Donald Trump is furious with his former ally Rupert Murdoch after the media mogul made astonishing admissions that some of his Fox News hosts “endorsed” lies that the 2020 election had been “stolen.” Murdoch, 91, also said in a deposition unsealed on Monday that he wished his organization had been “stronger in denouncing” the false narrative that the election was rigged by corrupt voting machines. Dominion Voting Systems is suing Fox News for $1.6 billion over the issue—but the network denies defamation. “Why is Rupert Murdoch throwing his anchors under the table, which also happens to be killing his case and infuriating his viewers, who will again be leaving in droves—they already are,” Trump fumed on his Truth Social platform on Tuesday. “There is MASSIVE evidence of voter fraud & irregularities in the 2020 Presidential Election,” Trump continued, pointing to Dinesh D’Souza’s conspiracy film 2000 Mules as evidence.
This blog continues the discussion that we began with Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009).The latest book in this series is Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Trump v. Murdoch
Monday, February 27, 2023
Decline of Competition in House Races
Out of the 435 U.S. House elections in 2022, five out of every six races were decided by more than 10 percentage points. The average margin of victory for winners in contested elections was 27 percentage points. And that’s not counting the 32 seats (one out of every 13) that went uncontested by one of the major parties, compared to 27 uncontested seats in 2020.
Competition has been steadily decreasing since 2018 – in 2022, only 36 races were true toss-ups (a final margin within 5%), compared to 44 in 2018. The number of "competitive" races (final margin between 5% and 10%) has fallen from 45 to 35. Even the number of races where the final margin was between 10% and 20% fell significantly, from 81 to 73. Meanwhile, the number of landslides and completely uncontested races has jumped from 265 to 291.
While this lack of competition is a national problem, individual states’ performance on these and other key measures of democracy and accountability vary greatly.
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Working the Refs for 2024
Donald Trump’s team has launched a nationwide campaign to buttress his chances of getting sympathetic delegates at next year’s nominating convention and identify opportunities to shape party rules that could help his campaign, according to people familiar with the plans.
The behind-the-scenes effort comes at a time when most Trump rivals have not even launched campaigns and focuses on the most esoteric part of the Republican nominating process — the state rules and party leaders that actually select presidential nominating delegates.
His team has invited state party officials to Mar-a-Lago, arranged private meet-and-greets between state leaders and Trump as he travels, endorsed state officials they believe will be supportive of him and met with senior Republican Party officials in Washington to discuss how the delegate selection process will unfold, according to the people directly familiar with the efforts, who like many for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Trump advisers say the outreach is less about demanding changes now and more about cultivating relationships for the upcoming months — when they could call for some rule changes in states and try to shape who the delegates are for the convention. It also shows that while they are projecting political strength, there is a realization that they will likely face a long and difficult nomination fight and potentially a messy convention, some Trump advisers say.
Friday, February 24, 2023
Off-off Year Elections in 2023
Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.
Four states held special elections or primaries on Tuesday, and all four were encouraging for Democrats:
The results come on top of a trio of Pennsylvania state House special elections earlier this month in which Democrats significantly over-performed in the 2020 presidential election results. That Democrats won the seats wasn’t surprising — the closest district favored Biden by 16 points in 2020 — but Democrats exceeded those 2020 margins by 14, 24, and 33 points with control of the chamber at stake.
- A much-watched primary for a crucial Wisconsin Supreme Court seat was technically nonpartisan, but featured two candidates clearly more aligned with the left and two competing to be the conservative candidate. The left-leaning candidates combined for 54 percent, while the right-leaning ones combined for 46 percent; the field is now narrowed to two candidates, one left-leaning and one right-leaning. (This is in a state that has been decided by less than a percentage point in the last two presidential elections, and where the first round in a 2020 state Supreme Court race was very close.) Also, the de facto Democratic nominee, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, is currently taking slightly more of the vote than the two GOP-aligned candidates together.
- In the special election for Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, Democrat Jennifer McClellan is currently winning by 49 points in a district President Biden won by 36 points in 2020. Compare that margin to those of the late Democratic incumbent Rep. Donald McEachin in 2022 (30 points) and the party’s 2021 gubernatorial nominee (who carried the district by 13 points).
