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Takeaways from Trump's Indictment

Many media outlets have published lists of takeaways from Jack Smith's indictment of Donald Trump. Here are a few samples:


And this is only the first half of the list. Each of the above headlines is described in detail in the article linked to above. We get the impression that MSNBC does not like Trump very much, but we could be wrong.

The New York Times The Washington Post CNN NBC New York Daily News AP Politico

Now a couple of voices from abroad.

The Guardian BBC

A couple of things stand out here. It was all about trying to stay in power. There are six co-conspirators (which probably means more indictments later). Trump knew he lost and he lied about everything anyway. The fake electors scheme is probably important for multiple reasons. Needless to say, analysis of the indictment is going to go on for days. (V)

How the Other Candidates Responded to the Indictment

All the other Republican candidates have a lot riding on what happens to Donald Trump. In fact, his future is by far the most important factor in their campaigns. They live or die by him. No doubt all of them are hoping he will be locked up as fast as possible, but do they dare say that? Here is a quick rundown of the reactions of those candidates who had something to say about the indictment:

So we have three candidates who are clearly running against Trump (which is two too many) and the rest are hiding under the table, scared to death of him. Good to know that. (V)

Georgia on My Mind

Usually you get only three strikes, but when you are a star, apparently you get four. Donald Trump has already had the first three strikes, one pitched by Alvin Bragg and two pitched by Jack Smith. Now Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis gets to try for a fourth one. It's not going to be easy for her. She is already getting racist threats, and she hasn't done anything yet. Just wait until she does.

The idea of a Black woman trying to put their favorite president in prison is something that seems to rub some of Trump's supporters the wrong way and they are letting her know about it. She apparently expected this and told her employees about it. She also told them it is going to get worse. But she is not going to back down. She said: "I took an oath. No one other than the citizens of Fulton County put me in this seat. I have every intention of doing my job." Trump filed a lawsuit to get her off the case but a judge ruled on Monday that there is no reason to remove her. Willis asked Fulton County authorities to increase security around the courthouse so when she shows up there, possibly as early as tomorrow or next week, they will be prepared for trouble. We haven't seen any stories about Jack Smith receiving any racist or other threats, but maybe that is because the prosecutor there is a middle-aged white man with a beard who grew up in a small town in upstate New York and later moved to Tennessee. He could have been a Trump supporter, but he missed his chance.

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat held a press conference on Tuesday and said that if Trump were to be indicted, he would not receive any special treatment. He would be booked and a mug shot taken, the same way as every other defendant is. Normally, the procedure is done at the county jail, but Labat also said that if the Secret Service, which is guarding Trump, wants to change the booking procedure, that could alter his plans. Labat also said that he was aware of the dozens of threats made against Willis and local judges. He additionally noted that some of them were being investigated and one person has been arrested.

The Georgia case could be potentially quite different from Smith's case, which is only against Trump, at least for the moment. Rumors about Willis' case suggest that as many as 20 people may be indicted, probably including the 16 fake electors, Rudy Giuliani, and a couple of others. Many of the electors are just Republican officials or activists and were not expecting to be indicted when they signed up as fake electors. We suspect that most of them are going to be wetting their pants shortly and are prime candidates for singing like canaries.

Labat's plans to treat Trump like a common criminal are in contrast to what happened in the New York case brought by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg. There Trump was handled with kid gloves and no mug shot was taken. (V)

The Candidates Are Burning Through Their Cash

Presidential campaigns are horrendously expensive and both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are burning through cash at a prodigious rate. Trump's main PAC, Save America, began last year with $105 million in the bank. Now it is down to $4 million. A large chunk of its money has gone to pay Donald Trump's many lawyers. In fact, so much went for lawyers that Save America is asking Trump's super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., to return $60 million it gave it earlier this year. So far, MAGA Inc. has given back $12 million. That is nearly the entire amount MAGA Inc. raised from donors this year.

This movement of money is due to the fact that the laws are different for political action committees (like Save America) and super PACs (like MAGA, Inc.). PACs, such as Save America, are banned from spending money to aid campaigns. Trump's had a lot of money, so it gave $60 million to MAGA Inc., which CAN spend money on campaigns. Super PACs can raise unlimited money but regular PACs have a $5,000 per donor limit. The whole thing leaks like a sieve and Trump's lawyers are exploiting that to the hilt. But the bottom line here is that money is running short and not coming in at the rate that it is going out. With trials expected in four jurisdictions in the next year, the burn rate will shoot up astronomically. Therefore Trump has to balance campaign expenses against legal expenses and put money where it is currently needed. He will also have to up the grift. The griftees can now expect at least one email an hour telling them that their donation will be matched 1000%, 2000%, or some other magical and made-up number, but only if they send the money within the hour.

