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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2019 2015 2011
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To Run Or Not to Run, That Is the Question...

Politico is reporting that people in Joe Biden's inner circle are now no longer 100% sure that he will run for reelection. They were expecting an announcement by now and it has been pushed back to at least April. They think that the conventional wisdom that he would run again crystalized too fast and too hard without any real evidence. People who know Biden well are describing him as Hamlet on Delaware's Christina River.

Potential candidates who might run if Biden decides not to run are keeping the door a bit open, just in case. These include a bunch of Democratic governors, especially Gavin Newsom (CA), Phil Murphy (NJ), and J.B. Pritzker (IL). Their problem is that running a primary campaign takes money and staff—lots of both—and if Biden waits and waits, they are all going to have trouble putting a campaign together quickly. Of course, it affects all of the POTUS wannabes equally, but those who are already known nationally have a leg up on those who are not. Nevertheless, potential candidates and their donors are working very quietly below the radar to prepare for Plan B, should it be needed.

One problem that Biden now has is that he hasn't done much fundraising in Q1. If he were to announce this quarter, he would have to report his meager fundraising totals for the quarter. If he delays announcing until April, then his first required report will be Q2, which presumably will look a lot better than Q1.

If Biden does run, one of the issues he will hammer on is protecting Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans. In Biden's 2012 vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan, he savaged Ryan on the congressman's plans to upend the programs. Viewers who saw the debate said that Biden won, but exit polls showed that seniors still voted Republican. Biden is determined to use Social Security and Medicare as weapons to bludgeon the Republicans with. Now that Biden is past 80, he can argue that he has many friends in their 80s and they keep telling him how important the programs are. (V)

...But Not for Tester

Democrats are worried silly about holding the Senate in 2024. Democratic incumbents Jon Tester (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), and Sherrod Brown (OH) are all in red states. If any one of them were to retire, their seat would be lost, no ifs ands, or buts.

Democrats got some good news yesterday when Tester announced that he wants a fourth term in order to defend "Montana values."

Of the three, Tester's seat is the most solid. His personal approval rating is north of 60%. Also, although Montana almost always goes for Republicans in the Electoral College, since World War II, only three Republicans have been elected to the Senate from the state. Otherwise, Democrats have dominated it. Also, Democrats have been elected governor of Montana many times, so the state isn't as red as it might seem from the presidential results. This is not to say Tester will be a shoo-in, but he has personally won three Senate races in Montana and has a high approval rating. This doesn't scream "hopeless."

Montana has two Republican representatives, Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale. Either or both of them could jump in. So could other statewide officials and members of the state legislature. There is likely to be a bruising primary whereas Tester won't face a serious primary opponent.

Over in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is also running for a fourth term. His situation is more precarious than Tester's because Ohio hasn't been electing Democrats statewide left and right recently. Nevertheless, he is a popular incumbent and his blend of progressivism on some issues and centrism on others is a good fit. He has a good chance.

The final one in the trio is Manchin. He hasn't announced anything yet. In addition to a possible Senate run, he could also decide to run for the governorship in 2024, which will be open because Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) is term-limited and toying with a Senate run. If he ran, Manchin would be in for one hell of a fight and might decide it is not worth it, especially since Democrats keep dumping on him. (V)

Early Presidential Primary Polls Actually Do Matter

While we and others have pointed out that it is almost a year until the first presidential primary (unless the Democrats force the issue and cause New Hampshire to hold its primary before Halloween this year), maybe the early polls do matter. Nate Cohen of The New York Times has done a study of early primary polling and come to the conclusion that candidates who do well in the early polling often get their party's nomination. And in the cases where they didn't, they usually lost out to someone else who was also polling well. That suggests that the Republicans will ultimately nominate Donald Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Sorry about that, Nikki. And Mike. And the other Mike. And all the others with delusions of grandeur.

Here is what Cohen found:

Early presidential primary polls are good predictors

The polls outlined by the green line show candidates running at 20% or more in Q1 in the year before the election. There are 13 candidates who were polling at least 20% and won the nomination (red dots) and 10 candidates who were polling at least 20% and did not get the nomination (gray dots). That means 56% of the time the 20-percenters got it. Unfortunately, Cohen didn't label all the duds. we bet the other Nate would have labeled then.

Of course, 56% is not 100%, and when two candidates are above 20%, obviously one of them won't grab the brass ring despite polling well. If we focus on candidates polling above 30% early on, only two of them failed to get the nomination.

