Schiff: ‘The court is the most unrepresentative body in the U.S.’ and ‘needs to be unstacked’

The effort by a handful of committed Democrats to elevate Supreme Court expansion got a powerful boost this week when Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) added his voice. In a tweet Wednesday, Schiff said: “What I care about is that a small number of conservative justices, who lied about their plans to the Senate, intend to deprive millions of women of reproductive care. Codifying Roe isn't enough. We must expand the court.”

He elaborated on that in an interview with CBS News’ Robert Costa Thursday. “I think the court is now the most unrepresentative body in the United States,” He said. “It is a socially conservative court that has moved in a partisan direction to enact a partisan agenda. And it is the result of Mitch McConnell withholding a justice when Barack Obama was president and then forcing through a justice in the waning days before the election with President Trump.”  

Rep. Adam Schiff on why he has called for the Supreme Court to be expanded: "I think the court is now the most unrepresentative body in the United States." pic.twitter.com/xJ7WKIH1Vt

— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 5, 2022

“As a result, the court is now stacked in this socially conservative way and I think it needs to be unstacked,” he continued. 

“Stacked” or “packed” by McConnell and Trump, choose your rhetoric, the result is the same: “the court is now in a position to force on America a policy regarding abortion that America does not agree with, that puts women’s health at risk and I think is disastrous for the country.”

Christine Pelosi talks about the Supreme Court's leaked decision on Roe v. Wade, and what Democrats are doing now, on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast

The first order of business for congressional Democrats, he said, is to hold the vote on legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. He had a message for the two supposedly pro-choice senators who aided and abetted McConnell and Trump in this, as well as for the anti-filibuster Democrats: “I have to hope that some of these senators that bought these assurances from these Supreme Court nominees when they—before the Senate, under oath—said that they would respect precedent, having seen those promises betrayed, would support legislation now to codify Roe and do what’s necessary to overcome the filibuster to do it.”

That’s not going to happen, not even for as profound an issue as saving reproductive rights. But don’t get discouraged, says another key proponent for expanding the court, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She gave a much-needed pep talk to all of us in Teen Vogue this week. “We may not end the filibuster in the next hour and a half, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't fight to do exactly that. To make change takes not only passion, but persistence. We gotta turn the heat up under it, and keep it up,” she said.

“Those who don't want to make change count on the fact that people get tired. Over Roe v. Wade, we don't have the luxury of getting tired. So if we want to make real change, we've got to push [to end the filibuster].”

She also gave an impassioned argument for expanding the court and for Democrats to keep fighting. “We need to be as visionary as right-wing Republicans have been,” she said. “The Roe decision, at some level, should have shocked no one. They've been working on this for decades. They've been working to stack the Supreme Court, so that it would be a handful of extremists who would deliver one opinion after another that would impose their worldview on the rest of us.”

“The number of justices on the Supreme Court is determined by Congress, that's what the Constitution says,” she pointed out. “Nine is not a magic number. It's been changed seven times before. When a court has gotten this far out of sync with American values, then it's time to expand the court and pull it back toward the middle.”

That’s the fight. It wouldn’t hurt for Schiff, who led the first Trump impeachment, to start making a legislative case for expansion by investigating all five extremist justices for swearing, under oath, to varying degrees of fealty to the idea of stare decisis—Supreme Court precedent. They all lied to different degrees about the respect they would give to the previous courts’ decisions.

They’ve, as Schiff said, squandered the integrity of the court. “[S]adly, most Americans now view the court as they should in the wake of this draft opinion as no longer a conservative legal court but merely a partisan one. The court has sadly become a partisan institution, like every other.” 

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Leading Off

MN-01: Despite lots of grumbling from fellow Republicans, former Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan on Monday announced a bid for the vacant congressional seat that had been held by her late husband, Jim Hagedorn, until his death last month.

Carnahan has given her party plenty of reasons to wish she'd just go away, but the other day, she added yet one more: According to former state GOP official Michael Brodkorb, a frequent Carnahan critic, the newly minted candidate got into a "physical altercation" with a member of Hagedorn's family at a DC restaurant following a memorial service. But that's just a capper on a long string of ugliness that's surrounded Carnahan for quite some time.

A wide array of figures called on Carnahan to resign as GOP chair last August after Tony Lazzaro, a close friend and party donor, was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. Carnahan denied knowing anything about the allegations against Lazzaro, with whom she once co-hosted a podcast, but the brief against her was much broader. Shortly after Lazzaro's arrest, a group of former staffers came forward to charge that Carnahan had "presided over a toxic workplace culture and unchecked sexual harassment"; a day later, under severe pressure, she resigned—after casting the deciding vote to give herself a $38,000 severance check.

And while widows of deceased office-holders are often greeted sympathetically, Carnahan has to contend with a recording of a phone call released last year in which she was heard saying of her husband, "I don't care. Jim, he's going to die of cancer in two years." Carnahan later said she'd uttered those words "in grief" after drinking at an RNC event.

She also apparently posted messages on Facebook last year complaining of her husband's supposed ingratitude regarding a birthday celebration, according to Politico. "I bought you dinner and wine at Chankaska. There is not a single post about it," she allegedly wrote, "but the post about your birthday is of your employees? It's degrading, condescending and upsetting to me on many levels."

The special election for Hagedorn's seat is set for Aug. 9, with a primary to take place on May 24.

Redistricting

MO Redistricting: A panel of six appellate judges released a new map for Missouri's state Senate on Monday and says it plans to file the proposal with the secretary of state's office on Tuesday, which would make the map final. The judicial panel was assembled by the state Supreme Court in January and was tasked with crafting new districts after Missouri's bipartisan Senate redistricting commission failed to come up with a map of its own.

Meanwhile, the congressional redraw remains incomplete, as GOP leaders and far-right hardliners in the Senate still haven't reached a compromise: The former want a map that maintains the party's 6-2 advantage in the state's delegation, while the latter are pushing for a 7-1 gerrymander. The chamber just adjourned for a "weeklong spring break" and won't return until Monday, but lawmakers will have little time to act, since the candidate filing deadline is March 29. Two lawsuits have already been filed asking the courts to take over the redistricting process due to the ongoing impasse.

WY Redistricting: Both chambers in Wyoming's Republican-dominated legislature passed new legislative maps late on Friday night, resolving a split between the two bodies and sending the plans to Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. The final maps add two new members to the House and one to the Senate, as the House had sought. The boundaries differ somewhat, though, from those the House approved last month, and the population differences between the largest and smallest districts are larger than those the courts typically allow, making the map susceptible to a possible legal challenge.

Senate

AL-Sen: Alabama's Future, a super PAC that Punchbowl News says "has ties" to retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, is running a new commercial against Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the May Republican primary. The narrator charges the congressman with "voting to cut off funding to destroy ISIS terrorists in the middle of the fight." The spot continues by resurrecting an attack that derailed Brooks in the 2017 special election for Alabama's other Senate seat by reminding viewers that "he even said that voters faced a 'tough choice' between Trump and Hillary."

Meanwhile, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt, who has Shelby's backing, uses her latest ad to once again talk about her conservative views and implore the audience to "stand with me in choosing faith and freedom."

CA-Sen: Candidate filing closed Friday in three states—California, Georgia, and Idaho—and throughout this Digest, you'll find our rundowns of all the major candidates in all the key races. We begin with the biggest one of them all, California, which hosts its primary on June 7.

However, the state automatically extends the filing deadline five extra days in contests where the incumbent chooses not to file for re-election, so the field won't be set for several more races until Wednesday. (Five open House districts are affected by this extension: the 3rd, 13th, 15th, 37th, and 42nd.) The secretary of state will publish an official candidate list in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we're relying on an open-source spreadsheet created and maintained by California political operatives.

The Golden State's top-two primary requires all candidates running for Congress and for state office to compete on a single ballot rather than in separate party primaries. The two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, will then advance to the Nov. 8 general election—a rule that sometimes results in two candidates from the same party facing off against one another. Note that candidates cannot win outright in June by taking a majority of the vote except in some nonpartisan elections for local office.

At the top of the roster is the race for U.S. Senate, where appointed Democratic incumbent Alex Padilla faces no serious opposition in his bid for a full six-year term. A special election will also be held in June for the final months of now-Vice President Kamala Harris' term, but that contest should be just as uneventful.

GA-Sen: Six Republicans have filed to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is seeking a full term after winning a crucial special election in January of last year, but almost all of the attention has gone to former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker. The GOP field also includes state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, former state Rep. Josh Clark, businessman Kelvin King, and banking executive Latham Saddler.

Walker's intra-party opponents have been hoping that ongoing media reports about his past, including allegations that he threatened to kill his ex-wife in 2005, will give them an opening, but none of them seem to be gaining any traction. Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have remained firmly in Walker's corner, and every poll we've seen has shown him taking well over a majority of the vote in the primary.

As for the general election, because Libertarian Chase Oliver is also running, it's very possible his presence could be enough to force Warnock and his eventual GOP rival into yet another runoff—which would take place in December rather than January after Republican lawmakers changed the timing last year in response to their dual Senate runoff losses.

WI-Sen: In her opening ad for the August Democratic primary, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski begins, "Dairy farms disappearing, prices up, COVID still not gone." She then says of the Republican incumbent, "And what's Ron Johnson done? Voted against new jobs and told us to take mouthwash to cure COVID." (Yes, Johnson really said that.) Godlewski continues, "I grew up in Eau Claire where we're more interested in common sense than conspiracies," and calls for "[p]ractical ideas that just help people. Not mouthwash." The campaigns says the spot is part of a seven-figure TV and digital buy.

Governors

CA-Gov: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's landslide win in last year's recall election has deterred any strong Republicans from challenging him in this very blue state. Newsom's most prominent foe is state Sen. Brian Dahle, who the San Francisco Chronicle reported last month was still unvaccinated against COVID.

GA-Gov: With Friday's filing deadline just passed, two new polls of the May 24 Republican primary find Gov. Brian Kemp with wide leads over former Sen. David Perdue, but they disagree whether the incumbent is already taking the majority of the vote needed to avoid a June 21 runoff.

A survey from the GOP firm American Viewpoint on behalf of Secure Democracy USA, an organization the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes as a "nonpartisan group that aims to improve voter access," has Kemp winning 51-35. But BK Strategies, a different Republican firm which did not mention a client, has the governor only at 48%, though Perdue lags well behind with 33%. Three other Republicans also filed (you can find a complete candidate list here), but none have generated much attention.

We've seen two other polls in recent weeks, and they also diverge on Kemp's precise standing. Fox5 Atlanta's numbers—from yet another Republican pollster, InsiderAdvantage—had the incumbent leading only 44-35. However, a Fox News survey from the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company finds Kemp in stronger shape with a 50-39 edge. All these polls and Perdue's weak fundraising numbers, though, haven't deterred Donald Trump from going all-in on his quest to deny renomination to Kemp, a one-time ally who wound up on the MAGA shitlist when he refused to participate in the Big Lie despite Trump's interference.

Indeed, Trump has a March 26 rally set for Perdue and other endorsees that's taking place in the small city of Commerce, which is close to the governor's hometown of Athens. Trump last month also starred in a very rare direct-to-camera ad for Perdue that featured him trashing Kemp. The governor, meanwhile, has benefited from spending from the Republican Governors Association, which for the first time is running ads to support an incumbent in a primary.

The eventual winner will go up against 2018 Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, who has no intra-party opposition in her second campaign. Georgia requires candidates to win a majority of the vote in the Nov. 8 general election in order to avoid a runoff on Dec. 6, so the presence of Libertarian Shane Hazel and independent Al Bartell could be enough to force a second round of voting.

Hazel himself played a small but crucial role in Perdue's 2020 re-election defeat: Perdue outpaced Democrat Jon Ossoff 49.7-48.0 in November while Hazel took a crucial 2.3%, but Ossoff quite famously went on to win the January rematch. GOP leaders soon changed the law to slash the time between the first general election and any potential runoffs from nine weeks to four.

ID-Gov: Candidate filing also closed in Idaho Friday for the May 17 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here.

Gov. Brad Little faces seven fellow Republicans in this overwhelmingly red state, but the most prominent of the bunch is Trump-endorsed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. No one has released any polling this year to indicate if Little is at all vulnerable, but he's enjoyed a massive fundraising edge over McGeachin, who spent the pandemic trying to undermine the governor's efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. Also in the race are Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw and financial advisor Ed Humphreys.

