• Chicagoans Head to the Polls Today
• Another Bombshell-filled Dominion Filing
• A Lesson in Reading Polls
• Nevada Democratic Party Is in Disarray...
• ...While the Florida Democratic Party Is Trying to Pull Itself Together
• Who Needs Gerrymandering When You've Got "George Santos"?
It has been more than 7 weeks since Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she would retire at the end of her current term. Usually, an announcement like that leads half a dozen candidates to toss their hats in the ring, just so they can get a jump on the competition. Heck, over in California, there were at least three declared candidates even before Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said she was stepping down. But in Michigan, there was virtually nothing until yesterday, when Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) said that she will run for the seat.
If you would like to see Slotkin's announcement video, here it is:
It's pretty standard, but it's solid. As is typical, it emphasizes the Representative's Michigan roots, talks about her backstory and the challenges she's overcome, refers to the issues she's running on (albeit very, very vaguely), and points out her bipartisan bonafides (she worked for George W. Bush and Barack Obama).
The Democratic bench in Michigan is quite deep, so Slotkin's announcement won't be a relief for Democratic Party leaders the way that, say, Sen. Jon Tester's (D-MT) was. That said, the Representative is probably the strongest potential candidate the Party had (outside of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, maybe). Slotkin has consistently been elected from purple districts (her current district, MI-07, is R+2), and the Wolverine State is also purple (specifically, R+1). And she actually started her career representing MI-08, which is also the district that Stabenow represented before heading to the Senate. Both Slotkin's current district and her former district cover the blue-collar areas north and west of Detroit, so she has some experience with winning over Obama-Trump voters. And, presuming she makes the general, she will win Detroit and the big college towns (Ann Arbor, East Lansing, etc.). So, she's a formidable candidate.
Thus far, as noted, Slotkin has no competition on the Democratic side of the contest. And indeed, most of the really serious threats to her have already declined, among them Whitmer, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, and state Sen. Mallory Morrow (who came to national attention with her pointed remarks in response to a Republican colleague who had accused her of grooming and sexualizing kindergarteners). The remaining folks who might mount a serious challenge to Slotkin from the center are Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Rep. Debbie Dingell, while the biggest remaining threat from the left is surely Rep. Rashida Tlaib. But all three of these folks might decide Slotkin is too strong a candidate. So, the Representative could well have smooth sailing to the Democratic nomination.
On the Republican side, the bench is not so impressive. The problem is that the Michigan GOP is bitterly divided between Trumpers like Tudor Dixon and normal Republicans like former representative Peter Meijer. There could be a bitter primary between one or more candidates from each of the factions. And whichever candidate eventually advances, it will be hard for them to unify the Republican vote; the Trumpers will look askance at a Meijer-type candidate and the normal Republicans will look askance at a Dixon-like candidate. Maybe the odds of losing, either in the primary or in the general, are why only one candidate has declared on this side of the race. And that person is an unknown (Nikki Snyder, member of the Michigan State Board of Education).
Cook Political Report and Sabato's Crystal Ball had this race as "Lean D" while Inside Elections had it as a "Battleground." Those assessments were made before Slotkin entered the race; now that she's in there may be adjustments. In our view, given her strength and the weaknesses of the potential Republican field, "Likely D" is probably most correct. Certainly, this isn't going to be the seat on which control of the Senate turns. If the blue team loses this one, then it will surely mean they also lost two or three among West Virginia, Ohio and Montana. (Z)
As long as we're in the Midwest anyhow, let us take the opportunity to note that the time has come for Chicagoans to vote for mayor. In theory, the identity of the person who will be inaugurated on May 22 could be known by the end of the night. In reality, the middling popularity of Mayor Lori Lightfoot (who is running for reelection) and the presence of eight other candidates means that nobody is going to get the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.
The near-universal presumption is that Lightfoot, by virtue of incumbency and high name recognition, will be one of the two folks who advances to the second round of voting. That's more likely to be correct than not, but don't bet the house on it. Again, she's not especially popular, and she's being attacked for her COVID management and for increases in crime. Plus, there are five other Black candidates in the race, and they could draw votes away from her. The polls make pretty clear that white guy Paul Vallas, who is running to Lightfoot's right, is going to advance. And the second slot could plausibly go to Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who is a lefty, or to Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García, who is the only Latino in the race, and who is running as a moderately liberal alternative to the moderately liberal Lightfoot. Although the race is officially nonpartisan, all of the candidates are Democrats, except for Willie Wilson of the Willie Wilson Party. (Really.)
