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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The Intellectualist (@highbrow_nobrow) February 29, 2024

But Romney's departure is important on two levels. 

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

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

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

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

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

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Disarray alert: House Republicans struggle with slim majority and chaos

With the exit of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the ejection of George Santos, and the impending resignation of Rep. Bill Johnson, House Republicans' bare majority is getting delectably precarious.

Daily Kos Elections political director David Nir games it all out, concluding that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson will likely end up having a two-vote margin of error on any given measure.

Wherever the numbers end up, Republicans' exceedingly thin majority throughout the 118th Congress has proven to be a blessing in disguise, despite Democrats' failure to keep the majority last cycle. Rarely, if ever, has America seen a more pathetic display of governance than that offered by House Republicans this Congress. The chaos of multiple leadership battles amid the daily display of internecine warfare within the GOP caucus has been both instructive for voters and good for America heading into, yet again, the most consequential election of our lifetimes.

As former Rep. Liz Cheney bluntly noted this week, “A vote for Donald Trump may mean the last election that you ever get to vote in. ... People have to recognize that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution.”

Liz Cheney: “A vote for Donald Trump may mean the last election that you ever get to vote in...People have to recognize that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution.”

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) December 4, 2023

Cheney also called the prospect of Mike Johnson still being speaker in 2025 "terrifying" in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

One of the reasons the race for control of the House is so critical is because it's the 119th Congress that will certify the 2024 election, and House Democrats can serve as a backstop to any Republican election-stealing efforts if Democrats control the chamber.

To the benefit of the pro-democracy side, House Republicans have revealed themselves as completely incapable of leading anything. The message appears to be sinking in, based on Navigator Research polling of roughly 60 battleground districts that will decide control of the House in next year's elections, with nearly 7 in 10 respondents recently saying Republicans have prioritized "the wrong things."

Last month, pro-Trump Rep. Chip Roy of Texas summed up House Republican rule nicely.

“Explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done," Roy said during a floor speech.

Last week, Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries happily riffed off Roy's rant in a press conference during the debate over expelling Santos from his seat.

"House Republicans have now been in the majority for a little under a year—they have nothing to show the American people that they have accomplished.," Jeffries said, mentioning Roy's assertion. "Nothing to meet the needs of the American people," he continued.

“House Republicans have now been in the majority for a little under a year. They have nothing to show the American people that they have accomplished … Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Chip Roy.” — Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries slams House GOP

— The Recount (@therecount) November 30, 2023

Fortunately for Democrats, that dynamic won't be changing anytime soon. House Republicans’ next debacle is already in process, with Johnson preparing to hold a vote as soon as next week on initiating a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Not only will it not be popular with voters, it's the perfect way for House Republicans to kick off 2024

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McCarthy privately claims he told Trump ‘F**k you’ after McCarthy’s ouster

Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump have a long history of having each other’s backs to the extent that two such soulless, transactional people ever do. But that broke down when Trump didn’t come to McCarthy’s aid as he was on the way to being voted out as speaker of the House, the first speaker ever ousted in that way. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who initiated the motion to vacate the chair, even publicly claimed that Trump supported his move against McCarthy. McCarthy had reason to be frustrated and angry—and The Washington Post reports that McCarthy claims he vented that frustration to Trump directly. (Emphasis on McCarthy claims.)

McCarthy and Trump reportedly had a call weeks after McCarthy’s ouster in which Trump made clear that he had made an active decision not to bail McCarthy out, because he was angry that McCarthy hadn’t gotten Trump’s two impeachments expunged and hadn’t endorsed him yet for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, sources told the Post:

“F--- you,” McCarthy claimed to have then told Trump, when he rehashed the call later to other people in two separate conversations, according to the people. A spokesperson for McCarthy said that he did not swear at the former president and that they have a good relationship. A spokesperson for Trump declined to comment.

It is totally believable that Trump’s ego is so fragile he let McCarthy twist in the wind over impeachments not being expunged and an endorsement that McCarthy did plan to make later. It is less believable—though not entirely unbelievable—that McCarthy said “Fuck you” to Trump, but totally typical that McCarthy was reportedly saying one thing in multiple private conversations and then having a spokesperson deny it.

McCarthy is never the most reliable source on his own interactions with Trump. Everything he says is bound up in his own ambition and reputation management, and his dramatic stories often change. For instance, following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler described a phone call between McCarthy and Trump during the attack in which McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the mob, only to be told, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy reportedly yelled at Herrera Beutler for making that public, saying, “You should have come to me! Why did you go to the press? This is no way to thank me!” McCarthy and Herrera Beutler then denied reports that he had yelled at her until she was in tears, but the reporting on that meeting “was verified by a primary source and multiple lawmakers who heard the account firsthand from McCarthy.” McCarthy lied one of those times, in other words.

Former Rep. Liz Cheney also offers another eyebrow-raising McCarthy-Trump story in her new book:

“Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?” Cheney asked, per CNN.

“They’re really worried,” he replied, according to her book. “Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”

“What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?” Cheney said.

“Yeah, he’s really depressed,” McCarthy added.

