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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Mass Shooting Produces the Usual Responses
      •  Three Republican Responses to the Sinking of Roe
      •  Pennsylvania, Idaho and Kentucky Will Head to the Polls Tuesday
      •  Van Hollen Suffers Stroke
      •  Guest Columnist: Update from the Philippines

Mass Shooting Produces the Usual Responses

There was a mass shooting this weekend, as you probably heard. Well, actually, there were two, one in Buffalo that left 10 people dead and three wounded, and one in Laguna Woods that left one person dead and five wounded.

It's the Buffalo shooting that's getting all the attention. Maybe that's because it was bloodier, with more people dead. Maybe it's because it happened earlier in the weekend (Saturday vs. Sunday). Maybe it's because it better aligns with the fault lines in American politics. The Buffalo incident was perpetrated by an 18-year-old white supremacist and antisemite, author of a manifesto and everything, who drove multiple hours in order to kill (mostly) Black victims. The Laguna Woods incident was the work of a 60-year-old Asian man who targeted parishioners at Geneva Presbyterian Church, and whose motives are not yet clear (though, as with the Buffalo shooter, he apparently traveled a significant distance to reach his intended victims).

The response to the Buffalo incident, on the left, was entirely predictable. There were calls from anyone and everyone for stronger gun control and better moderation of social media content, since the Buffalo shooter (whose name is known but whose personhood we choose not to dignify by using it) utilized Facebook and 4chan to share his "ideas." Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) promised that the shooter would never again see the outside of a prison, and declared:

Lord, forgive the anger in my heart but channel that into my passion to continue to fight to protect people, get the guns off the streets and silence the voices of hatred and racism and white supremacy all over the Internet.

Joe Biden also weighed in, declaring: "We must all work together to address the hate that remains a stain on the soul of America." He's expected to visit Buffalo before leaving for a trip to Asia on Thursday. Pretty much all the other prominent Democrats in the country also spoke up, too.

Meanwhile, the response from Republicans was... crickets. Let us imagine that the shooter had been, say, Muslim. Or, say, an undocumented immigrant. Which prominent Republican would be the first one on Twitter to lament how little the country has done to control radical Islam/unchecked immigration? The answer's gotta be Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), right? Well, here is what he was tweeting about Saturday afternoon/evening:

We have two thoughts, in no particular order: (1) It's not quite fleeing to Cancun in the middle of a winter power outage, but isn't it a little tacky to tweet about your concert attendance after a tragedy like this?; (2) Middle-aged white guys obsessing over "Desperado" is such a cliché that Seinfeld literally did an episode about it.

Anyhow, Cruz and the other prominent Republicans certainly weren't talking about the shooting. In part, that is because such incidents complicate their "no limits on the Second Amendment" stance. In part, that is because they pander to the portion of the base that believes white people don't do things like this. And in large part, it is because the shooter was a firm believer in, and was clearly motivated by, White Replacement Theory, which many Republicans—foremost among them Tucker Carlson—have embraced.

Note that this is not to say that no Republicans were talking about this incident this weekend. The fringe element, which never met a case of cognitive dissonance they couldn't resolve, quickly began circulating the claim that the Buffalo shooting was a false flag operation. For example, Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers (Q-Coconino) and U.S. House candidate Laura Loomer (Q-FL), who both have well-earned reputations for being a few bricks shy of a load, both claimed the shooting was actually the work of the federal government.

Indeed, Loomer went onto TRUTH Social to further observe, for the benefit of the other two users of the platform, that: "This seems to happen every election season, during midterm elections like clockwork when Democrats are in power." In case you are wondering, at least one of the 50 deadliest mass shootings since 1949 took place in each year of the last decade, excepting 2020, the year Joe Biden was elected. Oh, and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the one in Las Vegas, took place in 2017, a non-election year in which Republicans had the trifecta in Washington. When someone pointed out that the shooter is also a rabid antisemite, Loomer sputtered and replied: "Anyone who hates Jews just to hate Jews is stupid and low IQ." She then immediately went on to clarify: "Being worried about replacement theory is not a radical stance. The war on White people is VERY REAL." So, virulent antisemitism is unjustified and stupid but virulent anti-nonwhite-immigrant sentiment is totally legit. Hmmmmmm. See again what we wrote about cognitive dissonance.

