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Manchin Deals (Slight) Blow to Democratic Senate Hopes

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been dithering when it comes to his future plans. Yesterday, however, he let the cat out of the bag: He's going to retire from the U.S. Senate.

Obviously, this makes it rather unlikely that the Democrats will be able to hold on to that seat. And we mean "rather unlikely" in the same sense as in "it's rather unlikely the U.S. will be building a wall along the Canadian border, no matter what Vivek Ramaswamy wants" (see below for more). The only declared Democrat in the race, at least at the moment, is Zachary Shrewsbury, who is a political organizer and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Undoubtedly, he's a fine candidate, but West Virginia went for Donald Trump by 36 points in 2020. The eventual Republican nominee, whether it's Gov. Jim Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney, would have to get themselves in a massive scandal for Shrewsbury or any other Democrat not named Manchin to have even a puncher's chance.

With that said, we'd say Manchin's decision is somewhere between "neutral" and "good news" for the Democratic Party. Yes, the blue team would like to have a viable candidate for the seat, but Manchin's past victories don't actually mean he's viable now. He won a close victory, 49.6% to 46.3%, in his last campaign, and West Virginia is 6 years redder and more Trumpy. He's alienated ballot-splitting Republicans with some of his votes, including for the infrastructure bill (despite the fact that it lavishes money on West Virginia), and polls have consistently shown Manchin running 10-20 points behind Justice, who will almost certainly be the GOP nominee. The Senator very probably wasn't going to hold the seat anyhow, and now the Democrats can invest their resources in other places.

And that, in turn, brings us to the six seats that are going to matter most in 2024. With West Virginia gone, the Democrats either need to lose zero seats and hold the White House, or else gain one seat if they lose the presidency. This is in addition to gaining one seat for any Democratic-held seat they lose. The seats currently held by Democrats, or by people who caucus with the Democrats, that are in most danger of being flipped are Ohio, Montana, Arizona and Nevada, probably in that order. Each of them presents different challenges, but they're certainly all winnable, particularly if abortion provides some wind at the Democrats' backs. We are, of course, aware that the Democratic-held seats in Pennsylvania and Michigan are at risk, but if either of those go, then there's no chance the most endangered quartet all end up as holds.

Meanwhile, there are two Republican seats that could become insurance policies against Democratic losses: the ones held by Rick Scott (FL) and Ted Cruz (TX). Cruz is obnoxious and has drawn a strong opponent in Rep. Collin Allred (D), but we're not willing to buy that the seat is in serious danger until we see some hard polling data much closer to the election.

The Florida seat, by contrast, is much more interesting. Scott is also obnoxious, and his margin of victory when he first won election to the Senate was 0.13%. He won his two gubernatorial elections by 1.07% and 1.15%. In short, he's not very popular. Meanwhile, he's staunchly anti-choice... in Florida. We've noted, a couple of times, that since Dobbs, abortions are way up in many states, with Illinois taking the lead (+21,500 in the first year after Dobbs, as compared to the last year before Dobbs). But a close second on that list is... Florida, which was +20,460. If there was any senator at risk of losing their job in 2024 due to anti-choice views, it would seem to be Scott.

In any event, Manchin's retirement is not nearly the bad news for Democrats that the retirement of Sherrod Brown (OH) or Jon Tester (MT) would have been. They also have "maybe the only Democrat who can win" status, but in states where they are much likelier to hold on than Manchin was.

What could be bad news for Democrats is if Manchin's retirement is prelude to a presidential run, either as an independent or as the No Labels candidate. And in his retirement announcement, he said that while he's not going to stand for reelection, "[W]hat I will be doing is traveling the country, and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together." Our guess is that if Manchin did declare, he would be more likely to attract reluctant Biden voters than reluctant Trump voters.