Yes, Donald Trump was depressed and the only thing that could make him feel better was a visit from Kevin McCarthy.

These two deserve each other. They are seething balls of ego and ambition, only caring for what the people around them can do for them. The thing is, Trump is better at it. He’s more shameless, more dangerous. McCarthy is always a little—and sometimes more than a little—pathetic. And these days, as ex-speaker, he’s barely even relevant except as a symbol of his party’s ongoing disgrace.

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Cheney’s new book is a devastating indictment of Republican efforts to overturn 2020

In her new book, former Rep. Liz Cheney unloads on her former colleagues in the Republican Party, and to no one's surprise, her disgust is seething and deep.

"Oath and Honor," which was obtained by CNN, serves as an overarching indictment of the many Republicans Cheney deems most responsible for gifting the GOP to the twice-impeached, four-time criminally indicted Donald Trump, whom she calls “the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.”

“As a nation, we can endure damaging policies for a four-year term. But we cannot survive a president willing to terminate our Constitution," writes Cheney, who served as the number three House Republican before being ousted from leadership over her vote to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.

According to the book, then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Cheney following the 2020 election that Trump knew he had lost. “He knows it’s over,” McCarthy reportedly said at the time. “He needs to go through all the stages of grief.”

Yet that same day, Cheney reveals, McCarthy fanned the election-denial flames on Fox News, telling viewers, "President Trump won this election."

Cheney writes, "McCarthy knew that what he was saying was not true.” So much for virtue.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a pro-Trump MAGA stalwart, derided the legal avenues for challenging the election results, saying, “The only thing that matters is winning,” according to Cheney. So much for honor.

Cheney also shredded Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana in the book, which she finished writing before he was elevated to speaker. Johnson, she said, pressured his Republican colleagues to sign on to an amicus brief supporting his legal challenge to 2020 results.

“When I confronted him with the flaws in his legal arguments," Cheney writes, "Johnson would often concede, or say something to the effect of, ‘We just need to do this one last thing for Trump.'" So much for the rule of law.

Fast-forward to Nov. 29, 2023, and Johnson contrasting Republicans' ham-handed effort to impeach President Joe Biden with what he framed as Democrats' "brazenly political" impeachment of Trump for springing a violent coup attempt on the U.S. Capitol.

"What you are seeing here is exactly the opposite. We are the rule-of-law team—the Republican Party stands for the rule of law," Johnson told reporters Wednesday, touting his work to defend Trump against Democrats’ "meritless" impeachment proceedings.

Speaker Mike Johnson claims that both of Donald Trump's impeachments were “brazenly political” and “meritless,” but says the GOP's efforts to impeach Joe Biden are “just the opposite” because “the Republican Party stands for the rule of law.”

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) November 29, 2023

Just a quick trip to Republicans' present day house-of-mirrors routine as the majority party in the House. Now, back to the book.

Perhaps the most chilling part of CNN's write-up was Cheney's recollection of House Republicans' methodical efforts to reject the will of the people in 2020. Here’s CNN:

On Jan. 6, before the attack on the Capitol, Cheney describes a scene in the GOP cloakroom, where members were encouraged to sign their names on electoral vote objection sheets, lined up on a table, one for each of the states Republicans were contesting. Cheney writes most members knew “it was a farce” and “another public display of fealty to Donald Trump.”

“Among them was Republican Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee,” Cheney writes. “As he moved down the line, signing his name to the pieces of paper, Green said sheepishly to no one in particular, ‘The things we do for the Orange Jesus.’”

So much for fealty to the Constitution.

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Democrats sound the alarm about Jim Jordan’s potential interference in the 2024 election

If you need further proof that the GOP is not a serious party—apart from its continued fealty to a disgraced ex-pr*sident who’s roughly 20% evil and 80% Happy Meal—consider that they’re actually thinking about making Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a known insurrectionist, House speaker.

And no, he wasn’t just another of the cow-eyed and craven Republicans who stood by slack-jawed and mute as Donald Trump tried to smother American democracy with a lumpy MyPillow. He was elbows-deep in the shenanigans, and he wasn’t even trying to hide it.

Well, plenty of people have noticed the irony in potentially putting an America-hating coup plotter second in line to the presidency—and they’re not just Democrats. After all, giving this guy the power to finish what he and Custard Cream Caligula started in January 2021 is the height of irresponsibility for a party with any real pretensions of patriotism.

On Oct. 4, former House member Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans who still thinks the person who won the most electoral votes should get to be president, even if that person is a Democrat, warned that a vote to elect Jordan speaker would be a vote for further undermining the increasingly vulnerable foundations of our democracy.

“Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for Jan. 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives,” she said during a speech in Minnesota. “Somebody needs to ask Jim Jordan, ‘Why didn't you report to the Capitol Police what you knew Donald Trump had planned?’” 

Cheney also noted—correctly—that if Republicans elect Jordan speaker, it would be tantamount to abandoning the Constitution. 

Jim Jordan was involved in Trump's conspiracy to steal the election and seize power; he urged that Pence refuse to count lawful electoral votes. If Rs nominate Jordan to be Speaker, they will be abandoning the Constitution. They’ll lose the House majority and they’ll deserve to.