DeSantis' situation is different. He is just spending like a drunken sailor. His super PAC has burned through $34 million in recent months while his standing in the polls has dropped like a stone. Nevertheless, the super PAC, Never Back Down, had $97 million at the end of June, more than Trump and vastly more than any other Republican candidate. Most of that ($82 million) came from his state PAC. As a sitting governor with power to affect many businesses in Florida, DeSantis could count on money just magically flowing in. Also, early in the cycle, big donors, many of whom are afraid Trump can't beat Biden, were betting heavily on DeSantis and dropping large amounts of cash into his super PAC. They have become much more cautious of late.

DeSantis' campaign, which is a different entity from the super PAC, has already hit financial problems and has laid off a third of the campaign staff. You don't do that if the money is streaming in. DeSantis was never good with small donors and now that the big donors are taking a wait-and-see approach, times are tight.

Trump is obviously willing to bend the law about what PACs and super PACs can do to the breaking point and then just keep going. So is DeSantis, only differently. What he is doing is having his super PAC pay for all kinds of expenses that normally a campaign pays for, like running events, polling, and much more. This is illegal, but when you have a nomination to win and you are out of cash, who cares about pesky laws? (V)

Being a Copycat Isn't a Good Campaign Plan

Ron DeSantis has observed that Donald Trump is very popular with the Republican base. He wants to be popular with the base. So he figured he could just copy Trump and do each thing a little better. Then he could be Trump+. As Politico columnist Jack Shafer points out, it hasn't worked.

Being a copycat sometimes works in business. A company sees some other company doing well at something and they think they can do it too, maybe better. Tesla was doing well selling electric cars, so a bunch of other companies decided to also make electric cars. It doesn't work like that in politics. It's the candidate that matters.

Trump never admits he is wrong or backs down. DeSantis named his super PAC "Never Back Down." Take that, Trump! Trump growled at the media. DeSantis sneered at them and only did a media interview recently, in desperation. Trump demands loyalty from everyone around him. DeSantis demands worship. Trump wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border. DeSantis tricked migrants to get on a plane in Texas and had them flown to Massachusetts to own the libs. Trump shamed NFL owners for not firing players who kneeled during the national anthem. DeSantis has made his attacks on the House of Mouse a centerpiece of his anti-woke story. Trump made nice with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. DeSantis has dismissed the invasion of Ukraine as a mere territorial dispute. The list goes on and on, with DeSantis trying to out-Trump Trump on everything. And what did it get the Governor? He's 37 points behind in the most recent poll.

Why doesn't it work? First, as we said, the candidate matters. Trump's supporters like Trump. Nobody, excepting Casey DeSantis, seems to like Ron DeSantis. Trump seems to have a very fine-tuned political antenna that DeSantis doesn't have. Back in 2016, Trump perceived that there were a lot of people who hated the establishment and were primed for a candidate who also said he hated the establishment. Politics abhors a vacuum, and Trump stepped in and filled the void. In contrast, DeSantis has doubled down on the benefits of slavery. He insists that some slaves learned to be farmers or blacksmiths or carpenters, so slavery wasn't all that bad. He doesn't get it that slavery was so bad that no amount of on-the-job training makes up for it. He is politically tone deaf, whereas Trump has a good feeling for what his voters want. Also, when Trump goes too far and is called on it, he laughs it off and says it was a joke and his base forgives him. DeSantis is terrible at that. At a rally, Trump makes his supporters feel good by telling them that their problems are due to the deep state or something else, certainly not their own fault. DeSantis tells them how woke goes to die in Florida. Great, except they don't know what woke is and are used to the idea of old people going to Florida to die, so no big deal.

The message DeSantis has completely missed is that candidates who have done really well, like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and yes, Donald Trump, were new and refreshing. They weren't copying some other politician and trying to be 10% better. Being a copycat doesn't work. Being new and authentic works, and that does not describe DeSantis at all. (V)

The Rules for the Second Debate Are Now Set

The first Republican debate won't even happen for 3 weeks, but the RNC is thinking ahead and has now released the criteria for getting on stage for the second debate. Any candidate who doesn't make the stage the second time is dead meat.

Here are the criteria. First, a candidate will have to hit 3% in two national polls or 3% in one national poll and 3% in two of the early states. That's triple the 1% needed for debate #1. Again this time, the polls need large sample sizes and have to be from independent pollsters. The date, location, and sponsor for the second debate haven't been announced yet.

Second, a candidate needs 50,000 donors with at least 200 donors from each of 20 states to show that one is a national candidate, not a regional candidate. There are no rules banning "buying" donations by giving each donor a $20 Amazon gift card or a $50 prepaid Visa card for making a $1 donation. The rich candidates are going to use that trick again, as they have for the first debate.

