Morning Digest: Abortion rights supporters win massive victory at the ballot box in Kansas

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

Leading Off

 KS Ballot: Abortion rights supporters won a resounding victory in deep-red Kansas on Tuesday night, sending an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution down to defeat in a 59-41 landslide.

Republican lawmakers placed the initiative on the ballot in January of last year in response to a 2019 decision by the state Supreme Court that overturned legislation banning an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. In their ruling, a majority concluded that the state constitution protects "the right of personal autonomy," which includes "whether to continue a pregnancy." Only restrictions that "further a compelling government interest" and are "narrowly tailored to that interest" would pass muster, said the justices. The ban in question did not, and so more aggressive restrictions would not as well.

That infuriated Republicans, who were eager to clamp down on abortion if not ban it outright. They therefore drafted misleading language that would undo this ruling by amending the constitution. "Because Kansans value both women and children," the amendment superfluously began, "the constitution of the state of Kansas does not require government funding of abortion and does not create or secure a right to abortion"—even though the Supreme Court case had no bearing on such funding.

The accompanying explanatory text was also heavily tilted to the "Yes" side, saying that a "No" vote "could restrict the people, through their elected state legislators, from regulating abortion by leaving in place the recently recognized right to abortion."

Republicans further sought to tilt the scales in their favor by scheduling the vote to coincide with the state's August primary, almost certainly expecting light mid-summer turnout that would favor their side. That emphatically did not come to pass. Remarkably, the total vote on the abortion amendment was 25% greater than the combined tally in both parties' primaries for governor, meaning at least 150,000 voters showed up just to vote on the ballot measure.

In the state's most populous county, Johnson County in the Kansas City suburbs, at least 243,000 voters participated in the vote on the amendment, 90% of the turnout of the hotly contested general election for governor in 2018. What's more, the "No" side demonstrated considerable crossover appeal: While Democrat Laura Kelly carried Johnson 55-38 four years ago, the pro-abortion position prevailed by a far wider 68-32 margin on Tuesday.

A similar phenomenon repeated itself across the state, even in deeply conservative Sedgwick County, home to Wichita—the longtime headquarters of the anti-abortion terrorist group Operation Rescue and the city where abortion provider George Tiller was assassinated in 2009 while leaving church. Donald Trump won Sedgwick 54-43 in 2020, but "No" also won, 58-42.

Both sides spent heavily, about $6 million apiece, with half of the "Yes" funding coming from the Catholic Church. Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the leading group that worked to defeat the measure, carefully targeted its messaging: Ads in Democratic-leaning areas warned that the amendment "could ban any abortion with no exceptions," while those in more conservative parts of the state avoided mentioning abortion at all and instead decried the measure as "a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions."

Amendment supporters, meanwhile, relied on more partisan framing, blasting "unelected liberal judges appointed by pro-abortion politicians" who "ruled the Kansas constitution contains an unlimited right to abortion, making painful dismemberment abortions legal." But even though Trump won Kansas by a wide 56-41 margin just two years ago, this sort of message failed to break through.

The final result also defied the only public poll of the race, a survey from the Republican firm co/efficient that found the amendment passing by a 47-43 margin. It will also buoy activists in Kentucky, who are fighting a similar amendment in November, as well as those in Michigan, who are seeking to enshrine abortion rights into their state's constitution. And it should serve as a reminder to Democrats that protecting the right to an abortion is the popular, mainstream position in almost every part of the country.

election recaps

 Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here. Before we dive in, though, we’ll highlight that the margins may change as more votes are tabulated; indeed, we should expect considerably more ballots to be counted in both Arizona and Washington, as well as Michigan’s Wayne County.

In Maricopa County, which is home to over 60% of the Grand Canyon State’s residents, election authorities say that they’ll use Wednesday to verify signatures for any early ballots that were dropped off on Election Day and that they expect an updated vote tally by 10 PM ET/ 7 PM local time; a large amount of votes remain to be counted in the other 14 counties as well. Washington, meanwhile, conducts its elections entirely by mail, and ballots postmarked by Election Day are still valid as long as they're received within a few days.

Finally, a huge amounts of votes remain to be counted in Wayne County for a very different reason. Officials in Michigan’s most populous county said on Tuesday evening, “Based on the recommendation of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guideline 2.0 issued by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, coupled with AT&Ts decision in March 2022 to no longer support 3G modems, 65 out of 83 Counties in Michigan are no longer modeming unofficial election results.” The statement continued, “We do not have a definitive time of when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work throughout the evening and morning until this is achieved.”

 AZ-Sen (R): Former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, who picked up Trump’s endorsement in June, beat wealthy businessman Jim Lamon 39-29 for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in what will be one of the most contested Senate races in the nation.

 AZ-Gov (R): Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned far-right conspiracy theorist, leads Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson 46-44―a margin of about 11,000 votes―with just over 637,000 ballots tabulated; the Associated Press, which has not called the race, estimates that 80% of the vote has been counted so far. Lake, who trailed until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, has Trump’s endorsement, while termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey is for Robson.

 AZ-Gov (D): Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defeated former Homeland Security official Marco López in a 73-22 landslide.

 AZ-01 (R): Republican incumbent David Schweikert holds a 43-33 lead over wealthy businessman Elijah Norton with 96,000 votes in, or 82% of the estimated total. The winner will be defending a reconfigured seat in the eastern Phoenix area that, at 50-49 Biden, is more competitive than Schweikert’s existing 6th District.

 AZ-01 (D): Jevin Hodge, who lost a tight 2020 race for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, defeated former Phoenix Suns employee Adam Metzendorf 61-39.

 AZ-02 (R): Trump’s candidate, Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane, enjoys a 34-24 lead over state Rep. Walter Blackman in another uncalled race; 76,000 votes are in, which the AP says is 90% of the total. The winner will face Democratic Rep. Tom O'Halleran, who is defending a seat in northern and eastern rural Arizona that Trump would have taken 53-45.

 AZ-04 (R): In potentially bad news for the GOP establishment, self-funding restaurant owner Kelly Cooper leads former Arizona Bankers Association president Tanya Wheeless 30-25; 56,000 ballots are counted, and the AP estimates this is 82% of the total. The powerful Congressional Leadership Fund supported Wheeless, who benefited from $1.5 million in outside spending to promote her or attack Cooper. The eventual nominee will take on Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton in a reconfigured 54-44 Biden seat in the southern Phoenix suburbs.

 AZ-06 (D): Former state Sen. Kirsten Engel defeated state Rep. Daniel Hernandez 60-34 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. This new Tucson-based seat would have backed Biden just 49.3-49.2.

 AZ-06 (R): Juan Ciscomani, who is a former senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, turned back perennial candidate Brandon Martin 47-21. Ciscomani always looked like favorite to capture the GOP nod against an underfunded set of foes, though his allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund unexpectedly spent $1 million to support him in the final days of the race.

 AZ-AG (R): The GOP primary has not yet been resolved, but Trump’s pick, former prosecutor Abe Hamadeh, leads former Tucson City Councilor Rodney Glassman 32-24 with 605,000 ballots tabulated; the AP estimates that 80% of the vote is in. The winner will go up against former Arizona Corporation Commission Chair Kris Mayes, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in the contest to replace termed-out Republican incumbent Mark Brnovich.

 AZ-SoS (R): State Rep. Mark Finchem, a QAnon supporter who led the failed effort to overturn Biden's victory and attended the Jan. 6 rally just ahead of the attack on the Capitol, defeated advertising executive Beau Lane 41-25 to win the GOP nod to succeed Democratic incumbent Katie Hobbs. Trump was all-in for Finchem while Ducey backed Lane, the one candidate in the four-person primary who acknowledges Biden’s win.

 AZ-SoS (D): Former Maricopa County Clerk Adrian Fontes leads House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding 53-47 in another race that has not yet been called. A total of 467,000 ballots are in, which the AP estimates is 77% of the total vote.

 Maricopa County, AZ Attorney (R): With 328,000 votes in, appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell leads former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere 58-42 in the special election primary to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month. The winner will face Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020; this post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

 KS-AG (R): He’s back: Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated state Sen. Kellie Warren 42-38 in a tight primary to succeed Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who easily won his own GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Kobach, a notorious voter suppression zealot who lost to Kelly in a 2018 upset, will take on attorney Chris Mann, who had no Democratic primary opposition.

 MI-Gov (R): Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon won the nomination to face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by defeating wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke 41-22; Dixon picked up Trump’s endorsement in the final days of the campaign, though he only supported her when it was clear she was the frontrunner. Note that these totals don’t include write-ins, so we don’t know yet exactly how poorly former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s last-ditch effort went.

 MI-03 (R): Conservative commentator John Gibbs’ Trump-backed campaign denied renomination to freshman Rep. Peter Meijer, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment, 52-48. Meijer and his allies massively outspent Gibbs’ side, though the challenger got a late boost from Democrats who believe he’d be easier to beat in November.

Gibbs will now go up against 2020 Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten, who had no primary opposition in her second campaign. Meijer defeated Scholten 53-47 in 2020 as Trump was taking the old 3rd 51-47, but Michigan's new independent redistricting commission dramatically transformed this Grand Rapids-based constituency into a new 53-45 Biden seat.

 MI-08 (R): Former Trump administration official Paul Junge beat former Grosse Pointe Shores Councilman Matthew Seely 54-24 for the right to take on Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee. Junge lost to Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin 51-47 in the old 8th District in 2020 and decided to run here even though the old and new 8th Districts do not overlap. Biden would have carried the revamped version of this seat in the Flint and Saginaw areas 50-48.

 MI-10 (D): Former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga beat former Macomb County Health Department head Rhonda Powell 48-17 in the Democratic primary for a redrawn seat in Detroit's northeastern suburbs that's open because of the incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup in the 11th (see just below).

Marlinga will face Army veteran John James, who was Team Red's Senate nominee in 2018 and 2020, in a constituency Trump would have taken 50-49. James narrowly lost to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters within the confines of the new 10th by a 49.3-48.6 margin last cycle, but he begins this general election with a massive financial lead.

 MI-11 (D): Rep. Haley Stevens beat her fellow two-term incumbent, Andy Levin, 60-40 in the Democratic primary for a revamped seat in Detroit’s northern suburbs that Biden would have carried 59-39. Stevens represented considerably more of the new seat than Levin, whom some Democrats hoped would campaign in the 10th instead of running here; Stevens and her allies, led by the hawkish pro-Israel organization AIPAC, also massively outspent Levin’s side.

 MI-12 (D): Rep. Rashida Tlaib turned back Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey 65-20 in this safely blue seat. The AP estimates only 66% of the vote is counted because of the aforementioned delays in Wayne County, but the agency has called the contest for the incumbent.

 MI-13 (D): Wealthy state Rep. Shri Thanedar leads state Sen. Adam Hollier 28-24 with 51,000 votes tabulated in this loyally blue Detroit-based constituency, but the AP estimates that this represents only 49% of the total vote and has not made a call here.

 MO-Sen (R): Attorney General Eric Schmitt beat Rep. Vicky Hartzler 46-22 in the primary to succeed their fellow Republican, retiring Sen. Roy Blunt; disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was the other “ERIC” Trump endorsed one day before the primary, took third with only 19%. (Yet another Eric, Some Dude Eric McElroy, clocked in at 0.4%.) Republican leaders who weren’t Trump feared that the scandal-ridden Greitens could jeopardize the party’s chances in this red state if he were nominated, and Politico reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies at the Senate Leadership Fund quietly financed the main anti-Greitens super PAC.

Schmitt, though, will be the favorite against businesswoman Trudy Busch Valentine, who claimed the Democratic nod by beating Marine veteran Lucas Kunce 43-38. A onetime Republican, former U.S. Attorney John Wood, is also campaigning as an independent.

