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Democrats Unload on Herschel Walker

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Ending the DeTente?
      •  Trump Is Officially Subpoenaed
      •  Democrats on the Upswing
      •  Pennsylvania Senate Race: The Day After
      •  Georgia Senate Race: Do I Hear Three?
      •  Washington Senate Race: Rescuing Patty Murray
      •  I Am Not a Crook... Unless I Am
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Trump Ending the DeTente?

Everyone knows that Florida's two most prominent citizens, Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), are both entertaining the possibility of a 2024 presidential bid. And everyone knows that the GOP ticket isn't big enough for both of them. Thus far, they have kept things relatively cordial, and their budding rivalry hasn't really spilled out into the open. That state of affairs may have ended yesterday, though.

What seems to be the problem? Well, in advance of the midterm elections, Trump will undertake a 4-city rally tour. That includes a rally on Sunday, Nov. 6 in Florida. At the Florida event, the former president will campaign on behalf of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who will obviously also be in attendance. Not invited: DeSantis. Hence the problem.

Actually, the offense here exists on two levels. The first is that it's an obvious snub of the governor, who is also running for reelection right now. And DeSantis and his camp have most certainly interpreted it as such. One of the Governor's staffers told reporters it was like "an elbow to Ron's throat." We would have gone with "a poke in Ron's eye," but an elbow to his throat works, too.

On top of that, November 6 is effectively the last prime campaigning day. The election is on the 8th, and it's hard to organize rallies or otherwise connect with large groups of voters on a Monday (i.e., the first day of the workweek). And so, on a rather critical day, Trump will be stealing DeSantis' thunder. Further, the Trump-Rubio rally is going to get all the A-list Republican guests, leaving DeSantis with the leftovers, should he wish to hold a rally or some other sort of event. Though maybe Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), former Missouri governor Eric Greitens and actor James Woods have more star power than we realize.

It is unlikely that DeSantis will throw down the gauntlet right now; his reelection campaign is in cruise control mode, and he doesn't need to risk alienating the Trumpers. But once Nov. 8 arrives, the 2022 cycle will be over and the 2024 cycle will be underway. At that point, there will be considerably less reason for the Governor to hold back, and considerably more reason for him to put some daylight between himself and the former president. So, things could really heat up this winter. (Z)

Trump Is Officially Subpoenaed

Last week, it was reported—incorrectly—that Donald Trump had received the subpoena promised by the 1/6 Select Committee. On Monday, however, he actually did get it. Or, at least, his lawyers did. Matthew Sarelson, of The Dhillon Law Group, acknowledged that he accepted service earlier this week.

The Committee wants documents from Trump by Nov. 4, and it wants him to appear for a deposition on Nov. 14. Trump hasn't indicated whether he plans to challenge the subpoena or not, but even if he does honor it, those deadlines are not likely to be met. Among other problems, it's entirely possible that some of the paperwork the Committee wants from him is in the possession of the FBI.

Is there a chance Trump might actually show up and testify sometime between now and Jan. 3 of next year, when the Committee is likely to be dissolved? Mayyyyyybe? One of his attorneys, Alina Habba, was on Newsmax yesterday, and said that she thinks the former president should show up and tell his tale:

I would recommend that he cooperates because when you have nothing to hide, that's what I always recommend the same reason that he always comes out and speaks on any of my cases. He has no issue being deposed, even though the left-wing media would like to pretend that he does.

He has no issue being subpoenaed and answering questions about what happened that day, and he shouldn't. What he did was very public, and it was really nothing other than to say to go out peacefully, as we know.

We find this... a tad bit hard to swallow. Trump has plenty to hide, like the details of exactly what he was doing in the first 3 hours of the insurrection. One has to assume that this is just public posturing, so that when Trump decides to challenge the subpoena in court, his people can say "Well, the former president really, really wanted to testify, but [fill in silly reason for not testifying here, one that probably puts the blame on Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY]."

Whatever is going to happen, it's going to happen soon. Presumably, we'll know within a week or so. (Z)

Democrats on the Upswing

The 2022 cycle has been going on for long enough that there's been time for multiple narratives to take hold:

  1. The Democrats are in deep trouble
  2. The Democrats might just pull this thing out
  3. The Democrats peaked too early

There might just be time for one more before Election Day the Tuesday after next: The Democrats are surging at the last minute. The newest YouGov/The Economist poll is out, and it shows that the blue team has retaken the lead on the generic congressional ballot. They're up 46% to 42%. That's a remarkable 5-point swing in the past week, and marks the first time in over a month that the Democrats were in the lead.

