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The Second Hearing Will Be This Morning

The Select Committee investigating the coup attempt will hold its second hearing this morning at 10 a.m. ET. The Committee said the focus would be on the simple fact that people close to Trump knew he had lost the election and repeatedly told him that, but he didn't care.

The full witness list has not be released, but one witness will be Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News editor who was on the team that called Arizona for Joe Biden at 11:20 p.m. ET on Election Night. The call caught the on-screen talent at Fox off-guard and threw Donald Trump into a rage. Stirewalt quickly went on screen after the call to explain why the network called Arizona when none of the others had done so and why it was unwilling to call Ohio for Trump yet.

The subject of Stirewalt's testimony today is not known, even though he has been asked point blank on camera about it. He just wasn't talking, so there could be some drama here. Please note that Fox News later fired Stirewalt and that could affect his testimony. He is now the political editor at NewsNation, many steps down from being on Fox.

Another expected witness today is Republican lawyer Ben Ginsberg, an expert on election fraud. He is expected to say there was no fraud in the 2020 election and discuss the many court cases Trump filed alleging there was fraud.

Other witnesses will focus on the "Big Lie" and how it made the rioters show up. Another thread will be following the money: how Trump fundraised off his claims that the election was stolen. His final campaign manager, Bill Stepien is also expected to testify. Finally, Trump's seven-part plan to stay in power illegally, which Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) mentioned last week, is likely to come up again. (V)

Top One-liners from Last Thursday's Hearing

Chris Cillizza of CNN has compiled a list of the 11 most consequential lines spoken at the hearing (in some cases on video). Here they are. See if you know who said each one. (the answers are at the bottom of the page):

  1. Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy.
  2. The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over.
  3. Mike Pence deserves it.
  4. The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous act.
  5. So there's no "there" there.
  6. I accepted what [Bill Barr] was saying.
  7. Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen.
  8. He ultimately knew that his fidelity to the Constitution was his first and foremost oath.
  9. There is no doubt that President Trump was well aware of the violence as it developed.
  10. They knew that President Donald Trump was too dangerous to be left alone.
  11. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone. But your dishonor will remain.

In some cases the statement was made by one person but relayed by someone else. You get extra credit if you can name the original speaker and who quoted that person at the hearing. (V)

Trump Attacks--Get This--Ivanka

On Friday, we said we weren't going to sign up for Truth Social to get Donald Trump's reaction because we figured that some intrepid reporter from some big media outlet would do it for us. We guessed right. It was Politico's Kelly Hooper (among others). Hooper wrote an article that says Trump appears to be attacking the one person in the world he might actually love (other than himself), his darling daughter Ivanka. Trump wrote: "Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at, or studying, Election results. She had long since checked out and was, in my opinion, only trying to be respectful to Bill Barr and his position as Attorney General (he sucked!)" This was in response to the video clip of Ivanka testifying: "I respect Attorney General Barr so I accepted what he was saying." So is Trump now calling his own daughter a liar and a perjurer. Thanksgiving dinner this year at Chez Trump could get a bit awkward. And who knows what other clips of Ivanka the Committee is going to show later on this month (and how Dad will react).

What is kind of flying under the radar is that Trump has ordered all of his close associates to claim executive privilege and not cooperate with the Committee at all. Many have done that. The mere fact that Ivanka sat for an interview rather than carefully inserting the letter from the Committee in a nearby paper shredder is actually amazing and speaks to serious strains within the family. Why didn't she just refuse to show up, like Mark Meadows, Peter Navarro, and others? Is she just trying to cover her a** even if that sends dad up the river? What's going on here?

Since Joe Biden's inauguration, the former first daughter and his son-in-law have laid low, not taking part in any political events. Reportedly they bought a estate on an exclusive Miami-Dade island and are holed up there. Are they afraid things are not going to work out so well for dad and want to put lots of distance between themselves and him so they don't get sucked into whatever mess may soon befall him?

Dissing the only child he might love and for whom he has (had?) some respect wasn't the end of it. Trump also blasted Barr, despite a 2016 campaign promise to hire only the very best people. He also doubled down on his claims the election was rigged and stolen and said the hearings were a witch hunt.

