Incumbents Are Getting Wiped Out In Primaries At Historic Levels

Something incredible is happening so far in the 2022 Congressional races.

So far this year, 2022 has seen the second-highest number of incumbent House members losing their primaries since 1948. Only 1992, the eve of the Republican Revolution of 1994, saw more incumbents get dumped in primaries.

While this may not seem surprising given disastrous polls for President Biden and a supermajority of Americans disapproving of the direction of the country, many other election years have seen similar dissatisfaction without a large scale dumping of incumbents. 

Keep in mind: according to a Pew Research report, in 2020, the reelection rate for House members was nearly a whopping 95%.

RELATED: FBI Agent Accused By Whistleblowers Of Shielding Hunter Biden Resigns, Escorted From Building: Report

Trump Influence

One reason behind the shift is none other than President Donald Trump, who has laid waste to incumbent Republicans who voted to impeach him.

The most shocking example happened in Wyoming. Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was completely blown out of the water by Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman. 

Despite being political royalty in the state, Cheney was trounced by over 30 points. 

Trump-backed challenger John Gibbs defeated Rep. Peter Meijer, who was first elected just two years ago. 

In Washington, America First candidate Joe Kent defeated Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler. And so it goes.

Of the ten House members who voted to impeach Donald Trump, only two remain in the running for their respective districts. Four are retired or not running for reelection, and four lost their primaries.

But the same thing is happening on the left, with a struggle for power between liberals and the far-left.

RELATED: Washington D.C. Delays Enforcement Of Student Vaccine Mandate After Mass Noncompliance

Trouble For All

With roughly two months to go before the election, Republicans have some work to do.

With predictions of a red November as basically a done deal for Republicans, the recent win in a special election in New York’s 19th Congressional District by Democrat Pat Ryan over Republican Dan Molinaro should be a wake up call for the GOP.

Ryan had been behind by double digits in a few polls in the lead up to the election. But the poll on election night was the one that counted, and Democrats won.

The problem for Democrats, trying to distance themselves from Joe Biden and his record.

Several Democrat campaign ads have the candidate touting their breaking away from Biden and the Democrat Party on issues like taxes and defunding the police.

But as Biden and other White House officials hit the campaign trail to explain their legislative victories, candidates in tight races might just be stuck with Joe Biden tagging along for the ride.

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Intelligence Official Who Claimed Hunter’s Laptop Was ‘Russian Disinformation’ Appointed To Intelligence Advisory Board

Jeremy Bash, one of over 50 senior intelligence officials who signed a letter prior to the 2020 election suggesting the Hunter Biden laptop story was ‘Russian disinformation’ has been named as a key member of President Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

An announcement for Bash’s appointment was published on the White House website late last week.

The White House cites his past credentials as a national security lawyer as well as his roles as Chief of Staff at the CIA and the U.S. Department of Defense under former Secretary Leon Panetta.

Bash has also been a frequent contributor to MSNBC and was previously married to CNN’s Dana Bash.

RELATED: NY Post Slams Intel Officials Who Claimed Hunter’s Laptop Was ‘Russian Disinformation’: Desperate To Get Biden Elected

Intel Expert Jeremy Bash, Who Falsely Claimed Hunter’s Laptop Was Russian Disinformation, Named to WH Intelligence Board

Jeremy Bash belongs on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board the way Hunter Biden belongs in a parmesan cheese quality control factory.

Which is to say, he shouldn’t be anywhere near it.

Bash was one of over 50 intelligence officials who falsely claimed just before the 2020 presidential election that a New York Post bombshell regarding the President’s son’s laptop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

“If we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this,” the group wrote.

They weren’t right. Multiple media outlets, albeit well over a year after the story was first reported, confirmed the material found on the laptop as being Hunter Biden’s.

RELATED: Whistleblowers Allege ‘Scheme’ by FBI, DOJ to Suppress Negative Information About Hunter Biden Before 2020 Election

Refused to Apologize

When offered an opportunity to apologize or amend their previous attempts to discredit the Hunter Biden laptop scandal by the New York Post editorial board, none of the intelligence officials, including newly tapped Intelligence Advisory Board member Jeremy Bash, jumped.

Bash didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether or not he regrets spreading false information.

“More than a year later, even after their Deep State sabotage has been shown again and again to be a lie, they refuse to own up to how they undermined an election,” the Post said of those who signed the letter.

They then revealed the scheme for what it truly was.

“The 51 former ‘intelligence’ officials who cast doubt on The Post’s Hunter Biden laptop stories in a public letter really were just desperate to get Joe Biden elected president,” they wrote.

Bash has other examples of ‘inventing’ intelligence that was detrimental to former President Donald Trump on his resume.

In a segment from October of 2019, Bash essentially fabricated quotes by Trump in his argument in favor of impeachment over a phone call to Ukraine’s president.

“…this was part of a carefully orchestrated effort by a number of key administration officials to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainians,” he claimed adding what he surmised was the President’s words:

“‘You’ve got to get involved in the 2020 election, help Trump win reelection, and if not, then you’re not gonna get the benefit of American support, including military support.'”

Not exactly a reliable source of intelligence there.

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House conservatives prep plans to impeach Biden

Republicans hoping to seize control of the House in November are already setting their sights on what is, for many of them, a top priority next year: impeaching President Biden. 

A number of rank-and-file conservatives have already introduced impeachment articles in the current Congress against the president. They accuse Biden of committing "high crimes" in his approach to a range of issues touching on border enforcement, the coronavirus pandemic and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Those resolutions never had a chance of seeing the light of day, with Democrats holding a narrow control of the lower chamber. But with Republicans widely expected to win the House majority in the midterms, many of those same conservatives want to tap their new potential powers to oust a president they deem unfit. Some would like to make it a first order of business.

“I have consistently said President Biden should be impeached for intentionally opening our border and making Americans less safe,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.). “Congress has a duty to hold the President accountable for this and any other failures of his Constitutional responsibilities, so a new Republican majority must be prepared to aggressively conduct oversight on day one.”

The conservative impeachment drive is reminiscent of that orchestrated by liberals four years ago, as Democrats took control of the House in 2019 under then-President Trump. At the time, a small handful of vocal progressives wanted to impeach Trump, largely over accusations that he’d obstructed a Justice Department probe into Russian ties to his 2016 campaign. The idea was repeatedly rejected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not least out of fear that it would alienate voters in tough battleground districts. 

The tide turned when a whistleblower accused Trump of pressuring a foreign power to find dirt on his political opponent — a charge that brought centrist Democrats onto the impeachment train. With moderates on board, Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry in September of 2019, eight months after taking the Speaker’s gavel. Three months later, the House impeached Trump on two counts related to abusing power.

The difference between then and now is that liberals, in early 2019, were fighting a lonely battle with scant support. This year, heading into the midterms, dozens of conservatives have either endorsed Biden’s impeachment formally, or have suggested they’re ready to support it. 

At least eight resolutions to impeach Biden have been offered since he took office: Three related to his handling of the migrant surge at the southern border; three targeting his management of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year; one denouncing the eviction moratorium designed to help renters during the pandemic; and still another connected to the overseas business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.

Those proposals will expire with the end of this Congress. But some of the sponsors are already vowing to revisit them quickly next year. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the lead sponsor of four of the impeachment resolutions, is among them. 

“She believes Joe Biden should have been impeached as soon as he was sworn in, so of course she wants it to happen as soon as possible," Nick Dyer, a Greene spokesman, said Monday in an email. 

A noisy impeachment push from the GOP’s right flank could create headaches for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the Republican leader in line to be Speaker, and other party brass just as the 2024 presidential cycle heats up. 

On the one hand, impeaching Biden could alienate moderate voters and hurt the GOP at the polls, as was the case in 1998 following the impeachment of President Clinton. Already, GOP leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are throwing cold water on the impeachment talk, suggesting it could damage Republicans politically in the midterms. 

On the other hand, ignoring the conservatives’ impeachment entreaties might spark a revolt from a Republican base keen to avenge the Democrats’ two impeachments of Trump, who remains the most popular national figure in the GOP. McCarthy knows well the perils of angering the far right: The Freedom Caucus had nudged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) into an early retirement in 2015, deeming him insufficiently conservative, then prevented McCarthy from replacing him.

