• Carroll Case Clearly Isn't Helping Ron DeSantis
• Today's Second-Tier Presidential Candidate News
• Approval Ratings Are a Mystery, Worldwide
• Tom Carper Will Retire
• Trump Is Hurting GOP Senate Recruitment
Reader M.H. in Coralville, IA, brings to our attention a
Washington Post article about Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) first book, which is entitled Dreams From Our Founding
Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama (2011). The volume, as you might gather, is roughly 50% "history" and
50% attacks on Barack Obama. Note the quotation marks around "history."
We can certainly write up the Post's piece about the book, and that's what we'll do if we don't have an alternative. However, we'd really like to do our own fisking of the book. The problem, as the Post points out, is that the book has been disappeared. It was published by a small press, and the print run was tiny. It was available as an e-book, but Amazon has removed that option from its page for the book. (Z) deployed his considerable skills at finding obscure books, and came up short. There are no copies on any of the filesharing sites, there are none in any library west of the Mississippi, academic or otherwise, and there are none for sale, above and beyond the $2,000 "collectible" copy being advertised by one seller on Amazon. The publisher does not respond to inquiries. So, we put it to the readers: Does anyone have a copy, electronic or physical? Or an idea for finding a copy that we have not already pursued? If so, and you'd be willing to work with us, please let us know.
This isn't really 1A news; some days just don't have a BIG story. So, we place it at the top of the page because it makes the most sense in terms of the organization of the other items. Anyhow, in what has become a near-daily occurrence, Donald Trump's legal hole got a couple of shovelfuls (or shovelsful) of dirt deeper on Monday.
To start, in case you were waiting with bated breath to see if E. Jean Carroll would go after the former president for his comments at the CNN town hall, well, she's decided she will do so. We did not anticipate this particular approach, but what Carroll and her lawyer have very sensibly decided to do is amend her complaint in the as-yet-unresolved lawsuit she filed in 2019 (the one Trump already lost was filed in 2022).
In view of the new remarks from the old president, Carroll is now asking for $10 million in damages in the 2019 case. Again, that would be on top of the millions she was already awarded in the 2022 case. As our lawyer-readers have already pointed out, facts that were already established in the first trial (e.g., that Trump sexually assaulted Carroll) are not open to being relitigated in the second trial, whenever it takes place. Meanwhile, there is little doubt that Trump said nasty things about Carroll during the town hall, and that those things were heard by millions of people. So, as far as defamation cases go, this one's already in the home stretch even though it hasn't even left the gate yet. And by adding this to the existing case, as opposed to filing a third case, Carroll protects herself from going through the sausage grinder any more times than necessary.
And now for something completely different. It would seem the investigation being overseen by special counsel Jack Smith appears to have taken yet another new direction, as the Trump Organization has been subpoenaed for records related to its international dealings since 2017, particularly in China, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Little more is known about the subpoena right now, including exactly when it was issued, and whether or not the Trump Organization has complied (or, alternatively, intends to comply). During his presidential campaign, Trump promised not to do business with foreign countries. If he broke a campaign promise, well, that's not illegal, and it happens all the time. On the other hand, for a sitting president or his company to do business with a foreign nation, and in particular with that nation's government, might run afoul of all sorts of laws, starting with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
This is yet another reminder of something we've written many times, most recently last week: There's no way to know for sure when Jack Smith will be "done," because there's no way to know for sure what list of things he's looking into. At this point, it is clear that it is more than just the Mar-a-Lago documents and the events of 1/6. Meanwhile, it's kind of remarkable that a former president gets into hot water for potential defamation of a woman he sexually assaulted, and for potential corrupt dealings with foreign nations, and it doesn't even feel like major news, since this kind of thing is now so squarely in "dog bites man" territory when it comes to Trump. (Z)
Donald Trump may be a jury-affirmed sexual assaulter, but it's not having much of an effect on his political fortunes, if any. There have been five polls of Trump vs. DeSantis since the jury handed down its verdict on May 10. Here they are, from most to least recent:
|HarrisX/Harris Poll||May 17-18||65%||35%||Trump +30%|
|YouGov||May 13-16||58%||25%||Trump +33%|
|Premise||May 12-15||60%||28%||Trump +32%|
|Rasmussen Reports||May 11-15||62%||17%||Trump +45%|
|Morning Consult||May 12-14||61%||18%||Trump +43%|
For comparison purposes, here are the last five polls taken before the verdict came down:
|co/efficient||May 9||52%||19%||Trump +33%|
|Morning Consult||May 6-8||59%||19%||Trump +40%|
|YouGov||May 5-8||50%||36%||Trump +14%|
|Leger||May 5-8||52%||21%||Trump +31%|
|TIPP Insights||May 3-5||55%||17%||Trump +38%|
Note that some pollsters ran their polls with multiple conditions; when we had to choose, we favored the results produced by registered voters (as opposed to all adults) and by surveys of the entire Republican field (as opposed to just Trump and DeSantis).
