful lot like a slap on the wrist, and will leave the impression—rightly or wrongly—that there wasn't nearly as much juice to the New York investigation as it seemed. Maybe we will learn more when Weisselberg appears in court and, presumably, asks the judge to approve the plea. Or, maybe we won't. (Z)

...And Federal Judge to Rule on Trump Affidavit

Donald Trump wants the affidavit that led to the Mar-a-Lago search to be unsealed. The Department of Justice wants it to remain under wraps. On Thursday, Judge Bruce Reinhart will conduct a hearing with an eye toward determining which side gets its way.

Why does the former president want the affidavit to be made public? We don't know, but here are the three guesses we came up with:

  1. It's a bluff, and Trump wants to be rejected so that he can complain about what a victim he is.

  2. Trump assumes that there will be something in the affidavit that he and his acolytes can zoom in on, and pick to death.

  3. Trump wants the identity of the mole (or moles) revealed, so he and his supporters can make their lives a living hell.

We're probably most inclined to #3, but that's just a guess. And maybe we're overlooking other possibilities. If anyone has ideas, let us know.

And as long as we're on the subject of Trump-manufactured B.S., we'll point out a couple of other things on that front. First, since we wrote up the various "defenses" of Trump that TrumpWorld is using, a new one has emerged: It's the fault of former chief-of-staff Mark Meadows. The basic story is that everything in the Trump White House had to be packed very quickly and Meadows was overseeing that process, so anything that got transported improperly is on him. Of course, even if this is true, it overlooks that: (1) the hectic nature of the packing was due to Trump's refusal to accept defeat, and (2) Trump was warned multiple times that he had documents he should not have, and he neglected to surrender them.

The other thing worth noting is that Trump—who, again, has a savant-level ability to turn molehills into mountains—is carping about the fact that the FBI seized his passports when they searched Mar-a-Lago. On his social media platform, he claimed that the passports were "stolen" and that "This is an assault on a political opponent at a level never seen before in our Country. Third World!" The former president either does not realize, or thinks his followers won't realize, that if the claim was true, it would be a flashing red light that says "The FBI thinks Trump is a flight risk."

The truth of the matter is more benign. The passports were in one of the boxes the FBI seized. And, as soon as the Bureau realized they had them, they contacted Trump's people to arrange their return. Trump has not followed through, however, because there's much more value to him in kvetching about how badly he's been wronged. (Z)

T.J. Cox Arrested

T.J. Cox, a moderate Democrat, knocked off Republican David Valadao in CA-21 back in 2018. That, of course, was a "blue wave" year. Then, in 2020, Valadao repaid the favor and retook his seat. Based on news that broke yesterday, we may have a pretty good idea as to why Cox lost the rematch. Allegedly, instead of spending campaign funds on, you know, campaigning, he was using them to line his own pockets. He's been arrested and indicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud and one count of campaign contribution fraud.

This was treated as BIG NEWS by pretty much every news outlet yesterday. Since Cox is no longer in office, we're not sure we agree with that assessment, and we wonder if this isn't just because sensational news generates clicks. Nonetheless, the story got enough attention that we thought we should pass it on. We spent some time trying to think of some significance to the news, and we came up with two things: (1) This story shows that Democrats are sometimes crooks, too; and (2) This story shows that the FBI is an equal opportunity investigator, and doesn't just target former Republican officeholders (say, who live in Florida, and complain constantly about being unfairly singled out). Maybe one or both of those takeaways made reading these two paragraphs worth your time. (Z)

Fetterman Campaign Turns Crudité

Mehmet Oz (R) is a dream opponent for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) as they compete for the right to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. The good doctor is not a Pennsylvanian, not a politician, and not a plebeian, despite his pretensions otherwise. And Fetterman is regularly taking advantage of all three deficiencies.

On Tuesday, Oz set up the pins for Fetterman so handily that it boggles the mind. In an effort to push back against his "out-of-touch" image, Oz recorded a video where he pretended to be shopping for groceries at the request of his wife. The goal was to communicate to voters that Oz feels their pain, and that the high grocery prices that everyone is paying are Joe Biden's fault. Here's the video, if you care to watch it:

There are three problems here. The first, as you can see from the retweet, is that the whole thing comes off as phony and contrived. The second is that Oz explained that he was shopping for crudités, which may not be the best word to use if you're trying to shed your image as wealthy and privileged. He might as well have said that the guacamole he was buying would make for a very fine amuse-bouche. The third problem is that Oz revealed to viewers that he was shopping at "Wegners." The actual name of the Pennsylvania-based chain is Redner's. Oz was clearly blending that together with "Wegmans," a chain that, unlike Redner's, has locations in New Jersey.

In short, the Republican could scarcely have done more in 38 seconds to reiterate that he's an elite and a carpetbagger. And the Fetterman campaign seized on it immediately, sending out a fundraising e-mail that read, in part:

In a viral online video that's all over the internet right now, Dr. Oz goes shopping for vegetables to make a "Crudité" for his wife.

I mean I guess that's what they call it in Hollywood. But here in PA we just call that a... veggie tray.

Also, it was incredibly obvious that this was Dr. Oz's first time stepping inside a Redner's Market—or as he referred to it, "Wegners" (there are a few Wegmans near his home in New Jersey).

