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Florida, New York, and Oklahoma Will Hold Elections Tomorrow

Last week, we had two low-population states, Wyoming and Alaska, hold primaries. Tomorrow we have two high-population states, Florida and New York, along with a medium-population state, Oklahoma. High population means lots of House districts and lots of action in some of them. Let's take a look.

  • Florida: Florida will have primaries for governor, senator, various other statewide officials, and plenty of House races tomorrow. Here are some of the ones to watch most closely:

    • Governor: The biggest race in Florida tomorrow isn't for a seat in Congress. It is the Democratic primary for governor. The winner will take on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). DeSantis will probably be the favorite, but if the once-expected red wave turns into a blue wave, DeSantis could be toppled. That is not impossible, as his margin in 2018 was only 0.4% (32,000 votes out of 8 million cast). If DeSantis were to lose, that would completely rewrite the 2024 script.

      The Democrats don't have a candidate yet. Well, actually, they have two: former governor and current representative Charlie Crist and Florida Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried. Crist can claim he can handle the governor's job well since he already did it, albeit as a Republican. He probably won't mention that he also lost two statewide races after serving as governor. Fried can claim she is an expert on oranges, which are vital to the state's economy, but she has been in elected office for only 3 years. The race is not terribly ideological. For many Democrats, a top concern is who has better chance of defeating the hated DeSantis. However, the Dobbs decision has energized many women, and they largely prefer Fried.

      DeSantis has no opponent worth mentioning, so he is trying to shoehorn his 2024 presidential campaign into his 2022 gubernatorial campaign. He is feeding Florida (and national) Republicans so much red meat daily that he should really be handing out Lipitor at his campaign events. As governor, he has enormous power to take (often dubious) action to rile up the base and own the libs. In the process, he has amassed a war chest of $155 million. Even in Florida you don't need that kind of money for a gubernatorial race, but it could come in handy in a couple of years. Though it is worth noting that state campaigns aren't generally subject to donation limits while federal campaigns are. So, DeSantis might not be able to funnel all of his on-hand money to a presidential campaign.

    • Senate: There is no primary action of note here. The candidates will be Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Demings is an unusual Democrat since she served in the Orlando Police Dept. for 27 years, ending as chief of police. If Rubio tries to run as the law-and-order candidate, good luck with that. She has also raised almost $50 million, most of it from out of state. One recent poll had her ahead of Rubio by 4 points, but most polls show him ahead.

    • FL-07: The Florida legislature put a lot of effort into gerrymandering the congressional map. And yet, DeSantis didn't like it. He demanded an even more gerrymandered map, one that almost certainly violated the Voting Rights Act. But when there are House seats to be won and libs to be owned, who cares? His map radically changed this district and made it very red. It was Biden +10 and now it is Trump +5, so Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) decided to retire. There are eight Republicans in the race, but the leaders are Army veteran Cory Mills, who has the endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and state Rep. Anthony Sabatini. One Republican consultant said that Sabatini makes Matt Gaetz look like Jeb Bush. The district now looks so hopeless that the Democrats had trouble finding anyone willing to run just in case Sabatini wins the GOP primary and self immolates.

    • FL-10: This is the district Val Demings is retiring from. It covers most of Orlando It has been changed to have more white voters and fewer minorities, though. The district still leans blue and 10 Democrats are running for the nomination. The establishment wants state Sen. Randolph Bracy. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants gun-control activist Maxwell Frost. Two disgraced former members of Congress, Alan Grayson (domestic abuse) and Corinne Brown (fraud), are also running.

    • FL-11: The GOP primary has had high entertainment value—fitting, since it is only a few miles northwest of Disneyworld. Playing the role of Goofy is Boebert-wannabe and Islamophobe Laura Loomer. Her website has a photo of her standing next to Donald Trump and the bullet point "Dan doesn't believe the 2020 election was stolen," where "Dan" is the six-term incumbent Dan Webster (R). Loomer, who is 29, claims to be a conservative investigative journalist, whose style is to ambush politicians with her camera running and then ask them questions they aren't ready for. Kind of like Michael Moore, only mean instead of entertaining.