In principle, a candidate who missed the criteria for the first debate but made those for the second one will get on stage. In practice, anyone who didn't make the stage the first time will be written off as dead and has almost no chance of making it the second time.

So, who has already met the criteria for debate #1? Seven candidates appear to have already qualified: Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND), Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, and Donald Trump. You can count on the first six showing up with great enthusiasm. Trump hasn't said if he is coming. On the one hand, he hates missing a party. But on the other, if he is there, he will be the target of a lot of pot shots. (V)

No News Is the New News

There have never been more ways to get the news. There's regular television, cable television, radio, newspapers, and thousands of sites on the Internet, just for starters. You can get news on your watch if you buy a smart watch. But some people are finding the news so upsetting they are swearing off it and are going news-free. Rather than be depressed by what is going on in the country and the world, they just tune it all out.

The number of news drop-outs has become so large that it has become a major problem for the news business. MSNBC and CNN saw their number of viewers drop 8.4% in June compared to June 2022, even though viewership normally picks up as the election cycle heats up. This year they had 7% fewer viewers in Q2 than in Q1. Digital news sites also have less traffic now. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are down 20%, 15%, and 14%, respectively, compared to a year ago.

The Reuters Institute at Oxford has been studying news consumption for years. In the most recent survey, 41% of women and 34% of men say they sometimes or often avoid the news. The proportion of people who are very interested or extremely interested in the news is down from 67% in 2015 to 49% now. People are saying that news drives feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, or helplessness. Some people say it feels like a personal threat. They say the only thing you can do is ignore it and go for a walk.

Other people are now more selective. They watch television, but when a story they don't like comes on, they switch channels. Or they read only print articles whose headline appeals to them. About 43% of news avoiders skip national politics, 41% avoid stories on social justice, 40% ignore entertainment news, and 32% avoid stories on the war in Ukraine. Put slightly differently, a lot of people think national politics is more toxic than people being killed in Ukraine.

Personal politics plays a big role here. Conservatives are 5x more likely to skip stories on climate change than liberals, but liberals skip stories about crime and business.

News avoidance is a result of a built-in problem. A lot of news is about something unusual. A plane that crashes or a country at war gets a lot more attention than a plane that landed normally or a country at peace. Sometimes the news is good, such as a scientist discovering a new and effective treatment for some disease, but a lot of it is inherently negative and that is turning people off. (V)

Potential Challenger to Tammy Baldwin Is Staying Put

Wisconsin is the swingiest state in the country. In 2020, Joe Biden won by a small margin and in 2022, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) was reelected but so was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is up in 2024. Although she is not a top target, every statewide race in Wisconsin tends to be close, so Republicans would love to flip the seat.

The Republicans just got some bad news on that front. They were hoping that Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) would take on Baldwin. Now he has decided to stick with his R+12 district and be sure of reelection rather than take a chance and probably lose a Senate race to a popular incumbent.

This is the second straight hit for the Republicans in Wisconsin. Their first choice was Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), but he came to the same conclusion as Tiffany earlier, even though his district is only R+10. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) and Glenn Grothman (R-WI) are also in safe districts and haven't shown any sign of wanting a promotion. The other two Republican representatives are in swing districts, and if either one tried for the Senate, the House district would be at stake.

One possible Senate candidate is former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, who is a fanatical Trumper. He might not do well in a swing state, though. Two businessmen have shown some interest but neither has decided anything yet. So for the moment, Baldwin doesn't have an opponent. (V)

Ranked-Choice Voting Takes a Hit

Many political observers see ranked-choice voting as a way to get rid of the problem that tiny parties and fringe candidates can swing elections in ways that their supporters actually hate with a passion. Ralph Nader and Jill Stein come to mind here. Ranked-choice voting allows people to express their support for minor candidates without electing someone they can't stand. It definitely solves a real problem. It is gradually becoming better known, with Maine and Alaska adopting it in various forms.

However, it also took a hit last Saturday in Virginia when the Arlington County Board decided to scrap the system it was planning to introduce in November. Last fall the board voted to use the system in the Democratic primary for two open seats on the board. But after criticism of how it worked and voter confusion about it, the Board decided to stop the experiment and use first-past-the-post henceforth.

The board members were concerned that not all members of the community understood the system or why it was being tried. County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey (D) said: "While I don't really see it as proper and appropriate for the general election, I do hope everyone will agree for later this year or as soon as possible to this again for next primary season." Actually, he has it completely backwards. It isn't really needed in a race in which everyone is a Democrat or everyone is a Republican. It is needed to keep a fringe candidate on the far left from throwing the race to the Republican or a fringe candidate on the far right from throwing the race to the Democrat. (V)

Crossover Governors Are Going Out of Fashion

Split-ticket voting is going the way of the dodo. Of the 100 senators, only five caucus with the party that lost the 2020 presidential race in their state. Three of the senators are Democrats: Jon Tester (MT), Sherrod Brown (OH) and Joe Manchin (WV). Two are Republicans: Ron Johnson (WI) and Susan Collins (ME). The small number of crossover senators is a result of the United States' highly polarized politics. After the 2004 election there were 24 and after the 2012 election there were 12. Now it is down to 5.