- In a Kentucky race, Democratic state Senate candidate Cassie Chambers Armstrong won by 54 points in a district Biden carried by 30, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
- And in New Hampshire, Democrats held on to a key state House seat in the closely divided chamber, winning by 11 points in a race that was literally tied on Election Day 2022. (The state reran the election after each candidate emerged with the same number of votes.)
Updated: U.S. House Special Elections, 1957-Presenthttps://t.co/q5mmq1eQyO— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) January 12, 2022
Thursday, February 23, 2023
The GOP and Ideas
[With] voters not motivated by the top-line branding, the ability of realignment policy to mature into a governing approach is thwarted. On this score, much of the Republican Party has been plagued by well-intentioned half steps that are difficult to translate into a compelling national message. The Republican Study Committee is one such example. After several years of heightened discussion around the need for fiscally generous policies to support the American family, the RSC released its “Family Policy Agenda” in September of 2022. Any movements in the direction of robust family policy are praiseworthy. But as the political scientist Darel Paul has observed, the RSC’s agenda “is largely another collection of more savings accounts, more tax cuts, more privatization, more work incentives and less regulation.”7 With abortion now a motivating left-wing issue, the Republican Party knows on some level that it must become a pro-family party. Filtered through the GOP’s typical policy levers, though, the result is often halting and insufficient.
For the inside track of policy change to harness the outside track of voter interest, policies have to be translated into simple and compelling messages. At the overall level of voter messaging, however, the Republican Party has made few shifts. Seeking a message for addressing persistent inflation in the country, the GOP settled on blaming Biden and the Democrats’ “reckless spending”—a phrase it hammered in advertisements throughout 2022. Among voters concerned about inflation, 47 percent cited the cost of groceries as their chief concern. These voters tilted Republican by a twelve-point margin. Yet 25 percent of the electorate despaired above all of price increases in health care, prescription drugs, housing, childcare, and miscellaneous other purchases. These voters voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party—by twenty-four to forty-one points, depending on the issue. A message of decreased government spending makes working-class voters more rather than less afraid of the increasing costs of goods. Among voters overall, 53 percent hold the view that “government should do more to solve problems,” whereas only 46 percent judge that government does “too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” Here again, getting to 51 percent in states that count will require Republicans to modulate its messaging—not losing government-skeptical voters but governing in a tangibly conservative way. Yet two months before the election, the Heritage Foundation’s new president was once again out promoting the message, “Government is not the solution, but the obstacle, to our flourishing.”8
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Democrats and Factory Towns
Hard times, effective right-wing messaging, the demise of local news, and sometimes the Democratic Party itself have led to big changes in the voting and opinions of people living in small and midsized towns that have been most impacted by deindustrialization and increased Big Business power in the economy. But these Factory Towns voters are not lost causes to the Democratic Party, and we cannot afford to write them off. They comprise 48% of the voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, and if we continue to lose ground with them, the entire region will become more and more like Iowa and Missouri – tough states for the foreseeable future. However, if these counties start to move back toward the Democrats, that kind of progress could be the linchpin to building sustained Democratic majorities that can usher our country into a more progressive future.
This report is part of a continuing effort by American Family Voices to do on-the-ground research and data analysis to understand the thinking and motivation of working-class voters, and to recommend strategies that can begin to rebuild the Democratic Party’s and progressive movement’s historic connection to America’s working class.
The project focuses on voters in “Factory Town” counties in six key states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These states were Ground Zero in 2016, breaking down the “Blue Wall” critical to Democratic victories. Joe Biden did just enough better in 2020 to help win back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but these communities in all six states remain very tough for Democrats and will be among the most highly competitive counties for 2024.
Despite the challenges, this is a moment where Democrats have an opportunity to make more gains. Biden and the Democratic Congress have passed substantial legislation that can bring progressive change, all the way down to the community level, over the next two years. The president’s policies, background, and genuine affinity for these working-class communities make him an ideal leader for this effort.
This report combines data from our most recent polling, Facebook and digital analytics, and comparisons of county-by-county elections results in 2022 to the past decade of state election results. The report closes with recommendations on how Democrats and progressive issue advocates should move forward with Factory Towns voters and counties.
Here is the bottom line in our findings:
1. The presidential horse race numbers are very competitive in these counties, but Republicans are stronger in terms of the economic frame.
