Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Dem pickups vs. 2020 Senate: PA
GOP pickups vs. 2020 Senate : (None)
Political Wire logo George Santos’ Transformation from Anthony Devolder
Man Who Sprayed Capitol Police Sentenced
Hunter Biden Asks for Probes Into Trump Allies
Hispanic Lawmakers in Connecticut Seek to Ban ‘Latinx’
Trump Keeps Attacking Early Voting
Megan Barry Mulls Comeback in Nashville

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  House Republican Circus Continues
      •  Help Us, Obi-Don Kenobi--Your Death Is Our Only Hope
      •  Trans Is The New Abortion?
      •  Haley 2024 Is Set to Launch
      • Tracking Poll: January 2023
      •  Kari Lake Could Be in Hot Water

House Republican Circus Continues

Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) is not only one of the 20 most famous members of Congress right now, he might be Top 10, or even Top 5 (look out, AOC!). He was in the news yet again yesterday, after he announced that he has requested to be removed from his House committee assignments "until his issues are resolved."

We don't really know what sequence of events would mean that Santos' issues have been "resolved," and might lead to him rejoining his committees. So, we tend to assume that his non-committee status is permanent. When we heard the news, we struggled to come up with an explanation as to why Santos had a change of heart in just one week. Perhaps he's embarrassed, and all the pressure got to him? Maybe, except that he's clearly not the type to feel shame; if he was, he wouldn't be in this situation. Perhaps he was reading polls like this one, wherein 78% of his constituents say he should resign? Maybe, except that resigning from one's committees isn't going to please those who think he should just resign from the whole gig, and it's also not going to please those who still support him, either. So, bailing out on his committees doesn't really make sense as a response to bad polling.

It was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) who let the cat out of the bag. Not deliberately, mind you, but remember that you can't spell "giant motormouth" without M-T-G. She was speaking to reporters, and trying to repeat the party line that this was all of Santos' own initiative, and that party leadership had nothing to do with it. What she really revealed, however, is that the House Republican Conference is apparently sensitive to people saying "Wait a minute. You kicked Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) off her committee, but you let 'George Santos' stay?" So, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) strongly "suggested" to Santos that it would really help the Party's messaging if Santos "resigned" from his committees.

This is hardly the first time something like this has happened in the halls of Congress. The other recent example that will stick out in readers' memory is when the Democrats threw then-Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) under the bus after a relatively benign sexual misconduct scandal (mildly suggestive joke photos that the subject was later revealed to have consented to) so that their anti-Roy Moore messaging in the Moore-Doug Jones special election would not appear hypocritical.

Yesterday's development does tell us two things, though. First, the overwhelming amount of negative press being generated by Santos is getting under the skin of Republican leadership. If he gets into trouble of a sort that historically has caused a member to be expelled, it looks like the Republican conference will do it, and won't stick their necks out for him.

The second lesson is that McCarthy & Co. are keenly interested in going after Omar and making sure she's booted off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Why are the Republicans moving heaven and earth to punish Omar, a Muslim woman of color, for past statements about Israel that veered into antisemitism territory (without going whole-hog), and that she's apologized for? Put another way, for whom is this bit of political theater being staged? Maybe it's for the vast, vast numbers of Republican Jews out there? Actually, if Sheldon Adelson were still alive, we might be inclined to believe that his money could buy him a one-man show of this sort. But now that he's gone, we're doubting that Jewish Republicans are the primary target here. We suspect there are other, larger elements of the GOP base that will be pleased to see a non-Christian brown woman "get hers." Oh, and case you think we're imagining things here, yesterday House Republicans announced that they are disbanding the House Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The vote on expelling Omar, not coincidentally, is likely to take place today. And it appears it will be succesful; one of the Republicans who spoke out against the maneuver, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) said yesterday that she's changed her mind. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), incidentally, says he's "undecided." Is there anyone at all who really believes that? Even Gaetz himself?

So, it's another day of song and dance for McCarthy the House Republican Conference. We suspected, from the moment that they gained control, that they would have little interest in actual governance, and that the focus would be on theatrics, score-settling, and the like. Nothing that has happened thus far has caused us to rethink that assessment. (Z)

Help Us, Obi-Don Kenobi--Your Death Is Our Only Hope

Donald Trump and the Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope character Obi-Wan Kenobi have quite a bit in common. They're both getting up there in years. They both retired to a warm-weather climate. They both had a disciple who betrayed them. And for both, their lightsabers maybe aren't working quite as well as they once used to. (And yes, that's 3 of the last 5 days we've made a joke about Trump's... small hands, shall we say).

