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Political Wire logo DeSantis Slips to Third Place in New Hampshire
A Spectacle That Has Become Surreally Routine
The Trump Georgia Indictment, Annotated
Trump Will Try to Move Georgia Case to Federal Court
Trump Must Turn Himself In By Next Friday
‘Much Bigger Than Watergate’

It's Pork-Chop-on-a-Stick Time

There are plenty of storied traditions in presidential politics, like Dixville Notch, NH, announcing who won its precinct at 12:01 a.m. on Election Day, but few are as food-oriented as the Iowa State Fair. Every August since 1854, farmers and visitors (now a million strong) show up at the fairgrounds to eat strange foods, like pork chops on a stick, funnel cakes, apple eggrolls, jalapeño Twinkies, grinder balls, and deep-fried strawberry shortcake. Another tradition going back to 1972, when the Democrats put the Iowa caucuses first in line, is the fair turning into an open-air cattle call (for politicians, along with the famous butter cow). In election and pre-election years, all the candidates show up and mix with the voters while scarfing down the local delicacies. This year was no exception:

Donald Trump was there on Saturday, along with the Seven Dwarfs—no wait, that is a (slightly) different story, one involving diamond miners instead of gold diggers. Trump didn't speak at The Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox, but actions speak louder than words. And his action was to be accompanied by a small pod (swarm? herd? troop? flock? plague?) of Florida congresscritters who have endorsed him rather than their state's governor. Trump is leading DeSantis in Iowa polls by 20+ points, but not showing up at the Fair would be a grave insult that Iowans would not forget, so he was there.

Last week on the conservative Ruthless podcast, DeSantis, who is getting more desperate by the day, announced that he would do the "full Grassley"—that is, visit every one of Iowa's 99 counties. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) does it every year and he keeps winning elections, so why not? Of course, these are Grassley's own constituents, so it makes some sense to show them that he cares about every part of his state. DeSantis is not from Iowa so it is a dumb stunt and nobody is going to fall for it.

Not everyone enjoyed DeSantis' visit. His (public) chat with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) was interrupted repeatedly by demonstrators ringing cow bells and blowing whistles. They were protesting some of his policies. DeSantis tried to calm them by saying what a great vice president Reynolds would make. Reynolds politely asked them to be "Iowa nice." It didn't work. Some protesters had a megaphone (which is different from a magaphone) and used it to yell "Ron DeFascist" and "pudding fingers." Reynolds also chatted with the other candidates (except Trump) and none of the other "fair-side" chats drew any protests.

After the chat, DeSantis demonstrated, too. He demonstrated that he has a very thin skin—not a good thing for a controversial politician to have. He called the boo-birds "radical leftists." He said: "Well, look, I think when the left comes out that's a sign of strength because like, they know that we will beat Biden and they know we will be able to turn this country around and they do not want that." A more deft politician would have blown them off with a joke, like: "I appreciate that even the cows love me here and ring their bells for me." As we have observed before, dealing with actual voters is not DeSantis' forte. And we're not the only ones to have noticed that DeSantis has a likeability problem. As we noted in yesterday's mailbag, someone went to the trouble of making a big banner reading "Be likeable, Ron!" and had a plane trawl the skies overhead with it.

Plane towing banner reading: Be likeable, Ron

Nikki Haley got on the Register's soapbox and spoke... out of both sides of her mouth. At the same time. She announced that she was strongly pro-life but also that we should help women who have had an abortion. She wants to have it both ways. It won't work. As former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Hightower once observed: "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos." Haley wore a T-shirt reading: "Underestimate me. That'll be fun." OK. We'll start right now. See, it's fun already.