Anyhow, we write this up because it was the dominant story of this weekend's news cycle. But we all know what's going to happen, namely that nothing is going to change, and in a week or so, it will all be forgotten. Anyone who predicts any other outcome has not paid attention to, oh, the last hundred mass shootings before the ones this weekend. At most, this will cause Carlson to be a little more circumspect about the White Replacement Theory talk for a few weeks. (Z)

Three Republican Responses to the Sinking of Roe

When it comes to the pending ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Democrats have an easier path forward, messaging wise. They are going to complain, as loudly as possible, about the ruling, the laws that will be passed as a result, the Supreme Court in general, the Republicans' sudden enthusiasm for use of government power, and anything else they can think of. Any Democrat who does not get on board is at risk of being drummed out of the Party.

Republicans have a trickier needle to thread, in part because outlawing abortion is a minority position, and in part because enthusiasm for doing so varies from state to state and place to place. So, last week, we had an item covering six Republican insta-responses to the news. Now, we follow up with the three main ones from this weekend, which may speak to how things are evolving on this front:

  1. Onward and Upward: This was one of the six responses we listed last week, and it's clearly still present. Republicans in very red states are delighted with what Samuel Alito is cooking up, and are eager to press the advantage while they have momentum. The case study here is Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), who appeared on "State of the Union" yesterday and vowed that once Roe is struck down, he will call a special session of the state legislature in order to outlaw abortion in the state. He also made clear that no exceptions will be made for cases of rape or incest. The legislators might possibly have something to say about that but, based on what's happened in other red states, maybe not.

  2. Ummmmm...: Even in some very red states, politicians are not so sure this ruling is manna from heaven. They recognize, perhaps, that what the hardcore evangelicals want is not necessarily what the rest of the base wants. Or they realize that the fight isn't necessarily over (indeed, we'll have an item on that subject later this week). Our example here is Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-OK), who went on Fox this weekend, apparently expecting a friendly forum. He didn't get it, and did not have ready answers to questions about polling that suggests that 51% of Oklahomans (a.k.a. a majority) don't want abortion outlawed, about what he would do if his daughters were impregnated by a rapist, or what he plans to do to help women who are forced to bear a child they cannot afford. Someone who was a True Believer would not have difficulty with those questions; Stitt clearly is of two minds on these things and hasn't yet decided what the most politic answers are for someone in his position.

    Stitt was also forced to concede that Native lands in Oklahoma, which are extensive, could become abortion oases:
    You know, the tribes in Oklahoma are super liberal. They go to Washington, D.C. They talk to President [Joe] Biden at the White House; they kind of adopt those strategies. So yeah, we think that there's a possibility that some tribes may try to set up abortion on demand. They think that you can be 1/1,000th tribal member and not have to follow the state law. And so that's something that we're watching.
    Referring to minority group as "they" and then suggesting that "they" don't think the law applies to them? Some might find that a wee bit racist. Oh well, at least he didn't lapse into pidgin English or call them "noble savages."

  3. What's the Big Deal?: The biggest conundrum faces Republicans who are running for election or reelection by electorates that are purple or blue. What do those folks say so as to avoid alienating their base, but also to keep from scaring away all the moderates and centrists?

    One such politician is Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is running for his third term despite promising to serve only two. He spent much oxygen this weekend trying to solve this problem by, in effect, downplaying the significance of Alito's upcoming ruling. One of the Senator's arguments is that he's sure the Wisconsin legislature will change the rules on abortion to make things easier. There is no evidence that the Republicans who run that body have any intention of doing that. His other argument was that if Wisconsin women want abortions, they can just head to Illinois. That raises two questions: (1) What about the more liberal laws in Wisconsin you promised? and (2) What was the point of this whole fight if the end result was just to compel women to travel a bit more to get abortions?

    It seems to us that Johnson maybe needs to go back to the drawing board, though we're really not sure what he can come up with to solve his particular problem. If there's any Republican senator whose career is going to be ended by this, it's going to be him. He already was rather unpopular, and an ill fit for Wisconsin, as it is.

