Dem 49
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Ties 1
GOP 50
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New polls: NV OH
Dem pickups vs. 2020 Senate: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2020 Senate : NV
Political Wire logo Rishi Sunak Becomes U.K. Prime Minister
Pennsylvania Senate Race Tightens
Mary Peltola Looks Likely to Win Easily in Alaska
Midterms End with Clash Over Crime
New Hampshire Senate Race Remains Close
Fetterman and Oz to Meet in Only Debate

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Organization Trial to Commence Today
      •  Trump Subpoena Chess Game Begins
      •  Trump-Greene 2024?
      •  Republicans Ride to the Rescue of Stitt
      •  It's Chili in Alaska
      •  No Go for BoJo...
      •  ...But Xi Is Eternal
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Trump Organization Trial to Commence Today

And so it begins. The first of what will likely be many trials focusing on Donald Trump and his associated entities will start today. This one is in New York, and will consider whether the Trump Organization is guilty of criminal tax fraud.

Note that while the trial is criminal in nature, the defendant is a business and not a person. Obviously, you can't put a business in prison, even if we might like to do so in some cases. So the penalty here, should a conviction be obtained, will be a fine, likely in the seven figures (maximum $1.7 million).

Donald Trump is not directly on trial, is not expected to testify, and probably won't even show up. That doesn't mean the trial isn't important, however. In fact, there are half a dozen ways in which it is very significant, indeed:

  1. Trump and his businesses have been the subject of many trials before, of course. However, this is really the first one to stem from the investigations that began during (and largely because of) his presidency. In other words, someone has now officially declared that there's a fire, and has broken the glass. This should grease the path for other pursuers of Trump, like DA Fani Willis and AG Merrick Garland.

  2. This will also be the first test of how possible it is to seat a fair and impartial jury, and how well the prosecution and the judge are able to weed out any MAGA fanatics. Needless to say, if they can't do it in Trump-hating New York City, and in a case where he's only indirectly on trial, then good luck in Georgia.

  3. Although Trump is not himself on trial, and isn't likely to participate directly, he hates things like this because he thinks (with some reason) that they make him look bad. So, he's likely to be on tilt for the next 4 weeks, and you never know what he might say or do. In particular, if he was going to take the bait and testify before the 1/6 Committee (more below), this trial might be the thing that could make that happen.

  4. The star witness in the trial will be former CFO Allen Weisselberg. So, we are going to learn exactly how far under the bus he's willing to throw the Trumps. That will be relevant to potential future prosecutions by New York AG Tish James.

  5. If the Trump Organization loses the case, it will significantly interfere with future business operations, particularly partnerships with the city and state governments, like the Trump-run New York City golf course.

  6. If the Trump Organization is found guilty, it will make potential future guilty verdicts more... tolerable, for lack of a better term. That is to say, if his first trial was for 1/6, and he was found guilty of fomenting insurrection, there might be riots. That would be the equivalent of pulling the band-aid off all at once. But if he gets popped in New York City, and then a second time (in, say, Georgia), and then eventually gets popped by the federal government, then it's like pulling the band-aid off slowly. The pain is spread around, denying a major climax for the MAGA crowd to respond to.

They're just beginning jury selection today, and then the trial itself will be fairly slow, as it involves a lot of dry, financial stuff. A verdict is expected sometime in late November or early December. (Z)

Trump Subpoena Chess Game Begins

As long as we are on the subject of Trumpy legal maneuvering, there has been a fair bit of news when it comes to the subpoena issued by the 1/6 Select Committee. To start, Trump has (wisely) decided not to ignore the subpoena entirely. He's hired the Dhillon Law Group, which has developed a thriving practice representing 1/6 defendants and witnesses.

Despite reporting to the contrary last week, Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said the subpoena hasn't been issued yet. The current job of the Dhillon Law Group is to negotiate the terms under which Trump would testify. Is this because he's actually thinking about showing up? Or is it because "negotiating" makes him look reasonable, and gives him more ammunition to use when he refuses the subpoena and goes to court? It could be either, but our money is on the latter. Recall that those folks who have played along even a little bit, like Mark Meadows, have avoided consequences even once they adopted a posture of defiance. Only those who completely blew off the Committee, like Steve Bannon, ended up in hot water.

Doing a little public "negotiating," Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) appeared on NBC News yesterday and said that any Trump testimony would be behind closed doors, and not on TV. "[Trump]'s not going to turn this into a circus," she decreed. "This isn't going to be, you know, his first debate against Joe Biden and the circus and the food fight that that became. This is a far too serious set of issues." If Trump can't turn things into a sh** show, and can't speak directly to the MAGA faithful, we have to assume this makes him far less likely to testify.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also did some "negotiating" yesterday, of a sort. She appeared on MSNBC for an interview, and opined that Trump would not testify because "I don't think he's man enough to show up." She also said that he simply can't afford to show up because he would certainly perjure himself. Needless to say, the Speaker could teach a master class in pushing Trump's buttons. So, we assume that he fails to see through this obvious reverse psychology, and that Pelosi's words actually make him a little more likely to show up.