Also on Truth Social "news," Trump sent out posts saying that he never even thought of hanging Mike Pence. He said reports that he did were fake news. Good luck with that. This week or next an entire hearing will be devoted to Pence and will feature some of Pence's closest aides giving testimony. Surely they will have something to say about communication between Trump and Pence in January.

Despite all these hot items, we are still not signing up for an account on Truth Social. Hopefully the Kelly Hoopers of the media world will keep their eyes and ears glued to it and if really big news comes out there ("I'm running in 2024") we'll link to their stories. (V)

Over 20 Million People Watched the Hearing--That's a Lot

Preliminary data from the television ratings company Nielsen show that 20 million people watched last Thursday's hearing. This is a large number, though only about half of the 38 million who watched Joe Biden's State of the Union speech in March. However, it is more than the usual 18 million viewers for Sunday Night Football or 15 million viewers for Thursday Night Football or 11 million for NCIS, the top three TV shows in 2021. By way of comparison, here are the viewership numbers of a few other TV shows: American Idol (7 million), Shark Tank (5 million), Blackish (3 million), and The Simpsons (2 million). Unfortunately, Nielsen does not publish crosstabs by age, income, partisanship, etc., so we don't know who watched.

However, we do know that 4.8 million watched on ABC, 4.2 million watched on MSNBC, 3.6 million watched on NBC, 3.4 million watched on CBS, and 2.6 million watched on CNN. Fox Business News carried the hearing live and drew a paltry 225,000 viewers. Newsmax did even worse at 137,000. Fox News ran its usual programming. The hosts spent all their time defending Trump. Fox viewers numbered about 3 million, the usual number. These figures do not count those people who watched on PBS or the Internet, either in real time or afterwards, so the actual number of viewers is certainly higher than 20 million.

Given these figures, it is probably a good guess that at least 15 million viewers were not dyed-in-the-wool Democrats (who would presumably have watched on MSNBC). Many were probably moderate Democrats, independents, and maybe even moderate Republicans. Those are the people Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) needs to reach. If most of the independents decide Trump has to go, he's finished. Remember, Republicans are only about a third of the country. That isn't enough to win an election if everyone else is against him.

One interesting note (which also came up in this week's mailbag) is that during Tucker Carlson's show and Sean Hannity's show, the network didn't run commercials. Apparently Rupert Murdoch was willing to give up money rather than run the risk that viewers might change the channel during a commercial and see the actual hearing by accident and not come back. (V)

Will the Select Committee Apply the Lessons from Watergate?

Almost 50 years ago, the country was convulsed by a "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate complex that brought Richard Nixon down. Will a riot that left seven people dead (two of whom died of heart attacks probably brought on by the events of Jan. 6) bring down Donald Trump? Garrett Graff, who authored a book on Watergate, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times listing three lessons that he learned from studying Watergate and which the Select Committee would do well to heed. Here is a brief summary:

  • The narrative: In 1973, the Republicans wanted a limited number of public hearings, more or less the six to eight the Select Committee is planning. Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC) rejected that and held 237 hours of public hearings, blanketing the entire summer. It took weeks of testimony before the star witness, John Dean, testified. Graff thinks that Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) is playing small ball since he has to compress 1,000 interviews and depositions and 140,000 documents into some 20 hours of testimony. Republicans will just ignore these. If the hearings were the only news story all summer, they would be much, much harder to ignore. And Fox News will either ignore every hearing or use the time slot to defend Donald Trump. That would get boring with 30 or 40 hearings. So the Committee didn't learn lesson one.

  • Assign moral responsibility: Ervin understood that he was not a prosecutor in a courtroom. He didn't have to prove that Nixon violated one or more specific federal statutes. His job was to convince the American public that what Nixon did was fundamentally wrong, regardless of whether Nixon actually broke any specific laws. After a week of beligerent testimony from Nixon's henchman John Ehrlichman, a reporter told Ervin's top lawyer, Sam Dash: "That guy was tough as nails—you couldn't break him." Dash countered with: "Was he involved in the cover-up?" The reporter put his hand on his forehead and said: "Up to here." Dash then asked the reporter what else he wanted from the committee. Graff's take is that after all is said and done, he wants most Americans to be thinking: "Trump lost the election and tried to stay in power by sending a mob to sack the Capitol to prevent the actual winner, Joe Biden from being confirmed." If the Committee achieves that, it will have done its job. The rest will be up to the Justice Department. Graff does not expect dyed-in-the-wool Republicans to change their minds as a result of the hearings. Hell, they may not even know they took place. But a third of the voters are registered as independents. If they all think Trump is "guilty," he is toast, at least politically if not legally. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) no doubt prays to God every day asking for this result. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), too, but it is doubtful that God pays any attention to Ted Cruz. Nobody else does.