 MO-01 (D): Rep. Cori Bush turned back state Sen. Steve Roberts 70-27 to win renomination in this safely blue St. Louis seat.

 MO-04 (R): Former Kansas City TV anchor Mark Alford won the nod to succeed unsuccessful Senate candidate Vicky Hartzler by beating state Sen. Rick Brattin 35-21 in this dark red western Missouri seat. Brattin had the backing of School Freedom Fund, a deep-pocketed affiliate of the anti-tax Club for Growth, while the crypto-aligned American Dream Federal Action and Conservative Americans PAC supported Alford.

 MO-07 (R): Eric Burlison defeated fellow state Sen. Jay Wasson 38-23 to claim the nomination to replace Rep. Billy Long, who gave up this safely red southwestern Missouri seat only to come in a distant fourth in the Senate race. Burlison had the backing of both the Club for Growth and nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

 WA-03: The AP has not yet called either general election spot in the top-two primary for this 51-46 Trump seat in southwestern Washington. With 105,000 votes counted, which represents an estimated 57% of the vote, Democrat Marie Perez is in first with 32%. GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who voted for impeachment, holds a 25-20 edge over Trump’s candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent.

 WA-04: Things are similarly unresolved in this 57-40 Trump seat in eastern Washington with 74,000 votes in, which makes up an estimated 47% of the total vote. GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also supported impeaching Trump, is in first with 27%; Democrat Doug White leads Trump’s pick, 2020 GOP gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp, 26-22 for second.

 WA-08: Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier took first with 49% in this 52-45 Biden seat in suburban Seattle, but we don’t yet know which Republican she’ll be going up against. With 110,000 ballots in, or 53% of the estimated total, 2020 attorney general nominee Matt Larkin is edging out King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn 16-15; Jesse Jensen, who came unexpectedly close to beating Schrier in 2020, is in third with 13%.

 WA-SoS: Appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs easily secured a spot in the November special election, but he may need to wait a while to learn who his opponent will be. With 965,000 votes in, which the AP estimates is 47% of the total, Hobbs is in first with 41%; Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party, enjoys a 12.9-12.4 edge over a first-time GOP candidate named Bob Hagglund, while Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner is just behind with 12.2%.

Governors

 NY-Gov: Siena College's first general election poll finds Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul defeating Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin 53-39; this is the first survey from a reliable pollster since both candidates won their respective primaries in late June.

 RI-Gov: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has publicized a Lake Research Partners internal that shows her beating Gov. Dan McKee 27-22 in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary; former CVS executive Helena Foulkes takes 14%, while former Secretary of State Matt Brown is a distant fourth with just 7%. The last survey we saw was a late June poll from Suffolk University that gave Gorbea a similar 24-20 edge over the governor as Foulkes grabbed 16%.

Campaign finance reports are also now available for all the candidates for the second quarter of the year:

  • Foulkes: $550,000 raised, $1.4 million spent, $690,000 cash-on-hand
  • McKee: $280,000 raised, $140,000 spent, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Gorbea: $270,000 raised, $380,000 spent, $790,000 cash-on-hand
  • Brown: $50,000 raised, additional $30,000 reimbursed, $90,000 spent, $70,000 cash-on-hand

The only serious Republican in the running is businesswoman Ashley Kalus, who raised only a little more than $60,000 from donors during this time but self-funded another $1.7 million. Kalus spent $1.1 million, and she had that same amount available at the end of June.

House

 HI-02: While former state Sen. Jill Tokuda has far outraised her only serious intra-party rival, state Rep. Patrick Branco, ahead of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary for this open seat, outside groups have spent a total of $1 million to help Branco. One of the state representative's allies, VoteVets, recently aired an ad attacking Tokuda for receiving a 2012 endorsement from the NRA; the spot does not mention Branco, a former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat who served in Colombia and Pakistan.

Another major Branco backer is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is hoping to elect Hawaii's first Latino member of Congress. The other organizations in his corner are the crypto-aligned Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting "far-left organizations" that want to take over the Democratic Party. The only poll we've seen here was a late June MRG Research survey for Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now that put Tokuda ahead 31-6, but it was conducted before Blanco's allies began spending here.

 IL-02: Rep. Robin Kelly on Friday evening ended her bid to stay on as state Democratic Party chair after acknowledging that she did not have a majority of the Central Committee in her corner. The next day, the body unanimously chose state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who had the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, as the new party chair.

 OK-02: Fund for a Working Congress, a conservative super PAC that has gotten involved in a few other GOP primaries this cycle, has deployed $400,000 to aid state Rep. Avery Frix in his Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff against former state Sen. Josh Brecheen. The group made its move around the same time that the Club for Growth-backed School Freedom Fund dropped a larger $1.1 million to boost Brecheen.

 TN-05: Retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead has released a Spry Strategies internal that shows him trailing former state House Speaker Beth Harwell 22-20 ahead of Thursday's Republican primary for this newly-gerrymandered seat; Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles is in third with 15%, while an underfunded contender named Timothy Lee takes 10%.

Mayors

 Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday endorsed Democratic Rep. Karen Bass ahead of November's officially nonpartisan general election to lead America's second-largest city. Bass' opponent this fall is billionaire developer Rick Caruso, a former Republican and independent who is now a self-described "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."

Ad Roundup

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The GOP’s Dr. Seuss distractions couldn’t be more different than 2009 stimulus derailment strategy

We’re not in 2009 anymore. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP)—which passed with only Democratic support—makes that clear. In 2009, also in the midst of a terrible crisis, we enacted a very different economic package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The differences in content between the two are stark.

The current one is more than twice as large, delivers money directly to people who need it (rather than fruitlessly seeking bipartisan support, in part by including tax cuts which are far less effective in terms of impact), and is strikingly more progressive, more so than anything proposed by a president since LBJ, according to Ezra Klein—in particular in its approach to poverty. But equally stark is the difference between the Republican response this time versus 12 years ago.

Despite newly elected President Barack Obama’s inclusion of various elements Republicans should have supported, his 2009 stimulus package faced sustained and ruthless attacks from conservative politicians and, just as importantly, the right-wing media. At the time, the “de facto leader” of the Republican Party was Rush Limbaugh, whose audience size beat that of all his radio rivals. His assaults on the Obama stimulus package are representative of those put forth by the rest of the right-wing media ecosystem.

Day after day, the host attacked Obama’s plan—at a time when the president was immensely popular, more so than Joe Biden at a comparable point in his presidency. The Obama stimulus itself was broadly popular when it was enacted on Feb. 17, 2009, although it did not garner quite as much support as Biden’s plan does right now. Conservatives like Limbaugh made it their business to turn the American people against the bill, and not just by criticizing it on the grounds of small-government ideology. They had a good deal of success, in part because of flaws in the ARRA, but also because they were laser-focused on poisoning the discourse around it.

In addition to lying about the specifics, Limbaugh race-baited his listeners by slamming the ARRA as a “welfare payment”—a racially loaded term that conservatives going back to Ronald Reagan used as a dog whistle, to evoke stereotypical images of Black people supposedly not working while being supported by the government. The host linked the Obama plan to welfare in different ways, on numerous different broadcasts, and mentioned how “civil rights coalitions” supported the push to “redistribute” money by “taking it from you” (given that his audience was overwhelmingly white, we know who “you” referred to). He went after the bill for sending money to ACORN—which advocated for low-income folks and people of color, and worked to increase voter registration—despite the fact that the group got no money from the ARRA. Limbaugh also speculated baselessly that Al Sharpton and his group got stimulus funds.

The host also lied about the ARRA giving tax credits to “illegal aliens”—which did not happen. Additionally, he characterized the Obama stimulus as an “effort to buy votes,” and then immediately played an exchange of the president talking with a Latino student. In this and other similar segments, the host’s goal was to paint the plan as seeking to help those Black and brown people whom he depicted as wanting to avoid work. As Limbaugh told it, the ARRA was another plank in a race war fueled by Obama’s “rage”—and inspired by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Bringing it all together on June 22, 2009, the host spewed the following racist claptrap: “Everything in the stimulus plan, every plan he’s got is reparations. … Redistribution of wealth, reparations … whatever you want to call it, it’s reparations.”

Although today’s Republicans are employing different tactics in opposing Biden’s plan, some habits are hard to break. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham went after a provision aimed at helping Black farmers who suffered a century of systemic discrimination after the Civil War, using the same language as Limbaugh: “In this bill, if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven up to 120% of your loan if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African American … some other minority. But if you're (a) white person, if you're a white woman, no forgiveness! That's reparations!” House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, who hails from the same state, called Graham out: “He ought to be ashamed of himself. He knows the history in this country and he knows what has happened to Black farmers,” and added that his fellow South Carolinian ought to “go to church … Get in touch with his Christianity.”

Graham didn’t attack the overall bill in race-baiting terms, however. I’m not suggesting that’s because the 2021 version of the Republican Party has grown more enlightened on race since it fell under the sway of Donald Trump. It’s because the circumstances around the American Rescue Plan are different from those in play in 2009. Republicans haven’t stopped using racially or culturally divisive attacks as a way to distract from the unpopularity of their policy positions. It’s just that, with over half a million deaths that have affected all communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even they don’t think it’s a winning move to attack Biden’s relief bill on the same sort of race-baiting grounds, or with the same level of intensity, as they did Obama’s ARRA package.

Republicans can’t even successfully go after the ARP as “big government” overreach or for increasing the national debt, because they supported multiple COVID-19 bills last year that in total spent even more, not to mention their having busted the budget on Trump’s Rich Man’s Tax Cut in 2017. The last thing Republicans want to do is remind voters that they blew a trillion-plus dollar hole in the national debt and sent just about half of that money to the richest 5%, while Biden’s bill will put 70% of its money into the pockets of the bottom 60% of Americans by income.

Democrats must make sure voters don’t forget that. New York. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s messaging nailed it: “We should shout it from the rooftops that we are passing historic legislation that will reboot the economy and end the pandemic. They're always ready to help a big corporation or a rich person, but when a working family needs help, the Republicans tell them to drop dead.”

Even Republican mayors—32 of them in fact, from states ranging from Oklahoma to North Carolina to Indiana to Arizona to Michigan—signed on to support the Biden plan. Directly countering lies from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about “blue state bailouts,” Republican Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, stated: “This isn't because of some gross mismanagement or some bad contracts that were signed or historic deficits. This is about addressing the needs of a global pandemic that are really (for) the same constituents they serve in D.C. that we're serving here at the local level.”

For multiple reasons, including the fact that their current leader, aka Mr. Former Guy, supported the main element—a check going out to most Americans—the Republican response to the American Rescue Plan has been “more muted” than 12 years ago, and that includes the response from Trump.

The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Twice) actually slammed his once and possible future ally McConnell over his opposition to those very checks. Republicans can’t seem to get on the same page when it comes to the specifics of the ARP, so it’s hard for them to condemn it in a coherent way. Sen. McTurtle has issued a few statements rebuking the relief package, but it’s nothing compared to 2009.

Rather than go hard after the ARP in the way Limbaugh had done with the ARRA a dozen years ago, Trump all but ignored it at his biggest and best opportunity: CPAC. He devoted only two sentences to the bill during a speech lasting an hour and a half, instead spending much more time talking about the election, impeachment, and those who truly demonstrated, in the words of Luca Brasi, their “ever-ending loyalty.” As for those who didn’t, they could sleep with the fishes as far as Trump—who has himself been accused of acting like a mafia boss—was concerned.

