July was a big drought in terms of primaries, but that is over tomorrow, with races in six states, so let's just dive in.
That's it, with Arizona and Missouri having the big Senate races and the Kansas amendment being something that will reverberate nationally. (V)
The Hill interviewed a number of Republican senators off the record. One of them said: "I don't think he'll run again and that's a good thing." Another was more blunt: "I could count on one hand the number of Republican senators who want Donald Trump to be our nominee. I could count it on one finger." Both of these feel that the cumulative weight of the Select Committee's hearings has made Trump damaged goods.
Other senators don't think he will be a shoo-in for the GOP nomination if he does run. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Trump would face a crowded field if he runs. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) predicted that if Trump runs, he will have a "robust" competition from other Republicans. Thune is afraid that if Trump runs and gets the nomination, the hearings are going to make it much harder for him to get votes from independents.
As the hits to Trump keep coming, it is having an impact on his support. A new Reuters-Ipsos poll last week showed that 40% of Republicans think that Trump deserves some of the blame for the riot. Also, a third of Republicans don't want him to run again. Even Fox is wavering. Last week Fox & Friends highlighted Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) leading Trump with some demographic groups. This led Trump to lash out at the program.
A column by CNN's Chris Cillizza gives some data that the senators are probably aware of, even if they didn't see the specific poll Cillizza is talking about. Among other things, the poll shows:
Those aren't great numbers for a candidate. However, when you look at the cross tabs, everything changes. Among Republicans, only 10% think Jan. 6 was a crisis, only 26% say it was a major problem, while 63% say it was either a minor problem or no problem at all. These data suggest that Trump is popular enough with Republicans to get the GOP nomination but not popular enough to win the general election. This is what Republican senators intuitively understand and are very worried about: Trump could get the nomination and then lose again in Nov. 2024. They desperately want to avoid that as Trump could pull many other Republican candidates down with him.
One of the Republican senators told The Hill that Fox News anchors Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson are going to give potential Trump opponents more air time in the coming year. Of course, the decision about whether Trump runs or not is not going to be made by the Fox anchors. Trump alone will make that decision. If he thinks he can win (or at least stave off indictments) by running, he's going to run, no matter what Fox hosts think. (V)
It wasn't that long ago that former presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and her husband, lawyer George Conway, were fighting so hard in public that their daughter, Claudia Conway, threatened to ask a judge to make her an emancipated minor—in essence, fire her parents. That shook them both up, so they dropped off the radar for a while. But George came back commenting on the Select Committee hearings at length. Friday, Kellyanne gave a long interview to CBS' Catherine Herridge, so both of them are back in the ring again. Poor Claudia.
Unlike the Republican senators (see above), Kellyanne is fine with Trump running again. She just wants him to hold off his announcement until after the midterms. Supposedly, most of his advisers and every elected Republican official are telling him not to announce a run until after the midterms (and in some cases, not to make the run at all). But Kellyanne is all for a run. Nobody has asked George point blank what he thinks yet, but 99.9% chance he would say: "Don't run." So the battle of the Conways is on again.
What Kellyanne and the other advisers are afraid of is that if he announces in the summer or fall, Democrats will make their campaigns all about him and that will make turnout zoom up. The advisers don't want that. But Trump wants to announce before he is indicted somewhere, to scare off the prosecutors who might be afraid to indict a presidential candidate. We think there is zero chance Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis would be scared off, but with AG Merrick Garland, who knows? Willis has more cojones than Garland. Trump's lawyers know that and are already actively working on his criminal defense. Trump also wants to get into the race quickly to head off Ron DeSantis. If Trump gets in first, DeSantis might chicken out and not run. But if DeSantis gets in first, then a Trump announcement won't make him drop out and Trump will have to fight DeSantis, and possibly others.
So it looks like Trump's advisers are divided into three categories: (1) announce now to head off DeSantis, (2) announce after the midterms to avoid making them about Trump, and (3) don't run, which is what the senators want. Tough call, but the buck stops at Mar-a-Lago. (V)
Want proof? Just a week ago, Joe Biden got COVID-19, his BBB program was deader than the dodo due to the obstruction of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was holding the CHIPS Act hostage, Biden's approval rating was approaching 30%, a majority of Democrats wanted somebody else to run in 2024, and the entire Democratic Party was filled with doom and gloom.
That was then. This is now. His COVID case was mild (although he got it again on the rebound), Manchin has approved a smaller version of BBB that tackles climate change head on, albeit under a new name, Manchin tricked McConnell and the CHIPS Act passed, polls show abortion to be a winning issue for the Democrats (see below), gas prices keep dropping, and much of the gloom and doom is gone. Barack Obama summed it up by saying: "Progress doesn't always happen all at once, but it does happen—and this is what it looks like."
