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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

South Carolina

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun. The nomination phase has effectively ended.

Trump won South Carolina, defeating Haley in her home state by 60-39 percent, a narrower victory than polls had indicated. Aaron Blake at WP:
Given the GOP nominating contest appears to be all but over, the biggest question now might be what the results say about Trump’s general election prospects.

A few exit poll findings stand out.

One is that 31 percent of voters said Trump wouldn’t be fit to serve as president if he’s convicted of a crime. South Carolina becomes the third early state to show that at least 3 in 10 voters said a convicted Trump wouldn’t be fit. (We don’t have data for Nevada.)

Just because these voters say he wouldn’t be fit doesn’t mean they wouldn’t vote for him, but it would surely be a hurdle for at least some voters to get over. And 5 percent of voters voted for Trump but said he would be unfit if convicted.

Another exit poll finding is that a large chunk of Haley’s support was expressly anti-Trump. While about 20 percent of voters picked her and said it was mainly an affirmative vote for her, well more than 1 in 10 voted for her while saying the vote was mostly against her opponent (Trump).

The NORC analysis showed that 35 percent of voters said they would be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee, and 21 percent said they wouldn’t vote for him in the general election.

At least 20 percent of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have now said they will not vote for Trump in November.

A major unknown from there is how many of these voters actually mean it — and would otherwise be in the GOP camp. South Carolina allows any voter to participate in the Republican primary. But just 4 percent of voters Saturday identified as Democrats.

Mike Allen at Axios:

Where he won: Two-thirds of Trump voters were white and didn't go to college.

 83% of "angry" voters backed Trump. (ABC)

Where he lost: 75% of Haley supporters correctly said Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020 (about 40% of them voted for Biden). (VoteCast)

A stunning 62% of Republican primary voters said Biden wasn't legitimately elected. (NBC)

Those who went to the polls reflected Trump's strengths:This was the oldest South Carolina GOP electorate this century. (Chuck Todd)
60% of primary voters were white evangelical or born-again Christians. (CNN)

Reality check: That group isn't remotely big enough to win a presidential election. He would need to attract voters who are more diverse, more educated and believe his first loss was legit. South Carolina exit polls show he didn't do that.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Third-Party Stumbles

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.

 Larry Hogan gave up a brief No Labels flirtation to run for the Senate. It is dawning on people that a No Labels candidate would serve to elect Trump. At TNR, Greg Sargent reports:

Around six months ago, when speculation raged that Senator Joe Manchin might join a third-party presidential ticket on behalf of the centrist group No Labels, he privately consulted with Richard Gephardt, the former congressman who has taken up the cause of stopping No Labels in its tracks.

Gephardt showed Manchin private polling that he’d bankrolled himself, illustrating that such a bid could only help Donald Trump beat President Biden, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Gephardt reminded Manchin that even third-party bids that win real public support have routinely failed to garner many, or even any, Electoral College votes.

In short, Gephardt pointed out, a third-party bid could never succeed on its own; it would mostly take votes away from Biden. Manchin absorbed the argument, the person says, and then expressed an acute worry: Above all, Manchin said emphatically, he did not want to become the person who handed the presidency to Trump.

That argument finally seemed to prevail with Manchin last week, when he announced that he will not be part of any third-party ticket after all. Manchin declared that he didn’t want to be a “spoiler,” having apparently realized that by far the most likely consequence of such a bid would be a second term for Trump, as he began to fear six months ago.

RFK Jr. has staffed his campaign with people who lack relevant experience.  It is going poorly. Diana Falzone at Mediaite:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign is in disarray amid an exodus of campaign workers who say disorganization, lavish spending, amateurish leadership, and a severe disconnect between the campaign and the candidate’s values have led the long-shot bid for the presidency astray.

Fourteen members of Kennedy24 have resigned since the start of the year, including 12 field staff and two main staff, according to multiple sources who spoke with Mediaite on the condition of anonymity. One source close to the campaign pinned the turmoil on two leaders: Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, campaign manager and Kennedy’s daughter-in-law, and Del Bigtree, an anti-vaccine activist who serves as the campaign’s communications director.