In any event, the maneuvering has begun. Now the only question is if the game ends in a draw, or if one side is able to achieve checkmate. (Z)

Trump-Greene 2024?

Let us concede, from the outset, that we find "news" like this to be a little silly. The 2024 presidential contest is still 2 years away, it's not clear Donald Trump will actually run, and he's so mercurial that his choice of Veep on Monday morning might not be his choice by Monday afternoon. Nonetheless, this story has been all over the place, and we know that many readers are interested in our takes on such things. So, we'll pass along the news that Trump is reportedly considering Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as his running mate, should he mount another presidential bid.

This is certainly... plausible. Trump, of course, values loyalty, and Greene has certainly been loyal to him. He also wants an attack dog, and someone who is willing to do whatever he demands, whenever he demands it. Greene is that, too. Mike Pence, by contrast, was loyal, but he was a milquetoast attack dog at best, and he obviously had limits to what he was, and was not, willing to do. So, Greene would certainly be an upgrade for Trump, in that way.

That said, we don't believe that Trump would be so foolish as to actually choose Greene. Unlike Pence (who was chosen to appeal to evangelicals), Greene would not attract a single additional vote to the ticket. Meanwhile, she would undoubtedly say hundreds of outrageous things while campaigning—racism, antisemitism, fascism, just plain nuttiness; it's all on the table. Given that the main obstacle to a Trump reelection would be memories of how chaotic his administration was, having Greene remind people of that problem everyday would not be helpful.

The considerably more obvious choice for Trump would be former representative (and former Democrat) Tulsi Gabbard. He clearly wants a female running mate, as he believes that will attract some women voters. He will also persuade himself that Gabbard will attract some minority voters (since she is part Samoan) and some crossover voters (given her past membership in the Democratic Party). All of the assumptions here are dubious, but we have a pretty clear handle on Trump's mindset at this point. On top of that, as someone who has been in politics for a long time, and who has run a presidential campaign (albeit a useless one), Gabbard knows how to choose her words in a way that Greene doesn't (or, at least, she doesn't bother to try).

In short, don't bother trying to squat on First, because it's not happening. Second, because someone already beat you to it. (Z)

Republicans Ride to the Rescue of Stitt

Because Oklahoma is so red, we've looked askance at polls that suggest Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R-OK) reelection bid could be in trouble. But maybe we shouldn't have been skeptical. Like a few states in that part of the country, the redness mostly reveals itself in federal elections. In state elections, the blue team tends to do better. Indeed, in the last 50 years, 5 of 9 Oklahoma governors have been Democrats. The most recent of those was Brad Henry, who left office in 2011 (in other words, not long ago).

In any case, Stitt's definitely got his hands full trying to fight off Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister. He had big polling leads early in the contest, but most polls since Sept. 1 have had it within a few points. In fact, the three polls released in October so far gave the lead to Hofmeister. Particularly worrisome for the Republicans is a poll from Ascend Action, which is a Republican House, but put the Democrat up by 7 points, 49% to 42%. The staff mathematician is... indisposed, as he's busy "getting in practice" for the holiday season. But the staff historian believes that works out to a 7-point lead for Hofmeister.

What's going on, exactly? Stitt has run a national campaign, focusing on Biden and crime, which hasn't resonated with Oklahoma voters. Hofmeister has done a pretty good job of convincing people that she won't be beholden to the White House or the Democratic Party, which is believable since she was a Republican until last year. Stitt's being hurt by his abortion stance (he signed a total ban into law in May), and he's also opposed by all five of Oklahoma's major Native American tribes, who issued a joint statement urging Oklahomans to vote for Hofmeister.

The national Republican Party, with the Republican Governors Association taking the lead, is going to try to shore up Stitt's campaign, spending millions on advertising in the next couple of weeks. Still, it's clearly touch-and-go for the governor, and the influx of cash from outside may backfire, and serve to convince voters that he really is more concerned with national, rather than state, politics. (Z)

It's Chili in Alaska

Slate writer Christina Cauterucci has a very interesting piece up that was published over the weekend. It is about a chili cook-off/Republican fundraiser she attended in Alaska. A total of 17 people, many of them aspiring Republican candidates for office, competed with a variety of chilis built around beans, or beef, or chicken, or moose, or salmon.

There are quite a few interesting insights in the article, which you might consider reading. Among them:

  • The dislike of Sarah Palin, even among Alaska Republicans, is profound. They don't like that she quit as governor, or that she "big-timed" them and tried to make a career as a celebrity in the "lower 48." That's not to say all the Republicans hate her, but a lot of them do.

  • Many Trumpers are disregarding his endorsement of Palin, reasoning that everyone makes a mistake once in a while.