MD-Gov: Two SEIU unions representing 30,000 Marylanders have endorsed former Labor Secretary Tom Perez in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor: Local 500, which represents education personnel, and 32BJ, which represents property services workers.

NV-Gov: A new poll of Nevada's GOP primary for governor, conducted by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling on behalf of the DGA, finds Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo leading with 26% of the vote while former Sen. Dean Heller and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee are tied at 13 apiece. Attorney Joey Gilbert is just behind at 12%, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore takes 8, and businessman Guy Nohra brings up the caboose with just 1%, though a 27% plurality are undecided. The general picture is similar to that found in the only other public poll released this year, a survey from GOP firm OH Predictive Insights that had Lombardo at 28 and everyone else in single digits.

PA-Gov: Democrat Josh Shapiro's allies at Pennsylvania Works are airing a commercial commending him for standing up to "goliaths" and "bullies" as attorney general.

RI-Gov: Businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who filed paperwork for a possible bid for governor last month, will reportedly enter the contest "within the next two weeks," according to NBC 10 News. Kalus would be the first notable Republican in the race.

House

CA-05: Republican Rep. Tom McClintock faces intra-party opposition from Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig and three others in a 55-43 Trump constituency in the upper Central Valley and Sierra foothills. McClintock's existing 4th District makes up just over 40% of the new district, while fewer than 5,000 people are Magsig's constituents.

CA-06: While Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Courtney Bailey-Kanelos took out paperwork last month for a possible independent bid against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, she didn't end up filing ahead of Friday's deadline. Bera should have little trouble winning this 58-39 Biden seat based in Sacramento and its northern suburbs.

CA-08: Democratic Rep. John Garamendi is the favorite for another term even though his existing 3rd District makes up just over 20% of this new seat, which is home to suburbs east of Oakland. However, he does face noteworthy intra-party opposition from Richmond City Councilman Demnlus Johnson. Johnson, who is Black, has argued, "The new congressional district was created to represent people like us. We can finally elect someone who knows our community because they're from our community."

People of color make up close to three-quarters of this new constituency, but Garamendi, who is white, is arguing that he knows this area well from his time "not only as a member of Congress, but also as lieutenant Governor and as insurance commissioner." (Garamendi is of Basque descent but does not identify as Hispanic.) Three other Democrats and one Republican are competing for this seat, which would have backed Biden 76-22.

CA-09: Democratic Rep. Josh Harder decided to seek re-election in this seat, a Stockton-area constituency that would have backed Biden 55-43, right after fellow Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney announced his retirement in January. Just over a quarter of the new 9th's denizens live in Harder's existing 10th District, but he doesn't appear to have any serious intra-party opposition. Three Republicans are running here, though the only one who looks noteworthy is San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti.

CA-21: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa should be the heavy favorite in a Fresno area district that Biden would have taken 59-39, though he struggled in the 2014 general election against a weak GOP foe in a similarly blue constituency. The only Republican who is going up against him this time is businessman Michael Maher, who is also campaigning in the special election for the old 22nd District.

CA-22: Rep. David Valadao, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump last year, is running for re-election in a southern Central Valley seat that Biden would have won 55-42. Valadao faces two fellow Republicans, King County School Board Member Adam Medeiros and former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys, but neither of them has attracted any public support yet from Trump. Mathys ran for office a few times in New Mexico including in 2020, when he took last place with 24% in the three-way primary for the 2nd Congressional District.

On the Democratic side, state and national leaders have consolidated behind Assemblyman Rudy Salas, who doesn't face any serious intra-party opponents.

CA-27: Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending a seat based in Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley that would have gone for Biden 55-43, and three Democrats are facing off against him. The most familiar name is former Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who badly lost the spring 2020 special election to Garcia but came just 333 votes shy months later as Biden was winning the old 25th District 54-44; Smith recently earned the endorsement of the state Democratic Party for her third bid.

The two other Democrats are Navy veteran Quaye Quartey and Simi Valley City Councilwoman Ruth Luevanos. Luevanos continued to run after her community was moved to the new 26th District, but she barely had any money available at the end of 2021.

CA-31: While Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano, who will be 86 when the new Congress is sworn in, has long been the subject of retirement speculation, she's running for a 13th term. She faces no serious opposition in an eastern San Gabriel Valley seat that Biden would have won 64-33.

CA-34: Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez beat former prosecutor David Kim just 53-47 in the 2020 all-Democratic general election, and Kim is seeking a rematch. One Republican and an independent are also running, but it's very likely Gomez and Kim will advance to November in a downtown Los Angeles seat that Biden would have carried 81-17.

CA-40: Freshman Republican Rep. Young Kim is seeking re-election in an eastern Orange County district where she currently represents just 20% of the population, a seat that Biden would have carried by a close 50-48 margin. Four fellow Republicans are challenging her. The most notable is Mission Viejo Councilman Greg Raths, a frequent congressional candidate who most recently challenged Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in 2020 for the old 45th District and lost 53-47. On the other side, state Democratic leaders have consolidated behind physician Asif Mahmood, who took third in the 2018 race for state comptroller.

CA-41: Well, so much for that: While state Sen. Melissa Melendez took out paperwork last week for a potential intra-party challenge to her fellow Republican, 15-term Rep. Ken Calvert, she doesn't appear to have submitted it before Friday's deadline.

Calvert now faces only minor intra-party opposition in this suburban Riverside seat, though he could have his first serious general election fight since his surprise near-defeat in 2008. While the congressman's existing 42nd District backed Trump 53-45, the new 41st would have supported him only 50-49. For the Democrats, the state party has endorsed former federal prosecutor Will Rollins over engineer Shrina Kurani.

CA-45: Freshman Republican Rep. Michelle Steel is seeking a second term in a western Orange County that would have supported Biden 52-46 and where only 16% of the population lives within her existing 48th District. State and national Democrats are backing community college trustee Jay Chen, who ran a respectable 2012 campaign in the old 39th against longtime Republican Rep. Ed Royce back when Orange County was considerably redder than it is now.

CA-47: Rep. Katie Porter, who is one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic caucus, is seeking a third term in a seat located in coastal Orange County and Irvine that Biden would have won 55-43; just over 40% of the new 47th's residents live within Porter's existing 45th District. Her only notable foe appears to be former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh, who ran against Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher in the 2018 top-two primary for the old 48th and finished a close fourth.

CA-49: Three notable Republicans are competing to take on Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in a coastal San Diego County seat that would have favored Biden 55-43. One familiar name is 2020 nominee Brian Maryott, who lost to Levin 53-47 even as Biden was carrying the old version of the 49th by that same 55-43 margin and has the state party endorsement for his second bid. The field also includes Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and Oceanside City Councilman Christopher Rodriguez.

FL-22: Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Ben Sorensen is the latest Democrat to say he's considering a bid for Florida's open 22nd Congressional District, though he adds that he's in "no rush" to make a decision.

GA-02: Veteran Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop hasn't faced any serious general election foe since he almost lost in the 2010 GOP wave, but six Republicans are now taking him on in a southwestern Georgia seat that would have favored Joe Biden 55-44.

Only half of the field reported raising any money before the end of the year. Businessman Wayne Johnson, who is a former Trump official in the Department of Education, led Air Force veteran Chris West in cash-on-hand $135,000 to $104,000 thanks mostly to self-funding, while perennial candidate Vivian Childs had just over $6,000. The other Republicans are Army veteran Jeremy Hunt, teacher Paul Whitehead, and Rich Robertson, who is another Air Force veteran. Bishop, for his part, had $393,000 on hand to defend himself.

GA-06: The new Republican gerrymander led Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath to seek re-election in the neighboring 7th District, and nine Republicans are competing for an open seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs that would have favored Trump 57-42.

The most familiar candidate may be physician Rich McCormick, who narrowly lost last year's race for the old 7th District to Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux (the old 7th makes up 30% of the new 6th) and once again has the backing of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Another well-connected contender is former state ethics commission chair Jake Evans, whose father, Randy Evans, is Trump's former ambassador to Luxembourg. McCormick ended 2021 with a small $1.15 million to $1 million cash-on-hand edge over Evans, who has also been doing some self-funding.

The field also includes pastor Mallory Staples, who had $476,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, and former state Rep. Meagan Hanson, who had $279,000 available. It remains to be seen if any of the other five candidates can stand out in this crowded race.

GA-07: The Democratic primary for this 62-36 Biden seat in Atlanta's northeastern suburbs is a three-way contest between Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents the current 6th District; Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, who holds the existing 7th; and state Rep. Donna McLeod. Bourdeaux represents 57% of the new seat compared to just 12% for McBath. However, the more progressive McBath may be more in line with primary voters than Bourdeaux, who last year joined a group of nine renegade Democratic moderates who threatened to derail Biden's Build Back Better agenda if they didn't get a vote on Congress' bipartisan infrastructure bill first.

McBath also has the backing of Stacey Abrams, who will be Team Blue's gubernatorial nominee again, while a super PAC called Protect Our Future funded by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried has pledged to spend $2 million for her. The only poll we've seen this year was a January Data for Progress survey for that group that showed McBath leading Bourdeaux 40-31, with McLeod at 6%.

GA-09: Freshman Rep. Andrew Clyde faces four opponents in the Republican primary for this safely red northeastern Georgia seat including Ben Souther, a former FBI agent and University of Georgia football player who launched his campaign last month specifically citing the fact that Clyde does not live in the new district. The congressman, for his part, has claimed that his home county of Jackson was moved into the 10th District as the result of "a purposeful decision made by a handful of establishment politicians" to target him for being a "hardcore conservative." Clyde ended 2021 with just $41,000 on hand, though it remains to be seen if any of his foes can put up a serious fight.

GA-10: Far-right extremist Jody Hice is leaving to run for secretary of state with Donald Trump's blessing, and eight fellow Republicans are facing off to replace him in a safely red constituency based in Atlanta's eastern exurbs and Athens. The most prominent contender is former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a conservative Democrat-turned-Republican who earned Trump's support right after he ended his campaign for governor and started running here last month. Jones, though, never represented any of this area in the legislature or as DeKalb County CEO, and his opponents have sought to portray him as an outsider.

The contest also includes a few other familiar names. There's former Rep. Paul Broun, who gave up the previous version of the 10th in 2014 to unsuccessfully run for the Senate and went on to lose comeback bids for the old 9th in both 2016 and 2020. There's also businessman Mike Collins, the son of the late Rep. Mac Collins, who sought to succeed Broun in 2014 but lost to Hice 54-46. State Rep. Timothy Barr, meanwhile, has the support of Hice and 9th District Rep. Andrew Clyde.

The primary also features former Georgia Revenue Commissioner David Curry, businessman Marc McMain, retired Air Force Col. Alan Sims, and Mitchell Swan, who took a mere 4% in the 2014 primary. Former Trump administration official Patrick Witt was also running until last week, but he switched to challenging Insurance Commissioner John King in the GOP primary and endorsed Jones on his way out.

GA-13: Rep. David Scott, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, took just 53% of the vote in the 2020 primary, and he now faces intra-party opposition from former state Sen. Vincent Fort, South Fulton City Councilor Mark Baker, and consultant Shastity Driscoll. This seat in Atlanta's western and southern suburbs would have backed Biden 80-19.

Fort, who was one of Bernie Sanders' most prominent Georgia supporters during the 2016 presidential primaries, is arguably Scott's top foe, though the former state senator took just 10% of the vote in the 2017 race for mayor of Atlanta. Scott ended 2021 with $1.1 million on-hand, while none of his foes had yet begun fundraising as of the end of last year.

ID-02: Longtime Republican Rep. Mike Simpson faces a primary rematch against attorney Bryan Smith, whom he beat 62-38 in 2014, while three others are also running in this dark-red eastern Idaho constituency. A group called Idaho Second Amendment Alliance recently began airing an ad accusing Simpson of supporting "[r]ed flag gun confiscation, a federal gun registry, [and] universal background checks," though there's no word on the size of the buy. Simpson, meanwhile, has been running commercials arguing that Smith "got rich targeting veterans who can't pay medical bills."

MI-04: In a painful blow to state Rep. Steve Carra, Donald Trump just snatched back his rose and instead awarded it to Rep. Bill Huizenga in the multi-way GOP battle for Michigan's revamped 4th Congressional District.