That said, we find it hard to believe Manchin would waste the time and energy involved in a hopeless run for the White House, particularly if such an effort was likely to hurt Biden. But maybe the Senator has a bee in his bonnet for one reason or another, and he's willing to burn the house down to make a point. He tends to take his sweet time when making decisions, and third-party candidates don't have to worry about primaries and caucuses, so it could be a while until we know what the final chapter of his career holds. (Z)

Stein Is a Presidential Candidate... and a Vegetarian?

And on the subject of third-party candidates, Jill Stein announced yesterday that she's running for the Green Party presidential nomination in 2024. Since she's probably the most famous Green in the country, by virtue of her other two presidential runs, she'll presumably get the nod.

That's not to say she's entirely on a glide path, however. After she announced yesterday, an old controversy promptly reared its head. There are quite a few Greens who want their candidate to be vegetarian, at very least, while vegan would be better (and raw vegan would be better still). Back in 2016, Stein was asked about her diet and responded, in a Reddit AMA session: "I have been vegan or vegetarian for 45 years. Currently, I am vegan + fish and occasional dairy for health reasons."

That was a suboptimal answer, as it turns out. Obviously, someone who consumes fish and dairy is not a vegan, and should not be claiming to be such. In fact, they should not be calling themselves a vegetarian; her diet is quite clearly pescatarian. This had (and has) some Greens upset about her eating habits and had (and has) others upset about her dissembling.

We pass this anecdote along because it illustrates that the people who might vote for Stein include some sizable number who concern themselves with things somewhat outside the mainstream of American political discourse. In other words, people who probably aren't gettable by the two major parties. To put a finer point on it, in 2012 Stein collected 0.36% of the vote. In 2016, she got 1.06%. We suspect that she'll land in between those in 2024, if she gets the nomination, because some Greens are anti-vaxxers who will vote for RFK Jr. and some are anti-corporate types who will vote for Cornel West.

Whatever happens, we think that whether it's Jill Stein or it's some less famous Green, it doesn't change things much. Whoever they are, the Green candidate will primarily be one of several vessels for protest votes. The real question is how many people will feel the need to cast such a vote; right now, thanks to the Israel situation, not to mention weariness with the two major-party candidates, that number looks like it will be unusually high. That said, there's no great way to know for sure until the votes are counted. In both of her previous campaigns, Stein—as is usually the case for fringe candidates—consistently polled at two-to-three times the level of support she actually got when it came time to cast ballots. (Z)

The Day After: The Third Republican Debate

Even if it's not going to move the needle much, or at all, presidential candidates' debates are still big events. And so, we offer our usual wrap-up piece. To start, here are 10 tidbits we thought were interesting as we perused the post-debate commentaries, reports, op-eds, thought pieces, etc.:

  1. The Real Winner: There were approximately 1 million pieces yesterday (estimate courtesy of staff mathematician) observing that the true winner of the debate was Donald Trump, most obviously because he's avoiding any withering fire while his opponents hammer each other.

  2. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb... Bomb, Bomb Iran: Anyone who watched the debate could not help but notice, as we did, that the candidates' solution to most foreign policy problems is the use (or the threat) of violent force. Paul Musgrave, writing for Politico, suggests that at least a couple of the folks on stage are more isolationist than they are interventionist (specifically, Vivek Ramaswamy and Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL), but that, in the end, all of the candidates "adopted belligerent rhetoric with calls sprinkled in to 'finish the job' against Hamas, 'take out' the Mexican cartels and 'cut off the head of the snake' (Iran)."

    It's worth noting that even the isolationists (a group that includes Donald Trump) would ultimately unleash vast violence upon the world if they had their way. First, because even the isolationists want to use U.S. troops to "secure" the Mexican border. Second, because they would turn their backs on Ukraine, Gaza, and, very possibly, Taiwan, leaving those peoples' adversaries to act without restraint.