In any event, there is little question that Democrats are ready for this fight. This weekend, there were large pro-choice protests across the nation. We continue to believe that this could be a game-changer for the blue team, and that commentators who write that abortion won't be a big deal in November, and that the election will be about pocketbook issues, are making their pronouncements prematurely. (Z)

Pennsylvania, Idaho and Kentucky Will Head to the Polls Tuesday

Actually, there are five states holding primaries on Tuesday. However, there are enough races of interest that we're going to split our preview over 2 days to keep things from becoming unwieldy. And so, today, it's 10 races of interest in Pennsylvania, Idaho and Kentucky:

  1. Pennsylvania, Governor (R): This sure looks like it's going to be the coronation of state Sen. Doug Mastriano. Democrats are flaying him because he's ultra-Trumpy and was present for the 1/6 insurrection. Republican bigwigs are flaying him because, well, he's ultra-Trumpy and was present for the 1/6 insurrection. They think that could make him unelectable. However, the more abuse Mastriano takes, the better he does in polls. In the latest, released by Emerson College this weekend, Mastriano had the support of 34% of Republicans as compared to 22% for former Representative Lou Barletta and 12% for former U.S. Attorney William McSwain. This is the best number, by 5 points, that Mastriano has gotten in any poll, and comes despite the fact that two lesser candidates (Melissa Hart and Jake Corman) just dropped out of the race. That does not bode well for the GOP bigwigs' plan to rally the non-Mastriano Republican vote. Also, Donald Trump bestowed his endorsement on Mastriano this weekend. This means nothing, except that Trump knows he's going to be on some losers on Tuesday, and he's trying to salvage his batting average.

    Once Mastriano wins, he'll go on to face Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro (D), who is unopposed.

  2. Pennsylvania, U.S. Senate (R): Whereas the Republican gubernatorial primary looks to be a settled affair, this one is going to come down to the wire. There were two polls of the race this weekend; both of them had 3-point margins of error, and both had Mehmet Oz, David McCormick, and Kathy Barnette with between 24% and 28% of the vote. Oz is the slight favorite, but only very slight, and any of the three might triumph.

    Barnette came under much criticism this weekend, including from one Donald J. Trump, who apparently is not concerned about all the antisemitic/Islamophobic/xenophobic things she's said, but who thinks "Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats." Other critics were concerned about her extensive history of bigoted tweets, and Barnette blasted those folks, decreeing: "The overwhelming majority of the tweets that are now being presented are not even full thoughts." When asked to clarify some of the tweets, and to provide whatever context might explain them, the candidate said she doesn't have much to add. Anyhow, it's no secret where she stands at this point, so we'll see if bigotry is her Achilles' heel or it proves to be the whipped cream and cherry on the top of her electoral sundae.

  3. Pennsylvania, U.S. Senate (D): There is also limited drama in this race, as Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is trouncing all comers in the polls. That said, there was one curveball this weekend, in that Fetterman was hospitalized with a stroke. From his hospital bed, he said: "I'm feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn't suffer any cognitive damage. I'm well on my way to a full recovery." There is zero chance this is enough to change the trajectory of the primary race and, to his credit, Fetterman's main opponent, Rep. Conor Lamb, said he and his wife "are keeping John and his family in our prayers and wishing him a full and speedy recovery." However, all three of the Republicans who might oppose Fetterman have shown they are more than willing to play dirty pool. And so, they will surely try to use this against the Lieutenant Governor, even if they frame it as "concern," (e.g., "I worry whether Mr. Fetterman's health will hold up to the rigors of serving the Senate, as I'd hate to see his kids left without a father.") We assume this line of attack would work best if it was coming from an M.D. like, say, Mehmet Oz. So, if you're a Democrat, this is another reason to root for Kathy Barnette (or David McCormick) over Oz.

  4. PA-06 (R): This district leans Democratic, and is currently represented by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D). She is unopposed on the Democratic side, but on the Republican side there are four people champing at the bit for the chance to knock her off. The favorite is Steve Fanelli, who is smart enough to know that Trumpism sells in Pennsylvania, but that maybe Trump doesn't. So, his policy positions are full of anti-immigrant and culture-wars stuff (particularly anti-trans rhetoric and opposition to Critical Race Theory). However, he rarely mentions the former president, and he hasn't gotten an endorsement from The Donald.