You don't want to put too much weight on one poll, although a swing like that probably does reflect some real shift in public sentiment. And although there hasn't been any big news this week that would account for the move, there is nonetheless a plausible explanation. According to the AAA, gas prices are trending downward again. In the last week, in fact, they are down about 8 cents per gallon, from $3.84 to $3.76. And if you are one of those fancy folks who buys premium, prices are down—wait for it—about nine cents a gallon, from $4.61 to $4.52. With those kinds of savings, maybe you don't have to worry about your Ferrari being repossessed after all.

The reason that prices are trending downward is that the refineries in California and elsewhere that were temporarily shut down have come back online. So, domestic supplies are up. Analysts say that there is still room for production to increase and for prices to be reduced, so it is likely that the downward trend will continue through Election Day.

We find it hard to believe that, with all the important issues at stake in the elections, people are really that sensitive to gas prices. And yet, the Democrats' (and Joe Biden's) approval rating tracks very closely with the cost of gas. So, what do we know? The stock market has also trended upward in the last week, for what it's worth. And to complete the trifecta, the McRib is coming back. Just four bucks for 520 calories' worth of the fakest pork known to man. (Z)

Pennsylvania Senate Race: The Day After

After Tuesday night's debate between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) and Mehmet Oz (R), the overarching narrative was that Fetterman dropped the ball, and helped fuel concerns that he's not up to the job of being a United States senator. That was certainly the main thrust of our writeup.

On Wednesday, however, a counter-narrative began to emerge. The general theme was "the overly negative reviews are not justified." To wit:

  • Shirin Ali, writing for Slate, spoke to two neurologists about what they saw. And both said Fetterman's performance was not especially problematic, and that the speech and language issues on display don't actually reflect an inability to understand information. Both also said there is every chance that Fetterman will continue to improve, even if slowly.

  • The Slate article also points out that there are two sitting senators who have suffered strokes, including one (Chris Van Hollen, D-MD) who had his the exact same day as Fetterman. And both of those senators (the other is Ben Ray Luján, D-NM) have been able to perform their duties without issues.

  • Michael Luciano, writing for Mediaite, observes that the most important thing about a Senator is not their ability to debate or their ability to give speeches, it's how they will vote on the business before the Senate. And nothing has changed on that front; the Fetterman of today will vote the same way as the Fetterman of 6 months ago.

  • Quite a few people have pointed out that the moderators did Fetterman a disservice with their handling of the debate, and their choice to focus on rapid-fire questions with short answers as opposed to more substantive queries. Also, as we pointed out yesterday, Oz clearly issued forth with a bunch of empty chatter to try to throw Fetterman off.

  • Many disability advocates observed that the reporting on Fetterman has an ableist tinge, and said the candidate deserves credit for putting himself out there despite not being at 100%. And take a look at this tweet, that already has more than 68,000 "likes":

We also speculated yesterday that Fetterman might actually engender a lot of sympathy, and that the debate might rally the troops a bit, as a result. Others made the same guess. Looks like that might have been on target. In the 3 hours after the debate ended, the Fetterman campaign collected more than $1 million in donations. And after 24 hours, the total was up to more than $2 million.

Meanwhile, it was obvious that Oz stepped in it when he declared that abortion should be between a woman, her doctors, and local politicians. That was a clumsy way of expressing the fairly common Republican sentiment that abortion laws should be under local control. But the way that Fetterman said it conjured up images of mayors and vice assistant dogcatchers in the examination room, participating in reproductive decisions. And on Wednesday, Oz was absolutely shredded for his statement. A selection of headlines:

Oz was also the butt of jokes on the evening talk shows. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah described Oz's position as "bull**it," and said: "He started that sentence like he was on the side of women and snuck in the politicians at the end like a teenager buying condoms at a gas station... I think we can all agree, there is only one politician who should have a say in your abortion and that's Herschel Walker 'cause it's his, it's his, it's probably his." And The Late Show's Stephen Colbert remarked: "No one should have to discuss health care with their local political leaders, especially if you live in one of those really small towns where the local mayor is a dog."

The Fetterman campaign has also gotten in on the act. It took them less than 12 hours to get this up on Twitter:

Democrats are worried about the Pennsylvania Senate seat after Fetterman's performance but, let's be frank, worrying is what Democrats do. With the benefit of 24 hours, maybe this wasn't the disaster it seemed. (Z)

Georgia Senate Race: Do I Hear Three?

You had to figure this was coming. Given how widely Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) seems to have spread his seed, and given how careless he seems to be when doing so, there was an excellent chance that if he pressed one former partner into an abortion, there were other instances out there, as well. And indeed, a second woman went public yesterday with the claim that Walker pressured her into having an abortion.