As you can see, Trump is doing just fine with Republican voters, despite the verdict. These polls are so imprecise at this point in the cycle, and vary so much depending on the pollster, that we wouldn't want to read too much into the fact that the former president is five points stronger since the verdict that he was before. That could be for real, or it could be an anomaly, or it could be a dead-cat bounce (albeit the strangest dead-cat bounce we've ever heard of). However, the one thing that is abundantly clear is that the verdict has done no particular harm to Trump with the base.
Meanwhile, the former president is politically savvy enough, at this point, to know that DeSantis is his only real competition for the Republican presidential bid. And so, Trump has been doing what he does so well, namely tear down the Governor. In just the last week, Trump has slammed DeSantis as "disloyal," has gloated that "DeSanctimonious [got] caught in the mouse trap" and so cost Floridians money and jobs, has opined that "[DeSantis has] got no personality. And I don't think he's got a lot of political skill," and has described Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the Party's newest 2024 presidential candidate, as "a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable" (more on this below).
Once DeSantis becomes an official candidate this week (or maybe next), will he start battling Trump directly? Maybe, but he hasn't exactly shown a willingness to lock horns with the former president so far. What looks much more likely is that all the non-Trump candidates are going to focus on tearing each other apart, in hopes that one of them eventually emerges as the king (or queen) of the non-Trump candidates. Because, of course, that worked oh-so-well in 2016. What was it again, that Rita Mae Brown (not Albert Einstein) said about insanity? (Z)
Ron DeSantis is currently talking to the donor class, and he's making the argument that there are only three viable presidential candidates for 2024, namely Joe Biden, Donald Trump and himself, and that only two of the three are electable, namely Biden and himself. That's a pretty good assessment, from where we stand, of Biden, Trump, and the rest of the field. We're not so sure it's a good assessment of DeSantis (see above for more). In any case, whether the Governor is an also-ran or not, there are plenty of other candidates who are unquestionably also-rans at this point, and there was news about several of them over the last few days:
- Tim Scott: Scott
his presidential campaign yesterday with a speech
falsehoods and misrepresentations. And he's got a lot of Republicans excited; Larry Ellison has
to give millions to Scott's PAC; Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD)
Scott will have his endorsement; the Trump campaign
that it's thrilled to have Scott in the race.
Scott's problem is that much of this enthusiasm has little to do with getting him elected president. Ellison's support is probably for real; the Silicon Valley Republican is well known for tilting at political windmills. After all, what's the harm in blowing $10-20 million on a lottery ticket when your net worth is $128 billion? That's like a regular person sending seven bucks to Beto O'Rourke or Andrew Yang or Marianne Williamson—not likely to do much good, but no great loss, either.
Thune, by contrast, is clever enough to know Scott has no chance of winning. His endorsement is the most politically viable way of opposing Donald Trump without openly opposing Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, etc. are all villains in TrumpWorld, and backing them is basically poking Trump in the eye. Scott, by contrast, is not (yet) radioactive with any faction of the GOP, and so backing him is less fraught.
As to the Trump campaign, the former president, or at least someone in his orbit, is savvy enough to know that the only way he's not the 2024 nominee is if the "someone who is not Trump" vote coalesces behind one candidate (also see above). The more little fish there are nipping at each other, and maybe claiming some small sliver of the vote, the less chance there is for the anti-Trump vote to come together in time. As every reader of this site knows, Republican primaries tend to be winner-takes-all, or winner-takes-nearly-all. So, as long as two not-Trump candidates remain viable through Super Tuesday, Trump is a virtual shoo-in for the nomination.