Mike Pence also got on the soapbox. He said: "I'm a small-town guy from southern Indiana. This is my strike zone. Being in the livestock barn, going to the pork tent. I mean, this is a home court advantage for me." Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) told reporters he is "the least-known of any of eight people on the debate stage; we just have to be ourselves and, America, get them a chance to get to know us." In other words, North Dakota is so boring that even Iowa seems wild and crazy to him. (V)

Republican Presidential Candidates Now Admit It: Trump Lost

It took them almost 3 years, but now pretty much all of the 2024 Republican presidential candidates grudgingly admit that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. It took a while, but with Ron DeSantis' admission last week, we're finally there.

Of course, that doesn't mean they have stopped defending him. Far from it, for most of them. Only now their story is that he actually believed he won, so he wasn't lying. That also explains why he keeps saying he won, even now. Here are some recent quotes:

  • Ron DeSantis: "Of course he lost."
  • Tim Scott: "I do not believe the election was stolen."
  • Nikki Haley: "Do I think Joe Biden is the legitimate president? Yes."
  • Chris Christie: "Of course he lost, and I believe he lost because he lost in a full and fair election."
  • Vivek Ramaswamy: "I was very clear about the fact that Trump lost the election."
  • Asa Hutchinson: "I don't believe the election was stolen, and I respect the results."

At least the first five of the above will be on stage Aug. 23 for the debate. If the moderator says: "Raise your hand if you think Trump won in 2020" and no hands go up, the audience reaction should be interesting. If Trump shows up, his reaction will be even more interesting. Even if he doesn't show up, reporters will ask him about the debate later on. Of course, moderator Sean Hannity, who is in the bag for Trump, may stick to safer questions, like "What aspect of Donald Trump do you like the most?" (V)

Why DeSantis Failed to Launch

After his landslide reelection as governor of Florida in 2022, many Republican Trump haters saw Ron DeSantis as the Great White Hope. They were anticipating that he would be the one to slay the Orange Dragon. The media bought into that model as well. Only it didn't happen. Why? Political analyst Amy Walter talked to Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster and runner of focus groups, to find out what happened. Here are her conclusions, in short:

  • He waited too long: Just after the 2022 election, DeSantis was riding high. In an election where Republican after Republican went down to defeat, or at best squeaked by, DeSantis won in the biggest landslide in the country, and in the biggest swing state of them all. He was a winner. He was Trump without the baggage. So did he jump into the presidential race? No, he dilly-dallied until everyone had forgotten what a giant killer he was. For months, maybe he was in and maybe not. That left a vacuum that Trump instinctively filled. By the time DeSantis finally got in, his standing was way down and there was no vacuum anymore. DeSantis may be very smart, but his sense of political timing is way off.

  • He had the wrong message: When he finally got in, DeSantis talked about how he was going to slay the woke bogeyman. He talked about it at breakfast, at lunch, and at dinner. In Iowa, he talked about it at breakfast, at dinner, and at supper. But few people even knew what "woke" was and they didn't really care. Also, the target audience was wrong. He positioned himself to the right of Trump. Those people were never going to budge. If he had positioned himself to the left of Trump, as a conservative but sane fellow who would reduce government waste, cut taxes, appoint conservative judges, and oppose abortion, he might have peeled off Republicans who like Trump's policies but don't like all the baggage. Back in January, those people could have been his base. Now it is too late because he is way to Trump's right and there is no going back.

  • His campaign was too insular: DeSantis "knew" what Republican primary voters wanted and he was going to deliver it. He didn't have anyone in his inner circle with the guts and authority to tell him: "Ron, you're full of yourself. Nobody wants to buy what you're selling. Cut it out." Most of his staff was very inexperienced and had no idea how to run a national campaign. Running nationally is not just a bigger version of a campaign in Florida. In Florida, you get big donors to give you $50 million and then you carpet-bomb the state with TV ads. That algorithm does not work in any of the early states, where you have to meet the voters one at a time and talk to them. DeSantis felt that was beneath his dignity. He went to a meeting of the really big donors in Nevada early on, gave a short speech, and went home. No schmoozing, no photo ops, no asking the donors about their priorities. He was Mr. Know-it-all. The media picked up on this very fast.