McCarthy’s office did not respond Monday to a request for comment. 

The challenge facing Republican leaders in a GOP-controlled House will be to demonstrate an aggressive posture toward the administration, to appease conservatives, without alienating moderate voters in the process. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) appears to be walking that line. Last summer, she called Biden “unfit to serve as president,” but stopped short of endorsing his impeachment. 

Stefanik’s office did not respond to requests for comment. 

Another strategy GOP leaders may adopt is to impeach a high-ranking member of the administration, but not the president himself. Several resolutions have been introduced to do just that, separately targeting Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

McCarthy, during a visit to the southern border earlier in the year, had floated the idea of impeaching Mayorkas if he is found to be “derelict” in his job of securing the border. And the concept has plenty of support among conservatives.   

“Mayorkas and Garland have purposefully made our country less safe, politicized their departments, and violated the rule of law. In some instances, they have instructed their subordinates to disobey our laws. That is unacceptable,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who has endorsed a number of impeachment resolutions this year, said in an email. 

“Next January I expect the House to pursue my impeachment articles against Mayorkas as well as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s impeachment articles that I co-sponsored against Attorney General Merrick Garland,” Biggs added.

Still, conservatives like Biggs, the former head of the Freedom Caucus, also want to go straight to the top by impeaching Biden. And it remains unclear if anything less than that will appease the GOP’s restive right flank — one that’s expected to grow next year with the arrival of a number of pro-Trump conservatives vowing to take on anyone they consider to be part of Washington’s political establishment. 

Some Republicans said the decision whether to endorse impeachment next year will simply hinge on events. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), for instance, has endorsed two impeachment resolutions this cycle related to the Afghanistan withdrawal, but “has made no decisions yet on supporting impeachment articles next year with Republicans in the majority,” according to spokesman Austin Livingston. 

“He will wait to see what those efforts look like, specifically how they align with Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution," Livingston said, referring to the section outlining Congress’s impeachment powers. 

But others are eager to use a GOP majority to hold Biden’s feet to the fire. And that energy doesn’t appear to be fleeting, particularly when it comes to the border crisis, which could very well remain a hot topic six months from now. 

Rep. Mary Miller (R), a strong Trump supporter who recently won an Illinois primary over the more moderate Rep. Rodney Davis (R), said Biden should be removed “for purposely ignoring our immigration laws.”

“Biden and Harris have failed their most basic duty,” Miller said, “which is ensuring the safety of the American people through the security of our borders.”

Progressives face down disconnect: policy wins, electoral losses

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the PAC Protect Our Future has only spent money in Democratic primaries.

Progressives are facing down a seeming disconnect over what’s politically achievable in Washington and what wins elections back home.

On one hand, they’ve won major policy battles from the White House to Capitol Hill this month, moving Democrats beyond what many thought was possible to accomplish under President Biden. 

On the other, they’ve struggled to translate those victories to the campaign trail and are coming out of the primary season suffering damaging losses and bruised confidence.

In November, those two realities will be put to the test. 

“Progressives continue to win the battle of ideas, we just don’t always win elections,” said Max Berger, a Democratic strategist with the social justice organization More Perfect Union and a veteran of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass) presidential campaign.

After more than a year of setbacks, liberals have had a good few weeks in Washington.

They were pleasantly surprised by the multibillion-dollar investment they secured toward climate measures from the Senate and White House and were equally happy when certain tax reform and health care provisions were included in the Inflation Reduction Act. They saw the scope of the package as proof they can get much of what they want with enough pressure. 

Liberals put student loan relief high on the president’s radar early in his administration and their push persisted even as he tackled massive crises, from inflation and gas prices to Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

They argued that Biden could cancel borrowers’ debt through executive action, bypassing the ideological disputes of Democrats in the Senate that have stalled his agenda at other critical junctures. 

And after Biden announced a plan this week to cancel $10,000 in debt for those making less than $125,000 and double that for Pell Grant recipients, some felt even more optimistic about the power of the progressive movement.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said her flank had been “doggedly pursuing this,” for months, dating back to a conversation with Biden in March. She has maintained a line to the White House on the issue.

Those accomplishments have the left wing swatting back at what they see as uncredible critiques that their goals aren’t realistic.

Moderates have made the case that independents in particular find progressive policies unappealing. They fought to trim the price tag on earlier versions of Biden’s climate and spending package as well as on certain health care and education priorities. Some centrist lawmakers lobbied against student loan forgiveness up until the final decision, arguing that it would further increase inflation.

But on Thursday, liberals got more good news. A Gallup poll taken in the wake of the series of progressive wins showed the president’s approval rating jumping to the highest spot in a year — 44 percent — in part due to an increase in support from independents.

Still, for all progressives' celebrations on the policy front, they saw plenty of disappointment at the ballot box.

One state with hit the left particularly hard: New York. Home to “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) and Jamaal Bowman (D), the state is usually seen as a bastion of support for progressive lawmakers.

But Democratic Trump impeachment counsel Dan Goldman, who was seen as more moderate, is projected to win the primary in the state’s 10th Congressional District, besting a field of progressive candidates including Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who ran in the 10th District instead of the 17th. And Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) dispatched a progressive challenger by 30 points.

Earlier in the year, former state Sen. Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, lost for a second time to Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), who had the support of the party establishment. And in a closely watched primary in Texas, Jessica Cisneros, a young activist and attorney lost by a hair to the establishment’s choice, conservative Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar. Cuellar’s supporters — and congressional leadership who weighed into the race — argued a progressive could not win his district.

Strategists attributed many of the losses to the amount of money backing more moderate candidates.

“Fragmentation plays a big part, as divided lefty fields opened up paths for ... Goldman,” said Max Burns, a Democratic strategist who worked on the New York race. “But you just can't talk about progressives' primary hardships without addressing the tens of millions of dollars in corporate dark money parachuted into major races.”

The worry over so-called dark money has been weighing heavily on progressives this cycle. The left has been drastically outspent by special interest groups that poured money into several important races to defeat them. 

Protect Our Future, the political action committee affiliated with tech megadonor Sam Bankman-Fried, has spent money in Democratic primaries, and a PAC called Mainstream Democrats has worked to protect moderate incumbents, including Cuellar.

Progressives also say the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been spending more aggressively and out-in-the-open this cycle.

And Goldman, a Levi Strauss & Co. heir, angered his progressive challengers by pouring millions of his own money into his campaign.

Bill Neidhardt, a Democratic operative with Left Flank Strategies and former campaign spokesperson for Sanders, agreed with the damning influence he sees outside spending factoring into party primaries this cycle. 

“Much of it comes down to big money in politics, with conservative Democrats using corporate PACs, or even self-funding in the case of millionaires like Dan Goldman,” said Neidhardt.

“But I would also challenge the notion that progressives are coming up short. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is going to be stronger than ever next Congress with new members who beat out moderates like Becca Balint, Greg Casar, Delia Ramirez and Summer Lee,” he added.

One notable sleeper came from Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a 25-year-old Sanders-backed gun control activist who won the primary for Florida’s 10th Congressional District on Tuesday. The district’s blue tilt means he will likely become one of the youngest members of Congress next year.

And on the Senate side, voters in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin opted to nominate two progressives — Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes — to help Democrats with their quest to keep their majority.

“The candidates have gotten a lot better honestly,” said Berger, noting that left wing groups like Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party have fine-tuned their operations to recruit and train contenders to mount credible challenges. “There’s more people who have experience who have decided to take the lead.”

Some progressives also see the potential in future contests. Even if Democrats lose the House and their collective legislative power diminishes, there are signs of interest for a more liberal candidate than Biden or other possible contenders in 2024.

According to a new USA TODAY-Ipsos poll released on Friday, Sanders leads in favorability among almost two dozen candidates in a hypothetical match-up. 

“Progressives are more popular than they appear,” said Burns. “And even with a torrent of money, corporate-backed candidates are still barely squeaking by.”