- Chris Christie: The former New Jersey governor is
about to launch a campaign for president. Or, perhaps more precisely, president of New Hampshire. All of his time,
money, etc. will be invested in the Granite State. Exactly what his thinking is, we do not know. Option 1, and probably
more likely, is that Christie is deluding himself into thinking that he can win in New Hampshire, get some momentum from
that as the "Trump killer," and win the nomination as a dark horse. Option 2, and the one he'll admit to publicly, is
that his goal will be to show that Trump is vulnerable, in hopes of splintering the former president's support. Whatever
the plan is, Christie is probably just playing into Trump's hands by splitting up the "someone who is not Trump"
- Glenn Youngkin: Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) previously said he wouldn't run in 2024. Now,
he's apparently thinking
about getting in. His theory here is that Ron DeSantis is a paper tiger, and Trump will lose steam as his legal woes
mount. The Governor also thinks he can toe the line between "Trumper" and "never Trumper." We are skeptical. It's true
that Youngkin did that in his gubernatorial run, but he was then an unknown up against an unpopular Democrat. Good luck
trying to be all things to all Republicans once you've got an actual record AND you're under the presidential
microscope. Oh, and once again, the more "someone who is not Trump" candidates there are, the better it is for Trump,
who has at least 35-40% of the GOP electorate locked up.
- Tucker Carlson: And now we get to a would-be Republican presidential candidate who is NOT
deluding himself. There is a super PAC called the Draft Tucker PAC that exists for the purpose of persuading the former
Fox entertainer to run for president. Or, more accurately, there WAS a super PAC. Carlson's lawyers
the leaders of the PAC a cease and desist letter, insisting that Carlson isn't running in 2024, and demanding that the
PAC wind down its operations. The PAC has already done so. If you are surprised that Carlson did not want the ego boost
of having people begging him to run for president, don't be. His suspicion, probably correct, was that these folks were
less interested in President Carlson, and more interested in using Carlson's name to line their own pockets.
- Marianne Williamson: And, finally, a Democrat. Sort of. This weekend, the top two staffers for Marianne Williamson's presidential campaign both quit. There is much verbiage flying back and forth about exactly why they quit. Was Williamson too progressive? Not progressive enough? Too tough to work for? Who knows. Our guess is that, while there were relatively few campaigns in full swing, she was offering a paycheck. Now that the cycle is really heating up, working for someone who might actually win (say, a U.S. Senate candidate, or even a U.S. House candidate) is rather more appealing, especially since someone who is in until next November will be issuing more paychecks than someone who is going to drop out sometime between March and June.
And there you have it. None of these folks is really worthy of an item all to themselves. But an omnibus item? Sure, we can do that. (Z)
Morning Consult has done something rather interesting. They polled voters in 20 countries to see how much they approve of their leaders. Here's the list of leaders who were asked about, presented in alphabetical order:
- Anthony Albanese (Australia)
- Alain Berset (Switzerland)
- Joe Biden (United States)
- Alexander De Croo (Belgium)
- Fumio Kishida (Japan)
- Ulf Kristersson (Sweden)
- Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico)
- Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil)
- Emmanuel Macron (France)
- Giorgia Meloni (Italy)
- Narendra Modi (India)
- Mateusz Morawiecki (Poland)
- Karl Nehammer (Austria)
- Mark Rutte (Netherlands)
- Pedro Sánchez (Spain)
- Olaf Scholz (Germany)
- Jonas Gahr Støre (Norway)
- Rishi Sunak (United Kingdom)
- Justin Trudeau (Canada)
- Leo Varadkar (Ireland)
And now, here are the numbers but with all of the names, excepting Joe Biden, withheld:
|Leader (Country)||Approve||No Opinion||Disapprove||Net|
|Joe Biden (United States)||42%||7%||50%||-8|
Care to take your best guess as to:
- Which leader is the one who is +60?
- Any one of the other two leaders who is +20 or better?
- The leader who, at -10, is closest to Joe Biden?
- The leader who, at -49, is apparently the most unpopular leader in the world?
- Any one of the other four leaders who is -30 or worse?
We, of course, know the results. And we can tell you that while we probably would have gotten question #4 correct, we wouldn't have done well on the others.
For now, we will say that we sat on this for a week, in hopes that we'd have some insight, and... we've got almost nothing. We will, however, point out that Biden is somewhere between "middle of the pack" and "slightly above average." This would seem to affirm our general argument that modern-day approval ratings are quite harsh, and are not comparable to approval ratings from other eras. It would also seem to affirm that Biden is not actually doing so badly, despite what his ratings, taken out of context, might suggest.
The full table, with the names included, is below. If any readers who have insight into the politics of these countries has thoughts on any one of these numbers (i.e., why a particular leader is popular, unpopular, or middle of the pack), please do send them in. If we get comments, we'll run some either tomorrow, or later this week. (Z)
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) has been in politics for nearly half a century, from his first election win as state treasurer of Delaware at age 29 to his current job as a U.S. Senator at age 76. He's currently in the midst of his fourth term in the upper chamber. And he has decided that's enough for him; yesterday he announced that he will step down when his term ends in Jan. 2025.