In the modern era, only two candidates got as far as the primaries with over 20% support and lost the nomination. One was George Wallace in 1976, who was a regional candidate with little support outside the South. The other was Gary Hart in 1988, who was done in by Monkey Business.

Almost all the candidates who hit 20% this early were national figures who could easily command media attention by giving an interesting speech. They already had supporters and donors lined up and had generally already won elections for some other office. Once again, candidates in the spotlight can collapse (see: Giuliani, Rudolph William Louis) but being ahead this early is clearly a good start. (V)

Biden's New Asylum Policy Is Trump Lite

While he was president, Donald Trump latched onto a public-health law (Title 42) to ban asylum-seekers from entering the U.S. because they might be bringing COVID-19 with them. That rule was tied to his declaration of a health emergency due to the pandemic. Joe Biden is going to end the emergency on May 11, and with it will vanish the ban on "infected" immigrants. However, Biden does not want to flood the country with a couple of years' worth of backlog, so he is adopting an immigration policy that might be described as Trump Lite. He has repeatedly said that he would prefer Congress to overhaul the immigration laws, but since Congress is bitterly divided, he knows that won't happen any time soon, so he is going to do his best alone.

The new rule will bar migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they fail to apply in the country they first entered after leaving their own country. For migrants from Central America who come by land to the U.S., that country is Mexico. So anyone entering on land from Mexico will be rejected out of hand. Asylum shopping is not allowed. People who fly from anywhere in Central America directly to the U.S. or arrive by boat in Florida will be allowed to apply for asylum.

Biden understands that absent some kind of rule like this, the border will be overrun with immigrants requesting asylum. However much sympathy he may have with them on a personal level, he also understands that if he does nothing, Republicans are going to spend the next 2 years screaming that Democrats support open borders. Politically, that is not a winner for him. He has to do something and this new policy has some basis in (international) law.

Needless to say, immigration advocates are already working on their lawsuits, hoping the courts will block this new policy. Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, a former Obama Administration official, said the new rule "reaches into the dustbin of history to resurrect one of the most harmful and illegal anti-asylum policies of the Trump administration." Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) called on Biden to "abandon this misguided policy now." And there are many more critics. ACLU is planning to sue, as well.

Biden has responded to these criticisms with a new app. There is an app for everything. This particular app allows migrants to schedule an appointment for consideration. Of course, the number of judges available for handling cases will not suddenly jump up as a result of the new app, so the next available appointment might be in August. Maybe August 2024. Biden also repeated his position that immigration law is a job for Congress. If Congress wants to change the way asylum is handled, it should pass a law directing how it should be done. But he isn't naive enough to be expecting such a law during his first term, so he is acting unilaterally for the moment. (V)

Republicans Are Divided on Ukraine

A issue that may divide Republicans in next year's primaries is what to do about the war in Ukraine, assuming the war is still ongoing then. Some Republicans, starting with Nikki Haley, see the war as a fight for freedom and fully support Ukraine. Haley, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and is quite interested in (and knowledgeable about) foreign policy, wants to stick it to Russia. She sees the war as freedom vs. autocracy and said if Vladimir Putin gets Ukraine, the Baltic countries are next in line and China will take Taiwan. Her foreign policy is a good match for the Republican Party's—during the Reagan Administration. It is all about containing Communism, especially Russia and China. Everything else is secondary. (Well, OK, containing Iran is a close second, but everything else is tertiary. Or maybe even quaternary. Or quinary.) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has been around the track a few times before, is with her. He sees giving Ukraine modern weapons as a way to weaken Russia without spilling any American blood. He also sees American support for Ukraine as a warning to China not to mess with Taiwan. Maybe his Taiwan-born wife, Elaine Chao, gave him some suggestions about that. We don't know.

Other potential Republican presidential candidates are less enthusiastic about helping Ukraine. Donald Trump's "America First" policy is well-known. His view is that America has no business meddling in other countries' wars. Now Ron DeSantis has chimed in. He recently told Fox: "I don't think it's in our interest to be getting into a proxy war with China, getting involved over things like the borderlands or over Crimea."

Although such pronouncements will be well received in some Republican quarters, DeSantis has to be careful about that. He was a founding member of the House Freedom caucus and there is plenty of footage of him taking hawkish positions on Russia and China. Over and over. For years. Ads showing him saying: "Russia is evil and must be beaten" following by "Russia is none of our business" followed by more "Russian is evil and must be beaten" followed by more "Russia is none of our business" aren't hard to make. They will surely all end with: "DeSantis doesn't stand for anything and You can't trust a word he says." Here is an example clip of DeSantis attacking Putin in no uncertain terms. There are plenty more.

