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Political Wire logo Woman Is Also the Mother of Herschel Walker’s Child
GOP Candidate Used Official Email for His Campaign
U.S. Plans to Ease Venezuela Sanctions
How Trump Can Utilize His $100 Million War Chest
Kamala Harris Was in a Car Accident
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  OPEC Prepares to Throw a Wrench in the Gears
      •  Fire Walker?
      •  Today's Silly Lawsuits
      •  Tim Scott Is Ramping Up
      •  Speaking of Spending on Propositions
      •  Today's Surprise Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

To our Jewish readers: G'mar chatima tovah!

OPEC Prepares to Throw a Wrench in the Gears

Joe Biden's war on gas prices has been going rather swimmingly, on the whole, even if the national average yesterday ($3.83/gallon) is up a shade over a month ago ($3.78/gallon), and is still much higher than it was a year ago ($3.20/gallon). With people back to work, and back to school, and with fall and winter making for less pleasant driving in many places, the petroleum ducks are fairly well lined up heading into the November elections. What could go wrong?

How about OPEC? Actually, more accurately, OPEC+. The latter includes not only the OPEC countries (Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Ecuador, Indonesia and Qatar) but also several other nations who have a significant interest in global petroleum prices, namely Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Sudan and South Sudan. The leaders of OPEC+ are meeting today in Algiers, and are planning to discuss cutting production by up to a million barrels a day in response to the current (fairly low) per-barrel prices.

Needless to say, the White House is scared witless about this. Gas prices are already rising in response to the possibility, and of course that would continue over the course of the next couple of months. The last thing the Biden administration wants is for Republicans to be able to decree on, say, November 1: "See! This administration can't do anything about oil prices! Gas is 50 cents a gallon more than it was a month ago!"

Actually, it's true the Biden administration can't do much about oil prices. Neither could the Trump, Obama or Bush administrations. Gas prices are primarily at the mercy of global economic trends. To the extent they can be affected by mortal man, the power lies with... well, the leaders of OPEC+. Still, the American people don't see it that way, so it's all hands on deck as the administration tries to lobby the leaders of OPEC+ not to slash production. From Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, anyone in the administration whose job is remotely connected to the economy or diplomacy is calling up their counterparts in the OPEC countries. So is anyone who has any connections to key players in the Middle East, or anyone who speaks Arabic, or anyone who has ever been a part of the petroleum industry, or anyone who has seen Lawrence of Arabia, or anyone who has ever had shawarma for lunch.

The extent to which Team Biden will have success depends a lot on what the real agenda is here. We know what Russia's agenda is, of course, but they're just a junior partner in this alliance. If the Saudis and the Iranians and the Venezuelans really feel their economy is hurting right now, then diplomacy isn't going to do much to stop them from trying to fix it. Similarly, if they have been looking to poke Uncle Sam and John Bull in the eye, and this gives them a golden opportunity to do it, nothing may dissuade them from taking their shot.

On the other hand, the timing here—given the upcoming American elections—is interesting. Some sizable part of the motivation might be to extract some sort of concessions from the West. It will be up to the President and his team to figure out if that's the case, what those concessions might be, and whether they are buying a permanent pull-back from the production-cut threat, or just "we won't cut production until, say, November 9." Whatever is going to happen, we should know within 48 hours or so. (Z)

Fire Walker?

The OPEC+ news is probably more consequential, but the story that got dominated the coverage yesterday was actually the Herschel Walker "Did he or didn't he pay for an abortion?" saga. Some right-leaning outlets wondered "Will He Drop Out of the Race?" or decreed "Walker firestorm upends Georgia Senate race." Apparently, Walker's goose may be cooked. Or, perhaps more apropos given his background, his pig may be skinned.