  3. The Odd Couple: Politico also has an interesting piece, from Curt Mills, about why Nikki Haley and Ramaswamy dislike each other so much. They share a political affiliation, as well as Indian heritage, but they are otherwise oil and vinegar. One is Sikh/Christian and the other is Hindu, one grew up a rural Southerner while the other grew up an urban Midwesterner, one earned her spurs and the other is a Vivek-come-lately, one is a Reagan Republican and the other is a paleoconservative, one knows how to behave in polite company and the other is Ramaswamy.

  4. He's a Panderer: Scaachi Koul, who is herself South Asian, writes that she knows "a thousand" South Asian (mostly) men like Ramaswamy. In short, her argument is that because they comport to Republican ideas of how non-white Americans should behave (and assimilate), they gain acceptance in right-wing circles and then double- and triple-down on their efforts to live up to the "model minority" notion.

  5. He's a Phony: Meanwhile, even the right-wing media has noticed that whatever Ramaswamy is doing, it's not running for president. Newsmax had the candidate on for an interview, and host Rob Schmitt told Ramaswamy: "You're not trying to take this [nomination] from him then. You sound like a surrogate right now." The folks on Fox aren't impressed, either; host Tammy Bruce slammed Ramaswamy as "a frat boy who's perhaps auditioning for a television show."

  6. He's a Di**, Eh: We didn't comment on it, because it's so obviously stupid, and there were so very many stupid Ramaswamy utterances to talk about, but the "candidate" went beyond calling for an armed, walled border with Mexico and also said the U.S. should construct an armed, walled border with... Canada. Yep, the same guy who says the U.S. government needs to cut spending wants to build a 5,525-mile wall. It costs roughly $20 million per mile to build border walls (that's $27.6 million Canadian), so Ramaswamy's project would have a price tag of roughly $110.5 billion.

    People in Canada took notice of Ramaswamy's plans and they are not happy. Do you know how big a jerk you have to be to piss off Canadians?

  7. De-Flat-is: Ron DeSantis is also being panned by the right-wing media. On Fox, for example, they said "he's not good at this" and he's got "no sizzle." Truer words were never spoken.

  8. Blackbeard: Recall that the fundamental notion behind meme theory is that the memes that spread widely/quickly, and thus avoid being part of the 99.999% that disappear into the void, do so for some reason. We note that as prelude to pointing out that Sen. Tim Scott introduced his mysterious girlfriend at the debate last night (though she only stayed for a short while). And yesterday, this meme spread like wildfire:

    It's a CAPTCHA that asks the user to
check all pictures with beards, and a bunch of bearded men are checked, as is a picture of Scott with his girlfriend

    At very least, it suggests that many people find Scott to be untrustworthy. At most, it suggests that many people think Scott is... well, you can figure that out for yourself.

  9. Doug Who?: Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) wants everyone to know that he might not be at the debates anymore, but he's still in this thing. And to get that message out to as many people as possible, he published an op-ed in a newspaper located in the ninth-most-populous city (Jamestown; pop. 15,754) in America's 47th-most-populous state (North Dakota, pop. 779,261). Undoubtedly, it will be read by tens of people. Anyhow, one begins to understand why Burgum is struggling to break the 2% barrier in polls; he's apparently running for president of North Dakota.

  10. Ratings Decline Even Further: The first two debates were fiascos, and the candidates are all known quantities who keep saying the same things over and over. And so, people are tuning out. The first debate this year drew 12.8 million viewers. The second drew 9.3 million. And the latest round drew just 7.5 million.

    In a somewhat amusing sidebar, the Country Music Association Awards, which was up against the debate, drew its second-worst ratings ever, attracting 6.8 million viewers. Guess there are only so many good ol' boy eyeballs to go around. Whatever NBC employee did not notice that the CMA awards were scheduled for Wednesday night should be fired. That's like scheduling the Democratic debate against The Masked Singer or RuPaul's Drag Race.