Delaware is a very blue state (at D+7, it's behind only 8 states in terms of blueness). It hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1994. Every one of its current statewide officeholders is a Democrat. So, there is no plausible argument that this state is "in play," even if it's an open seat. And if it somehow does end up "in play," then the Democrats have way bigger problems than Delaware.
The "feeder" for Delaware senators, for many years, has been the state's sole seat in the House of Representatives. It looks like the establishment is lining up behind Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), who used to work for Carper and will presumably have his endorsement. The other viable possibility is Gov. John Carney (D-DE), who occupied the House seat before Blunt Rochester did. Blunt Rochester is 6 years younger (61 vs. 67) and is Black and a woman, so she's likely to be the default choice for Democratic officeholders who do not already have a pre-existing relationship with Carney. As a reminder, there have been a grand total of two Black woman senators in U.S. history (Carol Moseley Braun and Kamala Harris) and there are currently zero.
There are four ways to leave the Senate: die, resign, run for reelection and lose, or decline to run for reelection. Over the years, roughly 13.6% of senators have exited in the latter fashion. Meanwhile, the average senatorial term is just a bit shy of 12 years. So, in any given cycle, we'd expect about 6.8% of the members to stand down voluntarily. The Democratic caucus has four retirees from 51 members so far (Carper; Ben Cardin, MD; Dianne Feinstein, CA; Debbie Stabenow, MI); that's about 7.8%. So, they are a little above average, but not much. The outlier, such as it is, is the lack of Republican retirements, of which there is only one so far (Mike Braun, IN). Neither of these tallies (4 D, 1 R) is likely to change much, as we're getting pretty close to the "fish or cut bait" part of the calendar. (Z)
Republicans, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on down, are aching to take back the upper chamber. The problem is that three of the four open seats (see above), are in deep-blue states. The fourth is in a purple-blue state, and one where the Democratic bench is deep. So, the GOP is going to have to unseat at least one incumbent, and probably two, if they want to give McConnell his gavel back. Given that 90% of incumbents are reelected, and that 100% were reelected last cycle, that's a tall order, even with vulnerable Democratic seats in West Virginia, Montana and (maybe) Ohio and Arizona.
This is a situation that calls for good candidates, those who can not only win a primary, but can then turn around and put together a viable Republican-independent-conservative Democratic coalition in the general. And thus far, the GOP is not having much luck recruiting that kind of candidate thus far. The problem, in two words? Donald Trump.
This problem really breaks down into three sub-problems:
- The Primary Electorate: It's pretty hard to make it through a Republican primary these
days without being a fire-breathing Trumper. A GOP candidate might pull it off in a very blue state, but there's no hope
of them winning in the general in those states. And anywhere else, the majority of the Republicans are Trumpers. A
candidate who refuses to tack rightward risks losing to someone who will tack rightward. And a candidate who
gives in and panders to the base ends up giving the opposition plenty of ammo to use in the general election.
- Trump Himself: At the same time, any candidate who fails to embrace Trump and Trumpism can
expect to be the target of much vitriol from the former president, while they watch one of their rivals receive Trump's
endorsement. And even if they embrace Trump (or, at very least, manage to keep him quiet), they are going to face
constant questions about the former president's misdeeds. For example: "Do you think it's apropos for the Republicans to
back a presidential candidate who sexually assaults women?" Or "Do you think the Republicans should be running a
president who tried to overturn an election result?" There are no correct answers to these questions if you're trying to
win office as a Republican; you'll aggravate the base or the general electorate or both.
- The General Election: There is every chance that Trump will be the Republican nominee, and that he will drag down the overall ticket with his lack of coattails. While it is possible for a Senate candidate to run ahead of a presidential candidate, it's not easy, particularly up against an incumbent.
Taking stock of these dynamics, a lot of candidates that McConnell & Co. would really like to recruit (e.g., David McCormick in Pennsylvania) are hesitant. That also extends to candidates that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) & Co. would really like to recruit for the House (e.g., Joe O'Dea in Colorado). Undoubtedly, the allure of power will be enough to persuade some attractive candidates to take their chances. But the more races in which the only candidates the Republican Party can find are nutty Trumpers (e.g., Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania), the harder it becomes for the GOP to re-take the Senate and, perhaps, to hold the House. (Z)
The answers to the questions from above:
- Which leader is the one who is +60? Narenda Modi (Hmmmmm....)
- Any one of the other two leaders who is +20 or better Alain Berset and Andrés Manuel López Obrador?