  • Country over Party: A huge difference between 1973 and 2022 is that, back then, most Republicans took part in the process in good faith. They were open to being convinced by the facts that Nixon was "guilty." With the exception of the two Republicans on the 1/6 Committee, almost no Republicans are open-minded now. Probably 80-90% know very well that Trump lost the election and tried to use illegal means to stay in power. But very few are likely to come out and say so, except possibly Republicans who are retiring from office this year, and maybe not even them. The best the Democrats can hope for is that the members of the red team just keep their mouths shut and don't defend Trump and keep saying: "I was busy planning some fishing trips for next year so I didn't have time to watch the hearings and I have no comment." In contrast, in 1973, senators Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker flipped and ended up condemning Nixon. We don't see a lot of Republican senators flipping this time, though maybe Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will say she is concerned. Of course, if huge majorities of the public think Trump "did it," then some senators may find where stashed their spines and other body parts for safe keeping.

So it looks like lesson one was not learned and lesson two was probably learned. Getting key Republicans to flip might be trickier. However, if multiple polls in September start showing Trump losing in 2024 to every Democrat from Joe Biden all the way down to Bill de Blasio, then even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might flip just to get rid of Trump and not blow the White House in 2024.

Long-time political analyst Jeff Greenfield has a somewhat different view of the comparison with Watergate. He thinks the current hearings won't matter. The compelling aspect of the Watergate hearings was that every day new facts came out. The story was developing all through the summer. This made for riveting television as no one knew what was going to happen next. In contrast, everyone already knows the outline of the current story: Trump lost the election but wanted to retain power by any means necessary, including violence. All that we are getting now are more details. Of course, there could be news that is currently unknown. Imagine what would happen if Marc Short, Mike Pence's chief of staff, were to testify: "I was in the room when Pence told Trump that they lost and Trump said he knew that but was going to fight to stay in power anyway." But barring a surprising revelation, this year's hearings may lack the drama of the Watergate hearings. (V)

Senate Might Pass a Watered-Down Gun Bill

All these shootings are making Senate Republicans uncomfortable. They don't want the Democrats to base their midterm campaign on: "Republicans don't want to stop school shootings," so they feel that have to do something for show. However, it can't actually have much effect or their base will go bananas. The result appears to be a verbal agreement to work on a minimal compromise bill. Getting any kind of bill through the Senate will defang the Democrats without actually changing much, but that's where we are and the Democrats appear to be ready to accept it.

The bill hasn't been written yet—and the devil is always in the details—but appears to be aimed at the following items:

  • States would be encouraged to keep guns away from people a judge has said are dangerous
  • Gun buyers under 21 would be subject to a mandatory check to see if they have a criminal record
  • Billions of dollars would go into mental health programs including community mental health clinics
  • Billions more would go into school security programs

But people 21 or over who have no record of gun violence would be free to buy any (semi-automatic) military rifle they want. The Buffalo and Uvalde shooters were 18. However, the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history (Las Vegas in Oct. 2017) was done by a 64-year-old, the #2 shooting (Orlando in June 2016) was done by a 29-year-old, and #3 (Virginia Tech in 2007) was done by a 23-year-old, so the proposed bill would not have stopped them.

Note that the sausage has not yet been made and getting 10 Republicans to sign on may not be so simple. The main negotiators are Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). They agree on the outline of the bill, but they have to get eight more Republicans to agree as well. Each potential "yes" vote may have his or her own conditions, most likely watering down some provisions of the bill. So it is not a done deal until there is an actual bill the senators can read and 10 Republicans (and all the Democrats and the two independents) agree to vote for it. Getting it through the House is not expected to be a problem. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will simply tell her members to vote for the Senate bill, and some Republicans may vote for it as well. Joe Biden has said he will sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

