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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Legal News: The Trial (Day 6)
      •  Pennsylvanians Went to the Polls
      •  Biden Will Speak at Two Commencements
      •  Judge Strikes Down Discriminatory Voting Law in North Carolina
      •  Senate Approves Foreign Aid
      •  Bye, "George"!
      •  Vulnerable House Democrats Are Winning the Money Battle with Vulnerable House Republicans

Trump Legal News: The Trial (Day 6)

There was not a lot of drama yesterday in Donald Trump's criminal fraud trial, in part because of a relatively short schedule. But "not a lot" isn't "none." Here's the biggest storylines of the day:

  • Gag Me: As planned, Judge Juan Merchan began the day by hearing arguments about whether or not Trump has violated his gag order. There is no ruling yet, although Merchan did get impatient with the evasive answers from defense counsel Todd Blanche, eventually declaring: "You are losing all credibility with the court." That's probably not a great sign for Team Trump. Oh, the Judge also said: "When your client is violating a gag order, I expect more than one word," in response to one of Blanche's non-answers. That would seem to suggest that Merchan has already determined the order has been violated, and he was just checking to see if there was any compelling reason he should overlook that.

  • Pecker Problem: Sorry, when the guy's name is "Pecker," it's actually harder to write a subhead that is NOT a double entendre than to write one that is. In any event, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker took the stand again, and talked a lot about his partnership (for lack of a better word) with the Trump campaign, and how he agreed to publish fawning stories about the candidate, and to find and bury unflattering stories.

    Pecker hasn't yet gotten to Stormy Daniels; that will come when he returns to the stand for a third time. Thus far, his testimony has centered on other "catch and kill" deals, most obviously the one with Karen McDougal. The prosecution has established that: (1) the Trump campaign was in the habit of paying to make negative coverage go away; (2) Michael Cohen was deeply involved in these efforts; and (3) Trump was deeply involved in these efforts. This speaks to a pattern of behavior, obviously, that suggests that not only was Daniels paid for political reasons, but that Trump would surely have been involved in making that arrangement.

    According to numerous courtroom observers, Pecker isn't particularly happy about testifying, and he regularly says things that seem intended to maintain his relationship with Trump. The problem here is that Pecker already copped a plea, and he has to testify to the things he said he would testify to, or his plea deal goes south. So, his hands are tied.

  • Old Stoneface: Maggie Haberman spends much of her time keeping an eye on Trump himself, including body language, facial expressions, etc. She said he was very, very unhappy yesterday—a lot of shifting around, a lot of scowls, and he ultimately stomped out of the courtroom. The former president probably doesn't care what jury consultants think, but if he did, they would tell him that such expressions of negative emotion generally do not help his case.

That's pretty much it for now. As we noted, it was a short day. Today the court will be off, as per usual, and then Pecker will rise again on Thursday, this time to start talking about the Daniels story. (Z)

Pennsylvanians Went to the Polls

Yesterday was the only really interesting election of the month, as the good people of Pennsylvania headed to the polls (or to their mailboxes) to cast their ballots. Here are the notable results:

  • President: Donald Trump and Joe Biden won all of their respective parties' delegates, of course. However, continuing a trend, Trump lost considerably more votes to someone who is not in the race than Biden did. The former president took 83.5% of the vote to 16.5% for Nikki Haley, while the current president took 93.1% of the vote to 6.9% for Rep. Dean Phillips (DFL-MN). And while it's hard to ascribe too much meaning to turnout, it may be significant in such a swingy state that about 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans voted (roughly 1 million to 950,000).

  • U.S. Senate: Your general election Senate race in Pennsylvania will feature Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) facing off against David McCormick (R-CT). This is an unsurprising result, since both races were uncontested.

  • PA-01: Pennsylvania has six House seats that have PVIs between R+5 and D+5, and so fit the definition of "swing seat." That includes two seats that have a PVI of EVEN. PA-01 is one of the EVEN seats, and current holder Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) was challenged from the right by an anti-abortion activist named Matt Houck. Had Houck won, that would have been bad news for the Republicans. But Fitzpatrick trounced Houck 61%-39%. He'll now face off against Ashley Ehasz, a centrist and political newbie who would be the first female West Point graduate to serve in Congress, if elected.

  • PA-06: This D+5 district was uncontested on both sides, so Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) already knew she was going to face Neil Young (R), who is pretty far right. Hopefully he will have time to campaign while he searches for his heart of gold.