We'll certainly have the results tomorrow. And if any Chicagoans care to write in with their thoughts on the election or the outcome, we will share those. (Z)
Dominion Voting Systems made another filing in their case against Fox, this one based primarily on testimony from depositions with Fox Corporation chair Rupert Murdoch. And... it's another rip-snorter. Here are the main takeaways:
- Murdoch knew full well that the 2020 election results were legitimate, and described Donald Trump's lies therein as
"bulls**t and damaging."
- Murdoch also knew that it was a very bad idea to give Mike Lindell a platform. But the concern guiding the channel's
election coverage was not the truth. As Murdoch himself put it, when describing the underlying motivation: "It is not
red or blue, it is green."
- Similarly, everyone at Fox knew that Sidney Powell is bat**it crazy, but they kept having her on.
- Murdoch warned on-air reporters Shepard Smith and Leland Vittert, both of whom no longer work for Fox, to stop being
so critical of Donald Trump.
- Murdoch wanted to fire Bill Sammon, who also no longer works for Fox, for calling Arizona for Biden. That call, of
course, was correct.
- Murdoch wanted to fire Lou Dobbs, who is yet another ex-Fox employee, for being too loony. However, the termination
was forestalled until 2021 because Trump likes Dobbs.
- Murdoch also ordered Fox anchors to promote Republican senators' election bids, particularly that of Sen. Lindsey
Graham (R-SC). His concern was that the GOP retain the Senate at all costs.
- Murdoch gave Jared Kushner inside information about Joe Biden's advertising and about debates that Fox was involved
- Sean Hannity tired of Trump long ago, but continues to tote water for the former president, for fear of losing
- The person who worked hardest to try to get Fox and its personalities to accept the truth? Hold on to your hats, because there's no way you could see this coming. It's former speaker and current Fox contributor Paul Ryan. That's right, Paul Ryan—Defender of Democracy.
The first conclusion here is that Fox is in deep, deep trouble. If this does not clear the bar for defamation—the outlet knew it was spreading falsehoods and kept repeating them anyhow because there was money in it—then we might as well just get rid of that portion of the law books.
The second conclusion here is that, in case you didn't already know, Fox is not a news organization. They are not in the same ballpark as a news organization. Or the same ZIP code. Or the same universe. The network once had a reasonable news operation, but the great majority of those folks have been sent packing or have left of their own volition. These days, the opinion/propaganda operation is king, because that is where the money is. In particular, Fox should neer again have any part in hosting any candidates' debate. They have forfeited that privilege.
Meanwhile—and we have no idea what the answer to this question is—what is Fox going to do about its Trump problem? The outlet clearly wants to quit him, and to move on to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), but they can't afford to do so. Meanwhile, Trump is furious that the network is giving any attention to the Florida Governor, but he can't afford to quit Fox, either, as he needs the promotion. Are we headed for an ugly divorce here? Or another 2 years of parasitic symbiosis? (Z)
If you take a look at the FiveThirtyEight pollster rating for Rasmussen Reports, you'll discover the outfit has a "B," which is solid. However, that grade may not reflect Rasmussen's track record as much as it does the shortcomings of trying to assign a single, simple rating to pollsters. Given that Nate Silver & Co. are committed to objective answers, the rating is based on things that are ultimately measureable, namely election outcomes. Rasmussen tends to be pretty accurate in predicting election results in red and purple states and somewhere between OK and laughable in blue states (like the time they predicted that Daniel Inouye would win the 2010 Senate race in Hawaii by 13 points and he won by 53). That's a combo that averages out to, well, a B.
Meanwhile, where Rasmussen really goes nuts—knowing that it won't affect their ratings, since the results are not testable—is in their opinion polling. Which, in most cases, is really more like push polling. They tend to ask extremely leading and/or loaded questions, hoping and expecting the results will generate attention and will get the firm's clients and potential clients (most of them Republicans) excited. A case in point is Rasmussen's latest offering, in which they apparently asked only two questions: (1) "Do you agree or disagree with the statement 'It's OK to be white'?" and (2) "Do you agree or disagree with the statement 'Black people can be racist, too'?"
We are going to focus on the first of the two questions, as that's the one that turns out to be relevant (more later). To start, Rasmussen is somewhat famous for being opaque about its sampling methods and its number crunching. Second, if you had never heard that question before, you might well struggle to figure out exactly what it is asking you. Third, if you had heard it before, it would almost certainly be because it's a right-wing, white nationalist slogan. That is to say, it's a lesser known version of "white lives matter." Needless to say, a lot of people would disagree with "white lives matter," not because of their views on white lives, but because of their views on the underlying political messaging that is encoded in that phrase.
