Highlights from The Downballot: Ben Wikler on how Democrats can win big in Wisconsin

This week on The Downballot, hosts David Nir and David Beard recapped recent elections, including a special election for a congressional seat in Texas and primaries in South Carolina that saw one pro-impeachment Republican go down in defeat. The pair also discussed an unusual Saturday special election in Alaska for the seat that had been held for decades by the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

Nir and Beard welcomed the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, Ben Wikler, as this week’s guest. Wikler shared more about what a state party like his does and the key races they're focusing on this November.

You can listen below or subscribe to The Downballot wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find a transcript for this week right here. New episodes come out every Thursday!

Beard kicked off the program with the top headlines from Tuesday night.

Texas held a special election to fill the remaining term for Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job with a lobbying firm. Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley-based district to the GOP, winning about 51% of the vote. There were four candidates on the ballot, but just one major Republican and one major Democrat. Flores won 51% of the vote, and the major Democratic candidate, former Cameron County commissioner Dan Sanchez won about 43% of the vote.

Beard noted that there wasn't a ton of investment in trying to hold this seat on the Democratic side and that Republicans noticed an opportunity and spent heavily on the race:

Republicans spent over a million dollars on this race. They really invested. Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week. They didn't spend very much money. This district is changing a significant amount. Biden won the current district, which is still from the 2010 redistricting cycle, by a 52-48 margin, but Biden wins the new district that will go into effect this November by a 57-42 margin, so it's getting noticeably more Democratic.

“That being said, that's definitely a shift in the margin from 52-48 Biden to—if you combine the Democrats and the Republicans—about 53% voted Republican and 47% voted Democrat, so that's a noticeable shift. It's certainly in line with a more Republican-leaning year, which is what we've been seeing with the polling and with other information that's been coming in,” Beard added. “The other factor here that's certainly worth noting is that it was very, very low turnout, so that can also be a factor in why there was somewhat of a shift. So you don't want to take this and just say, ‘Oh, we saw this shift. It'll translate all the way to November in every way,’ but it's certainly a signal worth acknowledging that it is certainly a sign of a Republican-leaning environment right now.”

The hosts then recapped primaries in South Carolina, which some have framed as “Trump's revenge.” Trump did, in fact, exact revenge against a Republican congressman in the 7th district, Tom Rice, who was one of the ten GOP House members who voted for impeachment. Rice was soundly defeated by state Rep. Russell Fry, who beat him 51-25. “What was even more remarkable about this is there were five Republicans total challenging race so for Fry to get a majority of the vote was pretty unexpected. Even Fry claimed that his own polling showed the race going to a runoff,” Nir said.

The other South Carolina race that was really closely watched this week was in the 1st District, where Rep. Nancy Mace beat former state Rep. Katie Arrington 53-45, thus avoiding a runoff. Trump endorsed Arrington, as he was furious at a few of Mace’s critical comments of him after Jan. 6, even though she very quickly backed off.

On Saturday, Alaska held a special election for Alaska's at-large congressional seat, which has been vacant since GOP Rep. Don Young passed away earlier this year. Alaska has a fairly distinct electoral system: all of the candidates were on the ballot in this first round, and the top four candidates will advance to a second round on Aug. 16. That ballot will use ranked-choice voting to determine the winner. Ballots are still being counted, but the AP has declared three of the four candidates who will advance to the second round, the first being former Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a clear lead so far with about 30% of the vote.

Beard summarized the outcome so far:

Of course, Palin is a Republican, as is the so far second-place candidate, businessman Nick Begich, who has about 19% of the vote. And then independent Al Gross, who is also the former 2020 Democratic nominee for Senate but is running now as an Independent; he's also been called to advance. He has about 13% of the vote so far. And then, the fourth slot hasn't been called yet, but former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola is currently in that spot and will likely advance as well, unless late-breaking ballots are radically different than what's been counted so far.

Palin's strong first-round showing, getting over 30% of the vote, makes it likely that she will be one of the last two candidates standing when this ranked-choice voting takes place. The big question, Beard points out, is: Who is going to make it into that other slot where the fourth-place candidate and then the third-place candidate are eliminated?

While Palin has always been a polarizing figure, she has Donald Trump's endorsement, which makes it much more likely that Begich would pick up Independents and Democrats, if it is those two facing off against each other at the very end of the instant runoff tabulations.

At this point, Wikler joined the hosts to discuss the crucial work of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

“Let's talk a little bit about what that rollercoaster ride has been like. I'm sure that some of our listeners are probably pretty plugged into their own state Democratic parties. But I'll bet that many folks aren't necessarily all that familiar with what their state parties do. And of course, the goal of any party organization is to get its candidates elected. But what exactly does the Wisconsin Democratic Party do to make that happen?” Nir asked.

The biggest part of the organization’s budget and its crown jewel, Wikler asserts, is its organization model, which allows it to reach voters in every corner of the state:

Our state party unusually uses the Obama campaign model, where our organizers actually build teams of volunteers that run door-to-door canvassing and phone banking operations in their own communities. And when you do that on a continuous basis, as we've done now since my predecessor, who launched these neighborhood teams in the spring of 2017, and we've built and built and built them; we now have hundreds across the state. When you do that continuously, you actually build momentum over time. So, every dollar you spend on organizing goes further, because you can have one organizer who's working with multiple teams to coach and support them and make sure they have the data they need.

A robust voter protection operation that is run on a year-round basis is now a mainstay of the organization’s work, as well. Wikler highlighted how the party has increasingly focused on voting rights over these last few years to make sure that local clerks aren't rolling back voting rights. The state Democratic Party also recruits and supports poll workers, poll observers, and lawyers who are able to help voters resolve issues. A voter protection hotline is also available for anyone in Wisconsin to call at 608-DEM-3232.