It will be impossible for DeSantis to avoid this issue, as Haley will harp on it and call him out as a flip-flopper. What can he say in response? "I used to know that Russia was evil but I have since learned what a nice guy Putin is?" That won't fly. Going from dove to hawk works. Going from hawk to dove does not work in the middle of a war instigated by Putin in order to rebuild the Russian empire (which is the topic DeSantis addresses in the video clip above).

As we have mentioned before, DeSantis has not been tested on the national stage yet. We have yet to see what happens when he has to deal with serious and more experienced opponents from outside Florida. Like Trump, for example. Just wait until Trump starts hitting DeSantis hard for using alcohol to ply teenage girls at the school he once taught at, while Haley hammers him with "soft on Russia and China." (V)

Former Arizona AG Hid Report Debunking Election Fraud Claims

A year after the 2020 election, when he was running for the Republican nomination for the Senate, Arizona AG Marc Brnovich started an investigation of possible election fraud in Maricopa County in the 2020 election. It consumed 10,000 hours of his staff's time. In March 2022, the investigators issued a report saying there was no fraud and the election was completely honest. Instead of publishing the report, which would have doomed his Senate bid, he issued an interim report falsely claiming there were serious irregularities. It didn't help. He lost the primary anyway.

Then, in September 2022, the investigators wrote a summary that refuted all the arguments about election fraud. Brnovich quietly killed the summary. Bill Barr couldn't have done it better. Brnovich left office in January 2023.

Brnovich's successor, Kris Mayes (D) released this information and announced that the investigation was now closed. When Brnovich was asked by reporters yesterday about this, he declined to answer. Mayes also said that she was reorienting the office, turning it away from investigating imaginary claims of election fraud and toward protecting the right to vote and preventing threats against election workers. (V)

Barbara Lee Formally Announces a Senate Run

This is not breaking news since it has already been widely reported that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was going to run for the Senate, but now she has made it official. We are not clear on why she wants to do this since: (1) with 25 years' of House seniority, she is on a number of powerful House committees including the Budget Committee and the Appropriations Committee, (2) she will be 78 when she joins the Senate if she wins and it takes 20 years to achieve serious power, and (3) she is the longest of long shots to win. Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) are far more likely to make the top two in the primary than she is. Lee has $52,000 in her campaign account vs. $7 million for Porter and $21 million for Schiff and donors don't like to back losers. Both Porter and Schiff are already national figures (especially Schiff, who managed Trump's first impeachment) whereas Lee is barely known outside the Bay Area. Lee also isn't doing this to set a precedent, since California has already had a Black woman senator (Kamala Harris). Giving up a position of real power in the House for a microscopic chance at being a very junior senator strikes us as a curious move.

It will, of course, set up a monster primary in CA-12 (Oakland and Berkeley), a D+40 district. Every Democratic state representative and state senator in the district will immediately take interest, as will all the mayors, county executives, water district commissioners, dogcatchers, vice dogcatchers, associate dogcatchers and associate vice dogcatchers. The last time this seat was vacant was in 1997, when Ron Dellums (D) retired in the middle of his term, forcing the special election that Lee won. Before that, the last time the seat changed hands was in 1971, when Dellums beat Jeffrey Cohelan, a white liberal Democrat, in the Democratic primary on an anti-Vietnam War platform. This seat doesn't come up very often and everyone knows it. (V)

Greene Calls for a National Divorce

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), whose husband of 27 years divorced her in Dec. 2022, is thinking big now. She wants a national divorce. We really tried to avoid this story, but Greene just won't let it go, and she's making a lot of headlines. She said the red and blue states have irreconcilable differences—the same grounds as her own divorce—so they should separate. Then each country could have its own national laws on education, commerce, religion, energy, cultural values, elections, school prayer, and views on government size and spending, etc.

