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Happy Labor Day, especially to those readers who are union members!

The Snub Heard Round the World

Normally, when a hurricane hits a state hard and the president comes to survey the damage, the governor meets him at the airport and gives a tour of hardest-hit parts of the state, while holding his hand out for federal money. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) definitely wants the money, but refused to meet Joe Biden when the president showed up Saturday. DeSantis gave some lame excuse about the president's security detail interfering with the clean-up. That is total BS. The hurricane hit the least populated part of the state and the U.S.S.S. knows very well how to manage presidential visits without interfering with first responders. DeSantis is just acting like a petulant toddler and doesn't want to be seen giving Biden any credit for caring about Floridians. In all fairness, the Governor doesn't give a rat's a** about the money (or the Floridians who were wiped out). All he cares about is getting the credit for getting the money. This is presidential politics at its absolute worst and it shows DeSantis for who he really is.

It is also possible that DeSantis' campaign manager warned the candidate about appearing with Biden. His nightmare scenario is that they go visit an elderly widow who lived alone in a house that was totally destroyed by the hurricane. Biden instinctively hugs her to console her. DeSantis stares at his watch with a how-long-do-I-have-to-put-up-with-this-sh** look and barely suppresses saying, "OK, OK, we came here. The AP photographer got the shot. Now I need to get back to Iowa to warn the people how evil wokeness is." That would then be the news story of the day.

Well, guess what? It was anyway.

We're not the only ones who think so. Former representative Adam Kinzinger yesterday said: "There's a 1 percent to 2 percent chance it's logistics. There's a 98 percent to 99 percent chance it's the optics. Ron DeSantis, at the cost of the benefit to Florida, has decided his political campaign cannot have him meet with Joe Biden, the President of the United States, who ultimately will be signing the checks that Florida is going to be begging for." That said, we do disagree with Kinzinger on an important point. We believe that it's not 98-99% optics. It is 100.00% optics. The hurricane has left Florida. There is no danger for the president to visit it. The U.S.S.S. has safely protected presidents in far worse disaster situations. DeSantis simply doesn't want to be seen with Biden because the contrast between the empathetic president who is sad this event ruined so many lives and the aloof and annoyed governor who wants to get back to Iowa to campaign would shine through.

But maybe DeSantis still made the wrong call. Yes, the contrast with the always-empathetic Biden and the never-empathetic DeSantis wouldn't have looked great, but what DeSantis did is make the story be about him shunning Biden. Look at these headlines:

  • ABC Biden says: "I don't know what happened with DeSantis meeting" as he surveys Hurricane Idalia damage
  • NBC: Biden tours Hurricane Idalia damage in Florida; no meeting with Gov. DeSantis
  • Fox: DeSantis will not meet Biden on president's post-Idalia trip
  • USA Today: Biden didn't meet with DeSantis in Florida as he toured Hurricane Idalia damage
  • NYT: In Florida, even a hurricane can't sweep away presidential politics
  • WaPo: Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia's damage in Florida, without DeSantis
  • NY Post: DeSantis warns Biden post-hurricane Florida trip could be very disruptive
  • Politico: After DeSantis no-show, Scott stands next to Biden in Florida
  • Yahoo: Biden surveys storm damage in Florida, without DeSantis
  • NH Union Leader: With DeSantis absent, Biden surveys storm damage in Florida
  • The Hill: Biden, DeSantis keep their distance during president's Florida visit
  • Barron's: White House race overshadows Biden visit to Florida hurricane zone
  • Newsweek: Ron DeSantis accused of "playing politics" after Biden hurricane visit snub
  • AOL: Biden heads to Florida as DeSantis nixes meeting with president: Hurricane Idalia updates
  • Reuters: Biden surveys storm damage in Florida, without DeSantis
  • Japan Today: Biden surveys storm damage in Florida; will not meet with DeSantis
  • The Australian: Race overshadows Biden visit to Florida

How do you say "tin ear" with a Florida accent? What DeSantis accomplished is turning a routine story about a presidential visit to a disaster area into a story about "The Snub." Even as far away as Japan and Australia, that's the story. Black women are already the Democrats' strongest subgroup, but after seeing this photo, are there going to be any Black women in the country who would vote for DeSantis over Biden?