The most recent bills that put any restrictions on gun ownership were the "Brady Bill" of 1993, which created a background check system and the assault weapons bill of 1994, which outlawed some military weapons, but expired in 2004. The most important action since then was the 2008 Supreme Court decision in D.C. v. Heller in which the Court ruled that the actual words in the Second Amendment ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed") don't actually mean anything. In other words, anyone can buy a gun for any reason, even people not part of any militia. Additionally, the Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on a century-old New York State law restricting concealed carry licenses to people who have a good reason to have one. If it throws the law out, that will increase the number of people with guns, even in blue states. (V)

The Notorious RBG Is Taking a Nosedive

Sometimes someone's reputation goes up or down after they leave office or die. Lyndon Johnson, for example, was reviled by much of the country when he was president for his role in the Vietnam War. A popular chant in the 1960s was: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Now that the war is long over and Vietnam is at peace again, a lot of people now remember Johnson for signing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He is certainly more respected now than he was in real time.

Sometimes it goes the other way. Case in point is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When she was on the Supreme Court, many women idolized her. She was a cult heroine and a role model for many aspiring young female law students. With Roe v. Wade likely to vanish into the mists this month, people who used to worship her are having second thoughts. It's not that her written opinions are now seen in a different light, it's her hubris that is taking her down. If she had resigned from the Court in say, 2013, at age 80, after 33 years in that position, then-President Barack Obama would have nominated a younger version of herself as her successor and the 53 Democrats in the Senate would have swiftly confirmed the nominee. In practice, if Ginsburg had gone to Obama and said: "I will resign if you agree to nominate [X]," he would almost assuredly have done so. But by hanging on past 2016, she paved the way for Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Of course, she expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016, but the upside of that gamble was that she could serve a couple more years at most and the downside was what actually happened. It was a very selfish and risky bet, which some of her former supporters are now coming to realize.

An example of how some of Ginsburg's former fans now think of her was summarized by Dorothy Samuels, who wrote the legal editorials for The New York Times for 30 years. She said: "It's certainly hard for me, now, to think of her work and of her—and not to, these days, work up a degree of regret and anger." Then she added: "[W]hat she has helped to give us is a court that for a long, long time is going to be undoing the equality rulings that she was part of." Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford, put it a little more bluntly: "She gambled. But she didn't just gamble with herself. She gambled with the rights of my daughter and my granddaughter. And unfortunately, that's her legacy. I think it's tragic."

If Ginsburg had retired in 2013 and Obama had nominated another pro-choice woman in her place and she was confirmed, Roe would not be on the chopping block now. There would have been four Democratic nominees on the Court now. Chief Justice John Roberts would have worked for a compromise with them in the form of allowing the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks to stand and leave it at that. The votes to declare that Roe was wrongly decided wouldn't have been there. As a result of Ginsburg's choices, abortion is likely to be illegal in half the country before the fall. That's not the legacy she wanted, but it is what she is going to have.

In addition to bad-mouthing the late justice, abortion-rights activists are also gearing up to renew the push to expand the Supreme Court. If Roe bites the dust, many activists are going to try to exert pressure on Congress to expand the number of justices from 9 to 13 or, if they think that is an unlucky number, to 15. All that takes is an act of Congress. No constitutional amendment is required. The goal is to make court expansion a mainstream Democratic proposal, just as eliminating the filibuster has become. Right now there are 48 votes in the Senate for eliminating the filibuster, a few dozen more than there were 10 years ago. The abortion activists aren't yet up to even 48 supporters for Court expansion, but that is their next goal. Then 51 and do it.

Getting to even 48 is going to be tough, since only one-third of Americans approve of expanding the Court and politicians tend to pay (some) attention to what the voters want. On the other hand, a bare majority approves of term limits for justices, so that might be feasible. Or maybe not, since that one probably would require a constitutional amendment. A proposal that was not poll tested is having a variable number of justices, with each president getting one new pick and vacancies left open until the next inauguration. That system removes the element of luck that gives some presidents three picks and others none. By guaranteeing every president one pick per victory, people who want to influence the Court have a mechanism: win elections. (V)

Biden Is Working on Salvaging What He Can on Abortion

Joe Biden is preparing for Roe to be pulled out, root and branch. There is a lot of pressure on him to do something, but his options are limited. Nevertheless, there are a few things he can do and he is working on them now.

