The Downballot: Far-right Republicans dominate Tuesday’s primaries (transcript)

We're recapping all of Tuesday's primary night action on this week's episode of "The Downballot""! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard go coast-to-coast, setting the table in Texas' Senate race and picking apart the bloodbath in the state House. Then it's on to North Carolina, where GOP extremists dominated at all levels of the ballot—and where one notorious election fraudster is now on his way to Congress. We wrap with California, whose troublesome top-two primary system made its quirks felt in a whole bunch of races, from Senate on down.

Subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts to make sure you never miss a show.New episodes every Thursday morning!

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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. Please subscribe to "The Downballot" on Apple Podcasts and leave us a five-star rating and review.

Beard: Primary season is upon us, and Tuesday was a big night.

Nir: It sure was. Super Tuesday's primaries, so many races, the two biggest states, California and Texas. We have a ton of elections to recap, so we are just going to dive right in.

Nir: Well, we had five states that conducted downballot primaries on Super Tuesday, and it is now game on in one of the biggest races in one of the biggest states. The Texas Senate race to hopefully unseat Ted Cruz is getting underway right away because Democratic Congressman Colin Allred kicked ass in his primary on Tuesday night.

Beard: Yeah, I don't think there was any question that he was going to come in first place, but the big question, obviously, in Texas was whether or not he would win over 50%, and if he didn't, he would be forced into a runoff obviously, and that would be additional months of primary campaign and all of that, but he got 59% of the primary vote, so he doesn't have to worry about a runoff and he can focus entirely on Ted Cruz between now and Election Day.

Nir: It really shows the power of TV advertising even in this day and age, especially in a primary. Allred far outspent his rivals on TV. He may have even been the only one who actually had enough money to run a serious TV ad campaign, but he totally crushed it. His nearest opponent got only 17% of the vote. And the other thing it demonstrated is just how strong a fundraiser Allred has been to date, but now I think his fundraising is going to get turbocharged because, as we saw with Beto O'Rourke in 2018, progressives love to hate Ted Cruz, with good reason.

He's one of the biggest scumbags that this country has ever sent to the United States Senate, and I am sure that Allred's fundraising has already been turbocharged just since Tuesday night. I think he's going to put together a really big first quarter and hopefully put this race on the map. And he'll really need to because given how much defense Democrats are playing and how expensive and big Texas is, Allred is going to need O'Rourke-level fundraising, or something in that realm, to convince Democrats, "Yeah, we actually have a shot here." And I think it's plausible.

Beard: Yeah, back in 2018, I don't remember if any national money ever came in towards the end, but really, from the beginning, the idea was O'Rourke needed to raise this amount of money to be able to go and do the campaign himself, without relying on the DSCC or any other groups to come in with multimillion-dollar ad buys, because Texas is so big that the investment is so great for a national group to really go into Texas. So O'Rourke did that. He raised the money to make this a competitive race, as we saw in 2018. He only lost by about 3 points. Allred, I think, has the ability to raise similar sums of money. Like you said, obviously, Cruz is an amazing figure to raise money against because he's so odious.

The other observation I wanted to make is I think, beyond the money, which obviously not discounting that at all, Allred was able to consolidate a ton of establishment support, and I think that's something that still matters, particularly in Democratic primaries. Obviously, we'll talk about some messy Republican primaries later on in the show, and really, it seems like sometimes the only thing that matters in Republican primaries is Trump. But in Democratic sides, he consolidated a lot of labor support, other groups, and was able to, I think, signal to Democratic voters that this was sort of the establishment Democratic candidate in a positive way. And I think a lot of Democratic primary voters still want that. They want somebody they can all get behind.

Nir: Yeah, you might even say that Democratic primary politics are still normal. They still function the way that you imagine that they should, the way that the poli-sci 101 textbook might claim that they do, and that's a healthy sign for democracy because voters can't spend all their time focusing on elections like we do. We're obviously crazy people. And you need to take clues in primaries from sources that you trust and that still works on the Democratic side.

Now, of course, you might argue on the Republican side, while Trump is the ultimate source they trust, but it's a total mess, though, when you have these GOP primaries with half a dozen candidates and all of them are claiming that they're Trump's guy, whether or not Trump has actually endorsed someone. So yeah, I think that we have a better signaling apparatus in Democratic primaries that has all but broken down on the GOP side, and that's a good thing for us.

Beard: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we see that pretty consistently over on the Democratic side.

Nir: So we're going to bounce down to some House races. In Texas's 18th Congressional District, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee bounced back from a very bad defeat in the race for mayor of Houston last year. She had a very stiff challenge from former City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who, in fact, was at one point a Jackson Lee intern, but the incumbent defeated Edwards 60 to 37, so she will earn another term. This is a safely blue seat. Edwards, though, I think acquitted herself well, and I would not be surprised to see her run again, especially if and when Jackson Lee does eventually decide to retire.

Beard: Yeah, I think this shows nothing more so than the power of incumbency. Obviously, Jackson Lee was not in a great spot, you would think, coming off a really bad mayoral loss and then filing just before the filing deadline because that was how the timing worked out. And Jackson Lee had obviously spent a lot of money on this mayoral race, didn't necessarily have the funds that she would've normally had for something like this, but she had been a congresswoman there for a long time, and that counts for a lot, obviously—a pretty comfortable win. But I do think that Edwards' showing is not embarrassing by any means, 37%, and I think she, as you said, put herself in a reasonable position for a future run in the area.

Now, incumbency doesn't always count for that much, as we're seeing on the Republican side over on the other side of the state, in Texas 23, which is part of El Paso and Southwest Texas, Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican, was forced into a runoff. He only got 45% against a number of challengers. The second-place candidate is YouTuber, Brandon Herrera, who's basically known for being a huge gun-rights activist and social media person. So apparently, the Republicans out in Southwest Texas are very interested in that, and I'm not happy with Tony Gonzales for some of the votes he's taken recently.

Nir: Yeah, Gonzales has expressed openness to gun-safety regulations. The Uvalde school massacre happened in his district, so of course, the idea of trying to protect children from being murdered—and I can't believe that I have to say that—is disgusting to Republicans, and therefore, they're punishing Gonzales. I have to say, I really have no idea how this runoff will play out. You think he's at 45%, that's pretty close to 50%, but the runoff is quite a while from now, it's at the end of May, and turnout is going to be much, much lower. And you'd think in an election like that that an insurgent outsider might actually have the chance to screw over an incumbent.

Then there's the question of who is going to come to play, if anyone, in this race. Will Establishment Republicans Group show up for Tony Gonzales? Republicans gerrymandered this district. It used to be very competitive, a real tossup seat. Now it leans quite Republican, but maybe it would be at risk of flipping if they go with Herrera instead of Gonzales. So maybe the Congressional Leadership Fund is going to get nervous here. It's going to be interesting, but really, I have to say, it sickens me, the reason that Gonzales is facing this runoff in the first place, not that I feel bad for him. I just feel disgusted by the Republican Party.