    • FL-13: This is Charlie Crist's seat. Republicans moved the Black neighborhoods out of it, flipping it from Biden +4 to Trump +7. The Republican front runner is Air Force veteran Anna Luna, who has Trump's endorsement, and will probably join the Freedom Caucus. The Democrat will be a former Obama Defense Dept. official, Eric Lynn.

    • FL-20: In a 2021 special election, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D) beat Dale Holness (D) by five votes after pumping in $6 million of her own money. Now there is a rematch. The district is one of the few blue districts on the new map, so the winner will win easily in November.

  • New York: The Democrats finally got control of the trifecta in New York (something they didn't have in 2010) and immediately began using it to the max by producing a hugely gerrymandered congressional map. Republicans sued and won, so a judge hired a special master to draw the map. If the Democrats hadn't been so greedy, they might have gotten away with it. In any event, it took a while for the new map to be drawn, so the regular primary on June 28 was held for statewide offices but it was postponed until tomorrow for House and legislative primaries. Here are some of the more competitive ones, from most exciting to least exciting.

    • NY-24: Rep. John Katko (R-NY) voted to impeach Donald Trump. In addition, Joe Biden won the Syracuse-based district by 8 points. Katko saw the handwriting on the wall, and it said: "Retire," so he did. This open seat is probably the Democrats' best House pick-up opportunity in the entire country, and both parties know it. The front runner is Francis Canole (D), an Iraq veteran and commander in the Navy Reserves, but there are three other candidates in the race. Canole is way ahead in fundraising, which makes him the best-known candidate.

      Two Republicans are running for the Republican nomination. Millionaire businessman Steve Wells has the backing of the GOP establishment because he can self-fund his campaign and doesn't need help from the NRCC. The NRCC doesn't like to its flush money down the toilet (especially when the toilet is blocked with top-secret documents). It prefers candidates who flush their own money. Brandon Williams, a Navy veteran and technology executive, has the backing of state conservatives. This is clearly a race to watch. If the Democrats win this one, they should be grateful and send Trump a thank you card since he got rid of Katko, who would have won.

    • NY-12: This is the most widely watched House primary in the state, but maybe the least important. The district is D+34, so if the Democrat were caught in bed with a live boy, a dead girl, a goat, a sheep, and all three of the three little pigs, he or she would still win. The excitement is due to the new map. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who represents the Upper West Side, didn't want to run in the new version of NY-10, so he switched to NY-12, the district of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who represents the Upper East Side. Now these two giants will face off against one another across Central Park. This race shows how addictive power is. Nadler is 75 and Maloney is 76. With the Democrats expected to lose the House (which would mean these two would lose their powerful committee chairmanships), one might think one of them might decide to retire, but no way. Of course, one of them will be retiring nonetheless; we'll know in 48 hours who it is.

    • NY-10: Because Nadler switched to NY-12, that meant that the new NY-10, which covers lower Manhattan and part of nearby Brooklyn, became an open seat. An open seat in a D+27 district is like dumping a barrel of catnip in a house full of (Democratic) cats. All sorts of folks showed up. Dan Goldman, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, who was also the Democrats' lead prosecutor in the first impeachment of Donald Trump. is probably the frontrunner. Being the guy who prosecuted Trump and who has near-unlimited campaign funds is probably a good start. Getting The New York Times' endorsement was a good follow up. Last week, Trump "endorsed" Goldman, in an attempt to damage him with progressives. But people with degrees from Yale and Stanford Law School generally aren't stupid. This was Goldman's response to the endorsement:

      Goldman's response to Trump's endorsement; it says
that he rejects the sham endorsement and that he's coming for Trump once he is elected

      Goldman isn't the only candidate. There is plenty of competition. Another serious candidate is Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), a gay Black man who currently represents Westchester County, 10 miles north of the district. Being an incumbent is generally helpful, but not so much if you are running in a different district. Former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, once the youngest woman elected to the House, is trying for a comeback at 81 in order to make history as the oldest nonincumbent ever to be elected to the House. Good luck with that. Two women of color, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, are also in the mix. They each have the advantage of already representing part of the district. Each of them says the district should elect a progressive woman. They only differ on which one. The district is ethnically very diverse. The vote could be very fragmented along demographic lines, but in New York, it's first past the post, so someone could win with 25% of the vote. Also a factor is that both NY-10 and NY-12 have a relatively large number of people who might be on vacation elsewhere and won't be around to vote, and they are more likely to be Goldman supporters than supporters of the others.

