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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2020: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 : (None)
Political Wire logo Panel Has Outtakes of Trump’s Message to Supporters
January 6 Committee Plans to Humiliate MAGA Lawmakers
Watchdog Knew Secret Service Texts Were Deleted
Pelosi Issues Ultimatum to Antony Blinken
Nebraska Governor Spends Big to Take Out Greitens
January 6 Hearing to Show Trump’s Deliberate Inaction

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Maryland Takes Its Turn
      •  Georgia Is Going After all 16 Fake Electors
      •  Secret Service: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
      •  House Votes to Protect Same-Sex Marriage
      •  Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Ohio District Map Yet Again
      •  They're in the Money
      •  When It Comes to Campaign Finance Law and 2024, Trump Is Ahead of the Curve

Maryland Takes Its Turn

Marylanders march to the beat of their own drum, it would seem, as the Old Line State had the only primary scheduled for the month of July. It took place yesterday, and there were a few results of interest.

To start, there's the governor's race. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is term-limited, and would prefer that he be succeeded by another anti-Trump Republican. The Governor isn't going to get his wish. The Republican nomination is going to go to Del. Dan Cox, who is as Trumpy as it gets, up to and including embracing QAnon and being present for the 1/6 insurrection. As you might imagine, Cox had Donald Trump's endorsement. So, we have little doubt that the former president will be on Truth Social today crowing about his success. It's a little more complicated than that, however, in that the Democratic Governors' Association engaged in some pretty heavy-duty ratfu**ing to steer the nomination to Cox instead of the much more moderate Kelly Schulz.

The Democratic candidate for governor will likely be Wes Moore, who has no political experience, but is Black, a veteran, a bestselling author and a philanthropist. Because Maryland law does not allow the counting of mail-in ballots to commence until Thursday, it will take until next week until we know if Moore's 36.7% of the vote (thus far) will hold up. If it's not him, then it will be former DNC Chair Tom Perez (27.4%).

The U.S. Senate races were lopsided enough that the AP and other outlets did not feel the need to wait for the mail-in ballots to be counted. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) won the right to try for a second term; he'll face Chris Chaffee (R). Maryland changes senators about as often as England changes queens, so Van Hollen is safe, especially since Chaffee does not exactly appear to be the strongest candidate. His official campaign website is a Facebook page, and he celebrated his nomination last night with this tweet: "Stop the war against Americas oil companies selling out to Dictators." Truth be told, we're not entirely clear what that means.

Thanks to the magic of the gerrymander, Maryland has only one competitive House seat, namely MD-06, which is EVEN. The incumbent, David Trone (D), easily won the right to defend his seat. He'll match up against Del. Neil Parrott (R). Parrott strongly dislikes LGBTQ+ people and abortion, and while he did not head to Washington on 1/6, he did travel to Pennsylvania to act as a "poll watcher" on behalf of the Trump campaign. We do not exactly have our fingers on the pulse of western Maryland, but we would imagine Parrott is a little too extreme to knock off a swing-district incumbent. He certainly was in 2020, when he lost to Trone... by 20 points. Also, Parrot has about $200,000 in his campaign account, whereas the independently wealthy Trone (he owns a chain of liquor stores) has already loaned himself $12 million.

There was one other House race of interest. MD-04 is deep blue, so the Democrat that advances will certainly be elected in November. It's also open—the only one in Maryland this cycle—thanks to Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) deciding to run for state AG. Donna Edwards (D) had the backing of many Democratic heavyweights, including Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). However, Glenn Ivey had the backing of the Israel-aligned AIPAC, which sank $6 million into promoting his candidacy because of past critical-of-Israel statements made by Edwards. It looks like the AIPAC money carried the day, as Edwards finished the evening up 51.2% to 35.2%. It is improbable that mail-in ballots could cause a 16-point shift.

That's the story from Maryland. Next up, on Aug. 2, are Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. There will be a lot of interesting races in those states. (Z)

Georgia Is Going After all 16 Fake Electors

Given that Donald Trump's malfeasance, when it comes to putting pressure on Georgia election officials, is pretty simple and is very well documented, it may seem that charges should already have been filed. However, on a near-daily basis these days, we are reminded that Fulton County DA Fani Willis is overseeing a massive investigation, and casting a net that looks likely to haul in all sorts of wrongdoers.