  • If Rep. Don Young (R-AK) had agreed to retire as he aged and as his health failed, he could have given his blessing to a successor, and Alaska Republicans would probably have unified behind that person. But Young held on, and died in office, and so created a mess for his party. Shades of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  • The key to the election, which we already knew, is how many Palin supporters participate in ranked-choice voting. If everyone ranks their choices, Palin won't win, but Nick Begich (R) probably will. If a bunch of Palin supporters refuse to rank their second choice, then Rep. Mary Peltola (D) will probably keep her seat. The chili cook-off featured "education sessions" in which attendees learned how to rank their choices, and were assured that RCV isn't just an insidious Democratic plot. However, Trump and Palin both continue to pooh-pooh RCV, and their opinions are most likely to influence the same people who refused to rank candidates the last time.

  • Several participants in the chili cook-off arranged to reroute their votes to a different participant, so as to assure that he won the trophy. In other words, they manipulated the election results. They did not see any irony in this.

  • One participant, a local sheriff, told Cauterucci that "Because I have deep Christian beliefs, I believe the matter of life is up to God, from natural birth to natural death," while conceding that he does support capital punishment. He did not see any irony in this.

So, it's a different sort of update from Alaska, albeit one that reiterates what already appeared to be the case: (1) Sarah Palin isn't likely to win the election in November, and (2) It's going to come down to how many Palin voters decide to shoot themselves in the foot by refusing to vote for a Republican who isn't her, even if that vote is clearly their second-place vote. (Z)

No Go for BoJo...

It is crazy that, after his disaster of a premiership, Boris Johnson could return to power. It's even crazier that he might plausibly have done so after just 6 weeks in exile. And yet, he cut short his Caribbean holiday in order to return to the U.K. to explore the possibility. That's like Donald Trump skipping the last nine holes of golf—you know it's something serious. In the end, however, Johnson decided against mounting another run for the big chair at this time.

Johnson's exact words were "this is simply not the right time." That is politician-speak for "There just isn't enough support because there hasn't been enough time for people to forget about all my screw-ups. I'm going to have to give a few more years for their memories to fade a bit." He might plausibly return to office at some point, but it won't be easy, and having a high-profile defeat on his résumé won't help.

Recalling that the Brits are masters of snark, the joke that's making the rounds right now is that this is the first time Boris has pulled out of anything. We can't imagine what that might be a reference to. And we are surprised that people would make jokes about someone who has 7 children (at least, 7 who are publicly known). You must have to be British to get it, kind of like the show Peaky Blinders. Anyhow, we pass it along, in case it is of interest.

What this all means is that, barring surprise developments, Rishi Sunak will be announced as the next PM of the United Kingdom today. The Conservative Party's rules have largely been manipulated to produce this result, and to produce it quickly. In fact, it the announcement should come just an hour or two after this post goes live. We've reached out to our regular British correspondents for their thoughts, and will run those tomorrow. (Z)

...But Xi Is Eternal

Boris Johnson's hopes for another term in office may have been dashed, at least for now. Xi Jinping, by contrast, was just "elected" to a third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and thus as de facto leader of that nation.

We put elected in quotation marks, of course, because the whole process was just for show. Xi pulled the strings to get the two-term limit lifted, and then he pulled the strings to get himself chosen for a third term as secretary. He'll be officially anointed as president again in March. That means that, barring death or removal from office, the 69-year-old Xi will be in line to serve 15 years as the leader of China. And when his third term is up, he'll presumably arrange to be reelected again, which means we're looking at a dictator-for-life situation here.

The key to maintaining power in this manner is to make sure to eliminate threats long before they actually become threatening. During the process of approving Xi for a third term, his predecessor—Hu Jintao—was removed from the room in high-profile fashion. Nobody is saying exactly why Hu was removed, but the pretty clear message was: "Nobody is too big for Xi to push around." Those who dissent or otherwise dare to challenge the throne know full well that they are taking their lives into their hands. That means that the Sitong bridge protesters who pushed back against Xi's rule this weekend are very brave, indeed.

The obvious presumption, now that Xi's hold on power is unquestioned, is that he will get even more aggressive in his dealings with the West and in his moves to annex Taiwan. On the other hand, there is a fair bit of instability in China, and now that Xi has made himself dictator, that instability could boil over. The upshot is that there is going to be big news coming out of that nation in the next 5 years, we just don't know what the nature of that news will be. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

If you told Democratic muckety-mucks that they could have one of these races, but not the other, which one would they choose? We honestly don't know. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Nevada Catherine Cortez-Masto* 46% Adam Laxalt 48% Oct 20 Oct 20 InsiderAdvantage
Ohio Tim Ryan 47% J.D. Vance 47% Oct 17 Oct 20 Marist Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct23 Sunday Mailbag
Oct22 Legal Setbacks All Around
Oct22 Saturday Q&A
Oct22 Today's Senate Polls
Oct21 Another One Bites the Dust
Oct21 Not a Good Day for Debt Forgiveness Opponents...
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Oct20 What Will Trump Do with Gauntlet Thrown Down by 1/6 Committee?
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Oct16 It's Backwards Day!
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Oct15 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 9: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
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