    • NY-17: Sean Patrick Maloney, who is running the DCCC, chose to run in the newly drawn (and bluer) NY-17 instead of his current NY-18. This is why Mondaire Jones felt he had to move to NY-10, motivating Jerrold Nadler to move to NY-12. The game is called musical districts. Maloney was widely criticized for his move, with critics saying he put his own interests above those of the party. Karma struck and he drew an opponent in NY-17: state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. Biaggi has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). If Maloney has stayed where he belongs, this wouldn't have occurred.

    • NY-23: The hottest Republican primary is in western New York. This race is confusing because the shape of the district has changed quite a bit and includes part of the now-defunct NY-27 currently represented by retiring Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-NY). He is retiring because he had the audacity to say that maybe some kind of gun control might be a good idea (after a mass shooting right next to his district) and Republicans didn't like that so much.

      Old and new NY-23 boundaries, 
it's a long and narrow rectangle with a triangle on top; the triangle has moved from the east end and is now on the west end

      Carl Paladino, a wealthy failed gubernatorial candidate, is running for the open NY-23 seat left behind by Rep. Tom Reed (R), who left Congress in May due to a scandal involving sexual misconduct. Paladino has previously said that Adolf Hitler was "the kind of leader we need today." He also compared Michelle Obama to a gorilla. In addition, he has e-mailed bestiality porn to professional colleagues and said that AG Merrick Garland "probably should be executed." So naturally, he has the support of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who threw her principles overboard when she had a chance to grab the vacant #3 spot in the Republican House hierarchy created after Donald Trump ordered Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to jettison Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY).

      Paladino is facing the chairman of the New York Republican Party, Nick Langworthy. Like Paladino, he is very Trumpy, but he has been more careful about who he praises and who he insults. The district is fairly Republican (R+9), so if Paladino wins the primary, Democrat Max Della Pia might have a shot at it, otherwise, probably not.

      Due to Reed's resignation, there will also be a special election tomorrow in the old NY-23 for someone to fill out his term. Because the shape of the district has changed, some voters in the old NY-23 won't be able to vote in the NY-23 primary for the next Congress and some voters in the new NY-23 won't be able to vote in the special general election for the seat that will end on Jan. 3, 2023. It's completely logical because the winners of the two elections will be representing different constituencies. But it is a tad confusing at first.

  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma isn't exactly a Southern state, but like most of the states in the South, has runoffs in all elections where no candidate hits 50% +1. So there are some runoffs tomorrow in the Sooner State.

    • Regular Senate Election: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) is up for reelection and six people filed in the Democratic primary to challenge him. Tomorrow there will be a runoff between Jason Bollinger, a former State Dept. employee, and Madison Horn, a cybersecurity professional. It's Oklahoma; neither of them has a chance in November.

    • Special Senate Election: James Inhofe is leaving the Senate in January with 4 years left in his term and this special election will determine who gets to sit in his seat for those years. Former Rep. Kendra Horn (D) got the Democratic nomination, but the Republican candidate will be determined in tomorrow's runoff. The candidates are Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Mullin got 44% in the first round to Shannon's 18%, so probably Mullin will win this one.

    • OK-02: Oklahoma had its primary on June 28, but there are runoffs tomorrow. In OK-02, which covers the eastern third of the state, state Rep. Avery Frix (R) and former state Sen. Josh Brecheen (R) will meet head to head. Frix says he is an America Firster but many people in the district see him as the Chamber of Commerce candidate. There is a super PAC backing him and rumor has it that it is funded by the Cherokee Nation. Brecheen is backed by Ted Cruz and the Freedom Caucus.