Yesterday, in an item about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), the aforementioned disciple who has betrayed Trump, we observed that the Governor is quite clearly waiting for Trump to be indicted, in hopes that clears the decks of him without DeSantis having to engage in outright attacks on the Dear Leader, thus alienating Trump's loyal followers.

An article that came out in The Atlantic over the weekend makes clear that there are some Republican operatives whose thoughts are... more extreme. Here's the central point of the piece:

Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials—even the ones with MAGA hats in their closets and Mar-a-Lago selfies in their Twitter avatar—will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem. He's presided over three abysmal election cycles since he took office, he is more unstable than ever, and yet he returned to the campaign trail this past weekend, declaring that he is "angry" and determined to win the GOP presidential nomination again in 2024. Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It's time to move on from Trump.

But ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals. Maybe he'll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he'll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He's old, after all—how many years can he have left?

Yep, they are hoping that Trump will shuffle off this mortal coil, and that will finally rid the GOP of him.

This strikes us as hopelessly naive. And no, we don't mean they are overlooking the fact that Trump comes from a family with a history of living long lives despite poor health habits. We mean that Trump is clearly not the central problem for the Party anymore, Trumpism is. Consider the above item about Ilhan Omar. That is exactly the kind of thing that is done to cater to the Trumpists in the Republican Party, of which there are many. The Trumpy stunts like that, the Trumpy "policy" positions, the Trumpy complaints about the deep state, the Trumpy insistence that Democratic electoral victories are fraudulent—would any of that go away if Trump were to keel over tomorrow? Of course not. That stuff works well with the voters that many Republican politicians are trying to win to their banner.

In fact, the evidence is mounting that Trump—who is not only still alive, last we checked, but is a declared presidential candidate—is already fading in relevance. A new poll from The Bulwark says that while the former president retains the loyalty of 30% of Republican voters, more than two-thirds of the GOP would like to move on to someone different. It's true that The Bulwark is anti-Trump, but their polling is legitimate, and this result is not especially out of line with other recent polls.

Further, Trump's fundraising has gotten... pretty dismal. The latest report by his political operation to the FEC shows that in the last month of 2022, Team Trump took in about $5 million. That's not great for the first month after announcing one's candidacy, particularly for someone with as high a profile as Trump's. But it gets much worse. In order to raise that $5 million, the campaign spent $2.5 million on texting, $1.7 million on online advertising and $950,000 on list rentals. The staff mathematician is busy commemorating Brandy Alexander Day, but even with our less refined math skills, we can tell that adds up to more than $5.1 million. In other words, Trump spent $5.1 million to make... $5 million. Sounds like vintage Trump to us.

Maybe there are reasons his haul was so bad. People were saving their money for Christmas? The election is still very far away? He didn't actually do any campaigning? We don't know, but it certainly isn't a good sign for him. And it's entirely possible that he's gotten all the fleece out of the rubes that he's going to get, and they are so weary of him, or of being bombarded with his fundraising pleas, or of his sleazy fundraising tricks ("uncheck the tiny, almost hidden box at the bottom if you don't want this to be a recurring donation") that he will not be able to open the money spigot the way he once could. Just another data point suggesting that while Trumpism remains in full effect, Trump himself may be yesterday's news.

One last observation. Obi-Wan Kenobi's last line in Star Wars is: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." If Trump does die, as some Republicans are quietly rooting for, then Trumpy politicians will have Trumpism to run on, and Trump's memory to deploy, while at the same time they won't have to worry about Trump himself taking potshots or doing other things that embarrass the party, like having dinner with antisemites. In other words, for those wishing death on the Donald, we remind them that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. (Z)

Trans Is The New Abortion?

As we note above, Donald Trump has reason to be worried about his political fortunes. Fundraising is down, interest in other Republican candidates is up, and he could end up losing the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in embarrassing fashion.

Trump may be a former president, but before that he was a former reality TV star. And so he knows full well that when ratings are down, you have to come up with new plotlines and new gimmicks to win the viewers back. As regards his 2024 campaign, a lot of his 2016 talking points are old hat. Depending on which Republican you talk to, the wall is either complete already or will never be built; the swamp has been drained or it's too swampy to ever drain; China has been tamed or it can never be tamed. In other words, it's time for some new plotlines.