  • He's not presidential: The conventional wisdom is that DeSantis' dislike of retail politics did him in. The focus groups show that Republicans don't really dislike him, but see him as potential vice presidential material, not presidential material. Maybe some day, but not now.

So most of what went wrong were unforced errors on his own part. His political judgment isn't so good and he doesn't take kindly to anyone on his team telling him that. He made a bunch of bad choices and when they went south, doubled down on them. Good politicians know when they need to reinvent themselves. DeSantis doesn't get it. Even now, when he's "reinventing" himself on a weekly basis, it's just cosmetic things like swapping his campaign managers. At this point, probably his only hope of becoming president is to disappear for 4-8 years, and then reemerge once memories have faded a bit, à la Richard Nixon in 1968. Of course, Nixon was a strong enough candidate that he nearly won in 1960. That's not happening for DeSantis in 2024. (V)

Willis Will Present Her Case to the Grand Jury Early This Week

Fulton County DA Fani Willis is going to present her case to the grand jury starting today. (Pro tip: Her name is pronounced "fah-knee," not "fan-ee".) Several key witnesses are going to appear tomorrow. These include former lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan, former state senator Jen Jordan, former state representative Bee Nguyen, and Atlanta-area independent journalist George Chidi, among others. Duncan broke with Trump in late 2020 and is practically champing at the bit in anticipation of testifying. Chidi is important because he happened to stumble upon the fake electors while they were casting their fake electoral votes. He was kicked out of the room, but he can tell what he saw before being shown the door.

Willis has been investigating the coup attempt for 2½ years now. This week, the rubber is going to meet the road. After she makes her case to the grand jury today and tomorrow, it is expected that she will ask for indictments. Nearly all the time when a prosecutor asks for indictments, the grand jury complies. In this case, the audio recording of Donald Trump threatening the state's top election official is probably enough, but Willis undoubtedly has much more.

Also, unlike Jack Smith's Jan. 6 indictment, which was for Trump alone, Willis is expected to charge a dozen or more people using the state's racketeering statute (RICO), which is much broader than the federal one. She has used that statute before and is well-versed in how to use it and what it can do. Trump is all-but-certain to be one of the indictees, but Rudy Giuliani will probably also be charged, and possibly all the fake electors as well (hence Chidi being called to testify). The latter are small fish, but some of them are likely to flip (if they haven't already done so) and could finger some medium-sized fish, who could then finger The Big Fish.

CNN just published a scoop about another, previously unknown, action Trump took in Georgia. It has been known since early 2021 that voting systems in heavily pro-Trump Coffee County, GA, were breached. Until now, it was assumed that was the work of rogue local election officials. Now it turns out that the breach wasn't local or organic at all. It was masterminded by Trump and executed by Rudy Giuliani. There are text messages showing that Trump's hired operatives actively sought access to the voting machines and got it. Getting a conviction for violating RICO requires Willis to prove that Trump engaged in a pattern of criminal acts. Arranging for illegal access to voting machines could be one of the criminal acts, along with pressuring state officials and arranging for fake electors. No doubt the indictment will go into a bit more detail about who did what when in Coffee County.

In one way, a Georgia conviction is much worse than a federal one. If Trump is convicted of a federal crime and is elected president, he can (possibly) pardon himself. No words in the Constitution limit the power of the pardon. However, in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) does not have the power of the pardon (and he hates Trump, so even if he did have it, he wouldn't grant one). Clemency, in its various forms, is the province of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Georgia law makes getting it exceedingly difficult. So, Trump would be up the Ogeechee River without a paddle if he gets popped in the Peach State. (V)

Mike Pence's Memory Is Failing

Some people think Joe Biden (80) is too old. Others think that Donald Trump (77) is too old (as well). But the guy who has real age issues is Mike Pence. Pence is 64, but his memory is shot. He is clearly not capable of being president if elected.