Instead, Trump and his party made a decision to attack Biden in a very incoherent way. This is not to suggest that they don’t know what they are doing, but rather that what they are doing is not going to work. They are banking on people, when they vote in 2022, somehow not remembering how bad the situation was when Biden took office, so that Republicans can then say that the ARP didn’t really do all that much, or wasn’t necessary in the first place—as Moscow Mitch just claimed on Thursday—or was just a bunch of progressive ideas (yeah, and people like those ideas). Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is actually trying to take credit for the bill, even though he (and every other Republican) voted against it. Talk about incoherence. You know their attacks are pretty weak when they sound like this one, from Texas Sen. John Cornyn: “Unfortunately, there’s going to be a sugar high because free money is very popular … So this may be temporarily popular, but it’s going to wear thin over time.”

If you have to say twice that the bill is going to be popular, then maybe you’ve got a political problem here, senator. Republicans are already trying to “pre-deny” credit for the coming boom to Biden’s policies—even as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s analysis found that the American Rescue Plan would increase economic growth in our country by an impressive 3% over previous estimates, and would add over 1% to worldwide economic growth. That’s a Big Fucking … oh, forget it, everyone else has already used that line. It is a BFD, though.

There were a couple of other echoes of 2009 coming from conservatives. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee issued a statement in early February criticizing the increased child tax credit that ended up in the final bill as “welfare assistance.” Chris Hartline, National Republican Senatorial Committee spox, went off about Democrats not caring if stimulus checks went to undocumented immigrants. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made similar complaints, and also carped about ARP money going to incarcerated prisoners.

However, there are two problems for The Man Who Threw His Own Daughters Under The Bus: first, his proposed amendment would have blocked 2 million American citizen children from receiving stimulus checks just because their parents are undocumented. As Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip, noted: “These American kids should receive this relief just as other American kids do.” Second, the previous COVID-19 stimulus checks—the ones with the Orange Julius Caesar’s name on them—also went out to prisoners, something Cruz absolutely knew before the December COVID-19 bill was passed. Did he utter a peep about it when that bill was under discussion? I think you know the answer.

So, although conservatives have made their pro forma condemnations of the ARP, what they are actually spending the bulk of their time and energy screaming about these days reveals their fundamental strategy. Their goal is not to rile up their voters about what the president is doing—which will help just about every American—but instead distract them with totally unrelated culture war issues.

Do Fox News viewers even know about the American Rescue Act, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that passed the Senate? They might not. The network, like most right-wing media, has largely ignored the Covid-19 relief legislation, instead fixating on silly culture-war controversies involving Mr. Potato Head and Dr. Seuss. In the days leading up to the Senate vote, the network was far more concerned with the availability of Dr. Seuss’s Scrambled Eggs Super than it was with any aspect of the bill itself.

Want to guess how many times Fox mentioned Dr. Seuss just through March 3? Not one fish, and not two fish. Try 60 times, as counted by The Washington Post. Beyond the cancel culture crap, the Party of Trump has one arena of actual policy that it seems to think is worthy of more time, attention, and vitriol than COVID-19 relief: the great danger they insist is posed by transgender athletes. To his eternal credit, Florida (Man) Rep. Matt Gaetz combined two manufactured controversies in a single bank shot when, at CPAC, he quipped: “Mr. Potato Head was America’s first transgender doll and even he got canceled.” I haven’t seen anyone get this worked up about Mr. Potato Head since this guy yelled at his little nerdy buddy.

Just look at a snapshot of Fox News’ website after the ARP passed compared to that of CNN. The latter has the vitally important piece of legislation at the top, over the entire three-column page. The former leads with the Meghan Markle/Piers Morgan clash, and its largest mention of the president is in an article about how his “handlers” are, wait for it, “hidin’ Biden.” Yep, they’re still going with that campaign calumny about the guy who trounced Trump being somehow infirm.

Anything to avoid reality.

The Fox News website is an alternative universe from what the actual top news story is. pic.twitter.com/ONv5z7JE6M

— Richard W. (@IceManNYR) March 10, 2021

Why are Republicans following this strategy? After being fed political junk food for so long—especially by the demagogue who has led their party going on five years now—it’s the only thing their voters want to imbibe. These kinds of culture war attacks “unif[y] the party but expands it into the area we need to—the suburban moms, the college educated men that we struggled with in 2020, there’s common ground with these constituencies,” according to Mercedes Schlapp, who worked for the twice-impeached president. Republican strategist Matt Gorman added that such tactics represent “a cultural touchstone for folks that shows where a party's priorities are.” Famed Republican pollster Frank Luntz thinks they are “definitely” a good way to excite the right-wing base.

Daniel Cox, a researcher at the American Enterprise institute who has done extensive research about the topic, found that "concerns about cultural influence, political power and status are really overwhelming other ideological concerns on the right. Traditional conservative principles, whether it's commitment to a strong national defense or support for limited government, do not animate Republican voters." Other Republicans offered similar opinions.

Even the recently deceased Limbaugh typically used to tie his race-baiting attacks to larger ideological questions or at least policies under discussion in the moment—not that that’s praise, mind you. Now, however, the Party of Trump can’t even bother to do that, as per POLITICO: “Today, much of the fracas doesn’t even involve Biden, or his administration, or his policy agenda. Instead, it involves things like corporate decisions around kids’ toys.”

In the end, as Ron Brownstein pointed out, Republicans were unable to “ignite a grassroots backlash” against Biden's COVID-19 relief package. One Democratic pollster, Nick Gourevitch, saw a lack of passion behind the Republican attacks on the bill: “It doesn't seem like they are even really trying.” Brownstein reported that, off the record at least, a number of Republicans agreed.

For their part, the Biden White House is more than happy to put its actual policy accomplishments up against the trash the other side is throwing out there.

Joe Biden isn’t worried about culture war attacks over Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and Neanderthals. A White House official sends over a statement for our time.https://t.co/BmihkPQuDp More, w/ the great @meridithmcgraw pic.twitter.com/jWBU2ACQTE

— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) March 5, 2021

One of the criticisms leveled at Obama—including by Barack himself—was that he didn’t always do a great job advertising his own achievements to voters. The 44th president acknowledged: “We did not always think about making sure we were advertising properly what was going on,” and added that his White House should have taken more “victory laps.” His veep, now the 46th president, appears to have learned the lesson well, as evidenced by the primetime address he delivered Thursday night.

Democrats think they have a winner with the American Rescue Plan, and it looks like they know how to tell the story of what they’ve accomplished.

DNC digital team w/ a Love Actually-themed response to covid package passage. Via @Adrienne_DNC pic.twitter.com/GPGX1Lmb5z

— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 10, 2021

The most recent polling shows not only that the American people favor the bill, but also that there’s a significant class divide that portends even more danger for the Party of Trump. Overall, 41% of Republicans like the ARP, which is bad enough for them. However, among the quarter of Republicans who are lower income, that percentage is 63%.

Pew finds a huge gap in support for Biden's relief bill between lower income and upper income Republicans -- nearly two thirds of lower income Republicans support it. pic.twitter.com/SPpDXILKjV

— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) March 9, 2021

Here’s the analysis from Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld: “This GOP divide along class lines gives Democrats a real opening to both win back some blue-collar voters as well as remind some Trump voters why they were never sold on the Republican Party to begin with (thereby discouraging them from turning out next year).”

It’s easy to say that, come the next election, the bullshit will win out over substance. We are Democrats, after all, which means we often see the glass as half-empty when it comes to electoral politics. But that’s not always how it plays out. Republicans may hope that if they just yell and scream about other, unrelated topics, voters in 2022 will forget that Biden’s relief plan significantly helped just about every American finally get past this devastating pandemic.

It’s up to all of us to help Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the rest of the Democratic Party make sure voters remember who did that for them.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Lindsey Graham’s latest defense of Donald Trump is a racist attack on Kamala Harris

As Donald Trump’s second impeachment approaches, Lindsey Graham has made a series of extremely odd threats. On Tuesday, he suggested that should Democrats call a single witness, Republicans would call in the FBI to give a full accounting of how white supremacist groups had planned for weeks to carry out violent acts on Jan. 6. The reason that Graham thinks that this is a threat which should concern Democrats is because Fox News and other right-wing sources have been working hard to convince their viewers that the entire impeachment is just about things Trump said at the “Stop the Steal” rally just before the assault on the Capitol. So if anyone was doing pre-planning for the insurrection, that lets Trump off the hook. Except that’s not at all what the impeachment documents actually say. 

It’s not clear if someone actually made that point to Graham, but when he was questioned about the impeachment on Wednesday, Donald Trump’s most loyal senator was ready to voice an even more obscure response—one that involves a long-running, and racist, Republican lie. If Democrats call even a single witness to discuss events on Jan. 6, Graham promised that Republicans would turn the table and … use the impeachment trial to attack Vice President Kamala Harris.

How would anything happening on Jan. 6 relate badly on the vice president? It wouldn’t. But the statements, which Graham made—where else?—while speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News don’t actually have anything to do with the assault on the Capitol or Trump’s impeachment. As Yahoo News makes clear, Graham is really speaking to an existing Republican theme claiming that Democrats have encouraged violence by Black Lives Matter protesters.

"If you're going to pursue this, and you wanna start calling witnesses, and you want to drag this thing out, it would be fair to have Kamala Harris' tape play where she bailed people out of jail,” said Graham. “What more could you do to incite future violence, than to pay the bail of the people who broke up the shops and beat up the cops. How's that not inciting future violence? Be careful what you wish for my Democratic colleagues, be careful what you wish for."

The thing about the “Kamala Harris’ tape” is that it would be very difficult to play. Because there is no tape. Instead, there appears to be nothing behind this by a single tweet from  Harris in which she encouraged contributions to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which helps to address inequities in America’s often crushing cash bail system. Harris’ tweet was made on June 1, placing it less than a week after Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis Police, and at a time when over a hundred nonviolent protesters had been arrested. 

The claim that Harris was encouraging violence became a recurring theme on the right. In August, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted that Harris “helped violent rioters in Minnesota get out of jail to do more damage.” Donald Trump recycled that information the next day, except that Trump—as he does so often—expanded on the lie to make it not just about Harris, but “thirteen members of Biden’s campaign staff” as well as “his running mate, Kamala” bailing “rioters” and “looters” out of jail.

Now, almost six months later, Graham is reviving this claim against Harris as if it represents some sort of defense of Trump. It’s a mirror of how Republicans have been reacting to criticism of QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene by waggling fingers at Rep. Ilhan Omar. In both cases, Republicans are trying to equate racism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacist violence with Black Americans asking for justice. 

As The Washington Post pointed out back in September, this whole line of attack isn’t just racist, it’s also simply wrong. Of the 170 arrested in connection with the protests between Floyd’s murder and the date of Harris’ tweet, 167 were released without bail or with only a small fee. About a third were arrested without charges. Minnesota Freedom Fund definitely benefited from the attention, and their contributions went way up. But it seems that none of the money actually went to bail out anyone charged with either rioting or looting. Some of the money collected did later go toward people charged with serious crimes, even murder. But that’s an indictment of the cash bail system, and the massive inequality it generates in the justice system. It’s not a mark against Kamala Harris.

In any case, what Graham is proposing is the kind of testimony that would not be allowed in any court. It’s pointing a false finger of blame at someone else in a completely different situation. It’s a third grade idea of justice where “she did it too” is supposed to be an excuse for doing something wrong.

On top of all that, Graham’s finger pointing at Harris is deeply racist. Not only is it built on false racist claims about protesters in Minnesota, it’s absolutely no coincidence that Graham was signaling toward Harris and not other people who have been vocal about the need to abolish the cash bail system—including President Biden.

Unable to defend Greene, Republicans have resorted to attacking Omar or Maxine Waters, as Republican leader Kevin McCarthy did in his statement on Tuesday evening. Unable to defend Trump, Graham instead lodged a completely false claim at Kamala Harris. 

Those targets are not a coincidence.

