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The 2024 Calendar Is Beginning to Fill In

The last few days have seen a couple of announcements about dates that are usually important ones on the political calendar, though maybe not so much in 2024.

To start, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) revealed the dates and locations for this cycle's three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate:

  • Presidential Debate #1: Texas State University in San Marcos, TX (9/16)
  • Presidential Debate #2: Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA (10/1)
  • Presidential Debate #3: University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT (10/9)
  • Vice-Presidential Debate: Lafayette College in Easton, PA (9/25)

Presumably, they were going for one red state, one blue state and the closest thing the U.S. has to an independent state (outside of Alaska, where they most certainly will not be holding a presidential debate). That said, Donald Trump won Utah twice, and he won Texas twice by margins larger than those by which Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton won Virginia. So, if there's a skew to the debate locations, it's a Trumpward skew. The fact that the first debate will be held at Lyndon B. Johnson's alma mater doesn't rebalance that. Anyhow, keep it in mind when Trump starts complaining about "bias."

There are three big questions. The first, of course, is whether Trump will show up for any of them. He claims that he wants to debate Biden: "He and I have to definitely debate. That's what I love. The two of us have to debate," he said during an interview on Fox a few months back. However—and you may not know this—Trump has been known to tell falsehoods, on occasion. For example, he most certainly doesn't love to debate—he doesn't like the prep, he doesn't like the constraints, he doesn't like that he might be asked a question or two that's not a softball. Meanwhile, the RNC has made noise about not allowing "its candidate" to debate unless some changes are made (changes that are totally unacceptable, and would compromise the integrity of the debates). If we had to bet right now, we would bet that Trump says he'd really, really love to be there, but he's a loyal party man, and the RNC just won't let him. (This despite the fact that the RNC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization.)

The second question is whether Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will qualify for one or more of the debates. The CPD set the same polling threshold it usually does, which is 15%. Right now, the king with the tinfoil crown is averaging around 14.5% in polls. So, he would need to hold on to his current support, plus expand it a bit. Truth be told, we're inclined to think he's very near his peak right now, and that it's not too likely he will make the cut after people have had 9 months to learn what he's all about. If he does make it, he'll be the first independent to pull off the feat since Ross Perot in 1992. Who, come to think of it, was also a little loony.

The third question is what Joe Biden will do if Trump skips them and Kennedy doesn't qualify, leaving nobody to debate. Would he be up for a de facto town hall? Would the CPD be willing to stage such an event? For these questions, we don't have a guess. What we can say, however, is that the ratings would be dismal. So, Biden/the CPD might be leery, just on that count. Neither the President nor the Commission would be pleased by a headline like: "One-person 'debate' draws smaller audience than 'Gilmore Girls' rerun."

Meanwhile, the other "key" date announced in the past few days is January 23. That was expected to be the date of the New Hampshire primaries, and now the Granite Staters have made it official. This means they are not in compliance with DNC rules (since "number two" South Carolina is on Feb. 3), and that Joe Biden will not be an official candidate. He may still win as a write-in and, of course, we know who's going to win in a walk on the other side of the contest. So, there is rather less drama in New Hampshire than in most years. (Z)

Happy Birthday, Mr. President... Happy Birthday to You

Please do make sure to read that headline in the voice of Marilyn Monroe. Anyhow, yesterday was Joe Biden's 81st birthday.

Biden handled the situation using the only two viable tools available for someone many voters consider to be too old: (1) He made jokes and (2) he tried to downplay the occasion. The President posted this picture of his birthday cake to Instagram:

Biden smiles, his face aglow
as a result of the large fire on top of his cake

He added this caption: "Thanks for the birthday well-wishes today, everyone. Turns out on your 146th birthday, you run out of space for candles!" We salute the self-effacing nature of that line, but we would have gone with something snappier. Like, for example: "Good thing we passed some money for green tech, since my cake is undoubtedly contributing to global warming." Or maybe: "Lit with Jewish space lasers. Thanks for the idea, Marjorie!"