So we have many things to look for on Tuesday night. There are no elections next week, though on Sept. 6 we get Massachusetts, then on Sept. 13 it is Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. That's it, until Nov. 8, when Louisiana has its jungle primary and all the other states have their general elections. (V)

Another Election to Watch Tuesday

There is another election in New York state tomorrow that we didn't include above because it is not a primary. However, it's worth a mention because it could be a bellwether for November. In a move that could only be described as stupid beyond all belief, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) picked former Rep. Antonio Delgado (D) as the lieutenant governor of New York. Note that there is nothing wrong with Delgado. He is an honest man, a good politician, and perfectly capable of fulfilling the duties of the lieutenant governor.

The problem is that of the hundreds of Democratic politicians in the state, including 106 Democrats in the state Assembly, 63 Democrats in the state Senate, 18 Democrats in the U.S. House, and many Democratic mayors and county executives, she picked a Democrat who, through hard work and great skill, managed to pick up a U.S. House seat in a Republican-leaning district. Thus, in one fell swoop, she turned a seat that would probably have gone blue again into a toss-up, at best. If she had picked, say, the speaker or majority leader of the state Assembly or the majority leader of the state Senate—people who already are very familiar with Albany politics—she wouldn't have risked a House seat in an election when every one of them could be crucial. Delgado is Black and Latino and Hochul probably specifically picked him to appeal to both groups. Still, risking a precious House seat is a high price to pay.

Be that as it may, the special (general) election for Delgado's seat is tomorrow and could give us a preview of what is in store for November. For Democrats, it could show that Joe Biden's recent legislative wins and abortion are enough to carry the day. For Republicans, it could show that nothing has changed and the originally predicted red wave is on schedule. An open seat in an R+3 district makes a good test case. The only thing that might ruin the predictive value of the special election is very low turnout because many voters are on vacation, but after the votes have been counted, we'll known how many there were.

The contestants are Army veteran and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan (D) and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R). Ryan has campaigned on making abortion legal everywhere. Molinaro sees the race as a referendum on the Biden administration. That's probably what November has in store as well. Ryan said: "Think about the message sent in Kansas, think about the message we can send right here." Meanwhile, Molinaro was further north campaigning with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and talking to farmers about how the economy is choking their businesses. He also basically told Ryan that he (Ryan) had no business picking the issues for the campaign when he (Molinaro) had already decided it was the economy. Molinaro has said nary a word about abortion and doesn't like it one bit when Ryan talks endlessly about it.

Due to redistricting, both Ryan and Molinaro might end up in Congress on Jan. 4. That is because in addition to running in the same district in the special election (with the boundaries set in 2010), both are running for regular House seats for the term starting Jan. 3, 2023, but in adjacent districts. If they both win the regular elections, they may be neighbors but definitely not buddies. (V)

Merrick Garland Has Some Tough Calls to Make

Jennifer Rubin, has a column that lists the many ongoing investigations relating to Donald Trump. There are so many it is hard to keep track of them, but here is a list:

  • The attempted coup—both the violent part on Jan. 6 and the planning before it
  • The retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago
  • The fraudulent fundraising for an entity that did not exist
  • The mysterious disappearance of Secret Service, Pentagon and DHS text messages
  • The possible illegal access to voting machines after the election
  • Possible witness tampering with the Select Committee's witnesses
  • New York AG Letitia James' investigation of the Trump Organization business practices
  • The Georgia investigation into finding 11,780 more votes

The first six are definitely on Garland's plate and he has to decide how much of his limited resources go into each one. The last two are not directly on his plate, but do impact what he is doing. Among other decisions he has to make and make soon are these:

  • Who gets immunity?: To prepare cases for trial, Garland will need witnesses, especially ones who can testify first-hand to some of Trump's crimes. Suppose insiders who also committed crimes demand immunity. It won't help to put Mark Meadows on the stand only to have him plead the Fifth Amendment to every question. But if he committed crimes, too, he might insist on not being prosecuted as the price for cooperation. Does he get it? Does Rudy Giuliani? Would any jury believe Giuliani? If not, should he get a free get-out-of-jail-free card?

  • What to do about Mike Pence?: Should Garland subpoena Pence? He probably can't claim executive privilege on much and he knows a lot. But if he doesn't want to cooperate—for example, to avoid antagonizing voters he wants to get in the 2024 primaries—does Garland want to spend a year in court fighting Pence's attempts to not testify?