Of course, Rasmussen knows that considerably fewer people know "It's OK to be white" than "white lives matter," which is why the pollster chose the former and not the latter. And they got the "shocking" result they wanted, assuming you squint very carefully. Among Black respondents, 8% somewhat disagreed with "It's OK to be white," 18% strongly disagreed, and 21% were not sure. So, if you assume Rasmussen reported its numbers accurately, and you then spin those numbers aggressively, and you ignore the subtext of "It's OK to be white," you could decide that those numbers are telling you that 47% (8% + 18% + 21%) of Black people are unwilling to commit to the idea that it's OK to be white.
We are confident that readers of this site would never swallow a Rasmussen poll without many fistfuls of salt. And though we may seem to be crapping on Nate Silver in the above paragraph, he also knows full well that this is a dubious polling house. He's written about it numerous times (most famously here). On the other hand, not getting the memo (perhaps because he did not wish to get the memo) was "Dilbert" cartoonist Scott Adams. He's lurched rigtward and Trumpward in an aggressive way in the past 6-7 years, and developed a taste for conspiracy theories, sexism, dog-whistle racism and white grievance. He does a "show" every night on YouTube entitled Real Coffee with Scott Adams in which he basically rants and raves for an hour for the benefit of his 130,000 or so subscribers.
In the Friday episode, Adams decided to share his views on the Rasmussen poll (see the video here, if you really want to). And here are his comments:
[Rasmussen] said: "Do you agree with or disagree with the statement 'It's OK to be white?'" That was an actual question. 47 percent of Black respondents were not willing to say it's OK to be white. That's actually—that's, like, a real poll. If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people—according to this poll, not according to me—that's a hate group.
In case anyone had missed Adams' move from dog-whistle racism into outright racism, he later opined that white people should "get the hell away from Black people."
Who knows what the heck happened here. Following Adams' public pronouncements in the last few years, it is entirely plausible that he is not well, mentally. Alternatively, maybe he's ranted and raved for so many years at this point, he concluded that he was invincible. Or maybe he was looking to go full-bore, and to set himself up for a lucrative gig as staff cartoonist for The Blaze, or Breitbart, or Stormfront. In any event, Adams was canceled so fast it practically produced a sonic boom. Over the weekend, he lost his syndicator, his agent, his book publisher and many hundreds of newspapers.
As far as we can tell, the right-wing media is not willing to touch a potato quite this hot. That means that Adams' most prominent defender thus far has been... Elon Musk, who took to his billion-dollar boondoggle of a social media platform to declare that "the media is racist [against] whites and Asians." Hmmmmmm. Allow us to do a quick timeline check:
- June 1971: Elon Musk born in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
- June 1988: Elon Musk graduates high school in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
- June 1989: Elon Musk leaves South Africa
- Several years later: Apartheid ends in South Africa
Call us crazy, but we don't think Musk has a whole lot of credibility here.
In any event, there will undoubtedly be some carping that Adams was censored, or that he's not being afforded his First Amendment rights, or that he's a victim of political correctness gone amok. Nonsense. What happened here, obviously, is that the market spoke. Newspapers (and Adams' publisher) decided that they would make less money with him on board than they would with him overboard. So, overboard he went. Too bad for him, but that's the way the bigotry crumbles. If he can't catch on at The Blaze, maybe he can land a gig ghostwriting "newly discovered" Roald Dahl books.
And that concludes today's lesson in reading polls. (Z)
Former senator Harry Reid's political machine long dominated Nevada Democratic politics. That is, until supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pulled off a hostile takeover in 2021. In March of that year, Judith Whitmer was elected chair of the Nevada Democratic Party along with a new slate of party leaders, all of them associated with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Upon their election, the entire party staff resigned. It's been downhill ever since.
Even Sanders himself is unhappy with the results of the coup. Sanders was hoping for the Nevada party to showcase what a progressive party could stand for and do. Instead, there has been wall-to-wall infighting and backbiting. More importantly, the proof is in the pudding, and the election results have been less than spectacular. Former governor Steve Sisolak (D) was defeated for reelection in 2022—the only incumbent governor in the country to lose reelection.