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) October 13, 2023

Well, Cheney’s not the only one who’s alarmed. In fact, Rep. Ted Lieu, an outspoken Democrat, is concerned that a Jordan speakership could grease the skids for Bumblin’ Coup 2.0 following next year’s presidential election.

"Jim Jordan is one of the leaders of not respecting the will of American people in elections, and he will absolutely do everything he can to not certify a Biden victory,” said Lieu. “That's what he did before."

Lieu also noted that Jordan would be as much of a nightmare for reasonable (ha ha) Republicans as he is for the rest of the country.

"I think moderate Republicans should be freaked out with Jim Jordan as speaker," said Lieu, noting that Jordan would likely "push for a national abortion ban" and for the impeachment of President Biden.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, House Democrats’ one and only choice for speaker, echoed Lieu’s sentiments.

“House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be the speaker of the people’s House the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction, and an extremist extraordinaire,” Jeffries said on Friday while gathered with other congressional Democrats outside the Capitol. “His focus has been on peddling lies and conspiracy theories and driving division amongst the American people.”

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark has also weighed in, noting that Jordan is an “insurrectionist” who’s currently being blocked from the speaker's chair thanks to blanket opposition from Democrats. 

“He was directly involved in the right-wing coup that sought to overturn the 2020 election,” she said. “Every Republican who cast their vote for him is siding with an insurrectionist against our democracy.”

Yes, Jordan was directly—and heavily—involved in Trump’s America-garroting schemes following the 2020 presidential election.

In case you need a refresher, Mother Jones has the deets:

Many Republicans endorsed Trump’s Big Lie about the election. But Jordan was one of only a handful of congressional Republicans who actively conspired with Trump to overturn the election results. As he runs for House speaker, Republicans appear eager to ignore that. Yet by embracing Jordan they tie themselves further to that attack on democracy and the Constitution.

Jordan was an early and enthusiastic recruit in Trump’s war on the republic and reality—in public and in private.

Days after the November election, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the Pennsylvania state capitol. He spread election conspiracy theories within right-wing media. He endorsed Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s bogus claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had robbed Trump of electoral victory. He called for a congressional investigation of electoral fraud for which there was no evidence and demanded a special counsel be appointed. He endorsed state legislatures canceling vote tallies and selecting their own presidential electors. He urged Trump not to concede. He demanded Congress not certify Joe Biden’s victory in the ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021.

In other words, making Jordan speaker of the House would be a little like checking your local school bus driver’s pupils to make sure he is on drugs. 

But Republicans, for the most part, don’t see it that way. For instance, profile in porridge Mike Pence, who actually did right by the Constitution on Jan. 6, 2021, is nevertheless supporting Jordan’s speaker bid. He was recently interviewed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who asked him a very rude question he didn’t want to answer. So he didn’t. Answer it, that is.

COLLINS: “It’s interesting to me to hear you say that, that Jim Jordan would be a great speaker given he was someone who sent a text to the chief of staff on Jan. 5 that outlined for you to violate the Constitution and block the certification of the election. I mean, do you really believe that’s someone who should be third in line [sic] to the presidency?”

PENCE: “I have immense respect for Jim Jordan, he’s a man of integrity, and I’ve known him for many years. I was not aware of his opinion going into Jan. 6. My interaction with Congressman Jordan in December was simply over the legitimate objections that members of Congress were permitted to file under the law. But look, we may have a difference of opinion about my duties under the Constitution that day, but I’m very confident that if Jim Jordan becomes speaker of the House that he’ll lead with integrity.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bullshit Bot 9000, new from Ronco! I really wonder sometimes if Pence could pass the Turing test. Something tells me if Trump’s mob had actually succeeded in hanging him, he’d have sputtered his rehearsed talking points to his last breath: “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a purpling corpse—in that order!”

Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing hard against the notion that Republicans’ demonstrated inability to get out of their own way is somehow the minority party’s fault. 

“It’s really appalling that they can’t even own their mess,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They’ve been unable to govern from the beginning of this Congress and unable to work with Democrats. All they seem focused on is fighting each other.”

“When I’ve gone through battleground districts across the country, folks want to see governance work,” DelBene added. “All they’ve seen from the Republican side is chaos and dysfunction.”

Uh huh. And that’s all they’re going to see, especially if Jordan gets his wish. Well, that and another big, steaming kettle of coup stew. 

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE

The GOP ‘once saw their roles as legislators first and Republicans second.’ Trump has destroyed that

One of the many characteristics of The First Former President to be Indicted (Twice Thrice, Four Freaking Times, for now) is that he sucks all the oxygen out of the room of our national public discourse (not to mention that he just sucks in general). Another is that he’s a fascist who’d destroy our democracy without a second thought in order to save his own skin, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment. This chaos agent’s actions reverberate throughout our politics in a way no American figure has before—not even Richard Nixon, who resigned from the presidency in disgrace in the aftermath of Watergate.