In September, Trump pledged his support for Carra at a time when the legislator was challenging Rep. Fred Upton—who had voted for impeachment—in the Republican primary for what was then the 6th District. But as a result of redistricting, Upton and Huizenga got tossed together in the new 4th, though Upton still hasn't confirmed his re-election plans. Carra, meanwhile, found himself drawn into the 5th but decided to test just how "Complete and Total" Trump's endorsement was by running in the 4th District anyway. The answer: not very.

NM-02: Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez earned the support of 80.4% of delegates to the New Mexico Democratic Party's recently concluded statewide convention, earning him automatic placement on the June 7 primary ballot. A question remains, however, about the fate of the only other Democrat in the race, physician Darshan Patel, who took 19.6%—seemingly just shy of the 20% necessary for securing a ballot spot without having to collect further signatures. Patel contends that his total should be rounded up, but a party spokesperson says they'll leave the matter up to state election officials.

NY-22: The Working Families Party has endorsed attorney Josh Riley in the multi-way Democratic primary for New York's revamped 22nd District, an open seat that Democrats made considerably bluer in redistricting.

PA-12: Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel has abandoned her campaign for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania's 12th District, a safely blue seat in the Pittsburgh area that's the successor to the old 18th. Several other Democrats are still running for this district, which is open because longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle is retiring.

Attorneys General

CA-AG: Democrat Rob Bonta was appointed state attorney general last year after incumbent Xavier Becerra resigned to become Joe Biden's HHS secretary, and he now faces a potentially difficult fight for a full term.

Bonta's most formidable foe may be Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a former Republican who became an independent in 2018 and, with the support of law enforcement unions, has been campaigning as a tough-on-crime prosecutor. While Schubert's lack of a party affiliation could be an asset in a general election in this blue state, though, she'll need to first put together enough votes to get past the actual Republicans in the top-two primary. Team Red's most notable contender is former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman.

GA-AG: Republican Attorney General Chris Carr is seeking re-election, and he faces credible opposition from Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan. Libertarian Martin Cowen is also in.

ID-AG: Five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden faces an intra-party challenge from former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who spent his four terms in the House as one of the most prominent tea party shit-talkers before losing his 2018 bid for governor in the GOP primary, as well as conservative activist Art Macomber. Labrador has been trying to take advantage of the incumbent's many battles with a legislature that's dominated by far-right hard-liners by arguing that he'd "be a true partner with conservative lawmakers in the Legislature as they work to draft and write good laws that will stand up against the gamesmanship of activist judges."

Secretaries of State

GA-SoS: Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger's refusal to participate in the Big Lie earned him a Trump-backed primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, who eagerly went along with Trump's attempt to overturn his defeat. The GOP field also includes former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in 2018, and one other contender. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who would be the first Asian American elected statewide, is the overwhelming favorite to advance, while Libertarian Ted Metz is also running.

Prosecutors

Suffolk County, MA District Attorney: Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo has earned an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the September Democratic primary against appointed incumbent Kevin Hayden.

This week on The Brief: Impeachment, the future of the Republican Party, and Biden’s performance

This week, hosts Markos Moulitsas and Kerry Eleveld talked all things “(im)peach-y,” why Republican senators seem poised to once again protect Trump, and the tasks facing Joe Biden. For this episode, they were joined by political historian Kathleen Frydl, who talked about the potential for a transformative Biden presidency; and Joan McCarter, Daily Kos staff writer, who shared her thoughts on the difficulties the Senate faces with competing priorities thanks to the impeachment and senators’ regular work, as well as on Biden’s first few weeks in office.

The big event looming over this whole week is Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. With Republican senators once again lining up to stymie impeachment and protect Trump from facing real accountability, Markos wondered if they would “go down with this ship,” anticipating a kind of collapse of the Republican Party. Kerry replied:

It’s a level of stupidity that, frankly, is jaw-dropping. But on top of that, the betrayal of the country that they’re getting ready to pardon is just … this guy has not only been impeached once, and now twice, but in the last impeachment ... in Adam Schiff’s closing arguments, he predicted that Trump was a menace. And that if you didn’t teach him a lesson, if you didn’t convict him, this was going to be a disaster for the country. And then what did [Trump] bring to the country? Disaster. Like, the first president-inspired attack on the homeland, on the seat of national government, right? It’s never been done before. And now, apparently, 45 of them have already voted to set up this whole argument that supposedly you can’t convict a former president, a former official—which isn’t true.

Trump is costing Republicans all the “growth demographics,” Markos noted, as they are falling out of favor with young people, suburban white women, and people of color. Kerry mentioned the fact that the party at large will face inertia without a different strategy that relies on something other than voter suppression.

The pair were first joined by Kathleen Frydl to talk about the potential of the Biden administration and what it would take for Biden to deliver a great and potentially historic presidency. Frydl believes there is great promise for this new presidency and laid out the groundwork for what Biden must do to deliver for the country:

This presidency does have the potential to be a great, a historic presidency … but the task before Joe Biden echoes the task that Franklin Roosevelt faced, which is restoring confidence and legitimacy in government and making the federal government, especially, work on behalf of ordinary Americans. That’s a task that we have drifted away from, and it’s something that Franklin Roosevelt really presented to the American people and really forged an entire Democratic coalition on that precedent.

She also praised Biden’s leadership style, which she indicated has been less about his personal appeal or charisma and focused on “depersonalizing” his political persona—which he is likely bringing with him to the White House. Prior to Trump, Frydl believes, “we were engaged in a very performative political culture,” and a return to substance, policy, and regulation could benefit us. Because Biden centers policy and his Cabinet members, there’s a much better chance they will accomplish their goals and help everyday Americans.

On the future of the Republican Party, she had this to say:

Since 1968, the Republican Party has forged their presidential coalition—so, their national coalition—on a politics of whiteness … I’m talking about a party that’s dedicated to preserving the mechanisms of institutionalized racism … but the political destiny that awaits this country is quite different from the politics of whiteness.

What’s more, Frydl wondered if we will continue living in a country that is predicated on a two-party system, noting the extent to which whiteness is a unifying force in American politics and that, even if its power wanes, new power structures and factional lines will emerge to complement or replace it—especially in the Republican Party—long after Trump is gone. As she explained, “Republicans can’t win with Donald Trump, but they can’t win without him either. He was their Faustian bargain.”

Next, McCarter joined the show and offered her insights into how quickly the U.S. Senate can get its work done with impeachment looming over their heads, how Biden has been doing on the job so far, and if we will see additional financial regulations enacted in the coming years.

McCarter believes that the Senate’s work will still move quickly, especially now that Democrats have captured both the House and the Senate. Despite everything, she believes Biden has done well. As she said,

[He is] trying to get this government up and running [when] … Trump trashed absolutely everything—and the people who are left are downhearted, they are exhausted, they are depressed. They’ve got a lot of building-up of morale to do just to get the government functioning again … They want to get a lot of Obama administration back in to try to shore up where they’ve had losses, but they’ve got to weed through a lot of political people that Trump put in. So, that they’re moving this fast and doing this well considering what they’ve inherited—I’m impressed … Joe Biden, so far, is a really good president.

Markos then brought up Wall Street reform and financial services taxation, as this administration seems less likely to take it on directly. With many Elizabeth Warren allies in the administration, “most of the work done will be regulatory,” McCarter said, and corporate reforms remain at the top of the list of the administration’s priorities. This would be achieved through the Department of Justice and the Treasury and would “start to restore Americans’ view of government and what a government can do for them,” Kerry agreed.

You can watch the full episode here:

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Morning Digest: Oregon Democrat who likened Trump impeachment to a ‘lynching’ could face primary

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

OR-05: Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader prompted a massive outcry—and may have opened himself up to a primary challenge—when he opposed impeaching Donald Trump and compared the idea to a "lynching" on a call with fellow House Democrats on Friday. Just hours after his remarks were first reported, Schrader issued an apology, and the following day he came out in favor of impeachment, but the damage may have already been done.

In response to Schrader's comments, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who represents a neighboring district, took the unusual step of publicly upbraiding her colleague. "Comparing a lynching to holding the President accountable is hurtful and insensitive and ignores the overt white supremacy on display during the insurrection Wednesday," she said. Of more immediate impact, Schrader's longtime consultant, Mark Wiener, immediately dropped the congressman as a client, saying, "Comparing the impeachment of a treasonous President who encouraged white supremacists to violently storm the Capitol to a 'lynching' is shameful and indefensible."

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Meanwhile, the Democratic Party in Polk County, which makes up about 10% of the 5th District, demanded that Schrader resign, citing not only his statements on impeachment but his vote last month against $2,000 COVID relief checks, which made him one of just two Democrats to oppose the measure (along with now-former Rep. Dan Lipinski). And Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, who ran against Schrader from the left in last year's primary, said he'd give it another go and started soliciting donations online.

Gamba, however, didn't raise much money and lost by a wide 69-23 margin, which may explain why, in other comments, he indicated an openness to supporting an alternative option. One possibility would be state Rep. Paul Evans, who almost ran for this seat when it was last open in 2008 (a race ultimately won by Schrader) and whose legislative district is contained entirely in the 5th.

In fact, a great many Democratic legislators represent turf that overlaps with Schrader's, with state Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner and state Sen. Deb Patterson among the more prominent. In the House, aside from Evans, potential candidates could include Reps. Teresa Alonso Leon, Mark Meek, Karin Power, Rachel Prusak, and Andrea Salinas, among others.

One of Oregon's most prominent politicians also hails from the area: newly elected Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, whose former district in the state Senate overlapped partly with Schrader's House seat. With voting rights under siege, and as first in line to the governorship (Oregon has no lieutenant governor), Fagan likely has her sights elsewhere, but she'd be a formidable challenger.

Oregon's 5th has long been swingy territory, but it shifted noticeably to the left last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44, according to Daily Kos Elections' calculations, after backing Hillary Clinton 48-44 in 2016. Schrader actually ran behind the top of the ticket, however, turning in a 52-45 win against an unheralded Republican foe. The district currently takes in Portland's southern suburbs and the Salem area but will likely be reconfigured in redistricting, particularly since the state is on track to add a sixth House seat.

Senate

AK-Sen: In response to last week's terrorist attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump's role in fomenting it, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski suggested she might leave the GOP, saying, "[I]f the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me." Murkowski later clarified, though, that she would "[a]bsolutely, unequivocally not" join the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

If she did, however, become an independent, she'd still have a well-defined path to re-election in 2022 thanks to a new ballot measure Alaska voters passed in November that radically reforms how elections are conducted in the state. Under Measure 2, all candidates from all parties will now run together on a single primary ballot, with the top four vote-getters advancing to a November general election. Voters would then choose a winner from that quartet by means of an instant runoff, greatly reducing the chance of a spoiler effect and giving popular, relatively moderate politicians like Murkowski the chance to prevail even without a party banner.

PA-Sen: The same day he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was taking a "serious look" at a Senate bid, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman filed paperwork with the FEC—and he's already put his nascent campaign committee to good use. In a press release, Fetterman says he's raised $500,000 since his remarks first appeared in the Inquirer on Friday, via 15,000 contributions.

Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, who unsuccessfully tried to goad Fetterman with some feeble Twitter trash-talk about his own interest in a Senate bid, is reportedly "expected to form an exploratory committee" sometime "soon." Costello has set himself up for a difficult GOP primary, though, since he said he'd campaign on an explicitly anti-Trump platform: In response to an RNC spokesperson slamming Republicans for having "abandoned" Trump, Costello recently tweeted, "If I run I will literally take this entire bullshit head on."

Governors

CT-Gov: Connecticut Post columnist Dan Haar describes New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who last year confirmed she was considering another bid for governor, as a "likely Republican entrant" for the race to take on Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in 2022, though we haven't heard directly from her since the election. Stewart briefly sought the GOP nod in 2018 but dropped out to run for lieutenant governor instead; however, she lost that primary 48-33 to state Sen. Joe Markley. Since her failed bids for higher office, she's sought to push the Connecticut GOP in a moderate direction in a bid to regain relevance and offered some very indirect criticism of Trump in the wake of last week's insurrection at the Capitol.

MA-Gov: While Republican incumbent's Charlie Baker's meager fundraising in recent months has fueled speculation that he'll retire in 2022, the Salem News reports the governor's $165,000 haul for December was his largest monthly total in over two years. Baker himself has not publicly announced if he'll seek a third term next year.