2. Voters have negative opinions of both parties: this presents both challenges and opportunities for Democrats. Voters in these counties tend to think Democrats lack an economic plan, but they see the GOP as the party of wealthy corporations and CEOs.
3. Populist economics and the Democratic economic policy agenda play very well in these counties. These voters respond best to an agenda focused on kitchen-table economic issues.
4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, populist economic messaging works much better than cultural war messaging. Our strongest Democratic message on the economy beats the Republican culture war message easily. The Republican economic message is a bigger threat to us.
5. Community building needs to be at the heart of our organizing strategy.
6. I recommend that Democrats and progressives make major investments in local field organizing and door-to-door, special events that build community, online community building, existing local media and progressive media targeted to these counties, and progressive organizations that make sure voters know how to benefit directly from the Biden policy initiatives of the last two years
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
GOP House Member Cite Dubious Poll
“One survey found that 17 percent of Biden voters would not have voted for the Biden-Harris ticket if they had known about the Biden laptop.” — Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, at a hearing titled “Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story,” Feb. 8
“The Media Research Center polled Democratic voters in 2020 swing states and found that 17 percent wanted to change their vote if they had known the contents and evidence of the New York Post story.”
— Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Tex.), at the same hearing
The poll in question was done by the Polling Company, a conservative pollster founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, on behalf of the Media Research Center. MRC is a conservative organization that runs Newsbusters, a website that documents what it perceives as a liberal bias in the media. (The website regularly criticizes The Fact Checker.)
This was an online survey, conducted Nov. 9-18, 2020, of 1,750 Biden voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The voters were randomly selected from opt-in participants, with an effort to ensure proportional and representative demographics, the poll says.
The strange thing about this poll is the questions. These were not neutral questions designed to elicit opinions. Instead, they were framed to test negative messages about the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket or positive messages about the Trump administration in an effort to see whether any of these statements would be effective in moving votes.
Oddly, despite the statements by Comer and Fallon, none of the questions specifically mention the Hunter Biden laptop or the New York Post articles about it. The closest approximation is this one:
“At the time you cast your vote for president, were you aware that evidence exists, including bank transactions the FBI is currently investigating, that directly links Joe Biden and his family to a corrupt financial arrangement between a Chinese company with connections to the Chinese Communist Party that was secretly intended to provide the Biden family with tens of millions of dollars in profits?”
Notice how the question raises the prospect of an FBI investigation, a “corrupt financial arrangement” and “tens of millions of dollars” for Joe Biden and his family? To this day, none of those allegations, a staple of Trump’s campaign rhetoric, has been proven.
Monday, February 20, 2023
The GOP's Widening Gyre
Neil Vigdor at NYT:
Michigan Republicans on Saturday picked Kristina Karamo to lead the party in the battleground state, fully embracing an election-denying Trump acolyte after her failed bid for statewide office, one in which she unsuccessfully sued to throw out mail-in votes in Detroit and refused to concede.
Ms. Karamo won a majority of delegate votes at the state party’s convention in Lansing, the state capital, after three rounds of voting that — slowed by paper ballots and hand counting — went on hours longer than the period for which the party had originally rented the convention space.
Her victory appeared to be an upset of Matthew DePerno, another vocal champion of former President Donald J. Trump’s election falsehoods who had his backing in the leadership contest.
Despite Mr. Trump’s endorsement of her rival, Ms. Karamo’s victory in some ways signaled an even stronger recommitment to Mr. Trump as the state party’s north star: One of the biggest flourishes of applause from the crowd of more than 2,000 delegates came when Ms. Karamo reminded them of her refusal to concede the secretary of state’s race.
Florida Republicans on Saturday picked a political consultant with ties to former President Donald Trump advisers to lead the state party heading into the 2024 presidential cycle — a move that some supporters of Gov. Ron DeSantis fear is a “giant Florida win for Trump.”
Christian Ziegler defeated Evan Power 126-100 in the election to chair the Republican Party of Florida. Ziegler previously was the party’s vice chair, while Power served as the statewide GOP chair of chairs and as the leader of the Leon County Republican Party.