So, to honor Dr. Oz's love for Crudité (and also because it's my birthday) we're launching this NEW limited edition sticker:

The sticker reads: Wegners: Let them eat crudite.

That's obviously a reference to Marie Antoinette, another elite famous for being out of touch (unfairly in her case, since she didn't actually say "let them eat cake"). The sticker was offered to anyone who made a donation of any size to Fetterman's campaign. And in the first 24 hours, Fetterman raised $500,000.

And the ad has resulted in people mocking him. Fetterman, for example:

Fetterman with veggie tray

And from a different angle, The Washington Post's food reporter, Emily Heil, helpfully points out that Oz has purchased the wrong dips. If you are going for the crudité-eating demographic, at least try to buy the right dip.

Ultimately, this is not that important of a story, in that it's not going to swing the campaign one way or the other. However, Fetterman is crafting a new mode of politicking, one that seems particularly suited to the social media age. Further, he looks more and more like a rising star, and a potential future presidential candidate. So, it's worth keeping tabs on what he's doing. (Z)

Rubio in Trouble?

Also on the Senate beat, there was a very interesting poll released by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab yesterday. According to their numbers, Rep. Val Demings is up 4 points in her hypothetical (but soon to be official) matchup with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), 48% to 44%.

Normally, one surprising poll like this would be regarded as an outlier and basically ignored. However, UNF also polled the gubernatorial race, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is up big on both of his potential Democratic opponents, so it's not like the poll undersampled Republicans. Further, this poll isn't exactly an outlier anymore. Rubio was up comfortably through June and into mid-July, but since then there have been three polls; the one from UNF and two others that had the race a dead heat.

If Rubio really is sinking, is there an obvious explanation for it? Maybe. Demings is known for being a vigorous campaigner, while Rubio is known for being lackadaisical. So, maybe she's just out-hustling him. Also, Rubio has said some impolitic things, as he reflexively panders to the right-wingers in his base. For example, his dismissive remark about gay marriage might well have alienated some moderates and independents. And finally, another poll released yesterday says that Latino voters are increasingly concerned about abortion rights, and as a result are breaking about 2-to-1 for Democrats right now. The poll included Florida (and four other swing states), and so included some of the Cuban voters that Rubio relies upon. The Senator, of course, has had nothing but good things to say about the Dobbs decision. So, maybe he's bleeding some support for that reason. In any event, a couple more polls like the one from UNF, and this Senate race will end up on the "to watch" list. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug16 Giuliani, Graham Get Bad News
Aug16 TrumpWorld Is Working Out Its FBI "Raid" Talking Points
Aug16 NRSC Pulls $13.5 Million from Swing State Races
Aug16 Red Wave Dissipating?
Aug16 March... Sadness, Part XX: The Ten Also-Rans
Aug16 The World's Courts, Part III: The Great White North
Aug15 Two Noteworthy Primaries Are Going to Take Place Tomorrow
Aug15 Hawaii Holds True to Form
Aug15 A Former U.S. Attorney's Take on Documentgate
Aug15 Trump Is Not Al Capone
Aug15 Sunday Talk Shows Focus on Documentgate
Aug15 Members of Trump's Cabinet Are Talking to the Select Committee
Aug15 Democrats Are Hammering Republicans on Abortion
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Aug15 Coal Country Is Furious with Manchin
Aug15 Political Ads Will Hit Almost $10 Billion This Year
Aug15 Dan Goldman Is Running TV Ads for a House Race in NYC
Aug14 Sunday Mailbag
Aug13 Mar-a-Lago Warrant Unsealed
Aug13 Saturday Q&A
Aug13 House Passes Inflation Reduction Act
Aug12 Checkmate
Aug12 Could Things Get Violent?
Aug12 Hawaii Heads to the Polls
Aug12 Yellen Sets $400,000 Floor for New Tax-Cheat Funding
Aug12 Organized Labor Hits the Bricks for Nevada Democrats
Aug12 This Week in Schadenfreude: Sweet, Sweet Irony
Aug12 This Week in Freudenfreude: Handling Homelessness
Aug11 Trump Takes the Fifth
Aug11 A Former U.S. Attorney's Take on the Search at Mar-a-Lago
Aug11 Trump Allies Want Him to Announce Run Now
Aug11 Inflation Is Down--Slightly
Aug11 Trump Is Batting at least .700
Aug11 Biden's Approval Is Up
Aug11 Did John Fetterman Find the Key to Rural Voters?
Aug11 Republicans Are Lowering Expectations for the Senate
Aug11 U.S. Derivatives Regulator Will Shut Down PredictIt
Aug10 Four More States Vote
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Aug10 Republicans Just Can't Quit Trump
Aug10 Appeals Court Says House Can Have Trump's Taxes
Aug10 Giuliani Must Testify Next Week
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Aug10 Let's Pick a Headline
Aug09 FBI Raids Mar-a-Lago
Aug09 Insurrectionist Gets 7 Years
Aug09 Michigan AG Wants Special Prosecutor
Aug09 Tennesseeans Head to the Polls
Aug09 Biden, Harris Outpoll Trump, DeSantis
Aug09 Democrats Will Weaponize Inflation Act