NM-Gov: Republican state Rep. Rebecca Dow says she's weighing a bid for governor but will not decide until after the conclusion of New Mexico's legislative session, which is scheduled to start next week and end on March 20. This is a very common formulation you'll hear from state lawmakers across the country as they contemplate running for higher office, so it's helpful to keep Ballotpedia's guide to session dates for all state legislatures bookmarked.

House

AL-05: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey all but called for a primary challenge to Rep. Mo Brooks, a fellow Republican, after Brooks helped foment last week's violent assault on the Capitol, saying, "If the people of the 5th District believe their views are not being properly represented, then they need to express their disappointment directly to Congressman Brooks and, if necessary, hold him accountable at the ballot box."

Just before the invasion of the Capitol complex, Brooks incited the pro-Trump brigades that had descended on Washington, D.C. to overturn the results of the November election, telling them, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass." Brooks refused to back down following the violence, saying "I make no apology" for instigating the attacks and adding, "I call again for kicking that 'ass' all the way back to the communist dictatorships that 'ass' now worships."

In 2017, after Brooks launched an ultimately fruitless challenge to appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange, some pissed-off establishment Republicans sought to primary Brooks in response and rallied around Army veteran Clayton Hinchman. Brooks wound up prevailing the following year, but by a relatively soft 61-39 margin. Hinchman hasn't said anything about a possible rematch, but during his race, he chided Brooks for preferencing "ideology over pragmatism," a criticism that suggests he might side with Ivey's views of the congressman.

NJ-02: A consultant for Democrat Amy Kennedy, who lost to Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew 52-46 in November, tells the New Jersey Globe that Kennedy hasn't yet considered whether to run again but says she's furious at the congressman for voting to overturn the results of the 2020 elections following Wednesday's assault on the Capitol by pro-Trump mobs that left five people dead. Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, who himself was a potential candidate against Van Drew last year, also encouraged Kennedy to seek a rematch, though he didn't rule out a bid of his own should she decline.

The Globe mentions a bunch of other possible contenders, including Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, Cape May County Democratic Party chair Brendan Sciarra, Cumberland County Commissioner Joe Derella, and former union leader Richard Tolson. Montclair State University professor Brigid Callahan Harrison, who lost the Democratic primary to Kennedy 62-22, is another option. None of these would-be candidates have spoken about their interest yet.

NJ-05: Former Rep. Scott Garrett is all but guaranteed to lose his specially created job at the Securities and Exchange Commission when Joe Biden becomes president, and remarkably, the New Jersey Globe reports that some fellow Republicans think he could make a comeback bid for his old seat. Garrett himself didn't rule out the possibility when contacted by the Globe, saying only, "I appreciate your phone call. I am no longer a public figure."

But unless Republicans hit the redistricting jackpot, Garrett is unlikely to find himself at the top of the GOP's wishlist. Garrett was ousted after seven terms in Congress by Democrat Josh Gottheimer after his Wall Street allies abandoned him thanks to his virulent anti-gay rhetoric, and he was so unpopular with his former colleagues that the Senate refused to advance his nomination when Donald Trump named him to run the Export-Import Bank—a federal agency that Garrett had long sought to abolish.

Garrett later wound up with an even better-paying position (at $215,000 a year) in the office of the general counsel at the SEC, which Politico reported had been set up for him alone. Garrett was hired without any sort of competitive process, or even having to submit a job application, even though the commission was in the midst of a hiring freeze. As the Globe notes, though, that plum gig is unlikely to survive the coming Biden housecleaning.

NM-01: Former state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced last week he would run for this Albuquerque-area seat if Rep. Deb Haaland is confirmed as Joe Biden's secretary of the interior. While Albuquerque Journal notes Dunn plans to run as an independent, he has spent time as a member of both the Republican and Libertarian parties.

Dunn was the GOP nominee for state land commissioner in 2014, narrowly turning back Democratic incumbent Ray Powell 50.07-49.93. In 2018, Dunn became a Libertarian and sought the party's nomination for Senate that year. After he won the nomination, however, he decided to drop out of the race (former Gov. Gary Johnson was named his replacement and took 15% of the vote).

The GOP is already a longshot in a seat that backed Biden by a 60-37 spread, but Dunn's presence could make things even more difficult for Team Red. This would represent the inverse of the last special election this district hosted in 1998, when a Green Party candidate took 13% of the vote, allowing Republican Heather Wilson to narrowly win.

Legislatures

AK State House: The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a challenge by former state Rep. Lance Pruitt, who as minority leader had been the most senior Republican in the state House, to his 11-vote loss in the November elections, upholding Democrat Liz Snyder as the winner. The decision confirms that Democrats and their allies will have control over 20 seats in the 40-member chamber as the legislature gears up to start its new session on Jan. 19, though they'll need at least one more Republican defection to take control.

Mayors

Boston, MA Mayor: City Councilor Michelle Wu earned an endorsement on Saturday from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Wu was one of Warren's students at Harvard Law and later worked on Warren's successful 2012 Senate campaign.

Desperate Trump campaign trots out Melania to make partisan attacks

Yet another indication that Team Trump is nervous about next Tuesday’s elections: Melania Trump emerged for a rare campaign event—her first solo event of 2020—on Tuesday and took a much more partisan tone than usual. In her remarks in Pennsylvania, Melania directly attacked Joe Biden (using official campaign talking points, nothing new to see) and attacked Democrats for … being divisive and not leading on COVID-19. She even tried to link her husband’s disastrous coronavirus response to impeachment.

“No one should be promoting fear of real solutions for purely political ends,” Melania said. Which, fair in a vacuum, but context matters. “The Democrats have chosen to put their own agendas over the American people's well-being. Instead, they attempt to create a divide. A divide in something that should be non-partisan and non-controversial. A divide that causes confusion and fear instead of hope and security. That is not the leadership,” she said, in as pure an example of Republican projection as you can probably find.

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Oh, my. Putting a partisan agenda above the American people’s well-being and instead trying to divide and govern through confusion and fear … gosh, how dare those dastardly Democrats do such a thing!

"Let us also not forget what the Democrats chose to focus on when COVID-19 first came into our country,” Melania offered. “While the President was taking decisive action to keep the American people safe, the Democrats were wasting American taxpayer dollars in a sham impeachment.” 

Um. Let’s turn to the timeline, shall we? 

The Senate’s vote on Trump’s impeachment trial was on February 5, three days after Trump restricted travel from China, a restriction that came later than other nations and was incomplete, rather than “decisive action.” At the time, Trump said, “Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. … We can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So we’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.”

Trump continued downplaying the threat of the virus—intentionally, as it turned out, with full knowledge that it was a serious danger—for more than a month. For example, February 12, a week after Senate Republicans acquitted him: “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”

February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.”

February 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. … And this is their new hoax.”

March 5, one month after the Senate vote: “With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths.”

March 7: “We’re doing very well and we’ve done a fantastic job.”

By contrast, Joe Biden warned, “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores”—before the coronavirus emerged in China. 

On January 27, he responded to the news of the emerging outbreak, writing “The outbreak of a new coronavirus, which has already infected more than 2,700 people and killed over 80 in China, will get worse before it gets better. Cases have been confirmed in a dozen countries, with at least five in the United States. There will likely be more,” and detailing preparedness measures that should have been taken.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer called on Trump to declare a national emergency on January 26. Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a plan for combating the outbreak on January 28. 

Democrats were responding early—yes, even during the impeachment process, walking and chewing gum at the same time—while Trump continued downplaying the threat for weeks and bragging that his too-little-too-late China travel restrictions had done all that needed to be done. That’s what Melania continues to brag about, despite the facts. Because otherwise, they have to admit they have nothing.

Trump and the corrupt lackeys in his government need to know they will be prosecuted

For purposes of the following, let’s stipulate that Joseph Biden is elected president. Of course, we have a long road ahead to make that happen, but if it doesn’t happen, everything written below will be moot.

Given that scenario, and based on their past conduct, it’s fair to assume that the dominating, prevailing impulse among most if not all of Donald Trump’s appointees—and of Trump himself—will be to loot or otherwise exploit the vast resources controlled by our federal government for their personal ends. The lame-duck presidency will permit Trump’s appointees and their hires in nearly all of our federal agencies approximately 75 days of zero accountability, where their only goal, as they perceive it, will be to extract as much wealth as feasible for themselves, and to do favors for the interests that have placed them in that position to begin with.

Trump has surrounded himself with self-interested sycophants and corrupt grifters who have wielded enormous power within our government structure. The entire tenure of Betsy DeVos, Andrew Wheeler, Ryan Zinke, and Wilbur Ross (to name just a few), whom Trump placed in charge of our federal agencies over the past four years, has been dedicated to siphoning as much as possible from the taxpayer’s coffers and redirecting it for their own benefit or the benefit of interests they represent.

There will be no thought whatsoever by these people as to what type of future they are leaving the American people, or what kind of condition the country will be in after their loot-fest is completed. These are not people who entered public service out of any sense of responsibility or altruism; that is simply not the way they think. Trump carefully and deliberately constructed a kakistocracy—a government of the worst, most unscrupulous, most unqualified people—for which destruction of the government agency to which they were appointed was their primary qualification. Most of them could have drawn far greater salaries in the private sector, but they agreed to participate in government insofar as it served their own financial (or in some cases, purely ideological) interests, both during and after their tenures. So assuming Trump loses on Nov. 3, in addition to a spree of looting we can expect massive deletions of data from hard drives, probably outright destruction or theft of government property, shredding of documents, and more as they try to cover up what they’ve done.

In 2018, The New York Times compiled a comprehensive list of the administration’s corruption and conflicts of interest as of then—a list now rendered so incomplete that it seems quaint. 

Compiling the list made us understand why some historians believe Trump’s administration is the most corrupt since at least Warren Harding’s, of 1920s Teapot Dome fame. Trump administration officials and people close to them are brashly using power to amass perks and cash. They are betting that they can get away with it. So far, Congress has let them.

Two years later, the Trump administration has become a systematic web of conflicted interests and blatant theft more prevalent than any administration in history. Its tentacles have now enveloped the Department of Justice in the persona of William Barr, who is now utilized as a willing tool to conduct sham investigations, pressure foreign states to manufacture false evidence to serve Trump’s political interests, and reward Trump’s loyalists such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone with sentence reductions and outright dismissals of their criminal convictions.

Because Trump’s corruption of our federal government is pervasive at this point, and because it has gone almost entirely unpunished and unexamined, the question of accountability on the part of members of the administration should be addressed now, before the final looting begins. Up to this point, any attempt to unveil this morass of corruption was stymied by a complicit Republican Congress for the first two years of Trump’s tenure. Now that the House is in Democratic hands, the favored response of the administration is to stonewall and “run out the clock.” His appointees engaged in the actual corruption—Barr, for example—are similarly insouciant, in effect thumbing their noses at attempts to investigate or punish their behavior.

Like all criminals, they clearly believe they’ll “get away with it.” It’s our duty to make them understand they won’t.

Michelle Goldberg, writing for The New York Times, frames the issue as one of accountability, which is simply vital if this country is to move forward. She observes that although former Vice President Biden has not ruled out criminal prosecution of Trump himself, he has deliberately avoided the subject. Goldberg also acknowledges that it would be highly unwise for Biden himself to be leading the charge.

Biden’s reticence is understandable, because a president who runs the White House as a criminal syndicate creates a conundrum for liberal democracy. In a functioning democracy, losing an election should not create legal liability; there was a reason Trump’s “Lock her up” chant was so shocking.

But you can’t reinforce the rule of law by allowing it to be broken without repercussion. After four years of ever-escalating corruption and abuses of power, the United States cannot simply snap back to being the country it once was if Trump is forced to vacate the White House in January. If Biden is elected, Democrats must force a reckoning over what Trump has done to America.

Senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have both expressed the view that criminal prosecutions of Trump officials and Trump himself are likely unavoidable. While Trump officials will enjoy qualified immunity in the performance of their job functions, there are limits to that immunity when the conduct impugns the Constitution, or otherwise consists of acts not officially contemplated or made discretionary by their employment in government. The law itself, therefore, is not an impediment to prosecutions for gross corruption or other blatant acts of criminal behavior on the part of Trump’s appointees and their hires.

The much thornier question is whether pursuing criminal charges against these officials will be perceived as so political that it will create a precedent for whichever party is in charge to conduct investigations and criminal prosecutions, however frivolous, of the opposing political party. As pointed out in this report, prepared by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the issue of “creating a precedent” is actually moot. The fact is, as William Barr has amply demonstrated, that abuse of the nation’s law enforcement power against political opponents is now our current reality.