  • PA-07: Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) was unchallenged in the primary. As she tries to hold this R+2 district, she will now square off against state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R), who has built his platform around restricting abortion access. Hm, that should work out well.

  • PA-08: The R+4 district was uncontested on both sides, so Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) was already aware that he'll have to fend off the new-to-politics Robert Bresnahan (R). Bresnahan is running as a blue-collar fellow whose experience as an electrician means he will bring a "jolt of energy" to Washington. What he often forgets to mention is that he's actually CEO of a large firm that employs many electricians and that he inherited from his parents and grandparents.

  • PA-10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) had no primary challengers in his R+5 district. He's now going to match up against Janelle Stelson (D), a moderate who used to anchor one of the local news broadcasts. So, she's kind of like Kari Lake, except a Democrat. And, you know, not insane.

  • PA-12: At D+8, PA-12 is not one of the six swing districts. However, squad member Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) got a challenge from the center, in the person of small-town councilwoman Bhavini Patel (D). The entire campaign was about Israel, with Patel taking a supportive stance and Lee a critical one. Lee won 61% to 39%, which is being interpreted as a sign that being Israel-skeptical isn't electoral poison these days. Lee will presumably go on to hold her seat in the general, up against unknown James Hayes (R).

  • PA-17: This is the other EVEN district. Rep. Chris DeLuzio (D-PA) had no primary competition; nor did state Rep. Rob Mercuri (R-PA). Mercuri is pretty centrist, except that he's a border hawk. Because, after all, Pennsylvania has so many issues along its border with Mexico.

The only other electoral action this month is the special election in NY-26 on Apr. 30, when residents of that district will presumably choose state Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-NY) to replace Democrat Brian Higgins, who resigned to become president of Shea's Performing Arts Center. Although Kennedy is mired in a campaign finance scandal, so you never know. Then, on May 7, Indiana voters will head to the polls to nominate a bunch of Republicans who will go on to win their elections, and after that, on May 14, it's Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia. The Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Maryland will, of course, be a real barnburner. (Z)

Biden Will Speak at Two Commencements

It is customary for the sitting president to deliver commencement speeches at two or three commencements each year, and yesterday the White House announced which universities will be graced with the presidential presence this year: Morehouse College and West Point.

The thinking in choosing Morehouse could not be more plain. Polls say Biden is struggling with Black voters, and the school is an HBCU. Further, it's in the key swing state of Georgia. That is known as killing two birds with one stone. The White House would never say it openly, of course, but the President also doesn't want to get near any university that's having unrest and protests centered on the situation in Israel. Hundreds or thousands of students and faculty members marching around with signs and chanting slogans while Biden is trying to speak would not be great optics.

Unfortunately for the administration, while Morehouse might not have the same demographic profile as a Columbia or a Berkeley, it's still got some strife over the events in the Middle East. Quite a few faculty and students are displeased that Biden is coming to campus, and there's some pressure on the university administration to rescind the invitation. That is not likely to happen, nor is Biden in a position to back out, what with the announcement having been made. So, he might end up with those lousy optics after all.

As to West Point, it just doesn't get any safer than that. Even Donald Trump, whose presence might well have triggered riots at 90%+ of the nation's universities, was able to speak there. There is just no way that a whole bunch of folks who are on the cusp of receiving their commissions would dare show disrespect to their commander-in-chief, particularly while they are under the watchful eye of a bunch of senior officers. So, if Biden can get through the Morehouse appearance (May 19), then it's smooth sailing at West Point (May 25) and then he will keep his fingers crossed that 3 months of summer break will serve to dissipate tensions. (Z)

Judge Strikes Down Discriminatory Voting Law in North Carolina

North Carolina passed a law in 1877. That's already a very bad start. The law made it a felony for convicted felons to vote until their voting rights had been fully restored. That's even worse, since it's hardly a secret that the North Carolina judicial system has a long history of disproportionately targeting Black citizens. That was true from 1877, when the law was passed, through... well, what date is today?

In the Tar Heel State, it is not terribly difficult for a felon's voting rights to be restored. First, they have to complete their sentence, including probation and remuneration. Then, the Department of Corrections has to send some paperwork to the State Board of Elections, and that's that. However, because of the disproportionate conviction rates, Black voters are more likely to have to go through the process and to be required to wait for all the i's to be dotted and t's to be crossed. Further, it's not outside of the realm of possibility that, say, DeShawn's paperwork gets "lost" or moved to the bottom of the pile, while Billy Bubba's paperwork gets pushed through with all due haste.