Beard: Yeah, absolutely. Now, there's about 30% of the electorate who didn't vote for Gonzales or Herrera, and obviously, Gonzales only needs about 5 out of that 30% to get to the 50% mark. Of course, turnout will also be different in the runoff election, but the problem is that all of those voters went and voted for a candidate who wasn't the incumbent. So it may be harder than you think to get that 5% because a lot of these people, they all know who Tony Gonzales is, he's their representative. They went and they voted against him. So he’s got to convince some of them, "Hey, maybe you voted for one of these lesser candidates, but I'm better than Herrera." So it's something that's doable, and I'm sure he'll have plenty of money, but by no means do I think he's safe.

Nir: Speaking of incumbents getting thwacked, it was an absolute bloodbath in the Texas state House on Tuesday night. And I feel we need to lay a little bit of groundwork here, but basically, you had three major Republican figures—Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Attorney General Ken Paxton—going after different sets of incumbents in the state House for different reasons. Now, for Paxton, he's been embarked on this revenge tour because the state House Republicans impeached him last year, though he was ultimately acquitted by the state Senate for corruption. So he was targeting all of the incumbent Republicans in the state House who wanted to take him down.

Abbott's motivation, quite different. He basically wants to allow taxpayer money to be used to pay for private schools. They like to dress this up by calling it a voucher, but that's exactly what this is. And his voucher plan has run into serious obstacles in the state legislature. So he went after anti-voucher Republicans. And then there's Donald Trump. I actually think that Trump maybe played perhaps the smallest role of the three. You never know what Trump's motivations are, except pure rage and loyalty. But in any event, those three guys went after a whole bunch of different Republicans, including the state House speaker, and a whole lot of them lost, and a whole bunch more are getting forced into runoffs.

Beard: Yeah, so Speaker Dade Phelan, he's been forced into a runoff. He's got a very well-funded challenger, David Covey. He's actually trailing in this first round, 46 to 43, so he's got a lot to make up as the incumbent here to get to 50% in that runoff. So he's in a very difficult position. There's six Texas House Republicans who were opposed by Abbott, where Abbott endorsed their opponents, who lost outright, and another four were forced into runoff. So, like we said, being an incumbent that's forced into a runoff, that can be a difficult position.

Not that you can't win, particularly if you're close to 50, but it's really tough. There were also some other races where there were some strange alliances, where Abbott sided with some of the incumbents who had voted to impeach Paxton. So Paxton had endorsed some of the challengers. So it gets a little messy in there, but there was some clear evidence that Abbott and Paxton's advocacy for these more extreme Republicans was working and was bringing in a more hard-right turn to the Texas House.

Nir: Yeah, several other Paxton targets also lost, though the Texas Tribune, interestingly, they looked at the subset of races where Abbott and Paxton were on opposite sides, and Abbott got the better of Paxton, for sure. I think that Abbott's side won about half of them. There were, I think, around eight, and Paxton won one and the rest are going to runoffs. But no matter what, Beard, like you were saying, a crazier, more disturbing brand of Republican is going to be taking office in January of next year.

And it's really remarkable to think about. This is a state that Donald Trump won by 6 points, and the Republicans in leadership there are as bug-nuts crazy as the Republicans in Idaho. And you really got to wonder if at some point they're going to pay a price. Democrats have been hoping and praying and dreaming and fantasizing that that day will come, basically, every two years. And I don't necessarily know that 2024 is going to be different, but, man, either the dam is going to burst or Republicans will have essentially managed to do away with democracy before it happens.

Beard: So the state House is currently 86 Republicans to 64 Democrats, so Democrats need to pick up 11 seats to force a tie in the state House. I haven't looked, and I don't know if anybody's been able to look. Obviously, there's a lot of runoffs still to happen. How many of these incumbent losses are in seats that could potentially be competitive? I know at least a couple are in Trump +1, Trump +2 districts.

So it's very possible that this turns into some districts that were held by incumbent Republicans ended up being very competitive races that Democrats could potentially pick off. Whether that gets them anywhere close to the 75 number, who knows. But one of the problems Republicans may have is if Democrats do pick up seats, this whole idea to have this more conservative Texas House, if you defeat some Republicans but then half of them turn into Democrats, you maybe have not actually made that much progress into getting your majority of crazy Republicans if Democrats are able to succeed.

Nir: Well, I really hope you're right. There's one other piece of this Ken Paxton jihad that we need to mention before we move on to the other states on the docket. Voters also voted out three Republican judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Texas actually has two state Supreme Courts. It's one of only two states that do. The other is Oklahoma. Civil cases get appealed to the state Supreme Court, but criminal cases get appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. And this court had previously crossed Paxton.

It had said that the attorney general's office didn't have the power to unilaterally prosecute voter fraud, that he had to have the assent of local prosecutors, and these three judges who lost primaries had all ruled against Paxton in that case. But I almost wonder if there's another angle here, which is that Paxton is finally going on trial next month for a securities fraud indictment. He was indicted in 2015. It's absolutely astonishing. It has taken nine years for this case to come to trial. It's absolutely ridiculous. I could easily believe that Paxton is trying to line the bench and the state House with allies so that if he is convicted, that he has powerful people willing to do his bidding to get him off the hook.

Beard: Absolutely. I don't think you're going to find much better examples in the country of why judges should not be elected and should certainly not be elected in partisan primaries like this. Obviously, Ken Paxton has these criminal cases against him, and the idea that he can go and advocate and make a big difference in the election of the judges who will hear the appeals of his criminal case and get three of them defeated, even if it's about the voter fraud case, is what he claims, but the idea that Ken Paxton has affected who is on this court who is going to rule on his case is wild and is so inappropriate that it's really unbelievable.

Nir: Well, Beard, we could bang our heads against the wall ranting about Texas Republicans for many, many hours, but I think we need to change gears and bang our heads against the wall about North Carolina Republicans.

Beard: Yes, my favorite pastime. So North Carolina was another state that had its primaries. It has a governor's race, of course, this year, probably the most important governor's race in the nation, but we had a pretty good idea of who the nominees were going to be on the Democratic side, Attorney General Josh Stein, and on the Republican side, Lieutenant Gov. Mark Robinson. They had been the favorites since they declared, and they easily advanced, both comfortably over 50% against opposition.

Robinson, of course, is a crazy person, for lack of a better term. He's embraced countless conspiracy theories. He's denied Joe Biden's victory, of course. He's got a list of shockingly offensive statements targeting Jews, Muslims, women, the LGBTQ community, the civil rights movement. It's just like a whole load of craziness for years and years, and the Republican primary voters in North Carolina just eat it up. And meanwhile, Josh Stein is just your pretty conventional attorney general Democrat who wants to run a competent government.

Nir: We talk about Looney Tunes Republicans all the time, and some are nuttier than others, and sometimes you just get this one perfect quote that really encapsulates just what a freakazoid these guys are. Robinson posted on Facebook a number of years ago, and this post is still up by the way, he said, "I don't believe the moon landing was faked, and I don't believe 9/11 was an inside job, but if I found both were true, I wouldn't be surprised." He is like moon-landing-truther curious, and he is now the GOP's nominee in one of the biggest swing states in the nation.

Beard: And I do think, obviously, he's the lieutenant governor, he won an election, but from North Carolina, I know a lot of these Council of State races, we call all of these statewide offices below the governor “Council of State,” like lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, et cetera. They don't get a lot of attention, particularly. They're elected in a presidential year, so you've got the presidential race, you've got the governor's race, which gets a ton of attention, maybe federal races, but these Council of State races, they don't get a ton of attention.