Republicans still fighting results of 2020 election, refusing to allow Democratic Senate to organize

It's now February and nearly a full month since the Jan. 5 election in Georgia that flipped the Senate to Democrats. At least nominally—the body is split 50-50 and the weight goes to Democrats because they can bring in Vice President Kamala Harris as necessary, so they've got the majority. But the Senate still hasn't passed the organizing resolution to finalize all that and, critically, hand the keys of the committees over to the Democrats.

Why? Sen. Dick Durbin says it’s Sen. Mitch McConnell. "He's the key to it," Durbin told CNN's Manu Raju after an infuriating exchange of tweets and letters Durbin has had with the abhorrent Lindsey Graham, who is the pretender in the Judiciary Committee chair. Technically, the committee doesn't have a chair. The committee doesn't have members, not until the organizing resolution passes. But habit is keeping the gavel in Graham's hand, and he's refusing to schedule a hearing for President Biden's nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland. Durbin went public with his frustration Monday afternoon tweeting out a plea and a letter to Graham to schedule the damned confirmation hearing on Feb. 8.

To which Graham replied in his typical pissy, hypocritical way. In other words, no, he's not going to extend even a bit of consideration or courtesy, and he's going to be a condescending and patronizing ass in "explaining" why. "Your request is highly unusual," he says. Then he blames it on impeachment and goes through three paragraphs of lecture about committee procedure. Which Durbin knows. Well.

The committee has reams of background material on Garland and has had it since 2016, the last time Republicans were assholes about this particular—completely qualified and non-controversial—nominee, that time for the even more important job on the Supreme Court. 

This might be McConnell and team exacting revenge for their embarrassing loss in filibustering the organizing resolution to keep the filibuster. They're dragging this out as long as they can, though talks among staff have reportedly been "productive." Soon, aides say, maybe as soon as Tuesday. But no one is giving a deadline.

At this point, Biden should just start threatening to name all his nominees who haven't yet had hearings "acting" directors and Schumer should try to force them onto the floor without committee hearings. It would take unanimous consent, but it would also highlight the fact that Republicans are still fighting the results of the 2020 election by refusing to allow Biden to complete his government and the Senate to fully function.

Schumer, McConnell working out how to handle 50-50 Senate, but Democrats have most control

The first duty for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday once she’s officially Vice President Harris will be to swear in Alex Padilla, the successor to her Senate seat in California. She could also be swearing in Georgia's new senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, though that's a bit uncertain, depending on when Georgia can finish up certification of the election. (The deadline is Friday, but they're moving faster.) With that, Sen. Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader and Mitch McConnell has more time to cook up plots to stymie the Biden administration and Schumer. Officially, the two have determined a power-sharing agreement based on the precedent set in the 2001 Senate, which also split 50-50.

That agreement is expected to give Schumer and committee chairs the power of setting the schedule. The committee assignments will be split evenly, but Democrats will chair and have the power to set the agenda on committees. Tied committee votes on legislation or on nominations will probably default to the Democrats and advance to the floor, where Harris would be able to break ties. This agreement is roughly what staff has worked out thus far; the leaders are set to meet Tuesday to ink the final organizing resolution that will determine all that. They also need to work out the logistics of the coming impeachment trial of Donald Trump and coordinating that with the urgent votes on President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees. One old Senate hand, Jim Manley, has heard—presumably from contacts in the leadership team—that the staff negotiations "did not go as smoothly as published reports suggested." So it could be a rather interesting meeting. On the whole, though, procedural experts are saying, "Don't panic."

Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid and procedure guru tweeted: "it's fine. If Dems control the floor and gavels, and ties in committees advance bills or nominations to the floor, those are the powers that come with majority control." It's inconceivable that Schumer gives that away, and it would go against the 2001 precedent. "The functional reality of the Senate will not be noticeably different under this than it'd be if Democrats had a bigger majority," Jentleson continued. The two leaders, Schumer and McConnell, will hash out the organizing resolution that determines all this. It will require 60 votes to pass and could be subject to filibuster if someone really wants to raise hell—presumably Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.

There are other outstanding questions about things like subpoena power, but those things will be determined by the committees and the power-sharing agreements worked out by them, which can also change as the committee moves along depending on how much the committee chair wants it. At Judiciary in the past couple of years, Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to ignore committee rules or change them on the fly to shove through Trump nominees.

There will be complications because Republicans are awful, and Mitch McConnell. The even split gives the so-called moderates—Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins—outsized power. There is, however, always the threat that Democrats will get so frustrated with obstruction that even Manchin will get to the point of nuking the last vestiges of the filibuster. Both Schumer and McConnell are going to be counting on 100% loyalty among their members, and they're going to be counting on 100% attendance to succeed with their agendas, and neither can probably expect it. But as it stands now, the arrangement shaping up between the leaders is standard and not yet anything to get worked up over.

Your blow-by-blow recap of the mute-button presidential debate, with a little help from Twitter

No matter what happens, this is Donald Trump’s last presidential debate. That’s the straw American voters grasped at Thursday night ahead of the final showdown between the impeached and infected Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. This debate—the second of what was supposed to be three—was broadcast live from Belmont University in Nashville, moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, and followed the same format as the first debate on Sept. 29, which absolutely everyone absolutely hated. As the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced in September:

The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Of course, that was before Trump reminded the nation why he absolutely has to go. The first debate was, as CNN’s Dana Bash said just moments after it ended, “a shitshow.” (Jake Tapper called it a “hot mess inside of a dumpster fire” moments later.) It was undeniable. Trump’s inability to let Biden or moderator Chris Wallace get a word in forced the CPD to declare that “additional structure” was needed for the debates to follow. On Oct. 19, the CPD revealed that “structure” looked like a mute button. Unfortunately for all of us, muting was only permitted during the initial two minutes granted to each candidate at the top of the six segments. Trump’s been whining about it ever since, perhaps because interrupting Biden at every turn was the Trump campaign’s only game plan. After all, the superspreader-in-chief faces scrutiny from a nation that watched him fail to keep his campaign promises on a massive scale, an electorate who’s seen him fumble just about every chance he had to move our nation forward, and, of course, a country left to fend for itself in the face of a deadly pandemic.

As always, I watched every single second of this debate so you didn’t have to. Let’s go.

It’s important to vote out Trump, but his election goes far past replacing the tyrant in the White House. Will you chip in $5 or more to help our entire slate of Democrats? We’re in the homestretch, and we’re in it together!

Welker announced six topics on Oct. 16. The Today Show weekend anchor and White House correspondent offered these points of focus: fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership. Most of these subjects were tackled in some form in the first debate and subsequent dueling town halls, but “American families” and “leadership” are pretty vague, so this should be interesting, assuming the candidates don’t pull a Pence and just answer completely different questions than those asked. We all know that Trump is lagging in the polls and that his campaign is broke, but more importantly, we know he’d rather talk about anything but COVID-19, and would love to focus on debunked Hunter Biden nonsense, insist that helping our nation’s poorest will destroy the suburbs, and yell about either Leslie Stahl or Hillary’s emails. Trump, through spokeswoman Alyssa Farah, announced his intentions on the morning of the debate; it’s clear he started the day determined to showcase the obsession that got him impeached.

WH director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah previewed this evening’s presidential debate saying Trump will answer the questions he wants to answer and “whether it’s asked or he has the opportunity to bring it up, he’s going to get into this issue of Hunter Biden.”

— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) October 22, 2020

I hate this debate already. Send chocolate.

A few minutes late, a maskless and angry Trump walked onto the stage, while a cheerful Biden emerged from his mask.

here we go pic.twitter.com/Ob4bMFuyaL

— Lauren Chou (@lauren_chou) October 23, 2020

After a polite explanation about the mute button, Trump got the first question.

The moderator just had to read all the rules of the debate like it’s kindergarten because the President of the United States is a child. #Debates2020

— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 23, 2020

THE CORONAVIRUS

Trump was asked how he’d navigate the next stage of the global pandemic. Trump kicked off by listing the number of people who didn’t die.

"You're lucky I didn't kill more of you" is quite an answer #Debates2020

— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) October 23, 2020

He then flaunted manipulated statistics and lies about surging states and boasts of his own recovery from the virus. He then claimed that other heads of states called him to congratulate him on his performance. He finished by promising a vaccine was coming within weeks and echoing his new refrain about “rounding the curve.” So, he didn’t answer the question.

We are not rounding any "turn" on the pandemic. It’s a vague claim, but it’s just wrong. Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are rising. Deaths are now starting to rise again, too. Most states are doing worse this week than they did last week. pic.twitter.com/y1pr4V9SXW

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) October 23, 2020

Trump smirked as Biden somberly stated, “220,000 Americans dead.” He then noted Trump’s refusal to take any responsibility for those deaths and declared that he didn't deserve to be president.

"Anybody who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America." - @JoeBiden #Debates2020 #PresidentialDebate2020

— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) October 23, 2020

He shot holes in Trump’s comparison of the U.S. to Europe, warned of at least 200,000 more deaths, entreated people to wear masks, and insisted that Trump has no plan before launching into his own: rapid testing, mask encouragement, and figuring out how to craft plans and direct resources to schools and businesses so that they can re-open safely and successfully. Trump, remarkably, kept quiet the entire time.

"The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks, the president’s own advisers have told him, we could save 100,000 lives...The president thus far still has no plan." —@JoeBiden #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/r930gLOudj

— CAP Action (@CAPAction) October 23, 2020

Welker wanted to know more about the promise of a vaccine “within weeks.”

Debate moderator Kristen Welker exposes @realdonaldtrump for the fraud he is. After claiming that a vaccine would be ready "in weeks," Trump backtracks saying that it's not a guarantee. #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/IjoofogRN8

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump then named names of companies that were on their way. Welker pointed out that his own administration says that it will take months, and asked him if he was being realistic. Trump insisted his timeline was “more accurate,” and implied his own experts didn’t know about his plan to use the military to distribute “a hundred million” vials of a vaccine.

Trump keeps saying the coronavirus will “soon be gone.” If you vote, Trump will soon be gone. #Debates2020

— Rep. Lloyd Doggett (@LloydDoggettTX) October 23, 2020

Biden was asked how he’d help Americans have confidence in a vaccine once approved, citing that 40% of Americans said they have no plans to take one. The former vice president noted the need to be transparent about the approval process. He warned of a “dark winter,” and reminded the audience that Trump said that the pandemic would be over by Easter 2019.

MUST WATCH fact check from @jaketapper on Trump's #COVID lies during the debate: "The president has been lying about the coronavirus pandemic since February." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/dhELfVv1VE

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 23, 2020

Trump touted his “China Ban” that wasn’t a ban and brought up Biden’s critiques of it as being xenophobic, before veering into H1N1.

Trump seems upset that 700,000 people didn't die from H1N1

— Joe Sudbay (@JoeSudbay) October 23, 2020

Biden didn’t bother replying to the H1N1 nonsense, then reiterated that Trump is xenophobic and noted that Trump didn’t send scientists to China and praised Xi Jinping.

Trump replied by spending a long time talking about Biden living in his basement, made a hint about Biden making his money in a questionable way before hinting that Biden made his money in shady ways.

Trump's debate prep is just reading through his own Twitter feed

— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) October 23, 2020

He then lamented having to see Gold Star families before pointing out that young people recover quickly and declaring that if we don’t reopen the nation, we won’t have a nation.

I believe Trump wants to win the election more than anything in the world, but I do not believe Trump wants to be President of the United States at all

— Jay Willis (@jaywillis) October 23, 2020

Welker deftly slipped in a quick fact-check, noting that young people can get COVID-19 and pass it to others. She began to ask Biden a question about pandemic strategy before Biden became the first to challenge the moderator. He asked to respond to Trump’s statement that people are “learning to live with it,” by stating that we’re learning to die with it. He then repeated that Trump refuses to take responsibility for any of it.

Trump then did his signature “excuse me” without waiting to be excused and offered his first Trumpian quote of the night.

Trump just now: "I take full responsibility: It's not my fault that it came here, it's China's fault."