Last, but not least, the party’s data team helps make sure they’re figuring out where the voters they need to mobilize are and who they need to persuade.

Next, the trio delved into Wikler and his team’s plan to defeat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson this fall. As Wikler put it, “Ron Johnson is so, so appallingly extraordinarily bad”:

It’s not just that he says that COVID can be cured with mouthwash or says that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were patriots who love their country and love law enforcement—which is something he actually said. He said he would've been scared if it had been Black Lives Matter protestors, but he wasn't scared with the protestors that were actually there. It's not just all that stuff. It's that he's profoundly self-serving. His claim to fame as a senator is that he insisted on an extra tax break on top of Trump's giant tax scam that personally benefited him and his biggest donor massively. It's one of the most regressive tax cuts ever passed through the United States Congress that he insisted on putting in, and that he's been billing taxpayers to fly him back to Congress from his vacation home in Florida.

So we've been making this case against him, and so many independent and grassroots organizations have done the same thing. His approval rating is now 36%, which is stunning in a year that's supposed to be tough for Democrats and good for Republicans. The Political Report called him the most vulnerable incumbent from either party in the Senate in 2022. And meanwhile, on the Democratic side, there's a contested primary. There's a bunch of candidates who've made the ballot, but we won't know our nominee until Aug. 9. And so this is a perfect kind of case in point for why having a strong party matters, because we have to build the whole general election apparatus before Aug. 9. It's like building a spaceship right on the launchpad. And then once we have the nominee, they jump into the cockpit and they hit ignition.

“Can you tell us a little bit more about this spaceship that you're building on the launchpad for the eventual Democratic nominee for the Senate race?” Nir asked.

Wikler discussed the intersection of the digital, the data, the organizing, the voter protection, the communications—all the different elements. He also mentioned that, due to state party rules, the Wisconsin Democratic Party is bound and committed to remaining neutral in the primary. “So we're not putting our thumb on the scale, but all the candidates have told us that once we have a nominee, they will work with the infrastructure that we've put in place,” he added. “As opposed to doing what has often happened in different states around the country, which is: you get a Senate nominee, and they decide they want to reshuffle all the staff and reshape how the program works and all this kind of stuff.”

As far as goals from the point of view of the state party for the state legislative elections that are coming in November, and candidates to highlight for those races, Wikler had the following to say:

Republicans have managed to re-gerrymander the maps, at least for now, with some help, I should mention, from the U.S. Supreme Court, which unlike in other states, decided to reach down and strike down our state legislative maps for reasons that will puzzle constitutional scholars for decades. So we have really, really tough maps this cycle.

Republicans are explicitly trying to get supermajorities in both chambers yet again, and we are explicitly determinedly working to stop them. We have great Democratic leaders in both chambers that we're working closely with: Greta Neubauer in the Assembly, Janet Bewley in the state Senate. We have strong candidates across the state. ...

Then next year, just to squeeze this in, in April of 2023, we have a state Supreme Court race. There will not be a lot happening across the country in elections that spring, but that race will be for the majority in Wisconsin state Supreme Court. If we can sustain the governor's veto and if we have a non-hyper right wing majority in our state Supreme court, that sets us up to have a secure and fair and legitimate election in 2024, when Wisconsin will probably be the tipping point state yet again.

Lastly, Beard asked Wikler how listeners could help: “So how can our Wisconsinite listeners get in touch with the Democratic Party in their state and get more involved?”

Wikler replied:

Wherever you might be, you can support Democrats and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in fighting for victory for Gov. Evers and defeating Ron Johnson. I think Dems up and down the ballot, including defeating Derek van Orden, who's an insurrectionist currently on probation for trying to bring a gun on a plane. He's running for Congress in the third congressional district, which is an open seat. We need help across the board, and you can get involved. You can become a monthly donor. That is the single, my favorite thing you can do.

If you go to wisdems.org/monthly, you can sign up to give a few bucks a month; that helps us to hire and know that we'll be able to keep our staff on month over month, year over year, and that in turn allows us to do the kind of deep, long term organizing, building neighborhood teams … that help us win, especially in these tough elections like the spring state Supreme Court race next year. And finally, I'll give the link wisdems.org/volunteer. You can join our virtual phone banks. You can join our volunteer operation to turn out every possible Democratic voter. Races here are so close, so often.

The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. As a reminder, you can reach our hosts by email at thedownballot@dailykos.com. Please send in any questions you may have for next week's mailbag. You can also reach out via Twitter: @DKElections.

GOP Rep. Who Voted To Impeach Trump Gets Clobbered in Primary, Days After Paul Ryan Endorsed Him

Representative Tom Rice, one of only 10 Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump over his alleged role in inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol, was soundly defeated in the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 7th District.

Rice lost to Russell Fry, the South Carolina State House’s majority whip, who earned Trump’s endorsement. Fry, according to the latest numbers, more than doubled the vote attained by Rice.

Rice called Fry to concede the race Tuesday.

Fry’s victory was so resounding he was able to avoid a runoff by winning 51% of the vote.

RELATED: Paul Ryan Campaigns For GOP Rep. Who ‘Had the Guts’ To Impeach Trump

Tom Rice Vote to Impeach Cost Him

The sad showing for Tom Rice comes roughly 17 months after he shocked observers by becoming only one of 10 Republicans to join Democrats in their vote to impeach Trump over the Capitol riot.

“He sat there and watched the Capitol get sacked and took pleasure in that. He said: ‘Look what I created! Look how rabid these people are to follow me.’” Rice recalled. “That pushed me over the edge. That’s what a dictator would do.”

The congressman did not shy away from the vote either, repeatedly leaning into it as a sign of his being a stand-up guy.

Unfortunately, now that Rice is soon to be out of a job, he’ll be doing a lot more sitting down.