So the fact that he won in 2020, it's not the same degree of attention that he's going to receive as a major-party nominee for governor. So I think he's going to be in for a rude awakening for how this campaign is going to go. Obviously, I'm very hopeful that Stein just kicks his butt the way we saw [Josh] Shapiro kick [Doug] Mastriano's butt in Pennsylvania in 2022—just a good candidate going up against a crazy person, and just wiping the floor with them. That would be incredible. I think North Carolina's not as movable in terms of big swings as Pennsylvania might be, so I don't expect that much of a blowout, but hopefully, Stein can get a good victory here.

Nir: I want to pick up on something you mentioned. It's instructive that you mentioned Shapiro because Stein, like Shapiro, is Jewish and he would be North Carolina's first Jewish governor. Robinson would be the state's first Black governor. Robinson is a total antisemite. He has approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler, and at this time of rising antisemitism, I really am scared to see where his mouth takes him in this election.

But I am also hopeful that if he does once again step in it on this front, that he really pays a price because it's one thing to spout off this antisemitic bullshit just into the ether, but it's quite another when you are going up against a high-profile Jewish opponent. And really, North Carolina Republicans are going to finally find out whether there is a price to pay for extremism. They always behave as though North Carolina is a dark-red, R+20 state, and we know it's not, and this is going to be the true test.

Beard: And talking about those Council of State races, the governor's race is not the only place where Republicans have nominated crazy folks. So Republicans actually have the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is one of the Council of State offices. Catherine Truitt is the incumbent Republican, but she lost her primary in a 52-48 upset to homeschooler Michele Morrow, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6th, has attacked public schools—the thing that she would be in charge of, as, quote, “indoctrination centers.”

So clearly decided, "Hey, we don't need a public school teacher," which Truitt is a former public school teacher, "to be in charge of the public schools, even if she's a Republican. We need someone further to the right, somebody who hates public schools, to be in charge of them." And then pro-MAGA attorney Luke Farley won the GOP primary for the Labor Commissioner's office against the state rep. who was the party-establishment choice. So as we've seen with Republican primary voters, they love to go with the far-right crazies.

Nir: Yeah, the GOP slate, from top to bottom in North Carolina this year, is going to be completely freaking wild. And we also have to mention the attorney general's race. This is a super important post. This is the job that Josh Stein currently holds. Republicans nominated far-right extremist Dan Bishop, congressman. He didn't have any opposition to the primary. He was the author of the notorious H.B. 2. This is the infamous, quote-unquote, “bathroom bill” that led to the GOP losing the governor's race, unquestionably, in 2016. Roy Cooper ousting Pat McCrory. And he's going to go up against Democratic Congressman Jeff Jackson, who was gerrymandered out of his seat last year by Republicans. Jackson won his primary, and this is a good story, I'm sure he didn't enjoy dealing with this, but Republicans tried to rat-fuck that primary. They spent more than a million dollars to promote his main opponent, thinking that she would be easier to defeat in the general election.

Well, Jackson prevailed 55 to 33, and it really just goes to show you, well, a couple of things. First off, it's awesome that the GOP wasted a million bucks on this, but second, I just think that Democrats have a much better understanding of what it is that makes GOP primary voters tick than the reverse. And when Republicans try to meddle in Democratic primaries, it's really hard to think of examples when it works. And just simply trying to push the supposedly, quote-unquote, “more progressive” option was not really going to be the answer—kind of like what we were saying earlier, Beard, about how establishment signals still matter so much in Democratic primaries—and it was very clear that Jackson was the guy. And yeah, I just think that Democrats are always going to have greater success elevating MAGA nuts in GOP primaries than the other way around.

Beard: And I don't want to come off too insulting to Republican primary voters, but literally, usually, what Democrats do is just say, "Crazy person is too conservative for a location." And it just perks everyone up in the Republican Party. They're like, "You think he's too conservative? That's right up my alley. He is too conservative, you think? I'm going to vote for that guy!" It's not hard.

Nir: It's funny that you mention that because Democrats at least go through the motion of those fake attacks: "too close to Trump, loves the Second Amendment too much." But when Republicans try to pull this same kind of stunt, it's almost like they're running positive ads in favor of these candidates. I don't know why that maybe fig leaf of fake attacks by Democrats just feels a little bit more upright to me, as opposed to Republicans pretending to be all in for these lefty Dems.

Beard: Yeah, the reality is you can't just run an ad saying, "Democratic candidate is too progressive for this area," and have a bunch of Democrats be like, "Oh, let's go vote for that person." That's not how Democratic primary voters think. Sometimes they may vote for the more progressive candidate, but it's usually going to be about issues and it's going to be like, "Do we think this person is a good candidate who can win?" There just tends to be a lot more that goes into it.

Nir: That's really, really funny. That's such a good point because imagine if you had a Republican ad saying, "So-and-so is too liberal for North Carolina." Your median Democratic primary voter might sit back and think, "Oh wow, wait, hold on. What if they're too liberal? I should vote for the other candidate because we got to beat the Republicans."

Beard: Yeah, absolutely.

Nir: So we're going to switch gears a little bit to talk about one of the worst of the worst Republicans, but not just because he's a far-right loony, but because he tried to steal an election, or at least his top consultant did. Mark Harris, you'll recall from 2018, had his election results thrown out after one of his consultants orchestrated a massive scheme to interfere with absentee ballots in that race. Well, somehow he won his primary on Tuesday night, just barely. In North Carolina, you only need to clear 30% to avoid a runoff, and Mark Harris won 30.4% in the open 8th Congressional District. This is the seat that Dan Bishop has left open to run for attorney general.

A bunch of conservative billionaires actually spent seven figures to try to stop Harris. It's not exactly clear why they didn't like him, except for the fact that maybe they just think that election thieves shouldn't be in Congress. No, no, no, no, no, I'm not giving—

Beard: Too much credit.

Nir: —GOP billionaires way too much credit. But here's the thing now, because of Republican gerrymandering, this is a very solidly Republican seat and Harris's Democratic opponent, I was just looking up after the primary, hasn't reported raising any money. So this guy is almost certainly going to wind up in Congress now after he couldn't get to Congress because state officials threw out his election entirely and held a new election. I'm just absolutely gobsmacked.

Beard: Yeah, I guess there's nothing Republican voters like more than a candidate who screams about having the election stolen from them when they were the ones actually trying to steal an election. It fits a little too well almost. But I do think it really goes to show that the 30% margin for a runoff is pretty strange. North Carolina went to this a few years ago. It used to be 40%. A long time ago, it was 50%, but when I was growing up, it was 40%, and that at least had some logic to it.

There are other countries that use a runoff system that use 40% under sort of the idea that if a candidate surpasses 40%, they've at least got a healthy percentage of the voters behind them, so you don't need to necessarily go to a runoff. But 30% is so low. I'm like, "Why bother? Why have it at all? Because he got 30.4% of the vote, and that's sending him onto Congress.” So that threshold is very odd to me, but I guess he's going to be a congressman. I don't know.