— Kerry Eleveld (@kerryeleveld) October 23, 2020

He then blamed China for containing it within its borders but not from spreading across the planet. Biden repeated the “whole range of things,” all wrong, that Trump said to Americans. Trump again brought up Biden’s “xenophobic” critique, and Biden basically gave it a half-hearted rebuttal.

Welker asked Biden about the economic and social impact of a shutdown. Biden vowed to “shut down the virus, not the country.” He noted that Trump’s ineptitude was the reason people were suffering, not the shutdowns. He then insisted that Trump should have been working with Pelosi to get relief to people. Trump mocked Biden for talking about shutdowns too much and rattled off attacks at states with Democratic governors.

Donald Trump is running to be president of the red states. Joe Biden is running to be President of the United States.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 23, 2020

He also declared that Barron, his son with his third wife, recovered from COVID-19 quickly, painting it as a miracle.

Shouldn’t they mute him when he tells wild lies about a pandemic that has killed more than 200k Americans

— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) October 23, 2020

Biden again repeated that cities and states needed resources to reopen safely, bringing up school ventilation systems as an example. Trump bashed New York as a ghost town where nobody wants to live and repeated several talking points this writer recognized as almost verbatim from his 60 Minutes interview that he leaked today.

NEW YORK IS A GHOST TOWN???!! LMAO BITCH HELLO FROM QUEENS WE JUST WENT FROM ORANGE TO YELLOW, PEOPLE ARE OUT & ABOUT & THRIVING, FUCK YOU

— porochista khakpour (@PKhakpour) October 23, 2020

Biden continued to talk basic strategy and pointing out Trump’s aversion to it.

Trump brought up and bashed as many Democratic governors in swing states as he could—Michigan and Pennsylvania—and Biden brought up Wall Street. Trump attempted to paint Biden as owned by Wall Street while simultaneously claiming he controlled Wall Street. Biden slipped in that his average contribution was $43 before Welker declared the topic completed.

ELECTION SECURITY

Biden was up first and asked about new reports that multiple nations are interfering in our election. Biden brought up that Trump has done nothing to stop Vladimir Putin of Russia, and brought up the way that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been duped by Russia. He then vowed to lay down the law on American adversaries.

Instead of letting Welker ask a question, Trump lived up to his vow to answer the questions that he want, and used his time to first insist he’s hard on Russia before diving into his big goal of painting the Biden family as a corrupt crime family with emails and millions of dollars, all procured from Russia and China. After referencing an unnamed person who had a press conference where unspecified accusations were made, demanded that Biden answer his accusation.

Oh god no don't do the Russia shit #debate #Debates2020

— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) October 23, 2020

Biden denied everything before launching into Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, noting that he’s released all of his. Trump insisted that his accountants told him that he “prepays” all of his taxes, and that’s why he doesn’t pay any taxes. Welker asked him when he’d release his returns, and Trump played the victim, claiming that he “gets treated worse than the tea party,” and is only being audited because he ran for president.

Biden has released his tax returns, so we know he didn't receive $3.5 million from Russia. Trump hasn't released his tax returns, so we have no idea how much money he gets from Russia. And he never disclosed his secret Chinese bank account.#Debates2020

— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) October 23, 2020

He then shifted into a nonsensical mafia narrative where Biden is known as “The Big Man” and gets 10% of all his sons’ schemes.

You’re in bed with Russia! No YOU’RE in bed with Russia!#Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/LUf056uh1e

— ❥ Nicoco (@PetiteNicoco) October 23, 2020

Biden repeated his demand that Trump release his returns, and Trump repeated his accusations of corruption, painting himself as a victim due to being impeached and hinted at some dirt on Biden’s brother and Iraq.

Welker jumped in before Biden could reply, and asked Biden if there was any truth to the allegations. Biden said there was not, and pointed out that the only bad deeds going on was Trump trying to get dirt that didn’t exist. Trump rattled off some numbers, Biden reiterated that no wrongdoing was found.

Welker asked about the Chinese banking recently uncovered by The New York Times and Trump told a story about how there’s nothing wrong at all with anything he did. Trumpian “excuse me” steamrollers went right over Welker before she insisted on moving on, asking Biden what he’d do to China if elected.

Biden vowed to make China play by the rules and use proper policy to punish them if they do not, instead of Trump’s stupid tariffs. He brought up North Korea, and when Welker went to ask about it to Trump, he rolled over Welker again to hint at Biden crime family nonsense, and Welker actually stopped him to ask about his own policies with China. Trump insisted that his tariffs and sanctions were effective, netted billions of dollars and helped farmers. When Biden pointed out that taxpayers bailed out farmers, Trump claimed China is the taxpayer.

Pres. Trump: "I just gave $28 billion to our farmers." Biden: "Taxpayers' money." "It's what?" "Taxpayers' money. It didn't come from China." https://t.co/zkoTdi6727 #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/T5X1vpvIai

— ABC News (@ABC) October 23, 2020

When Welker finally asked Trump about his relationship with North Korea, Trump claimed Barack Obama told him war was imminent, but he became buddies with Kim Jong Un and that’s why there’s no war. Biden explained North Korean policy under Obama and why it was good policy. Trump insisted that Jong Un just didn’t like Obama. Biden pointed out that was because Obama wanted to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Trump said Obama left him “a mess” before Welker moved onto health care.

HEALTH CARE

Welker asked Trump about his administration’s current effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, and what happens if they win? Trump railed about how terrible Obamacare is and how overturning the individual mandate made it something totally different but it’s still terrible and needs to be replaced by his nonexistent plan which totally always was going to cover preexisting conditions, totally always was going to cover them. He then said Biden would create socialized medicine. Biden was asked the same question. Pointing out that it put him at odds with most of the Democratic primary candidates, Biden vowed to create Obamacare with a public option, which would reduce prescription prices, let people keep their private insurance, and protect preexisting conditions. He clarified that it’s not the next step to fully socialized medicine as Trump always claims, pointed out that providing health care for all will help businesses. Trump, who was obviously communicating with someone in the audience, then leaned into “47 years in government” taunting of Biden, and insisted that his running mate Kamala Harris is “more liberal than Bernie Sanders” before bringing up fracking. He then thanked Welker for her “handling” of things before telling her to ask a question she did not let him finish.

A picture from my mom and dad - the only way they can watch the debates #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/uLaCVK4Xp6

— D'Arcy Carden (@DarcyCarden) October 23, 2020

Trump then repeated his fearmongering about socialism before Biden joked that he must be confused about who he’s running against. Biden then boasted that he won the nomination because he beat all the other candidates.

THE ECONOMY

Trump, deciding he was done with health care, brought up how stocks boomed under him. Trump vaguely accused Biden of harming Social Security somewhere in time, and also said Biden is not “really” from Scranton, in addition to insisting he’s the savior of the stock market and everyone’s 401(k).

Donald Trump: @JoeBiden isn't from Scranton. Scranton: pic.twitter.com/LMZnx4KK33

— Bob Casey Jr. (@Bob_Casey) October 23, 2020

Welker then brought up the struggles Americans are facing under the COVID-19-fueled recession, and asked Trump why he’s not helped. Trump blamed Pelosi. Welker asked Biden why he’s not pushed Democrats to make a deal, and Biden pointed out that the HEROES Act has been withering on the vine for months, and could have helped cities, counties, and states—teachers, firefighters, first responders—while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up.

OMG Biden just reminded me that McConnell said "Let 'em go bankrupt," THIS YEAR. Losing track of time and tragic failure of the GOP-led Senate. We need the Heroes Act yesterday. #Debates2020

— Dorian Warren (@dorianwarren) October 23, 2020

Trump insisted that the HEROES Act was horrible and benefited blue states and illegal immigrants. Biden fired back that he’s a proud Democrat but will be an American president and it shouldn’t be about the politics of each state’s leadership.

Welker then asked about the fight to raise the minimum wage, and asked if this was the right time to do so. Biden said it was, because we need to help businesses. Trump claimed it be a state choice, insisting that $15 would kill small businesses. Biden said there’s no data that supports that myth.

IMMIGRATION

Welker then asked Trump about the recent news that Homeland Security has lost track of the parents of over 500 children separated at the border. Trump then blamed the baby cages on Obama before saying that his administration was looking for these parents, and wrongly implying that the children came to the country alone. Biden was disgusted and fact-checked Trump: The children were with their parents when they got here.

Trump refused to address the actual question and repeated his blaming of Obama for baby cages, claiming that his administration put migrant children in lavish digs.

"It looked like a literal prison camp"@JoyAnnReid talks about visit to facility in Tornillo, Texas, that held migrant children, after "zero tolerance" policy was discussed at #Debates2020. pic.twitter.com/mZcbjMsoEP

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 23, 2020

Welker asked Biden why voters should trust him to overhaul the immigration system. He vowed to create a path to citizenship, particularly for DACA recipients. Trump cited his own overhaul, saying that Biden had eight years to fix the system as vice president. Trump then celebrated his end of “catch and release” before blaming Obama for baby cages again.

The thing I appreciate about Joe Biden right now is that he looks just as disgusted with 🍊 as we are.

— Karla Monterroso (@karlitaliliana) October 23, 2020

RACE IN AMERICA

Welker asked Biden to speak to families of color, who have to have “The Talk” with their children to teach them about the dangers of police that they face as people of color, regardless of their economic class. Biden noted that his daughter is a social worker before stating that there is systemic racism in this country. He then ran through a bulleted list of places where people of color need investment, including education and small businesses.

After bringing up the 1994 Crime Bill and “super predators,” Trump insisted that he’s the best president for Black people since Lincoln—and implied that he might outrank Lincoln, actually.

“I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump says to Kristen Welker, the first black woman to moderate a presidential debate.

— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) October 23, 2020

He then claimed liberals cried in his office in gratitude for his work with prison reform and HBCUs, and giving Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in the Senate a shoutout.

Black people have concerns beyond the criminal justice system. Goodness. This is so tiring.

— Amara Omeokwe (@TheAmaraReport) October 23, 2020

Biden then denied the “super predator” accusation and pointed out that the Obama administration pardoned (checks calculator) nearly 500 times as many people as Trump has. Trump then asked why Biden didn’t fix everything when he was vice president before saying that he only ran in 2016 because of him and Barack Obama.

Biden contrasted himself against Trump directly to the American people and explained his plan to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. Trump immediately went back to his accusations of Biden family corruption and “the laptop” before Welker, who was done playing around, pulled it back to the topic at hand: race.

Reading several of Trump’s many racist acts to him, she asked him why people should trust him. Trump used his time to insist he’s not racist and disparage Black Lives Matter as people who wanted to kill cops.

Donald Trump - "I'm the least racist person in the room." Trump is not even the least racist person in a room that he's in by himself.#Debates2020 #DebateTonight

— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) October 23, 2020

Biden made an Abraham Lincoln joke at Trump’s expense that Trump pretended he didn’t get, all the better to launch into how not-racist he is, and how he is the best thing Black people have ever seen, and to bring up the 1994 Crime Bill again.

Fact Check: Donald Trump is correct when he says he’s not Abraham Lincoln

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 23, 2020

Biden took responsibility, among with the entire Senate, for the Crime Bill, and expressed regret, particularly for the disparity in cocaine sentences. Trump kept asking why Biden didn’t fix the criminal justice system when he was vice president. In an awkward moment, Biden blamed the Republican Congress, and Trump said he should have convinced them. With that, it was time for

CLIMATE CHANGE

Welker, after pointing out the candidates’ very different visions to combat climate change, asked Trump why his was better. Trump spent most of his two minutes talking about a trillion trees and bashing Obama, but claimed none of it matters since the U.S. can’t force Russia or China or India to do anything.