Both Ziegler and Power have said publicly throughout the race that their job as party chair would be to support Republicans and not meddle in primaries, but the race was viewed as a minor proxy war between supporters of Trump and DeSantis. Trump has already announced he is running for president and is increasingly attacking the Florida governor, who many anticipate will be his strongest challenger for the Republican nomination. DeSantis is expected to declare his candidacy in Spring.
Ziegler, a Republican political consultant with clients across the country, has worked closely with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, giving some the perception he was a more Trump-aligned candidate even as he has professed his support for DeSantis since he first took office in 2018. Ziegler’s wife, Bridget, is the co-founder of the conservative parental rights organization Moms for Liberty and was endorsed by DeSantis in her race for Sarasota County school board. [MOMS FOR LIBERTY IS A NOTORIOUS ANTIVAX GROUP.]
Trump’s team did nothing to downplay the proxy war perception after the vote.
“Chair races across the country are and should be important for people running for president,” said a consultant familiar with the Trump campaign’s thinking. The person was granted anonymity to freely discuss the race. “To that extent, the more Trump candidate won today. That means the Trump campaign is likely pleased with the outcome.
Sunday, February 19, 2023
Kari Lake and DeSantis
Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The early stages of the 2024 race have begun.
Failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has turned on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), on whom she once lavished praise for his “BDE” and called a model for Republican governors around the country.
On Thursday, Lake shared an article from the conspiracy-mongering website Gateway Pundit, accompanied by its misleading title: “The Kiss of Death – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Endorsed by George Soros (VIDEO).”
In truth, the billionaire and progressive megadonor had not expressed a preference for DeSantis, instead merely predicting that he would beat out former president Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2024.
“He is likely to be the Republican nominee,” said Soros, who described DeSantis as “shrewd, ruthless, and ambitious.”
The deceptive attack marks a heel turn for Lake, who has spent the months since her loss proclaiming that the election had been stolen from her and following Trump around like a particularly clingy pet in what many believe to be a less-than-dignified bid to be tapped as Trump’s running mate.
The Kiss of Death - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Endorsed by George Soros (VIDEO) https://t.co/9dbJ1YOM5w— Kari Lake (@KariLake) February 17, 2023
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Trump and DeSantis
On Trump’s political team, DeSantis is widely seen as the biggest threat. Trump advisers have begun to compile opposition research on DeSantis, and several people close to Trump said he wants to make DeSantis think about whether he wants to get into the race. They plan to paint him as aloof and cold. Trump has watched clips of DeSantis debating, particularly against Democrat Charlie Crist last fall, and has given advisers dim reviews of his skills onstage.
But they have also closely watched the governor’s positive coverage in conservative media, the adulation DeSantis has received from prominent activists, his aggressive effort to build a network of donors and a series of polls that show DeSantis is Trump’s only competitive rival, four advisers said.
Trump advisers say he wants to make it painful for DeSantis to enter the race — and he has repeatedly taken warning swipes.
“We’ll handle that the way I handle things,” Trump said of the potential challenge in a recent interview. “Ron DeSantis got elected because of me,” he said in another. “You remember he had nothing. He was dead.”
DeSantis has mainly brushed off the barbs, contrasting his overwhelming reelection with Trump’s loss. “In my case, not only did we win reelection; we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in response to Trump accusing him of “trying to rewrite history” on the coronavirus response. But quietly, DeSantis has worked to cultivate some of Trump’s top donors, people familiar with the matter said, and has weighed taking him on more publicly.
And at some point after last August, the famous ad from DeSantis’ 2018 campaign — the one showing him teaching his children to “build the wall” and reading “The Art of the Deal” — disappeared from the governor’s YouTube page.
Friday, February 17, 2023
Of Murdoch and Malice
Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson at NYT:
Newly disclosed messages and testimony from some of the biggest stars and most senior executives at Fox News revealed that they privately expressed disbelief about President Donald J. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even though the network continued to promote many of those lies on the air.
The hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as others at the company, repeatedly insulted and mocked Trump advisers, including Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in text messages with each other in the weeks after the election, according to a legal filing on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion is suing Fox for defamation in a case that poses considerable financial and reputational risk for the country’s most-watched cable news network.
On Nov. 12, in a text chain with Ms. Ingraham and Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson pointed to a tweet in which a Fox reporter, Jacqui Heinrich, fact-checked a tweet from Mr. Trump referring to Fox broadcasts and said there was no evidence of voter fraud from Dominion.