The Downballot: Which state legislatures to watch in 2022 (transcript)

The end of Roe has returned the issue of abortion to the states, and that means few elections are more important than those for state legislature. On this week's episode of The Downballot, we're joined by Aaron Kleinman, director of research for the States Project, which works to flip targeted legislatures nationwide. Aaron reaches back to the notorious "Powell Memo" to explain why legislative power is so crucial; discusses how Pennsylvania's unusually high incumbent reelection rate poses an obstacle for Democrats; lays out the stakes for Democrats trying to keep Republicans from gaining supermajorities in North Carolina; and much more.

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also recap this week's elections, starting with the massive upset in New York's 19th—a race Republicans expected to win handily. There were also two colossal Democratic primaries for neighboring House seats in New York City that finally got resolved, plus a near-win by the very worst MAGA candidate of them all in a district near Orlando, Florida. And we update the ongoing vote tally in Alaska, where a Democrat is in surprising contention for the state's lone House seat. 

David Beard:

Hello and welcome. I'm David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir:

And I'm David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. The Downballot is a weekly podcast dedicated to the many elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to city council. We have a ton to talk about today, but we want to make sure that you've had a chance to listen to last week's episode, where we invited on none other than Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of Seinfeld and Veep, who has also been a committed activist for many years. We discuss with Julia state Supreme Court races, which are often overlooked but where progressives can make a huge difference. We encourage you to check out that episode and also contribute to our slate of endorsed candidates running for state Supreme Courts in Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio. You can do that by going to

David Beard:

This week was one of the last big primary weeks of the year, so we've still got a lot to cover. What are we going to be talking about today?

David Nir:

We had primaries in New York and Florida and Oklahoma, but above all else, we had some special elections in New York where Democrats scored a major and unexpected victory. There is also a still-unresolved special election for Alaska's lone House seat that could, amazingly, go Democrats’ way. We will dive into that one. And then our guest this week is Aaron Kleinman, who is the research director at The States Project, an organization devoted to electing candidates to state legislatures nationwide and flipping competitive legislatures. He is also a longtime Daily Kos Elections community member. So we are very excited to talk to him. Plenty to discuss. Let's get rolling.

David Nir:

Holy crap, Tuesday night was amazing. What a huge win. Beard, you got to get us started with the special election in New York's 19th District. Tell us everything.

David Beard:

Yeah. So New York 19 had a special election after Representative Antonio Delgado was appointed to the lieutenant governorship. And so it was expected to be a race that Republicans would likely win, even though Biden carried the district narrowly because as we've talked about over and over again this year, it looked like it was going to be a good year for Republicans. And so in this district that Biden won very narrowly, Republicans should be able to pick it up, but that is not what happened. Democrat Pat Ryan, who's an Army veteran and Ulster county executive, narrowly defeated Republican Marc Molinaro, who is the county executive of nearby Dutchess County by a 51 to 49 margin. This is in the Hudson Valley area.

David Beard:

It was really expected that Molinaro was going to win right up until polls closed and the results came in. The polling—which was sparse—but it all showed Molinaro ahead. And so it's certainly the kind of result that makes you rethink, particularly in combination with the other special election results that we've had recently and that we've talked about pointing towards better Democratic results than you would've expected in a red year that makes you rethink the entire sort of state of the 2022 election and makes you consider like, are Democrats potentially going to stave off a Republican wave year, going to have a neutral year, maybe even conceivably have a slightly better than neutral year? It really is a result that makes you stop and think, because as we've talked about, special elections are the best evidence that you can get as to how an election is going to go.

David Beard:

And with the election less than 100 days away, there's only so much time for things to change. And with special election after special election now showing Democrats outperforming what you would expect, it makes you think that things are possible that we thought would not have been possible if we had been talking about it six months ago.

David Nir:

Yeah. We can't emphasize that enough because the thing with special elections is you never want to read too much into just one race, but now we have multiple races. We had the special election in Nebraska's 1st District, which came about right after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Democrats vastly outperformed the presidential margins in that district. Then we had the special election in Minnesota's 1st District—again, same thing, conservative district, Democrats lost, but they performed much better than the presidential results in that district.

David Nir:

Okay. That's two races. Except now on Tuesday night, we had another two races because not only the Democrats win in New York's 19th District, but they also outperformed the presidential margins in another special election in the much more conservative 23rd District as well. And on top of that, you of course have the constitutional amendment in Kansas that went down in absolute flames. So I think at this point we have enough data to say that the outlook really has changed. And the other thing that I have to add specific to the race in the 19th is that Marc Molinaro was a highly touted recruit. Republicans had wanted him to run for this seat in 2020. They were super stoked that he had finally said yes for 2022. He serves Dutchess County, as Beard mentioned, which is one of the largest counties in the district. He had something of a moderate profile.

David Nir:

He really is the kind of candidate that Republicans would love to be able to run everywhere and yet he still lost. And I should also add that Molinaro is going to be running for a full term in the new 19th District. The special took place in the old 19th District, but the new 19th District is even bluer than the old 19th. And also it doesn't contain any part of Dutchess County. So he doesn't have his base. Pat Ryan, the Democrat who won in the old 19th, is actually running for a full term in the new 18th. And that is also much bluer than the 19th. So Democrats by this unlikely victory have not only added such important data points to this post-Dobbs world, but they put themselves in much better position in this part of upstate New York vis-à-vis holding the House.

David Beard:

And one thing that we saw both in 2010 and 2014 was when Democrats had bad years, they had really bad years in upstate New York. And this is more evidence that is not going to be the case this year, the way it was in both of those midterms during the Obama presidency. The other thing that I want to flag from here was the differential turnout that we saw in different counties. Pat Ryan won two counties in the 19th District. He won Columbia County and Ulster County. And both of those counties way outperformed the turnout compared to 2020. If you look at how many votes were cast in the special compared to how many votes were cast in 2020 and how that sort of works as a percentage of the turnout, Columbia and Ulster County—the Democratic counties—way outperformed all the Republican counties that did not cast as many votes as you would expect if it was sort of equal across the board going back to 2020. And we've seen similar things happen in Lincoln, in Nebraska's 1st District, and in Rochester, in Minnesota's 1st District.

David Beard:

So this is both good news. Obviously we want to see this good positive turnout in these urban and suburban areas where Democrats are motivated and voting, and also a little bit of a cautionary tale obviously. If that is less of the case in November, if more rural turnout spikes or comes back up, that obviously could bring things back a little bit. So it's something to watch, but I think right now you have to take it as a good sign.

David Nir:

So one amusing thing is that on Wednesday, the day after the election, Molinaro tried to blame his loss on the fact that Democrats scheduled a special election for the same day as the state's congressional and state Senate primaries. And I find that deeply amusing because it just shows Republicans only think they can win if they suppress the vote and have the smallest electorate possible.

I realize that's no laughing matter, but in the case of Molinaro, it's totally pathetic. But that does mean that we did have a whole bunch of primaries that we ought to discuss. And in particular, there were two House races in very blue districts in New York City that received a ton of attention. In New York's 10th District, this was an open seat in Lower Manhattan and nearby liberal neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Dan Goldman was the winner there. He is a self-funder who had served as the House Democrats’ chief counsel during Trump's first impeachment. He beat Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou by just a 26 to 24 margin. Congressman Mondaire Jones who represents the 17th District in the Hudson Valley, that's well to the north of the city, took third with just 18%. This one led to a lot of gnashing of teeth. Goldman, who is an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune and put a ton of money into the race and ran tons and tons of ads, was generally considered among the more moderate options in the race.

And progressives really split that vote. He only won just over a quarter of the vote. So perhaps in a future year, he might be more vulnerable in a primary if progressives rally around a single candidate, but for now he's on his way to Congress. This is a dark blue seat where he is assured of victory in November.

Just to the north is the revamped 12th District. This district takes in Manhattan's upper east side and upper west side. It's the first time in more than a century that a single congressional district has incorporated both of those neighborhoods. And it set up a titanic conflict between two 30-year veterans of the House: Congressman Jerry Nadler and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Nadler's base was on the West Side. Maloney's on the East Side. But if you look at a map of the results, it scarcely looks that way. Nadler destroyed Maloney 55-24. A third candidate took the rest of the vote. This again is a safely blue seat. So Nadler will get another term in Congress and Maloney's career will come to an end.