"India is filthy" Wow. Wonderful. Great way to win over Indian Americans, Trump. Genius.#Debates2020

— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@WajahatAli) October 23, 2020

He also declared that the Paris Climate Accord was horrible.

Biden solemnly addressed the real crisis that is our destruction of this planet, laid out a detailed plan to combat climate change, and Trump decided to take aim at The Squad, who he calls “AOC Plus Three,” and accused Biden of wanting to knock down all the buildings with big windows and replace them with buildings that have tiny windows.

AOC +3 is a great girl group name

— John Manuel Arias (@johnmanuelarias) October 23, 2020

Biden laughed the entire time, and dismissed Trump entirely before insisting that the nation could grow and be cleaner under his plan. Trump attacked windmills and solar power with some absolute gobsmacking lies that have nothing to do with science or reality. He tried to get to fracking but Biden jumped in, insisting he’s never been against it. Trump said Biden will turn against fracking because the party said so.

The segment on the urgency of climate change has morphed into a conversation of who loves fracking more, which will be great to show children in 50 years to explain what happened.

— Taniel (@Taniel) October 23, 2020

Trump was then asked about his plans to fight environmental racism. Trump insisted that people of color are all working, and then essentially said he hadn’t heard of environmental racism before bragging about how we don’t get our oil from other countries anymore, proving he’d absolutely missed the point.

It’s actually AOC plus 115 because that’s how many House and Senate members have cosponsored the most ambitious climate legislation in American history.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 23, 2020

Biden, by contrast, spoke to the “fence line” communities that bear the brunt of oil pollution. Trump—not the actual moderator—then asked Biden if he’d shut down the oil industry, and Biden answered him, saying that he’d transition us out of it. Trump then said “he’s gonna shut down the oil industry” and named battleground states like Texas and Ohio, telling them to “remember that” in a desperate ploy for votes.

LAST QUESTION, LAST DEBATE

For the final question, Welker asked each candidate what they would say to people who didn’t vote for them in their inaugural address.

Trump blamed China for the pandemic again before insisting that everyone loved him before it, and bashed about what a horrible president Biden would be. Biden took his time to call himself an “American president” who represents everyone, and vowed to improve conditions for the whole country. He slipped in an entreaty for voters to remember what’s on the ballot and then, thankfully, it was over.

I hope someone immediately ran to give Kristin Welker a drink, candy bar, seltzer, whatever she wants. #Debates2020

— Jess the Writer (@jesilfa) October 23, 2020

It was time for the wives to join the candidates on the stage.

Melania yanks her hand away from Trump. (Spotted by @WalnutDust) pic.twitter.com/NHDzoYfSuT

— The Recount (@therecount) October 23, 2020

Daniel Dale will be working hard tonight.

CNN Factchecker/masochist Daniel Dale on Trump: "This was just a bombardment of dishonesty, much of what we heard before at his campaign rallies about subjects big and small, important stuff like the pandemic, about Biden's policies, about his own record." #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/wwOJC8GNvV

— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) October 23, 2020

And me? I never ever have to do another Donald Trump debate Twitter recap for the rest of my life. 

Your blow-by-blow recap of the only vice presidential debate, with a lot of help from Twitter

Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris descended upon Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday for the lone debate between the two people vying to be the nation’s No. 2. The debate about the debate has been particularly fraught in recent days, after at least 27 people nearly three dozen people (including Donald Trump)—in the White House, the military, the press, and the upper echelon of the anti-mask, pro-reopening Republican Party— have tested positive for the highly contagious and dangerous novel coronavirus. Pence’s handlers reported at least two negative COVID-19 tests, and insist he doesn’t owe it to anyone to quarantine, despite attending the Hug and Smooch Rose Garden Superspreader event on Sept. 26. So adamant was Team Pence that there was no cause for concern or cancellation, they actually managed to turn the presence of a Plexiglass barrier into a debate death hill for most of Tuesday, before ultimately agreeing to requests that both nominees and moderator Susan Page sit behind them. The barriers were the most visible tweak to the debate stage, in addition to an increased distance of 12 feet, 3 inches between the nominees’ desks.

Despite the Plexiglass and Trump’s COVID-19 case dominating most recent discussions of the veep debate, an interesting event awaited the limited in-person audience—who the Commission of Presidential Debates (CPD) swore, for realsies this time, would all be wearing masks. It’s not a stretch to expect both Pence and Harris to run for the top spot in 2024, and both are seasoned politicians with plenty of experience on both debate stages and in courtrooms. Pence’s biggest job? Defending the indefensible, infected man who wishes he could sign Pence’s paychecks with a Sharpie; defending Trump’s failures, his controversies, and his classlessness, while attempting to simultaneously convince American voters that Pence is the grown-up in the room, but also that no such grown-up is necessary. Harris, on the other hand, needed to shred Trump (let us count the ways) and do no harm to her running mate—particularly as the Biden-Harris ticket continues to skyrocket in the polls. She’ll likely face some low blows from Pence and the peanut gallery, due to her gender, her race, and Pence’s deeply ingrained, wooden, and purportedly faith-based misogyny.  Let’s do this.

The debate was 90 minutes long, with not one break, just as the CPD warned us last month.

The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Unlike Chris Wallace, who moderated the “shitshow” known as the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, USA Today’s Page did not release her list of topics in advance. Like Wallace, Page will not be fact-checking the nominees in real-time.

Harris has been preparing with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg standing in for fellow Indiana Hoosier Pence, while Pence recruited impeachment attorney Pam Bondi to play Harris in his own debate prep, which makes no damn sense. However, all signs indicate that Mayor Pete and Momala weren’t playing around during their mock debates.

Pete Buttigieg - Fox News might not let you back after you destroyed their set like that 😂#Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/pWyCvBwxjo

— Nerdy Pursuit (@nerdypursuit) October 8, 2020

And just a few minutes after 9 PM ET, we were off. Page kicked things off by showing off the small but socially distant crowd, the Plexiglass, and insisting people would have to keep their masks on. The nominees came out to cheers and promptly took a seat. Pence had a noticeably red eye.

His eye is getting noticeably worse. pic.twitter.com/ZFooDFAOH8

— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) October 8, 2020

Page sent thoughts and prayers to Trump and Melania, then vowed to enforce the rules that the campaigns and commissions had agreed to, and demanded a civil event.

2020: When All Good Things Are Indefinitely Postponed But Somehow We’re On Our Second Indoor Debate

— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) October 8, 2020

COVID-19 IS NOT UNDER CONTROL

Page asked Harris how January and February 2021 under Biden-Harris would look different than under Trump-Pence. After reciting the grave statistics that face us now, Harris turned back to what the White House knew in January. She promised that the difference would be that Joe Biden has a plan, while the Trump administration did not. As her time ran out, Harris insisted that Trump-Pence had “forfeited” the right to be reelected.

Pence was up next, and Page pointed out that the U.S. death toll (as a percentage of population) was higher than that of any other wealthy country, and asked him, quite simply, why. After a string of platitudes to the University of Utah, Page, and Harris, Pence said Trump was working hard from day one, and leaned into the “China travel ban” that wasn’t actually a ban, predictably bringing up Biden’s critique of that move as xenophobic. After admitting that he’s the head of the coronavirus task force, Pence boasted of testing rates and protective equipment delivery, as well as vaccine development, before he accused Biden of plagiarizing Trump’s plan. 

Harris fired back that the administration’s efforts hadn’t worked, before laying failures at Pence’s feet as the head of the task force. She brought up Trump’s infamous interviews with Bob Woodward, noting that the president kept his knowledge of both the deadliness of COVID-19 and the virus’ fast transmission quiet—so that Americans would stay calm. The crosstalk began immediately, and Harris won 15 seconds to look into the camera and ask Americans how calm they were as they navigated pandemic realities like not seeing their family, kids being stuck home from school, or not being able to find toilet paper. 

Pence looked into the camera and claimed he cared about people before he said Harris’ characterization of the administration’s handling of the virus thus far was an insult to Americans. He then claimed that Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx told them months ago that if they did “everything right,” they might still lose over 200,000 people. Pence then made a huge deal of standing up for the American people in the face of Harris’ assessment of his own failures, continuing to attempt to frame her delivery of facts about his and Trump’s failures as attacks against Americans. 

Page then asked Pence about his attendance at the maskless Rose Garden super spreader event on Sept. 26, and asked how the White House expected Americans to follow the rules while their leadership did not. Pence launched into a speech about how much he and Trump trust “the American people” (cue new debate drinking game) and mocked Biden and Harris for not trusting or respecting them.

Kamala Harris has the best “I can’t believe this bullshit right HERE” face I have ever seen

— Chris Redd (@Reddsaidit) October 8, 2020

Harris pointed out that “respecting the American people” requires telling them the truth when allowing them to make their own decisions. Pence attempted to interrupt but was denied soundly by Page. After a somewhat friendly exchange where Page apologized for calling Sen. Harris “Kamala,” Page asked if Harris would take a vaccine. She vowed to be first in line … if the scientists said it was safe, but not if Trump claimed it was.

THESE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE REALLY OLD

Pence was up first, but he railroaded Page and turned back to the vaccine, insisting that Harris was attempting to undermine confidence in it. He then circled back to Harris’ use of the word “failure,” and brought up H1N1, aka the Swine Flu, and spewed random numbers of people who did not die of it. His time was up, and he had not answered the actual question posed to him. This is how Pence debates.

The split screen suddenly became the great equalizer of the debate.

pic.twitter.com/BSPNsAlxtt

— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) October 8, 2020

Throughout the night, Harris silently voiced her thoughts on Pence’s evasive nonsense and lies.

LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/d4kyMwVci4

— amorphous (@loneamorphous) October 8, 2020

Harris was given the full time to address Page’s actual question: Have you discussed with Biden what happens in the face of presidential disability, and should you? Harris focused on the history she’s made and the day Biden called her to ask her to be his running mate. 

TRANSPARENCY IS EVERYTHING

Pence was up first, and was asked if voters deserved access to detailed information about Trump’s health. He rambled about how much sympathy and kindness Trump received while hospitalized and congratulated Harris on her nomination, but didn’t answer the question. 

Every woman I know has given this look when some man attempts to mansplain or present an idea that isn’t theirs. #VPDebate pic.twitter.com/l02K8eIzO4

— Jamira Burley (@JamiraBurley) October 8, 2020

Harris was next, and focused on the importance of transparency, zooming in on Trump’s appalling tax returns and massive amount of debt, so that Americans know whether his self-interest is fueling his decisions. She reiterated the need for transparency and Biden’s commitment to it. 

Pence jumped in with a “47 years in Washington” dig at Biden before praising Trump for being a businessman and job creator, who turned the economy around. Page attempted to silence him but he just. kept. talking.

THE ECONOMY IS HURTING

Page thanked Pence for the segue into the next topic, and dropped startling—and recent—statistics and bad news from the job market. She asked if the Biden-Harris jobs plan and tax increases would stifle the economic recovery. Harris pointed out that Trump evaluates the economy’s health by checking in on how rich people are doing. She touched on their plan’s innovation, infrastructure, clean energy, and education opportunities, all while contrasting them against Trump’s first-term failures. 

Pence was asked if Americans should brace for a recovery that takes two years or more. Pence chided Barack Obama and Biden for taking too long to fix things after the Great Recession. He then claimed most voters got $2,000 back from Trump’s 2017 tax scam, before insisting that Biden-Harris want to raise taxes, ban fossil fuels, ban fracking, and force the Green New Deal onto Americans. Again, he refused to stop talking when his time is up.

📈 Searches for 'smarmy' are up 5000%https://t.co/GI3ESqdIWS

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) October 8, 2020

Harris insisted that this debate was supposed to be about truth and facts, and began to explain that Biden has vowed not to raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000 a year or ban fracking. Pence interrupted her and Page did nothing. Harris refused to engage in crosstalk until Pence gave in.