The woman's name was not revealed, and when she read her statement, her face was obscured. She says that she was in a multi-year affair with the then-married Walker, starting in 1987. In 1993, she got pregnant and, according to her accounting of events, Walker insisted on an abortion, drove her to the clinic, and waited in the parking lot while the procedure took place. "Herschel Walker is a hypocrite and he is not fit to be a U.S. senator," the woman declared. "We do not need people in the U.S. Senate who profess one thing and do another." She also noted that she's a registered independent who twice voted for Donald Trump.

It is not clear if the unnamed woman has direct proof that the abortion took place, or that Walker was involved. The absence of evidence is not especially instructive, though—how easy would it be for anyone to dig up documentation for a medical procedure that took place nearly 30 years ago? The woman's lawyer, the famous (and sometimes notorious) Gloria Allred showed photographs, cards, and receipts, and played a voicemail that, at very least, support the existence of a romantic relationship between Walker and the woman.

The candidate was dismissive of the claim, of course. "I'm done with this foolishness. I've already told people this is a lie and I'm not going to entertain [it]," he said. "I also want you to know I didn't kill JFK either." Unfortunately for him, he's established quite the reputation as a liar. Further, he was strongly dismissive of the previous abortion allegation, right until the point that he changed his story. And then changed it again. And again. So, he's not exactly over-endowed with credibility here.

Meanwhile, Walker's opponent, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), is already making the most out of the allegation, with a campaign spokesman observing that this "is just the latest example of a troubling pattern we have seen play out again and again and again." Warnock, of course, has taken off the gloves in the last week, given that his more passive approach was not succeeding in putting the race away. And if the Senator can convince voters that the new abortion story is true, it won't especially matter whether or not it's actually true. (Z)

Washington Senate Race: Rescuing Patty Murray

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), representing a deep-blue state as she does, had a huge polling lead over her Republican opponent, Tiffany Smiley (R), early in this cycle. Now, the lead is smaller. And so the Democratic Party, and Democratic-aligned groups, are dispatching Brink's trucks full of cash to help the Senator, to the tune of multiple millions of dollars.

Ostensibly, the concern for Murray comes from two things: (1) that the Democrats simply cannot afford to lose this seat, and (2) that the race is tightening. That said, we wonder if the DNC has internal polling that tells them something that is not publicly known. Smiley hasn't come out ahead in any publicly released poll this entire cycle. And other than a Murray +3 poll from a mediocre pollster last week, there really haven't been any polls that have it close. If you examine the 12 polls that made the cut for our database, Smiley has never been closer than 8 points.

In the end, it's still a blue state, Murray's won election to the seat 5 times before, and incumbents win 90% of the time. So, a Smiley win would be an upset of epic proportions. (Z)

I Am Not a Crook... Unless I Am

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has a longstanding reputation for shady conduct. This reputation was particularly cemented by his 2015 trial on corruption charges, due to his having taken lavish gifts from a supporter. The trial ended with a hung jury, and the charges were dismissed. Still, the stink of having taken over $1 million in swag stuck to the Senator.

Yesterday, news broke that Menendez is once again the subject of a federal criminal investigation. Little beyond that is publicly known at this time, and the various players involved aren't talking. Did Menendez take even more gifts from his old friend? Did he find a new mark to hit up? Did he decide to dabble in new and entirely different areas of criminal conduct? Who knows?

What we do know is that Menendez's seat will be up in 2024, by which point he'll be 70 years old. As in Louisiana, the voters of New Jersey have a pretty high tolerance for corruption, but even they have their limits. So, no matter what comes of this investigation, there's going to be enormous pressure from Democratic pooh-bahs on Menendez to call it a career. He might agree, though his plan is to have his son, Rob Menendez, replace him. The younger Menendez is running for the House right now, and is certain to win. Trading the father for the son might not be what the Democrats had in mind, but they might not be able to stop it. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) up by 13? Wow. The University of Nevada is really sticking their necks out with that one. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Mark Kelly* 45% Blake Masters 43% Oct 24 Oct 25 InsiderAdvantage
Connecticut Richard Blumenthal* 54% Leora Levy 42% Oct 19 Oct 21 Emerson Coll.
Florida Val Demings 43% Marco Rubio* 54% Oct 17 Oct 24 U. of North Florida
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 49% Herschel Walker 44% Oct 20 Oct 24 Monmouth U.
Iowa Michael Franken 44% Chuck Grassley* 52% Oct 22 Oct 25 Civiqs
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* 49% Kathy Salvi 39% Oct 20 Oct 24 Emerson Coll.
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* 56% Kathy Salvi 40% Oct 22 Oct 25 Civiqs
Nevada Catherine Cortez-Masto* 52% Adam Laxalt 39% Oct 05 Oct 19 U. of Nevada
South Dakota Brian Bengs 27% John Thune* 58% Oct 19 Oct 21 Emerson Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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