  5. PA-07 (R): Another Democratic-leaning district with an unopposed incumbent, in this case Rep. Susan Wild (D). Two Republicans are battling for the right to face her; the clear favorite is Lisa Scheller, who promises to "work to protect our American Dream from turning into a socialist nightmare." Her main policy planks include "Stand up to the Woke Cancel Culture," "Restore Election Integrity," "Secure the Border," and "Protect the Right to Life." In other words, we have another candidate running on Trumpism, but distancing themselves from Trump himself. Scheller ran for this seat in 2020 and lost to Wild by 4 points.

  6. PA-08 (R): Donald Trump has endorsed five House candidates in Pennsylvania, but four of them are incumbents who are going to win their primaries easily. In other words, batting-average candidates. The fifth is Jim Bognet, who ran for this seat previously, with Trump's endorsement that time as well, and lost. Bognet's opponent is Mike Marsicano, who is making his third attempt to represent Pennsylvania in the House, although the previous two were as a Democrat. We do not know who will win this now-Republican-leaning district, an ultra-Trumpy Republican or a non-Trumpy barely Republican, but we can say that Bognet has raised $700,000 while Marsicano has apparently raised $0. Whichever candidate survives the primary will face off against the incumbent, Rep. Matt Cartwright, who has raised nearly $3 million.

  7. PA-17 (D): This is the Republican-leaning district that Conor Lamb is vacating in order to run for the Senate. Two Democrats want to try to replicate Lamb's success. Christopher Deluzio is, like Lamb, a veteran and an attorney. He has seized upon voting rights and abortion rights as the central elements of his campaign, which will presumably please Democratic voters. Sean Meloy is considerably more lefty, has no military service (though he is an Eagle Scout), and would be the first openly LGBTQ+ representative from Pennsylvania if elected. In other words, it's Hillary vs. Bernie, Part 293.

  8. PA-17 (R): There are also three Republicans running for a shot at Conor Lamb's seat. Jason Killmeyer is the favorite; he's a national security hawk and spends much of his time talking about the importance of "resisting the slow suicide of democratic socialism." Jeremy Shaffer is a computer scientist who promises to support investments in infrastructure while resisting "the Biden agenda." Guess he's not heard about Build Back Better. Kathy 'Kozak' Coder is the most moderate of the three (though "moderate" is a relative term, of course), and is running on the argument that she's the most electable candidate. Between the three, they've raised less than $150,000, so whoever advances is going to rely heavily on some sweet, sweet funding from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

  9. Idaho, Governor (R): The outcome here is not in doubt; Gov. Brad Little is going to trounce his main challenger, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. The first question is how big the margin of victory will be. The second question is how much crowing will take place afterwards on the part of NeverTrump Republicans and Democrats, as the former president has thrown his support behind McGeachin. She could very well lose by 30 points in a red state, which is not a good look for him, and may just explain why he was searching for some gubernatorial race—any gubernatorial race—to jump into.

  10. Kentucky, U.S. Senate (D): Someone (not Albert Einstein) once wrote: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, by that definition, the Democrats have an opportunity here to prove they're not insane. In the last two Kentucky Senate elections, the Party ran moderates (Jim Gray and Amy McGrath) who were trounced. This time, the nomination is likely to go to Charles Booker, who is Black, young (37) and progressive. That is presumably an ill fit for ruby-red Kentucky but, hey, why not try something different? And against Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), well, you never know exactly how many people are tired of his shenanigans.

Tomorrow we will have 10 races of interest in North Carolina and Oregon. (Z)

Van Hollen Suffers Stroke

John Fetterman wasn't the only Democrat to suffer a stroke this weekend. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) also had one. As with the Lieutenant Governor, Van Hollen reported that his stroke was "minor," that no permanent damage was done, and that he expects to be back at work soon.

Like Fetterman, Van Hollen is running for the U.S. Senate this year. The former is seeking to be elected to a first term, of course, while the latter is seeking his second. The good news for Van Hollen is that the Republican field is underwhelming (to put it kindly), since Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) decided not to run. So, while the Senator's eventual Republican opponent will surely try to weaponize the stroke, we doubt it will matter.