And so, it is unsurprising that Trump is trying out something new right now—a militant anti-trans posture. Yesterday, he posted a video to his boutique social media site in which he says that, if reelected, he will insist that Congress pass a nationwide ban on gender-affirming medical procedures, one that would punish any doctor or hospital who provided such services. We have no interest in driving traffic to his scammy site, or to his hateful content, so we're not going to link to the video, but if you want to read about it you can do so here.

Trump's instincts about these things are pretty good, and it's certainly the case that many of the voters he's after (old people and evangelicals) are very skeeved out by trans people. So maybe this will give him some attention and some momentum. That said, he's hardly the first Republican to try to leverage transphobia. Further, we suspect that the problems with his candidacy are great enough that one or two pithy talking points aren't going to fix them.

If going all-in on anti-trans doesn't move the needle at all, then what? He'll search for another new plotline, of course. And then another and another. The scary thing is that the crazies that he has to out-crazy in 2023/24 are way, way crazier than the crazies he had to out-crazy in 2015/16. So, we shudder to think of what a guy who has already hinted at tearing up the Constitution will come up with. (Z)

Haley 2024 Is Set to Launch

It really isn't a secret that Nikki Haley has her eye on the White House. She's basically been running for the job since she stepped down as Donald Trump's ambassador to the United Nations. And yesterday, people around her confirmed that she's going to jump in... in just a couple of weeks. Why you effectively announce twice, depriving both announcements of most of their oomph, is not clear to us.

What is also not clear to us is what exactly Haley is thinking. What, exactly, is her path here? There have already been about 50 polls of the Republican primary field, and she's in all of them except the ones that are Trump vs. DeSantis only. In the past 2 years, she's never clocked in higher than 7%, and even that was back in December 2021. If we limit ourselves to, say, the last 6 months, she's never gotten higher than 5%.

It's true that we wrote an item yesterday about Gov. John Sununu (R-NH) in which we noted that he might make things interesting if he declares a presidential bid (something he is considering). And it's true that the pollsters don't even ask about him, such that he's never even pulled a 2% or 3%, much less a 5% or 7%. But there's the rub. Nobody has been thinking about Sununu as a presidential candidate because he didn't make his interest clear until this weekend. People have been thinking about Haley as a presidential candidate for years, and she's still not breaking through.

Her biggest problem, perhaps, is that Republican politics these days are defined in terms of the Trumpy lane and the non-Trumpy lane. But Haley is in both, which really means she doesn't fit in either. On one hand, she worked for Trump and has generally been supportive of him. On the other hand, she's also been critical of him at times, and she's failed to wholeheartedly embrace his culture wars stuff. Put another way, she's too Trumpy for the Never Trumpers, and she's not Trumpy enough for the MAGA crowd. Who's left?

Haley is also, of course, a person of color. It is true that many Republicans are willing to vote for a candidate of any ethnic background. It's also true that some Republicans are willing to vote for a Black candidate, in particular, because that allows them to say they're not a racist (kind of like "Hey! I have a Black friend!). We are not sure that dynamic extends to people of Southeast Asian descent, however. And, in any case, there are also certainly plenty of Republicans whose racial views belong in the 19th century and not the 21st.

On top of that, Haley is a woman. Recall that the appeal of Trump, for many of his voters, is his vigorous, di**-swinging masculinity. Will such people be willing to consider a female candidate? Or how about those evangelical Christians who believe a woman's place is in the home? Perhaps we are wrong in guessing that sexism is still a barrier for an aspiring female Republican presidential candidate. But, at least to this point in U.S. history, the proof is in the pudding. Since the GOP was founded in 1854, only three women have gotten delegate votes at the national convention, and two of those three only got one apiece. If you would care to guess who the three women are, we'll put their names at the bottom of the page. But in any case, until we are presented with evidence to the contrary, we have to interpret the fact that something like .001% of Republican presidential delegates have gone to Republican women candidates as a sign that the Party is not too likely to nominate a woman.