“Please get her fired,” Mr. Carlson said. He added: “It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.” Ms. Heinrich had deleted her tweet by the next morning.
“This filing argues a fire hose of direct evidence of knowing falsity,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. “It gives a powerful preview of one of the best-supported claims of actual malice we have seen in any major-media case.”
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Fiscal Politics 2023
Regarding the debt ceiling, the limit on debt of $31.4 trillion was reached on January 19th of this year. The Treasury then began to take well-established “extraordinary measures” to borrow additional funds. We project that, if the debt limit remains unchanged, the government’s ability to borrow using extraordinary measures will be exhausted between July and September 2023.
The projected exhaustion date is uncertain because the timing and amount of revenue collections and outlays over the intervening months could differ from our projections. In particular, income tax receipts in April could be more or less than we estimate. If those receipts fell short of estimated amounts—for example, if capital gains realizations in 2022 were smaller or if U.S. income growth slowed by more in early calendar year 2023 than we project—the extraordinary measures could be exhausted sooner, and the Treasury could run out of funds before July.
If the debt limit is not raised or suspended before the extraordinary measures are exhausted, the government would be unable to pay its obligations fully. As a result, the government would have to delay making payments for some activities, default on its debt obligations, or both.
I will close with three key takeaways from our analysis.
- For 2023, we project stagnant output, rising unemployment, gradually slowing inflation, and interest rates that remain at or above their levels at the beginning of the year—before the economy subsequently rebounds.
- Noninterest spending substantially exceeds revenues in our projections even though pandemic-related spending lessens. In addition, rising interest rates drive up the cost of borrowing. The resulting deficits steadily increase the government’s debt.
- Over the long term, our projections suggest that changes in fiscal policy must be made to address the rising costs of interest and mitigate other adverse consequences of high and rising debt.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Self-Funding Losers in 2022
Our recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses campaign finance.
Congressional candidates poured about $300 million of their own money into self-funding campaigns in the 2022 midterm election cycle but few ultimately won their races, a new OpenSecrets analysis found.
According to year-end disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission, the majority of the self-funding candidates were Republicans, investing around $211 million of their own money into the contest. Democratic candidates, on the other hand, self-funded $86 million.
Self-financing made up 8% of the record $3.6 billion of total campaign funds raised by federal candidates during the 2022 election cycle.
Self-funding candidates were some of the biggest losers this election cycle, with only two out of the top 10 self-funding candidates pulling through a win. Both winners were House candidates, while the eight who lost ran for Senate seats.
Physician and TV personality Mehmet Oz, who ran for Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican, poured more money into self-funding than any other federal candidate in the last election cycle. Oz poured in about $26.8 million of his money in his unsuccessful Senate bid, accounting for over half what he raised overall. His Democratic opponent in the closely watched Pennsylvania race, now-Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), raised more than Oz at around $75 million, all of which came from PACs and individual donors.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The early stages of the 2024 race have begun.
Nikki Haley has announced her 2024 candidacy. Stuart Stevens at NYT:
As governor, her defining action was signing legislation removing the Confederate flag from the State Capitol. This came after the horrific massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, and after social media photos surfaced of the murderer holding Confederate flags. Ms. Haley compared the pain South Carolina Black people felt to the pain she experienced when, as a young girl named Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, she saw her immigrant father racially profiled as a potential thief at a store in Columbia. “I remember how bad that felt,” Ms. Haley told CNN in 2015. “That produce stand is still there, and every time I drive by it, I still feel that pain. I realized that that Confederate flag was the same pain that so many people were feeling.”
Then came Donald “You had some very fine people on both sides” Trump, and by 2019 Ms. Haley was defending the Confederate flag. In an interview that December, Ms. Haley told the conservative radio host Glenn Beck that the Charleston church shooter had “hijacked” the Confederate flag and that “people saw it as service, sacrifice and heritage.”
In her 2019 book, “With All Due Respect,” the sort of autobiography candidates feel obligated to produce before launching a presidential campaign, Ms. Haley mentions Mr. Trump 163 times, overwhelmingly complimentary. In one lengthy passage, she insists that she was not referencing him in her 2016 Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech, when she called on Americans to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices.” It is always sad to see politicians lack the courage to say what should be said, but sadder still to see them speak up and later argue any courageous intent was misinterpreted.