For example, current FDA regulations require that pharmacies dispensing abortion drugs have a special license. Democrats are urging him to eliminate those so every pharmacy in the country will be allowed to dispense the drugs (subject to state law). They also want the federal government to provide travel vouchers to people in red states who want an abortion but can't afford to travel to a blue state to get one. They also want to beef up privacy of health records to prevent prosecutors in red states from learning that a woman in a red state traveled to a blue state to get an abortion. In addition, they want the Pentagon to provide leave to any member of the Armed Forces stationed in a red state to travel to a blue state to get an abortion if that service member wants one.

Furthermore, they want much tough enforcement of the ACA provision that requires health plans to cover contraception, something that some insurers don't do but are actually required to. If they faced heavy fines, they might just decide to fully cover contraception, which would lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies and thus fewer abortions. If abortion opponents were genuinely sincere, they would also support making contraception easily available as a simple way to reduce abortions, but many aren't, so they don't.

Many Democrats are frustrated with their own side. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) told Politico that the other side was been working on this for 50 years. She wanted to know where the Democrats' 50-year strategy is. She noted that when Democrats had huge majorities in Congress (such as in 2009, when they briefly held 60 seats in the Senate), they could have passed a law guaranteeing abortion nationwide and did nothing. Now their chickens are coming home to roost, it seems, though it's worth noting that the 60 Democrats included some who were anti-abortion. However, by offering them enough pork, it might have been possible to get them to vote for cloture and also vote against the actual law allowing abortion, thus having it both ways. Politicians like having it both ways. (V)

The 2024 Presidential Campaigns are Already Quietly Underway

As Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party continues to slip—and will slip further if the Select Committee does a good job and/or Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis indicts him—other GOP presidential wannabes are gearing up for the race. They want to be ready to hit the ground running if he pulls out, though they may jump in even if Trump decides to run. Reporters for The Washington Post spoke with two dozen GOP insiders and it is clear the race is on. If Trump is weakened enough, there could be a 15 candidates along with him. The weaker he appears, the more challengers he will get. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is rarin' to go and hopes a huge reelection win this year will boost his chances. Mike Pence is hanging out with Michigan's top donors, especially the DeVos family. At least six Republican senators have gone to Iowa or New Hampshire already. Mike Pompeo has told friends he is willing to run against Trump. Liz Cheney is basing her campaign on her performance a vice chair of the Select Committee. Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Ted Cruz all think they have a chance (although we think Scott and Cruz must be smoking something and inhaling deeply). Nikki Haley is still in the mix. The list goes on and on.

If Trump formally announces a run this summer, that might stop some of the wannabes. The downsides of an early announcements are: (1) it will make the midterms about Trump and (2) Trump will be instantly subject to campaign laws about fundraising and other things.

Note also that the candidate leading this far in advance doesn't always win. In June 2006, Rudy Giuliani had the support of 29% of Republicans and where did that get him? Then-Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was the up-and-coming star who was going to get the nomination in 2016 and what happened to that? Hillary Clinton had the 2008 nomination locked up a year in advance. How did that go? So the wannabes have to be a bit careful about becoming too visible.

The message here appears to be that even if Trump runs, he is likely to have competition, and possibly lots of competition. Unless he announces this summer, in which case other factors kick in.

Across the aisle, it is only a whispering campaign so far, but increasingly many Democrats think that Joe Biden is: (1) too old and (2) too ineffective to run again. But there are fewer Democrats willing to gear up as openly as Trump's would-be challengers. If Biden decides to try again, he is not likely to have many challengers, although Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) might try. Kamala Harris will never challenge Biden if he decides to run, but will certainly jump in if he declines. We don't think she will go anywhere. She tried in 2020 and ran a terrible campaign. What has she done of note as vice president to improve her standing?

If Biden declines to run, it will be a free-for-all, again with a dozen or more candidates, just as in 2020. In fact, it might be the same crew, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and the rest. If John Fetterman wins in a landslide in Pennsylvania, he might jump in. Anything is possible, although we think if Biden runs, he might draw one or two challengers on the left and that's all. In contrast, if a weakened Trump runs, he could draw many more challengers. (V)

Final House Map Favors the Republicans

Now that New Hampshire has finished redistricting (by failing to agree on a map and letting the State Supreme Court to basically keep the old map), the process of drawing the maps for this cycle is pretty much done. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has taken a look at the maps and this is what it sees.