One anonymous Democratic strategist who doubted the Democrats' strategy a week ago now said of Biden: "He had a really good f*cking week. And it's a good reminder that things can change so quickly in politics." We doubt that Manchin planned it this way, but big legislative victories 3 months before the elections are really much, much better than even bigger victories 2 years before the midterms. Not sure? Count the number of articles about Biden's "American Rescue Plan" now or even his win on the infrastructure bill. They are gone and forgotten.
What is especially important is the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022," not so much because it will stop inflation dead in its tracks (it won't) but because it is the biggest attempt the federal government has taken against climate change in its history, and this issue is extremely motivating for young voters, who tend to sit out the midterms. Now when they ask: "We gave you the majority and what did you do with it?" the answer will be: "We passed the biggest law to fight climate change in history." Coupled with abortion (see below), this might just get large numbers of young Democrats to the polls in November. (V)
A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll shows that the issue of abortion is having a huge impact on Democrats and not such a big one on Republicans. Now 64% of Democrats say the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision is more likely to get them to vote, compared to only 29% after the draft decision was leaked. One potential cause for the big uptick is the case of the 10-year-old Ohio girl who got pregnant after being raped and had to travel to Indiana for an abortion. Abortions in Indiana are about to be restricted as the Indiana Senate passed a bill Saturday to ban all abortions from the moment of implantation in the womb except for pregnancies due to rape and incest. In contrast to the Democrats, only 21% of Republicans say Dobbs will affect their likelihood to vote while a full 75% say it won't have any effect. Advantage Democrats.
There have been endless stories about how Joe Biden's dismal approval is going to sink the Democrats, but this poll has some better news for the blue team. In the generic poll about "which party do you support for Congress," Democrats now lead 44% to 40%, and this is before the effect of the CHIPS Act and the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" kick in. And remember, people can simultaneously think Biden is a weak president while disliking congressional Republicans even more. In June, the generic poll was tied at 40% to 40%, so the Democrats gained a little in July and the Republicans didn't.
Not entirely surprisingly, abortion is a bigger deal with women than with men. It is also a bigger deal with voters 18-34 than with older voters since they are more likely to be personally impacted by it. Also noteworthy is that 91% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans support exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Additionally, 92% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans say that abortion should be available to save the life of the mother. Some states are banning all abortions, which is extremely unpopular. If Democrats focus on those states, they might be able to pick off a few House seats that were not previously in play. Finally, 91% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans say that states should not be able to restrict travel from one state to another for the purpose of having an abortion. Again, in states where Republicans are taking an extremist view, it could hurt them at the polls.
There is another factor that isn't talked about much: Republican women who have had an abortion (or know a woman who had one). You might think that is an oxymoron, but it is not. Republican women are largely against abortions—for other people, not for themselves if the need arises. Politico published a long story written by Republican pollster, data analyst, and strategist Samantha Zaleski, who had an abortion during her senior year at a Catholic high school and never regretted it. She knows the politics and the numbers very well. In 2019, there were 2,922 abortions in Utah, 1,100 in North Dakota, 2,963 in Arkansas, and 6,009 in Alabama, all deep red states. These numbers are lower per capita than in the blue states, but they aren't zero, and the lower rate per capita may reflect the difficulty of getting an abortion in red states more than the desire to have one. So women in red states tend to be against abortion—until they have an unwanted pregnancy—then they have a eureka moment. Most of them are probably not proud of their abortion and probably don't talk about it much, but if abortion becomes the dominant issue in the midterms, it could affect their votes.
Several vulnerable House Democrats are trying to exploit the issue to the hilt. These include Reps. Angie Craig (MN), Sharice Davids (KS), Elaine Luria (VA), Elissa Slotkin (MI), Abigail Spanberger (VA), and others. All of them are facing an anti-abortion Republican. In some polls, abortion is the top issue for about 20% of the voters. In close races, picking up a few points over abortion could mean the difference between winning and losing (V)
The Washington Post is already handicapping the Democratic presidential nomination if Joe Biden declines to run. We are extremely not impressed. Here is its list in order of most likely to least likely and our take on them.
The Post's list has as also-rans Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) (but only if he is Sen. Tim Ryan by then), Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN), and some even longer shots. Combat veteran and former astronaut Mark Kelly is also an interesting possibility, but he may have too much responsibility taking care of his wife, Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2011, to run. And it is certainly possible that by late 2023, someone not on anyone's presidential radar now could come out of the woodwork.