It's always possible we're wrong here, and that Haley 2024 will surprise us. But we really don't think so. The only thing that makes some sense to us is that maybe she's really running for the VP slot. There's no way that Trump would pick her; he loathes people who have criticized him in the past. But maybe Ron DeSantis might be interested. Still, that's a pretty longshot thing, enough so that it would not seem to justify 1-2 grueling years of campaigning. (Z) Tracking Poll: January 2023

The first round of voting in our new tracking poll is complete, and there was a surprise or two. Before we reveal the results, recall that we make no claims this is scientific, per se. That is, we made no effort to ensure that the responses match the demographics of the expected electorate. What we are seeing here is the collective assessments of many thousands of people who are, on the whole, above-average in terms of education and political literacy. Oh, and we had more votes in this poll than we've had in any other so far.

To start, here's how the readership sees the GOP field at the moment. The score is calculated based on three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second, one point for a third:

Candidate Score Avg. Place
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) 9988 1.49
Former president Donald Trump 9372 1.39
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) 4082 0.61
Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo 3480 0.52
Former vice president Mike Pence 3470 0.52
Fox entertainer Tucker Carlson 3272 0.49
Former Maryland governor Larry Hogan 1960 0.29
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) 1736 0.26
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 688 0.11
Former representative Liz Cheney 636 0.09

OK, not too many surprises there. Per the setup of the poll, Cruz and Cheney will be relegated, and will be replaced by the top two write-in vote-getters: Nikki Haley and Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH). And we have to apologize to all those who suggested Abraham Lincoln; he is not eligible to the presidency by virtue of being dead.

And now, the Democratic results. This is where the surprises show up:

Candidate Score Avg. Place
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) 8658 1.29
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg 7620 1.13
President Joe Biden 6906 1.03
Vice President Kamala Harris 6154 0.91
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) 5722 0.85
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) 1274 0.19
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) 1026 0.15
Gov. Wes Moore (D-MD) 478 0.07
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) 326 0.05
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 320 0.05

That's right; the sitting president finished in third place. We think and hope we were clear that we were asking about what readers think will happen, as opposed to what they want to happen.

Anyhow, the senior-citizen progressive senators get relegated here, to be replaced by Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA). And again, we must apologize, this time to those who would like to see Franklin D. Roosevelt added. He's ineligible for the same reason Lincoln is.

And now, the results for our wildcard question of the month, about which outlets readers like for their political news. Recall that each respondent was able to pick up to three; the percentage here reflects the fraction of all the votes cast. Put another way, if every reader made three choices, and one of those three was The New York Times, the Times would finish with 33%.

Outlet Percentage of Votes Cast
The New York Times 17.77%
The Washington Post 14.98%
Other 14.85%
CNN 13.46%
MSNBC 10.91%
Politico 9.71%
Political Wire 9.11%
NBC News/Meet the Press 2.83%
TalkingPointsMemo 1.76%
ABC News/This Week With George Stephanopoulos 1.54%
The Wall Street Journal 1.30%
CBS News/Face the Nation 1.00%
Fox 0.78%

The 10 most common write-in votes were: NPR, PBS, The Hill, DailyKos, The Guardian, The Economist, The BBC, The Bulwark, Reddit and Twitter, in that order. Among the rarer choices were "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!," U.S. Election Atlas, The Onion, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Techdirt, Squawk Box, Punchbowl News, Pod Save America, Nation.Cymru, Joe.My.God, Helsingin Sanomat, George Conway's Twitter feed, Digby's Hullabaloo, Breitbart (1 vote), Balloon Juice, and 1440's daily digest. We got numerous comments that are more editorial in nature, such as this one: "None of these are my favorite... I read them because I have to but keep a wary eye to all of them. Always looking at why an article is written the way it is." We presume that the person who wrote in "Liberal Democrat News" was editorializing, as well.

The wildcard question of the month for February is: What is the greatest movie about politics ever made? The new ballot is here. (Z)

Kari Lake Could Be in Hot Water

Newly-minted Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) has apparently hit the ground running. He is not pleased about claims that the state's elections are fraudulent, nor about some of the behavior those claims have engendered. And so, he sent a letter yesterday to Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes (D), asking for an investigation of failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R).

The specific concern that Fontes wants Mayes to look into is a tweet that Lake posted after the election. She is a world-renowned expert on handwriting of course, and so she concluded that some of the signatures on Arizona absentee ballots did not match the signature that the state has on file. To persuade her supporters of this, she posted copies of many of the signatures to Twitter. Oops. Turns out it's a felony in Arizona to reproduce someone's signature unless you are yourself the signatory, or you are their dully authorized representative.