In the House it is just as bad. Eighteen Republicans are in Biden districts and five Democrats are in Trump districts. This is 23 out of 435 or 5%, the same as the Senate. After the 2004 elections, there were 59 crossover members and in 2012 there were 26. The House can be gerrymandered, but the Senate can't (although the Senate is a gerrymander of the whole country).

Interestingly, the one office where the dodo is hanging on is governorships. Currently, nine states have a governor from the "wrong" party. However, even here the number of crossovers is declining. Compare the gubernatorial crossover maps after the 2007 election and after the 2022 election: There used to be FIFTEEN Democratic governors in what were then red states. Now there are four. And California, Minnesota, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Hawaii all had Republican governors!

Gubernatorial maps 2007 and 2022

Just before the 2022 elections, there were two more crossover governors: Charlie Baker (R) in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan (R) in Maryland.

Some of the governors in the wrong places are vestiges of the past. There used to be Rockefeller Republicans in New England and Democrats in Appalachia. Vermont, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and North Carolina have some of that history left.

How will this history affect the 2023/2024 cycle? If the Republican presidential candidate were to win Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, that would create crossover governors there because none of the Democrats in those states are up in this cycle. What about states that are on the ballot?

The open seat in Louisiana is likely to go red this year, putting it back in line with the rest of the state. Republicans would love to knock off Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY), but he is quite popular in the state and could well hold on. Next year a big test will be the open seat in North Carolina. The Democratic candidate is AG Josh Stein, a standard-issue Democrat. The Republican candidate is the extremely far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R-NC). Revulsion at Robinson could end up giving Stein a new job, but most likely the state will go the same way in both the presidential and gubernatorial races. It could be either way, though. A lot depends on turnout.

If Democrats win New Hampshire, as they usually do, that might be enough to elect a Democratic governor as well. There have been plenty of them in the recent past. Further, Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) hasn't made his plans clear. If he retires, the Democratic candidate will probably win in this very blue state. If Democrats pick up New Hampshire and Vermont, they will have all six governorships in New England for the first time since the Republican Party was founded. If Scott runs, he'll win again, but he might have had enough, just like his neighbor Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH).

Similarly, if Republicans win Louisiana and Mississippi this year (very likely) and flip North Carolina next year (50-50), then all 11 states of the Confederacy will have Republican governors for the first time in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln is undoubtedly scratching his head in his grave. (V)

The House Could Be Won or Lost in the South

The recent Supreme Court decision that the Alabama House map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to make sure Black voters could not elect two Black representatives (out of 7), even though 27% of the voters are Black, has given the Democrats hope. The Alabama state legislature wiped its collective rear end with the Court decision and drew another map that has one Black district. The resulting lawsuit is now in court and it seems likely that the result will be a new map with two majority-Black districts drawn by a court-appointed special master.

Alabama isn't the only state with a contentious House map. In Florida, Democrats are suing in state court. They contend that the map Florida Republicans drew at the behest of Ron DeSantis violates the state Constitution, which prohibits gerrymandering. This is going to end up in the Florida Supreme Court, but not before the 2024 elections.

In Georgia, federal district judge Steve Jones ruled that the new Georgia map likely violated the Voting Rights Act. There will be a trial on Sept. 5. If Jones rules that the VRA has been violated, he could order the legislature to draw a new and better map or he could have a special master do it. Either way, it will end back up in the Supreme Court.

Another state where Democrats might pick up a seat is Louisiana. In June 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court voided the gerrymandered House map. The question now is what Judge Shelly Dick does. Will she let the legislature draw a new map or appoint a special master to do it? Of course, her decision can be appealed to the conservative Fifth Circuit.

North Carolina's Supreme Court just got a new Republican majority that is hell-bent on reversing a 2022 decision from the North Carolina Supreme Court that partisan gerrymandering violates the state Constitution. If the new Court says partisan gerrymandering is fine with them, this could lead to exchanging the current 7D, 7R map for a 4D, 10R map. That could wipe out all the Democrats' gains in the other states.

South Carolina is also a battleground. In January, a three-judge federal panel ruled that the current map violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court are expected in the fall.

Everything in Texas is bigger, including the lawsuits. The Fifth Circuit has consolidated 11 separate lawsuits from Latino groups into a big one. Democrats are hoping the Supreme Court case about Alabama will give them a chance. It is a longshot, though. (V)

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