  • One at a time or all at once?: With so many issues, does Garland go to court with each case as soon as becomes ready? Suppose one or more of the Select Committee's witnesses come forward and report that Trump called them and threatened them. That might be a simple and easy case to prove if there are multiple witnesses Trump tampered with, each one told other people, and there are phone company records to back it up. This is one of the least serious crimes, but might be ready to go first. Should he go to trial with this one all by itself while preparing the other cases?

  • Who goes first, state or federal?: What happens if Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is done first and wants to go to trial long before Garland is ready? Does he ask her to hold off so he can go first? He can't force her to do that, but she would probably agree if Garland asked and explained why. But she has a much smaller team than he does. What if she loses her case? Does that weaken his cases? Of course, if she convicts Trump, that has other implications. Trump could then argue that the Georgia conviction makes it impossible to assemble an unbiased jury in the federal cases since every potential federal juror will be aware of the Georgia conviction.

  • Timing?: Will Garland aim for an indictment before the midterms? If he waits until after then and the Republicans capture the House, he will be threatened with being hauled before every committee except maybe Agriculture and Veterans' Affairs if he indicts Trump. If he does it before the midterms, then the point of no return will have been reached already. But he doesn't want to bring indictments until he is sure he can win the case(s).

  • Which crimes should be prioritized?: Seditious conspiracy would address the heart of what Trump did relating to the coup, but it might be the hardest to prove. Does Garland want to take the risk or does he just want to put Trump away, even on a minor, but easy to prove charge, like violating the Espionage Act by having defense-related documents in his basement?

Garland is now probably thinking: I had a wonderful job on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Why did I give it up for this mess?

Damon Linker, in The New York Times, presents an alternative view to Rubin's. He writes that if Trump is indicted and convicted, he will run claiming this is evidence of how corrupt the swamp is and how badly it needs to be drained. This might even get him new voters. It might also establish the precedent that each incoming administration promptly indicts the previous president. Linker argues that the best course is not to indict Trump but to crush him at the ballot box in 2024 by a margin so large that no one will believe the election was rigged.

We pass along Linker's take, but we're not exactly impressed by it. Just because Republicans have tended to weaponize the legal system over the past 20 years does not mean they can actually start indicting former Democratic presidents willy-nilly. There has to be an actual, you know, crime to charge. Recall how very badly Team Trump wanted to pop Hillary Clinton. And yet, what happened? Further, if the only risk to a lawbreaking president is that they might be punished at the ballot box, it would effectively affirm that the President of the United States is, indeed, above the law. Finally, the nature of American politics right now is such that nearly any presidential election will be close. And so, the "sunshine and rainbows" ideal outcome that Linker proposes is very, very unlikely. (V)

Democrats Are Worrying about a Cheney Presidential Run

At the moment, Liz Cheney is the Democrats' new best friend. But they are also starting to worry about her future plans. If she ran against Trump in the primary in 2024, that would be fine with them. It could pull votes away from him and make him look weak and give Republican voters who are sick of him a way to protest safely. After all, Cheney is a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. The Democrats' fear, however, is that she won't run in the Republican primary but will run as an independent in the general election, à la George Wallace in 1968, John Anderson in 1980, and Ross Perot in 1992.

If she runs as an independent in the general election, she would first have to get on the ballot by petition in many states, which is very difficult. Alternatively, she could seek the nomination of a third party, most likely the Libertarians, who are already on the ballot in many states. Either way, the danger for the Democrats is that there are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who really dislike the Democrats but think Trump is a danger to the country and in 2020 held their noses and voted for Biden. With Cheney on the ballot, these people could vote for her to show their dislike of both Trump and the Democrats. Absent her, they would hold their noses against and vote for the Democrat. So Cheney could suck votes from both parties. That is their fear.

Cheney is smart enough to understand this as well, but she could guess wrong about how many of the votes she gets would otherwise have grudgingly gone to the Democrat. Of course, she could commission polls to ask people to give their choice in a Trump-Biden-Cheney race and also in a just Trump-Biden race, but 2 years in advance such a poll is virtually meaningless. And her gut feeling could be wrong.