Or maybe not. Perhaps some of these pundits have not been paying attention to politics for the last decade (or more). If they had been, they might have noticed that Republican voters are exceedingly capable at setting aside their moral views when it comes to supporting someone with an (R) after their name. This is the dynamic that allowed a twice-divorced philandering non-Christian who never met a commandment he couldn't break to be elected president on the strength of evangelical votes.

And so, entirely predictably, Republicans rallied around their candidate yesterday. Dana Loesch, for example, put on a master class in resolving cognitive dissonance. Though Loesch is strongly anti-choice, she went on her radio show and asked:

So, does this change anything? Do you want my opinion? You're listening. Not a damn thing. How many times have I said four very important words. These four words: winning is a virtue. What I'm about to say is in no means a contradiction or a compromise of a principle.

And, please keep in mind that I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only at this point. So, I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.

Loesch also described the still-anonymous woman as "some skank," which makes her the bad guy, and not Walker. The conservative radio host also observed, quite correctly, that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is more likely to support abortion rights than hypothetical Sen. Herschel Walker.

It would seem that some Republicans have reached the same conclusion as Loesch, as Walker has seen an uptick in fundraising since the news broke. That said, the "uptick" meant a take of about $180,000 over the course of 2 days. Warnock took in $26 million in the latest quarter, or close to $280,000 a day. So, we're not talking about an avalanche of cash burying Walker, Scrooge McDuck style.

It turns out that Republican operatives in Georgia, including the members of Walker's campaign staff, knew about this story for months before it actually broke. That kinda suggests it's the truth. So too does the fact that, just 24 hours after he threatened to sue the Daily Beast for reporting the story, Walker said he might not sue, after all. That generally means that someone pointed out to a would-be plaintiff that truth is an affirmative defense in a defamation suit.

All of this said, we don't think Walker is home free on this issue quite yet. The first issue is that if his son keeps trashing him on Twitter, making noise about how Walker was an absentee father and an abuser, that might be difficult to wave away. Also, there is the Warnock-Walker debate, where the abortion will surely come up. Walker's staff is going to have to write him a heckuva script and then make sure he memorizes it backwards and forwards. (Z)

Today's Silly Lawsuits

It would seem that Herschel Walker will not be heading to court to tilt at windmills. That doesn't mean that his fellow Republicans won't do so, though. In fact, Walker's mentor (?) and a fellow Georgia Republican both made headlines with suits of questionable merit yesterday.

The mentor (?) is Donald Trump. He's still trying to delay the Mar-a-Lago case as much as he possibly can, and he's not happy that the Eleventh Circuit isn't helping him out. So yesterday, he went to the Supreme Court with an emergency request. He wants them to drop everything and order the Department of Justice to return the documents taken from Mar-a-Lago pronto. He also wants the Supremes to decree that the classified documents are no different from any others, are his property, and are subject to the special master process.

It is supremely unlikely (no pun intended) that Trump is going to get much satisfaction from SCOTUS. Yes, the six-person conservative majority has forfeited any presumption that they are neutral umpires, just calling balls and strikes. But they have also shown no particular interest in carrying the former president's water, choosing instead to use their weight to advance conservative priorities, like eliminating abortion rights. And if the Supremes were to try to give Trump everything he wants, the DoJ would probably defy them, as that is less bad than letting Trump have sensitive national secrets again. "Roberts has his decision, now let him enforce it," Joe Biden might say.

Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) hasn't filed yet, but she's apparently planning a pip of a lawsuit. She wants to go after Twitter, claiming that she has been "damaged" because her personal Twitter account was suspended by the social media platform.

Greene is all about political stunts, and finding things she can use to stoke outrage and goose her fundraising. So, maybe this is just blather. On the other hand, she does not give the impression of being the sharpest knife in the drawer, so maybe she's serious. If so, has she forgotten that Twitter is a private corporation, and is not the government, and so not subject to the First Amendment? That Twitter has allowed her to keep her professional account, which she uses regularly?