There was also some hand-wringing this weekend about the Democrats' razor-thin Senate majority, and how it would be lost if Van Hollen did not recover quickly. However, in the past, Senate leaders of both parties have found ways to get incapacitated senators into the Senate chamber for key votes even if they had to be (literally) wheeled in while lying in their hospital beds. And if Van Hollen stepped down or passed away, Maryland law requires Hogan to pick a replacement from the same political party. Hogan could drag his feet a little bit, in theory, but he doesn't seem like the type to do that and deprive his fellow Marylanders of half their representation in the Senate. (Z)

Guest Columnist: Update from the Philippines

Editor's Note: We're going to run items from guest columnists this week, one per day. We will explain why later this week. Today, it's a follow-up report from J.C. and R.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines about that nation's presidential election:

Well, we kept on waiting for the election to be called, but it seems to be stalled at 98.35% of the vote, and BongBong Marcos has declared himself winner, while Leni Robredo has conceded, so...

After sending in our last report, we watched the excellent Showtime documentary Kingmaker, as only in the Philippines is it available for free on YouTube. It was quite helpful in illuminating how Marcos got elected—the film crew were allowed fly-on-the-wall access to the 2016 VP elections when Leni Robredo barely beat out Marcos, and he protested the results. The Vice-Presidential debates were devastating to Marcos in 2016, where he was openly booed by the audience. So this time, á la Trump, he avoided the debates entirely. That way the voters couldn't get a clear idea of his views or see him challenged. (This is from Rappler, the news site founded by the journalist Maria Angelita Ressa, who was the recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, after the Duterte government attempted to silence her.) He presented himself as a unity candidate, and people are tired of negative campaigns and COVID lockdowns—they want something positive. Turns out the Marcos family has been working very hard on rehabilitating their image, and contributed heavily (albeit a bit secretly) to the Duterte campaign—which might explain why President Marcos' remains were interred in the Heroes Cemetery under Duterte's watch, when previously they weren't even allowed in the country.

Then, since Duterte despised Robredo (he's on tape in the documentary saying that he wouldn't listen to her because she's a woman), and she was opposed to most of what he was doing, he gave her nothing to do. The VP can be from a different party, and if the President gives them nothing to do, then there's nothing they can do about that. So while Robredo barely beat Marcos for the VP slot 6 years ago, now he has eclipsed her by over 2:1—probably because people are saying "What did she ever do for us? She had her chance as VP and nothing was accomplished." That's likely because the Marcoses and Dutertes planned it that way.

So, what does this mean? We certainly aren't politics experts like (V) & (Z)—all we can do is give you the Juan dela Cruz man-and-woman-on-the-street perspective. The minority of our family who love the Marcoses are crowing about their victory and attacking suggestions that the vote was rigged. There really is, in our opinion, little possibility of fraud. While we have friends who waited all day to vote and eventually gave up because of faulty voting machines, and there were numerous reports of this, there is no indication that this was targeted at Robredo voters. There were international observers present and the results fit exactly with numerous polls over the last few months. If this were a fraudulent election then it would require numerous polling companies to be bought out by the Marcoses and to keep it all under wraps—something (V) & (Z) have oft pointed out is well-nigh impossible. However, this didn't keep the T-r-u-m-p-M-a-r-c-o-s campaign from claiming that the Robredo campaign had cheated.

And that similarity rather goes to the point. When we talked with R.C.'s parents, we saw the same looks of despair and anguish that were so familiar on the faces of J.C.'s coworkers in 2016. Although the win was telegraphed long in advance in this case, it is still quite devastating to think that all that was worked on in the People's Power Movement is gone. The agencies responsible for returning the Marcos' ill-gotten wealth, the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Solicitor General, have gotten only about half of the $10 Billion stolen from the Filipino people. Now the PCGG and OSG are under the direct control of the new President, and our guess is that the half will be returned to the Marcoses. President-elect Marcos may try to change the constitution again to end the one-term-limit. The cherry on the top? The primary reason Marcos won was his powerbase was Millennials, who are too young to remember Martial Law and all the murders—in large part because the Filipino education system does not spend much time on that era of history, preferring to forgive and forget. Oh, and BongBong Marcos has announced the cabinet position he wants to give Vice-President Sara Duterte: Education.

"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

Thank you again, J.C. and R.C.! Tomorrow, we will have a response from M.E. in Roanoke in response to our questions about voting for Donald Trump. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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