Another strategy for her would not to actually run, but to raise money to oppose Trump and candidates who support him. She could use the money to run anti-Trump ads herself or join Sarah Longwell's Republican Accountability Project, which is already doing that. But politicians have big egos and Democrats can't be sure Cheney will do something like that rather than actually run. So they do what Democrats do so well: They worry. (V)

A Redacted Affidavit Will Enrage Trump's Supporters

Republicans are demanding that the affidavit that led to the Mar-a-Lago search warrant be made public. They probably should be careful because whatever was in it was enough to convince a federal judge to issue the search warrant. The Dept. of Justice doesn't want it released because not only might it expose the tipsters, it could also give Trump valuable knowledge about what the Dept. already knows. The judge tried to make a compromise by telling the DoJ to redact the affidavit and show it to him for editing and possible approval.

Assuming some version of the affidavit is released, it is certain to enrage Trump's supporters due to the redactions. They will say that the blacked out portions obviously contain exculpatory material, that's why they were redacted.

The back-and-forth over redaction will be between the DoJ and the judge. Trump will not be part of the process. The DoJ will be arguing that it has to protect its sources. The judge, who has the unredacted version, will have to, well, judge if that is true. Since there have already been threats against the judge, it may not take a lot of convince him that anything that could give away the identity of the sources could be a threat to their lives. And it's not just their names that are sensitive. If the affidavit says: "Mary Smith saw a document lying on Trump's desk stamped "Top Secret," then even if the name is blacked out, Trump immediately knows it was someone who had been near his desk at least once. That is a huge hint.

If a large portion of the affidavit is censored, Trump will start bellowing that the judge is part of the cover-up and that the whole release is a sham. What Trump wants is to know the names of the sources so he can eject them from his inner circle and exact revenge on them. The DoJ wants to avoid this at all costs, lest no potential future witness come forward. The judge understands this and might go along with heavy redactions, but then Trump and his supporters will claim it is a cover-up.

Trump probably realizes that the judge will never release a full unredacted version of the affidavit, so he has begun demanding that the DoJ release the whole, unredacted document. When it refuses, he will be able to claim it is hiding all the material that exonerates him. The only danger here is that if there is a paragraph that says something like: "The source listed in Sec. 4 has sworn under oath that Trump had documents that revealed how U.S. nuclear weapons worked. The source further said that if Trump is informed that he is a target, he could tell the DoJ that if he is indicted he will sell the documents to Saudi Arabia for billions of dollars." Maybe there is nothing like that in the affidavit, so Trump is not worried. But remember, whatever is in there did convince a federal judge to approve the warrant, so there has to be something serious in there. Maybe Trump is just bluffing. It wouldn't be the first time. He used to own a bunch of (long-since-bankrupt) casinos, so he knows a little about playing high-stakes poker.

The fundamental problem is that Trump and his supporters are not interested in the slightest why the judge issued the search warrant. They are convinced that Trump is innocent, the deep state is out to get him, and no amount of "evidence" will change their opinion. So a redacted (or even an unredacted affidavit) will have absolutely no effect on them. The DoJ is best off just telling the judge that it should not be released—period—which is exactly what it is doing. (V)

McConnell: House Flip More Likely Than Senate Flip

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has spoken and Republicans aren't going to like what he said. His words were: "I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different—they're statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome." That's turtle-speak for: "The candidates Trump saddled us with really suck and they're going to lose. As a result, we won't capture the Senate."

Donald Trump apparently got wind of that remark and was not amused. On Truth Social he wrote: "Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate?" Picking a fight with the highest-ranking Republican in the country is probably not a good idea. Just to name one thing, if Ron DeSantis were to decide to challenge Trump in 2024 and McConnell felt that DeSantis was a stronger general-election candidate than Trump, he could instruct all the members of his caucus to loudly endorse DeSantis, saying that he is a proven winner and Trump is a proven loser. That could potentially help DeSantis in the primaries with Republicans whose main concern was beating the Democratic candidate.

Much earlier this year, McConnell was much more optimistic, expecting the Republicans to win both the House and the Senate, but that was before the primaries in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania produced inexperienced, out-of-touch, low-quality candidates who are in way over their heads. Money can fix some things, but it is hard to fix stupid. By saying this now, McConnell is trying to lower expectations so the faithful won't be hugely disappointed if the Democrats end up with 51 or 52 seats.