The source described Fox Kennedy and Bigtree as “self-serving” operatives who were “making decisions based on their own personal advancement opportunities, and not acting in the best interest of the candidate.”


Friday, February 23, 2024

South Carolina Snoozer: Pre-Mortems

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun. The nomination phase has effectively ended.  The Haley campaign has already expired, and the South Carolina primary will merely be the death certificate.

 Natalie Allison at Politico:

For years after she left the governor’s office, Haley failed to nurture her own base of support with the party faithful.

“We didn’t abandon her,” said Allen Olson, formerly the head of the Columbia Tea Party, who was supportive of Haley as she entered the governor’s office. “She abandoned us.”

As Haley campaigns in her home state ahead of Saturday’s primary, she is encountering an electorate that is not only enamored with Trump but that she has done little to cultivate. More than a decade after she last won over conservative voters here, Haley had become a stranger at state and local party events, avoiding Silver Elephant Dinners, party conventions and grassroots gatherings as she embarked on national speaking circuits and book tours, stumped for Republican candidates around the country, appeared on national TV and flirted with the question of whether she would run for president.


Haley returned to South Carolina in 2019 after serving at the United Nations and living in New York City, putting down new roots in the coastal resort community of Kiawah Island. It was hours away from Lexington, the Republican-rich suburb of Columbia where she launched her political career as a state representative.
Far from the heart of conservative South Carolina, Kiawah Island is a golf and beach town, a destination for transplants and retirees and part of a county that President Joe Biden won in 2020. The Biden family has vacationed there at a donor friend’s mansion.

Haley has been making the electability argument.  Yes, the polls show that she would run better than Trump in November.  But most polls also show Trump winning. albeit by a slender margin.  The  "loser" label does not work with voters who think that he actually won in 2020, but was the victim of a rigged election.  

Lately she has been saying that Trump sides with foreign thugs.  That is closer to the mark, but most voters do not care about foreign policy.

She does not want to say the obvious:  that Trump incited a violent rebellion against the government he swore to uphold.

Jonathan Martin at Politico:

For all their enmity toward the other in the last few months, Ron DeSantis and Haley are strikingly similar in their failures. Both made scant effort to develop relationships, whether with the media or with fellow Republicans. Neither was widely accessible to the press until their fate was likely sealed and neither had much goodwill with other GOP lawmakers. So when Haley, as recently as this month, sought out endorsements from some of the most prominent figures in the party it was too late. Those horrified by Trump stayed quiet and everybody else in the party gave in and endorsed the frontrunner.
For all Haley’s talk about hard truths, a staple of her stump speech, the one she hasn’t come to terms with is that Trump represents the bright line of our times. It’s a which-side-are-you-on moment. And, as she made clear in her remarks, she doesn’t want to pick one.

Instead, she’s contorting herself, and blurring the history we’ve all lived through, to argue Trump has changed. It’s a way to rationalize her own capitulation to him in 2016 and accommodate a party rank-and-file that just maybe can be convinced that the person who called for a Muslim ban, mocked Mitt Romney for walking like a penguin and belittled John McCain’s war record and gold star families was a bigger person when he first ran for president.
I know why she’s doing it — she doesn’t want to be seen as Liz Cheney, as donning the blue jersey by saying Trump is unfit for office. Haley wants to retain her viability with Republicans, which is why she made clear again in that speech she’s no Never Trumper.

There are many others like Haley. There’s actually a word for them in the Trump era: homeless. Or to use a more modern phrase: the politically unhoused.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sex, IVF, Republicans, Conservatives

  Our 2020 book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Abortion was a big issue in the 2022 midtermIt will probably be a big issue in 2024.

Alice Ollstein at Politico:

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling granting legal personhood to frozen embryos could set up a political and legal backlash against conservatives heading into the November election.

The decision not only threatens GOP efforts to court suburban women and other constituencies uneasy about abortion bans, but also complicates the party’s standing with millions of people who may oppose abortion but support — and in many cases use — in-vitro fertilization and other forms of fertility care. The ruling also demonstrates how the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has made previously theoretical policy and legal battles over the most intimate aspects of American life far more immediate and high-stakes.