Biden consoling a Florida woman after Hurricane Idalia

The only Florida Republican who came out of this disaster (by which we mean "The Snub," not the hurricane) looking good is Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). Even though he is obnoxious and heartily disliked in the Senate, he did exactly what he should have. He met with Biden, explained how bad the situation was for all those people in Florida, and asked politely for federal help. If Biden is smart, he will deliver the aid and then give Scott, not DeSantis, the credit for making him aware how much it was needed. Here is the photo of Biden with Scott where DeSantis should have been standing:

Rick Scott talking to Biden

And whaddya know? Biden IS smart. He commended Scott and said that he was pleased that Scott was present, even though they do not agree on very much at all. If in a month or a year, all Floridians remember is that Scott got them federal help, DeSantis will be furious, but whose fault will that be? Paging Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Are you off in Cancun, or what? (V)

Trump Is Running Out of Other People's Money to Pay His Lawyers

Donald Trump is already facing four criminal trials, as well as a civil trial from NY AG Letitia James, and a defamation case from E. Jean Carroll. There could be others in the future. He needs a vast number of lawyers to handle all these cases. Lawyers who are willing to work for a radioactive client famous for stiffing his lawyers and equally famous for not listening to the advice his lawyers give him will not be easy to find. And for those Trump does find, he is: (1) going to have to pay through the nose and (2) pay in advance. Given these facts, he is going to need tens of millions of dollars to pay retainers. This is becoming a huge problem.

USA Today talked to defense lawyers about the economics of Trump's situation. Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, said that a 2- or 3-week trial can easily cost at least $10 million. She also noted that the RICO trial is particularly complicated and may go on for more than 3 weeks. Consequently, $10 million is probably a best case. Most likely it will cost much more.

Bruce Udolf, also a former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney (are you getting a sense of where the real money is to be had?), said a top white-collar lawyer won't do it for less than $2-3 million. Udolf also said that the complexity of a racketeering case where Fulton County DA Fani Willis is charging that Trump's many criminal acts in many states with 18 other people form a criminal enterprise is enormous. Consequently, it is going to require many lawyers (at $2-3 million and up, each) and possibly a months-long trial. But even the other criminal cases are going to require multiple lawyers. Letitia James' case may also require multiple accountants and other property and tax specialists.

Sara Kropf, a partner at a small criminal defense firm in D.C said that the hourly rate for lawyers for the kinds of cases Trump has are in the ballpark of $2,000/hour (say, $100,000/week because they have to work at least 50-hour weeks). With, say, five lawyers and plenty of paralegals and assistants, Trump could be looking at a burn rate of half a megabuck per week. And this will have to go on for months of research and preparation and perhaps 6-8 weeks of trial. And this is for each of the four big cases (D.C., Georgia, and Florida plus James' case). (Alvin Bragg's case is much simpler and will be cheaper.) You do the math. Our calculator can't handle numbers this big, and since the staff mathematician doesn't have to work on Labor Day, well...

The E. Jean Carroll case could be managed by one lawyer because it is simple (but almost hopeless). The problem in that one isn't the lawyer's fee. It's the judgment. In her first defamation lawsuit, the jury found Trump liable and ordered him to pay $5 million for defaming her. So what did he do? He defamed her again so she sued again. Given this background the jury could go up to $10 million, $20 million, or $50 million this time because he knew exactly what he was doing, knew the consequences, and did it anyway. Juries don't like that. And the trial will be in New York, where the jury pool is almost as bad for Trump as it is in D.C. Maybe worse since, after all, the people in New York have known him for decades.

Up until now, Trump's solution was to fleece the rubes and get them to pay. The money was funneled through his Save America PAC. A more accurate name would be Save Trump PAC, but that might be hard to swallow, even for the rubes. The Save America PAC has raised $154.6 million and spent $150.7 million of it. It has $3.7 million in the bank now. The $150.7 million wasn't all spent on lawyers, but $38.4 million was. The rest went for travel, payroll for aides to Trump and Melania, event production, and helping election deniers win public office. But now the legal fees are going to be a huge part of the upcoming immense burn rate, not leaving much for campaigning.

Trump does have some other resources. Make America Great Again Inc. had $30.8 million on June 30 and his official campaign account had $22.5 million then. But that was 2 months ago and both have been spending since then. And he can't afford to spend most of that on lawyers because he has a campaign to run, TV ads to pay for, and a substantial staff to pay.