The latest news on that front came Tuesday, when Willis advised all of the 16 Trump-supporting Georgians who signed an "unofficial electoral certificate," presenting themselves as the state's true electors, that they may be indicted. Prosecutors are not known for issuing warnings like that and then not following through, so the smart money says that these folks shouldn't be signing any long-term leases on apartments.

It is worth noting that these same individuals were previously told by Willis' office that they were considered to be witnesses only, and not targets of the investigation. This hints that her thinking about the scheme has changed a fair bit, and possibly that she's thinking about conspiracy, or racketeering, or some other broad charge. Recently, of course, her office has also been issuing subpoenas to people in high places, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Meanwhile, on a very related note, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) sat for an interview with a local television station yesterday, and casually revealed that Donald Trump called him to insist that Joe Biden's victory in the Badger State be decertified. That's significant because it speaks to a pattern of behavior. But even more interesting is this: The call in question took place... a couple of weeks ago.

That's right—Joe Biden has been president for a year and a half, and Trump is still tilting at this windmill. Which leads us to this question: What on Earth is wrong with him? First of all, if Wisconsin officials did not bend to his will back in 2020, they are certainly not going to bend to his will now. Second, even if they did bend to his will, he would not magically become president again. He has to know that, right? Third, and most significantly, he is under investigation for this exact kind of shenanigans. How could he be so foolish as to provide additional, compelling evidence to be used against him in a potential criminal case in Georgia?

This sort of behavior may just be why Republican voters are souring on The Donald, and looking for a champion whose cheese does not seem to already be more than halfway off the cracker. (Z)

Secret Service: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It's official, it would seem. According to reporting from The Washington Post, The U.S. Secret Service has concluded that it has no more texts to provide to the Select Committee Investigating the 1/6 Insurrection, and that whatever texts are missing have been purged and are unrecoverable.

The official story here is that the erasures were accidental; collateral damage that resulted from a long-planned equipment upgrade and migration. This is very, very hard to swallow. One of us is a computer scientist and the other ran a 100-machine computer network for more than a decade, and we both know that the first thing you do before an upgrade or migration is back everything up. And that's without being subject to the rather stringent record-keeping requirements of the federal government.

Assuming this was not incompetence, then the deletions were deliberate. That, in turn, raises the question of what the motivation was. Was the USSS trying to protect Donald Trump? Was it covering for agents who may have done something inappropriate? Was it just trying to protect its turf? Something else? Inquiring minds want to know, including folks in Congress, in the inspector general's office, in the Department of Justice and in the National Archives and Records Administration. So, this whole thing is going to be put under several microscopes.

At very least, lots of people deserve to lose their jobs (this may also explain why USSS Director James Murray just decided to exit, stage right, for a job with Snapchat). At worst, something criminal happened here. Presumably, one or more of the parties looking into the matter is pursuing this possibility. (Z)

House Votes to Protect Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act. If adopted, the bill would do two things: (1) repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and (2) require states to recognize same-sex marriages if those marriages were valid in the state in which they took place.

Interestingly, the vote was quite bipartisan. The bill passed the House 267-157, with 47 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats. Those 47 pretty much all fall into at least one of these three categories: (1) they are libertarian in their philosophy, (2) they are young, or (3) they come from a purple district where anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment doesn't play very well.

Now, the bill heads over to the Senate, where it may or may not come up for a vote. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is inclined to bring it to the floor, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) isn't too sure. The stated reason is that the Senate's calendar is very full, and time is running short, particularly given upcoming recesses. Maybe that is true. Or maybe Schumer is trying to protect one or more vulnerable members from having to take a vote that could hurt them in the midterms. If so, then the likeliest person Schumer would be protecting is Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), probably followed by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ). It's true that there are Republicans who might be hurt by taking a side on the bill (like, say, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL), but the filibuster allows those folks to remain anonymous and to avoid taking ownership of their positions. That might just be another argument for getting rid of the filibuster. (Z)

Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Ohio District Map Yet Again

The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and the Ohio state Supreme Court are playing an interesting game of tennis right now. The legislature comes up with a gerrymandered district map and lobs it to the Court, and the Court spikes it right back. It happened again yesterday, with the Court rejecting the legislature's second attempt at a district map for the state's seats in the House of Representatives. The Court has also rejected several maps of state legislative districts.