David Beard:

We also had primary night in Florida on Tuesday where most races went as predicted, but there was a near major upset in Florida's 11th Congressional District on the Republican side where incumbent Republican Representative Dan Webster narrowly held off far-right troll Laura Loomer by just a 51-44 margin. Loomer is—of the many, many crazy MAGA candidates that we have discussed on this podcast and seen across the country, she is one of the top. She describes herself as a proud Islamophobe. She is banned on numerous different social media apps. She is banned on rideshares. She's so far out there she almost goes past a lot of the Trumpist stuff.

It is very, very strange candidate. She, of course, refused to concede when faced with this narrow loss. She is already spreading conspiracy theories about the primary, but more than anything, this is a huge warning sign to Webster, who is among a number of Republicans, incumbent Republicans, who have faced scares from these far-right Trump candidates and who really regardless of their sort of personal views—and clearly they're happy to endorse and work with Trump, to support Trump—are forced into these increasingly right-wing conspiracy theorist campaigns to prevent being beaten in these primaries by wild and crazy people.

David Beard:

And so it's not a great sign. The fact that these Republican seats are being increasingly contested by these fringe far-right candidates, but there's very little that Democrats can do other than try to beat them when that happens.

David Nir:

It's also important to bear in mind that Webster himself is an ultra-conservative. He voted against recognizing the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. He tried to run against John Boehner when Boehner was trying to win another term as speaker of the House. And that totally fell apart, but it just shows what an extreme conservative he is, but he's just not extreme enough.

David Nir:

Loomer is truly scary. Beard, you said that she's one of the worst. I think she might have been the single worst candidate on the ballot from the MAGA wing of the GOP. I mean, this is a woman who is so crazy, she was kicked out of CPAC—banned from CPAC. How nuts do you have to be to manage that? But her policy prescriptions are completely terrifying. She wants to deport millions of immigrants to this country. She wants to shut down legal immigration for 10 years.

David Nir:

She, of course, does not recognize Biden as the president of the United States. She is truly, truly scary. Someone like her is going to win and that person will make Marjorie Taylor Greene look normal.

David Beard:

And that's what you get with this extreme creep to the far right, where you get somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is clearly crazy and way out there on the far right. And then you get somebody even further to the right, like Laura Loomer, and then all of a suddenly you're like, oh, well I guess Marjorie Taylor Greene isn't that crazy, if you've got someone like Laura Loomer almost in Congress and it's a scary situation. But again, all Democrats can do is go and try to win as many elections as we can and keep them out of Congress.

David Nir:

Speaking of winning as many elections as Democrats can, there's something really interesting brewing up north in Alaska.

David Beard:

So this special election in Alaska actually took place last week, but we're still waiting for the results to be finalized, and then for the runoff tabulations to take place. This is the second round. We talked about the first round where Democrat Mary Peltola and Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich advanced, and then Alaskans voted. And what they could do is rank those three candidates, one, two, three, and then after this first round and all of the votes are tabulate, there would be a runoff. The third place candidate would be eliminated and their votes would be assigned to one of the top two candidates.

David Beard:

Right now, we're still waiting on the final results. There's still some more votes that they're waiting to get, but right now we have the Democrat Mary Peltola at 39%, Sarah Palin at 31%, and Nick Begich at 28%, and we don't expect those places to change. So in that case, Begich would be eliminated and his votes would be split between Peltola and Palin, depending on how his voters ranked them in terms of what their second choice was.

David Beard:

And of course, some of his voters may not have ranked a second choice at all. As you can imagine, if you are a modern Republican or conservative-leaning independent in Alaska, and you don't like Sarah Palin, but you don't really want to have your vote go to a Democrat either, you go—you vote for Begich and then you leave the second or third spot blank and that benefits Peltola because she's ahead in this initial round; any votes that are dropped that don't go to either candidate is beneficial to her. So it certainly seems conceivable that Peltola could get maybe a third of Begich's vote, have some other votes dropped, and actually narrowly come out in front of Palin.

David Beard:

I don't think that's necessarily the most likely result, but I do think it's very possible. So it's something we'll want to keep an eye on. We expect the final results and the runoff tabulation to take place next week sometime. So then we should know who's going to be going to Congress for the rest of 2022 from Alaska.

David Nir:

And while Sarah Palin is a special creature all of her own, the final round results between herself and Peltola should be interesting because that'll be just a straight-up Democrat versus Republican race. And we'll be able to compare those to Alaska's presidential lean, just like we've been talking about in all these other specials. And Alaska, of course, is quite a red state, supported Trump by double digits, and it's almost certain, though, that Peltola will outperform that. So again, it's looking like another good data point pushing back on the idea of any sort of red wave.

David Nir:

Well, that does it for our weekly hits. Coming up, we are talking with Aaron Kleinman from the States Project, which helps to flip competitive state legislatures around the country. We have so many interesting things to discuss with him, so please stick with us.

David Nir:

Joining us today is Aaron Kleinman, who is the director of research for the States Project, which works to raise money for targeted state legislative races. But he is also a longtime community member at the Swing State Project and Daily Kos Elections. So we are very excited to have him on. Aaron, thank you for joining us.

Aaron Kleinman:

Thanks so much. Even though I was a member of the community, but unfortunately, I was never on Seinfeld. So I feel like, a little out of place here.

David Nir:

I think you might go for the Kramer role though in the remake.

Aaron Kleinman:

Maybe I could be the back of George Steinbrenner's head again.

David Nir:

Aaron, we would love to chit chat about our favorite Seinfeld episodes all day, but why don't you tell us about the States Project, what it does and how it got started?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah. So I want to take you back way before we were started, all the way to the early 70s when future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote a memorandum for the Chamber of Commerce about how the right wing could defeat kind of the post-war liberal hegemony that had existed in the United States, basically since the end of World War II.

What became known as the Powell Memo highlighted a number of different areas. So one of them was building their own institutions, both media and academics. So that's how you got things like Fox News, The Heritage Foundation, and all these kind of right-wing funded think-tanks, basically. They also said we need to take over the federal judiciary. That's why you have the Federalist Society and really a 50-year concerted effort by the right wing to install ideological judges who will focus on outcomes beneficial to them and the Republican Party.

And the third element of it was state legislatures. And there was a real focus by the right, starting in the early seventies, to take over state legislatures. And what you saw, the group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was a big player here. But there are others founded by people—members of the new right like Paul Weyrich and Grover Norquist that really focused on state legislatures making it harder to govern states, making them more in hock to corporate special interests. And this was a decades-long effort that really you saw in 2010, for example, really almost culminated then with the Red Map initiative where the right really poured unprecedented resources into state legislative races, so they could gerrymander the country for the next decade.

And I think a lot of people woke up on Nov. 9, 2016 being like, how did we get here? And a lot of people looked at state legislatures like one of the reasons why is because we just haven't built the institutions here that the right has. And so in 2017, our executive director, Daniel Squadron, who used to be a New York state senator, founded what became the States Project. And we started working just trying to figure out how we as an organization can focus grassroots attention toward flipping state legislative seats and winning majorities that are in line with our values that will not work for corporate special interests, but will work to achieve the common good.

David Nir:

So I'm sure there are a million different answers to this question. It's one that I've thought about a lot, I've gnashed my teeth over a lot, but why do you think that Democrats spent decades really without a Powell Memo of their own? Why did conservatives seize these levers of power and progressives, Democrats to the left, whatever you want to call it, kind of almost abdicated the playing field?

Aaron Kleinman:

I actually love this question because I've been thinking about it a lot too. I think one reason is I think what you saw the new left that emerged in the late 60s, early 70s, you had a new right and a new left emerge, and the new left was really focused on a kind of litigation-forward strategy almost, kind of setting up ways for basically people to sue to get or stop things. And I think that litigation-forward strategy ended up backfiring. When that works is when you have a federal judiciary in state courts that are appointed by Democrats, but as kind of the right’s taking over judiciaries across the country, it's made it harder and harder.