Nir: Yeah, I think, though that threshold suggests to me that in a one-on-one race, he could be in a heap of trouble, especially against a well-funded opponent. The wild thing though, Beard, is that there are two other Republican primaries for open congressional seats that are going to runoffs where no candidate managed to get 30% of the vote. That's really strange. And also, the GOP race for lieutenant governor, same thing. No candidate even got 20% of the vote in that race. So I'd be like, "Are Republicans just going to keep lowering the primary runoff threshold? At 15%?" You know what? You could either get rid of it, or have instant-runoff voting. This is getting silly.

Beard: Yeah, there are plenty of states that just don't have a runoff, and that's not a perfect system either, obviously. Sometimes someone can win in a primary election with a very low percentage of the vote, but this system is just weird. So that's enough talking about North Carolina. We do have a few other states to talk about. So we're going to go to Alabama, where, obviously, the interesting races were as a result of the redistricting where Alabama 2 is now a second seat that is likely to send a Democrat to Congress. So that's now open because the Republican who represented it moved to the redistricted Alabama 1, resulting in an incumbent-on-incumbent matchup that was Rep. Barry Moore and Rep. Jerry Carl. So they faced each other in the Republican primary on Tuesday night, and Moore, from the old Alabama 2, actually narrowly defeated Carl, 51.5% to 48.5%. Moore, of course, is the more crazier Freedom Caucus guy.

So I guess it's no surprise that he ended up winning, even though he represented a smaller percentage of the new district than Carl did. And you can really see it on the map. The counties around Mobile where Carl was the representative went really heavily for Carl, while the counties on the eastern side went really heavily for Moore. And given the proportions, you would calculate it out to think that, "Oh, if this portion went heavy for Carl and this portion went heavy for Moore, Carl should actually be ahead in the end." But Moore was able to goose up his margins in his area and cut into Carl's margins just enough that he was able to pull it out. And I think him being the more conservative Freedom Caucus member is probably a big reason why he was able to pull it out when you would've probably thought Carl was the favorite.

And then just north of Alabama 1, of course, is the new Alabama 2, which, like I mentioned, is going to be sending, hopefully, a Democrat to Congress. There, we're going to runoff. There were a bunch of Democratic candidates. The leading candidate is Shomari Figures. He got 43.5% of the vote. And then in second place is state Rep. Anthony Daniels. He got 22.4% of the vote. So he's got a lot to make up if he's going to be able to catch Figures in the runoff and try to win this primary. He's going to really need to consolidate the voters who didn't vote for Figures in the first round.

Nir: The last state on the list on today's episode of "The Downballot" is the biggest one of them all, California. Before we get into it, Beard, we have to emphasize, it is so important to emphasize, California takes a long time to count its votes. If you see hot takes, even medium takes, even lukewarm takes, about what California's vote means over the next two weeks, it is too early. It will take at least that long for almost all the votes to get tallied. And you're going to see some ridiculous crap out there trying to add up the total D vote versus the total R vote in key districts or key races. But there's a very good chance that if you see Republicans leading in a particular race, things might balance out over the next couple of weeks. Now, they may not. There have been elections in the past where Republicans retain their edge or even increase their edge, generally speaking, after California's top-two primary.

But more often than not, Democrats have tended to perform better in large part because more liberal voters tend to wait until later to turn in their ballots. It's a strange phenomenon. Seems that young people are more in the habit of waiting to the last minute, and young people tend to lean further to the left. So I would not be at all surprised if we see a very different picture a couple of weeks from now. And also to that point, most races haven't been called yet. The races that we're looking at for the most part remain uncalled, either both slots in the top-two primary or the second slot. Though we do have one very big call in the very biggest race.

Beard: And California Senate, which was a race that had been sort of set up as this titanic struggle between a number of well-known Democrats for this open Senate seat in California, sort of petered out in the end. Rep. Adam Schiff had a big money advantage. He basically had the lead for the first slot in the top-two runoff for the entire time. He has placed first with the votes counted so far, with 33% of the vote. The question was, of course, "Was there going to be a second Democrat in this runoff, which would lead to a lot of Democrat-on-Democrat ads and money being spent?" But that didn't end up happening.

Republican Steve Garvey, who Adam Schiff spent a lot of time and money trying to drag into the runoff along with him, did so. Garvey is just behind Schiff in the current vote count. He's got 32% of the vote, so he's going to advance. He's almost certainly going to lose in November. It's California in a D-vs.-R statewide race. Schiff is probably going to wipe the floor with Garvey. And the other Democratic representatives who ran fell quite a ways behind. Katie Porter currently has 14%. Barbara Lee currently has 7%. Obviously, those figures may change as more vote comes in, but clearly, Schiff and Garvey are way far ahead and are going to be the ones to advance.

Nir: There are a few layers to this race. To me, I find it sad and disappointing that Porter and Lee are ending their congressional careers this way, especially Lee who is quite a bit older. This is almost certainly going to be the last race she'll ever run. Porter potentially could come back in some way, shape, or form. And it was very hard from the very beginning of this race to understand what their path to one of the top two slots ever was. Schiff just had incredible profile. And leading Trump's impeachment was an extraordinary thing to have on his résumé, and he was always going to have that plus more money. And those are really, really difficult things to overcome. And in the end, things played out, I think, pretty much exactly as we thought from early on in the race. But there may be a silver lining here.

There were a lot of people understandably upset with Adam Schiff for trying to ensure that Garvey would be his opponent. I wasn't one of them. We've said how much we despise the top-two system. Schiff was just playing by the rules that exist. But had there been, let's say, a race between Schiff and Porter, that would've been an expensive battle, unpredictable, and a ton of resources would've gone to that race. Instead now, look, Schiff will still raise a lot of money, but no one has to worry about the outcome here. Schiff is definitely going to beat Garvey. So some amount of money, some amount of attention and resources that would have gone to California, now hopefully can be spread around to other races elsewhere in the country.

Beard: Yeah, I guarantee you the DSCC and the DCCC are on the phone with Adam Schiff being like, "Hey, buddy, some of that money that you have that you're not going to need anymore, let's spread it across to some Democrats who really need it in some very competitive races."

Nir: Beard, I'm curious for your take on something. Some folks have said that turnout could be higher among Democratic voters in an all-D Senate race, which could potentially affect races further down the ballot, particularly House races. There are obviously several targeted GOP-held House seats that Democrats are hoping to flip. I'm a bit skeptical of that because this wouldn't have been the first time that we saw a D-on-D race. In fact, there was one in 2018 for the last time that Dianne Feinstein ran when she ran against Kevin de León. Maybe we might mention him again at the end of the show. And Democrats, of course, flipped a ton of seats in 2018. So I'm a little skeptical of that take, but maybe that was a wave year. Maybe it's a little different in 2024. I don't know. What do you think?

Beard: I'm pretty skeptical about anything downballot affecting turnout in a presidential year. I think the presidential race dominates so much, and so many people go out and vote. Turnout is much higher in a presidential year than in any other year, including in states that are not competitive. This is not just a swing-state phenomenon where turnout is high in Michigan and North Carolina and Arizona, or something. Millions and millions of people who only vote in presidential years in New York and California and Nebraska go out and vote because it's voting for president. It's the one that everybody knows.