Moving along, here's our usual rundown of the "winners" and "losers," as judged by media outlets of various stripes:

The Washington Post
The New York Times
Left-leaning Total
USA Today
The Independent (UK)
The Telegraph (UK)
International/Centrist Total
The Washington Examiner
The Washington Times
The Hill
Right-Leaning Total
Overall Total

So, Haley had the best night, DeSantis' results were mixed, people are barely noticing Chris Christie unless they are just lumping him in with "everyone on stage was a loser" assessments, and Ramaswamy and Scott had the worst nights.

And there you have it. We'll have to reveal the winners of the contest next week, because we're running late in terms of getting today's post up. (Z)

The Fallout Has Begun: Progressive Mayor Jumps Into Virginia Governor's Race

There was a time when Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) looked like he might be a giant killer. That time ended on Tuesday night around 10:00 p.m. ET. Despite his apparent political talent, and despite him investing every bit of political capital he had, he proved unable to flip one chamber of the Virginia legislature and, to add insult to injury, he saw his party lose control of the other.

In short, the Virginia GOP is suddenly in disarray. Youngkin can't run in 2025 due to Virginia's "one term at a time" law, and he doesn't look to have the influence to anoint a successor. And so, Richmond mayor Levar Stoney (D) announced yesterday that he's going to mount a campaign in 2025, when the Virginia governor's mansion is next up.

Stoney is an interesting candidate. He is Black, as mayors of Richmond tend to be these days (the last non-Black mayor of the city was a fellow named Tim Kaine, who served from 1998 to 2001). He was also the youngest member of the Cabinet of then-governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), whom Stoney considers to be a mentor. That said, McAuliffe is as centrist as it gets, while Stoney, in order to get himself elected mayor of sapphire-blue Richmond, ran as an outspoken lefty. "We said we'd be progressive leaders and that's what we're doing," he said in an interview after his first year as mayor. "You know, we're creating meaningful change and that's gratifying."

So, we presume that Stoney will be running in the progressive lane, especially since Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who is also quite centrist, has said she's planning a run. Whatever happens, that campaign is a long ways off; the story for now is that the Tuesday elections definitely have some Democratic politicians feeling pretty optimistic. (Z)

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Silver Threads Among the Gold

For some readers, the theme of last week's headlines was immediately evident. For others, it took some serious thought. Here's the answer, courtesy of reader J.N. in Zionsville, IN:

Each of the pieces of music are the "last" in some way for the artists/composers.

  1. "Walking on Thin Ice": John Lennon's last song he recorded
  2. "Louder Than Words": Last song to include founding Pink Floyd band member, Richard Wright
  3. "Do You Want to Rock?": To be honest, I'm not sure which song this references, but Danko Jones is a Canadian and that just will not do.
  4. "Riders on the Storm": The last song recorded by Jim Morrison
  5. "Now and Then": The (now) last song released by the Beatles
  6. "The Art of the Fugue": This (depending on who you ask) is the last finished composition of J.S. Bach
  7. "Milkcow's Calf Blues": The last recording of blues musician Robert Johnson
  8. "You Know You're Right": The last song recorded by Nirvana before the death of Kurt Cobain

It helped a lot if you knew that, about 24 hours before we put that together, the Beatles managed to release one final song, to much fanfare. That song began as a John Lennon solo effort, however, so it is possible that "Walking on Thin Ice" no longer belongs on the list. Oh, and prior to last week, the Beatles' last song would have been "Real Love," which was also created by starting with a John Lennon solo effort. The last song recorded while the band was still together was "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

Meanwhile, "Do You Want to Rock?" is actually the last song for Phil Lynott, of Thin Lizzy. We would not stoop to including songs by Canadians, needless to say. "Silver Threads Among the Gold," from the headline, is a mid-to-late-19th-century song by H.P. Danks and Eben E. Rexford. Since it was the only song they recorded, it is necessarily the last song they recorded.