One person not on the list but we think has potential is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) (if he is Sen. John Fetterman by then). People want something different and he is about as different as they come and probably acceptable to all wings of the Democratic Party. He is probably also the only Democrat who could get a substantial number of blue-collar votes, thus undermining Trump substantially. He would also lock down Pennsylvania, a key swing state. A huge win in his Senate race would propel him forward and he might get it because his opponent, Mehmet Oz, is so bad Republicans have privately given up on him. (V)
With the current Supreme Court, Republicans have gotten wins on abortion and guns, and may get wins on gay rights and contraception soon, but it is a slow process. Some of them want to speed the process up. They are looking for help in Article V of the Constitution, which begins as follows (our emphasis in italics):
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; ...
What this means is that if 34 states' legislatures call for a constitutional convention, they can rewrite the entire Constitution from scratch and then submit the new Constitution to the states for ratification. Note that if the legislature of a state passes a bill to call for a so-called Article V convention, the governor has no power to veto it. It's just up to the legislatures. In such a convention, which has never happened, each state would (presumably) have one vote, so each of the small red states would have the same voting power as California.
What might such a new Constitution do? Here's a small sample of the exciting possibilities:
And much more. The sky is the limit. The core idea would be to reduce the federal government to something more like the Swiss federal government, with the states holding all the real power. It would be conservative nirvana, without all the fuss of passing two dozen amendments.
How realistic is this? Well, interested state legislators met yesterday as the Academy of States 3.0 in Denver to plan the convention. Would the states go along with this? Quite a few have already done so. Here is a map of them.
How might an Article V convention work and what else could it come up with. Nobody knows since it has never happened, but depending on who was allowed to be a voting delegate and what rules it adopted, it could be a runaway convention.
Who is behind the movement for an Article V convention? Tax filings have discovered that the Koch-connected DonorsTrust, the Mercer family, and various anonymous donors have ponied up millions, some of the money in bitcoins.
If you want to learn more about a so-called Article V convention, check out this long article in Wikipedia. Have a nice day. (V)
Yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirmed that she will soon head off to Asia, making stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. But what she didn't say is more important than what she did say: Is she going to visit Taiwan? Only Nancy knows for sure and she's not talking. No high-ranking U.S. official has visited Taiwan in 25 years, mostly to avoid antagonizing China.
A visit to Taiwan might be interpreted as support for Taiwan if China invaded it. However, not including Taiwan on the trip might be interpreted as a lack of interest in Taiwan, and thus a green light for China to invade. South Korea and Japan are major U.S. allies in the region, but Singapore and Malaysia are bit players and it is not clear why she is bothering with them. A visit to India to encourage it to wean itself from Russian oil might make more sense, but India is not on the itinerary.
Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone last Thursday. Xi warned Biden against playing with fire on the Taiwan issue because China regards Taiwan as a runaway province that rightfully belongs to China. This puts Biden on the spot. If he asks Pelosi to go to Taiwan, that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Xi will be furious. On the other hand, if he asks her not to go, then it looks like he is taking orders from Xi, something the Republicans will harp on during the fall. Of course, Biden can only ask Pelosi. She makes her own travel decisions, but it would be unlikely for her to intentionally cross Biden. They have known each other for decades and she respects him.
This is where diplomacy could come in. Biden could offer Xi a deal in which Pelosi avoids Taiwan and in return China quietly stops supplying Russia with military equipment and supplies it is using in Ukraine. Then both would "save face," which is extremely important for China. (V)
Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski is now the third Democratic Senate candidate to drop out in the same week. This leaves Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D-WI) as the only viable candidate left, especially since Godlewski has endorsed Barnes. It also means the general election battle between him and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) starts right now.
The general election will feature a young Black progressive, Barnes, against an old white Trumpy conservative, Johnson, in a swing state. The one thing we can be sure of is that an awful lot of out-of-state money will start pouring in. With the passage of the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS Act, and likely passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the Democrats have an actual track record of popular measures they can run on. This means that their incumbents will be able to crow about their votes to get these popular bills through. These bills mean the Democrats might actually have a fighting chance in November, especially if gas prices stay down from their high.
What the Democrats need in order to actually govern is to hold the House and pick up a net two seats in the Senate. If all the Democrat incumbents hang on in the Senate, which is certainly plausible, they need to flip two Republican Senate seats. Pennsylvania is very likely to flip, so the Democrats would need one more seat. By far, the most likely other one to flip will be Wisconsin, so this race could determine whether the Democrats can actually govern—again, if they hold the House. The amount of money that is going to flow into Wisconsin as a result is going to be mind boggling. This could be the most expensive senate race of all time. (V)
Many Democrats are tired of having two small, nearly all white, states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have oversized roles in picking Democratic presidential nominees and want to do something about it. Consequently, the DNC has a plan to allow states to bid for the right to be one of the early states, basically in February, before the big show begins at the start of March.