It didn’t have to be this way. No one forced Ms. Haley to accept Mr. Trump after he bragged about assaulting women in the “Access Hollywood” tape. No one forced her to defend the Confederate flag. No one forced her to assert Mr. Trump had “lost any sort of political viability” not long after the Capitol riot, then reverse herself, saying she “would not run if President Trump ran,” then prepare to challenge Mr. Trump in the primary. There is nothing new or novel about an ambitious politician engaging in transactional politics, but that’s a rare trifecta of flip-flop-flip.
There is a great future behind Nikki Haley. She will never be the voice of truth she briefly was in 2016, and she will never be MAGA enough to satisfy the base of her party. But no one should feel sorry for Ms. Haley. It was her choice.
Monday, February 13, 2023
Gubernatorial Races in 2023
In Mississippi, Republican Tate Reeves is a strong favorite to win reelection and preserve the GOP trifecta, despite a recent Siena College poll showing a majority of voters would prefer a new governor. Democrats are optimistic that Brandon Presley, a public service commissioner and distant relative of Elvis, can keep the race close. Presley’s past electoral performance in his rural northern district is impressive, but Mississippi’s ruby-red hue will be near impossible to overcome.
Louisiana’s open race represents the most promising gubernatorial opportunity for the GOP. Two-term Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards is term limited and a number of Republicans have jumped into the. Though the state party endorsed—controversially—Attorney General Jeff Landry in November, State Treasurer John Schroder has also announced his candidacy, and several other well-known Republicans are considering campaigns as well. Regardless of the eventual Republican candidate, the GOP should be a strong favorite in a state that has continued to slip out of reach for Democrats.
Though Donald Trump won Kentucky by 26 points in 2020, the Bluegrass State is home to 2023’s most intriguing gubernatorial contest. Four years ago, Democrat Andy Beshear pulled off a surprise victory over Republican Matt Bevin. Despite a quietly successful first term, reelection will prove difficult in solidly red state.
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Abortion Politics and Public Opinion
Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. Abortion was a big issue in the 2022 midterm.
Americans are more dissatisfied with U.S. abortion policies now than they have been at any point in Gallup’s 23-year trend, and those who are dissatisfied are three times as likely to prefer less strict rather than more strict abortion laws.
The record-high 69% of U.S. adults dissatisfied with abortion laws includes 46% who prefer that these laws be made less strict, marking a 16-percentage-point jump in this sentiment since January 2022. In addition, 15% of Americans are dissatisfied and favor stricter laws, and 8% are dissatisfied but want them to stay the same. Meanwhile, 26% of Americans are satisfied with the nation’s abortion policies, similar to last year’s 24% record low.
The percentage of women who are dissatisfied with U.S. abortion policies and support less strict laws has risen 18 points this year to 50%, compared with a 13-point increase among men to 41% over the past year. Both readings are the highest on record for those groups.
Abortion policy in the U.S. has changed drastically after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. With individual states now having more leeway in making abortion policy, 12 states have bans in effect, and more have restricted the availability of abortions.
The abortion issue was on the ballot in 2022, including in several states where legislators tried unsuccessfully to change their state constitutions to restrict abortion rights. Even in states where abortion was not on the ballot in 2022, Gallup polling and exit polls suggest that it played a significant role in the election and was at least partially responsible for Republicans’ net loss of one Senate seat and failure to gain as many House seats as they had hoped.
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Club for Growth and AFP v. Trump
A pair of libertarian-minded Republican groups — Americans For Prosperity and the Club for Growth — are planning to pour millions into the presidential campaign to stop former President Trump from winning the GOP nomination.
Why it matters: The battle for the Republican Party's future is a clash between the interests of its big donors and grassroots voters. The donors are overwhelmingly looking for a Trump alternative in 2024, but Trump still maintains a strong hold on much of the populist base he empowered in 2016.
Driving the news: Americans For Prosperity, the conservative political network founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has said it will back a specific Republican candidate by the end of the summer.
- Conservative donors tend to support free trade, changes to Social Security and Medicare, and a less restrictive immigration policy. In 2016, Trump stood out by rejecting such conservative orthodoxy — and sounding an anti-war pitch.