And, of course, the purpose of the law was to encourage former-felon voters not to take their chances. If you THINK you might be clear by Election Day, but you don't know, you might sit this one out. That is even more true if you are DeShawn, and you know the authorities are likely to throw the book at you, than if you are Billy Bubba, and you know that the authorities are likely to look the other way.

Anyhow, the law is pretty obviously discriminatory (that should really be the default assumption for any North Carolina law passed in 1877), and federal judge Loretta Biggs ruled yesterday that it should be struck from the books. There could be an appeal, but the law is such an obvious stinker that maybe not. Since the ruling affects a relatively small number of people, it probably won't be a factor in the outcome of this year's elections. Although if North Carolina is very close, and it could be, then you never know. (Z)

Senate Approves Foreign Aid

The $95 billion in funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan that passed the House over the weekend made it through the Senate last night with ease, with 79 senators (46 D, 31 R, 2 I) voting "yea," 18 senators (2 D, 15 R, 1 I) voting "nay," and 3 senators (3 R) not voting. The Republican nay votes came from the hard-right types, like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), many of whom think they can get Donald Trump's blessing to succeed him as Dear Leader if they just kiss his posterior frequently and firmly enough. The Democratic and independent nay votes came from the progressives, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The three members who did not show up to vote were Rand Paul (R-KY), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). Maybe they were all at one of those special parties that Madison Cawthorn used to enjoy so very much.

As a reminder of the whackadoodlery of the Trump years, recall that if he was in the Oval Office right now, his signature would be no guarantee, even if he'd supported the legislation while it was making its way through Congress. Remember the temper tantrum where he refused to sign the appropriations bills and shut down the government? This is not a problem with Joe Biden, who behaves like a normal president, just like most of his predecessors. He has already made clear his signature will be applied to the bill on Wednesday.

The most immediate impact of all of this is that Ukraine will start getting much-needed support very quickly. Probably not today, but by tomorrow the first shipments of war materiel will likely begin to arrive. Eventually, Israel and Taiwan will get their funding, too. Meanwhile, recall that the bill also requires ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company or else shut down. However, the company has a year to take care of that (unless lawsuits drag things out). Maybe the politicians gave ByteDance that much time because it was the fair and equitable thing to do. Or maybe they want any threats to TikTok's future to hit well after November's elections, so that young voters are not in a position to punish the mean members of Congress and the mean president. (Z)

Bye, "George"!

Former representative "George Santos," who was running a quixotic campaign to return to Congress as an independent (and from a different district than the one he used to represent), has decided that it's not going to work out. So, he dropped out yesterday.

What he was trying to accomplish, we cannot figure out. Is he really so delusional that he thought he could win as an independent? You know who the last independent to be elected to the House was? Bernie Sanders, in 1991. That's more than 30 years ago, and "Santos" is no Sanders. Maybe there was some scam angle that we're missing here. (Z) knew a guy who enrolled in, and then dropped out of, classes at the local community college for years and years because that put a pause on his student loan debts. Perhaps there is some tax or other financial advantage to being a "candidate," even for a short period of time. Does Neiman Marcus have a 20% discount on sweater vests for active candidates for Congress?

Anyhow, now that his campaign is at an end, along with his political career, presumably, "Santos" will have plenty of time to work on his criminal defense. At least, when he's not busy unlocking the secrets of cold fusion, curing cancer, and directing the next Spider-Man film. (Z)

Vulnerable House Democrats Are Winning the Money Battle with Vulnerable House Republicans

Now that the Q1 fundraising numbers are in, it's clear that Democrats in tough districts are comfortably outpacing Republicans in the same situation. Here's the rundown of every person running in a competitive House district who has raised at least $700,000 (* = incumbent):