Not long after posting the picture, and then pardoning the White House turkeys ("Liberty" and "Bell," this year), the President and the First Lady hustled off to Nantucket. You can be sure that you won't be hearing any more about the presidential birthday from them. It is a little fortunate for Biden, we suppose, that his birthday is about as far distant from Election Day as is possible; by the time 82 rolls around, he'll either be reelected or he'll be a lame duck.

Meanwhile, in a development that approximately zero people think is a coincidence, Donald Trump posted a doctor's letter about his health to his failing boutique social media platform:

I have been President Donald J. Trump's personal physician since 2021. During this time, I have conducted several comprehensive examinations, the most recent being September 13, 2023, and have supervised specialist consultations along with ancillary testing for screening and preventative health maintenance.

I am pleased to report that President Trump's overall health is excellent. His physical exams were well within the normal range and his cognitive exams were exceptional. In addition, his most recent extensive laboratory analysis remains well within normal limits and was even more favorable than prior testing in some of the most significant parameters, most likely secondary to weight reduction.

Cardiovascular studies are all normal and cancer screening tests are all negative. President Trump has reduced his weight through an improved diet and continued daily physical activity, while maintaining a rigorous schedule. It is my opinion that President Trump is currently in excellent health, and with his continued interest in preventative health monitoring and maintenance, he will continue to enjoy a healthy active lifestyle for years to come.

In case you missed it, the message is: "Look how healthy I am, as compared to Biden."

In contrast to the ridiculous Harold Bornstein letter from 2016, we suppose this one might actually have been written by the physician who signed it (Bruce Aronwald). At very least, it was written by someone who knows enough to avoid verbiage that a doctor would never use, like "laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent" and "[Trump] will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." That said, we don't think it actually tells us anything about the former president's health. Trump already doesn't live an "active lifestyle," so he certainly can't continue living one for years to come. Who knows what other exaggerations and outright falsehoods the letter contains?

And that's the latest from the 2024 presidential race. Things will likely be quiet for the rest of the week, thanks to the holiday. (Z)

Reminder #472 about What Kind of Presidency Trump v2.0 Would Be

Do you know about Mike Davis? No, not the urban theorist, the California politician or the jazz trombonist. The right-wing lawyer and activist. If you don't know him, let's let him introduce himself, via his Federalist Society Page:

Mike Davis, the former Chief Counsel for Nominations to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, is the founder and president of the Article III Project (A3P). A3P defends constitutionalist judges and the rule of law. Davis also leads the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), an advocacy organization fighting to rein in Big Tech, along with the Unsilenced Majority, an organization dedicated to opposing Cancel Culture and fighting back against the woke mob and their enablers...

Davis has served in all three branches of the federal government, including for President George W. Bush, the Justice Department, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and current Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Davis also led the outside support team for Justice Gorsuch's successful confirmation to the Supreme Court.

We think that tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

There's a pretty good chance you're going to be hearing Davis' name a bit next year, since he is currently the favorite to serve as AG in a second Trump administration. Not only does the Federalist Society like him, but so too do many people in Donald Trump's inner circle, including Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Don Jr.

That means that when Davis talks about what he'd do as AG, it's not just the idle ramblings of a lunatic (it might ALSO be that, but it's not JUST that). And the wannabe top law enforcement official has not been shy about his ideas. For example, he wants to encourage Americans to "arm up" against "the violent Black underclass." Davis also has big plans for pretty much everything else, which he shared in a recent interview with far-right commentator (and well-known plagiarist) Benny Johnson:

I've never been called sweet, and you called me sweet ginger. So, I think I am, Ben. But during my three week reign of terror as Trump acting attorney general before I get chased out of town with my Trump pardon, I will rain hell on Washington, D.C. We've talked about this, Ben. I have five lists, ready to go and they're growing. List number one, we're gonna fire. We're gonna fire a lot of people in the executive branch, in the deep state. Number two, we're gonna indict. We're gonna indict Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and James Biden and every other scumball, sleazeball, Biden, except for the five-year-old granddaughter who they refused to acknowledge for 5 years until the political pressure got to Joe Biden.