[T]he concern that law enforcement could be used to target political opponents is not a future hypothetical—it’s the current reality. The problem is how to respond to the way the Trump administration has used law enforcement to protect its friends and target its enemies. The precedent has been set; what is still to be determined is the nature of the response.

Any investigations should be driven by career officials following the facts where they lead. The only way to address the politicization of law enforcement is by eliminating it, which means that people in the Trump administration, or those with connections to the administration, do not receive special treatment.

Importantly, the authors of the CAP report point out that failure to hold these criminals accountable will set a far worse precedent: “If a free pass is provided to those who broke the law and subverted democracy, it will embolden them and any illiberal politicians or administrations in the future to show even greater disregard for the rule of law.” Further, a failure to insist on accountability will inhibit people who do have integrity—career, non-political employees—to stand up against corruption in the future.

The CAP report also addresses the  objection that such prosecutions will be “divisive.” Essentially the rejoinder is that the entire administration has been divisive—it is in fact completely predicated on dividing Americans. But all Americans (including even Republicans, presumably) are—or should be—united in their fealty to the rule of law.

But one of those shared ideals is the primacy of the rule of law: that people in the United States should be treated equally, and that there should not be one justice system for the politically well-connected and one for everyone else. Having a rule of law means that it applies at all times and in all places—not only when an administration chooses to enforce it. The law applies right now to the Trump administration; that the administration refuses to acknowledge that fact is all the more reason that a future administration must reassert it. That means holding people accountable for their wrongdoing.

The report also emphasizes that the investigations should be conducted without any White House involvement by career DOJ officials selected for their integrity and experience rather than their ideological and political leanings.

Goldberg quotes Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to make the point that a Truth Commission of sorts was warranted after the Bush administration took our country to war in Iraq based on lies and phony, manufactured evidence, resulting in a geopolitical disaster from which that region has failed to recover, not to mention the massive loss of life.

Whitehouse was one of the Democrats who, in 2009, called for some sort of Truth Commission to examine the legacy of the last Republican to wreck the country. George W. Bush’s presidency left America “deeply in debt, bleeding jobs overseas, our financial institutions rotten and weakened, an economy in free fall,” Whitehouse said then. His administration took the country to war based on lies and authorized torture. There was a “systematic effort to twist policy to suit political ends; to substitute ideology for science, fact, and law; and to misuse instruments of power.”

But no Truth Commission was ever created. There was no accountability for Iraq, or for Guantanamo, or waterboarding, or “renditions,” just as there was no accountability for the Wall Street banks and financial behemoths that caused the financial crisis of 2007-2008. As a result, as former Obama senior adviser Ben Rhodes, quoted by Goldberg, states:

The “lack of accountability that people felt around the financial crisis and around torture didn’t go away,” said Rhodes. “It metastasized.” A generation of Republicans learned that there was no price for flouting the rules.

The point is that there is a direct line between the failure to hold Bush and Cheney accountable and the widespread, systematic corruption of the Trump administration. People like Stephen Miller, like Bill Barr, honestly believe they’re going to skate away and live happily ever after—perhaps, like Sean Spicer, even being invited to go Dancing with the Stars. They feel they are untouchable, and that’s why they continue with their corruption and illegality. After all, no one has ever been held to account; why would they be the first? 

With regard to Trump himself, in his mind, assuming he can somehow escape the prosecutions pending in the Southern District of New York, he clearly believes he has a future that doesn’t involve a jail cell for the rest of his life, possibly in some country without an extradition treaty with the U.S. The Trump crime family is now far more than Trump himself—it consists of his branding and the coercive power he has exerted by virtue of his office to benefit himself, clearly with a view towards pursuing additional ventures after he leaves office. If we allow that to happen, we’ll simply be setting ourselves up for another Trump.

The list of Trump’s crimes, grifting, and self-dealing, is of course inexhaustible. But Goldberg has a few suggestions on how to deal with this criminal. For starters:

The administration’s failure to contain the coronavirus — exacerbated, according to reporting in Vanity Fair, by Trump’s hostile indifference to hard-hit blue states — deserves something akin to a 9/11 commission. So does the wholesale corruption of American diplomacy, only a small part of which was addressed by impeachment. Just last month, The New York Times reported that Trump instructed America’s ambassador to Britain to press the British government to hold the British Open golf tournament at Trump Turnberry, the president’s money-losing golf resort in Scotland. But we have little visibility into how fully American foreign policy has been perverted to serve Trump’s personal interests.

It’s also certainly worth considering the prosecutions of Miller, ICE, and Border Patrol officials, if applicable, as proposed by Sen. Warren during the Democratic primary. As reported in Pacific Standard last year:

Warren states correctly that, as president, she could ask the Department of Justice to investigate and consider bringing charges against individuals from the Trump administration who violated the laws by detaining and criminally abusing immigrants," says Margaret Russell, a constitutional law professor at Santa Clara University. "This is within a president's authority even if the past administration defended its actions as permissible under the immigration laws."

As Goldberg points out, holding these people accountable does not simply mean “airing” or “exposing” their criminality. There is no benefit to that other than to encourage others by letting them know what they can get away with. What she is calling for are explicit legal sanctions—prison time for Trump’s criminal cabal. Of course, the right will call it a political vendetta. Fox News and every right-wing media outlet will call their minions into the street to protest, screaming at the top of their lungs. So? Just another reason to restore the Fairness Doctrine. It certainly couldn’t be much worse than what we’re experiencing right now.

Of course, the Biden administration—like any Democratic Administration coming out of this nightmare—will want to look forward, particularly since it will be attempting to rebuild what is likely to be the most damaged economy in American history. They will consider it a secondary matter to prosecute these people, secondary to saving the country itself from the disaster that Trump is leaving them to clean up. But in this circumstance, they may have no choice. As pointed out by Andrew Feinberg, writing for the Independent, Trump is a special case:

[G]ood government advocates, legal experts, and some prominent Democrats say the broad range of alleged violations of law by Trump administration officials and allies, ranging from misuse of government resources for personal gain; to the abuse and mistreatment of persons — including minors — in immigration detention; to obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress; means a Biden administration effort to simply “turn the page” on the Trump years would be a dangerous concession to lawlessness.

It is a near certainty that Trump will contest any election result that goes against him, but assuming that our governmental institutions manage to thwart any attempts by Trump to evade that outcome, the timeframe between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20 will become the last opportunity for Trump’s cadre of appointees to indulge in a final spate of looting the public coffers.

The only way they are going to be deterred is by knowing that they will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

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As Trump plotted his purge of nonloyalists from government, Warren developed her coronavirus plan

As the number of coronavirus cases in the United States swelled Tuesday morning and Wall Street sneered at the Fed's slap-dash interest-rate drop, bafflement overtook very stable genius Donald Trump. "Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this," Trump said of the coronavirus as he addressed the National Association of Counties. "All of a sudden, it's got the world aflutter."

Geez, who coulda seen it coming? Not Trump. He's the guy who found out just a couple of weeks ago that the flu can be deadly. "I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it," Trump marveled during a coronavirus-related press conference last week, "The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me." Yeah, we get it. You're a clueless navel-gazing narcissist who a month ago was gleefully planning your government-wide post-impeachment purge of nonloyalists.

Around that same time, Elizabeth Warren was preparing a global response to the emerging pandemic Trump had "never heard of." As Trump issued the opening salvo of his nonloyalist purge with the ouster of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother from the National Security Council, Warren was releasing her plan to prevent and minimize transmission by investing in global health agencies, investing in vaccine development, and preparing hospitals and health departments across the nation for potential outbreaks. Her plan emphasized the importance of science and disseminating factual information while countering misinformation.

“Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment's notice,” Warren wrote in her plan. “When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.”

A month later, Trump would be calling this burgeoning public health crisis a "hoax" and rushing to reassure the markets that he had this all under control. Trump surely viewed the Federal Reserve as his ace in the hole. But after it took the rare step Tuesday morning of cutting the interest rate half a percentage point between meetings in order to mitigate economic fallout from the virus, the Dow Jones stabilized briefly and then plummeted another 500 points.

Dow down another 500 points AFTER the Fed makes a VERY rare half percentage point cut between regularly scheduled meetings. Normally, a cut like this suggests the Fed has a grip on the economy. This looks like the Fed caved to Trump�s market-obsessed pressure

— Ali Velshi (@AliVelshi) March 3, 2020

Goodness, just six weeks ago, who could have imagined? Warren not only could have, but she did, and got to work on a plan for that.

Your blow-by-blow recap of the 10th Democratic debate, with a little help from Twitter

The 10th Democratic presidential primary debate kicked off in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of that state’s primary on Saturday. Norah O’Donnell, anchor of “CBS Evening News,” and Gayle King, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” were the main moderators, but were joined mid-debate by “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, “60 Minutes”’ Bill Whitaker, and CBS News chief Washington, D.C. correspondent Major Garrett. 

With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders the current frontrunner after three strong finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and particularly in Nevada, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg buying his way into every market, and former Vice President banking on South Carolina to keep his campaign alive, there is a LOT at stake in the Palmetto State, which will is the first of the early states with a significant black voting population.

Let’s dig right in—but be warned: The tension was high and the candidates have stopped being polite, and started getting real. Yes, that’s a MTV’s Real World  reference, but it really was quite hectic on that stage.

can someone get these dingdongs some jeopardy buzzers or something

— Mike Case (@MikeACase) February 26, 2020

CAN PROGRESSIVE IDEALS FIGHT TRUMP IN A “GOOD” ECONOMY?

Sanders got the first question, which positively framed the current economy and asked the Vermont senator how he thought he “can do better” than Donald Trump. Sanders was quick to note that the current economy only benefits people like Bloomberg, before listing several realities that millions of Americans currently face.

YouTube Video

Bloomberg got the rebuttal and deflected the economy talk to bring up recent intelligence that indicates Russia aims to support Sanders’ candidacy. The audience erupted in “oohs” reminiscent of the “Jerry Springer Show.” Sanders, clearly disgusted by Bloomberg’s statement, alluded to the billionaire’s relationship with China and vowed to shut down Putin as president. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren chimed in, asserting that progressive ideals are clearly popular now, and that while she and Sanders agree on a lot of issues, she’s got the plans to actually get it done—with a side note about the attacks she’s been fielding from the Sanders campaign.

Buttigieg was next, and said that Russia wants chaos. He then asked people to imagine a campaign that pitted Sanders vs. Trump, and what that political climate might do to our country between now and November. He then acknowledged the progressive wing of the party before demanding that a different tone was needed.

The other billionaire on the stage, Tom Steyer, asserted that he agrees with Sanders’ analysis of, but not his solutions to current issues. He then vowed to end corporate control of the government, while still keeping a robust private sector in place. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden brought up Sanders’ gun voting record against the Brady Bill in particular, implying that it enabled Dylann Roof’s deadly 2015 attack at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church near the debate venue; he also brought up recent oppo research that revealed Sanders once considered primarying Barack Obama in 2012. 

�I�m not saying he�s responsible for the nine dead.,� says Biden, the nicest thing anyone has said about Bernie so far.

� Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) February 26, 2020

Sanders noted that Buttigieg has accepted billionaire donations. Buttigieg used it as an opportunity to entice grassroots voters to donate via his website.

Biden was asked why his support was dropping in South Carolina. He voiced his long relationship with the state before stating that he intended to win the state on Tuesday. King asked him if he’d drop out if he didn’t—and Biden repeated that he would win.

BLOOMBERG: IS HE RISKY? HOW ‘BOUT STOP AND FRISKY?

Bloomberg was then asked what exactly he’s apologizing for when he apologizes for Stop and Frisk. He repeated the false talking point that he stopped using it by 95% when he “realized” it was a bad practice, before attempting to segue into a different topic.

Bloomberg did not �cut back� stop and frisk. He continues to lie about this, and it�s disturbing. A judge ruled stop and frisk unconstitutional. Bloomberg fought for *years* defending the policy, and only reversed course when he decided to run for president.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 26, 2020

King pushed back on the topic—though not the facts—and Bloomberg asserted that people are only talking about Stop and Frisk because it benefits their campaigns, before rattling off several of his other accomplishments as mayor of New York City, including another lie—that he supported teachers.