The game that the legislature is playing could not be plainer. Right now, the state Supreme Court has a 4-3 Republican majority, but one of the Republicans, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, has continually sided with the three Democrats to oppose gerrymandered maps. By the terms of state law, O'Connor is required to retire this year, so if the legislature can't get a map past this version the court, they will wait and hope she is replaced with a fire-breathing right-winger.

That said, there is some small amount of risk here. Ohio Supreme Court justices are elected, and not only will O'Connor's seat be up this year, so too will two of the other Republican-held seats. So, the red team will need a clean sweep in order to keep control of the Court. If Democrats turn out in force—say, in hopes of powering Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) to victory in his U.S. Senate race over J.D. Vance—then the legislature could find itself dealing with a court that is 4-3, 5-2, or 6-1 Democratic. So, the Republican legislators might want to think twice about the risks of getting too greedy, and might want to try to come up with a map that will actually pass muster with the Chief Justice.

Note that the legislature has already dragged things out enough that the new maps won't be in place until 2024, and the current maps will be used for this cycle. So, in that way, the Republicans have already won a victory. (Z)

They're in the Money

The deadline to report Quarter 2 fundraising passed on Friday. And we wrote that, once all the numbers were in for the U.S. Senate races, we'd have a breakdown. It is time to deliver on that promise. For races that are not yet decided, we've included any contender who raised at least $200,000, or the top two contenders if none has reached that level. The leading fundraiser in each race is in bold, and incumbents are marked with an asterisk:

State Democrat(s) Funds Raised Republicans(s) Funds Raised
Alabama Will Boyd $21,432 Katie Britt $2,490,026
Alaska Pat Chesbro
Edgar Blatchford
Lisa Murkowski*
Kelly Tshibaka
Arizona Mark Kelly* $13,597,355 Jim Lamon
Blake Masters
Mark Brnovich
Mick McGuire
Arkansas Natalie James N/A John Boozman* $1,196,534
California Alex Padilla* $1,221,037 Mark Meuser $165,901
Colorado Michael Bennet* $3,380,355 Joe O'Dea $1,993,739
Connecticut Richard Blumenthal* $1,065,217 Leora Levy
Themis Klarides
Florida Val Demings
Alan Grayson
Marco Rubio* $4,549,945
Georgia Raphael Warnock* $17,277,264 Herschel Walker $5,807,426
Hawaii Brian Schatz* $359,632 Timothy Dalhouse $52,273
Idaho David Roth $15,049 Mike Crapo* $703,451
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* $2,066,955 Kathy Salvi $132,913
Indiana Thomas McDermott Jr. $257,937 Todd Young* $1,499,306
Iowa Michael Franken $2,810,827 Chuck Grassley* $1,277,100
Kansas Mark Holland
Patrick Wiesner
Jerry Moran* $632,835
Kentucky Charles Booker $1,353,005 Rand Paul* $3,122,638
Louisiana Luke Mixon $635,318 John Kennedy* $8,657,861
Maryland Chris Van Hollen* $428,088 Chris Chaffee N/A
Missouri Trudy Busch
Lucas Kunce
Spender Toder
Vicky Hartzler
Eric Schmitt
Billy Long
Eric Greitens
Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto* $7,527,833 Adam Laxalt $2,885,538
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan* $5,072,586 Bruce Fenton
Vikram Mansharamani
Chuck Morse
Kevin H. Smith
New York Chuck Schumer* $1,657,884 Joe Pinion $119,801
North Carolina Cheri Beasley $7,426,641 Ted Budd $2,128,944
North Dakota Katrina Christiansen $18,765 John Hoeven* $566,192
Ohio Tim Ryan $9,133,487 J.D. Vance $1,004,669
Oklahoma (regular) Jason Bollinger
Madison Horn
James Lankford* $1,040,774
Oklahoma (special) Kendra Horn $386,865 Markwayne Mullin
T.W. Shannon
Oregon Ron Wyden* $1,479,820 Jo Rae Perkins $4,346
Pennsylvania John Fetterman $10,953,491 Mehmet Oz $5,450,984
South Carolina Krystle Matthews $12,551 Tim Scott* $4,201,067
South Dakota Brian Bengs $105,142 John Thune* $1,894,547
Utah Evan McMullin $1,450,321 Mike Lee* $3,169,049
Vermont Peter Welch $970,981 Christina Nolan
Gerald Malloy
Washington Patty Murray* $2,636,869 Tiffany Smiley $2,612,447
Wisconsin Alex Lasry
Mandela Barnes
Sarah Godlewski
Tom Nelson
Ron Johnson* $6,199,930