Trump makes Uncle Scrooge look like a big spender but could he (Trump, not Scrooge) pay his own legal expenses if he had to? Forbes has estimated that his real net worth might be $2.5 billion, most of which is tied up in hotels and golf courses he owns. Their estimate is that he might have $425 million in liquid assets, so if he weren't so averse to spending his own money, he could probably pay his lawyers out of pocket if he was pushed to the limit. But for him, giving away so much money to lawyers, whom he despises, would be an abomination. (V)

Trump Is Not Paying for His Co-Defendants' Defense

But Donald Trump's own legal woes aren't his only legal woes. He has 18 co-defendants in the Georgia RICO case and six unindicted co-conspirators in the D.C. case. There is an excellent chance that Special Counsel Jack Smith is going to indict the latter, and possibly some of the former, sooner or later. All in all, that is almost two dozen people who are probably in a position to rat on Trump—because switching sides and helping the prosecution could save them millions of dollars in legal fees and get them a fine and a short prison sentence instead of millions in lawyers' fees and years in prison.

Four of his co-defendants in the RICO case have turned to crowdfunding. Cathy Latham raised $8,630 when we reported on her last Monday. She is now up to $17,790. If she continues to take in $10,000 a week, it will take her until March 2024 to raise the $300,000 she thinks she needs, and typically, the big fundraising is at the beginning, when the person is in the news, not 4-6 months later.

One of the other co-defendants spent a week in jail because he couldn't find a local attorney and the public defender turned him down for undisclosed reasons (maybe he earns too much). Is Trump going to pay for any of his co-defendants' legal costs? Nope. He has said he won't and that he doesn't even know a lot of them. Just because they aren't as famous as Trump doesn't mean that their legal costs will be lower, though. If the RICO case goes on for 2, 3, 4, or more months, which is common for complex RICO cases, they have to keep paying their lawyers the whole time. It's going to add up. Latham may be fooling herself that $300,000 will be enough.

One small hope for them is that Trump's adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., have formed a legal defense fund that could help the co-defendants. But will people give big money to defend people like Latham who are not rock star-type criminals?

A few of the co-defendants are well-known enough to raise serious money on their own. John Eastman, who became famous for flogging the "fake electors" scheme dreamed up by Ken "The Cheese" Chesebro, has raised $500,000 so far. But he is in very big trouble—much more than, say, Latham, who is a pawn in the case. Jeffrey Clark, who is more of a knight rather than a pawn (or a rook, like Eastman) has raised only $56,000. Jenna Ellis, a right-wing attorney who represented Trump in 2020, has raised $180,000 on the Christian site GiveSendGo. She is also more involved than a low-level pawn like Latham. Call her a bishop. She has openly complained: "I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn't MAGA, Inc. funding everyone's defense?" Conservative leader Matt Schlapp said he has had political differences with Ellis, but she is being prosecuted for her beliefs. He's not going to help her, though, because he has is own legal troubles. He has been sued by a male staffer to former Senate candidate Herschel Walker for "aggressively fondling the staffer's genital area in a sustained fashion." After that, Schlapp invited the staffer to visit his hotel room, which the staffer declined. Schlapp denies the allegations, but within hours of the alleged incident, the staffer told four other staffers about it. They will surely be called as witnesses if the case goes to trial.

Going back to our chess analogy, the queen is Rudy Giuliani. If you can't figure out who the king is, that suggests either: (1) you don't play chess, or (2) this is your first day on our site, in which case, "Welcome!" Giuliani made a personal appeal to Trump to pay his legal costs, but Trump refused, although he did cover the bill Giuliani ran up with a data vendor.

Giuliani is central to the D.C. case and the Georgia case, and knows everything, but so far has kept his mouth shut. He just lost a lawsuit to the two Georgia election workers he defamed. The judge has ordered him to pay $133,000 right now to the women to cover their legal fees—and this is before a trial later this year or early next year to determine how much he has to pay the women for their pain and suffering, which is expected to be in the millions.

Giuliani's lawyers have said he is facing mounting "financing troubles" due to his burn rate on legal representation. That is why he is trying to sell his co-op apartment for $6.5 million. But there could be one or more mortgages on it, so he might not clear $6.5 million even if he sells it for that price. And then there are multiple fees and taxes to be paid.

Giuliani's former backers are turning their, well, backs on him. Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, who contributed to his disastrous and short-lived 2008 presidential run, said: "I wouldn't give him a nickel. He was 'America's mayor.' He did a great job. And like everybody else who gets involved with Trump, it turns to sh*t." NASCAR CEO Brian France, another former Giuliani backer, said he was disappointed in how Giuliani has transformed from what he once was to what he now is. (V)

The Primaries and the Trial

The D.C. conspiracy case brought by Jack Smith is currently scheduled to start on March 4, 2024. That could change, but Judge Tanya Chutkan is famous for her rocket docket and seems unlikely to move the case unless she and Georgia Judge Scott McAfee decide together to let the RICO case start then. In either case, a trial is likely to start on March 4, 2024. The D.C. trial is expected to last at least 6 weeks, maybe a week or two longer. The RICO case could go on for months.