So I would be pretty surprised if two Democratic campaigns in the Senate race would do a lot of turnout, particularly because they would be primarily focused on persuasion. I would think a Democrat-on-Democratic campaign is not going to try to out-turnout voters because it's going to be hard to know who your voters are, because it's not a traditional D-vs.-R race. So you have to focus more on persuasion because you have no guarantee like, "Oh, this group of people are our supporters. We just have to get them to vote." How do you know that if you have this theoretical Porter-Schiff race? Who are the Porter voters you need to turn out? You're not going to know, so you're going to have to focus on persuasion. So I don't really buy that argument.

Nir: Fair.

Beard: Now, we have a couple of congressional races that we're going to talk about. Things have not been called in these races, so of course, more vote is going to come in and things may change, but we just want to highlight them because they are the ones that matter in terms of top-two, and Democrats, in particular, are not getting locked out of the top-two runoff. Now, California's 22nd District is a district that we've talked about before, where there was concerns here. The Democrats’ favored candidate—former Assemblyman Rudy Salas ran in 2022—narrowly lost to the GOP incumbent Rep. David Valadao. So he was running for a rematch, but there was another Democratic elected official in the race. So there was some concern that he may get locked out by Valadao and Valadao's primary opponent who's a further right-wing guy. But at least in the initial vote, it looks like Salas is going to be okay.

Valadao is leading the current vote, with about 34%, Salas has 28%, the third-place candidate—that far-right Republican—has 22%. So barring something pretty unexpected in terms of the late vote, I think Salas should be good to advance and face Valadao in what should be a very, very competitive race. The other race that I want to flag at the congressional level is one that nobody really had any sort of eye on, and that was an open seat—California's 31st District. And this race had two main Republicans and a ton of Democrats. It had six Democrats. But it's a safely Democratic seat. The seat is not competitive by any means, but because of this top-two system, and because of the number of Democrats running in this open seat, which you often see, we've talked about North Carolina lieutenant governor's race and how nobody got 20% because there were so many Republican candidates running in the primary.

So just like here, there are so many Democrats running in the primary that there is a real risk that Democrats could have—and even could still be—locked out of this safely Democratic seat. Gil Cisneros, who is a former representative who lost and is back to reclaim a different seat than the one that he once had, he's leading narrowly. He's got, as of recording, 21.35% of the vote. So he's just over 21%. But the next two slots are the two Republicans who ran, and they have 21% of the vote and 19% of the vote. So Cisneros is only about 2.5% above the third-place candidate, who does not advance to the runoff. So you could imagine just a slightly different situation here where one of the other Democrats did a little bit better and Cisneros did a little bit worse, and he's down here, 18.5% instead of 21% and there are two Republicans advancing in a safe Democratic district.

Now, again, there are lots and lots of votes to count. The hope, obviously, is that there are more Democratic than Republican votes out there, and Cisneros will comfortably pad his lead a little bit. But this just goes to show how risky the top-two system is when a safely Democratic seat could conceivably had two Republicans advance to the top-two runoff.

Nir: This is just a coincidence, but the very first time that a top-two lockout reared its head, and it was super unexpected, was in 2012, which was the first year that California used this new top-two system, and Democrats wound up not advancing to the November general election for a very winnable congressional district. And ironically, that district was also numbered California's 31st.

Beard: Oh, wow.

Nir: Yeah. Now, those two districts have nothing in common. They do not overlap at all geographically. They just happen to share the same district number. California tends to pretty dramatically renumber its districts every 10 years, following redistricting. That was a really painful race. I certainly hope we don't have a repeat of that now, but the leading Democrat who wound up getting locked out of that race, he won two years later, and that's Pete Aguilar. And that's actually not a bad pedigree, because now he's one of the top Democrats in the House. So I'm not saying that Gil Cisneros, if he'll get locked out in 2024, he'll come back in 2026 and then he'll jump to the top ranks of leadership. We obviously don't want any kind of disaster like that. It really is just a coincidence that these two districts share a number. But my point is we have been dealing with this problem for a freaking long time, and it sucks, and it has to end.

Beard: Yeah. Just imagine Pete Aguilar with another two years of experience in Congress. That's what we lost. But yeah, we'll obviously continue to track these California races, and once we've got a fuller vote, we can have a better analysis of the primary results.

Nir: There are a ton more races we could have talked about. We have to wrap up this segment now. Like we've said, it'll still be a while before we know the final answers in a lot of these California races. So follow us at Daily Kos Elections, sign up for our newsletter, We will be covering every single race call as it happens, and I'm sure we'll be talking about the late-called races in coming episodes. And then in a couple of weeks, we have two more states with big primaries. Illinois and Ohio are on the docket, so we're going to be discussing plenty more primaries in the weeks ahead.

Beard: That's all from us this week. "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" on Apple Podcasts and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our editor, Drew Roderick, and we'll be back next week with a new episode.

Mitt Romney says what other Republicans won’t: He’s not voting Trump

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah crossed a line this week that few if any national Republican officials have broached: rejecting Donald Trump at the ballot box if Trump's the nominee.

Asked by CNN's Kaitlin Collins whether he would vote for Trump over Joe Biden, Romney was unequivocal. 

"No, no, no, absolutely not," he said. Romney explained that whether he aligned with Trump on policy was not his primary consideration.

Instead, he placed character above all and said that having a president who was so "defaulted" of character would undermine America's greatness and our ability to be an international leader.

In many ways, Romney's public break from Trump isn't exactly “stop the presses” stuff. He is retiring at the end of this congressional term, has been a vocal critic of Trump in recent years, and was one of just seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting a violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

It's also highly doubtful that even a trickle of other notable Republicans will follow in his wake given the cowardice the vast majority of GOP politicians and officials have routinely exhibited over the last decade. 

Kaitlin Collins: Would you vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden? Mitt Romney: No, absolutely not. @Acyn

— The Intellectualist (@highbrow_nobrow) February 29, 2024

But Romney's departure is important on two levels. 

First, MAGA has executed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. But while Trump is still dominating the delegate count, his last remaining rival, Nikki Haley, has won somewhere between 25%-30% of self-identified Republican voters in the contests for which we have exit polling: New Hampshire and South Carolina. In other words, roughly a quarter to a third of self-identified Republicans either still favor old-school conservatism or simply don't want to be part of Trump's party. That's a sizable group of people. And it's entirely plausible that when the dust settles from 2024, some alienated Republicans could make an effort to form their own party, as former Rep. Liz Cheney alluded to earlier this year on ABC's "The View."

“I think that the Republican party itself is clearly so caught up in this cult of personality that it’s very hard to imagine that the party can survive,” Cheney told the hosts in January. “I think increasingly it’s clear that once we get through 2024, we’re gonna have to have something else, something new.”

Romney's assertion that he won't vote for Trump over Biden also brings into question what exactly Haley will do when her time for choosing comes. Haley will not endorse Biden; she has called him "more dangerous" than Trump. But she refers to both as "old men" and specifically calls Trump "unstable and unhinged."

So while Haley won't endorse Biden, she has so far declined to endorse Trump and charged that he cannot win general election. In other words, there's still a slim chance Haley will decline to endorse Trump at the end of her run—and that would be a meaningful departure for all the Republican voters and GOP-leaning independents who have embraced her policies and her mostly unabashed criticism of Trump.