That scandal brings to mind another comparison between then and now, namely how differently leading Republicans, in particular those in Congress, have reacted to the leader of their party facing investigation and accountability for his behavior. Let me start with a little hint: The Trumpist Republicans of today don’t come out of this comparison looking very good.

RELATED STORY: House Republicans swiftly act to obstruct on Trump’s behalf

After The Man Who Lost an Election and Tried to Steal it made his first court appearance and entered a plea in response to the deadly serious national security-related charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith in the classified documents case, we saw responses from a broad array of Republican officials. Overall, it ain’t pretty. The same goes for the responses to the Jan. 6-related Trump indictments as well as to the indictments in Georgia offered by most of the Republicans running, in theory at least, against Trump for the GQP presidential nomination, along with other top members of the Trumpist party.

who is speaking out?

There are some exceptions, no doubt, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Bill Cassidy, and Mitt Romney, Rep. Don Bacon, and Gov. Chris Sununu. Within the Republican presidential field only several have spoken out strongly, but none of them exactly qualify as a frontrunner. Chris Christie said Trump “has been a one-man crime wave. Look, he’s earned every one of [the indictments]. If you look at it, every one of these is self-inflicted.” Will Hurd shared, “Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison.” Asa Hutchinson said, “I have said from the beginning that Donald Trump’s actions on January 6 should disqualify him from ever being president again.” The other candidates have been fairly mealy-mouthed at best (even after the fourth indictment, which caused little change in how they talked about the erstwhile frontrunner), with the Nikki Haley versus Nikki Haley debate being particularly pathetic. Meanwhile, a number of them have stated they’d even pardon the insurrectionist-in-chief.

Given his slavish loyalty along with the completely false presentations in support of his boss he made prior to the 2020 election, the assessments former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr offered on the documents case as well as on the Jan. 6 indictments carry perhaps the most weight. However, as Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson so helpfully reminds us, he remains a “sleazeball.”

But for the most part, the sycophantic (not to mention dangerous to our democracy) behavior of congressional Republicans is both awful and yet exactly what you’d expect, in particular from the MAGA caucus over in the House. It doesn’t get much more moronic than Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was asked whether it was perhaps problematic that the disgraced former president was knowingly storing national security secrets next to the toilet. He replied that “a bathroom door locks.” (Hey, Kev, you know it only locks from the inside, right?) Looks like he’s locked the remnants of his integrity behind such a door and has thrown away the key. Additionally, his comments regarding the Jan. 6 indictments were less laughable, but if anything more cynical.

Regarding the attempt by McCarthy and the other Trump stooges to attack the indictment by drawing false parallels to investigations of President Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton, Jesse Wegman of The New York Times thoroughly dismantled that malarkey one bald-faced lie at a time. What’s so harmful is that Trump—the most prodigious liar in American history—has set a precedent that Republicans who lie will never be punished by their own party. Would there have been a George Santos or a shady grifter like Vivek Ramaswamy in our politics if there hadn’t already been a Donald Trump, who has led with lies and deceit right from the start of his public career?

Moving forward, will we see more members of what remains of the Party of Trump actually reject their pro-crime, anti-law enforcement stance and turn on their leader as more evidence comes into public view? That’s a key question for the present.

looking to the past

But how about the past? Specifically, how did Republicans measure up on that very question a half-century ago, the last time a president from their party behaved criminally and put our constitutional democracy at risk? To start with, it's not as simple as saying that Republicans back then immediately turned on Nixon once reporting made clear by spring 1973 that the White House was engaged in a cover-up. However, during the following year, two profoundly important developments took place.

First, Republicans in the House backed the impeachment inquiry's subpoena efforts. Nixon had claimed that executive privilege gave him the right to withhold recordings of Oval Office conversations along with other relevant evidence. Michigan Republican Rep. Edward Hutchinson, the ranking member of his party on the House Judiciary Committee that ultimately voted to impeach Nixon, utterly rejected such a claim, stating that “executive privilege, in the face of an impeachment inquiry, must fail.”

Rep. Edward Hutchinson said “executive privilege, in the face of an impeachment inquiry, must fail.”

The House agreed overwhelmingly, and in a vote of 410-4 (!) gave the committee the authority to subpoena whatever it felt necessary. The four no votes were all Republican. Those subpoenas resulted in the production of the tapes that ultimately brought down a president. Second, when that overwhelming evidence came out, House and Senate Republicans assessed it fairly and told Nixon he had to go.

Garrett Graff, who wrote the recent book “Watergate: A New History,” offered the following summary to The New York Times: “In 1972 to 1974, the Republicans participated as good-faith members of the process. They saw their roles as legislators first and Republicans second.” Regarding the charges leveled against a president from their own party, “they definitely were skeptical” at first; however, ultimately “they followed the facts where they led.”

One separate but related point of comparison concerns the media. During Watergate, most Americans got their information from outlets that reported, well, the news. Now a good chunk of Republican voters soak up propaganda from sources like Fox, which just this June shamelessly and without any factual basis for doing so characterized the elected president of the United States as a “wannabe dictator.” (At least the producer who was responsible resigned three days later, but the damage was done.) That’s not good for our democracy.