GOP strategists warn that pursuing curbs on those treatments risks exacerbating the backlash that has cost Republicans several races since the fall of Roe. One in six Americans who struggle with infertility — millions of people each year — turn to IVF, according to the National Infertility Association.

“It certainly intersects, badly, with general election politics for Republicans,” said Stan Barnes, a political consultant and former Republican state senator in Arizona. “When a state, any state, takes an aggressive action on this particular topic, people are once again made aware of it and many think: ‘Maybe I can’t support a Republican in the general election.’”

Sarah Fortinsky at The Hill:

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley says she did not endorse the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said frozen embryos and fertilized eggs should be treated as children under state law.

Instead, Haley told the hosts of CNN’s “King Charles,” that she agreed an embryo is an unborn baby.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t, I mean, this is again, I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. What the question that I was asked is, do I believe an embryo is a baby?” Haley said Wednesday evening. “I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby. And so, yes, I believe from my stance that that is.”

“The difference is — and this is what I say about abortion as well — we need to treat these issues with the utmost respect,” she added.

Her remarks come after she faced pushback to an earlier interview with NBC News, in which she said, “I mean, embryos, to me, are babies.”


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Russian Disinformation and Hunter Biden

 Our 2020 book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good.  Its case against Hunter Biden appears to rest on Russian disinformation.

Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer at NYT:
A former F.B.I. informant accused of making false bribery claims about President Biden and his son Hunter — which were widely publicized by Republicans — claimed to have been fed information by Russian intelligence, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

In the memo, prosecutors portrayed the former informant, Alexander Smirnov, 43, as a serial liar incapable of telling the truth about even the most basic details of his own life. But Mr. Smirnov told federal investigators that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden.

Those disclosures, including Mr. Smirnov’s unverifiable claim that he met with Russian intelligence officials as recently as three months ago, made him a flight risk and endangered national security, Justice Department officials said. Mr. Smirnov had been held in custody in Las Vegas, where he has lived since 2022, since his arrest last week.


“The misinformation he is spreading is not confined” to his false claims about the Bidens, wrote prosecutors working for David C. Weiss, the special counsel investigating Hunter Biden on tax and gun charges.

“He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November,” they added.

Politico Playbook:

Word of the Smirnov dossier, memorialized internally at the FBI as a four-page report, leaked out and it became the white whale of House and Senate Republicans looking to impeach Joe Biden. Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) and Rep. JAMES COMER (R-Ky.) finally got their hands on it last summer.


The House impeachment effort had already been losing steam. Comer, the Kentucky Republican leading the effort, said recently that a vote might not happen at all, given the House GOP’s tiny majority. And many Republicans suddenly seem more interested in talking about Joe Biden’s age rather than his son Hunter.

In Biden’s orbit, the potential Russian connection to the case is being greeted with outrage.

“Obviously there’s a case that’ll have to play out here,” said a person close to Biden. “But based on the indictment and filing, it lays bare how unscrupulous the entire GOP and their enablers in right wing media have become. …Republicans in Congress ought to be facing the crushing burden of a massive scandal of their own making right now: An impeachment based on what might be a Russian intelligence operation. If nothing else, a criminal lie, based on the indictment.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Biden Bucks, Trump's Washing Machine

President Biden's re-election team now has $130 million in the bank, while the RNC has little cash and Donald Trump's team is spending tens of millions on legal bills.Why it matters: Despite Democratic angst over the president's poor polling, the Biden campaign announced this morning that it raised $42 million in January — adding to his vast fundraising advantage over Trump and the RNC, Axios' Hans Nichols and Alex Thompson write.

 By the numbers: The RNC started the year with over $8 million in cash on hand. Trump's campaign had $33 million on hand. Neither has released fundraising totals for January.Biden, the DNC and other affiliated committees raked in contributions at the same time his Republican rivals were attacking each other.