Peter Koltak, a senior adviser for Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, said: "Look, there's a lot of well-meaning activists involved there, but they don't understand the ins and outs of how you build modern campaigns." Whitmer has also made a number of promises she has not kept.
The problems with the state party are not entirely Whitmer's fault, though. For example, just before Whitmer took over, party officials transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state party's bank account to the DSCC's. That might have helped Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) get reelected in 2022, which is not a bad thing for Nevada Democrats, but it also meant that the new party leaders had no money when they took over. Also, when the entire staff quit, they didn't just look for new jobs somewhere, they took over the machinery of the state's second most-populous county and tried to oppose Whitmer from there. Whitmer noticed. She said: "The previous administration pretty much burnt the house down."
But her critics, including progressives, say that Whitmer is a poor fundraiser, has bad relationships with elected Democratic officials, and failed to build the grassroots infrastructure she promised to build. They also condemned her decision to support a primary challenger to the sitting Democratic lieutenant governor.
Another battle was with progressives whose true loyalty is to the DSA, not to the Democratic Party. They wanted her to work outside the system, but she said: "I represent the Democratic Party. I don't represent the DSA." This caused friction with the left. Whitmer's term is up in March and she will have to fight like hell to keep her job. Even then, she will probably not be successful. (V)
The Florida Democratic Party, like its Nevada counterpart (see above), is a train wreck. In this case, the problem isn't infighting, though. It's that the Florida GOP has turned itself into a finely oiled machine, and that machine has spent the last three election cycles steamrolling the Florida Democrats.
It was time to choose new leadership over the weekend, and after a rather contentious election, the new party chair is former Florida agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried. She wants to rebuild the party structure, build up a large base of small donors, and position Florida Democrats on the front lines of the effort to stop Ron DeSantis from becoming president.
Is Fried the right person to resurrect a party organization that is greater disarray than the Chicago Bears' defense? Maybe. She's the most recent Democrat to win statewide election in Florida, and she probably learned a trick or two while running for governor against DeSantis. On the other hand, she got trounced in the primaries of that election, and by a man (Charlie Crist) who went on to get trounced in the general. Indeed, that was the positive outlier of the night for the Republicans, who otherwise largely underperformed expectations last November. Anyhow, that's not the best résumé we've ever seen.
Incidentally, Fried is a very moderate Democrat who has supported some Republican candidates in the past with her donations. So, the progressive wing of the Florida Democratic Party is not thrilled with her victory, and is not enthused about working with her. The phrase "DINO" has been bandied about. So, it's the other side of the coin from what's happening in Nevada. We shall soon see if Fried is better able to herd cats than Judith Whitmer is. (Z)
New York Democrats would very much like to take back the House districts in the state that were won by Joe Biden, but that are currently represented by a Republican in Congress. That means that the blue team would very much like to send Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D'Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams into retirement.
It could be that, once Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) finds a judge who can actually pass muster with the state Senate, then the New York Court of Appeals will allow the Democratic-controlled state legislature to re-gerrymander the district maps to their heart's content. But that's going to take a while, and it's hardly a sure thing. After all, if you give yourself virtually no margin for error (which was the plan), then you're at risk of taking a beating if there's even a moderate red wave. So, instead of leaving things to chance, the Democrats are going to do their best to leverage the least popular representative in the state, namely Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY).
It is rather common for congressional candidates to build alliances with each other by donating to each other's campaigns. And guess what? All five of the Biden-district Republicans got donations from "Santos." Whether those donations were in U.S. dollars or Monopoly money is not known. But, in any case, the New York Democratic Party has launched a billboard campaign that asks the question "Will you give the donation back?"
This strikes us as a no-brainer; "Santos" is subject to the same campaign finance limits as anyone else, and it's just not worth having him as an anchor around one's neck in exchange for less than $6,000 in campaign funding. That said, even if the quintet gives the money back, it's probable that the next set of billboards will be "Will you support expelling him from Congress?" So, this could be a slippery slope.
Not coincidentally, LaLota is already loudly calling for "Santos" to be expelled. After all, LaLota (and his four colleagues) undoubtedly would like the GOP to have as big a majority as possible, but they are even more concerned with protecting their own seats. That said, it takes two-thirds of the members for an expulsion, and so the Democrats plus the five New York Republicans would be a majority but it wouldn't be enough to do the job. So, if LaLota & Co. take damage from being associated with their phony colleague, there may not be much they can do about it. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb27 Congressional Republicans Oppose Student Loan Relief
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Feb19 Sunday Mailbag