And it's also kind of a move away from the organized labor movement as well has really led to declines in people really organizing around things that are really close to them, like state legislatures. And so it kind of left this vacuum there. And also I think, again, the right-wing effort, it took a really long time. I mean, if you look at before the 2010 elections, Democrats, they controlled legislatures in states like Alabama. Even in 2012, they were in the majority in Arkansas and West Virginia. And so it took a really long time for really the far-right to take over these state legislatures. Yeah. I mean, think that's a big part of it was just kind of how the new left constituted itself in a very kind of litigation and D.C.-centric way that channeled activists’ energy toward those areas.

David Nir:

I think that's a really interesting answer. So in a way, it's almost sort of like a multidecade frog boil.

Aaron Kleinman:


David Nir:

This conservative plan unfolding over such a long period of time. And then in a way, as you pointed out with 2010, it suddenly sort of seemed to come to a head all at once.

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah, I think that's right.

David Nir:

So Democrats haven't ignored this issue obviously. Earlier this year we interviewed Jessica Post, who leads the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is the state legislative equivalent of the DSCC or DCCC, and they were founded 30 years ago, but how does the States Project differ from the DLCC and how do you complement one another?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah. I mean, I think that the biggest differentiator between us is, it's fundamental where the DLCC is a party organization and we are a nonpartisan organization. And so we will work with any lawmakers that share our values regardless of their party. And so you can see that in a state like Alaska for example, where you have the state House is governed by a faction of Democrats, independents, and Republicans who are opposed to their governor's really kind of far-right stances cutting social services for the people of the state. Being nonpartisan gives us the flexibility to work with a group like that. Another state that's like that is Nebraska, because in Nebraska you have nonpartisan state legislative elections. And so that gives you more wiggle room to try to find candidates that share your values but maybe not necessarily the party.

David Beard:

And so with these huge number of state legislative chambers and races, just into the thousands, how do you go and narrow down into the competitive chambers and competitive races that you want to focus on?

Aaron Kleinman:

So it basically starts the month after the previous election. And that's when we start collecting electoral data for all the legislative districts. Actually, this cycle, it's a little bit different because of redistricting. So it was really kind of as soon as states enacted new maps, we were trying to hit the ground running as quickly as possible with the electoral and demographic information about those new maps. And it's collecting all of that and then seeing which states have legislative chambers where we could either change, first of all the majority where either party has a path to change the majority or where there's a possibility to hit an important nonmajority threshold like preventing veto overrides or filibusters or things like that.

So we look at the electoral demographic debt and say, okay, the range of seats that a party could win based on these is roughly between X and Y. And if it's possible that there could be a change in control of a legislature, then we have to start looking at kind of, okay, are we going to go into this legislative chamber? Who are we going to work with? How are we going to do that? And then using that district-level analysis, we try to go into all those competitive seats and then we try to find the candidates who really match our values in those competitive seats. And then we try to see if there's a way for us to work effectively with them to increase their chances of winning.

David Beard:

And so let's talk about some of those competitive chambers that are up this year, and we can start off with Michigan and Pennsylvania, which are really notable. As you mentioned about redistricting this cycle, both of those states have fair or pretty fair maps for the first time, really, in decades after repeated Republican gerrymanders. Do you feel like the Democrats have done enough in terms of candidates, in terms of the races that they're running to put themselves in contention for one or more of those chambers in those states?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah. Well, I'll start with Michigan because in Michigan you're as likely to flip a chamber in Michigan as you are in any other state in the country. There are only two seats away from breaking GOP control of state House, and only three seats away from breaking GOP control of the state Senate. Moreover, as you noted, they have fair maps for the first time in decades. You also have term limits there, which overall social science showed probably lead to worse outcomes at the state level, but it means in this particular election there's just a lot of open seats, especially with gerrymandering really kind of changing districts around a lot because they went from basically legislative drawn gerrymander to an independent redistricting commission that just threw everything they'd done out the window before. So taking all that into account with the thin margins and again, relatively fair maps, in Michigan, we are very, very close.

Pennsylvania we're a little further away from winning the majority there in terms of just you have to flip 12 seats in the state House out of 203, but still that's a bigger percentage than in Michigan. And another issue with Pennsylvania is that they do have fair maps and a lot of right-wing incumbents decided that now that they're in fair districts they'd rather retire than run for reelection, but there are a number that are running for reelection. In Pennsylvania, incumbents tend to win at higher rates than they do in other states, really outrunning their party. And this goes for both parties. There are Democrats in the Pennsylvania House who represent seats that Trump won by 40 points. And what we think is the case of Pennsylvania is they have a full-time legislature with kind of really robust staffing and relatively small districts and so it's just very easy for incumbents to have everyone in-district get to know them personally, and they can establish these personal brands that just become very difficult to beat.

Well, what does that all mean for 2022? It means that there are 103 seats that went for Biden in the House, 100 that went for Trump. There's a clear path there, but it's going to be really hard to beat every single Republican incumbent in a Biden seat. But what you can do is you can make a lot of progress this year. Again, it is possible that we could win all the Biden seats in a good year if it ends up being a good year. But even if it isn't, what you can do is you can really set yourself up to really narrow those margins, really make it so that the majority has less wiggle room in the next 2023, 2024 session. And then you can try to really flip it in 2024 when you'll have presidential level turnout and maybe the partisan fundamentals in those districts will override any incumbency advantage.

Another important point about Pennsylvania is lawmakers there can get sworn in at the start of December. Now that's important because if they try any post-election shenanigans in 2024, you could flip the chamber and get a majority of the legislature who doesn't want to end democracy in America. So that two-cycle play in Pennsylvania would still be really critical for that.

David Nir:

That's super interesting. I want to dig into something you mentioned. I was unaware of the fact that Pennsylvania had an uncommonly high incumbency retention rate at the legislative level. Are there any other states that also fall into this bucket or conversely on the other end of things of elect a lower rate of incumbents?

Aaron Kleinman:

I would say that Pennsylvania has an abnormally high number of incumbents in seats that can win—seats that basically go way against their party. You have Republican who won seats that Biden won by 20. You have Democrat seats that Trump won by 40. You just don't really see that outside of states like West Virginia or Massachusetts, for example, where one party is just so dominant that people who just want to put some type of check on that party will vote at the state legislative level for the other one. So in terms of a big swing state, I think Pennsylvania stands alone for that.

David Nir:

So switching gears from the big swing states where we all have a pretty good sense of the ones that are going to be most contested and most at play, and certainly just the ones that both parties want to win most. We want to talk about some of the smaller states that are on your list. And you mentioned Alaska a little bit earlier, where there's a bipartisan coalition that runs the House, but also we'd love to talk about New Hampshire, which tends to be a really swingy state where majorities seem to get swept in and out from both parties all the time. Maine also is another state that Democrats took control of not that long ago and is potentially up for grabs. So, on the smaller states that maybe are somewhat below the radar, what do you see that's interesting? What do you think progressives should be paying attention to this year?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah, Alaska, especially for all the real ... If you're listening to this podcast, I think you're going to really be interested in what happens in Alaska because they have this democracy reform that I think is fascinating and I wonder if other states might ultimately try to replicate it, which is the top four candidates from a primary make the general election ballot and then they do instant runoff voting with those four candidates. We're hoping that in Alaska independent candidates who, again, are really focused on improving the lives of people in the state, they tend to overperform the fundamentals of their district and we hope to support a number of those. And it'll be interesting to see what happens with this new top four instant runoff voting system. And so that's something to really keep your eye on. Though, I will say Alaska tends to not count ... They're already kind of on the very western edge of the country and their returns come in late. So you might want to be patient as those come in on election night.

New Hampshire, like you mentioned, unfortunately they did sign basically a Republican gerrymander into law that makes it harder for us to take the majority, but definitely not impossible. The state Senate has 24 seats in it and half of them went for Trump, half of them went for Biden. Considering the state went for Biden by seven, that's not exactly fair. But it does at least provide a path to breaking control of the chamber and you do need a majority of votes to advance anything out of the Senate. So at the very least you can stop the worst things if you could do that.

And then thinking about the House, a majority of seats there did go for Biden, though the median seat in the House is still to the right of the state overall. And the New Hampshire House has 400 seats in it, it's the largest legislature in the country, other than the House of Representatives. And also the average lawmaker in the House represents about 4,000 people. So in addition, they might be smaller than the high school you went to.