It's not exactly "the South will rise again," because this time states as far away as Utah and Idaho would join the New Confederacy, but yes, she wants to split the country into two parts, with blue states and red states going their separate ways. Would this entail a new Civil War? Well, that depends. If the blue states said: "Good riddance," then no. Some people in the blue states are just hoping those in the red states all get raptured, solving the problem for good. Of course, one problem would be that the blue states in the Midwest and East would be separated from the blue states on the West Coast by a couple of thousand miles of hostile territory, possibly with immigration and customs checkpoints. Here's what the map might look like:

Map of red and blue states; the coasts outside
of the South are blue and so is the upper Midwest and the southwest outside of Texas. Other than that, mostly red.

Perhaps each state legislature would get to decide which country to join. Alternatively, the red states could just secede and hope that the blue states would be happy to see them go. Or maybe the blue states would merge with Canada to provide a connection, like this. Then, the name of the National Hockey League would finally be accurate.

Greene has even gotten into some of the details about how it would work.

  • The states in Redistan (Jesusland?) would completely control things like education and commerce
  • This would allow the national government to be much smaller
  • Education would be very different in the two countries, with no Dept. of Education in Redistan
  • Redistan would require everyone to have an ID card with "male" or "female" on it (so much for small government)
  • Redistan would develop oil, coal, and nuclear power resources
  • Redistan would toss out ESG (Environmental Social Governance) regulations
  • Walmart would not be allowed to place sex toys next to childrens' toothbrushes
  • Police officers would be well-trained, paid, and equipped and would be seen as heroes
  • Elections would be on a single day with paper ballots

Other details include: Americans who emigrate from blue states to red states would not have the right to vote in their new home for 5 years, red states could openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, woke teachers would be fired, and parents would choose the school curriculum.

Sean Hannity endorsed the plan. But not all conservatives cheered Greene on. Conservative Tom Smith, the assistant attorney general of Texas, tweeted "How disgraceful to Pres. Lincoln & the 1000's buried all across America who fought to preserve our nation to throw up our hands [and say] 'we can't make it work anymore.' So weak." Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) called her plan "insanity."

The two countries would be very different. Red states would get Texas cattle ranches and Oklahoma oil fields. Blue states would get Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Blue states would have many more people with college degrees. Red states would have many more people dying from COVID-19, drug abuse, and obesity. Red states would have more land but blue states would have twice the population. GDP would be much higher in the blue states.

How would that work? For starters, the blue states heavily subsidize the red states (e.g., farm subsidies), so the red states would either have to raise taxes or, more likely, cut their already meager services even more. With the exception of Texas and Florida, most job production is in blue states. The red states would have all the civilian guns but the blue states would have the F-22s because they belong to the United States government, which the red states want to effectively abolish. But there are a ton of difficult problems to solve. How would the federal debt be apportioned? What about the interconnected electric grid. Would foreign treaties apply to both countries? And so much more. The European Union and the U.K. are still not done working out the details of Brexit, so imagine how much harder this would be.

Oh, and not everybody would be in the country they want to be in. When the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947, some 15 million people moved and somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million died in the process. Many Black people in Redistan would probably want to switch sides and white supremacists in Colorado might prefer Wyoming. For some people, their only asset is their house, which they would have to sell at a fire-sale price.

And change happens. North Carolina and Georgia are getting bluer. What if they initially chose Redistan but in 10 years enough old people had died and young people became voters and the majority wanted to secede from Redistan and join the other team? The sequel might not work out any better than the first time around. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb22 Wisconsinites Cast Their Ballots
Feb22 The Lord Giveth a Congressperson, and He Taketh Away a Congressperson
Feb22 Putin Makes His Countermove
Feb22 Haley's Campaign Is... Underwhelming
Feb22 Vivek Ramaswamy Announces Presidential Bid
Feb22 C'mon Fani, Time for the Other Shoe to Drop
Feb22 Fun with AI
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Feb21 Tucker Carlson May Have a Point Here...
Feb21 ...And He Definitely Has all the 1/6 Capitol Footage
Feb21 O'Keefe Gets a Dose of Veritas
Feb21 Beshear Appears to Be Sitting in the Catbird Seat
Feb21 It Was Presidents' Day!
Feb20 Fox News Hosts All Knew Trump Lost but Lied about It Anyway
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Feb17 This Week in Schadenfreude: Gimme Some Truth
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Feb16 Why the Republican Hardliners Don't Care about a Default
Feb16 A Very Early Look at the Electoral College for 2024
Feb16 Poll: Jim Justice Is the Strongest Republican against Manchin
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Feb16 The Four Democratic Parties in the House
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Feb16 Fox Fails to Kill Smartmatic Lawsuit against It
Feb16 Gaetz Walks
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