Trump's legal problems — which cost his political fundraising apparatus $50+ million last year — show no signs of going away.

Reality check: Incumbent presidents often have a financial advantage going into an election year.Trump and the RNC had more cash at this point in 2020 before Biden ultimately made up ground

Roger Sollenberger at The Daily Beast:

Last year, the former president’s legal expenses would have bankrupted Trump’s “Save America” leadership PAC—his de facto legal slush fund—had he not demanded a $60 million refund from a Trump-aligned super PAC. The super PAC bit the bullet, kicking back more than $42 million so far, with a $5 million hit every month until that obligation is repaid.

Libowitz explained that if Trump’s philosophy is applied to the RNC, it could have profound implications for what is typically a party-wide fundraising bonanza.

“It’s a giant operation that doesn’t spring up overnight. It requires planning and staff, and decisions on how money is going to which states through the national party,” Libowitz said. “Where this can go sideways is if there’s not a ton of committees joining then that affects the limits on how much people can raise, and you get this sort of federalist setup where everyone is doing their own thing.”

The RNC has revved up that “washing machine” even without Trump as the nominee. Last month, the RNC launched a generic presidential fundraising vehicle called “the Presidential Republican Nominee Fund 2024,” which then joined the generic “2024 RNC Joint Victory” armada of dozens of state party committees. But only 39 state groups have signed on so far, with each missing state party leaving money on the table.

Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of watchdog Documented, said Trump would almost certainly try to siphon more cash out of the system.

“We have every reason to expect that Trump will get the RNC to include Save America as part of a joint fundraising agreement,” Fischer said, noting that Save America initially had a joint agreement involving the RNC when it was launched after the 2020 election.

“Depending on the allocation formula between the committees, Trump’s legal expense slush fund will soak up contributions that would otherwise go to the Republican Party,” he said.

That allocation is exactly what Trump wants to control, Libowitz said, so he can ensure he gets priority treatment.

“But he’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, because this is donor money given to win an election, that he’s now claiming for his own personal purposes,” he said, noting that the potential combination of two enormous legal judgments against Trump in New York would only make Trump want more.

Some Republican insiders have expressed concerns about the Trump effect on fundraising. One veteran GOP strategist told The Daily Beast that the history of personal splurges itself might turn off donors, even if the RNC runs a tight ship.

“If people think their money is going to go to hair and makeup or legal bills, they’re far less likely to give anything at all—even if it’s really for voter contact,” this GOP strategist said. “So in a way, the stench of irresponsible spending is just as bad as actually spending it poorly.”


Monday, February 19, 2024

Believing Conspiracy Theories

Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie.

 At WP, Aaron Blake reports that a third of Republicans think that Taylor Swift is part of a deep state plot.

The poll is merely the latest to suggest that a significant segment of the Republican Party is inclined to believe baseless conspiracy theories about the deep state. For example:
  • An August 2022 YouGov poll after the search of Mar-a-Lago showed 38 percent of Republicans believed the FBI planted evidence there. Just 23 percent disagreed with that proposition (another 39 percent were “not sure”).
  • A YouGov poll the next month showed a majority of Republicans said it was at least “probably true” that the FBI planted classified documents.
  • A Suffolk University poll shortly after Jan. 6, 2021, showed 58 percent of Donald Trump supporters said the Capitol riot was “mostly an Antifa-inspired attack that involved only a few Trump supporters.” There remains zero evidence for this.
  • A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed 34 percent said it was at least “probably true” that the FBI organized and encouraged the attack on the Capitol. (About half that number believed there was “solid evidence” of this.)
  • YouGov polling in December showed 42 percent of Republicans believe “many top Democrats” are caught up in child sex-trafficking rings, 35 percent believe mass shootings have been faked to promote gun control, and 28 percent believe the government used covid vaccines to implant microchips in people.
  • The same poll showed fully 60 percent of Republicans believe there is “a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together.” (Democratic support for the proposition was about half — 28 percent.)
  • And, of course, polls generally show around 6 in 10 or more Republicans continue to believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, despite the complete lack of evidence more than three years later.