Romney is telling Republican voters that it's okay to say "no, no, no" to Trump. Haley just might, at the very least, tell those same voters that Trump is too unfit to endorse.

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Mitch McConnell tries to cling to power by bending the knee to Trump

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have a long-standing mutual loathing, but that apparently won’t stop McConnell from bowing to Trump. The two men’s political teams have been in talks for McConnell’s endorsement, a reflection of just how desperate McConnell is to keep his weakening hold on his leadership position.

This is the same McConnell who blistered Trump in a floor speech after the Kentucky senator voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment proceedings after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He accused Trump of “a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said, “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of [Jan. 6].” McConnell accurately said the crowd was worked up with “an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

The attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, he said, “was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.” 

So let’s just give him another shot at it, McConnell has apparently decided. 

Sources involved in the negotiations give a weak explanation. “We’ve reached the part of the primary where the party is coming together,” one source told The Hill. “The absolute worst thing that can happen to this country is electing Joe Biden for four more years, and you can expect to coalesce around that point over the next nine months,” the source continued. So much for protecting our institutions from the guy who tried to “torch” them.

The likelier explanation is that McConnell’s grasp on his leadership position is weakening as the MAGA contingent in the Senate chips away at him. They have blocked his No. 1 priority—Ukraine funding—for months. They rebelled against him to kill the border deal that would have secured that funding.

Earlier this month, the Senate’s answer to the House Freedom Caucus held a press conference during which Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was asked if he thought it was time for McConnell to step aside. “I think it is,” Cruz replied.

“Everyone here also supported to the leadership challenge to Mitch McConnell in November [2022,]” he continued. By “everyone,” he meant Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, J.D. Vance of Ohio, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Eric Schmitt of Missouri. “I think a Republican leader should actually lead this conference and should advance the priorities of Republicans,” Cruz continued. 

Chances are pretty good that a Trump endorsement won’t be good enough to stop them. After all, House Speaker Mike Johnson has been in Trump’s pocket since he was elected to the position, and that hasn’t smoothed his way with the MAGA contingent of the GOP conference. 

Trump is relishing the chance to humiliate his old foe McConnell, gloating, “I don’t know if he’s going to endorse me, I just heard he wants to endorse me. … Everybody’s getting in line, they’re all getting on board.”


McConnell unwittingly explains why Trump now owns the Republican Party

McConnell warns fellow Republicans not to 'go wobbly' on Ukraine

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New poll shows it’s the greedflation, stupid

Even as post-pandemic inflation continues to fall, many Americans still feel the sting of high prices for basic goods, such as groceries. And Republicans are desperate to blame voter unease on President Joe Biden, particularly as consumer confidence improves and people feel increasingly bullish about their personal finances. 

But new polling on inflation suggests Democrats have an opening to reframe the issue as a discussion about corporate greed—an issue Democrats can turn to their advantage.

In a newly released survey, the progressive consortium Navigator Research found that 85% of voters now view corporate greed as a cause of inflation, with 59% calling it a "major" factor—a 15-percentage-point increase since January 2022. 

"The fact that so many Americans now say that corporate greed is a root cause of inflation is an important turning point," Maryann Cousens, polling and analytics associate for Navigator Research, told Daily Kos.

The feeling among Americans has become so pervasive that just added the term "greedflation" to its entries, describing it as a rise in prices "caused by corporate executives or boards of directors, property owners, etc., solely to increase profits that are already healthy or excessive."

It's not that voter concerns about inflation are new; it's that voters’ sense that corporations are profiting at the expense of average Americans by spiking prices is at an all-time high in Navigator's polling. 

In fact, voters’ belief that corporate greed is a "major" driver of inflation has jumped 17 points in the past two years among both independents (from 45% to 62%) and Democrats (55% to 72%).

Cousens told Daily Kos that voters are also clamoring for Congress to take action on the issue. Navigator's 2022 midterm survey showed that Congress addressing inflation was "the top priority for midterm voters by a large margin," according to Cousens. 

And while Republicans sought to tag government spending as the biggest cause of inflation in the midterm, some Democrats successfully pointed to corporate greed as the main culprit for soaring prices.

One of them was Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who narrowly won her hard-fought 2022 reelection bid in the swing state, where gas prices had spiked to $5.67 per gallon amid the campaign.

According to reporting from The Nevada Independent, Cortez Masto staffers said she frequently mentioned pocketbook issues, like the prices of prescription drugs, housing, and gasoline. 

“[She would] say, ‘yeah, I don't like the gas prices either,’ instead of just trying to sweep it under the rug,” Frank Hawk, president of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, told the Independent's Gabby Birenbaum. “And then [she] really pointed out what's a little more true, [which] is that you have oil companies and pharmaceutical companies and Big Corporate America making record profits on a daily basis, and we as the middle class are struggling to fill our gas tanks. And that should make us angry. And I think her passion came through, along with her sincerity.”

In other words, there's precedent for Democratic lawmakers to successfully empathize with voters and highlight their work to ease the cost of living. For example, President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which cleared Congress on a party-line vote, has forced a $35 monthly cap on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries. And that price is quickly becoming available to a much wider swath of Americans as drug companies cap their own price or offer savings programs.  

Democrats have plenty to use to contrast themselves with Republicans. The Inflation Reduction Act also empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and Biden has put forward practical steps to raise taxes on billionaires. In the meantime, Donald Trump is vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which, if successful, could strip health insurance from tens of millions of Americans. Trump is also floating the implementation of 10% tariffs on nearly all imports to the U.S, which would functionally raise taxes for U.S. consumers by more than $300 billion a year, according to the conservative Tax Foundation think tank.

Last month, Navigator released polling of likely general election voters in 61 battleground districts, showing that congressional Republicans still hold a 10-point trust advantage on the issue of "fighting inflation." However, once Navigator actually named the lawmakers, Democratic legislators in those districts edged out Republican lawmakers. Forty-five percent of voters said they trust their Democratic representative "a lot" or "some" to fight inflation, while 42% said the same of their GOP representative.   

Navigator's most recent poll found the most persuasive messages on price increases focus on corporate profits and CEO salaries being “at an all-time high, outpacing inflation” while corporations are “raising prices for families and small businesses.” It's a message the White House and Democrats should be pushing proactively, particularly given the fact that the economy is overall on much stronger footing than it was during the 2022 midterms. 

The country’s economic upswing, coupled with Americans increasing belief in greedflation, suggests voters are ripe for an argument that the high price of consumer goods is a product of corporate greed, not economic missteps. And Democrats have a plan for that.

Republicans demanded border security, worked on a compromise deal with Democrats, and now want to blow the whole thing up. Biden is promising to remind Americans every day that the Republican Party is at fault for the lack of solutions to the problems they claim are most important.

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Watch Fox gush over Biden’s economy

News that the U.S. economy grew at a brisk 3.3% annual pace since October wasn't just good: It was great in a lot of ways.

On average, the economy grew a robust 2.5% in 2023—a year in which analysts practically tried to speak a recession into reality. No such luck. In fact, from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the fourth quarter of 2023, the economy grew 3.1%.