So - Bloomberg was in an all out war with the teachers union in NYC for years. If you call them as Bloomberg suggested you will get quite an earful.

— Eliza Shapiro (@elizashapiro) February 26, 2020

When asked, “mayor to mayor,” if Stop and Frisk was racist, Buttigieg agreed that it was, quoting Bloomberg’s comment that “white people were being stopped too often.” Stopping just short of owning his own controversy with black people and the police in South Bend, the former mayor noted that it was weird to be talking about racial justice as one of seven white people on the stage, listing a bunch of racist and harsh experiences that people of color have.

Pete's outreach to black voters getting a little desperate pic.twitter.com/DefnSKYwou

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020

Bloomberg then piped in with the newsflash that his life would have been harder if he’d been black, and vowed to do more than “just demagogue” about it. Klobuchar was asked about race next; after quoting MLK, she vowed to protect voter rights nationwide.

Warren was asked about her characterization of Bloomberg as the “riskiest” Democratic primary candidate. She confirmed she still feels that way before pointing out all key races he’s thrown his money and voice into, including his support of her own opponent and Sen. Lindsey Graham, and said no Democrats would accept him as the nominee.

YouTube Video

Bloomberg said he’s been training for the presidency since 9/11; Warren shared her oft-repeated story of workplace discrimination while pregnant before invoking the “Kill it!” allegation against Bloomberg—to boos from his supporters.

�Mike Bloomberg has on repeated occasions faced and fought allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments to women in his office, including a claim in the 1990s that he told an employee who had just announced she was pregnant to "kill it."� https://t.co/MVc30HsNjp pic.twitter.com/w9kwzvbBcG

— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) December 16, 2019

Bloomberg denied the allegation before noting that Warren wouldn’t have been fired for being pregnant in today’s New York City. Warren then repeated her call for the billionaire to release his former employees from their NDAs. He was then asked if he was wrong to make “jokes,” or if the women just took them wrong. Yes, that was an actual question.

After saying he did not recall the jokes, Bloomberg noted that since the Nevada debate, he’d released three women from their NDAs and his company would no longer use them, saying that, for Warren, “enough is never enough.”

Still thinking about Bloomberg saying about Warren, �The trouble is with this senator, enough is never enough.� Which basically is the equivalent of �Nevertheless she persisted.� ������

— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) February 26, 2020

Instead of stopping there, Bloomberg then said that he’d changed the world and corporations everywhere by banning the NDAs. Warren was then asked what her basis was for the “serious” allegation, and she cited the woman’s “own words.” Bloomberg insisted again that he never said “Kill it” to a pregnant employee.

FUNDING PROGRESSIVE DREAMS

O’Donnell asked Sanders about the math on his proposals, saying he can only pay for “about half” of his proposals. Naming recent research from the Lancet, which endorsed the financial and human impact of Medicare for All, he started to list potential revenue streams to fund it—starting with a payroll tax. He was cut off by Klobuchar, who cited different data and Sanders’ own recent “60 Minutes” interview. Calling his plans “a bunch of broken promises on a bumper sticker,” she touted her own proposals.

All hell broke loose right about then, as Sanders tried to respond, Buttigieg started shouting soundbites over him, and Steyer entered the fray for the first time. 

Out of control! WTH #DemDebate

— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) February 26, 2020

Sanders was given the chance to respond. He said that Buttigieg’s program was more expensive both financially and with regards to human impact. More chaos ensued before Steyer declared that Democrats are on the cusp of either choosing a “democratic socialist or a lifetime Republican,” and thus handing Trump the win. Bringing up economic, racial, and climate justice, the philanthropist fought for his last seconds on the clock when the moderators tried to silence him.

Buttigieg promised that with Sanders as the nominee, we were facing four more years with Trump, Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, and the continued GOP control of the Senate; he then entreated candidates to pay attention to who was behind the Blue Wave of 2018. 

Biden came in hot, noting that the majority of those Blue Wave folks were supporting him for president, and calling out Sanders for few accomplishments in his lifelong tenure in Congress, and Steyer for owning private prisons that he knew were toxic, citing harmful policies in both South Carolina and Georgia. When Steyer angrily protested his innocence, Biden shut him down.

Joe Biden ate his Wheaties this morning. #DemDebate

— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) February 26, 2020

The shouting resumed; Steyer insisted that he didn’t know about his prisons’ atrocities and sold them as soon as he learned of them. He then declared his commitment to racial justice. Klobuchar got the floor by shouting over the fray. She then explained that she’s far more effective when it comes to legislation than Warren or Sanders, before noting that many promises have been broken to the African American community by our society.

Bloomberg than noted that he helped fund half of the Blue Wave Democrats, to an audible grunt from Buttigieg. 

wait, did Bloomberg just refer to the new House Democratic majority by saying **�I bought that?�**

— Amanda Fischer (@amandalfischer) February 26, 2020

The former mayor then echoed the same story about Sanders vs. Trump that the other moderates told, namely that he’ll lose and commit the nation to four more years of the madman in the White House. Sanders was greeted by boos when he said only billionaires supported Bloomberg before highlighting his diverse coalition as a counter to the former New York mayor’s prediction that moderates will never vote for him. Warren then asserted that she too has popular progressive plans that will unite moderates, stressing that she knows how to pay for them all.

Then, 38 minutes in, it was time for our first glorious break!

NEW MODERATORS, SAME LACK OF GUN REFORM

The new moderators joined O’Donnell and King, who circled back to Biden, who had been the first to bring up the Mother Emanuel A.M.E church massacre of 2015. She asked why anyone should believe he can finally get meaningful gun reform through Congress. Calling out Sanders’ gun stances, while listing his gun control accomplishments going back to the 90s, Biden asserted that he was the only one on the stage who’d gotten gun legislation through in the past, end promised gun manufacturers that “I’m coming for you.”

Warren used the topic as an opportunity to voice her support to end the filibuster in order to push through gun reform.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren talks about her plan for passing gun safety legislation as President. #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/MaJD0XBAc3

— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 26, 2020

Sanders was then asked why, out of all the industries he’s gone after, gun manufacturers get a pass. Sanders admitted his vote to shield gun manufacturers from wrongful death lawsuits was “a bad vote,” careful to point out Biden has a few bad votes in his history. He then touted his D- rating with the NRA.

Bloomberg then cited his funding of the gun reform groups Moms Demand Action and Everytown before Klobuchar noted that she wrote the bill that closes the “boyfriend” loophole. She then invoked her ability to win Midwestern voters, again citing her dear “Uncle Dick in the deer stand.”

Noting Sanders’ refusal to support the ending of the filibuster, Buttigieg explained that he was in high school for Columbine and waited for the government to fix things so it never happened again. They never did. Buttigieg next invoked his military experience as giving him an understanding of what guns can do. 

Sanders again invoked his D- NRA rating before Steyer brought up popular polling for gun reform and the Senate’s endless blocking of it. He segued his support of term limits as a way to get McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Graham out. 

EDUCATION FOR THE NATION

Whitaker brought up the education gap among white and black students in South Carolina. Citing Bloomberg’s heavy-handed expansion of charter schools in New York, he asked if he’d expand them nationwide. Bloomberg claimed that New York’s charter schools are some of the top in the nation, but he couldn’t speak to whether or not such expansion would work nationwide.

Warren boldly stated that her Secretary of Education would be a former public school teacher, who would eliminate high-stakes testing and keep public funds in public schools. She also noted that “education is not free,” and that an investment in education was necessary.

YouTube Video

Sanders went further, by naming several of the policies that they agree upon, including universal pre-K and free college tuition. He cited his funding plan—taxing “Wall Street speculation”—clearly in a preemptive strike against criticism of his lack of funding plans.

Noting that he was married to a public school teacher, Buttigieg brought up the fact that teachers are expected to defend their classrooms from gun violence. Warren tried to keep the education discussion going, but Garrett jumped in with the first Twitter-sourced question of the day.

Klobuchar got the first chance to respond: How will she help minimum wage workers with housing and education equity. Klobuchar focused on affordable housing in urban and rural areas. Warren cut her off, pointing out that race-neutral housing policies don’t acknowledge redlining, with a quick jab at Bloomberg for blaming its end for the 2008 crash. 

�We can no longer pretend that everything is race neutral� @ewarren nails it!!! I�m tired of this �I don�t see race BS�.... #WokeAF #DemDebate2020 if your plans don�t incorporate people of color throw them TF out! Period.

— DanielleMoodie-Mills (@DeeTwoCents) February 26, 2020

Bloomberg denied that he supported redlining, despite that not being the question, before pausing for a failed joke about winning the last debate. He then segued awkwardly to his early support of marriage equality.

pic.twitter.com/hTf7IGWd1f

— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) February 26, 2020

Biden was then asked why black voters should believe he can change centuries of inequality. The former vice president focused on supporting black entrepreneurship and first time homeowners, as well as a pushback against gentrification and the institutionalized devaluing of homes in communities of color. While talking about dismantling institutional racism, he was cut off by moderators. Biden then openly declared that his signature politeness about time limits was a thing of the past in this debate.

Sen. @AmyKlobuchar (D-MN) reacts as former Vice President @JoeBiden and @TomSteyer get into it during the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary debate #DemDebate2020 �: @WinMc pic.twitter.com/HL92lONWFH

— Getty Images News (@GettyImagesNews) February 26, 2020

Steyer explained his banking approach to affordable housing, then asserted that he’s the only candidate open to establishing on commission on reparations, but moderators squashed all other attempts to discuss it—O’Donnell even demanded that candidates “respect the rules of the debate.”

Sigh. I like Tom Steyer. I think he could be so useful. Just not on this stage.

— Tiffany Cross (@TiffanyDCross) February 26, 2020

She then lobbed a question at Klobuchar, about health care access in rural areas. Klobuchar spoke about making it easier for better and more doctors to get their education, and for immigrant doctors to come to the U.S.

Buttigieg was next, saying that there was no difference between life expectancies along rural and urban Americans when he was born, but there is now. He then cited his Douglass Plan’s voting rights act before Sanders brought up the tenets of his Medicare for All plan that support rural health care. 

Bloomberg admitted that what works in New York won’t work everywhere (via a Naked Cowboy joke) before he asserted the value of science, and noting that his policies shaped the nation’s policies. He specifically cited the city’s indoor smoking bans as an example, conveniently omitting the fact that California banned smoking in public places in 1995, while New York City got there eight years later. He also pointed out the crisis at the CDC that Trump’s created.

Biden explained his plan to expand the National Institutes of Health, insisting that it would have bipartisan support, before Klobuchar was asked if it marijuana conviction expunging was realistic; after citing the importance of process, she agreed that it could be done. Bloomberg was less eager to legalize cannabis. saying that while he would not take legal weed away from states who had passed it, it was too soon to move on legalizing marijuana without doing the scientific due diligence about its effects, particularly on young minds.

Sanders then clarified the differences between narcotics and opiates versus marijuana and vowed to effectively legalize it, expunge convictions, and support people of color as they enter the legal-cannabis industry.  Biden began to assert that he wrote the “drug court” bill before it was time for yet another break!

Once again, shocking that a dem debate goes this far and does NOT mention Trump post impeachment purge, attacks on independent justice and intelligence, and just today Supreme Court justices...

— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) February 26, 2020

COMBAT, CORONAVIRUS, CHINA, AND CASTRO

Back from commercial, O’Donnell asked Warren about how bringing combat troops back from the Middle East will impact national security. Citing a need to use “all the tools in the toolbox,” Warren contrasted her multi-faceted foreign policy against Trump’s. Bloomberg was asked if he’d pull all combat troops, and he made a jab at George W. Bush and the Iraq War looking good on paper. 

As the only combat veteran on the stage, Buttigieg noted that he first visited South Carolina as a member of the military, just before he headed to the Middle East. He also focused on his own multi-pronged ideas, starting with restoring American credibility. 

Klobuchar was asked about the coronavirus: Should we close the border to those who have been exposed? Klobuchar didn’t answer, instead zooming in on the need to treat and quarantine those who are sick, agreeing with Bloomberg’s earlier assertion of Trump’s failure to properly support the work of the CDC. She then plugged the CDC website, noting that she could have given the one of her campaign instead. 

Biden was then asked what he would do. He invoked his work containing the Ebola virus during the Obama administration, including supporting and funding the CDC and NIH, also noting that he had the relationships with world leaders to get them to better cooperate.