RELATED: ‘Never Trumpers’ Paul Ryan, John Boehner, And Adam Kinzinger Supporting Liz Cheney’s Reelection Bid

Not the Future of the Republican Party

Ironically, Tom Rice, on the day of the primary, told voters Trump is “not the future of the Republican Party” and predicted his vote to impeach the former President would be “advantageous to me politically.”

“Oh, I think it’s advantageous to me politically. I think I’m just telling the truth,” Rice said of his vote to impeach. “You know, the truth will set you free. And I think that Donald Trump is not the future of the Republican Party.”

“I think he is the past, and we need to move on,” he added.

The former President has said Rice is a “coward who abandoned his constituents by caving to Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left.”

One of the few people supporting Tom Rice and perhaps inadvertently solidifying his defeat was former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who heralded the lawmaker as a hero for voting to impeach Trump.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to vote like Tom but who just didn’t have the guts to do it,” Ryan claimed at a campaign stop.

It takes absolutely no ‘guts’ as a Republican to have been on the same side of Democrats and the entire national media.

Other impeachers, like Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, is trailing her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming attorney who has the backing of Trump, by a whopping 30 percentage points.

Fellow Never Trump Republican Kinzinger announced months ago that he was leaving Congress in part due to Democrats in Illinois rewarding his fealty by unveiling a new congressional map that significantly impacted his chances of winning in 2022. After all he has done for them!

Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Fred Upton (MI), and John Katko (NY) have also decided to flee Congress after voting to impeach Trump.

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Trump Candidates Face Off Against Two GOP Incumbents In Tomorrow’s Primary

The latest test of Trump’s leverage in the Republican Party comes on Tuesday, as he has backed the challengers of two Republican incumbents, one who voted for impeachment, and one who attacked him over the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. 

Trump is backing State Rep. Russell Fry who is running against Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC), and former State Rep. Katie Arrington, who is challenging Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC). 

RELATED: Sarah Palin Leads Crowded Field In Race For Alaska’s Sole Seat In U.S. House

Trump vs GOP

Tom Rice is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. His decision to do so was was a curious one, as his district voted for Trump by a 19-point margin in 2020.

Rice defended his impeachment vote, claiming “Defending the Constitution is a bedrock of the Republican platform, defend the Constitution, and that’s what I did. That was the conservative vote.”

In response, at a rally in South Carolina, Trump ripped Rice, saying, “And now Tom Rice looks like a total fool.”

Russell Fry is portraying Rice as a “traitor” to the district.

In Tuesday’s other race, freshman Rep. Nancy Mace predicted she will beat the Trump-backed Arrington by double digits.

Arrington ran previously in the district and defeated former Governor Mark Sanford in the primary but lost in the general election.

Mace drew Trump’s ire for voting to hold former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena from the Democrats’ January 6 committee.

Perhaps realizing that she made a powerful enemy, Mace would later travel to New York City, seemingly for the sole purpose of standing outside of Trump Tower and pretending she was a big Trump supporter. 

Watch:

What has Tom Rice received for his impeachment vote? An ad from his opponent comparing him to classic villains like the Joker and the Devil.

And while some Republicans who, immediately following the Capitol riot were critical of Trump and later softened their stance, Rice definitely has not.

“He watched it (Jan. 6) happen. He reveled in it. And he took no action to stop it. I think he had a duty to try to stop it, and he failed in that duty. He’s the past. I hope he doesn’t run again. And I think if he does run again, he hurts the Republican Party. We desperately need somebody who’s going to bring people together. And he is not that guy.”

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Paul Ryan Campaigns For GOP Rep. Who ‘Had the Guts’ To Impeach Trump

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigned for Representative Tom Rice on Wednesday, suggesting the South Carolina Republican’s vote to impeach Donald Trump was a gutsy call and railing against GOP “celebrities” trying to aid the former President’s “vengeance.”

The comments marked the first serious public rebuke of Trump by the former Speaker of the House, once considered the future of the GOP, in some time.

Rice was one of only 10 Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of impeaching Trump over his alleged role in inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Ryan praised his actions.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to vote like Tom but who just didn’t have the guts to do it,” Ryan said.

RELATED: Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump Are Already Facing Primary Challenges

Paul Ryan Rips Trump, GOP

Paul Ryan continued to attack the Republican Party during his campaign speech to aid embattled Representative Tom Rice, calling out lawmakers who dare to support Trump.

Ryan embraced Rice as a “man of conviction” whose vote to impeach was a “vote for the Constitution.”

“This is just such a crystal clear case where you have a hard-working, effective, senior member of Congress who deserves reelection vs. people who are just trying to be celebrities who may be trying to help Trump with his vengeance,” he added.

“That’s not who voters want, voters want people focused on their solutions, not on Trump’s vengeance and that to me is a really clear-cut case here,” said Ryan.

RELATED: ‘Never Trumpers’ Paul Ryan, John Boehner, And Adam Kinzinger Supporting Liz Cheney’s Reelection Bid

Pro-Impeachment Tom Rice is Struggling

It’s unclear if Paul Ryan’s campaign efforts for Tom Rice will yield results, as the incumbent is currently trailing in polls to Russell Fry, the South Carolina Legislature’s majority whip, who earned Trump’s endorsement.

Fry, in an interview with Breitbart News, said the former President’s endorsement had been a boon for his campaign.

“The energy’s incredible, you know. Prior to the Trump endorsement, we were tracking well, we were very firmly in a one versus one kind of race,” Fry said.

“There’s several people in the race, but the endorsement has been, like lights out. I mean, it’s just been incredible. The energy is real.”

An internal poll from Fry’s campaign shows Rice trails the Trump-endorsed candidate by double digits in their primary race.

Ryan meanwhile, has also hitched his wagon to another struggling horse in Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney.

Cheney is also one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, and one who has made it a personal crusade to embellish the events at the Capitol over a year ago.