Despite his "Truths" to the contrary, even Donald Trump is beginning to see the problem now. Rolling Stone is reporting that Trump has privately told his associates about Mehmet Oz: "He's going to f**king lose unless something drastically changes." Trump has seen the polls, some of which have Oz behind Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) by double digits. He has asked his staff if the polls are phony or skewed and they have told him that the polls are accurate and that there are major problems with the candidate.

What Trump hasn't quite internalized yet is that picking candidates because they tell him they believe he won in 2020 doesn't usually result in the best candidates. And in the case of Oz, he not only is a dreadful candidate with absolutely no charisma or stage presence, but he lives in New Jersey, a state many Pennsylvanians don't especially like. And he has the misfortune of being up against an extremely gifted politician in Fetterman. If Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) had won the Democratic primary, Oz might be in better shape, but the Democrats picked their strongest candidate and the Republicans picked their weakest candidate. (V)

Federal Appeals Court Wants Key Memo about the Mueller Report Released

After he got a confidential copy of the Mueller Report, then-Attorney General Bill Barr asked the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel to give him legal advice about what to do with it. Shortly thereafter, Barr wrote a letter to Congress stating that the report did not show evidence that Trump had obstructed justice.

A government watchdog group, CREW, wants to see the unredacted memo and filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get it. The DoJ released a very heavily redacted version of it. In May 2021, D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told the DoJ to release the unredacted memo. In a withering 41-page ruling, she accused Barr and his lawyers of pretending that they were open-minded about possibly indicting Trump when in fact they never even considered that option. Her decision was appealed. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. sustained Jackson's ruling, 3 to 0.

Now AG Merrick Garland has to decide whether to further appeal this decision. It is not that Garland is afraid of embarrassing Barr and showing that indicting Trump was never even considered. Rather, he is concerned about what will happen in the future if everyone writing an internal memo to him or any future AG has to worry the memo will eventually become public. His concern is that if CREW wins, all the memos he gets from now on will be written specifically to cover the writer's a**, rather than to give him good legal advice. (V)

Graham Gets a Reprieve

A federal judge ordered Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to obey a subpoena to testify in front of the grand jury Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is using to investigate if any Georgia election laws were broken in 2020. Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, sent the case back to the trial court for another look. So Graham gets a temporary reprieve.

This is an example of what is so frustrating about the courts: Everything takes forever, bouncing back and forth. The appeals court could have ruled "Yes, the judge was right" or "No the judge was wrong" and ended it. Instead it called for a mulligan.

The nominal reason for sending the case back was to look at whether the case somehow related to legislation being discussed in Congress, which is not subject to a subpoena. Surely the trial judge already considered that since Graham brought it up in the first place. What the case is about is Graham's two calls to Georgia Secretary of state Brad Raffensperger just after the 2020 election. It is hard to imagine that Graham was collecting input for some Senate bill on election administration. Certainly, Graham never mentioned any such bill.

After the lower court reexamines the case and makes a new decision, that will go back to the 11th Circuit Court again. Sooner or later it is going to have to make a decision and not just ask somebody else to do it. (V)

The State of the Races for Governor

With all the attention to the 35 Senate races, people sometimes forget that there are 36 races for governor this year as well. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has a nice article on them. The current gubernatorial map is shown on the left below. The Ball's predictions are on the right.

Maps for governors races; 
there are currently 22 Democrats and 28 Republicans. The predictive map suggests that there are 14 seats that are basically safe for
the Democrats and 16 that are basically safe for the Republicans. Georgia is the only state that merely 'leans' in one direction or
the other; it leans Republican. There are also five toss-ups--Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Kansas and Wisconsin.

All the races are for 4-year terms except New Hampshire and Vermont, which don't trust their governors much and want the chance to boot them out every 2 years. As it turns out, both states have extremely popular Republican governors who will be reelected in landslides. One of us, namely (V), spent some time talking to Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) a few years ago and can attest that he is fine fellow who is genuinely concerned about improving the lives of Vermonters. Donald Trump would probably label him a RINO. For a Republican to get elected over and over in very blue Vermont, that is basically a requirement.