- The leader who, at -10, is closest to Joe Biden? Alexander De Croo (Biden's also pretty close to the self-described fascist, the +3 Georgia Meloni)
- The leader who, at -49, is apparently the most unpopular leader in the world? Emmanuel Macron
- Any one of the other four leaders who is -30 or worse? Olaf Scholz, Jonas Gahr Støre, Karl Nehammer and Mark Rutte
Here's the complete table:
|Leader (Country)||Approve||No Opinion||Disapprove||Net|
|Narendra Modi (India)||78%||4%||18%||+60|
|Alain Berset (Switzerland)||58%||12%||30%||+28|
|Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico)||60%||5%||35%||+26|
|Anthony Albanese (Australia)||55%||13%||32%||+23|
|Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil)||49%||7%||44%||+5|
|Giorgia Meloni (Italy)||48%||6%||46%||+3|
|Joe Biden (United States)||42%||7%||50%||-8|
|Alexander De Croo (Belgium)||37%||15%||48%||-10|
|Justin Trudeau (Canada)||38%||8%||54%||-16|
|Rishi Sunak (United Kingdom)||35%||12%||52%||-17|
|Pedro Sánchez (Spain)||39%||5%||56%||-17|
|Leo Varadkar (Ireland)||36%||11%||53%||-18|
|Fumio Kishida (Japan)||33%||14%||53%||-19|
|Ulf Kristersson (Sweden)||32%||11%||57%||-25|
|Mateusz Morawiecki (Poland)||32%||6%||61%||-29|
|Olaf Scholz (Germany)||31%||5%||64%||-34|
|Jonas Gahr Støre (Norway)||29%||7%||63%||-34|
|Karl Nehammer (Austria)||27%||7%||66%||-40|
|Mark Rutte (Netherlands)||26%||6%||67%||-41|
|Emmanuel Macron (France)||23%||6%||72%||-49|
If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.
- email@example.com For questions about politics, civics, history, etc. to be answered on a Saturday
- firstname.lastname@example.org For "letters to the editor" for possible publication on a Sunday
- email@example.com To tell us about typos or factual errors we should fix
- firstname.lastname@example.org For general suggestions, ideas, etc.
To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.
Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
May22 Biden Says He Thinks He Could Use the Fourteenth Amendment If He Has To
May22 Trump's Legal Team Is Fighting with Itself
May22 Trump's Plans for a Second Term Are Becoming Clearer
May22 Tim Scott Is In
May22 North Carolina Is Probably in Play Now
May22 Republican Senators Are Worried About DeSantis' Attacks on Disney
May22 Five Questions about DeSantis' Campaign
May22 Is Casey DeSantis Lady Macbeth?
May21 Sunday Mailbag
May20 Saturday Q&A
May19 DeSantis To Make It Official Next Week
May19 The Perils of a 51-Vote Majority
May19 Democrats Wrestle with Their (Self-Created) New Hampshire Problem
May19 Talking about Abortion, Part V: Physicians Weigh In
May19 This Week in Schadenfreude: Mortarboarded
May19 This Week in Freudenfreude: Now That's a Civics Lesson
May18 A Court Hearing Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing
May18 Talking about Abortion, Part IV: More Questions and Answers
May18 Abortion Appears to Be Wrecking Republicans at the Polls
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part I: His Documents Problem Just Keeps Getting Worse
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part II: What About the Stolen Voting Machine?
May18 House Punts on "Santos"
May17 The Results Are In
May17 North Carolina Legislature Overrides Governor's Abortion Veto
May17 EMILY's List... Kingmaker?
May17 Progress in Debt Ceiling Talks?
May17 Feinstein Appears to Have Gone from Bad to Worse
May17 Rep. Robert Garcia Introduces Legislation to Expel Rep. "George Santos"
May17 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part II
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part I: The Durham Probe
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part II: The Case of the Vanishing Informant
May16 Whaddya Know? Giuliani Is a Sleazeball (Allegedly)
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part I: Gas Prices
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part II: Congressman's Staff Attacked
May16 Governance, DeSantis Style
May16 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part I
May15 DeSantis Receives, Gives Punch in the Mouth
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part I: Pollsters
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part II: Republican Politics
May15 Today's Longshot Presidential Candidate News
May15 U.S. Senator Denounced as "Profoundly Ignorant Man" over Remarks on Mexico
May15 There Are Some Elections in the U.S. This Week...
May15 ...And There Was One This Weekend in Turkey
May14 Sunday Mailbag
May13 Saturday Q&A
May12 Title 42 Gets Deep-Sixed... Or Not
May12 FBI to Comer: F*** Off
May12 CNN Town Hall: The Day After
May12 Trump and E. Jean Carroll Are Not Finished with Each Other