A few caveats:

  • The Democrats declined to run a candidate in Utah; Evan McMullin is running as an independent, and has the backing of the Utah Democratic Party.

  • Some fundraising totals are skewed by large personal loans the candidate has made to their campaign. Most notably, Alex Lasry loaned himself $6,500,000, Mehmet Oz loaned himself $3,200,000, Trudy Busch loaned herself $2,000,000 and Bruce Fenton loaned himself $1,628,100.

  • Similarly, many candidate have more firepower than the figures above might suggest thanks to the support of am aligned and well-funded super PAC. For example, Blake Masters is backed by millions from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

  • As you can see, a few candidates did not file yet. That can mean they erred and blew the deadline, or it can mean that their take was $0.

We have pointed out many times, including just last week, that modern fundraising numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. A candidate might be raking it in because they excite wealthy donors in California, as opposed to voters in their own state. And, of course, there is the problem of diminishing returns, particularly for a candidate that pours most of their funds into advertising (ahem, Sara Gideon).

With that said, the chart above is nearly wall-to-wall good news for the Democrats. Of the 35 races, the Democrats are leading in 20 of them. More importantly, of the seats that are in play, Republicans only lead in zero to two of them (depending on whether you consider Utah in play, and you disregard the loan Lasry made to himself). Outside of Wisconsin and (possibly) Missouri, in the very most competitive races (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), the Democratic nominee/likely Democratic candidate is leaving their Republican foe/likely Republican foe in the dust. It is also interesting that there are two races (or three, if you include Wisconsin) where a Democratic challenger has outraised a Republican incumbent: Florida and Iowa.

Again, polling is more instructive than fundraising. However, it's better to have money than not, and the Democrats definitely do this cycle. (Z)

When It Comes to Campaign Finance Law and 2024, Trump Is Ahead of the Curve

As long as we're on the subject of fundraising, we will also point out that Donald Trump—who cares little about campaign finance law—may already be breaking the rules with his next presidential campaign, despite the fact that Election Day 2024 is well over 2 years away.

The former president has made clear that, when it comes to a run, his mind is already made up. And it sure seems like he's running. By the terms of the Federal Election Campaign Act, a person is formally running for president if: (1) they have decided to run and (2) they have raised at least $5,000 in support of that candidacy. Once those two conditions are met, then the candidate has 10 days to formally register with the FEC and to begin abiding by campaign finance laws (for example, no longer coordinating with super PACs).

While making a formal announcement, or issuing a press release, or running a campaign ad is a clear indication of a person's candidacy, they are not necessary to clear the bar. All the person has to do is decide they are running, and Trump says he already has done so. Assuming the decision is "yes," then the clock is ticking.

Normally, if one fudges the rules here a bit, the punishment is a fine. However, knowing and willful violations of the rules can earn someone up to 5 years in jail. Inasmuch as Trump was already president and should know the rules, and inasmuch as he's a repeat violator of campaign finance laws (remember the Stormy Daniels money), and inasmuch as he may be planning to flout the law for months (or more), he'd be a prime candidate to throw the book at. It probably won't happen, if only because he's more likely to get popped for something else, rendering this particular issue moot. But it's yet another item on the list of ways Trump has left himself exposed, legally. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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