The Political Insider reported in September that Ryan had been donating money and support to Cheney’s re-election bid in the hopes that he could help in “exciting her own voters.”

Cheney, like Rice according to a new poll, is struggling, which is pretty exciting. She trails her primary opponent, Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming attorney who has the backing of Trump, by a whopping 30 percentage points.

Trump has referred to Ryan as a “curse to the Republican Party” after the former Speaker advised the GOP to steer clear of the “populist appeal of one personality.”

Paul Ryan also overdramatized the events of January 6th and Trump’s role, saying he found it “horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end.”

“He has no clue as to what needs to be done for our Country, was a weak and ineffective leader, and spends all of his time fighting Republicans as opposed to Democrats who are destroying our Country,” Trump fired back.

The former President has said Tom Rice is a “coward who abandoned his constituents by caving to Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left.”

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After Filing For Re-Election, Poll Shows Liz Cheney Trailing By 30 Points

Liz Cheney officially filed for re-election and was promptly slapped with a poll showing her trailing her primary opponent by 30 percentage points.

Cheney announced on Thursday that she was seeking a fourth two-year term representing Wyoming’s at-large House seat.

“In Wyoming, we know what it means to ride for the brand. We live in the greatest nation God has ever created, and our brand is the U.S. Constitution,” she tweeted with an accompanying video announcement.

Added Cheney, “I’m running for re-election and asking for your vote because this is a fight we must win.”

She’s declaring concern for Wyoming when everyone has watched her on a 24/7 rampage against a man who’s no longer in office. Sorry, Liz, but your brand is Trump. Not the Constitution.

RELATED: Liz Cheney Accuses MAGA Republicans Of Being ‘Pro-Putin, Anti-Semitic, And White Nationalist’

Liz Cheney’s Re-Election Bid Takes a Hit Right Out of the Gate

Cheney’s main challenger in the primary, to be held in mid-August, is Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming attorney who has the backing of former President Donald Trump.

A new poll from the Club For Growth, a conservative organization opposing Cheney, shows her down a whopping 30 points to Hageman, with just 6% undecided.

The group hasn’t formally endorsed Hageman as Trump has.

Despite their conservative background, the poll according to Politico paints “the starkest illustration yet of the political peril Cheney faces this year.”

The outlet also states that the survey “is consistent with other data out of Wyoming in the last year.”

Cheney’s favorability ratings in another recent poll spell trouble for the anti-Trump Republican as well.

RELATED: Report: George W. Bush Donating To Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump

She’s ‘Courageous’

As a nice consolation prize for this devastating re-election news, Liz Cheney was recently awarded the John F. Kennedy Library Profile in Courage Award and praised by CNN for her speech.

During her oration, she ran down what makes her a terrific lawmaker and what she could do for her constituents in Wyoming.

Just kidding – she attacked Trump.

“This sacred obligation to defend the peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president but one,” she told the adoring crowd.

“Today that role is ours as we face a threat we have never faced before – a former President attempting to unravel our constitutional republic.”

Of course, the JFK Profile in Courage Award has been relegated to a less-than-prestigious honor over the years.

It rewards people for being anti-Trump or anti-conservative which, in a media landscape dominated by liberals, is actually a pretty easy thing to be.

Mitt Romney won in 2021 for his vote to convict Trump in 2020 in the Presidential Impeachment trial. The category for the award was ‘National Interest Over Party.’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won the same category in 2019 … for getting re-elected Speaker by pushing Democrat platforms.

Cheney didn’t win because of national interest over party. Nor did Romney, or Pelosi. The common thread is that all three pushed Democrat, anti-Trump rhetoric that elevated their stature in the eyes of the JFK Library.

The silver lining for Cheney? Once she’s ousted by Hageman in the Wyoming Republican primary, she’ll have plenty of time to sit at home and polish her new little award.

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Nearly 70% Of Republicans Want Biden Impeached After 2022 Midterm Elections

As the November midterm elections inch closer, Americans’ struggle everyday with inflation and increasing gas and food prices with no end in sight.

Needless to say, that doesn’t bode well for those who are in charge – but it also has the effect of energizing the opposition.

A new UMass Amherst/YouGov poll shows that should Republicans retake Congress this fall after the midterm election, 68% of Republicans want President Joe Biden impeached.

And if the nation’s economic woes continue, that number is likely to climb.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager Drops Bombshell Admission That She Personally Approved Press Leak Of Trump-Russia Allegation

Poll Highlights

Of those polled, over two-thirds of Republicans want Biden charged with “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

As many would guess, the issue that’s by far top-of-mind for most voters is the economy. (Though for Democrat voters, while the economy takes top billing at 22%, the next ‘most important issue’ is ‘climate change’ at 20%.) 

Immigration takes second billing, followed by abortion and health care. 

Broken down by party, the top issues for Republican voters are the economy, immigration, and abortion. 

For Democrats, it’s the economy, climate change, and abortion. 

For independents: the economy, health care, and immigration.

RELATED: EPA Spent $5.3M In COVID Aid On ‘Environmental Justice’ Programming

‘Multiple Grounds’ 

The way the Republicans see it, there are plenty of reasons to bring charges of impeachment against Joe Biden, and it has been talked about for a while.

Back in January on his podcast, Texas Senator Ted Cruz gave one of the strongest arguments for a Biden impeachment:

“Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness of President Biden’s refusal to enforce the border. His decision to just defy federal immigration laws and allow 2 million people to come here unimpeded in direct contravention of his obligation under Article 2 of the Constitution to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. That is probably the strongest grounds right now for impeachment, but there may be others.”

Even as far back as fall of 2021, a group of Republicans did file articles of impeachment after the disastrous pullout of American forces from Afghanistan. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) tweeted at the time,

“I filed articles of impeachment against @POTUS based on what I believe to be clear violations of his duties. There are dynamics in Congress preventing this from being debated. But I could not stand by while Biden commits flagrant & deliberate violations of his oath of office.”