He was on Meet the Press yesterday and Chuck Todd asked him if anyone in the White House (for example, the then-president) told him about the fake electors scheme. He couldn't remember. Not remembering if the president told you that he was planning to have cronies in seven states submit fake slates of electors and you should reject the real ones and accept the fake ones sounds like a symptom of early Alzheimer's disease. Most people who are told about fake slates of electors remember that quite well, at least for 4 or 5 years.

Pence apparently asked the Senate parliamentarian if there were multiple slates of electors floating about. Todd asked Pence why he posed that question to her. He said he had heard rumors about such a thing and he wanted to check it out. When Todd asked Pence if those rumors came from the White House, he didn't answer and just said that the parliamentarian had told him that she had not received multiple slates from any state. Note to Pence if you are reading this: Please go see a neurologist quickly to see if anything can be done to save your memory before it is all gone. (V)

There Will Be a Showdown about Alabama's House Map Today

The Alabama legislature drew a Congressional district map that had only one majority Black district (out of seven), even though roughly 2/7 of the population is Black. The Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama map violated the Voting Rights Act. So the Alabama legislature drew a new map—also with only one majority Black district. The legislators argued that they did the best they could, but it's hard to get it right. Apparently they are unfamiliar with Dave's Redistricting website and other products that are available to help. In any event, Democrats sued again and the case will be in court today. The Democrats claim the new map is in open defiance of the Supreme Court and want the district court to appoint a special master to draw a map that complies with the Supreme Court's decision.

There is a bit of a hurry here. If the map is not completed by Oct. 1, it will be too late to use in 2024. The Republicans are fine with that. The Democrats want a map from the special master and a court order telling Alabama to start making preparations to use it, even if there are appeals, which are certain. What happens in Alabama could well happen in other Southern states that also have maps that are illegally racially gerrymandered. So this is an important test case. (V)

Ronald Reagan Is Really Dead

Ronald Reagan believed the Republican platform rested on a three-legged stool. The three legs were fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national security hawks. Under Donald Trump, all three legs have been sawed out from under the stool. Less than a third of Republicans support all three legs now.

Fiscal conservatives from Reagan through Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney wanted to slash government spending in order to reduce the federal debt. Trump doesn't even fully understand what the federal debt is and is against cutting defense spending, Social Security and Medicare, which together make up the biggest part of the federal budget. He has never even mentioned debt reduction and signed an unfunded tax cut bill that made the debt explode. So much for leg number one.

No one would mistake Trump for a religious zealot. He never goes to church and uses the Bible only as a prop for photo ops. Before he got into politics, he was a Democrat and pro-choice. To the extent that he supports the religious right now, it is simply an act to get votes. He doesn't care about their issues at all. Appointing conservative judges is easy, doesn't cost him any political capital, and avoids making any enemies within the Party. He does care about immigration and crime, but not abortion or same-sex marriage. There goes leg number two.

How about national security? Reagan called the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire." Trump calls Vladimir Putin his good friend. He has no problem with Putin invading other countries and trying to annex them. If Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, or Konstantin Chernenko had tried that, Reagan would have started World War III to stop them. He would certainly not have excused such behavior as Trump has. Oops, there goes leg number three. The platform is now floating in space, all by itself.

In effect, Trump managed to pull off a hostile takeover of the Republican Party by telling its voters that they are victims of the deep state and he would exact vengeance for them. Reagan was sunny and upbeat, talking about "Morning in America." It would never occur to him in a million years to call his supporters victims. Reagan greatly supported free trade, something Trump opposes. Just about everything the Gipper supported is anathema to Trump. Trump basically remade the Republican Party in his own image in his short 8 years as a figure in national politics, a pretty stupendous feat, when you think about it. Anyone who says Trump is not a brilliant politician hasn't been paying attention. (V)

Trial of Fake Electors in Wisconsin Will Take Place Sept. 3, 2024

As we note above, Fani Willis seems to be poised to indict the 16 fake Georgia electors. They aren't the only ones in hot water. The 16 fake Michigan electors have already been indicted by Michigan AG Dana Nessel. Arizona AG Kris Mayes is also looking into the matter in her state.