The combination of increasing consumption, low unemployment, and falling inflation even had a Fox Business reporter gushing over President Joe Biden's economy.

"It's a sweet spot," remarked Fox Business' Lauren Simonetti, calling consumption "formidable" over the holidays. "We're seeing an economy that is proving resilient—growing as inflation is moderating. That's why I'm calling this the sweet spot, right? Enough growth to cool inflation."

Thank you Dark Brandon!

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 25, 2024

The New York Times' Paul Krugman likewise dubbed it the "Goldilocks economy," neither too hot nor too cold. And Krugman predicts the country's inflationary woes are now over.

In other words, it continues to look as though the Biden administration is overseeing a "soft landing" for the economy—one that supposedly couldn't be achieved.

Indeed, the University of Michigan's survey of consumer sentiment surged to a reading of 78.8 in January, its highest level since July 2021 and a 21.4% increase from a year ago, according to CNBC. A big driver of that increase stems from consumers’ agreement with Krugman that inflation "has turned the corner," as survey director Joanne Hsu put it.

All of this good news is going to drive an already seething Donald Trump absolutely mad—particularly Fox Business analysts swooning over Biden's economy. The same Fox analyst also promised to scour the report "to see if there are signs that maybe the economy doesn't feel as, or isn't as resilient as it might seem."

Shorter Fox-speak: Stay tuned, Trump. We'll invent bad news one way or another!

For anyone who hasn't noticed, Trump is already getting increasingly erratic on his quest to fabricate bad news for Biden:

  • He's livid over his Republican rival Nikki Haley refusing to drop out of the GOP primary after New Hampshire.

  • He’s strong-arming the Republican National Committee into declaring him the nominee after a grand total of two state contests.

  • He's asking Senate Republicans to torpedo a potential border deal with the White House so he can spend the rest of year fear-mongering over a supposed "invasion" of immigrants spearheaded by Biden.

  • He's pushing House Republicans to impeach Biden so he can rail about Biden's supposed corruption.

  • He's rooting for an economic "crash," hopefully sometime very soon.

  • He's promising "bedlam" in the streets of America if he loses the election (a chaos candidate promising chaos if The People vote against chaos).

  • And he's agitating for full immunity from absolutely any action—including murder—he takes as president.

It's January, folks, and Trump is already coming off the rails despite the fact that he's basically cruising to the Republican nomination.

It's a palpable show of desperation sprung from a place of weakness. Trump knows New Hampshire and Iowa both exposed serious cracks in his general election voting coalition. The turnout and makeup of the electorate in both states suggests he isn't expanding the universe of Republican voters. He's simply culling the party down to a smaller, harder-right faction of the electorate.

In short, Trump's not adding, he's subtracting. And if he's going to ride that smaller slice of the electorate to victory, he's going to need to trash the country in every way possible in order to depress turnout for Biden.

That’s all fine by Trump because the main impetus of his every move is the sheer terror of spending his last living years in a jail cell. If he has to single-handedly unravel the country on his quest for freedom, so be it.

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Trump allies ridicule GOP impeachment inquiry for failing to find dirt on Biden

As he closes in on the Republican nomination, Donald Trump needs House Republicans to deliver an equalizer for him in the general election: an impeachment of President Joe Biden.

But after a yearlong investigation led by the House oversight committee chair, Rep. James Comer, Republicans seem no closer to digging up any actionable dirt on Biden. That leads to two conclusions:

  1. If the pro-Trump House GOP conference hasn't found anything on Biden, it's unlikely anything legally actionable exists.

  2. It becomes even more imperative for House Republicans to scrape together something Trump can work with.

After all, when pundits call him the twice-impeached, four-time indictee, Trump has to be able to point at Biden and say he's the one who's really corrupt. Just look at what Congress found on him. It's very reminiscent of Trump attempting to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into opening a bogus investigation into Biden. Only now, Trump has so many legal liabilities, he needs more than just the specter of wrongdoing—he needs the goods. And according to some fascinating reporting from The Messenger's Stephen Neukam, Trump has taken note of the fact that he's currently got nothing on which to spin a corruption narrative.

“Comer has cast a wide net and caught very little fish. That is a big problem for him,” one ally of Trump told The Messenger.

The reporting is informed by more than a dozen anonymous interviews, including a House Republican colleague who calls Comer's inquiry a "parade of embarrassments."

“One would be hard pressed to find the best moment for James Comer in the Oversight Committee,” the GOP lawmaker said.

But in many ways, the leaks seem specifically designed to put Comer on notice that he not only needs to produce, but he'll be singularly on the hook if he doesn't.

“James Comer continues to embarrass himself and House Republicans. He screws up over and over and over," said a source identified as "close" to House GOP leadership, who appeared to be playing CYA for the leadership team. The source's big fear was that Comer would ultimately fail to provide the foundation necessary (i.e. evidence) to follow through with impeaching Biden.

“I don’t know how Republicans actually impeach the president based on [Comer's] clueless investigation and lack of leadership,” said the source.

The quotes had the feel of a failed campaign staff pointing fingers at each other as the ship goes down, only the campaign in this case is the Republican effort to impeach Biden.

Publicly, of course, House leaders are expressing full confidence in Comer.

"I am grateful for the superb efforts of Chairman Comer," Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement, while House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said Comer had "worked tirelessly" on the investigation.

But Comer's misfires have become legendary: providing nothing substantive, just a series of accusations and innuendo that don't amount to a hill of beans. In fact, Comer's investigation has become a punch line in the media. As Daily Kos' Mark Sumner wrote in November, Comer had uncovered another "smoking water pistol."

In fact, just last month, CNN's Jake Tapper mocked Comer during a live interview.

Watch only Jake Tapper for the entire 45 seconds of this ridiculous interview with James Comer Pyle. The facial expressions are classic. The GOP deemed THIS guy as their best person to get Joe and Hunter Biden. Republicans embarrass the U.S.

— BigBlueWaveUSA® 🇺🇸🌊🇺🇦 (@BigBlueWaveUSA) December 8, 2023

And when the oversight committee met earlier this month to debate holding Hunter Biden in contempt for refusing to give closed-door testimony, the younger Biden made a laughingstock of House Republicans by staging a surprise press conference in which he volunteered to provide public testimony.

“It seems like they got played by Hunter Biden,” a senior House GOP aide told The Messenger. “It was a disaster. They looked like buffoons.”

To sum up, the boss needs production, Comer has become a national joke, and the House leadership is happily hanging him out to dry.

In response, Comer issued a statement through a spokesperson saying that oversight, along with the Judiciary and Ways and Means committees, are coordinating to "determine whether President Biden's conduct warrants articles of impeachment."

Yeah, that's not gonna cut it.

"You have to start producing," one Trump ally said. "The base is starting to get more and more frustrated with him because they see all this smoke but they don’t see the movement.”

If that sounds like a mob-boss threat, that’s because it is.

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Majority of Americans open to kicking Trump off state ballots

 Whether by hook or by crook, a majority of Americans—56%—are willing to see Donald Trump kicked off some or all state ballots, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday.

Two state-level rulings in Colorado and Maine have disqualified Trump from the ballot. Feelings about those rulings were more mixed: 49% support the decisions, while 46% oppose them.