Meanwhile, the caucuses and primaries are starting Jan. 15, 2024, kicking off with Iowa. In fact, all four early states will be finished by March 4. How will the trial and the primaries interact? The New York Times has produced this bar chart showing the delegate allocation in relation to a 6-week trial starting March 4:

Delegate allocation before, during, and after a 6-week trial starting on March 4, 2024.

The obvious conclusion is that at least 65% and possibly more of the delegates to the Republican National Convention will have been chosen before there is a verdict. Even if the D.C. Court of Appeals acts with lightning speed, it is likely that 80-90% of the delegates will be chosen before it rules. That means there is a pretty good chance that Donald Trump will be a convicted felon and his appeal will be turned down by the July 15 starting bell for the Republican National Convention. Of course, Trump will appeal an unfavorable verdict to the Supreme Court (the government cannot appeal an acquittal). By late June, some of the justices will be giving lectures around the world, some will be hanging out on a beach somewhere, and others will be taking all-expenses paid exotic vacations with Republican megadonors. It seems unlikely the Court would even hear the case before September, let alone rule on it. But these are such uncharted waters, no one knows how it will go. However, the chance that Trump has way more than 50% of the bound delegates and is also a convicted felon by July 15 is probably at least 50%. It should make for an interesting convention.

To clear up matters, on March 5, 2024 (Super Tuesday), 15 states with about 35% of the delegates will vote. By the time the voting has started, the voir dire might not even be finished. In federal cases, it is done by the judge, not the lawyers, but the judge asks the lawyers for possible questions to ask the potential jurors. Even if Chutkan does the voir dire the week before March 4, the first day of the trial will just consist of Jack Smith outlining his case, the broad strokes of which are already well known (Trump conspired with six other people to overturn an election he lost). It is very unlikely the first day of the trial will change any voter's mind.

If one or more other candidates are still in the race and viable, those candidates could certainly capitalize on the trial. Their argument will be "I'll give you the same policies Trump would, and I'm not going to be in prison in the fall, so I am a safer bet."

Many right-wing media outlets have claimed that the date was set to hurt Trump in the primaries. But as you can see from the chart above, by the time the trial is over, most of the delegates will already have been chosen. That is certainly true if the jury deliberation takes a couple of weeks. By the time the appeal is finished, all of them will have been chosen. If you are looking for a good source on primary dates, try this one. Besides the 15 states that will vote on March 5, a key day will come 2 weeks later, on March 19, when Florida and Ohio will hold winner-take-all primaries. If Trump does well on March 5 and then wins Florida and Ohio, he will be unstoppable.

One other matter could affect the primaries: Trump's presence. Generally speaking, defendants are required to be present during their trials. If Judge Chutkan insists that he be there (possibly by revoking his bail if he doesn't cooperate) he won't be able to campaign in March and at best 2 weeks in April, maybe less if the trial runs longer than 6 weeks. He's not going to like being taken off the campaign trail for roughly 2 months. He might try to make up for it by sending out 20, 30, or even 50 tweets every night, some of which could land him in legal trouble.

The state parties have to submit their primary plans to the RNC by Oct. 1. Might they leave themselves some wiggle room by saying, for example, that if a majority of the delegation votes to unbind themselves from the primary winner, they are thus unbound? That seems unlikely because Trumpists now control many state parties, something that was not true in 2016, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) instigated a fight within the rules committee. Trump himself now understands how the delegate selection process works on the ground, and is actively down in the weeds making sure all the rules favor him.