Number three, we're gonna deport. We're gonna deport a lot of people, 10 million people and growing—anchor babies, their parents, their grandparents. We're gonna put kids in cages. It's gonna be glorious. We're gonna detain a lot of people in the D.C. gulag and Gitmo. And list number five, I'm gonna recommend a lot of pardons. Every January 6th defendant is gonna get a pardon, especially my hero horn man. He is definitely at the top of the pardon list.

And yesterday, when MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan reported unfavorably on such rhetoric, Davis decreed that Hasan was now on the deportation list, although first Hasan would spend some time in a women's prison/gulag with former RNC spokesman Tim Miller. Miller is gay, so this is apparently meant as a homophobic slur, though one that is virtually incomprehensible. Like, the train of thought is something along the lines of "let's put straight journalist and gay RINO in women's prison together because... HOMOS!"

We suspect we'll have to write a fair number of stories along these lines this cycle. As NYU journalism prof Jay Rosen advised: "Not the odds, but the stakes." Well, Mike Davis is part of the stakes. (Z)

Ron DeSantis Continues to Sink

Boy howdy, has it been a terrible polling month for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). In one poll, he is trailing Donald Trump by 33 points (63%-30%). And the numbers don't get better if you add other candidates in; with Nikki Haley, et al. as options, DeSantis drops to 41 points behind Trump (61% to 20%). In another poll, Trump leads DeSantis by 30 (59% to 29%). In that one, when the other candidates are added, the gap expands to 39 (60% to 21%).

Oh, and there's one small thing we neglected to mention. These are not polls of the national electorate; they are polls of... Florida. When DeSantis first announced back in May, polls of the state, such as this one and this one, put DeSantis and Trump neck and neck. Now, even Floridians aren't buying what DeSantis is selling. And that is a real problem for a guy whose pitch is: "Look at all the stuff I've done for Florida; wouldn't it be great to take it nationwide?"

In short, the Governor is as done as a Thanksgiving turkey... that has been left in the oven 6 hours too long. His only hope involves a rather convoluted series of propositions:

  1. Donald Trump suffers one or more legal (or health) reverses
  2. These reverses either disqualify Trump, or cause him to drop out, or wound him fatally, or actually kill him
  3. Republicans flock to DeSantis as a replacement, as opposed to the on-the-rise Nikki Haley, or to a late entry who jumps in when the opportunity arises (Gov. Brian Kemp, R-GA?)

We suppose DeSantis still has a better chance of being elected president in 2024 than, say, we do. But not by a lot. An awful lot would have to break just right, and the odds of that are none too good. We'd say less than 1%, and you could probably talk us into something like 0.25%.

At this point, he has to decide if getting crushed in the early primaries/caucuses, and then having to head back to Florida with his tail between his legs, is better than making an announcement in which he says: "I think the Republican Party cannot be served well by someone who is in serious legal jeopardy, and so we need to unify behind the best available alternative. That's Nikki Haley right now, and so I am backing her candidacy." It would be B.S., but it might help rehabilitate his "jerk" image a bit, and would allow him to avoid a spanking in January and February.

That said, DeSantis doesn't seem like the type to accept reality, especially when that reality is in conflict with his obviously large ego. And so, he'll probably have to have reality forced upon him by voters, sometime on or about March 5 (Super Tuesday). (Z)

Ohio Republicans: If at First You Don't Succeed...

Ohio Republicans are still smarting from their big defeat on Issue 1. And, as you may have heard, there are significant elements in the Party that don't believe in accepting election results they don't like. And so, the state Assembly's Republican caucus has already issued a press release. It quotes various GOP state representatives explaining the various angles of attack they are considering:

  • Bill Dean: Issue 1 doesn't repeal a single Ohio law, in fact, it doesn't even mention one.
  • Beth Lear: No amendment can overturn the God given rights with which we were born.
  • Jennifer Gross: Foreign billionaires don't get to make Ohio laws. This is foreign election interference, and it will not stand.

The press release also contains an unattributed promise that: "To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative." That's a pretty big deal, because there are some significant issues that the courts will need to weigh in on in order to bring the new amendment in harmony with existing state law.