Kamala needs to say, Susan, you must give me the 2 minutes Pence has taken going over limits.

— Greg Mitchell (@GregMitch) October 8, 2020

She then reminded the room about Biden’s work with the Affordable Care Act, and Trump’s determination to crush it. Page attempted to cut her off, but Harris reminded her that Pence had interrupted her moments ago, and reclaimed her time.

"He interrupted me, and I'd like to just finish" - every woman in America, every single day.

— Suzanne Maloney (@MaloneySuzanne) October 8, 2020

She looked into the camera and warned people with preexisting conditions: “They’re coming for you.”

.@KamalaHarris has a message: "They're coming for you."@realdonaldtrump and @Mike_Pence are suing the American people right now to rip away protections for pre-existing conditions. Health care is on the ballot. VOTE like your life depends on it. #VPDebate #VPDebate2020 pic.twitter.com/GfViHVYoQL

— American Bridge 21st Century (@American_Bridge) October 8, 2020

Pence tossed a canned line about opinions and facts … and Harris told him it was a good line. He then rambled on and didn’t answer his question, repeating that Biden was going to ban fracking.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL

Pence was asked, as Hurricane Delta looms and wildfires ravaged the west coast, what the Trump-Pence administration planned to do about it. Pence dove deep into his delusions, rambling about forest management, more fracking, and deregulation.

Harris repeated that Biden would not ban fracking, or raise taxes on anyone making less rhan $400,000, before listing the environmental crises Biden has seen and is determined to fight. She also brought up the Trump-Pence administration’s war on science, and reminded us of Trump’s pesky habit of claiming the he knows more than scientists. 

Pence was then asked if he believes climate change poses an existential threat. Pence spent five seconds saying that the climate was changing before he veered right back to Biden’s vow to repeal the Trump-GOP Tax Scam, and repeated that Biden was going to ban fracking … again … and kill jobs. He then insisted that Biden-Harris are going to force the Green New Deal onto Americans.

Pence has the aw-shucks nonchalance of a priest telling you it's okay to take your pants off. Without the moral stature.

— Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) October 8, 2020

Harris zoomed in on Pence’s mention of jobs, bringing up the failed trade war with China, our struggling manufacturing sector, and struggling farmers. She brought up her stepdaughter in the context of high school and college graduates worrying about what jobs await them, thanks to the Trump administration. 

Pence used his time to ramble on about how many jobs Trump has created, insisting Biden and Obama ruined the economy. Harris pointed out that Biden saved the automotive industry, and Pence voted against it.

CHINA: FRIEND OR FOE?

Page brought up Trump’s continued war with China, and asked Pence where he thought we stood with China. He spent the bulk of his time attempting to frame Harris as a far-left demon before backing up Trump’s blame of China for the coronavirus, and bringing up the Chinese travel ban that wasn’t a ban, and Biden’s opposition of it. He then refused to stop talking, and Page did nothing.

She talks to him the way I talk to my children when I'm angry but someone is watching

— Taffy Brodesser-Akner (@taffyakner) October 8, 2020

Harris was given the same question. She pointed out the aftereffects of Trump’s war with China, and brought up his obsession with erasing all things Obama, including an agency devoted to pandemic preparation. She then brought up the COVID-19 death toll before bringing up the ripple effect of Trump’s tariff-driven trade war. She also pointed out that Trump has decimated the United States’ standing in the world. 

Page then asked Harris what she thought America’s place should be in the world moving forward. She leaned on Biden’s relationship-focused approach to governing, noting that it’s important to keep your word to your friends and keep your adversaries in check. She then pointed out that Trump did the opposite, bringing up Russian intelligence attacks, NATO, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. 

Pence claimed that Trump “kept his word” by moving an embassy to Jerusalem before shifting to ISIS, claiming that Trump “unleashed” the military and destroyed the Caliphate. He then told the story of humanitarian Kayla Mueller, who’d been held hostage during the Obama administration, insisting that servicemembers had told him that she’d be alive if Trump had been president.

This lying ass motherfucker

— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) October 8, 2020

While Page tried to call Pence for time, he continued to talk, and talk, and talk, bringing up the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani in January of this year. 

Page then gave Harris a chance to respond, warning her to not talk as much as Pence did so they could move on. Harris demanded equal time, then expressed condolences to the Mueller family, who was in the audience, before noting the injuries sustained by U.S. soldiers in the wake of the Soleimani assassination. She then brought up Trump’s disrespect of soldiers writ large, and John McCain specifically, as well as the bounties on U.S. soldiers that Trump’s ignored.

Pence rolled right over Page when she attempted to stop him from talking. She pointed out that he’d had more time than Harris but he just kept talking. As he spoke about Trump’s love for the soldiers, Page played the “your campaign agreed to the rules” card, and he finally shushed himself.

Laughing about the memes of debate night, but then remembering this is the actual future of our country #Debatenight pic.twitter.com/6paCihbcmQ

— Dom McHenry (@dommymchenry) September 30, 2020

WHAT IF AMY CONEY BARRETT HELPS OVERTURN ROE v. WADE?

Pence was asked what would happen in his home state of Indiana if a newly-conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Pence went right back to the previous topic, and said Biden didn’t want Obama to kill Osama bin Laden, before saying that he hoped Coney Barrett wouldn’t be attacked for being Christian during her confirmation process, and stated that he hoped she’d be confirmed, without ever answering the question at hand.

Harris was asked what she’d like to happen in her home state of California if Roe is overturned. She noted that she and Biden are religious people. She voiced opposition to confirmation hearings, citing public opinion. She briefly answered the question—the choice belongs to the pregnant person, not Trump—before circling back to Trump’s war on the Affordable Care Act and preexisting conditions. She then offered some tidbits from Biden’s health care plan.

WHAT HAPPENS TO MY PREEXISTING CONDITION?

Pence was up first and dodged the question, instead lying about late-term abortions, and Biden-Harris’ support for them, before deciding he was the new moderator.

Moderator: We’re moving on now. Pence: Ok I hear you but I’m actually going to go back and talk about the previous topic instead#VPDebate

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) October 8, 2020

He directly asked Harris if Biden was going to pack the Supreme Court if Coney Barrett is confirmed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement.

Harris instead thanked him for bringing up the history of the Supreme Court, and launched into a quick lesson herself, noting that Abraham Lincoln declined to appoint a Supreme Court Justice in an election year. Pence repeated the packing question, and—without letting Harris speak—insisted that they plan to do just that.

Pence demanding that Harris answer *his* own personal questions when he won’t even answer the moderator’s is gross, and exemplary of the gender dynamics so many women have to deal with at work.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 8, 2020

He then looked into the camera and told viewers that if they respect the Supreme Court, and want a nine-justice Supreme Court, they would vote for Trump.

Harris then pointed out that Trump had packed the court with judges during his first term, making lifetime appointments, and not one of them was Black.

THE TRAGEDY OF BREONNA TAYLOR

Page offered the broad strokes of the Taylor case before asking Harris if she believed justice had been served. Harris said it had not. She touched on her conversation with Taylor’s mother before bringing up the murder of George Floyd that Americans watched in May and June. She brought up the protests, noting that she didn’t condone violence, but supported fighting to achieve our ideals. Noting that “bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris vowed that a Biden win would bring the end of cash bail and private prisons, the decriminalization of cannabis, and a ban on choke and carotid holds.

Pence kicked off his time by saying he was sad she died but he trusts the justice system. He then accused Harris of being dismissive of the Taylor grand jury and said he hoped justice would be served for Floyd’s murderers.

In the case of Breonna Taylor, Kamala Harris, a former state attorney general, says she doesn't believe justice was done Mike Pence says "I trust our justice system" and says it is "remarkable" Harris would assume a "Grand Jury got it wrong"https://t.co/VZTi41JXWn #VPDebate pic.twitter.com/kAfvMNVjsE

— BBC North America (@BBCNorthAmerica) October 8, 2020

He skipped right past marches and protests to riots and destruction with a big fly stuck in his white hair. It was there for two minutes.

Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly. https://t.co/CqHAId0j8t pic.twitter.com/NbkPl0a8HV

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 8, 2020

Pence claimed that acknowledging systemic racism was an insult to law enforcement. He then muttered a few talking points about Trump being great for Black Americans.

Mike Pence's answer about racial justice was such bullshit it started attracting flies. pic.twitter.com/NrVmtO3SIZ

— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) October 8, 2020

Harris responded by pointing out that she was the only prosecutor on the stage. She then rattled off Trump’s long—so long—history of cultivating racism, bigotry, and hate in this country. From the Muslim ban to Charlottesville, to his “stand back and stand by” nod to the Proud Boys at the first debate. 

Pence kicked off his time by raging against the media and holding up Trump’s Jewish grandchildren as proof he’s no bigot. His time was up, but Page let him kick off a rambling attack on Harris’ record as a prosecutor. He kept talking and talking as Page tried to stop him, slipping in more “Trump loves Black people” talking points, including school choice. 

Page attempted to move onto the next point but Harris fought for equal time AGAIN.

Kamala Harris is every Black woman who had to remain calm in a work meeting when lesser qualified white men rudely spoke over them, spouting less than mediocre ideas while the person "in charge" does nothing to stop it and everyone judges *you* for "appearing" frustrated

— Shanita Hubbard (@msshanitarenee) October 8, 2020

Harris spoke to the reforms she implemented in San Francisco, including officer-worn body cameras. Page attempted to cut her off, but Harris wasn’t playing nice.

BUT WHAT IF TRUMP LOSES?

Page posed the last question of the night: What if you win, and Trump won’t leave? Harris painted a picture of a broad coalition of support, before telling everyone to vote. She told viewers we have the power to shape the future of our country and protect our democracy by voting.

The election is fly-ing by. Make sure to make a plan to vote. https://t.co/dMhxJsRcW7#BidenHarris2020 #VPDebate2020

— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) October 8, 2020

She then brought up Trump’s effort to suppress the vote, specifically at the first debate last week.

Page then asked what Pence would do if Trump refused to concede power after losing the election. Pence instead insisted that his ticket was going to win, and touted the Trump administration’s “movement” and some vague accomplishments, including appointing conservative judges and supporting law enforcement. He then told Harris that her party was trying to overturn the 2016 election, and somehow, SOMEHOW, managed to sneak in a thinly-cloaked “BUT HER EMAILS.” He then railed against voting by mail. 

THE GREAT DIVIDE

The final question came from Brecklynn, a Utahn in eighth grade. She noted the constant fighting she sees on television. among politicians and among citizens, and asked what each nominee thought their good example might do to effect change and foster unity.

In closing, an 8th grader thinks you should suck less. Thoughts?

— Mike Mackert (@mackert) October 8, 2020

Pence was first, and insisted that she shouldn’t trust her local news before touting that RBG and Antonin Scalia were good friends, implying that people can agree to disagree.

Harris brought up Biden’s decision to run: the hatred in Charlottesville, and exactly what the eighth-grader described. She noted that Biden has a long history of working across the aisle and uniting people. She then promised Brecklynn that it would get better, and encouraged her leadership. And then, thankfully, with one more round of thoughts and prayers for Trump and his COVID-19 cluster, this horrible debate was over. 

The low-hanging fruit of this night? The damn fly.

Coming up after the break, a @CNN exclusive pic.twitter.com/3p4SN7uFws

— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 8, 2020

It’s fun, I get it. And I’m always here for Obama clips.

real presidents kills flies with their bare hands pic.twitter.com/vzliIkXd2S

— alex (@alex_abads) October 8, 2020

But the reality is that Mike Pence just did a polite version of what Trump did last week. He railroaded and ignored the rules, and used the exact same right-wing lies and talking points to avoid the topics at hand. He just does it without raising his voice.

What Mike Pence adds to the ticket is that he lies in a calm voice.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 8, 2020

The reality is that Susan Page did a terrible job moderating this debate. She deferred to the white guy every time, at the expense of a woman of color. 