The first thing to note is that Joe Biden won 226 of the 435 new districts while Donald Trump won only 209, but that is pretty much the only good news for the Democrats. More important is that solid Republican districts jumped from 112 to 131. These are districts that the Republican candidate will win even if he is caught in bed with the usual suspects. That's a gain of 19 for the red team. The number of solid Democratic districts dropped slightly, from 129 to 127 for a net loss of two. In contrast, the number of truly competitive districts (R+4 to D+4) declined from 84 to 75. That's just enough that red waves and blue waves could alternate for the next decade, but wild swings are increasingly less likely as the number of swing districts gradually decreases.

There are a couple of states where things could yet change. A federal court recently ruled that the new 5R, 1D map in Louisiana violates the Voting Rights Act. It might yet be changed to 4R, 2D. However, when a similar case in Alabama came before the Supreme Court, SCOTUS refused to intervene, so maybe it won't in Louisiana either.

It should be noted that the current maps are not guaranteed for 10 years. States are free to redistrict whenever they want to. In practice, if one party gains a trifecta it currently does not have, that could be the moment it decides to draw the map again. In 2002, that is what happened in Texas. Before 2002, the Republicans held the state Senate and Democrats held the state House. When Republicans captured the state House in 2002, bingo, the legislature drew a new map. Colorado Republicans tried the same stunt in 2002, but the state courts vetoed the plan, saying state law allowed only one map per decade. But that is not so in most states.

In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court, which is 4D, 3R, could flip, and if it does, the Republican controlled state legislature is sure to try to ram through a new map. Ohio is another state where mid-decade redistricting is also a real possibility. These maneuvers would help the Republicans. It is also possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could rule that state courts have no power to tell the state legislatures what they can and cannot do, so they are free to gerrymander as much as their hearts' desire (assuming legislatures have hearts).

Anyway, here are the Crystal Ball's ratings about the maps as they now stand.

Crystal Ball House ratings; it's a long
list with about 60 names.

So, what stands out here? In the top table, 11 districts currently or recently occupied by a Democrat now lean Republican or are likely Republican. That means the Democrats are at risk of losing 11 seats. In the bottom table, only IL-13 has been gerrymandered enough to make it lean blue. Adding these up, we get a potential net win of 10 for the Republicans.

However, there are 214 seats that are safe, likely, or lean Republican. That is four short of what is needed to control the House. The number of districts that are safe, likely, or lean Democratic is only 193. That is 25 short of a majority. The other 28 are pure toss-ups. To gain control of the House, the Republicans need to win only four of these 28 whereas Democrats need to win 25 of the 28. That is a steep hill to climb.

But as we have said before, stuff changes. If abortion and gun control come to completely dominate the midterms, all bets are off. This is why the Republicans are willing to pass a feeble gun-control bill. It could reduce the potency of guns as a midterm issue if they can holler: "We prevented mentally ill 18-year-olds with criminal records from buying machine guns. Problem solved." (V)

Trump Works on His Batting Average in Alabama

A new poll in the Alabama Senate runoff shows Katie Britt, the former chief of staff for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), with a commanding lead in her race against Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). She is at 55% to his 36% with only 9% still undecided. It looks like most of the people who voted for Army veteran Mike Durant in the first round are going with Britt in the runoff.

Given the likelihood of Britt winning, did you expect Donald Trump to re-endorse Brooks, who he had previously endorsed and then disendorsed? Of course not, when there is an almost certain chance of raising his batting average a couple of points. So, late Friday, Trump endorsed Britt. Note that not only is Britt not very Trumpy, but Trump has called her mentor, Shelby, a RINO. And neither Britt nor Shelby has said that Trump won in 2020, whereas Brooks is yelling that from the rooftops every day. So given a choice between raising his batting average by supporting a candidate who doesn't listen to him or do what he orders and a candidate who does everything he asks but is likely to lose, Trump is going with the winner.

The runoff is next week. What do other Republican politicians see here? They see a wannabe kingmaker keeping his mouth shut until a week before an election, noticing a poll showing one candidate will win in a landslide, and then endorsing that candidate. The message here is certainly not "I'd better do what this guy wants because he can make or break candidates." It's more "try to do well in the polls and just see what happens."