Several other items that could trigger impeachment proceedings are possible hearings looking into the foreign business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter, and what if any involvement the President had in those deals.

POLL: Should President Biden be impeached?

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RELATED: If You Expected Bitcoin To Mimic Gold, You Haven’t A Clue About Gold

Other Biden Worries

Joe Biden and the Democrats have plenty to worry about way before any impeachment proceedings. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research poll shows Biden’s approval ratings at a dismal 39%.

When broken down by issues, the numbers are still as bad. On things like the economy and the Russian-Ukraine conflict, more Americans disapprove of Biden’s job performance than approve.

Joe Biden is also rapidly losing a previously reliable Democrat demographic. Approval among Hispanics has dropped to 26%, while a whopping 60% disapprove. 

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia may have given the best insight into what Republicans plans might be if they win big in 2022. He stated,

“I believe Joe Biden has intentionally done more to harm the country than any president in American history with the border situation. He deserves to be impeached for that alone, let alone anything else.”

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Highlights from The Downballot: Primary recaps and ‘a double whammy of BS’ in New York

This week on The Downballot, hosts David Beard and David Nir were joined by political strategist and fellow elections expert Joe Sudbay to recap a plethora of primary results. They covered, among other things:
  • Madison Cawthorn losing in North Carolina
  • The GOP nominating QAnon ally Doug Mastriano for governor, and the still-undecided Republican battle for the U.S. Senate nomination in Pennsylvania
  • A fantastic win for an Oregon progressive who'd be the state's first Latino member of Congress—which was also a humiliating loss for a crypto-backed super PAC that spent massively on another candidate
The group also discussed DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s inexplicable, selfish decision to run in a new district where three-quarters of the residents are already represented by a progressive Black freshman, Mondaire Jones.
You can listen below, or subscribe to The Downballot wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find a transcript for this week right here. New episodes come out every Thursday!

All eyes were on North Carolina this week, where a prominent U.S. Senate Republican primary contest saw Rep. Ted Budd easily defeat former Gov. Pat McCrory, by about 59% to 25%. This ended up not being a close race at all, Beard noted. In November, Budd will face former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who narrowly lost reelection in 2020 by about 400 votes. “She is primed to go forward and take on Budd there. She had very nominal primary competition and won in a huge landslide,” Beard added.

In North Carolina’s 13th District, which lacked an incumbent, both parties had primaries. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Wiley Nickel easily defeated former state Sen. Sam Searcy, 52% to 23%. The Republican contest featured a plethora of candidates, but one candidate, former North Carolina state football player Bo Hines, managed to eke out 32% of the vote—just above North Carolina's 30% barrier to avoid a runoff.

Looking over at the opposite coast at Oregon, Nir and Beard highlighted another incumbent who is, as of right now, on track to lose: Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader in Oregon's redrawn 5th District. Schrader once infamously dissented on impeaching Donald Trump, likening his impeachment to a “lynching.” He is currently trailing progressive attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. As Nir explained, as of recording this episode on Wednesday evening, Schrader was down 61-39% with around 40,000 votes counted. However, a very large number of votes remain untallied in what is more or less his home base of Clackamas County, and those ballots are going to be slow to be counted. However, the back-of-the-envelope consensus, Nir notes, is that Schrader has way too much ground to make up and that McLeod-Skinner is going to be the likely winner: “If [McLeod-Skinner] is [the winner], either way this remains a somewhat competitive district. It leans blue. It got a little bit bluer, in fact, in redistricting, thanks to Democrats, but the real news will be replacing a moderate like Schrader with a much more progressive alternative.”

At this point, Nir and Beard welcomed Sudbay to the show to discuss some of the bigger pieces of news to come out of the recent primaries.

Sudbay started with Pennsylvania, where a gubernatorial race exposed the chaos happening among Republicans. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro ran unopposed. For Repubicans, however, things look very different, as Sudbay elaborated:

They have elected, they have nominated one of the craziest, most extreme politicians that we have seen in a very, very long time. He's basically a Christian ideologist nationalist. I mean, Doug Mastriano was at the January 6th event. He is really Trumpier than Trump, which, that's kind of getting out there. But this guy, I'll tell you one of the ways I knew Republicans were freaking out … A lot of Republican donors said if Mastriano wins, they're going to support Shapiro. The other thing that happened is there was this frenzied effort to try to maybe back Lou Barletta, who used to be a member of Congress; before that he was the mayor of Hazleton. [Barletta is] one of the most extreme anti-immigrant politicians around—well, I mean, he’s just normal now for the Republican Party, but he used to be extreme in the GOP. He lost the Senate race by about 13 or 14 points in 2018. That's how desperate they were—they decided maybe Lou Barletta would be their savior. So they've got Mastriano now.

Turning to the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 11th District, which garnered a storm of media attention due to a steady drumbeat of media coverage of incumbent Madison Cawthorn’s past indiscretions, the hosts shared their thoughts on how the Republican establishment—in a rare moment for today’s GOP—succeeded in pushing back against growing extremism in their party. As Sudbay put it, “It was interesting, because every time there was a new revelation—and there were numerous revelations over the past few weeks about him—[Cawthorn] would tweet, ‘The Libs are trying to destroy me.’ No, dude. It was the Republicans that were trying to destroy you, and the Republicans did.”

The trio also revisited Oregon, where, thanks to population growth, Democrats won a new House seat in reapportionment, leading to the creation of the blue-leaning 6th District, a brand-new open seat. Andrea Salinas won the Democratic primary here. “Democrats unexpectedly had a completely bonkers, out of control and, I will say, obscene primary that really should never have happened. But the good news is the good guys won. So what went down?” Nir asked.