We're presuming that this was indeed just hot air, and that she'll move on to some different bit of hot air tomorrow. Really, we only mention it since we were doing an item on Trump's silly lawsuit anyhow. (Z)

Tim Scott Is Ramping Up

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is doling out some promotions among his underlings. In particular, his Senate chief-of-staff, Jennifer DeCasper, is leaving that post in order to focus full-time on helping him campaign.

Scott, of course, is campaigning as we speak. Or, at least, he's in the middle of a reelection bid. His opponent this year is Krystle Matthews, a state representative who is nonetheless enough of an unknown that Wikipedia doesn't have a picture of her. There hasn't been much polling, since it's kind of a waste of money, but what polling has been done puts Scott up by about 20 points. Under circumstances like that, it's not necessary to do a whole lot of campaigning. Or any, really.

It is therefore extremely improbable that DeCasper changed jobs just a bit more than a month before Election Day, just so she could help Scott get reelected. No, clearly the Senator thinks of himself as presidential timber or, at least, vice-presidential timber, and he's doing what he needs to set himself up for 2024. As we noted yesterday, Donald Trump apparently agrees, and sees Scott as his most likely running mate.

Whether Scott would accept a spot on a Trump ticket is an excellent question. The Senator is no fool, and knows what happened to Mike Pence. He also knows that Trump might push the eject button at any time (or end up in prison), leaving his running mate holding the bag. On the other hand, the attention and name recognition that comes with a run like that could set Scott up to be a frontrunner for the 2028 Republican nomination.

Whether Scott would be a viable candidate for president or vice president is another excellent question. Whether or not the RNC admits it, there are a lot of racists in the Republican Party, and it's hard to see them supporting a Black man for one of the two top jobs. The general idea, as we also pointed out yesterday, is that Scott would make up for that by pulling some sizable number of Black votes from the Democratic Party. But there's no particular reason to believe that he'd be able to do that; he's never captured more than 10% of the Black vote in his Senate races, and has always been elected on the strength of white, Republican votes.

In any event, the 2022 cycle may not be over yet, but the 2024 cycle is already underway. (Z)

Speaking of Spending on Propositions

This weekend, we observed that money expended does tend to correlate with votes received, particularly when it comes to ballot propositions. With candidates for office, the (R) or the (D) can counteract millions of dollars in spending, because tribalism is so fierce these days. But with ballot propositions, voters are less likely to be on autopilot, and so are more open to suggestion.

Given its size and economic might, there is no state that is affected more by this reality than California. Nearly every cycle, there is at least one proposition on ballot that pits one powerful, well-funded group against a different powerful, well-funded group. For example, 2020's Proposition 22 was about treating Uber and Lyft drivers as contractors instead of proper employees. Organized labor did not like that idea at all. The rideshare companies like it very much, indeed. And so, the two sides set a record for spending on a single ballot proposition—a staggering $224 million.

Actually, $224 million was the record. This year, the Golden State has two ballot propositions related to gambling. The first one is Proposition 26, which would legalize sports wagering at Native American casinos. That one is supported by... you guessed it, the Native American casinos. It's opposed by... that's right, the non-Native American casinos. This one is not getting all that much attention, though.

And then there is Proposition 27, the mother of all ballot propositions. Its official name is the Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative. The basic idea is that online gambling would be legalized, and the proceeds would go to help the homeless, and to mental health treatment, and to sunshine, rainbows and free puppies for everyone.

As you can imagine, the primary backers of this initiative are the folks in the business of online gaming, particularly the Las Vegas casinos. And the casinos have a little bit of money, as you may have heard. They are running commercial after commercial talking about how legalizing gambling will solve all of California's problems overnight.

