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State of the Union: Our Take

Though Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress last year, that is not considered a State of the Union address, which therefore makes last night's speech Biden SOTU #1. The assembled crowd of dignitaries, minus designated survivor Gina Raimondo, listened to the President speak for just over an hour, which is middle-of-the-road for SOTUs, but is pretty brief by Biden standards.

Here's a rundown of the subjects that stuck out most to us, in the order they appeared:

On the whole, the speech was a solid double. Hopefully it's OK to use a baseball metaphor, especially since it appears metaphors are the only baseball we're going to get for a while. This SOTU is not going to blow anyone's socks off. But Biden hit his marks, rarely stumbled over his words (though he did once substitute "Iranian" for "Ukrainian"), and was in command of the room. And apparently he even improvised a bit. Reportedly, a portion about banning assault rifles was not followed by the question "You think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests?" until Biden added it in the moment.

Ultimately, a solid double is pretty much all that Biden could have realistically hoped for. He's not Barack Obama, and never will be, barring a very unusual remake of the movie Freaky Friday. Further, SOTUs are just a laundry list of talking points, and are not known for being memorable. If the President can get a few of his ideas out there and circulating more widely than they were, then that's a win for him. And we think he likely pulled that off, particularly with his remarks on Ukraine, and possibly with some of his proposals for health and healthcare.

Of course, we can only speak for ourselves. Let's now see what others think... (Z)

State of the Union: Their Take

Undoubtedly, there will be more discussion and dissection of Joe Biden's State of the Union in upcoming days. But for now, let's look at the insta-response.

CNN has gotten into the business of doing polls immediately after major political events (conventions, debates, important speeches) to see how they were received in the moment. The network's own headline for last night's poll was "Speech watchers have mostly positive reaction of Biden's State of the Union, CNN poll shows." On the other hand, Mediaite's headline for the exact same poll "Just 41% of Viewers Had 'Very Positive' Reaction to Biden's SOTU Speech, Says CNN—Lowest Since George W. Bush." So, it would seem that the response to the address was pretty good... or pretty bad. Who knows, although we've never been all that clear on these gradations between "mostly positive," "positive" and "very positive." If you want something at least a tiny bit more subjective, Biden got 91 rounds of applause, which is an above-average number for a SOTU. And, if nothing else, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) didn't tear up the speech on camera. So Biden passed that test, at very least.

Here are assessments from various commentators, arranged roughly from "most liberal pundit" to "most conservative pundit."

So, there you have it. To nobody's surprise, lefties liked the SOTU, righties largely didn't, and the folks in the middle were the ones who actually had something useful to say. (Z)

Texas Is Always Good for a Few Surprises

Texas kicked off the 2022 primary season in rip-roarin' fashion last night, with some crushing victories, and a few very interesting outcomes. Here's the rundown of the contests of interest:

The lessons here are: (1) It was a pretty good night for progressive Democrats, (2) it's great to be an incumbent, and (3) it's not so great to be under criminal investigation or indictment. The next primaries are on May 3 in Ohio and Indiana. (Z)

McConnell Reminds Rick Scott Who Is, and Who Is Not, Minority Leader

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would prefer not to have a party platform this cycle. Campaign promises can only get you into trouble, especially when your party does not control the White House. Plus, when you're the minority party, you don't want to divide your members by talking about silly things like policy.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is running for reelection, is leading the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) this cycle, and thinks he is a viable presidential candidate in 2024. In contrast to McConnell, he would like to have a platform very much. A very Trumpy platform that is heavy on culture wars stuff and very, very short on actual, plausibly policy goals. And so, sensing an opening, Scott issued a platform of this very sort last week. Officially, it's just the manifesto that is guiding his personal Senate campaign. But given his leadership of the NRSC and the absence of any competing document, it is going to be taken as the Republican platform, not just the Scott platform. Scott knows this very well.

McConnell also knows this very well. And while the Minority Leader may have issues maintaining discipline among members of his caucus once they get serious about their presidential aspirations next year, we're not quite there yet. And so, during a press conference yesterday, McConnell cracked the whip a bit, addressing himself to Scott's specific proposals that the 50% of Americans who do not pay taxes should be forced to cough up some dough, and that maybe it's time to shut Medicare and Social Security down:

Senator Scott is behind me, and he can address the issue of his particular measure. If we're fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I'll be the majority leader. I'll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor. Now let me tell you what will not be part of our agenda: We will not have as part of my agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.

Really, who knows what Scott was thinking with those proposals. He must realize that there are a lot of poor Trumpers who do not pay taxes, and a lot of old Trumpers who receive Social Security and Medicare, right? Similarly, Scott is still running in Florida, a state with an enormous number of old people, right? In any event, McConnell knows electoral poison when he sees it, and knows when he needs to call one of his members out. So, that is what the Kentuckian did.

Interestingly, and somewhat amusingly, Scott wasn't actually present to hear himself be lambasted. Knowing full well what was coming, he snuck out of the room right before McConnell spoke, so as to avoid being caught on camera looking uncomfortable. Still, you can be certain that the Floridian heard every word of what the Minority Leader said. What he does in response remains to be seen. (Z)

District Maps 1, Frederick Keller 0

Pennsylvania is losing a seat in the House, which means a nice, big game of musical chairs for the members of the state's congressional delegation. Rep. Frederick Keller (R), who won his seat in a special election, was basically the member who lost his seat, and had announced plans to challenge Rep. Dan Meuser (R) in nearby PA-09. Now, Keller has thought better of that plan. On Tuesday, he made this announcement:

Rather than pit Republicans against Republicans, which the congressional map chosen by the liberal Pennsylvania Supreme Court does, I am committed to helping take back the House, holding Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seat, and electing a conservative Governor. To that end, I am not going to run against another member of Pennsylvania's Republican Congressional Delegation.

Keep in mind that the new map is almost certain to generate a delegation that has 9 members of one party and 8 of the other, which is a pretty fair reflection of Pennsylvania's underlying demographics. But perhaps the Representative knows a type of math that we are unfamiliar with, such that 18 - 1 = 18.

On paper, Keller vs. Meuser seems to be a pretty even matchup. They're both Trumpy, PA-09 is very red, and each is in his first term in the House. Perhaps Keller didn't want to spend the time and energy involved, only to be faced with, in essence, a coin flip. Or maybe he had polling that gave Meuser the edge. Or maybe Keller took note of the fact that Meuser is pretty wealthy, and has some well-heeled friends, and would be able to win the fundraising game pretty easily. Whatever it was, he's the 46th member of the House to voluntarily give up his seat this cycle. (Z)

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