Getting back to the politicians, Garrett further explained that when Nixon’s own second-in-command, then-Vice President Spiro Agnew, went after his boss’ enemies, he focused his ire “mainly against the press, not the F.B.I. or the special prosecutor.” Trump, on the other hand, has assailed our entire system of justice. He called Jack Smith a “deranged lunatic” and a “psycho;” referred to “the ‘Thugs’ from the Department of Injustice;” slandered Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who filed the charges against him in Georgia, by calling her a racist; and attacked Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the Jan. 6 case, as “highly partisan” and “VERY BIASED AND UNFAIR.” Ohio State law professor Joshua Dressler stated, “This could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate Judge Chutkan.” Not even the Nixon White House went that far. Trump’s allies have shown themselves to be equally erratic—he sets the example and others follow it blindly—with Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona going all the way to no sense left at all.

Defund and dismantle the FBI.

— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) May 15, 2023

Beyond Biggs, we’ve already seen violent rhetoric spewing forth from Trump supporters, along with threats of violence credible enough to lead to criminal charges. Unfortunately we can expect more of this as his trials move forward. Fuck a L’Orange himself has already incited one violent insurrection, and that was just to keep his day job. Do we really think he’ll hold back when the stakes are a prison sentence? That’s one punishment he won’t be able to buy his way out of.

but what about the democrats?

Because we’ve discussed Republicans acting in a bipartisan fashion during Watergate and contrasted that against the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the Trump era, it’s important to also address how Democrats acted during the investigation and impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. First, yes, Democrats were unified in opposing Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office, but there are fundamental differences between what happened then and what Trump has done over the past few years.

Most importantly, Clinton was investigated for private behavior. Trump (and Nixon), on the other hand, were investigated and, in the Tangerine Palpatine’s case, impeached for abuses of office that rendered them unfit to serve (though Trump obviously has some private behavior he’s on the hook for as well). Both demonstrated themselves to be threats to the rule of law.

Second, Robert Fiske, the initial, nonpartisan special counsel assigned to investigate Clinton, was unjustly removed by a panel of Republican judges and replaced by hyper-partisan Ken Starr. Fiske had at that point already concluded that there was no criminality in the Whitewater or Vince Foster cases, which happened to be the matters he was charged with investigating. Republicans in the House ultimately impeached Clinton over wrongdoing that would never have occurred without Starr coming in and forcing him to testify under oath.

Democrats were right to vote against impeachment and conviction there because not only did Clinton’s behavior, wrong though it was, not rise to the level of necessitating the overturning of the will of the people, the Starr process was partisan from the start. And the American public consistently agreed with the Democrats’ stance. In other words, just as Republicans acted on the side of our Constitution by working with Democrats during Watergate, Democrats did likewise by opposing Republicans during the Starr/Clinton business.

Getting back to the current cast of characters, Jackie Calmes wrote a year ago that Trump-era Republicans—as well as the Republican voters who keep rewarding them in primary elections—had already failed the American people by letting Trump off the hook for the unconscionable crimes he committed while in office. Will they, as a party, take this final opportunity provided by Smith and Willis to redeem themselves? Don’t hold your breath.

Here’s one thing we can say about how leading Republicans acted in Nixon’s time—a time when, as Calmes pointed out, “the truth had a common meaning to both parties.” Back then they knew when the game was up, and they made sure Nixon wouldn’t end up being able to raise $7 million for another White House run off a mugshot.

RELATED STORY: Here's what you need to know ahead of a historic mugshot

putting democracy over partisanship

Were Watergate-era Republicans in Congress reading the political tea leaves? They couldn’t ignore them, that’s for sure (and neither will the Republicans of 2023, many of whom will only turn on Trump if and when it suits them politically). But beyond the polls, enough Nixon-era Republicans at least recognized the gravity of what their leader, the president of the United States, had done. They were prepared to join with Democrats in Congress to remove him from office. They sealed his political fate. They put democracy over partisanship. Country over party.

On the other hand, when Putin’s puppet got impeached the first time, Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote for conviction. The second time around, he was joined by six others. I guess that represents progress? On the other hand, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6, only a paltry two made it back into the next Congress. (Four retired, including Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, while four were defeated in GQP primaries.) Either way, I have not a single doubt that in the unimaginable hypothetical circumstance where a Democratic president had behaved exactly as Trump did, every single Republican member of the House would have voted to impeach, and every single Senate Republican would have voted to convict. Oh, and so would have every Democrat in their respective chambers. That’s another pretty damn important point of comparison to make here.

As it stands right now, congressional Republicans have no official responsibility for what becomes of Donald Trump, either criminally or politically. His criminal fate rests in the hands of the folks serving on various juries in Florida, New York, Georgia, D.C., and who knows where else, while his political fate, at least at first, is in the hands of Republican primary voters.

When it comes to moral responsibility, congressional Republicans as a whole showed absolutely none of it when they were charged with assessing whether Fuck a L’Orange should have been impeached and removed from the presidency. If they had acted responsibly, maybe our country wouldn’t be stuck where we are now: in a room without any oxygen.