We're working on a different approach to announcing the winners, but for now, we'll stick with the first ten to get it right:

  1. D.D. in Highland Park, IL
  2. I.B. in Victoria, BC, Canada
  3. E.B. in Avon, IN
  4. R.D. in Cheshire, CT
  5. R.F. in Washington DC
  6. J.N. in Zionsville
  7. N.S. in North Hollywood, CA
  8. F.W. in Franklin, WV
  9. D.L. in Uslar, Germany
  10. J.C. in Westminster, VT

As to this week's theme, it might be the most appropriate one we've chosen (that's your hint). It fits in the Trivial Pursuit category "History." Actually, we'll give you a second hint, too. Before we had to postpone the results for the debate contest, that item was going to have the headline "The Day After: Some People's Guesses Were Quite Good."

If you have a guess as to this week's theme, send it here. And don't forget to include your initials and city. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Mark Meadows, Straight Talking American Government Official... Or Not

When Mark Meadows first ran for office back in 2012, he used a line that is popular among politicians, particularly those who are Republicans, telling voters that he's a "straight shooter" who can be counted upon to tell it like it is.

Perhaps being in Washington caused Meadows to develop bad habits. Or, just maybe, he was never especially honest or trustworthy in the first place. Anything is possible. Whatever it may be, as reader D.E. in Lancaster brings to our attention, he's at serious risk of taking a big hit in the wallet for being something very different from a straight shooter.

At issue is The Chief's Chief, the book that Meadows wrote in 2021. Like many officeholders who try to cash in on their service by writing a book, Meadows hustled to get the book done as rapidly as he could once the Trump presidency was over. And that meant that he peddled the Trumpy line, as it stood in mid-2021 (i.e., the election was stolen, 1/6 was an appropriate response, etc.). Meadows was paid handsomely for his work, since he was as insider as it gets, and people wanted to know.

Since then, the situation on the ground has changed a wee bit, and sticking with such obvious falsehoods could potentially earn Meadows a one-way ticket to a federal (or state) penitentiary. So, he's shifted to a very different version of events, telling Special Counsel Jack Smith that the election wasn't stolen, that he warned Trump that was the case, and that he knew 1/6 was very bad and very wrong. That means that the book was a tissue of lies, and that the publisher can't even give copies away anymore, because nobody wants them.

So, Meadows' publisher is now suing him for close to $3 million. That's the $350,000 paid to Meadows as an advance, $600,000 for out-of-pocket damages, and $1 million each for damage to the company's reputation and for loss of expected profits for the book. And note that the publisher, All Seasons Press, specializes in books from right-wing politicians. So, it has a pretty high tolerance for spin and outright BS.

Whatever happens in court, the book has been a disaster, financially. The original print run was 200,000 copies and only 60,000 of those were sold. Even at full list price ($28), there's no chance the publisher made its money back, between the advance, and editing and typesetting, and printing, advertising and distribution costs. Now, in a desperate effort to get something back, the price has been slashed to $5.60. It's getting very close to being a cost-effective alternative to toilet paper. Which, truth be told, would really be the perfect use for it. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreude: Surprise!

This is Naz Hassan:

Little girl in a butterfly costume

As you can presumably infer from the photo, she's adorable, very young (4 years old), and a big fan of Halloween. You might even guess that she is of Syrian descent, and from that guess (correctly) that her family is Muslim.

What you can't tell is that she was born with a congenital defect in her heart, one that has required her to undergo several medical procedures in order for it to be repaired. The last, and most important, was scheduled for Children's Hospital New Orleans. And when the surgery schedule was put together, Naz's slot was on... October 30. That is, of course, the day before Halloween. Naz's mother, Shiler Sido, hated to break the news to her daughter that there would be no Halloween this year, but what're you gonna do under these circumstances?