Some of the candidates who are not really viable may stay in the race until the bitter end in the hopes that the magic unicorn—a brokered convention— shows up in Milwaukee when hundreds of delegates refuse to vote for a convicted felon. Then the rogue delegates could choose them. Of course, the convention could also pick someone not in the race at all, like Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA). The risk here is that Trump would either run as an independent or actively encourage his supporters to write him in, at least in states where write-in votes are counted. In short, we are in for interesting times. (V)

Florida Judge Vetoes the Congressional Map DeSantis Drew

After the 2020 census, Florida got an extra House seat and was thus forced to redistrict. The Republican-controlled legislature went at it with a vengeance and produced a hugely gerrymandered map that they presented to Ron DeSantis to sign off on. He refused and vetoed the map. Instead he drew his own map that was even more gerrymandered than the one the legislators dared make. In particular, DeSantis' map chopped up FL-05, a majority-Black district that ran along the Georgia border and covered the Black areas of Tallahassee and Jacksonville. The district had previously elected Al Lawson, a Black former state representative. The legislature approved DeSantis' map and he signed the bill, eliminating one Black Democrat from the Florida delegation.

The Democrats sued. On Saturday, a state judge ruled that the Florida map that DeSantis drew violated the state Constitution. Specifically, the Fair Districts Amendment to the state Constitution states that lawmakers can't redraw maps that diminish minority voters' ability to elect a representative of their choosing. The state has already said it will appeal. The case will surely get to the Florida Supreme Court. It could possibly get into the federal courts, although the issue is the meaning of a provision of the Florida Constitution, which is not a federal matter.

If the judge's ruling sticks, that will be +1 for the Democrats. Throw in similar cases in Alabama and Louisiana, and that is +3 for the Democrats. There are also a couple of other cases in progress. The Republicans will have a five-vote majority after the vacant Utah seat is filled (see below). They can ill afford to lose three seats due to court rulings. (V)

Why Do Republicans Really Support Russia over Ukraine?

Ronald Reagan famously hated the Soviet Union and called it "The Evil Empire." On stage at the Republican debate, Vivek Ramaswamy was positively fawning over Russia, and Ron DeSantis didn't think Russia's invasion of a democratic country was a big deal. He has called it a "mere territorial dispute." Some of the other Republicans are closer to Ramaswamy than they are to Reagan. What happened?

Well for one thing, Donald Trump regards Vladimir Putin as his best friend. But with Trump, one always needs to look for ulterior motives that benefit Trump directly. He would no doubt regard a deal in which he traded America's most closely guarded nuclear secrets for permission to build a 100-story Trump Tower Moscow (with the top floor being a penthouse gifted to Putin) as FANTASTIC. To some extent, other candidates are just parroting him. Tucker Carlson is also a loud pro-Russia voice and has been for years.

In contrast, most Republicans dislike China intensely with the same fervor that Reagan reserved for Russia. Why the hatred for China and love for Russia? Neither of them has the U.S.' best interests at heart. Both are dictatorships. The underlying reason may actually be straightforward: racism and bigotry. For all its many failings, in the end Russia is a white, conservative, Christian country. China is not. Putin embraces the Russian Orthodox Church and vice-versa. Xi Jinping despises Christianity and vice-versa. Even worse, China is officially an atheist country, although a small amount of religious practice is tolerated provided it is low key and doesn't threaten Xi's power (it's also worth noting that most traditional Chinese religions aren't theistic, anyhow).

Even without Trump or Ramaswamy saying it explicitly, many Republican voters understand what is going on. When they see images of Putin, they see a powerful, white, Christian man. If he had been born in St. Petersburg, FL, instead of St. Petersburg, Russia, he could have been a Florida senator. Xi does not evoke that kind of image.

The attitudes toward Russia and China are very partisan. A Gallup poll in March showed that by 23 points, Democrats see Russia as a greater enemy than China. Republicans, by 64 points, think China is the bigger enemy. A 2021 study showed that white Americans who exhibit a high degree of racial resentment are more likely to see China as a military threat than those who don't. This wasn't always the case. In the 1940s and 1950s, conservative white Christians supported Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. A study by the Pew Research Center showed that white non-Latino evangelicals were 25 points more likely to hold a "very unfavorable" view of China than religiously unaffiliated Americans.

So the bottom line is that for many conservative white Christians, the rise of China is not only a threat to American power, it is also a threat to conservative white Christian power. Russia does not threaten conservative white Christian power. It supports it. (V)

Highways Are the New Battleground

Alabama AG Steve Marshall has argued in court that he can prosecute anyone who helps a woman travel out of state to get an abortion. This could mean a neighbor who drives her to North Carolina or maybe a gas station attendant who filled up her car just off I-59, even though he had no idea he was abetting an abortion. Or maybe the airline check-in agent at the Birmingham Airport. If Marshall goes after only people who knowingly help facilitate an abortion, every defendant will claim they didn't know the woman's plans ("She told me she always wanted to go to 'Shindig on the Green,' so I thought that was her reason for going to Ashville"). Marshall cited an Alabama law saying that a conspiracy in Alabama to perform an act in another state that would be a crime in Alabama can be prosecuted in Alabama.