Clearly, this is a little bit nitpicky. However, some of the more damaging stuff Lake does is not illegal, or at least cannot plausibly be prosecuted. This behavior, by contrast, is illegal, and the law behind it has teeth. Sometimes, Al Capone-style, a prosecutor has to go with whatever they can make stick in a court of law. And Mayes probably could make this stick, as the situation is pretty cut-and-dried.

Will Mayes actually prosecute Lake, though? Obviously, the right-wing politicians and pundits of the world will scream bloody murder and will claim it's a witch hunt and another case of weaponizing government power against Republicans and yadda, yadda, yadda. But the fact is that people like Lake, and her idol Donald Trump, get away with making some very damaging claims because there have been few or no consequences for them in doing so. If law enforcement can see to it that there are some actual consequences to reckless election-denial claims, at least once in a while, maybe it will make some of these people think twice. So, we are certainly hoping Mayes takes up the case. Of course, we don't get a vote. (Z)

The only women to get RNC delegate support are Margaret Chase Smith, who got 27 delegates in 1964; Anne Armstrong, who got one in 1980; and Michele Bachmann, who got one in 2012. If you got one of the three women correct, that is very good. If you got two, that's truly impressive. And if you got all three, how come we are writing this blog instead of you?
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan31 The Game of Debt-Ceiling Chess Is in Full Swing
Jan31 Sununu for President?
Jan31 What, Exactly, Is DeSantis' Plan?
Jan31 Trump Continues to Keep the Courts in Business
Jan31 Senate Judiciary Committee Expects to Probe Durham Probe
Jan31 If at First You Don't Succeed...
Jan31 Setec Astronomy, Part I
Jan30 Trump Actually Starts Campaigning
Jan30 Trump 1, DeSantis 0
Jan30 Republicans Are Running Away from Their Own Tax Plan
Jan30 Are the Democrats Making a Mistake in New Hampshire?
Jan30 AOC May Become Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee
Jan30 Both Parties Prepare for a Special Election That Probably Won't Happen
Jan30 What's Woke?
Jan30 What about Brian?
Jan30 No National Brands Are Advertising on Truth Social
Jan30 Women Control All the Money
Jan29 Sunday Mailbag
Jan28 Saturday Q&A
Jan27 Schiff's Into Gear
Jan27 The Race for RNC Chair Just Got a Lot More Interesting
Jan27 Say "Hello" to the Congressional Dads Caucus
Jan27 Voters Do Not Like McCarthy or His Conference
Jan27 Speaking of Weaponizing the Federal Government...
Jan27 Americans Do Not Have Freedom of Cake, at Least in Colorado
Jan27 This Week in Schadenfreude: No News(max) is Good News
Jan27 This Week in Freudenfreude: Great Scott
Jan26 McCarthy Picks the Witch Hunters
Jan26 Facebook to Reinstate Trump
Jan26 Santos' (Un)lucky Number: 199.99
Jan26 Senate Republicans Aren't Getting Involved in the RNC Race
Jan26 All Quiet on the Eastern Front
Jan26 What Can the Democrats Do about the MAGA 20?
Jan26 It's Location, Location and Location
Jan26 The Most and Least Popular Senators
Jan26 Debbie Dingell Is Starting a Heartland Caucus
Jan25 A Fly in the Ointment
Jan25 Willis' Judgment Cometh and That Right Soon
Jan25 McCarthy Officially Dumps Schiff, Swalwell from Intelligence Committee
Jan25 As the Senate Turns
Jan25 FiveThirtyEight Could Be in Trouble
Jan25 The Word Cup, Part XI: Group D (Presidential Campaigns, from the Civil War to World War II), Round Two
Jan24 House Committees Continue to Shake Out
Jan24 GOP Senators to McCarthy: You're on Your Own
Jan24 DeSantis Defends Rejection of African-American Studies Course
Jan24 Carlson, et al. Score MMajor TriuMMph in the Culture Wars
Jan24 Mississippi Governor's Race May Get All Shook Up
Jan24 Big House to Become Bigo House
Jan23 Ruben Gallego Is Expected to Announce His Senate Run This Week
Jan23 Democrats Are Putting McCarthy in a Box on the Debt Issue