Since Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the Assembly (26-7 in the Senate; 67-32 in the House), it is inconceivable they won't pass something, or several somethings, once leadership has decided what angles they want to pursue. It is also inconceivable that this isn't going to end up in court. In fact, it will probably end up in state and federal court. Yet another ballot initiative, either pro- or anti-choice, seems plausible, too. In any event, this clearly isn't over.

Meanwhile, as Republicans across the country continue the fight, politics be damned, the polling on abortion gets more and more grim for them. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal released a new poll in which 55% of respondents said that women should have access to abortions in all circumstances—no limits. That is very nearly the highest number recorded in the last 50 years. On top of that, 86% of respondents want abortion to be available in cases of rape or incest and 89% percent want abortion available if the mother's life is in danger.

So, the Ohio Republicans are definitely swimming up river. And if they keep doing so into 2024, which they probably will... well, there is a Senate election there next year that Democrats really, really need to win. (Z)

Today in House Retirement News

Another day, another House member calling it quits. The latest member to exit, stage right, is Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA). He was interested in becoming a part of leadership and, in particular, he wanted to run the DCCC. Instead, the job went to Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA). With no prospects for promotion, and no new challenges to look forward to, Cárdenas decided that 6 terms will be enough for him.

The Representative's district (CA-29) occupies a big chunk of the San Fernando Valley, north of Beverly Hills (and therefore northwest of downtown Los Angeles). Here's a map:

It looks kind of like the famous Donald Duck 
gerrymandered district, although this one is not shaped that way for gerrymandering purposes

The district is D+26, and it's 68.2% Latino. We've carefully crunched the numbers, and our prediction is that Cárdenas' successor will be... a Democratic Latino/a. That kind of near-psychic ability to peer into the future is why people come to this site. There's a pretty good chance that the successor will be State Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D), since she already has Cárdenas' endorsement, and since her state assembly district overlaps quite a bit with CA-29.

In addition to Cárdenas, we also have a reverse retirement announcement, which is a little more unusual. Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) had previously announced that he would step down in order to run for the Texas state Senate. His stated reason was a desire to spend more time with his family, which would certainly be doable, since the Texas state Senate only meets for 140 days every other year.

Apparently, Fallon did not check with his family, however, since they opposed the move. Do they like the glory of having a sitting Congressman in the family? Do they not want him around that much? Was the original story a cover, and now circumstances have changed for some reason? Who knows, but Fallon will run for reelection to the House after all. His district is R+16, so whether it's him or it's someone else, the seat is going to remain in Republican hands on Jan. 3, 2025. (Z)

Argentina Goes with a Right-Wing Populist

The people of Argentina headed to the polls over the weekend, and elected Javier Milei by an 11-point margin (55%-44%). He won all but three of Argentina's 24 provinces. In short, it was a rout.

As you can see from the headline, Milei is being described as a right-wing populist, which is certainly correct, but also does not give a full picture, as some of his ideas are more traditionally conservative, while others are more anarcho-capitalist. Here's a partial rundown:

  • He wants to privatize state-run media and energy firms
  • He wants to stop printing money and use U.S. dollars as Argentina's official currency
  • He wants to cut the size of the government
  • He opposes abortion, women's equality, LGBTQ rights and sex education
  • He says that climate change, if it exists, is not man-made
  • He hates, hates, hates socialism
  • He loves Donald Trump and Israel
  • He thinks Argentine Pope Francis is an "envoy of Satan"
  • He wants to reduce immigration
  • He wants to transfer control of prisons to the military

So, Milei is quite... interesting. He also says that he will never, ever apologize for having a penis. So, if you were thinking about asking for that, don't bother. Here is a picture of him:

He has a wild hairdo,
like an unkempt David Hasselhoff

Apparently, these right-wing populist types are not legally allowed to own a comb.

Obviously, we don't follow Argentine politics all that closely, but it's pretty clear that this was a "throw the bums out" kind of election. The country has been run by the same basic Peronist coalition for decades, and the Argentinians decided they wanted to try something new in the face of rising crime, inflation, etc. Presumably they are also hoping their experiment with right-wing populism works out better than the one in neighboring Brazil. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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