Meanwhile, the Native casinos oppose the measure because they want all of the state's gaming revenue, and Prop 27 would send a lot of it to other places. The California Republican and Democratic parties also oppose the initiative, in part because they are nervous about pissing off the Native casinos (who spend a lot on lobbying), and in part because they don't want money flowing out of California. The airwaves are being absolutely blanketed with anti-Prop 27 ads, one that has people with totally non-believable Boston and New York accents laughing about all the money they're going to pilfer from California, and another that suggests that if Prop 27 passes, every child in the state will be addicted to gambling within 24 hours.

It is not uncommon, during a commercial break, to see multiple pro-Prop 27 ads and multiple anti-Prop 27 ads. And all of that advertising costs lots of money, since Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco ain't exactly Peoria. The spending is already north of $310 million, and will approach half a billion dollars by the time Election Day arrives. And, true to form, the side that's spending more money (the "No" faction) is going to win, according to polling.

Anyhow, because the subject just came up, we thought we'd use this opportunity to showcase a (record-breaking) case study. (Z)

Today's Surprise Polls

In non-presidential years, our focus, obviously, is on polling of the U.S. Senate races. However, as the race to the finish line speeds up, there are going to be many more polls of other races. And that means there are going to be many more unusual, interesting or unexpected non-Senate polling results worth a mention. There were two of those yesterday.

First up, the Oregon gubernatorial race. Emerson has skewed Republican this whole cycle, and they are at it again. According to the poll of Oregon that Emerson released yesterday, Christine Drazan (R) has a two point lead over Tina Kotek (D). Could the Beaver State elect its first Republican governor since Jimmy Carter was in the White House?

Maybe. But the devil, as always, is in the details. Drazan is actually at 36% support, a.k.a. one-third of the electorate. Kotek is therefore at 34%, while Democrat-turned-independent Betsy Johnson is polling at 19%. If they follow the general pattern, most of those Johnson voters will conclude that a vote for her is a wasted vote, and will cast their ballots for a major-party candidate. Given that Johnson was a Democrat until recently, and that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is up 19 points in the Emerson poll, we must assume that most of the Johnson votes are really hidden Kotek votes. So, we doubt Drazan is going to break the blue team's streak this year.

The other surprise poll comes out of Colorado, and is going to make a lot of Democrats giddy. According to Keating Research, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) has just a two-point lead over her opponent Adam Frisch (D), 47% to 45%. That's certainly within shooting distance (kind of a dangerous place to be when dealing with Boebert).

It strikes us as very plausible that Frisch could make a race out of this. The district, CO-03, is R+7. That means that it's roughly 52.5% Republican and 47.5% Democratic (since Cook PVI is calculated relative to the national average, rather than relative to zero). It is possible that between her far-right rhetoric and the amount of time Boebert spends on things other that advocating for the people of CO-03, she's alienated some Republicans or has caused Democrats to be extra motivated.

That said, we aren't putting too much stock in this particular result. Keating is an OK polling house (B/C from FiveThirtyEight), and they are based in Colorado, so they theoretically know the lay of the land. However, they have a clear Democratic lean and they do not appear to have made their numbers or their methodology available for examination. That's a big problem. If another poll, ideally from another pollster, confirms this basic result, then maybe Boebert should start sweating a little. But for now, it's just an interesting outlier. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Another mediocre poll for Val Demings. On the other hand, maybe Cook was premature in moving the Pennsylvania race yesterday from "Leans Democratic" to "Toss Up." If you went to Democratic leadership right now and offered to guarantee a Fetterman win at the expense of a Demings loss, every one of them would take it. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Val Demings 41% Marco Rubio* 47% Sep 26 Sep 28 Mason Dixon
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan* 49% Don Bolduc 43% Sep 27 Sep 28 St. Anselm Coll.
Oregon Ron Wyden* 51% Jo-Rae Perkins 32% Sep 30 Oct 01 Emerson Coll.
Pennsylvania John Fetterman 46% Mehmet Oz 40% Sep 27 Sep 30 Suffolk U.
Washington Patty Murray* 51% Tiffany Smiley 42% Sep 30 Oct 01 Emerson Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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