Sudbay recalled that the entire race saw a basically unprecedented amount of money being spent by Sam Bankman-Fried, a crypto billionaire who was financing Carrick Flynn, an artificial intelligence researcher with no prior electoral experience:

Oh my God. The amount of money that was spent in this race by, I call him a crypto brother, who had a super PAC to elect a … I'm just going to call him sort of a no-name Democrat. And also the other thing that really struck me on this one: this crypto bro super PAC is spending money in a bunch of places. And like you said, fortunately, Andrea Salinas won. She will be the first Latina to represent Oregon.

But the other thing that happened was the House Majority PAC decided to invest in this race against her, well, for the other Democrat, which I know I keep not mentioning his name, but I am just so amazed that this was the race they chose to get into. And it really pissed off the … the Democratic House congressional caucus, because they were spending money to defeat a woman who's ... a great Democrat. She's been a state rep, she worked for Harry Reid, and it's like, where did that strategy come from? I just don't get it. I don't get that amount of spending … it was just bizarre to watch.

“It was totally bizarre,” Nir agreed, noting that “our guests from HMP came on before we learned about their decision to put $1 million in this race.” What’s more, he explained that there has been a lot of speculation that HMP made that investment because Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto billionaire, actually runs an ‘exchange’ for cryptocurrency, and that he had possibly offered to give a donation to HMP in exchange for them getting involved on behalf of his favorite candidate. “We won't know until Friday at the soonest, which is when the next financial reports are due for super PACs like that, but it will cast a cloud over this race, no matter what,” Nir added.

The total spending for Carrick Flynn came close to $15 million for only around 15,000 or so votes—meaning that he spent $1,000 per vote. The race has not been called yet, with Salinas leading Flynn 36-18%, as Nir said: “I hope we don't see this kind of thing happen again. I'm not optimistic but this is a pretty humiliating outcome for the $15 million gang.”

In New York, the court-appointed expert released a new congressional map earlier this week that makes radical changes to existing districts. Right after this map dropped, Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced that instead of running in the district where three-quarters of his constituents currently live, he would run one district to the south, where only a quarter of his constituents live and where three-quarters of the constituents are represented by a progressive Black freshman, Mondaire Jones. “What the hell is Sean Patrick Maloney thinking?” Nir wondered.

Sudbay replied:

I think Sean Patrick Maloney thinks about Sean Patrick Maloney first and foremost and only. And that sounds kind of harsh, but that's just who he has been. As you mentioned, he chairs the DCCC, which should be solely focused on expanding the Democrats’ margin this year. And instead, he put himself first. I saw a tweet today from Jake Sherman, who does Punchbowl News, which I refer to as one of ... the Capitol Hill gossip publications. But he said, ‘Sean Maloney allies are spreading the message that Jones would be ideologically better suited for another district.’

Richie Torres, another member of Congress from New York, retweeted that and said, ‘The thinly veiled racism here is profoundly disappointing. A Black man is ideologically ill-suited to represent a Westchester County district that he represents presently and won decisively in 2020? Outrageous.’

Nir added that Maloney’s move could have ripple effects, as there are a couple of other ways this “really selfish move” could affect his colleagues:

First off, and this one is, in a way, the most important to me, is that by abandoning New York's 18th Congressional District—instead wanting to run in the 17th—he's making it more likely that we'll lose the 18th. And that's completely unforgivable. But just as unforgivable is that he wants Mondaire Jones to run in the 16th District. Well, that district is also represented by a first-term, progressive Black man, Jamaal Bowman. Maloney is trying to both risk a vulnerable seat, the 18th, and reduce representation among Black progressive men, by pushing them into a primary against one another. It's really a double whammy of BS.

The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. As a reminder, you can reach our hosts by email at thedownballot@dailykos.com. Please send in any questions you may have for next week's mailbag. You can also reach out via Twitter: @DKElections.

Tuesday Was A Huge Night For Trump – And J.D. Vance

By Susan Crabtree for RealClearPolitics

In his 2016 bestselling autobiography “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance thanks his grandparents – his “Mamaw” and “Remember in 2019 when workers were doing well in this country, not struggling terribly. Thanks [to] the president for everything, for endorsing me.”

Tuesday night, as Vance stepped closer to his goal of joining the most exclusive club in the country – the U.S. Senate – he thanked his grandparents again, along with President Trump.

“I absolutely gotta thank the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, for providing, ladies and gentlemen, an example of what could be in this country,” Vance, 37, said in his primary victory speech. “Remember in 2019 when workers doing well in this county, not struggling terribly, thanks for the president for everything, for endorsing me.”

RELATED: Trump Endorsement Vaults J.D. Vance To Top Of Contentious Ohio GOP Senate Primary Race

Vance then pulled a trademark Trump maneuver, slamming the “fake news media” for wanting to write a story that “this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump’s America First agenda … Ladies and gentlemen, it ain’t the death of the America First agenda.”

It’s been a heady, evolutionary six years for Vance, the Yale law school graduate and venture capitalist who burst on the scene with his book about growing up “dirt poor’ in Appalachia. Coastal elites immediately embraced his life story as a way to understand Trump’s appeal among the white working class.

During the 2016 campaign, though, Vance declared himself a Never Trumper, dubbing the casino-developer-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-politician “cultural heroin” for the masses, and argued he was leading working-class voters into a dark place.

However, during the Trump presidency, Vance shifted sharply to become an avid Trump supporter, citing the tumultuous Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a significant turning point. (His wife, Usha Chilukuri, had clerked for Kavanaugh when he was an appeals court judge.)

Meanwhile, Ohio transformed from a Republican-leaning swing state to a solidly red GOP bastion, supporting Trump by nine percentage points in 2016 and double digits in 2020.

Vance’s win brings to a close a crowded and contentious Republican contest to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman, a respected moderate. It also marks a major victory night for Trump, who has taken the unusual step for a former president of picking sides in primaries – a way to solidify his role as party kingmaker while he weighs another White House run in 2024.