Of course, once you go down the road of criminalizing plans to go to another state to do things that are not legal in the home state, that opens to door to all kinds of stuff. Could planning a trip to go to Las Vegas to gamble be prosecuted in a state where gambling was illegal? What about someone planning a trip from California to Texas to buy an AR-15, which is legal in Texas but not legal in California? There would be no end to it. Of course, the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, not the states. An attempt to criminalize an attempt to go to a different state to go do something legal there would probably run afoul of this power.

Actually enforcing such a law would require a police state. Would all women of child-bearing age be forced to take pregnancy tests when leaving the state and when reentering it? Would this violate the Fourth Amendment ("no unreasonable search and seizure")? If Alabama really went that route, would businesses want to open facilities in Alabama? Would Alabama become a pariah?

Alabama isn't the only jurisdiction trying to politicize the roads. Several counties and towns in Texas have passed ordinances making it illegal to transport anyone on local roads for the purpose of getting an abortion. In many others, similar ordinances are pending. The laws generally allow any private person to sue any person or organization suspected of violating the ordinance. Since these would technically be civil suits rather than criminal proceedings, the standard of proof would be "preponderance of evidence," not "beyond a reasonable doubt." Neighbors would be suing neighbors. It would be hell and everyone in Texas is armed to the teeth.

Anti-abortion activists are focusing on main roads around airports, roads that connect to the Interstate Highway System, and roads that lead to other states. There has been a huge battle in Llano, TX, a town of 3,200 which is smack in the middle of the state and the junction of several main roads that cross the state east to west and north to south. Many of the counties on the border with New Mexico are working on similar ordinances because although Texas bans nearly all abortions, New Mexico allows them at any point a doctor deems necessary. But as in Alabama, are state troopers going to stop every car traveling in either direction between the states and interrogate all the women at gunpoint? Would the Supreme Court allow that?

In some other places the battle is muted. Door County, WI, is a bellwether county. It has voted with the winner in every presidential election since 2000 and all but two times in the past 50 years. It also voted with the winners in all state and federal races in 2022. Republicans there realize that abortion is a huge problem for them. At the county fair, Republicans had a booth with small cards showing fetuses, but they kept them almost out of sight.

County Republicans understand that abortion galvanizes the other side as much as it galvanizes their side and far more people are on the other side. If abortion is the main issue in 2024, they will lose. The conservative state assemblyman whose district includes Door County, Joel Kitchens, is worried that abortion could box his party in. He saw Tim Michels (R) lose the gubernatorial race last year while opposing abortion against a candidate, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI), who is pro-choice. He thinks that banning abortions except for rape and incest is a good compromise, but is dimly aware that position is not a winner. On the other hand, the County GOP chairwoman, Stephanie Soucek, disagrees and wants to ban all abortions, period. Kitchens doesn't really want to get into a fight with Soucek and end up somewhere in the middle when he realizes even his position is a loser, let alone hers. But the battle goes on, even in the Upper Midwest. (V)

But Democrats Are Fighting Back

Democrats are well aware that abortion is their strongest issue and Republican laws banning the use of public roads for transporting people to abortion clinics is just so much more grist for their mills. They know what happened in all the statewide initiatives on abortion in 2022 and are going to act accordingly. In particular, Joe Biden's campaign is in the process of spending $25 million to run the ad below, entitled "These guys," in the battleground states.

The message is that reproductive health care is the woman's decision, and "the last people who should be involved are these guys." The Democrats' intention is to just keep hammering on abortion from now until Nov. 2024, attempting to make it the biggest issue of the campaign and the one that people base their vote on. Maybe if Donald Trump is a convicted felon by then, that issue will get a little airplay, too, but abortion is still the one the Democrats will be flogging for all it's worth.

A new PAC, "No Dem Left Behind," is starting to train activists to talk to voters about freedom and how it is a founding principle of the country. The argument is that you make the decisions about your life, not the government. That could even appeal to some Republicans who don't like the idea of the government telling people what they can and cannot do. If a Republican tells one of the activists that it is all right for the government to tell a woman that she can't have an abortion, the response could be "Is it also all right if that same government tells the woman that she must be vaccinated or go to jail?" The group is going to focus on talking to rural Republicans, who tend to oppose the idea of the government telling people what they can and cannot do.