Only a white man could get away with not answering any questions from the moderator, then demanding your opponent answer your ridiculous gotcha question.

— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) October 8, 2020

Kamala Harris fought a battle on that debate stage that will be familiar to many women, particularly Black women. In the end, CNN’s official timers insist that she only clocked a few seconds less time to speak than Pence, but she had to fight for it, again and again, as Page and Pence had no intention of letting her be heard.

This debate? It was as much of a shitshow as last week’s was, just in a different outfit. 

Morning Digest: GOP legislator threatens an independent run for VA governor if ‘shenanigans’ occur

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

VA-Gov: On Monday, state Sen. Amanda Chase became the first notable Republican to join the 2021 race for governor of Virginia, but she may not be sticking with Team Red. Chase, who has a famously awful relationship with her party's leadership, said that she would "fully run" as an independent if there are "any shenanigans that are pulled" in the nomination contest. No matter what Chase does, though, GOP leaders won't want to see her name on the general election ballot next year.

Chase made news in the spring of 2019 when she swore at and berated a police officer at the state capitol who told her that she couldn't park her car in a secure area. Chase, according to the officer's report, also referred to the state Senate clerk as "Miss Piggy" and angrily demanded, "Do you know who I am?" Chase refused to apologize and posted on Facebook that the report looked like it had been written by "a democrat operative."

Campaign Action

State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment responded to the incident by putting out a letter praising the Capitol Police and saying the GOP caucus members "share your exasperation." Karl Leonard, who serves as sheriff of Chase's Chesterfield County, also withdrew his support for her re-election campaign after she wouldn't apologize to the officer.

Chase responded to Leonard's snub by backing his independent opponent's unsuccessful campaign and falsely accusing the incumbent of making Chesterfield a "sanctuary city." The Chesterfield County GOP in turn voted to eject her from the party.

Chase was still re-elected to her reliably red seat, but the Senate GOP found itself in the minority. After her Republican colleagues elected Norment as minority leader, though, Chase announced that she'd leave the party caucus in protest.

Chase still remains a Republican, but one without much influence: The senator only serves on one minor committee, and every bill she's sponsored by herself this year has been killed. However, Chase has continued to garner attention by ardently opposing gun safety measures and continuing to bring her pistol into Senate buildings in defiance of new legislative rules prohibiting firearms.

A few other Republicans are also eyeing next year's race to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who is prohibited from seeking a second consecutive term. State Sen. Bill Stanley has expressed interest in running for governor or for attorney general, while the Washington Post writes that businessman Pete Snyder has publicly talked about a potential gubernatorial bid.

Senate

GA-Sen-B: While there's been plenty of speculation that Donald Trump could back Rep. Doug Collins over appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Collins himself seems pessimistic that he'll be waking up to any endorsement tweets. Speaking to the Georgia Recorder, the congressman said of Trump, "He's not getting in this race," and continued that Trump "respects the senator and her position and he knows me intimately." Collins added, "I respect the fact that he's staying out of it."

NC-Sen: Faith and Power, a PAC with extensive GOP ties, is spending an additional $500,000 to promote state Sen. Erica Smith ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary. This takes the group's total investment here up to $2.9 million to date.

TX-Sen: Nonprofit director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez picked up an endorsement on Tuesday from Rep. Joaquin Castro ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary to take on GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

WY-Sen: Converse County Commissioner Robert Short announced this week that he'd join the August GOP primary to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Enzi. Short is a self-described "centrist Republican," which is unlikely to be a compelling pitch to GOP voters in this extremely red state.

Former Rep. Cynthia Lummis has been the clear primary frontrunner ever since Rep. Liz Cheney announced last month that she'd stay out of the race, and both Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso endorsed her on Tuesday. The only other notable Republican who has expressed interest in this race in recent months is conservative mega donor Foster Friess, who said this week that he was still considering. Wyoming's filing deadline isn't until late May, so Friess could keep us waiting a while longer.

Gubernatorial

VT-Gov: On behalf of Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, Braun Research is out with the first poll we've seen of this race, and they have good news for GOP Gov. Phil Scott. The incumbent posts a hefty 52-29 lead in a hypothetical general election match with Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a member of the Progressive Party who is also competing for the Democratic nod. Braun also finds Scott leading another Democratic contender, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe, by a larger 55-20 spread.

Vermont is a reliably blue state in presidential elections, but it's been more than willing to elect moderate Republican governors. Scott decisively won his 2016 and 2018 races, and Braun gives him a 57-26 favorable rating. Morning Consult also found Scott with a 65-22 job approval score during the final quarter of 2019.

House

AL-01: Over the last few weeks we've gotten new ads from state Rep. Chris Pringle and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, who are both competing in the March 3 GOP primary.

Pringle's commercial begins features him building a brick wall in front of what's made to look like Nancy Pelosi's D.C. office as the candidate tells the audience, "Walls protect us from America's enemies, and I have the perfect place for another." After calling Democrats "radical socialists," Pringle engages in some extra McCarthyism by walking off and uttering the word "commies" under his breath.

Carl's considerably more generic ad, by contrast, praises him as a pro-Trump conservative problem solver who opposes abortion and gun safety measures.

GA-09: GOP activist Ethan Underwood announced this week that he would run for this safely red open seat. Underwood is a former party chair in Forsyth County, which makes up about 8% of this district.

MA-04: Former state Comptroller Thomas Shack announced on Tuesday that he would join the crowded and expensive September Democratic primary for this reliably blue open seat. Shack was appointed comptroller in 2015 by GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, and he stepped down early last year. (Unlike in many other states, Massachusetts does not elect comptrollers.)

Shack came into conflict with Baker during the last months of his tenure over who would be in charge of designing the computer system that would impact all state agencies. Shack said in 2018 that the administration was "subjecting the apolitical and independent comptroller's office to a political arm of government" and withholding money for security updates and new software.

A number of well-funded candidates are already seeking to succeed Senate candidate Joe Kennedy III in this seat, which includes the Boston suburbs of Brookline and Newton and stretches south to Bristol County on the Rhode Island border. The candidate with the most money at the end of 2019 was City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who had $663,000 on-hand. Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss wasn't too far behind with $554,000 in the bank, while fellow Newton City Councilor Becky Walker Grossman had $318,000 to spend.

Former Alliance for Business Leadership head Jesse Mermell and Dave Cavell, a former senior adviser to Attorney General Maura Healey, had $248,000 and $173,000 on-hand, respectively. Former Wall Street regulator Ihssane Leckey had just $52,000 available while another contender, attorney Ben Sigel, announced after the end of the quarter.

MI-03: Attorney Nick Colvin announced on Tuesday that he was dropping out of the August Democratic primary to take on independent Rep. Justin Amash because of fundraising challenges. Colvin's decision leaves fellow attorney Hillary Scholten as the only notable Democratic candidate competing for this seat in the Grand Rapids area.

Amash left the GOP in July and while he has not ruled out a bid against Donald Trump, he's said that he plans to seek re-election without a party label this year. While Amash only brought in $150,000 during his first fundraising quarter as an independent, he nearly quadrupled that in the final three months of 2019 by hauling in $592,000. Amash ended the year with $722,000 on-hand, which was more than any of his opponents.

Two notable Republicans are challenging Amash in this 52-42 Trump seat. Army veteran Peter Meijer, who hails from a wealthy family, raised $235,000 and self-funded another $78,000, and he ended December with $557,000 in the bank. State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis was well behind with $101,000 raised and another $11,000 self-funded, and she had $199,000 to spend. Scholten, now has the Democratic side to herself, raised $124,000 and had $207,000 in the bank. Michigan's filing deadline is in April, so there's still a bit of time for this race to take shape no matter what Amash ends up doing.

TX-02: Attorney Sima Ladjevardian rolled out endorsements this week from Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia, who each represent nearby Houston-area seats, for the March 3 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

TX-11: A new group called Energy Security PAC is up with a TV spot praising the military record of Air Force veteran August Pfluger, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, ahead of the March 3 GOP primary. There is no word on the size of the buy.

Pluger ended 2019 with a massive financial edge over all of his primary foes, but two of them are also getting outside help. Fired Up PAC is spending at least $186,000 on a TV spot promoting Brandon Batch, a former staffer for retiring Rep. Mike Conaway, though we don't have a copy yet. Keep Texas Great, which supports Midland City Councilman J.Ross Lacy, is spending at least $30,000 on a commercial that promotes Lacy as someone who understands West Texas and isn't just "another carbon copy Republican."

TX-12: The Congressional Leadership Fund is spending a hefty $850,000 on a new TV ad campaign targeting businessmen Chris Putnam, who is challenging veteran Rep. Kay Granger in the March 3 GOP primary.

The CLF's narrator begins by proclaiming that the people spending millions against Granger "spent millions attacking President Trump. They lost. America won." All of that is reference to the extremist Club for Growth, which goes unnamed in this commercial but has been airing ads hitting the incumbent. The Club, which did indeed spend millions to try and deny Trump the 2016 GOP nomination, has refashioned itself since then as an ardently pro-Trump organization, but their intra-party foes don't especially care.

The CLF's ad continues by going after Putnam directly, saying he's "best known for raising property taxes and as a leader of a company that outsourced good paying jobs to Asia instead of hiring Texans." The narrator never actually accuses Putnam of opposing Trump but instead argues, "It's Trump against them. Again. And he's backing Kay Granger." The spot concludes by asking the audience, "Whose side are you on?"

TX-22: Nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush talks about his famous family’s history in the Houston area in his newest ad and actually refrains from name-dropping Donald Trump.

But in case anyone was worried that Bush had forgotten what animates GOP voters in this day and age, he goes on to claim that “liberals want to rip the American system apart and bring socialism out of the trash heap of history.” In case that was too subtle, the ad also features images of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Nicolás Maduro, and … Putin? We’re not sure the last time we saw Trump’s BFF used as a villain in a GOP ad, but there he is!

TX-31: Rep. Marc Veasey, who serves as the regional vice chair for the DCCC, has endorsed Round Rock City Councilor Tammy Young in the crowded Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Carter.

Mayoral

Baltimore, MD Mayor: Incumbent Jack Young recently launched his first commercial ahead of the April Democratic primary, while former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller also began a $500,000 opening ad buy.

Young, who was elevated to this office last year after Catherine Pugh resigned in disgrace, features a narrator praising him for working to “clean up City Hall.” The spot goes on to laud Young for working to require police to wear body cameras, lower the city’s crime rate, and open city recreation facilities on Saturdays. Young’s team said that the buy was “sizable,” but they did not reveal more.

Miller’s first ad also features her talking about public safety. Miller tells the audience that the police force is understaffed and burdened with outdated technology, and she pledges that Police Commissioner Michael Harrison will have “the resources and support to succeed with his plan, because everyone in Baltimore has a right to be safe.” Her second commercial shows a mother talking about Miller’s work helping her son graduate from school, and the candidate declares that “wherever you live in Baltimore, you deserve a quality education with a path to success.”

Other Races

Los Angeles County, CA District Attorney: On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón's campaign against incumbent Jackie Lacey in the March 3 nonpartisan primary. Gascón was appointed to succeed Harris as SF's top prosecutor after she was elected state attorney general in 2010, and she praised him as a "proven leader" for criminal justice reform.

Former public defender Rachel Rossi is also challenging Lacey from the left next month. If no one takes a majority of the vote, the top-two candidates would compete in the November general election.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has been in prison since 2012. Blagojevich made global headlines in December 2008 after he was arrested on corruption charges, which included trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

The Illinois legislature almost unanimously removed him from office the following month, and he was later convicted. (Before he was found guilty, Blago found time to appear on Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice" show.) Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and had Trump not commuted his sentence, he would not have been eligible for parole for another four years.