But when it comes to the Supreme Court tackling the question of whether Trump can be barred from ballots under the 14th Amendment, 30% said the high court should remove him from all ballots, while 26% said the court should let states decide Trump's fate. Just 39% said Trump should be kept on the ballot in all states—a remarkably low percentage for a major-party presidential front-runner.

The survey also tested support for the federal and state charges against Trump, as well as House Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

At base, 56% support the charges against Trump, while 39%—there's that number again— oppose the charges. On the Biden impeachment inquiry, just 44% support it, while 51% oppose it.

But in terms of "strong" support, 41% strongly support charging Trump, while just 26% strongly support opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

That means House Republicans are fixated on devoting a bunch of time and energy during a presidential cycle to a matter that only a quarter of voters feel passionately—and that a 51% majority opposes.

That's the definition of fringe politics: elevating the desires of about a quarter of the public over those of the majority of Americans.

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Majority of Americans open to kicking Trump off state ballots

 Whether by hook or by crook, a majority of Americans—56%—are willing to see Donald Trump kicked off some or all state ballots, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday.

Two state-level rulings in Colorado and Maine have disqualified Trump from the ballot. Feelings about those rulings were more mixed: 49% support the decisions, while 46% oppose them.

But when it comes to the Supreme Court tackling the question of whether Trump can be barred from ballots under the 14th Amendment, 30% said the high court should remove him from all ballots, while 26% said the court should let states decide Trump's fate. Just 39% said Trump should be kept on the ballot in all states—a remarkably low percentage for a major-party presidential front-runner.

The survey also tested support for the federal and state charges against Trump, as well as House Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

At base, 56% support the charges against Trump, while 39%—there's that number again— oppose the charges. On the Biden impeachment inquiry, just 44% support it, while 51% oppose it.

But in terms of "strong" support, 41% strongly support charging Trump, while just 26% strongly support opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

That means House Republicans are fixated on devoting a bunch of time and energy during a presidential cycle to a matter that only a quarter of voters feel passionately—and that a 51% majority opposes.

That's the definition of fringe politics: elevating the desires of about a quarter of the public over those of the majority of Americans.

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House GOP’s New Year resolution: Don’t be like us in 2023 but give us more MAGA

Stung by all those stories about how much they didn’t do last year, House Republicans are looking ahead to 2024 with trepidation and the realization that their razor-thin majority is on the line, The Washington Post reports. They recognize that they need to start governing after last year’s abysmal performance, but at the same time remain loyal to their MAGA roots—and Donald Trump. It’s early days, but it seems clear that they’re not going to succeed in accomplishing both things.

“We have to start governing. … Playing politics with every single issue is not helpful” swing-district Rep. David G. Valadao of California—one of the Biden 17—told the Post for this story. “We need to get to the point where we can start passing legislation and getting something to the president’s desk that actually solves problems for the American people.”

Meanwhile, the first serious order of business for the House to kick off this session is beginning baseless impeachment hearings for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. They are also preparing to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress in that all-important Biden impeachment inquiry, seemingly the top priority for House Republicans since every House Republican—including Valadao—voted to move forward with it. That’s not exactly governing.

It doesn’t help the cause of governing, of passing legislation and getting bills signed into law by President Joe Biden, when they’re picking these very political fights. It also doesn’t help when the entirety of the House GOP leadership has endorsed Donald Trump even before voting begins in the 2024 primaries.

It doesn’t help governing to have the chair of the House Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking House Republican, parroting Trump on national television and defending his Nazi rhetoric, but that’s exactly what Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York did on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

Stefanik called the arrested Jan, 6 insurrectionists "hostages," just like Trump did. She refused to commit to certifying the results of the 2024 election, and she defended Trump’s Hitleresque claim that migrants are “poisoning the blood” of America. “Our border crisis is poisoning Americans through fentanyl … so yes, I stand by President Trump,” Stefanik told host Kristen Welker. Pressed to answer if that meant she stood by Trump’s words, Stefanik said “yes,” then said Trump has the “strongest record when it comes to supporting the Jewish people.”

That’s Republican leadership, but there are still rank-and-file “moderates” telling the Post they “believe their chances of keeping the House rely on reelecting swing-district incumbents and other conservatives willing to compromise.” Because those conservatives have been so willing to compromise so far.

They’re right about one thing: Keeping the House would be easier if they abandoned MAGA politics and compromised. Recent polling from the Post demonstrates that the majority of voters won’t be amenable, for example, to the idea that the convicted Jan. 6 insurrectionists are “hostages” since 50% of Americans view the Jan. 6 crowd as “mostly violent.”

To win in 2024, House Republicans—especially swing-district incumbents—need something to hang their hats on that isn’t MAGA. So far they’ve done nothing to show they’ll be able to accomplish that.


It's official: GOP House did a whole lot of nothing this year

Speaker Mike Johnson faces same old GOP dysfunction in the new year

GOP infighting intensifies as Matt Gaetz targets Republicans

House GOP kicks off a new year of dysfunction with another impeachment

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Vulnerable House Republicans jump on Trump train with impeachment vote

House Republicans unanimously voted on Wednesday to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, despite no evidence of any high crimes or misdemeanors by the president. Also despite the fact that the face of their effort, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, has become a national laughingstock because of it.

But this isn’t about Biden. It’s about proving loyalty to Donald Trump, and plenty of Republicans will happily admit that. For example, when Rolling Stone asked what Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas hopes to gain through this, Nehls replied, “All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby.” GOP Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee made it clear they're doing the MAGA base’s bidding: “If we don’t go down these impeachment routes, a huge part of America is going to just say, ‘You know, we’re not supporting Republicans any more.’” In other words, they’re afraid of the MAGA base.

That makes the decision of the group now known as the “Biden 17” (following the expulsion of Rep. George Santos) even more questionable. For the 17 House Republicans who occupy districts that voted for Biden in 2020, it couldn’t be clearer that this is all about fealty to Trump, and they all happily signed on. They weren’t necessarily happy to talk about it, however.

Rep. Michelle Steel of California declined to talk to The Orange County Register about her vote at all. In a statement to the paper, California Rep. Young Kim pretended there was some higher principle involved about oversight: “This inquiry allows relevant committees to get more information on serious allegations, follow the facts and be transparent with the American people.” She also made it clear that she doesn’t sit on the committees, so it’s not her idea. But she voted for it anyway.

The New York freshmen among the Biden 17 were all for Trump, too. They also tried to dress it up and make it sound legitimate. “I think that the President needs to be held accountable and that there needs to be answers to some very serious questions regarding impropriety,” said Rep. Marc Molinaro. A spokesman for Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said they need to advance “this inquiry in a level-headed manner” because the allegations about Biden are “troubling.” Rep. Mike Lawler tried to minimize the vote. “Impeachment is a far ways off, but the inquiry is important,” he said.

Impeachment is entirely likely with this crew in the House. A conviction isn’t going to happen. The Senate won’t do that. There are few Republicans in the Senate who will straight-up endorse the idea without qualifications

They largely understand that while the MAGA base might be all wound up for it, the voting public as a whole is lukewarm about the idea at best, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. That includes independent votes, a plurality of which—43%—say the inquiry should not happen. Now that the inquiry is official, it seems likely that the non-MAGA American public is going to sour on it.


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