After a Trump joke, Sanders essentially agreed with Biden. Bloomberg was then asked about his statements about working with Chinese president Xi Jinping, and asked if Chinese firms should be permitted to help build critical U.S. infrastructure. He vehemently asserted that he did not, but that he also planned to negotiate with Xi as president. Biden got the same question and also answered “No,” before noting that he had a relationship with him. Warren got the same question and, noting that Bloomberg had long relationships with China, brought up the billionaire’s tax returns, which have not been released, before saying that she would not work with China on infrastructure. 

Bloomberg, as in the last debate, said the tax returns were on their way, but fellow billionaire Steyer dismissed his excuse, saying he’d already released a decade of his own. He then brought up his commitment to combating climate change. Sanders got into a small bicker with the audience after noting that the communist Chinese had made great strides in education before saying that he wouldn’t work with authoritarians—all referencing former president Barack Obama, who once noted that authoritarian governments are bad thing but still could manage to do good things. Buttigieg took that as an opportunity to allude to the recent Sanders-Castro scandal, and offered general disdain for nostalgia for the mid- to late-1900s, but Sanders was not having it. 

Pete pretends to be intelligent, but pretending that the coups from the 1950s and 1960s don't have a bearing on today's foreign policy just shows that you're dumb as an effing rock. #DemDebate

— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) February 26, 2020

As the audience exploded, Klobuchar got in there to say that the whole conversation was the worst nightmare of a moderate, particularly in Super Tuesday states. Sanders responded by reminding her that he’s got the highest favorability scores among anyone on the stage.

Biden was then asked if he’d launch cyberattacks in retaliation if it was proven that Russia intervered in the 2020 election. Biden asserted that it’s already been proven they are interfering, it was proven they interfered in 2016, and that sanctions should be imposed now. Steyer then asked where Trump was in the face of the “hostile” acts of cyberwarfare, noting that Trump has sided with a hostile foreign power—getting the biggest applause of the night.

Sanders then was asked about being Jewish, and about Jews who might believe he is unsupportive of Israel; he was also asked if he’d move the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. After calling out Benjamin Netayanhu for his corruption and evil deeds, Sanders voiced that he wouldn’t make any action as president without considering the Palestinians. Bloomberg, as the other Jew on the stage, vowed to leave the embassy where it was, and was cut off as he began to explain his own two-state solution.

American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic & are not single-issue voters who favor whatever is in the Israeli government's best interest. Acting like this isn't reality is deeply problematic

— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) February 26, 2020

Warren agreed with Sanders that a two-state solution was essential, but that it’s not up to the United States, as allies, to decide what that looks like: It’s up to Israelis and Palestinians. She refused to answer further when pressed about moving the embassy. 

Klobuchar was then asked if she, like Trump, would meet with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. She said that she would, but not like Trump has, instead working with allies and having required deliverables. Biden said he would not work with any dictator; noting that Trump has given Jong Un, whom he called a “thug,” legitimacy. Despite his feisty promise to go over time, Biden stopped talking when moderators asked, noting that it must be his “Catholic school training” that made him do it.

The next Twitter question, which centered on the chaos in Idlib, Syria, which is facing violence at the hands of the Syrian regime and Russia, came to Buttigieg first; he cited military action, while Warren voiced a desire for anything but.

It was then time for the final break; King promised the final question would be a personal one, letting candidates share their “words to live by.”

A CORNY CLOSE: MOTTOS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

King asked the final question, a two-parter: What’s the biggest misconception about you, and what’s motto that describes you?

Steyer noted that he draws a cross on his hand every day, as a reminder “to tell the truth and do what’s right no matter what.” He said it’s untrue that he’s defined by his business success and money.

Tom Steyer doesn't want to be defined by his billions even though he's only on stage because of his billions. #DemDebate

— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) February 26, 2020

Klobuchar asserted that she is not boring before quoting Paul Wellstone; “Politics is about improving people’s lives.”

Biden didn’t offer a motto; rather he named several mottos about resilience and representation before vowing to put a black woman on the Supreme Court, to huge cheers. He also noted his loyalty. Biggest misconception? “I have more hair than I think I do.”

Sanders declared that “the ideas I’m talking about tonight are not radical,” he said. He quoted Nelson Mandela as his motto: “Everything is impossible until it happens.” 

Warren joked that she eats all the time as a joke; but the real misconception was that she’s always thought she was supposed to be president. She returned to Matthew 25 for her motto: “In as much as ye hath done int unto one these, the least of thy brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Buttigieg said that the biggest misconception was that he’s not passionate, since he’s “kinda level”; his motto? “Of you would be a leader you should first be a servant.”

Bloomberg joked that people mistakenly believe that he’s six feet tall; his motto was his own word: “I’ve trained for this job for a long time, and when I get it, I’m going to do something, not just talk about it.”

"What is your motto?" BIDEN: Stay loyal WARREN: Be true to yourself BLOOMBERG: [mouth opens and money shoots out]

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020

O’Donnell then attempted to end the night—but King said there was time for more debate after the break … yet when they came back, O’Donnell then actually ended the debate.

Wait, did CBS seriously delay the conclusion of the debate to get in another commercial block? Truly insulting to viewers

— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) February 26, 2020

Once all was said and done, it was hard to declare a clear “winner”; but talking time was a pretty evenly distributed, according to CNN, as long as you look past Sanders and Steyer, that is.

At the end of the #DemDebate, Sen. Bernie Sanders had a clear lead in speaking time with nearly 16 minutes, followed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, all at more than 13 minutes. https://t.co/nSKHArYd3p pic.twitter.com/OSVt6Pc8NA

— CNN (@CNN) February 26, 2020

I never give money to politicians. Here’s why I just gave money to Elizabeth Warren

Political journalists simply don't make donations to politicians. It's a cardinal rule that insulates reporters from being tagged as provably biased toward one candidate or another. I've abided by that rule for the better part of two decades with one exception, when a close buddy of mine was running for Congress in Western Michigan where I grew up. But this week I broke that rule when I made a modest donation to Elizabeth Warren. I had wrestled with the impulse to donate to her campaign for over a month. As a reporter-turned-blogger, I no longer make any claim to so-called objectivity, though I still prize fairness, transparency, and intellectual honesty as hallmarks of my own work. I don't write things I don't believe in, and I refuse to be a blind follower of any particular person or group. So to some extent, this post is a public confession of sorts. And despite donating to Warren, I reserve the right to disagree with her and/or take her to task if the moment calls for it. 

But what this political moment calls for right now is that every American who wants to save this country from its slide toward authoritarianism step up and do everything humanly possible to combat that descent. For different people that means different things. For me, it means going public about why I think Warren is not only the best candidate to take on Donald Trump but also has a path toward the nomination in a muddled field where no single candidate has proven they can consolidate the base, unite the party, and steamroll Trump in the general election. And just to be clear, I think that both uniting the party, first and foremost, while also appealing to disaffected voters from the white working class and more affluent suburbs is a must to defeating Trump in November.

To me, that's where the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, continues to fall short. Despite winning the popular vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire and demonstrating some appeal among voters of color in the polls, Sanders still hasn't lived up to his promise of turning out an army of young people and other nontraditional voters to propel Democrats to victory in the fall. Sanders' promise has been that by inspiring nontraditional voters to turn out in droves, he can beat Trump without getting overly concerned about appealing to disaffected conservatives and other voters looking for an alternative to Trump. But he has yet to deliver on that promise and has underperformed in both Iowa and New Hampshire according to the expectations his own campaign set. In Iowa, he predicted huge '08-level turnout that never materialized and found himself struggling to make the case that he had won. In New Hampshire, where turnout exceeded 2016 levels, Sanders just barely edged out Pete Buttigieg for first by little more than one point after absolutely clobbering Hillary Clinton there in '16, 60%-38%. Sure, there's more people in the race, but that night was custom-made for Bernie and he underperformed again. As the Washington Post writes:

The share of Democratic voters ages 18 to 29 dropped from 2016. And [Cook Political Report's Dave] Wasserman observed that turnout increased by higher percentages in areas where Buttigieg and third-place finisher Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) won than they did in Sanders's towns. This suggested the overall increase in turnout was likely attributable to GOP-leaning independents who opted to vote in the Democratic primary, rather than Sanders bringing out new voters.

So even though Sanders has more delegates and arguably more momentum than any other Democrat in the field, his electability argument for beating Trump has not held up. In fact, so far, Sanders has not demonstrably broadened his coalition beyond where it was in 2016. The loyalty of his core of supporters runs deep, which makes him a good-enough candidate in a crowded field but doesn't necessarily make him a formidable candidate in a two-way race.  In short, Bernie may ultimately win the war of attrition, but this isn't the stuff of a revolution. 

I also personally believe that Bernie is Trump's dream opponent, which is why Republicans have consistently tried to rile his base supporters into believing establishment Democrats are treating him unfairly. As GOP strategist and anti-Trumper Rick Wilson observed on MSNBC Friday, looking out across the field, Republicans absolutely want to run against the actual socialist who’s had recent health problems and plans, above all else, to take away people's private health insurance. That's a whole bunch of scary stuff teed up for Trump and the GOP. And I’m not saying any of that is fair, but it does appear to be the match up Republicans want most in the general election.

The problem for the other Democrats right now is that, while Sanders hasn't exactly closed the deal yet, they are dividing the rest of the pie up amongst themselves. In fact, some three-quarters of the Democratic electorate still prefers some other candidate. Analysts have generally thought of these divisions in terms lanes, with Sanders and Warren in the liberal lane; Buttigieg, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the moderate lane; and Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer in the "billionaires buy elections" lane. I say that last part only half facetiously because, while Bloomberg in particular is now running third nationally, it's not yet clear that he has any ideological pull among Democratic voters other than his ability to flood the zone with billions if he's the nominee. That idea alone may appeal to some voters who are absolutely desperate to unseat Trump, but the more I think about it, the more it turns my stomach. If Bloomberg were to win the nomination and take on Trump, our presidential elections would be forever changed into a billionaire showdown every four years.

Where Warren comes in is that she is the only candidate who can bridge the divides of the party. If she were to be nominated, she could excite the widest swath of Democratic voters, leaving no single bloc with the burden of holding their nose at the voting booth. This isn't just my opinion, it has bore out in polling metric after polling metric, (some of which I've written about before). But in brief, Warren has twice won a polling question that asked, if you could wave a magic wand and nominate anyone in the Democratic field, who would it be? Warren was the top pick in both June 2019 and January 2020, the only two times the question was asked.

Earlier this week Warren also topped a Quinnipiac poll showing that she would draw more Democratic votes than anyone else in the field in a head-to-head with Trump. Most other candidates were mere points away from her but the takeaway isn't that she absolutely dusts everyone else. The takeaway is that voters have talked themselves into the idea that a woman can't the win against  Trump, or is somehow unelectable. That fear-based bill of goods has harmed Warren's candidacy more than anyone else in the field, and frankly, it's an absolute shame so many voters let it dissuade them from voting their heart.

The latest poll demonstrating the breadth of Warren's appeal is one that pitted each Democratic candidate against Sanders, the current front-runner. Warren is really the only other Democratic candidate who rivals Bernie for the affections of Democratic primary voters. She's not only within 2 points of him (42% Warren to 44% Sanders), she puts the most undecided votes in play at 14%.

That's a particularly interesting finding because it shows Warren's ability to draw a coalition of support that includes both moderates and liberals, since Sanders has shored up more of the liberal vote by now. Warren is also better suited for the general election particularly because she doesn't identify as a socialist. Whoever the nominee is, Republicans will smear them as a socialist, but in Bernie's case it will actually be true. There's a marked difference between that smear and that reality, and Warren's self-identification as a capitalist will give her the ability to provide a safe space to voters who don't exactly want to vote Democrat but can't stand Trump.

But all electability arguments aside, Warren has my vote because she would make the best president hands down. Although she is not a life-long politician or creature of Washington, she has proven her ability to things done (like creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). She has been a U.S. Senator just long enough to have the relationships and institutional knowledge needed to effectively enact policies. She also has a slew of well-reasoned ready-made policies, which (fairly or unfairly) have received far more vetting from the press than those of any other candidate. As writer Kaitlin Byrd put it, Elizabeth Warren is who you vote for if you like Bernie Sanders’ policy but actually want it enacted.