As it turns out, Naz's neighbors—some of them Muslim, some Christian, some Jewish, some adherents of no religion at all—decided they had a pretty good answer to that question. So, this year, Halloween was observed in Naz's neighborhood on both Oct. 31 AND Oct. 29. That meant that the night before undergoing the surgery (which was successful), Naz got a surprise. Her mother told her to put on her costume, as shown in the photo, and then they visited 60+ houses for some trick-or-treating. You can't actually eat food the night before surgery, but we assume that Naz's mother had her candy at the ready when she awoke from her procedure.

In case you're wondering how this is relevant to the content of this site, it's this. We've had an awful lot of content, especially this week, about the unhappy events in Israel. We thought it would be nice (and hopefully not maudlin) to have at least one item about people of different religions coming together to do good, instead of harm.

And on that note, we had some Israel and election stuff planned for today, but this post is already 6,000 words. So, we will have to postpone until next week, or we'd blow past 10,000 words (and past 10:00 a.m. ET). It's coming, we promise.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov09 Takeaways from the Elections
Nov09 Republicans Debate in Florida's Arsht Hall
Nov09 Debates Were Not Always Modeled on Cranky Toddlers in a Nursery School
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Nov09 Ivanka Testifies That She Has a Bad Memory
Nov09 Could Trump Have a Secret Plan While Insulting the Judge?
Nov09 Trump Gets (a Smidgen of) Good Legal News for a Change
Nov09 Mike Johnson Could Be the Democrats' Secret Weapon
Nov09 House Is Considering Kicking the Can Down the Road
Nov09 Meta Is Starting to Deal with AI
Nov09 Tester Runs His First Ad
Nov09 Poll: People in China Are Less Hostile to U.S. Than They Were
Nov08 A Disastrous Night for the GOP
Nov08 Time for Another "Debate"
Nov08 The War in Israel, Part X: Genocide in Gaza?, Part I
Nov08 The War in Israel, Part XI: Genocide in Gaza?--Reader Responses, Part I
Nov08 Senate Races Are Getting Down and Dirty
Nov07 Today is Election Day
Nov07 Trump Legal News: Ramble On
Nov07 The Sky Is Usually Falling, Rinse and Repeat
Nov07 Johnson Is Gunning for Entitlements
Nov07 News From the Other Side of the Pond
Nov06 Poll: Trump Would Get over 300 Electoral Votes If Election Were Today
Nov06 Trump Is Planning to Really Lock Them Up
Nov06 Kim Reynolds Is Expected to Endorse DeSantis Today
Nov06 Trump Will Take the Witness Stand Today
Nov06 Appeals Court Rejects Ivanka's Attempt to Delay Testimony
Nov06 Squad Members Will Face Primaries
Nov06 Is the Democratic Party Just a Big Virtual College Campus?
Nov06 Trump Wants a Televised Trial; Jack Smith Does Not
Nov06 Fourth Republican Debate Will Be Dec. 6 in Alabama
Nov06 Lauren Boebert Has a Tough Fight on Her Hands--against a Republican
Nov06 Jury in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case Will Be Anonymous
Nov06 Could Mongolia Teach the U.S. How to Run Elections?
Nov06 Some Bits and Pieces of Site Business
Nov05 Sunday Mailbag
Nov04 Saturday Q&A
Nov03 Trump Legal News: Walking on Thin Ice
Nov03 Mike Johnson: Louder Than Words
Nov03 Senators to Tuberville: Do You Want to Rock?
Nov03 Santos and Tlaib: Riders on the Storm
Nov03 Nancy Mace: Now and Then
Nov03 I Read The News Today, Oh Boy: The Art of the Fugue
Nov03 This Week in Schadenfreude: Milkcow's Calf Blues
Nov03 This Week in Freudenfreude: You Know You're Right
Nov02 Johnson Is Confronting Biden Already
Nov02 Johnson's Finances Are Coming under Scrutiny
Nov02 Donald Trump Jr. Testifies
Nov02 Republicans Are Trying to Take Control of the Election Machinery
Nov02 How Might Third Parties Affect the Presidential Race?