David Nir:

I think that if the U.S. House of Representatives had the same population proportion as the New Hampshire House, we'd have 97,000 members in Congress.

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah. Yep. It's a very idiosyncratic chamber. We are looking at the best ways to intervene in the state. I think in elections that small, I think really what's important is making it so that candidates make face-to-face contact with as many voters as possible, which means getting them to knock on doors as much as possible. And so we're looking at ways that we can really do that. And hopefully that can be a way for us to break ... Again, because in New Hampshire, a lot of really bad right-wing laws get passed out of the legislature and the governor's—he's a Republican, but he's cagey enough to maybe not sign the worst of them. But he still will sign very partisan and unfortunate bills into law. And so just being able to stop the flow of those to his desk will be really critical.

And then across the border you have Maine, which is kind of the opposite story, where in 2018, we helped flip the state Senate, which led to a trifecta there. And basically right away people in Maine—the Maine legislature started passing a raft of really great bills that improved people's lives. One of them, for example, you might have seen that there weren't enough Republican votes to get a cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs for all patients into the IRA. Well, you could still pass such caps at the state level and Maine did that. So now in Maine, if you need insulin there's a cap on how much you have to spend out of pocket per month. And other bills protecting clean air, clean water, bills protecting the right to vote. And so in 2020, as Susan Collins carried the state, we actually increased the number of members of the state Senate, Democratic members of the state Senate. We spent about 1% of what Sara Gideon had left over in her account to do that.

That's something that I do want to hit on is, the average state legislative race, competitive state legislative race not just kind of a sleepy safe district affair, costs about 3% of a competitive U.S. Senate race. And so when you're talking about donating to these candidates, you can make just such a bigger impact at the state legislative level as a donor.

David Nir:

Obviously it varies a lot from state to state, but in dollar terms, what would be a common amount for a budget for a state legislative price?

Aaron Kleinman:

I mean, in Maine, it's like $40,000. In a state like Pennsylvania or Michigan, it will be higher, but still far, far less. It'll be six figures in a state like that, whereas any competitive federal election now, you're talking seven or eight. So by orders of magnitude, it's just so much easier to make a difference as a donor at the state legislative level.

David Beard:

So on your list, you've also got a couple of states that are focused on preventing Republican super majorities, namely Nebraska and North Carolina. Now, that might not be as exciting as taking a chamber, or holding a chamber like Maine, where we've been doing a lot of good progressive stuff, but that's still pretty important. So what are the stakes in those states, if we are able to prevent that?

Aaron Kleinman:

I can start with Nebraska. So in Nebraska you have a very strong filibuster tradition, where you need two-thirds vote to get most bills onto the floor. That is important in a lot of different ways. You might have seen recently that they were able to block a really restrictive abortion bill by preventing it from getting to the floor. The state budget, which we don't often think about at the national level, but they're really important, just the lives of the people in the state. The state budget needs a two-thirds vote. And so you can make sure that the state budget is providing the services that the people of the state need. And finally, for democracy, I'm sure most of the listers here know, that Nebraska allocates its electoral votes by congressional district. And the Omaha-based district is a swing seat, and it swung pretty heavily toward Democrats in 2020.

And being able to protect that both before and after the election will require us to keep having more than one-third of the seats in the legislature. And by the way, Nebraska is also the only state to have a unicameral legislature. And it's also the only state that has officially nonpartisan elections. So it's just a really unique and interesting state that people don't always think of as a real big political battleground, but it's a really important state if you want to make a difference in people's lives. North Carolina, their state government has been in the news a lot, especially their fights over fair districts. But for this cycle, the House has, not the map that I would have drawn, but is a map that provides a path to the majority in a good year, but also potential for Republicans to hold the supermajority if they have a good year.

And so, in North Carolina, you have a governor, Roy Cooper, who really is dedicated to improving the lives of the people in his state, but if he faces a legislature that can override his vetos, they could pass a lot of really restrictive laws, especially, again, around abortion. And as with Nebraska, these are both states that have a lot of very red states bordering them. And so you're talking about not just the people of that state, but also people in neighboring states. Really protecting those rights is really, really critical, just almost at the national level. So two states you might not think of as big state legislative places, but have huge consequences.

David Beard:

So as a native North Carolinian, there's always a ton of work put into these state legislative races. Breaking the supermajority is something that's been worked on in the past. I notice there's periodic optimism about trying to take one or more chambers.

David Beard:

You mentioned with a fair map in a good year, there's a potential for Democrats to take the state House. There's been talk in the past few weeks about this being a better year for Democrats than maybe we expected earlier in the year. Is that something you see as realistic? And if so, do you change how you're working in the state at all, if it seems like the situation is changing nationwide?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah, and one great thing that we have as a group is that we really have great relationships with the caucuses in these states. So we can be flexible in how we allocate resources, especially down the home stretch there. And we've really worked at ways to improve the efficiency of how dollars are spent, ways that we can kind of purchase [inaudible 00:40:02] time, for example. That could be applied to a number of different candidates, because there are a lot of overlapping media areas because the districts are so small.

So yeah, I think we'll have the flexibility to adapt as circumstances on the ground change in North Carolina. Listen, Republicans are still the out-party in a midterm. So even though special election results have pointed to perhaps a more favorable atmosphere, we really need to make sure that we're protecting as many vulnerable seats as possible. And in North Carolina, especially with the VRA being eroded, you have a lot of rural areas with Black representatives that their district's got more Republican. And the federal courts are just less and less likely to put a check on that. And so we want to make sure that we're protecting these areas, because a lot of these representatives represent areas that really can benefit from a more active state government. And so we want to be sure in North Carolina that we're really protecting people in vulnerable districts as much as possible. In addition to potentially going for as many seats as possible narrowing it.

So even if maybe we can't necessarily flip the North Carolina house in 2022, we can set ourselves up for 2024. But when you think about the risk of potentially losing the super majority, that's just so important that it's hard to ignore the seats that are around the tipping point of the super majority.

David Nir:

So Aaron, when you talk to candidates or other folks on the ground, operatives, folks in caucuses, campaign staff, what are they telling you about what they're hearing on abortion from voters? And how are they talking about it, particularly in these sorts of swing districts that Democrats need to win in order to actually win or hold majorities in the legislatures?

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah. It's a huge concern, and it's an area where the state legislature is particularly important. If you want to go back to what we started talking about, the Powell Memo, the overturning Roe. It's part of that three-legged stool, where you have these right-wing institutions that are promoting the idea that it's a good thing.

You have a right-wing judiciary actually overturning it, and then right-wing state legislatures restricting it. And so I don't know how to end Fox News. I don't know what to do about the federal courts, but I do know that state lawmakers are the people who are most ... They now own this issue. And if you want to change the laws in your state, you have to change your state lawmakers. So because it's so proximate to their elections, it's just an issue that keeps coming up. And we are endorsing candidates that are going to side with women. And so we are really committed to that. So yeah, it's definitely something that comes up. It's definitely something that they're campaigning on. It's definitely something that's really important to state legislatures specifically. And so, you're just going to keep hearing a lot about it.

There's a reason why we keep talking about it, because it's such an important issue. And it also relates at a broader level to the idea that a lot of these right-wing state legislatures are restricting people's freedoms more broadly. Not just the freedom to choose, but also the freedom to choose their own president. Because there are so many state lawmakers, in really swing states that are on the right-wing side, that are willing to ignore the will of voters and want to choose electors contradicting the will of the people of their state. And it really plays into the broader message of a right-wing legislature is a threat to your freedoms.

David Beard:

So you've got a couple ways that people can get involved. You've got a GiveSmart slate of six candidates, and then you've got what's called giving circles. So tell us about how folks could get involved with the state's project through those two ways.

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks. So, everyone should go there, and you'll find all sorts of ways to get involved. A giving circle is when you and your friends and your network want to get together and be like, we want to work together. We want to find a state where the state lets ... Or choose your own state where the state legislature is really important and work together to try and flip it. And so you can pool your resources. And you can have all sorts of programming associated with that. We really try to make the experiences enjoyable and social as possible, if you want to do that. But if you're just like, "I got some money burning a hole in my pocket, and I want to donate to the candidates who need it the most right now."