In fact, in a marked turn-around this week, some staunch Sanders supporters began to admit that he likely couldn't actually achieve passage of his signature issue: Medicare For All. Most notably, one of Sanders' most high-profile surrogates, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told Huff Post that compromising on Bernie's signature proposal might be necessary. 

“The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so,” she said.

The entire article suggested that, whatever the differences between candidates' goals on health care, the realities of what can be achieved in Congress might result in very similar outcomes. In fact, I generally agree with that contention, but it is a very notable departure from the litmus-test proposition the Sanders campaign has promoted on the campaign trail. Warren, in particular, was demonized for creating and presenting a transition plan to Medicare For All. On top of that, exit polls in New Hampshire suggested that just 6% of Democratic primary voters support single payer only, while 61% support offering both a public option and a single-payer plan. Bernie dominated among the small slice of hardcore single-payer only fans, winning 65% of them, which clearly helped him eke out a victory in the state. But it's not where the bulk of Democratic primary voters appear to be.

What has consistently polled well among both Democrats and the general electorate alike are Warren's signature issues: an anti-corruption bill and a wealth tax. In poll after poll, Warren's 2% wealth tax on households with a net worth exceeding $50 million has polled at 60%-plus among American voters. And while both the wealth tax and M4A have lost a bit of traction after being debated for a year on the campaign trail, the wealth tax continued to gain the support of more than six in 10 Americans, according to the New York Times as of last November. 

Furthermore, Warren's emphasis on ending corruption in Washington is the perfect antidote to the reelection bid of Trump, easily the most corrupt president in American history. Equally as important, her anti-corruption package—the bill she would champion first and foremost as president—would be the linchpin to getting future major legislative wins because it would end the stranglehold that entrenched lobbying interests have on otherwise very popular policies. They include measures like combatting gun violence, climate change, and ever-increasing healthcare costs.

All that analysis is a long and perhaps tedious way of saying that I've thought about this a lot, and I have concluded that this political moment yearns for both a Warren candidacy and a Warren presidency. And although her chances of winning the nomination now are very slim, I am dedicated to the proposition that you must never stop fighting the good fight for the things you believe in. This is easily the most volatile and unpredictable field of primary candidates most of us have witnessed in our lifetimes, and only a tiny homogeneous percentage of the Democratic electorate has spoken. I'm putting my money on Elizabeth Warren not because she has the best chance of winning but because I believe she is the best candidate in the field. And one thing I have never regretted in my life is holding true to my ideals and fighting for them no matter what the odds. The greatest wins are never the most obvious ones—they are the dreams that triumph because a group of committed individuals refused to let them die.

Iowa happened: The first post-voting Cattle Call of the season, and Bernie catapults into the lead

Iowa happened, and what a clusterfuck it was. We already knew that new caucus rules would make a mess out of any post-caucus clarity, and final results didn’t disappoint. CONFIRMED: The Iowa caucuses suck and this should mark the end of their unearned first-in-the-nation status. Also CONFIRMED: There was no winner. Just hand the prize to Pete Buttigieg, or maybe Bernie Sanders. 

But seriously, who cares? Iowa allocates less than 1% of national delegates, so whether Buttigieg got 11 or 12 or 13 delegates, and whether Sanders got 10 or 12, the tally needed for victory is 1,990. Iowa was about one thing and one thing only: media narrative. And despite that mess, Buttigieg got the bump he needed, now catapulting into second place in myriad polling in Bernie-friendly New Hampshire. 

Still, in this fragmented field, no one showed dominance, with Buttigieg and Sanders around one-quarter of the vote, Elizabeth Warren at about one-fifth, and Joe Biden really just impatiently waiting for South Carolina to vote. Remember, Sanders got around half the Iowa vote in 2016, so he lost support in the four years of nonstop campaigning since. And given turnout was just as poor as it was in 2016, no one is reshaping the electorate. Sanders isn’t spurring a new wave of youth turnout. We don’t have a Barack Obama in the race. 

Anyway, let’s dive in to the rankings. 

1. Bernie Sanders ⬆️ (Last week: 2)

At a New Hampshire town hall, Anderson Cooper asked Sanders if he saw himself as the front-runner, and his answer was a hard “NO!” But too bad: That moment has arrived—not because of his own strength—he’s barely cracked 20% in the national polling aggregate, but because of continued weakness and fragmentation of the field. Of course Bernie doesn’t want to be tagged as the front-runner. That means being the target of the kind of incoming fire that he’s never had to face. For now, he's kinda lucked out—Elizabeth Warren shows no interest in taking him directly on. And in Friday’s debate, most of the fireworks were directed at Pete Buttigieg, as a surprising fight for the “moderate” lane has shaped up. 

But the honeymoon won’t last, and how he responds to it will inform much of the rest of the race. Warren and Kamala Harris and even Joe Biden wilted under their respective assaults. Buttigieg has his turn in the firing lane. It’s not easy being the target of the combined rest of the field. 

Still, it might not matter. It’s not as if Bernie has any “soft support” in his coalition. He’s easily the most polarizing candidate, and people either love him or hate him. His supporters’ actions have further alienated potential second-choice voters. You don’t sit and call Warren a snake and then expect her supporters to come to you as a plan B. No other candidate has this problem. No one else’s supporters are as consistently nasty and toxic as his. And Bernie supporters can get mad at me and hurl insults for saying so, but truly national candidates work to broaden the tent and bring new supporters into their coalition. That’s why I don’t see Sanders winning in the end: He still can’t push beyond his core base. (And to be clear, no one else can, this isn’t picking on just Sanders). But what’s most damning is that he’s not even trying to broaden his coalition. 

So what’s ahead? Sanders should do well in New Hampshire. He won it decisively in 2016. He’ll hit a brick wall called “black voters” in South Carolina, but he should do fine in the Nevada caucuses and head into Super Tuesday with a bit of momentum. His problem isn’t competing in a fragmented field. His problem will be the inevitable rise of the anti-Bernie candidate once the field becomes further consolidated. It’s inevitable. If that candidate happens to be Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg, then life will truly suck. I’m suddenly hoping its Amy Klobuchar, just so that Plan B isn’t as soul-sucking depressing. 

I do wish the left could consolidate around Warren, a far less-polarizing candidate. But that’s a pipe dream now.  

2. Biden ⬇️ (Last week: 1) 

Biden wasn’t expected to do well in Iowa: His job was just to minimize the damage. And while he wasn’t entirely successful with that, it’s enough to limp through to New Hampshire, one step closer to South Carolina, where he can power up (in video game parlance). 

Biden’s entire game at this point is older black voters. As long as he holds them, he can scoop up big chunks of delegates in the South. Did his poor performance in Iowa damage that support? We don’t see it in the public data, but private data suggests that he definitely took on water. (What “private” data? My polling firm Civiqs. And look how we outperformed almost the entire polling industry in Iowa.), and Buttigieg and Bloomberg are the beneficiaries. Still, his firewall of Black support remains mostly intact, and as long as that holds, he should be en route for a win in South Carolina. 

Biden’s big problem right now isn’t electoral, it’s financial. “In one troublesome sign for the financially strapped campaign, it canceled nearly $150,000 in television ads in South Carolina, which votes Feb. 29, and moved the spending to Nevada, whose Feb. 22 contest follows New Hampshire’s. The move seemed to acknowledge that Biden’s campaign cannot sustain a continued run of bad news.” Kamala Harris didn’t drop out because of poll numbers, she dropped out because she ran out of money. Bloomberg greedily eyeing Biden’s ideological lane, Buttigieg has already made inroads into it, and Amy Klobuchar is desperately trying to muscle her way in. That’s a lot of threats from a lane that was supposed to be his alone. 

We’ve long talked about the Left being split two-way between Sanders and Warren. Few if any saw the center line stacking up four-way. What this means is less pressure to consolidate the Left flank, and a greater chance for a contested convention this summer. 

Uh oh. 

3. Elizabeth Warren ⬇️ (last week: 3)

Once upon a time, the media gave three candidates a pass out of Iowa, but that only was until a woman was the third, so she’s been all but ignored this past week. She overperformed the polling (the Iowa aggregate had her around 15%) to get to around 20% of the vote. While it was nice to outperform those expectations, it’s hard to forget that at one time she was actually leading in those Iowa polls. She still hasn’t fully recovered from her Medicare for All plan rollout, a debacle that might have ended up costing her the nomination. 

But she’s not out of this, not by a long shot. Obviously, she won’t win anything hovering at around 15% in the national polling, but it’s not as if anyone else is consolidating support. A first-place showing in New Hampshire would dramatically reshape the race, but a second place would be a boost. Third place, despite representing next-door Massachusetts, would be a disappointment, and that’s but that’s what the polls currently suggest. Fourth place would be brutal. 

Warren, like every candidate not named Joe, is having a hard time attracting black voters. South Carolina will be rough. But Nevada could very well end up a battle between her and Bernie. A victory somewhere this month would provide a strong boost heading into delegate-rich March, but as of now, no place seems obviously ready to give her that victory. 

Like every other candidate, her problem is, where does she grow support? The Bernie Left is locked in. They’re not going anywhere. More moderate to centrist Dems are spooked by Medicare for All, and now see her as too liberal. She’s wooed black voters heavily with little success, but might that accelerate if Biden falters? And is Buttigieg really going to survive into Super Tuesday, particularly given the renewed attacks he’s facing? 

At this point, Warren’s best chance for victory is, ironically, to become the anti-Bernie candidate. Biden needs to be gone and Pete needs to stall. Klobuchar needs to stay in the back of the pack. Wall Street Dems can rally around Bloomberg, but there's not enough of them to matter electorally. A coalition of part of the Left plus the party mainstream would give Warren the nomination. Probable? Heck no. It’s almost an impossible scenario, actually. But nothing in this crazy race is “probable.” No one can win, but someone has to, eventually.  

4. Pete Buttigieg ⬆️ (Last week: unranked)

Small-liberal-college-town mayor Pete Buttigieg co-“won” Iowa with Sanders (helped by impeachment keeping his Senate rivals in Washington), and that has given him new life as a potential Biden replacement, at least for the moment. He claimed a surge in big-dollar donations after Iowa (at the same time that Biden saw his fundraising hit a wall), so it seems like the Wall Street crowd, already in love with Buttigieg, could be going all-in on him.

Now Sanders is getting young people of color, and Warren is doing okay with younger educated women of color—nowhere near Biden’s dominance with black voters, but you know, it adds up to 10-15% support each among black voters. Shitty, to be sure, but it’s something. Buttigieg? He’s at zero. Any genuine rise in Buttigieg’s overall support would be a clear signal to black America that white liberals really don’t give a shit about justice issues. (Which is probably already true, but still ...) You want the gory backstory on how he fired his city’s Black police chief for exposing racist beat cops on his force? It’s here (and the story goes far beyond the police chief). It’s enough to generate enough distrust and hostility with perhaps the most important voting group in our party to last a generation. 

It’s not just a primary problem. We don’t win November without strong black turnout in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. If we don’t have a nominee that can talk the language of black America and can motivate those voters to turn out, we’re toast. 

Now I know Buttigieg supporters will say I’m just taking shots at their guy, but here’s the thing: This issue matters in the primary. It matters to black voters, who will chose hundreds of delegates to the conventions, and it matters to some white allies eager to show solidarity. It’s akin to Bernie’s refusal to expand his coalition, except Sanders refuses by choice. Buttigieg can’t because of his past history.

More immediately, however, polls have Buttigieg moving up to second place in New Hampshire. Can he hold it despite the attacks during the New Hampshire debate and a serious barrage of negative attention like this?

Former Mayor Pete doesn�t think very highly of the Obama-Biden record. Let�s compare. pic.twitter.com/132TB7MHaq

— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) February 8, 2020

Simply brutal. And effective. Buttigieg’s “experience” truly is a joke, and the arrogance inherent in him thinking he deserves a promotion to the White House from a small liberal college town mayorship is breathtaking. He’s never received more than 11,000 votes in an election, and in his small-town reelection bid, that number went down to 8,500. 

Now he needs to weather those attacks and notch that top New Hampshire finish, because South Carolina and Nevada don’t look to be hospitable territory. 

The wildcards at this point are Amy Klobuchar, who seemed to be well received after Friday’s New Hampshire debate, and Michael Bloomberg, who seems to be trying to buy himself a pass to the nomination at a brokered convention. But just think of all those voters in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia that we could’ve registered with the half-a-billion spent so far by Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. It’s sickening seeing all that money spent on the altar of egoism.