- The anti-tax Club for Growth, which has close ties to several potential presidential candidates, is less likely to coalesce behind one candidate.
- The club has invited six prospective GOP candidates— Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — to its donor summit in Florida next month. Trump isn't invited.
- On the eve of Trump's 2024 campaign launch, the club commissioned polling that indicated he would be vulnerable against DeSantis in a one-on-one presidential matchup.
Thursday, February 9, 2023
The Perfect Foil
President Biden traveled to Florida on Thursday afternoon with a political gift he had not been expecting before Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech.
The perfect foil.
Republican outbursts during his address to Congress — and Mr. Biden’s real-time exchange with heckling lawmakers about the fate of Social Security and Medicare — gave him exactly that, and he eagerly tried to use the episode to his advantage on Thursday in an event before a small audience of supporters here.
Standing in front of two huge American flags and a sign that said “Protect and strengthen Medicare,” the president made clear he relishes the fight on the issue.
“I guarantee it will not happen,” Mr. Biden said of cuts to the entitlement programs. “A lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.”
To drive the point home, the White House placed glossy pamphlets on the seats of every attendee at the Tampa event, designed to look like the plan for a five-year expiration of all government programs put forward by Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida.
“This means Medicare and Social Security would be on the chopping block every five years,” the White House wrote in the mocked-up pamphlet.
Donald Trump is going on the attack against potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination over Social Security and Medicare, seizing on the same GOP divisions over federal spending that President Biden is seeking to exploit.
Trump moved to wield the issue as a wedge in the primary, particularly against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with a video message last month urging Republicans to use negotiations over raising the debt ceiling to cut spending but not “a single penny” from Social Security or Medicare. He also posted a short video clip of a younger DeSantis praising Paul D. Ryan, the former House budget chairman from Wisconsin who famously proposed replacing Medicare with giving seniors money for private health insurance.
The emphasis reflects potential vulnerability for Republican rivals who were elected to powerful posts in the pre-Trump tea party era, embracing austerity in the last showdown over raising the federal debt limit. As Trump’s campaign has signaled an interest in stoking debate over entitlements, Biden used his State of the Union address on Tuesday to similarly bait Republicans, producing a rowdy spectacle in which they booed his accusation that they want to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Congressional Republicans Gobbled Biden's Bait
Not only did Republicans repeatedly heckle, jeer, and shout during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, but Biden was ready for them. In impromptu remarks not included in the prepared text of the speech, Biden rolled with the interruptions, using them to reinforce his message. Biden accused “some” Republicans of plotting to sunset Social Security and Medicare. When he got protests, he grinned and accepted them as a “unanimous” endorsement. “I welcome all converts,” he told them, recasting for the television audience the Republican hubbub as a sign of submission.
Partisanship, populism, and patriotism were his themes. The speech was strewn with traps carefully constructed to ensnare opponents. He opened with a tribute to bipartisanship, but the mechanics of his address were based on shrewd and unapologetic hyper-partisanship. He anticipated negative reactions in the chamber—and used them to reinforce his message.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Trump v. DeSantis: Very Nasty, Very Early
Former President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday, seizing on a story that his rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination partied with underage students when he worked as a teacher at a Georgia high school.
In five successive posts Tuesday to his social media site, Truth Social, Trump went after DeSantis. Two of them referenced a story published by the far-right website Hillreporter.com that claimed DeSantis had been photographed "partying with underaged students" at the Darlington School, a private K-12 school in Rome, Ga., where DeSantis taught from 2001-02.
Trump reposted a photograph originally posted by a Truth Social member who goes by the handle Dong-Chan Lee, and who uses a profile photo of the alt-right meme Pepe the Frog, featuring Trump's signature hairdo. The image showed what appeared to be DeSantis flanked by three young women that had been captioned, "Here is Ron DeSanctimonious grooming high school girls with alcohol as a teacher."
Monday, February 6, 2023
Koch v. Trump
A group funded by billionaire Charles Koch will work to support a Republican presidential nominee other than Donald Trump, concluding in a strategy memo that “we need to turn the page on the past.”