 'A dark moment' for the Republican Party

Trump's enablers are turning on each other. Will they turn on him next?

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)

Liz Cheney isn’t the most important thing about her primary loss. It’s about the Republican Party

As expected, Rep. Liz Cheney lost her primary by a large margin Tuesday night, purely for the sin of speaking out against Donald Trump’s coup attempt. That was enough to have her Republican In Good Standing card stripped despite her reliably conservative positions on everything else. It just can’t be said enough: The desire to overturn an election, or at least the willingness to flirt with it, is a requirement for status in the Republican Party in 2022.

It’s not just Cheney, though she is the most prominent case. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2021. Just two will remain in Congress after this year, with four having lost primaries and four having decided to retire (before they could lose a primary).

Republicans want to put themselves in a position to overturn the 2024 election. Stop them by donating to Daily Kos-endorsed Democrats.

RELATED STORY: Top Republican candidates in some battleground states are running to overturn the next election

Top Republicans didn’t just fail to support an incumbent in a primary. They didn’t just actively support a primary challenger to an incumbent. They actively and publicly celebrated Cheney’s loss.

“Congratulations to @HagemanforWY on her MASSIVE primary victory to restore the PEOPLE of Wyoming’s voice,” Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted, noting that she had joined Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in endorsing Harriet Hageman. Stefanik, of course, replaced Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican when Cheney’s ex-communication from the party really got rolling.

”Girl, BYE,” was all Rep. Lauren Boebert had to say. Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul capped his tweet celebrating Hageman’s win with a “Bye Liz.”

This level of venom is spurred not by broad policy disagreement but by Cheney’s disloyalty in refusing to embrace the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, or at least keep her mouth shut about her opposition to that. That’s it. That’s all. It’s a staggering statement about today’s Republican Party.

There’s a lot of debate among Democrats about how to assess Cheney. Is she a hero? Is she just meeting the minimum bar of not supporting coups? But Cheney isn’t the point. The point is that, among Republicans, Cheney’s courage in adhering to the idea that the outcome of elections should be respected stands out, and her willingness to keep talking and name names stands out still more. Yes, everyone in office should be where she is on the basic question of whether the winner of the presidential election should become president, but they’re not. Far from it.

Cheney: Two years ago. I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear. But it would've required that I go along with president trump's lie about the 2020 election.. That was a path I could not and would not take.

— Acyn (@Acyn) August 17, 2022

Morning Digest: Liz Cheney goes down in defeat, but Sarah Palin’s comeback campaign is unresolved

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.

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Leading Off

WY-AL, AK-AL: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney lost Tuesday’s Republican primary 66-29 to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, but we’re going to need to wait another two weeks to learn who prevailed in Alaska’s instant-runoff special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

With 150,000 ballots tabulated early Wednesday, which the Associated Press estimates represents 69% of the total vote, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola leads with 38% as two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, grab 32% and 29%, respectively; the balance is made up of write-in votes.

The Last Frontier allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they're received through the end of the month, so these margins may shift: State election officials say they plan to have updated results on Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher's votes to the two remaining candidates.

No matter what, though, Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all be on the ballot again in the November instant-runoff election for a full two-year term along with one other competitor. (This special election only had three candidates because independent Al Gross dropped out shortly after taking third in the June special top-four primary.)

Tuesday was also the day that Alaska held its top-four primaries for statewide and legislative offices, and the results of the House race so far closely resemble the special tallies: Peltola is in first with 35%, Palin second with 31%, and Begich third at 27%. Another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, leads Libertarian Chris Bye 4-1 for fourth, but the AP has not called the final spot in the general.

While it will take some time to know the winner in Alaska, though, there was no suspense about what would happen with Cheney in dark-red Wyoming. The congresswoman just two years ago was the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership and a strong contender to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker, but she instantly became a national party pariah when she voted to impeach Trump; Cheney went on to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack along with just one other Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Trump and his allies made defeating Cheney a top priority, and his “Bachelor” style endorsement process eventually resulted in him supporting Hageman, who had placed third in the 2018 primary for governor. (Politico relays that Trump’s team originally considered backing her in a prospective rematch against Gov. Mark Gordon.) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth went on to fall in line behind Hageman, a one-time Trump skeptic who now embraces the Big Lie.

Cheney’s defeat makes her the eighth House Republican to lose renomination this year compared to four Democrats so far. The Wyoming result also means that at least eight of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment will not be going back to Congress next year because of primary losses and retirements: Only California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced through their respective top-two primaries, though Valadao still has to win his competitive general election against Democrat Rudy Salas.

But Cheney didn’t show any regret about what happened to her once promising career in Republican politics. She proclaimed in her concession speech that “now, the real work begins” and pledged she “will do whatever it takes to ensure Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”

election recaps

 AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, advanced through the top-four primary as expected, though the AP has not yet called the other two spots for the November instant-runoff general election. Murkowski holds a 44-40 edge over her Trump-backed foe as of Wednesday morning, while Democrat ​​Pat Chesbro, who is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, is well behind with 6%. A pair of little-known Republicans, Buzz Kelley and Pat Nolin, are taking 2% and 1%, respectively.

 AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will face former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker in the fall, but it remains to be seen who will be the fourth general election candidate. Dunleavy is in first with 42%, while Gara and Walker are grabbing 22% each. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce holds a 7-4 edge for fourth over state Rep. Christopher Kurka in a race where both Republicans are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.

 WY-Gov: Gov. Mark Gordon didn’t come close to losing his Republican primary, but he still scored an unimpressive 62-30 victory over Brent Bien, a retired Marine colonel who campaigned against the incumbent’s pandemic health measures. Gordon should have no trouble in the fall against the Democratic nominee, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Theresa Livingston.

 WY-SoS: State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist who has insisted the 2020 vote was “clearly rigged,” beat state Sen. Tara Nethercott 50-41 in the Republican primary to serve as secretary of state. Wyoming Democrats did not field a candidate here.


FL-Sen: The University of North Florida’s newest survey finds Democratic Rep. Val Demings leading Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-44, which is actually better for Team Blue than the tie that two different pro-Demings polls recently showed. This is the first independent survey we’ve seen since winter, and quite a departure from the 46-34 Rubio advantage UNF had in February. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes that the school obtained its sample by emailing a list of registered voters, which he calls a “​​pretty unusual design.”

NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02: Saint Anselm College gives us a rare look at the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, which is the last competitive Senate primary in the nation, as well as Team Red's nomination contests for New Hampshire's two Democratic-held congressional districts. Before we get into the results, though, we need to note that the school asked several issue questions about abortion before it got to the horserace: We always encourage pollsters to ask these sorts of questions after the horserace to avoid "priming" voters to lean one way or the other.

We'll begin with the Senate question, where Donald Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who lost the 2020 nomination for New Hampshire's other Senate seat, posts a 32-16 advantage against state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith are far back with just 4% each, while author Vikram Mansharamani notches 2%; a 39% plurality remains undecided with less than a month to go.

This is the first poll we've seen here since April, when the University of New Hampshire had Bolduc beating Smith 33-4. Prominent national groups haven't taken sides here, but Bolduc so far has not run a particularly impressive campaign two years after his 50-42 loss. The frontrunner had a mere $70,000 in the bank at the end of June, and he spent last year accusing Gov. GOP Chris Sununu of being a "Chinese communist sympathizer" with a family business that "supports terrorism."

Bolduc also has ardently embraced the Big Lie, saying at a recent debate, "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it]." He has plenty of company, though, as Morse is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked Tuesday if the 2020 election was stolen. Bolduc would also prefer this be the last New Hampshire Senate election in history: Both he and Fenton have called for repealing the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to elect their senators in 1913.

Bolduc's many rivals, though, have considerably more resources available as they try to get their names out in the final weeks of the campaign. Fenton finished the second quarter with a $1.63 million war chest, though almost all of that was self-funded. Morse and Mansharamani had $980,000 and $790,000, respectively, with Smith holding $350,000.

Turning to the 1st District, Saint Anselm College shows 2020 nominee Matt Mowers edging out former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt 25-21 in his bid for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas. Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown and state Rep. Tim Baxter are well behind with 9% and 8%, respectively, with former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott clocking in at 2%. The lead still goes to unsure, though, as 33% did not select a candidate.

Mowers has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he finished June with a modest $820,000 to $670,000 cash-on-hand edge over Leavitt. Biden carried both the old and new version of this eastern New Hampshire constituency 52-46 (the court-drawn congressional map made only tiny changes to both of the state's districts after Sununu thwarted efforts by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to make the 1st considerably redder), while Pappas defeated Mowers 51-46 last time.

Finally in the 2nd District, the school finds a hefty 65% undecided in the GOP primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel just 12-10 while another 8% goes to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado. (She earned 4% against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.)

Hansel has the backing of Sununu, and he ended the last quarter with a $300,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, with Burns holding $100,000. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.


FL-Gov: The University of North Florida finds Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried beating Rep. Charlie Crist 47-43 in next week's Democratic primary, which makes this the first poll to give her the edge all year. Crist quickly responded by releasing a Change Research survey that gave him a 47-37 advantage, which is only a little larger than the 42-35 Crist lead that Fried's own internal from Public Policy Polling showed just last week. An early August St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics had Crist up 56-24.

UNF also takes a look at the general election and has Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpacing Crist and Fried 52-40 and 50-43, respectively.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College also surveyed the general election for governor, and it finds Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beating Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman 48-29. An early July Sherman internal from Public Policy Polling put the governor's lead at a smaller, though still wide, 43-33. The school looks at the Sept. 13 GOP primary as well, but it shows Sununu with a huge 68-6 lead over perennial candidate Karen Testerman.


NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones has launched the first negative TV spot of next week's Democratic primary against attorney Dan Goldman, a self-funder who is the only other candidate with the resources to air television ads; Jones' team tells Politico that he's putting $500,000 into this late effort.