Trump undoubtedly tilted the race in Vance’s favor. Before his endorsement, Vance was trailing former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, another Trump acolyte, 28%-23%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average of polls. Meanwhile, State Sen. Matt Dolan faded in the final stretch.

With more than 95% of the vote reporting late Tuesday night, Vance won 32.2% compared to Mandel’s 23.9% and Dolan’s 23.3%.

RELATED: There Are 11 Million Unfilled Jobs In America – Where Are The Workers?

Before and after Trump endorsed Vance, his GOP opponents spent millions of advertising dollars reminding voters that Vance had called himself a “Never Trumper” just a few years ago. The conservative Club for Growth’s sister PAC, which backed Mandel, funded an ad that Factcheck.org labeled “misleading” for suggesting that Vance had said some Trump supporters were motivated to back him because they are racist. In fact, the full Vance quote said most of Trump’s voters were inspired by his economic policies or “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, channeled $13.5 million into a political action committee backing Vance in the race. Vance had worked for Theil as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley before moving back to Ohio. Thiel, along with Trump, influenced Vance’s politics, especially when it comes to opposing China and placing stricter limits on immigration. Despite the infusion, Vance continued to run behind in the polls until Trump’s endorsement.

“The question presented in this primary was, ‘Do we want a border that protects our citizens? Do we want to ship our jobs to China or keep them right here in America for American workers? Do we want a Republican Party who stands for the donors who write checks to the Club for Growth or do we want the Republican Party for the people right here in Ohio?” he asked the crowd Tuesday evening.

Even though Trump’s endorsement inevitably boosted Vance’s candidacy, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Just two days before the primary, Trump appeared to flub J.D. Vance’s name when citing his endorsement, seemingly merging it with Vance’s opponent’s last name. A Newsmax host claimed that it wasn’t a gaffe by Trump but a way to hedge his bets in the race.

“We’ve endorsed … J.P? Right?” Trump asked during his Ohio stumping on Vance’s part Sunday. “J.D. Mandel – and he’s doing great.”

On Monday, Vance minimized the gaffe, saying Trump speaks with such enthusiasm and so often that he was bound to “misspeak” sometimes. Vance now faces Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan, who handily won his party’s primary with 69.7%, with approximately 96.1 of the votes counted, according to the Associated Press.

Another big boon for Trump in Ohio Tuesday was the primary victory of Max Miller, a former Trump campaign and White House aide, who won the Republican nomination for the newly written 7th Congressional District in Northeast Ohio. Miller led the pack as of late Tuesday night despite abuse allegations from his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. Miller has denied it.

Miller was initially recruited to challenge Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment. But Gonzalez opted to retire instead.

J.R. Majewski, an Air Force veteran who painted a giant “Trump 2020” sign on his front lawn ahead of the last presidential election, won a crowded GOP nomination and this fall will face Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the history of the House of Representatives. (Kaptur was first elected in 1982.) Majewski defeated Theresa Gavarone, Craig Riedel, and Beth Decker.

RELATED: Repair Shop Owner Who Serviced Hunter Biden’s Laptop Files Lawsuit Against Adam Schiff, CNN

And in a close contest in Ohio’s 13th district, southeast of Cleveland, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a lawyer, political commentator, and former Miss Ohio whom Trump endorsed, is projected to win her crowded GOP primary, defeating six other Republicans. She will face Emilia Sykes, the former House minority leader, who ran unopposed in her primary.

At the top of the Ohio state ticket, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also survived the primary even though he is considered a moderate who does not back Trump. Still, the crowded primary kept DeWine’s showing under 50% even though he has served in some elected capacity in the state for more than 40 years.

DeWine was widely criticized by Republicans over the state’s COVID shutdowns, drawing three Republican opponents, including U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, former state Rep. Ron Hood, and farmer Joe Blyston. The three, however, split the Trump vote, leaving DeWine to pick up a solid 48.1% compared to Renacci’s 28%, Joe Blyston’s 21.8%, and Ron Hood’s 2.1%. DeWine will face Democrat Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton in the general election.

Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics’ White House/national political correspondent.

The post Tuesday Was A Huge Night For Trump – And J.D. Vance appeared first on The Political Insider.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Slams Democrats, Media After Lawsuit to Block Her Re-election is Allowed to Proceed

Marjorie Taylor Greene fired back at Democrats and the media following news that a lawsuit seeking to block her from running for re-election is being allowed to proceed.

The lawsuit alleging that she is unfit for office due to her supposed support for Capitol rioters was allowed to go forward by Judge Amy Totenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

You may recall media outrage over a Trump-appointed judge dropping the mask mandate earlier this week? There is little mention that Totenberg is an appointee of Barack Obama.

RELATED: Judge Slams DOJ For ‘Trampling’ Rights Of Capitol Riot Defendant – ‘No Excuse To Treat A Human Being Like That’

Lawsuit Against Marjorie Taylor Greene Allowed to Proceed

The case, filed by a group of voters, claims Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) violated a provision of the U.S. Constitution passed after the U.S. Civil War known as the “Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause.”

The clause, under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, is a rarely cited Civil War-era provision that bars people from holding office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Obviously, this clause was meant to punish Confederate soldiers, officers, and politicians who engaged in war.

Totenberg, in allowing the case to proceed, argued Greene had failed “to establish a substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of her legal claims and “failed to meet the burden of persuasion.”

Greene sought a temporary injunction in the case, arguing it was unlikely to be resolved before Georgia’s primary elections on May 24.

RELATED: Democrats Have A Back-Up Plan That Might Still Bar Trump From Running Again If Impeachment Fails

Greene Upset That Media Will Distort Hearings

A similar legal challenge was filed against Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, but a federal judge blocked that effort noting that allowing such frivolous lawsuits to continue would open up similar retaliatory efforts by political opponents.