Jennifer Holdsworth, a Democratic strategist, said: "You can't run a party talking about freedom and then base one of your major policies on taking one of the most fundamental freedoms away from half the population." RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said that she hopes Republicans can put out a good response when the question of abortion comes up, but she didn't specify what that response might be. (V)

Arizona Republicans Are at War with Each Other

Maricopa County, AZ, Republicans want to opt out of the state's government-run primary and hold their own one-day, in-person-only election on March 19, 2024. It would use paper ballots only and they would be hand-counted. Under state law, parties can opt out, but then they have to pay for the election themselves. The battle is tearing the state party to pieces. The state party chairman, Jeff DeWit, says that the state party, which is nearly broke, doesn't have the money, manpower, or infrastructure to run an election for an estimated 1.4 million eligible voters.

The battle pits the hard-line Trumpists (who don't trust the state to run elections, hate early voting, and despise absentee voting) against those who accept Trump's loss and want to move on. Craig Berland, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee, is one of the hard-liners. He said: "The actions taken by the MCRC are in solidarity with President Donald J. Trump, who has been persecuted, arrested and indicted for taking the very same positions." Actually, Trump has not taken a position on the MCRC plan. But the RNC definitely noticed it and doesn't like the plan at all. Pretend-Arizona-governor Kari Lake supports the MCRC plan and has talked to Trump about it, but so far he has not weighed in. His close aide, Susie Wiles, has said that Trump does not plan to state a position on the proposal.

The MCRC plan runs counter to the new RNC position on early voting. For several years the RNC was against it, but the current view is "Why give the Democrats 30 days to vote and our people only 1 day?" The reality in Arizona is that early voting is very popular, with the vast majority of votes being cast before Election Day, many of them by absentee ballot.

Late Friday, the Republican state party voted down the MCRC proposal and agreed to a state-run primary. This doesn't mean that Berland et al. are going to say: "OK, you won, we're with you on this now." The infighting will continue. Meanwhile, the Democrats are fine with a state-run primary and have agreed to it with no arguments. (V)

Small Donors Are the Problem, Not the Solution

Campaign financing is a huge issue. Democrats blame dark money from billionaires for many of the country's problems. Republicans are jealous of how effective Democrats are at getting small donations. A recent study sheds some light on small donations, and it is less wonderful than some people would like. In 2006, there were just 5.2 million small (under $200) donations. In 2020 there were 195 million. In the same period, the average donation dropped from $292 to $60. However, it turns out that small donors are far more ideological than the average voter in either party. Small Democratic donors are far to the left of the average Democratic voter and small Republican donors are far to the right of the average Republican voter. By taking away one of the parties' main functions (financing campaigns), the small donors are polarizing the country far more than the parties themselves. They are also driving the parties away from the center rather than toward it.

Put in other terms, the distribution of donors is bimodal, with a big peak at very liberal, another big peak at very conservative, with not much in between. The distribution of all voters is the normal bell curve, with one peak in the middle and tailing off toward the edges.

In the past, the parties put together "big tents," trying to bind their most extreme and centrist voters together. With financing now done outside the parties' control, the parties are withering and extreme candidates can easily be nominated and sometimes win these days. The presidential election of 2016 is the poster child for this. The institutional Republican Party hated Donald Trump and preferred all of the other 16 candidates to him. But they got him anyway.

Prof. Nathan Persily of Stanford has observed that the trend in campaign finance has been to "move money from accountable actors, the political parties, to unaccountable groups." The parties used to bind their voters together. They can't do that if they don't control the money supply anymore. The top five members of Congress ranked by percentage of their money that came from small donors are Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (70%), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) (68%), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (58%), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) (62%), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (58%). Is it surprising that they are among the most extreme members of each party? No, because the parties can't exert any pressure on them. They raise their own money so the parties can't bring them to heel by cutting off the party money. They don't need it.

It is true, of course, that another driver of extremism that is weakening the parties is the growth of super PACs funded by dark money. They often support candidates the parties oppose, typically candidates the parties consider too extreme. In 2006, spending by the parties was much more than by independent groups. By 2016, independent groups were spending twice what the parties were spending. This tends to drive partisanship and split the country. While in the past, dark-money funding independent groups was mostly on the Republican side, by 2018, the Democrats had caught up.