Well, that's where our GiveSmart program is for. And so if you go to, and you click on our GiveSmart page, right now we have six candidates: Cindy Hans, Kevin Hertel, Maurice Imhoff, Veronica Klinefelt, Christine Marsh, and Sam Singh. They're all in Arizona or Michigan. And they are the candidates that, based on our knowledge of those states and the campaigns, are the ones who need donations the most right now. And feel free to go there, check that out, and give whatever you think they need.

David Nir:

And does that slate change from time to time?

Aaron Kleinman:

So yeah, we update it pretty regularly, because we rotate candidates in and out based on the moment. Right now, those candidates, a bunch of them actually just got out of competitive primaries, because Arizona and Michigan had them at the start of the month. And so they need more resources now.

And I think as we head into the stretch run, in September and October, we end up kind of rotating them a little more frequently, because money tends to come in more often. And we are talking every day basically about who needs resources at the moment. And so, please do keep checking it, just to see when we update it. And I would hope we update it probably around Labor Day again. And then after Labor Day, I'm sure as you guys know, donations really start pouring in and they're just constantly checking to see if there are new opportunities for us. And also we get a better idea of how the election's going to look as we get closer to it. And we can see which districts candidates may need a boost in a little more clearly. But for now, those are the six where if you want to make a difference right now, they're the ones who really need the money the most.

David Nir:

And Aaron, you are a popular, and often very hilarious, presence on Twitter. Where could people find you?

Aaron Kleinman:

Oh, I'm @BobbyBigWheel. I chose that name more than a decade ago, and I still haven't changed it to my real name. I've been in it for so long. But yeah, maybe one of these days I'll change it. You guys still have a Hell of a Sandwich on staff, so ...

David Nir:

That's right, and our site is called Daily Kos, which was named after our founder's Army nickname. And he said he picked it, assuming that he would change it very shortly. And that was 20 years ago and we still have the same name.

Aaron Kleinman:

Yeah, so Markos and I are in the same boat on that one.

David Nir:

Aaron Kleinman, director of research for the States Project, which works on targeting state legislative raises and flipping chambers. Thank you so much for joining us today. This was really illuminating.

Aaron Kleinman:

Thank you so much for having me. I love that you guys have this now, and I am a Daily Kos Elections and Swing State Project partisan for life. And I encourage all listeners, I'm sure you already know Daily Kos Elections ... Especially before I really became full-time in politics, that's one of the best places to spend your time.

David Nir:

Well, we couldn't agree more. Thanks again, Aaron.

Aaron Kleinman:

Thank you.

David Beard:

That's all from us this week. Thanks to you, Aaron Kleinman for joining us today. The Downballot comes out every Thursday, everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach out to us by emailing If you haven't already please subscribe to The Downballot, and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks also to our producer, Cara Zelaya, and editor, Tim Einenkel.

Intelligence agencies fear that Trump has been leaking information on U.S. spies overseas

In what may be the most shocking story to emerge from the entire Mar-a-Lago document scandal, The New York Times is reporting that officials at intelligence agencies fear that among the classified information Donald Trump stole was details on U.S. assets embedded in foreign countries. The names, locations, and even the existence of such assets is among the most guarded secrets of the nation. But something mysterious has been happening over the last few years, with an unusual number of foreign sources being killed or arrested.

In the past, officials have worried that documents leaked by outlets like WikiLeaks might, either purposely or intentionally, reveal the identity of U.S. sources, putting their lives at risk. But now, intelligence agencies have a greater concern: A man who has a horde of stolen documents, connections to numerous hostile governments, and a frequently expressed disdain for both sources and the intelligence community. Put it all together, and you get one of the most amazing front pages in recent years.

New York Times, Saturday Late Edition, Aug. 27, 2022
Saturday, Aug 27, 2022 · 6:11:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Known Timeline: 1. 7/31/2019: Trump spoke with Putin (NYT) 2. 8/3/2019: Trump issued a request for a list of top US spies (The Daily Beast) 3. 10/5/2021: "CIA Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants". (NYT) 4. 8/26/2022: Documents at MAL Could Compromise Human Intel (NYT) 1/5

— The Intellectualist (@highbrow_nobrow) August 27, 2022

Campaign Action

In the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one fact stood out: The United States had uncannily accurate information about Russia’s plans. It was crystal clear that, not only did the U.S. have a fleet of high resolution satellites and other resources observing Russian movements on the ground, they also had sources inside the Kremlin that were giving the White House a direct pipeline into Vladimir Putin’s every thought.

It’s hard to put a value on that kind of intelligence. In this one case, it’s even possible that Ukraine would not have survived, had it not received early, accurate warnings of both Russian troop build-ups and Putin’s intentions. Thanks to U.S. intelligence sources.

It can take years to establish a reliable source. It can take moments for that point of light to go dark.

Even before he took up residence in the White House, Trump frequently expressed disdain for the intelligence services. Just as he bragged that he was “smarter than all the generals” and declared that his natural instincts allowed him to declare the climate crisis a fraud, Trump has celebrated his “gut” over the combined efforts of agents and analysts. Stories of Trump’s refusal to engage with intelligence briefings have been all too common over the last five years. Trump sneered that his own intelligence chiefs were “naïve” in their assessments of international events, mocked their findings, and insisted they should “go back to school.”

Even more than intelligence agencies, Trump hates whistleblowers. At every instance, he had ridiculed the idea of an anonymous source, insisted that whistleblowers be revealed, then attacked and endangered them once they were known. In his first impeachment, Trump constantly attacked the whistleblower who revealed his attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He didn’t just ridicule the whistleblower continuously, but insisted that the whistleblower testify in public—Republicans in Congress took up that call.

Most tellingly, when Trump learned an alleged name for the whistleblower, he tweeted it over and over.

Pair Trump’s attitude toward the intelligence services, whistleblowers, and witnesses of all kinds, with his incredible disdain for protecting classified information, and it’s a recipe for utter catastrophe. The revelation of a “NOC list,” giving away dozens of undercover operatives in vital roles, may be the subject of adventure fiction, but it seems like an all-too-real possibility for Trump.

And if the nation needed another reminder of just how lax Trump’s actual security at Mar-a-Lago really is, there was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week in which a 33-year-old Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant convinced Trump that she was actually an heiress of the Rothschild banking family. 

In addition to the FBI, law enforcement agents in Canada have confirmed that she has been the subject of a major crimes unit investigation in Quebec since February.

But there she was at Mar-a-Lago, playing golf with Trump and Lindsay Graham. She was there. So  were all those documents suspected to hold key information about U.S. sources in some of the most sensitive areas of the world. 

Even the hint that one of these sources might have been revealed can result in an immediate, emergency exfiltration to bring them to safety in the U.S. That means that it doesn’t even take the death or arrest of a U.S. source to cripple intelligence gathering. All it takes is concern that a source might have been compromised.

Donald Trump has provided plenty of cause for concern.

Raskin launches bid to lead House Oversight panel

The race for the top Democratic seat on the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee got more crowded on Friday when Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) entered the contest to replace the outgoing chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Maloney lost her primary race on Tuesday to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), ending a 30-year career on Capitol Hill and opening up the top panel seat in the next Congress.

Raskin's decision to seek the spot pits him against two other, more veteran Oversight Democrats — Reps. Stephen Lynch (Mass.) and Gerry Connolly (Va.), who launched their candidacies on Wednesday.

Democrats have traditionally favored seniority when choosing top committee spots, which would seem to place Raskin at a disadvantage in the race.

Still, the three-term congressman has built a sturdy national profile in his short time on Capitol Hill, leading the House's second impeachment of former President Trump after last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol, and now playing a high-profile role in the investigation of the attacks.

A former professor of constitutional law, Raskin is now making the case that his legal background makes him the best candidate to lead the Democrats on the Oversight panel.

"We are still in the fight of our lives to defend American constitutional democracy and—by extension—political freedom and human rights all over the world," Raskin wrote Friday to his fellow Democrats in a letter obtained by The Hill.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Student debt relief is not the divisive issue Republicans long for

As we await release of the redacted affidavit by noon today, let’s talk student loans.