Republicans are defending 20 governors' mansions and Democrats are defending 16. That conjures up images of moats around the mansions and archers on the roof, but that isn't quite on target. This year an expected 28 of the 36 races will feature incumbent governors running for reelection. In the past five midterms, 57 governorships have flipped, but only 12 involved an incumbent being defeated. The others were open seats. So about 80% of the time a party had to hand the keys to the governor's mansion to the other party, it was due to the incumbent not running. In other words, incumbent governors have a pretty solid track record.

The right-hand map above predicts only two states will flip for sure, Massachusetts and Maryland. Both are very blue states with incumbent Republican governors who are not running for reelection. Georgia might flip, but Stacey Abrams (D) is not doing so well in the polls so far, so Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) is favored to hang on. Republicans have at least a chance in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico, but only a chance. The Democratic incumbents are favored in all of them.

The rest of the action is in the Midwest and the West, namely the five yellow states. Two of them, Oregon and Arizona, are open-seat elections. Oregon is a blue state, but it has an unusual three-way race among former state House Speaker Tina Kotek (D), former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R) and former Democratic state senator Betsy Johnson. Johnson is more conservative than Kotek and could act as a spoiler, pulling votes away from her.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is term limited and the battle is between Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and former television anchor and Trump enthusiast Kari Lake. Arizona is an emerging purple state and the battle resembles the 2020 presidential election, with a moderate Democrat vs. a dyed-in-the-wool Trumpist. It could go either way.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D-NV) will face Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R). Crime is an issue and each one is blaming the other one for it. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) is the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the country and probably Sisolak and Masto will sink or swim together. A lot depends on turnout.

In deep red Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D-KS) got elected in 2018 because the Republicans nominated an unelectable candidate (Kris Kobach). This time she is running against AG Derek Schmidt (R), who is definitely electable. If Kelly can make the race another referendum on abortion, she could pull it off, but if Schmidt can make it about anything else, he could win.

Finally, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) is running against businessman Tim Michels (R) in a knife-edge swing state. Evers beat then-incumbent Scott Walker by 1.1% in 2018. In a neutral year, he might be able to pull that off again against an unknown businessman, but in a red wave, he could easily drown. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug21 Sunday Mailbag
Aug20 Saturday Q&A
Aug19 The Trump Legal Blotter, Part I: The Affidavit
Aug19 The Trump Legal Blotter, Part II: Weisselberg Pleads Guilty
Aug19 The Trump Legal Blotter, Part III: Trump Has a Lawyer Problem
Aug19 The Trump Legal Blotter, Part IV: Trump Has a Trump Problem
Aug19 The Trump Legal Blotter, Part V: Would the Republicans Nominate an Indicted Trump?
Aug19 A Strange and Utterly Classless Lie
Aug19 Ron DeSantis Unveils His Latest Stunt
Aug19 This Week in Schadenfreude: Prosecutorial Misconduct
Aug19 This Week in Freudenfreude: A Slam Dunk for the NBA
Aug18 Democrats Are Starting to Run Ads about the Inflation Bill
Aug18 Planned Parenthood Will Spend $50 Million This Fall
Aug18 Trump's Stolen Documents Are Nothing Like Clinton's E-mails
Aug18 Trump Has His 2024 Platform Ready
Aug18 Pence Attacks Republicans Who Have Criticized the FBI
Aug18 Cheney Hits the Ground Running
Aug18 State Supreme Court Races Are Suddenly Hot
Aug18 Are Hearing Aids Political?
Aug18 Rick Scott: Don't Apply for a Job at the IRS
Aug18 Even Conservatives Don't Like Mehmet Oz' Latest Ad
Aug17 Sorry, Liz
Aug17 Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...
Aug17 ...And Cancels Some More Student Loan Debt
Aug17 Weisselberg to Plead Guilty...
Aug17 ...And Federal Judge to Rule on Trump Affidavit
Aug17 T.J. Cox Arrested
Aug17 Fetterman Campaign Turns Crudité
Aug17 Rubio in Trouble?
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
Aug15 Sinema Demonstrates Why People Think Congress Is Corrupt
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