Candidate District PVI Haul
Mondaire Jones NY-17 D+3 $1.76M
Mary Peltola* AK-AL R+8 $1.7M
Adam Frisch CO-03 R+7 $1.4M
Matt Cartwright* PA-08 R+4 $1.38M
Susan Wild* PA-07 R+2 $1.37M
Josh Riley NY-19 EVEN $1.35M
Curtis Hertel MI-07 R+2 $1.3M
Will Rollins CA-41 R+3 $1.2M
Kirsten Engle AZ-06 R+3 $1.2M
Marie Gluesenkamp Perez* WA-03 R+5 $1.2M
John James* MI-10 R+3 $1.1M
Rudy Salas CA-22 D+5 $1.1M
Jared Golden* ME-02 R+6 $1.1M
Angie Craig* MN-02 D+1 $1.0M
Don Davis* NC-01 D+2 $940,000
Pat Ryan* NY-18 D+1 $910.000
Lanon Baccam IA-03 R+3 $900,000
Yadira Caraveo* CO-08 EVEN $860,000
Mike Lawler* NY-17 D+3 $855,000
Susie Lee* NV-03 D+1 $850,000
Gabe Vasquez* NM-02 D+1 $832,000
Adam Gray CA-13 D+4 $827,000
Tony Vargas NE-02 EVEN $784,000
George Whitesides CA-27 D+4 $768,000
Chris DeLuzio* PA-17 EVEN $758,000
Mayra Flores TX-34 D+9 $747,000
Michelle Steel* CA-45 D+2 $734,000
Rob Bresnahan PA-08 R+4 $728,000
Andrea Salinas* OR-06 D+4 $717,000
Don Bacon* NE-02 EVEN $709,000
Derrick Van Orden* WI-03 R+4 $705,000

For U.S. Senate races, we tend to take fundraising numbers with a few grains of salt. But for House races, the money is probably more meaningful. First, because a House candidate needs to reach fewer people, in general, so funds go further. Second, because Senate candidates often attract money from all around, which means their takes could give a false impression of enthusiasm. With House candidates, money is more likely to be local, and so to be an indication of enthusiasm among the voters who matter (i.e., the ones who can actually vote for that candidate). Not always true (See: Frisch, Adam), but usually.

In Q1 last year, the situation was basically reversed, with all the biggest hauls going to Republican candidates. What's changed since then? Hmmmm... could it be abortion? Sounds like a pretty good explanation to us. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr23 Trump Legal News, Part I: The Trial (Day 5)
Apr23 Trump Legal News, Part II: Money (That's What I Want)
Apr23 Noem Does a Furious Tap Dance
Apr23 Columbia Mess Turns Into a Political Football
Apr23 A Tale of Two Polls
Apr23 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr22 Opening Statements in Trump's Trial Are Expected Today
Apr22 Many Key Parts of the Trial Are Hidden from the Public
Apr22 The Pundits Are Getting the Trial All Wrong
Apr22 Greene Continues to Threaten to Force a Vote on a Motion to Vacate
Apr22 Democrats Are Setting Up Billboards about Abortion in North Carolina
Apr22 Kennedy's Former Colleagues Are Running an Ad Attacking Him
Apr22 Republican Senate Candidates Have a Bad Week
Apr22 Could Trump Pardon Himself in a Second Term?
Apr21 Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears?
Apr21 Sunday Mailbag
Apr20 Trump Legal News: The Trial (Day 4)
Apr20 Saturday Q&A
Apr20 Reader Question of the Week: Poor Jesus
Apr20 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr19 Trump Legal News: The Trial (Day 3)
Apr19 RFK Jr.: Feud With Family Is Getting Warmer
Apr19 Israel Bombs Iran
Apr19 In the House: Republican Conference Puts Johnson through the Grinder
Apr19 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Blood Work
Apr19 This Week in Schadenfreude: Trump Does Warrant This Space Sometimes
Apr19 This Week in Freudenfreude: Drew Carey Is a Team Player
Apr19 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr18 Even without a Trial There Was Trial News Yesterday
Apr18 Mayorkas Impeachment Dismissed
Apr18 Republicans Are Playing Hardball in Ohio
Apr18 Leading Democrats Are Worried about Prison if Trump Wins
Apr18 Now Biden Is Also Calling for Tariffs on Chinese Products
Apr18 Supreme Court Appears Divided about Law Used to Jail Rioters
Apr18 DeSantis Backs Down on Banning Books
Apr18 Fox Continues to Pretend Trump Is Not on Trial
Apr18 Steve Garvey Has Big-Time Tax Problems
Apr18 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr17 Trump Legal News: The Trial, Day 2
Apr17 Democrats Reclaim Michigan Trifecta
Apr17 Democrats Are Winning Senate Money Race
Apr17 And So It Begins?
Apr17 Another Republican Wants to Remove Johnson
Apr17 So Much for President Sununu
Apr17 Judge Shopping May Still Be a Going Issue
Apr17 Looking Forward to 2024, Part IX: Reader Predictions, Wildcard Edition
Apr17 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr16 Trump Legal News: The Trial
Apr16 Maine Joins National Popular Vote Interstate Compact