“The federal court is tasked with protecting the soapbox, the ballot box, and the jury box,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers II said. “And when these fail, people proceed to the ammunition box.”

Greene has said she “never encouraged political violence and never will,” but will now be forced to testify in the case. And the media, she fears, will have a field day.

“It’s absurd what they are claiming and lying about,” said Greene in an interview with former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis.

“They’re going to allow the press in the courtroom,” she worried. “They’re going to allow the whole thing to be videoed live out to go anywhere in the world that they want to.”

“And you know what that’s going to look like — the Democrats and the nasty mainstream media … they’re going to be able to twist and turn, and clip out any little piece they want of the horrible things that these funded attorneys are going to try to say about me,” Greene continued.

Remember – Democrats objected to the election results in 2016 officially and during the proceedings certifying electoral votes 11 times:

  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) objected based on “the confirmed and illegal activities engaged by the government of Russia.”
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) argued Florida’s electoral votes “violated Florida’s prohibition against dual officeholders.”
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) objected to Georgia’s vote certificate.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) objected due to “the overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in our election.”
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) suggested the election saw “massive voter suppression.”
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) objected on violations of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Jackson Lee tried to support Grijalva’s objection.
  • Jackson Lee again chimed in objecting to South Carolina’s electoral votes.
  • Barbara Lee again tried to raise an objection before having her microphone cut off.
  • Jackson Lee once again tried to make an objection on the grounds of Russian interference in the election.
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) begged a Senator to join her own objection after the final state’s votes had been read.

And don’t for a minute let them cast doubt that their undermining of the election results in 2016 did not lead to violence in Washington, D.C.

They may not have swarmed the Capitol complex, but there was violence in the streets and Democrat lawmakers were most assuredly trying to “obstruct, influence, impede or delay” the certification of the presidential election, just as Republicans are accused of doing on January 6.

If Totenberg can allow the case to proceed against Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican voters can surely launch at least seven of their own lawsuits against the aforementioned list of Democrats.

The post Marjorie Taylor Greene Slams Democrats, Media After Lawsuit to Block Her Re-election is Allowed to Proceed appeared first on The Political Insider.

Florida man revels in vexing his GOP colleagues. His name isn’t Donald Trump

Leadership abhors a vacuum and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is Exhibit A. First, McConnell had the chance to finish off Donald Trump’s political future during his second impeachment but failed to seal the deal.

Next, McConnell had a chance to give Americans a Republican vision they could vote for in November, but he demurred—choosing instead to offer nothing for which Republicans could be held to account as a cynical campaign strategy.

Now, McConnell’s getting burned on both fronts—by Scott and Trump alike. Trump is getting his jollies by carpet bombing the 2022 landscape with endorsements at will. At the same time, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's running the Senate GOP's bid to retake the upper chamber, has pounced on McConnell's unsteady grip on the caucus.

After Scott dropped his disastrous 11-point plan to "Rescue America" last month on "an unsuspecting party,” he relished the upheaval he created, according to a delightful Washington Post account.

Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos' The Brief podcast with Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld

Scott used a Wall Street Journal op-ed to malign his critics as "careerists in Washington" and jeered, "Bring it on." He also restructured the National Republican Senatorial Committee's fundraising efforts to line his own campaign coffers and then punched back at his detractors.

“We don’t spend much time worrying about criticisms from anonymous Republican consultants who lost the Senate last cycle and who have gotten rich off maintaining the status quo,” Chris Hartline, NRSC communications director and Scott campaign spokesperson, told the Post.

But the pugnacity of Scott and his allies doesn't reverse the fact that he's adding significant deadweight to GOP efforts in November.

For one, he sucking up a lot of money for himself. Donors at some of his events (including in Florida) have been asked to divide their first $10,800 between Scott's campaign account and his own leadership PAC before gifting more to the NRSC account.

The Senate GOP committee is pretty flush at $33 million—$13 million more than at the same point in 2020 and more than twice as much in 2018.

But Scott isn't up for reelection and, as one GOP strategist noted, “He is doing it in a state where there is an incumbent senator who is in-cycle." That would be Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

But that's just one example plaguing what colleagues joke has become the "National Rick Scott Committee." Another change includes Scott whittling down the cut for candidates who let the NRSC fundraise off their images in digital ads. Candidates used to split the haul 50-50 with the committee along with getting donors' names but, under Scott, they get just 10% of donations plus donor names.

Overall, the takeaway among many of the colleagues Scott is supposed to be helping is that "Rick Scott seems to care a lot more about his political future than the Senate incumbents he is supposed to be working for,” according to one anonymous source.

But one group that is extremely pleased with Scott's efforts is Senate Democrats.

“We’ve got three words for him: Keep it up,” said David Bergstein, the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been readily highlighting Scott's plan to raise taxes on more than 100 million American households as well as sunset Medicare and Social Security.

"No NRSC chair has done more for Senate Democrats than Rick Scott,” Bergstein added.

Someone else who applauds Scott's self-serving actions is a fellow Florida man who loves anyone and anything that becomes a thorn in McConnell's side.

“I don’t agree with everything in the plan, but Rick is a good man,” Donald Trump said.

Trump’s statement, however, surely says more about his hatred for McConnell than it does Scott's stewardship of the NRSC.

“I’d take Romney over McConnell,” Trump recently said of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who became the lone GOP senator to vote in favor of Trump's first impeachment. “I think he’d do a better job, and I think Romney is a lowlife.”

For his part, McConnell would be in a much better position to put Scott's GOP agenda to rest if he would bother to pound out a plan of his own. But the fact is, Scott dared to tell Americans what Republicans stand for and McConnell hasn't. And there's really no telling who will be running the Senate GOP caucus if Trump runs again in 2024 and wins.

McConnell can thank himself for that too.