The Hill:

Most Americans support student loan forgiveness, poll finds

President Biden on Wednesday announced his administration is forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 annually and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.
  • A recent national poll conducted by progressive think tank Data for Progress found 60 percent of 1,425 respondents agreed the federal government should eliminate all or some student loan debt for every borrower.
  • The poll found more than half of past student loan borrowers and voters who never borrowed student loans believed some or all student debt should be eliminated.
  • Previous polling, however, showed a much narrower majority of Americans that support the Biden administration’s plans.

One of the White House's highest-engagement tweets ever, and it's only been a few hours. Just by retweets, it ranks within the top 30 tweets from Trump (who also had more than 10x the followers)

— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell) August 26, 2022

with the student loan decision, Biden is continuing a streak of giving many Democratic officials and activists a feeling they're not used to: not being disappointed in him

— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) August 24, 2022

CNN (from May):

Student loan forgiveness divides Americans more by party and age than by education

Americans' attitudes toward student debt relief are sharply divided along partisan and generational lines, polling shows -- with far less of a divide between those who have a college degree and those without one.

By the way, when Mitch McConnell graduated from the U of Louisville in 1964, tuition cost $330 (about $2,800 in today's dollars.) Today, it's up 300%, even when adjusted for inflation.

— Charlotte Alter (@CharlotteAlter) August 24, 2022

Upshot/NY Times:

After Roe’s End, Women Surged in Signing Up to Vote in Some States

In the first few months of this year, more than half of Kansans who registered to vote were men.

That changed after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In the week after the court’s decision, more than 70 percent of newly registered voters in Kansas were women, according to an analysis of the state’s registered voter list. An unusually high level of new female registrants persisted all the way until the Kansas primary this month, when a strong Democratic turnout helped defeat a referendum that would have effectively ended abortion rights in the state.

The Kansas figures are the most pronounced example of a broader increase in registration among women since the Dobbs decision, according to an Upshot analysis of 10 states with available voter registration data. On average in the month after Dobbs, 55 percent of newly registered voters in those states were women, according to the analysis, up from just under 50 percent before the decision was leaked in early May.

The most glaring problem w/this ridiculous DOJ memo is if they really thought DOJ should reach a conclusion on whether Trump committed crimes,then thats exactly the kind of thing they shouldve asked Mueller to do. But they were afraid to ask him b/c they were afraid of the answer

— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) August 24, 2022

Alexandra Petri/WaPo:

Stop improving things right now! Everyone must suffer as I did!

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thrashing because I have had the nightmare again, the nightmare in which someone else is being spared a small hint of the suffering I endured. The world should not get better! The world should get worse along with me and perish along with me.

Every time anyone’s life improves at all, I personally am insulted. Any time anyone devises a labor-saving device, or passes some kind of weak, soft-hearted law that forecloses the opportunity for a new generation of children to lose fingers in dangerous machinery, I gnash my teeth. This is an affront to everyone who struggled so mightily. To avoid affronting them, we must keep everything just as bad as ever. Put those fingers back into the machines, or our suffering will have been in vain.

Polling by R firm @EchelonInsights shows again the GOP's Trump dilemma. 58% of all voters say if Trump had classified docs it should "disqualify" him from running again. But only 22% of Rs agree; 2/3 say search makes it "more important" to back him. Base rallies as center recoils

— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) August 24, 2022

Nate Cohn/NY Times:

Growing Evidence Against a Republican Wave

Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, it has been increasingly hard to see the once-clear signs of a G.O.P. advantage.

In 15 primaries since the court’s ruling, 52.5 percent of primary voters have cast Republican primary ballots compared with 48 percent in the same states in 2018, according to data compiled by the pollster John Couvillon. The last midterm is used as the point of comparison because of the one-party presidential primary in 2020.

Of course, 2018 was a good year for Democrats. In the end, they won 54 percent of the major party vote and carried the House easily. So they have room to fare quite a bit worse than they did in 2018 and still put up a respectable showing. Indeed, a 4.5-point shift from 2018 would yield a pretty close House national vote, with maybe a slight Republican edge depending on how one looks at uncontested races.

And that 4.5-point Republican overperformance is a little worse for Republicans than earlier in the year. Before Roe, Republicans were running 6.7 points better than in the 2018 primaries in the same states. It’s hard to read a lot into this shift — primaries, again, are very idiosyncratic, with the competitiveness of different races and eligibility rules making a big difference. But the shift, however unreliable, is nonetheless consistent with the broader national story.

The GOP’s Big Tent Might Finally Collapse Now That Roe Is Gone via @thedailybeast

— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) August 26, 2022

Jonathan Cohn/HuffPost:

We Just Saw A Stunning Special Election Result. What Could It Mean For November?

It’s a long way to November, but the Supreme Court ruling on abortion is already upending the typical midterm dynamic.

Ryan made abortion rights almost the primary focus of his campaign, using the Dobbs decision to paint Republicans as extremists and tying it to broader themes of freedom.

“How can we be a free country if the government tries to control women’s bodies?” he said in a 30-second ad touting his background as a West Point graduate and his service in Iraq. “That’s not the country I fought to defend.”

Ryan also emphasized the importance of making a statement to the nation, telling The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel that ​​“this has to be a national referendum on Roe. It’s our first chance to send this message, that the country is not going to tolerate this erosion of our fundamental rights.”

The message has been sent. But it’s still only August. The future of abortion rights in many states ― and maybe the nation as a whole ― will depend on what happens in the midterm elections.

What, if anything, does this special election result tell us about that?

It’s impossible to be sure. But here are a few possibilities, based on conversations with half a dozen pollsters and analysts.

please stop saying that student loan burden is the result of a conspiracy led by a future supreme court justice 50 years ago and not the result of broad-based (and often popular) reductions in state support over generations

— Prof. Paul Musgrave, Ph.D. (@profmusgrave) August 25, 2022

Greg Sargent/WaPo:

A surprise win for Democrats hints at a big shift for 2022

I asked Ryan if the Democratic Party should full-throatedly argue that electing Democrats is essential to getting abortion rights codified in federal law. He said it should, while suggesting Democrats should link this to “the fight for freedom on multiple fronts,” under an umbrella argument that Republicans will make us “less safe” and “less free.”

Ryan suggested Democrats should also try to reclaim the idea of patriotism. “Patriotism to me means, when your fellow Americans’ rights are being taken away, you stand up and fight, not just for yourself, but for them as well.”

Energy in Democratic areas was critical. The two big Democratic-leaning counties in Tuesday’s election — Ulster and Dutchess — accounted for 42 percent of total votes in the district, up from 36 percent in 2020. As NBC’s Steve Kornacki notes, Democrats “squeezed a lot more votes out of the core Democratic areas,” demonstrating “energy” and “enthusiasm.”

Importantly, Ryan said the “visceral” reaction of voters isn’t just about abortion. While he said inflation and economic pain continue to weigh heavily, he also encountered voter angst about gun violence, ongoing threats to democracy, and the insurrection attempt incited by Donald Trump.

It is the height of elitism to think working people don’t hold student debt. Many “blue collar” workers do. 87% of the relief is going to people earning less than $75k.

— Joshua Holland (@JoshuaHol) August 25, 2022


Trump Revives Impeachment Playbook in Fight Over Documents. It's a Riskier Bet Now

The strategy is similar to how Trump handled the two investigations that led to his being impeached twice. Whereas Trump was able to count on the support of Republicans in the Senate to ensure his acquittal during his impeachment trials, he faces no such protection in the current investigation. The legal system has ways to punish misrepresentations and lies, actions that have often brought Trump rewards in the political arena. And as each new fact is made public on the court docket, Trump may be digging himself into deeper legal jeopardy.

Morning Consult poll: Generic congressional ballot Dems now have a 5-point advantage over Republicans, 47%-42% Last week: 4 points, 46%-42% Two weeks ago: 1 point, 44%-43%

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 25, 2022

If you're worried Biden is buying votes with student loan forgiveness boy do I have some news for you about how politics has worked since the beginning of time everywhere in the world.

— Jeffrey Lazarus (@jlazarus001) August 25, 2022