But the state where a case against fake electors is the furthest along is Wisconsin. Last week, a Wisconsin state judge rejected an attempt by the 10 fake electors to dismiss a civil case against them. The case was brought by two of the actual electors and a third person. They are seeking $2.4 million in damages. The judge has scheduled the trial for Sept. 3, 2024, meaning that it will be in the news just before early voting starts. If they are found liable and ordered to pay the plaintiffs $2.4 million, it will almost certainly make it harder (or at least much more expensive) for Trump to sign up fake electors in 2024 if he loses. If fake electors have been convicted and sentenced to prison in any of the seven states where they signed false certificates in 2020, the amount Trump will have to pay to get anyone to sign a fake certificate will surely run into the millions.

One name to keep in mind is Ken Chesebro. He is one of the co-conspirators in Jack Smith's second indictment and the author of the actual memo laying out the plan describing in detail how to steal the election. However, we have to give him credit for putting his money where his mouth is. He is also one of the 10 fake Wisconsin electors and thus one of the people being sued. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug13 Sunday Mailbag
Aug12 Trump Legal News: I Am The Law
Aug12 (Hunter) Biden Legal News: Strange Days
Aug12 Saturday Q&A
Aug11 Trump Legal News: Writing's on the Wall
Aug11 Trump To Skip Debate Pledge: Que Sera, Sera
Aug11 DeSantis Fascism Alert: A Whole New World
Aug11 Biden Impeachment: It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp
Aug11 Manchin and Sinema: We Belong Together
Aug11 Skeletons in the Closet: Sooner or Later
Aug11 Can You Identify the Woke Movie?, Part II: The Ballad of High Noon
Aug11 This Week in Schadenfreude: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Aug11 This Week in Freudenfreude: Things Have Changed
Aug10 I'm Being Indicted for You
Aug10 The Missing Link Has Been Discovered
Aug10 Arizona Groups Want to Put Abortion on the 2024 Ballot
Aug10 House Republicans Are Struggling to Find Someone to Impeach
Aug10 Democrats' Plans for the "Biden 18" Leak Out
Aug10 The Thermometers Are Rigged
Aug10 Will Romney Run?
Aug10 Rosendale Is about to Jump in
Aug10 Meet the New Blue Dogs, Not the Same as the Old Blue Dogs
Aug10 The Partisan Divides Are Getting Worse
Aug09 Ohio Takes Issue with Issue 1
Aug09 Mississippi Had an Election, Too
Aug09 Good News for Democrats in Arizona
Aug09 House Republicans Know They Have to Win in Hostile Territory
Aug09 DeSantis Has Figured Out What Ails His Campaign
Aug09 Can You Identify the Woke Movie?
Aug08 Trump Legal News: Here, There and Everywhere
Aug08 It's Trump's Party Again
Aug08 This Week in Woke
Aug08 Pence Makes the Cut
Aug08 The GOP 25: A Rundown
Aug08 Today's the Day in Ohio
Aug07 Four Defenses Trump May Try
Aug07 At a Trial, Trump Insiders Could Be Called to Testify
Aug07 Trump's Finds His Inner Mafia
Aug07 Ramaswamy Chickens Out
Aug07 Could Trump Be Imprisoned?
Aug07 Poll on Indictments Shows Huge Partisan Split
Aug07 DeSantis' Biggest Donor Pauses Donations
Aug07 Clarence Thomas Is Living the Good Life
Aug07 Neither Trump Nor Biden Can Win
Aug07 Mooney Won't Budge
Aug07 Some Democrats Are Urging Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to Challenge Rick Scott
Aug06 Sunday Mailbag
Aug05 Saturday Q&A
Aug04 Trump Legal News: Only in America
Aug04 Feinstein's Daughter Assumes Power of Attorney