Another factor weakening the parties and driving polarization is social media, where you get much more attention for taking extreme positions than for taking centrist ones. All in all, these factors are causing the parties to lose control of the process and propel extreme candidates to nominations and elections, creating national polarization. Not many people like this, but no solutions are in sight. (V)

Utah Could Elect a Trump-Hating, Abortion-Supporting Republican to the House

Tomorrow, Utah Republicans will pick their candidate for the special election that will fill the seat of Chris Stewart (R), who resigned from the House to take care of his sick wife. Whoever wins the Republican primary is expected to easily beat state Sen. Kathleen Riebe (D) in the general special election in the R+11 district.

In the only public poll in the race, former state Rep. Becky Edwards (R) is leading the other candidates, but half the voters are undecided. The district is the least Republican in a heavily gerrymandered state. What is unusual here is that Edwards voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and supported the impeachment of Donald Trump in Jan. 2021. She was also not happy with the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, this puts her out of step with most of the House Republican caucus and could make her a real thorn in the side of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who needs every vote on every bill.

The other major candidates are RNC committeeman Bruce Hough and attorney Celeste Maloy. They are more conservative than Edwards. It is possible that Edwards did well in the poll due to higher name recognition than Hough and Maloy. Edwards ran in the Republican Senate primary against Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and got 30% of the vote. While not enough to beat Lee, it did give her a statewide profile, which she is exploiting now.

On the other hand, despite Lee being a senator, Utah is not a MAGA state and the other senator, Mitt Romney (R-UT) is no friend of Donald Trump. Consequently, it is entirely possible that Edwards could pull off a surprise win in a low-turnout special election primary. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep03 Sunday Mailbag
Sep02 Saturday Q&A
Sep01 Trump Legal News: Not Guilty
Sep01 DeSantis Has Troubles: Bye, Bye, Love
Sep01 Clarence Thomas Amends Disclosures: You're Not Sorry
Sep01 Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Sep01 My Gift is My Song, August 31: Rock of Ages
Sep01 This Week in Schadenfreude: Everything Happens To Me
Sep01 This Week in Freudenfreude: Child Is Father of the Man
Aug31 Meadows' Gambit May Backfire
Aug31 There Are Three Republican Parties
Aug31 Giuliani Loses the Lawsuit from Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss
Aug31 Letitia James Claims that Trump Inflated His Net Worth by $2.2 Billion
Aug31 Frozen Turtle--Again
Aug31 DeSantis Refuses to Accept $350 Million for Florida
Aug31 The Democrats May Have An(other) Economic Issue that Works
Aug31 Republicans Are Working on a New Campaign Finance Loophole
Aug31 Republicans Have a Senate Candidate in Michigan
Aug31 Masters Will Try Again
Aug31 Big Republican Donor Joins the No Labels Team
Aug31 The House Toss-Up Races Look Good for the Democrats
Aug31 The Democratic Party Is at War with ... the Democratic Party
Aug30 One Florida Man Down... Two to Go?
Aug30 Trump Likes Vivek
Aug30 Trump Has a New Hampshire Problem, Too--And No Guy from Vermont to Solve It
Aug30 The Fourteenth Amendment, Part I: The Passage of the Amendment
Aug30 Democracy Is Not Doing Well in Tennessee
Aug29 Trump Legal News: The Washington Post March
Aug29 The GOP Debate, Part I: Dead Kitten Bounce for Ramaswamy?
Aug29 The GOP Debate, Part II: Of Course DeSantis Was Full of Sh**
Aug29 The GOP Debate, Part III: Reader Assessments
Aug29 Is the Pope Catholic?
Aug28 The Legal Beagles Have Been Unleashed
Aug28 Follow the Money
Aug28 Does Being Indicted Help Trump?
Aug28 Can Trump Go Home?
Aug28 Biden Has a New Hampshire Problem--And a Guy from Vermont Could Solve It
Aug28 Did Putin Win the Debate?
Aug28 Keep an Eye on Youngkin
Aug28 Tech Platforms Are Giving Up on Banning Disinformation
Aug28 Does Absentee Voting Help One Party More Than the Other?
Aug27 Sunday Mailbag
Aug26 Saturday Q&A
Aug25 Trump Legal News: Kodachrome
Aug25 The Day After the Debate: Say Say Say
Aug25 A Fool and Their Money?, Part I: Fields of Gold
Aug25 A Fool and Their Money?, Part II: Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang
Aug25 This Week in Schadenfreude: Dirty Laundry
Aug25 This Week in Freudenfreude: Edge of Seventeen
Aug24 Not Much Sugar in Cream City