Picking early states is not easy but definitely is controversial. First, the DNC has a preference for ethnically diverse states, which better reflect the Democratic Party. Second, the DNC does not want any big states early on. If California went first, any candidate would need, say, $100 million to launch a campaign. This would mean that unknown candidates, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton would never have had a chance. Third, the DNC wants all regions of the country to take part in the early voting.
To achieve these goals, earlier this year the DNC approved a plan that requires states to apply to hold their primary in February. Then the DNC will decide which ones get permission and set the dates. Sixteen states and Puerto Rico applied. The states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Illinois and New Jersey have no chance because it is too expensive to campaign there. Oklahoma has no chance because it has no Democrats. All of the others are plausible. Some conceivable combinations are:
Wisconsin would also be a good choice for the Midwest, but it didn't apply. Oregon might be a good choice for the West, but it didn't apply either.
Anyway, the news here is that on Saturday the DNC decided to postpone the selection of early states until after the midterms. The members don't want fighting and backbiting and disappointment to mar the midterms. Right now, they want everyone to focus on winning seats in the House and Senate and picking up governors' mansions.
But even if the Democrats make their choices, they are not home free. To put Minnesota or Michigan early on, those states would have to change their primary dates. That would require the state Republicans to agree. While having an early primary brings lots of attention and money to a state, Republicans instinctively oppose anything the Democrats want. Also an issue is that if New Hampshire loses its slot as the first primary, New Hampshire Republicans would try to blame Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) for the loss. Better to have her win on Nov. 8 and then boot New Hampshire. In politics, there are rarely easy choices. (V)
Republicans are going to run this fall on a platform of "Democrats caused inflation." The reality is that is not true in the slightest and if the Democrats are smart, they will talk about what they are doing about it, like passing the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022."
But they also could do something else: Point out repeatedly that inflation is a worldwide phenomenon. In particular, inflation in the eurozone is almost 9%. Clearly nothing the Democrats did caused prices to go up in Germany or Italy. They went up for the same reason they are going up in the U.S.: disruptions caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It is probably worthwhile to keep pointing it out since it is very unlikely many Americans are aware that inflation is a worldwide phenomenon and not caused by Joe Biden.
While Americans are peripherally aware that Europe exists, very few know anything about the economy in Europe. Still by pointing out that inflation is rampant in Europe, the U.K., Canada, and elsewhere, it is possible to make the point that it was caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, and not by the Democrats. Here is a bar chart showing inflation in seven big economies.
While the U.S. is the second highest, inflation is way up in other advanced countries except Japan. Democrats would be advised to make this point over and over. Inflation is a worldwide phenomenon and was caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine and they are doing everything possible to get it under control even though they weren't responsible for it. (V)
A lot of Democrats want Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) to challenge Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the Democratic Senate primary in 2024. They keep asking him about the race. So far, he has been very coy about 2024 and said he is focused on being reelected to the House in November. However, he does remind people that any money he raises now could be used in any 2024 race. He hopes they get the message (wink, wink).
Sinema has been a thorn in the Democrats' side since she was elected to the Senate. She and Joe Manchin together killed Joe Biden's Build Back Better program. Manchin at least has the excuse that his state voted for Donald Trump by 40 points, so opposing Biden is what his constituents want. Sinema has no such excuse since Biden carried Arizona.
Last week Manchin and Chuck Schumer finally struck a deal on a smaller version of Biden's program, now called "The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022." But Sinema still hasn't said if she will support it. If she opposes it, she could single-handedly kill it and Democrats would be jumping all over themselves to get Gallego to announce a 2024 Senate run against her already. But he would never do that until after he is reelected. It is generally political suicide for a candidate to make it clear he has no interest in the office he is running for but is using that merely as a stepping stone to a different office. Gallego knows that and can easily keep saying that for the moment he is entirely focused on his reelection to the House. His Phoenix-based district is D+23, so he is in no danger of losing, but it is in poor taste to talk about a Senate run before the midterms.
Sinema and Gallego have locked horns before. In 2006, they both were working on a campaign to stop a ban on same-sex marriage. Sinema requested that Gallego leave the team. Ever since then, he has been lobbing barbs in her direction. He has called her out repeatedly for defending the filibuster. In January he tweeted that she cared more about arcane Senate rules than protecting people's right to vote. In June he wrote that she was empowering Mitch McConnell. He has also challenged her to debate him at a town hall in Arizona. Meanwhile, Gallego is just collecting money that he doesn't need for this year's race. But come January, he might just announce a Senate run. If he does, it will be one of the nastiest Democratic primaries of 2024. (V)