The organization, Americans for Prosperity, has stayed out of the last two presidential cycles but has concluded it needs to engage now as Mr. Trump mounts his third consecutive White House run. The memo released Sunday doesn’t mention the former president by name but is unambiguous in its purpose.
“To write a new chapter for our country, we need to turn the page on the past,” the document reads. “So the best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter. The American people have shown that they’re ready to move on, and so AFP will help them do that.”
A spokesman for Mr. Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
AFP didn’t say how much it would spend but boasts of a large grass-roots and data operation. “The states with some of our strongest and most effective state chapters are the same ones that will play a crucial role in nominating the next Republican presidential candidate,” reads the memo, written by CEO Emily Seidel.
A related super political-action committee, AFP Action, “is prepared to support a candidate in the Republican presidential primary who can lead our country forward, and who can win,” the memo stated.
Sunday, February 5, 2023
A balloon US officials are calling a Chinese surveillance tool spent days flying over the continental United States before it was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet on Saturday.
Pentagon leaders advised President Joe Biden against immediately shooting the flying orb out of the sky due to safety concerns for civilians as the high-altitude object was large enough to create a large debris field, a senior defense official who spoke on background told reporters Thursday.
The dayslong spectacle saw many Republicans criticize the Biden administration for what they viewed as a slow response to the foreign object, while some conservative leaders and pundits took the opportunity to pick at confidence under the Biden administration in general as they claimed no other leader such as Donald Trump would have let a Chinese spy balloon fly over the US.
"Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country?" Rep. Jim Jordan wrote on Twitter. "Would Reagan? JFK? Truman? No, no, and no."
But senior Pentagon officials said on Saturday that suspected Chinese surveillance balloons crossed into the US at least three times during the Trump administration and once earlier in the Biden administration, the Associated Press reported.
In a statement to Fox News, Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker claimed that "if press reports are correct, the Biden Administration hoped to hide this incident from the American people."
However, the times when suspected surveillance balloons crossed into the US under the Trump administration were never made public until this past week's incident.
BREAKING: ABC News Host Jonathan Karl just broke it to Senator Marco Rubio that Trump let a Chinese spy balloon fly over the US 3 times.— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) February 5, 2023
I could watch his face on repeat 1,000 times as he hears this from Karl! pic.twitter.com/cu2Ou3Ioqj
Saturday, February 4, 2023
Republicans and Ukraine
Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses foreign influence and Trump's attack on democracy. Russia helped Trump through 2020. As Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, Trump lavished praise on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Susan B. Glasser at The New Yorker:
Support for Biden’s approach to the war is ebbing, particularly among Republicans. The new House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has warned there will be no “blank check” for Ukraine going forward, and a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that forty per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine, up from just nine per cent who thought that last March. Over all, the share of adults in both parties who believe the U.S. is doing too much for Ukraine has gone up nineteen points since the war began, a year ago. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson harps on this theme night after night. In the House, vocal McCarthy supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has decried “the neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” blustered, after the G.O.P. won the House in November, that “not another penny” would go to their cause.
And speaking of bluster, there’s Donald Trump, who has lately grown louder and louder on the subject of a Russian war that he initially praised as an act of “genius” by Vladimir Putin. In recent days, as he opens his official campaign to return to the White House, Trump has trashed Biden’s handling of the war and criticized the decision to send the tanks. He’s labelled Americans “suckers” for providing the bulk of aid to Ukraine. He’s insisted he could negotiate an end to the conflict within twenty-four hours. He calls Biden “weak” while opposing Biden’s efforts to send the weapons that make Ukraine stronger.
In a campaign e-mail this week, Trump even seemed to suggest that the American tanks—which will take many months to reach Ukraine—were somehow already responsible both for destroying Ukrainian cities and putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. “Joe Biden is doing what he said ten months ago would cause World War III, sending American tanks into Ukraine,” the statement quoted Trump as saying. “Such a tragic waste of human life, when you look at all that’s happening there. Those cities are obliterated. First, come the nukes. Then, come the tanks.”
The statement, like a lot of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago stylings, makes no sense if you try to actually understand what he is saying: Does he mean that nukes will be used in Ukraine, or perhaps that they already have been? How is it that the tanks are going to roll in after the nuclear apocalypse? It’s all so confusing. An accompanying video from Trump has the tanks coming first, then the nukes. Whatever.