At the moment, 24 women are serving in the Senate. If all the women up for reelection win and no others win but Britt, a quarter of the Senate will be female next year. However, only one-third of the current women are Republicans (Marsha Blackburn, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst, Deb Fischer, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Cynthia Lummis, and Lisa Murkowski). The list spans senators from true firebrands like Blackburn to moderates like Collins. We don't know yet what kind of senator Britt will be, but looking at her campaign website gives a big hint. It is all about putting Alabama first (which is a good thing, because in many other rankings, Alabama is in a close battle with Mississippi for last). In other words, she is basically running on "good constituent service" and getting pork for Alabama. She is advertising herself as a suburban mom and Christian who is married to a former football player. On her "issues" page, she has all the conservative stuff every candidate in Alabama has to have, but she is no firebrand. She is more like her boss and will be a loyal team player for the GOP, but it doesn't appear she has partaken of the Trump Kool-Aid. (V)

Election Day Has Now Passed--in Alaska

Voting is over but mail-in ballots will be accepted until June 21, so we won't know if Sarah Palin has a chance to beat Santa Claus for at least 2 weeks. But Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight has some interesting thoughts on how the special election to replace the late and legendary Don Young might play out.

To start with, the election has two rounds, with very different rules. Round one, which will be finished on June 21, has 48 candidates on the ballot, including candidates from all parties. The top four get to advance to the second round, which ends on Aug. 16. The winner of that election will serve until Jan. 3, 2023. It's not a big prize, but 48 people wanted it.

The question now is who will be in the top four. Palin has universal name recognition in the state so is certain to make it to round two. However, 59% of the state's voters don't like her, so that doesn't bode well for her in round two. Still, since something like 43 or 44 of the other candidates are complete unknowns, if she can get most of the votes of the 41% who don't dislike her, she should be one of the top four. At the moment, with 72% of the votes in and counted, she's in first place with 29.8% of the vote.

Nick Begich (R) also has good name recognition—even though it is not his name. It is the name of his grandfather, Nick Begich Sr., who served in the House until his plane crashed somewhere in Alaska's wilderness in 1972. He is presumed dead. Grandfather was a Democrat, as was his son Mark Begich, who served one term in the Senate as a Democrat. The current Begich candidate is running as a Republican. He is almost certain to make it to the top four. He's currently in second, with 19.3%.

Next we come to Al Gross, a fisherman and orthopedic surgeon who ran for the Senate as a Democrat in 2020 and lost. He has plenty of name recognition. This time he is running as an independent. Most Democrats will probably vote for him, making it likely that he'll make the top four. He's in third right now, with 12.5%.

The last slot is the wild card, but it looks like it will be long-serving former state representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D), who is in fourth place with 7.5% of the vote. If she's going to get caught, it will be by Tara Sweeney, who is a Republican, a Native American, and in fifth place with 5.3%, or by Santa Claus, who currently is in sixth with 4.5%. Claus, formerly known as Thomas O'Connor until he legally changed his name to Santa Claus, has a lot of name recognition. And as a Social Democrat, he likes giving presents to the people. But Claus shouldn't be checking his GPS to see how to best fly his sleigh to D.C. yet, as he's going to need a big chunk of the outstanding (mostly mail-in) votes to climb into fourth place. Of course, that's an easier task than delivering presents to hundreds of millions of children in the span of a few hours, so maybe he can pull it off.

The rules for the general election are different. It will use ranked-choice voting. Claus, Peltola, or whoever gets the fourth slot will probably be the first to go, leaving Palin, Begich, and Gross. If Gross is #3, the Democrats who supported him are never going to vote for Palin second, so their votes will go to Begich. If Palin is #3, her second choice votes will go to the other Republican in the race, Begich. If Begich is #3, probably most of his supporters will hold their noses and vote for the Republican Palin over the Independent/Democrat Gross. The final round is hard to call, but Rakich thinks Begich is probably the favorite. (V)

Answers to the quiz at the top
  1. Bennie Thompson
  2. Bennie Thompson
  3. Donald Trump, as relayed by a witness
  4. Liz Cheney
  5. Mark Meadows, as relayed by Trump campaign lawyer Alex Cannon
  6. Ivanka Trump
  7. Donald Trump, as relayed by Liz Cheney
  8. Mike Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short
  9. Liz Cheney
  10. Liz Cheney
  11. Liz Cheney

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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