The commercial frames the crowded contest as a straight-up choice between "conservative Dan Goldman" or "progressive Mondaire Jones." The narrator goes on to contrast the two, saying, "Dan Goldman has dangerous views on abortion; Mondaire Jones is 100% pro-choice, the best record in Congress." She goes on to argue that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," while the 17th District congressman stood up to the NRA and Republicans.

The spot doesn't go into detail about its charges against Goldman, but Politico provides some background. The candidate last month sat down for an interview with Hamodia's Reuvain Borchardt and was asked, "Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?" Goldman responded, "I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions."

Goldman later said he "would not object" when Borchardt inquired if he'd be alright with a state law that would ban abortion if "there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy." However, the candidate then had a conversation with an aide who was also present at the interview, and Borchardt writes that "from that point forward Goldman's responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all."

Jones and Goldman's other rivals were quick to go on the attack after the article was published, while Goldman himself insisted he'd "misspoke" and "unequivocally support[s] a woman's right to choose."

As for this ad's charges that Goldman "profited off gun manufacturers" and "made money off FOX News," the New York Daily News recently explained that he has stock in, among many other companies, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and News Corp. A spokesperson said, "Dan does not manage his money … It is handled by a broker, and is designed to mirror the S&P 500."

NY-19 (special): DCCC Analytics has dropped an internal showing Republican Marc Molinaro edging out Democrat Pat Ryan 46-43 in next week's special election. The last poll we saw was a late July Triton Polling & Research survey for Molinaro's allies at the right-wing Freedom Council USA, and it gave their man a larger 50-40 advantage.

PA-08: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is out with an internal from GQR Research that shows him defeating Republican Jim Bognet 52-46 in their rematch for a northeastern Pennsylvania constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48. The only other poll we've seen here was a late June survey for Bognet and the NRCC that put the Republican ahead 46-45.

Cartwright held off Bognet 52-48 last cycle as Trump was prevailing in the old 8th District 52-47, a win that made him one of just seven House Democrats to hold a Trump district. The congressman has taken to the airwaves early for 2022, and Politico's Ally Mutnick relays that he's already spent $415,000 on TV for the general election. Bognet, by contrast, on Tuesday began running his first spot since he won the May primary, a joint ad with the NRCC that ties Cartwright to Scranton native Joe Biden.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: MassInc has surveyed the Sept. 6 Democratic statewide primaries for Responsible Development Coalition, and it finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin leading Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 43-15, which is larger than the 38-25 advantage he posted in a late June poll from YouGov for UMass Amherst. Responsible Development Coalition is funded in part by the Carpenters Union, which backs Galvin.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The FBI on Tuesday arrested former Rep. TJ Cox, a California Democrat who won his sole term in a huge 2018 upset, for "15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud." Politico says that these charges carry a combined 20-year maximum prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 through 2018 Cox "​​illicitly obtained over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments he solicited and then stole." They also say that he broke campaign finance laws by funneling money to friends and family and having them contribute it to his campaign as "part of a scheme and plan to demonstrate individual campaign donations as preferred over the candidate's personal loans or donations to his campaign."

Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in 2018 in the 21st Congressional District in the Central Valley, but he lost their tight rematch two years later. Cox initially announced in December of 2020 that he'd run again, but, in a development that now comes as a massive relief for his party, he ultimately decided not to go for it.

Ad Roundup

Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.

Morning Digest: Democratic ads hit extreme anti-choice GOP candidates with their own words

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.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Tennessee held its primary Thursday, and you can find the results here. We’ll have a recap in our next Digest.

Leading Off

Abortion: We wondered shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned in late June if Democratic campaigns would continue to focus hard on abortion rights this cycle, and the answer is a resounding yes. Team Blue is airing new commercials in the races for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat and governor of Michigan that each use footage of the newly minted Republican nominees, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon, expressing extreme anti-choice views, while Team Blue has also kept up the offensive in other races across the country.

We'll start in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly quickly opens with clips of Masters proclaiming, "I think Roe v. Wade was wrong. It's always been wrong … It's a religious sacrifice to these people, I think it's demonic." The audience later hears the Republican argue, "The federal government needs to step in and say no state can permit abortion … You make it illegal and you punish the doctors."

Kelly's allies at Senate Majority PAC are also hammering Masters on abortion rights in a new $1.2 million ad campaign, though they're adopting a different messaging strategy. The commercial stars a woman identified as Brianna who explains, "Three years ago, I had an ectopic pregnancy, and if I didn't make it into the OR within a couple minutes, I was going to bleed out and die." She continues, "But according to Blake Masters, that's just too bad. He wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother." Brianna ends by saying that if Masters had his way, her three children would have lost their mother.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a DGA-backed group called Put Michigan First makes use of a debate clip where Dixon answers in the negative when asked, "Are you for the exemptions for rape and incest?" The spot then plays footage of podcaster Charlie LeDuff asking the candidate, "The question would be like, a 14-year-old who, let's say, is a victim of abuse by an uncle, you're saying carry that?" Dixon responds, "Yeah, perfect example." When Dixon is asked in an interview with MIRS if she'd provide an exception for "health of the mother," she replies, "No exceptions."

Over in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria's commercial takes Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans to task for celebrating when Roe was overturned. In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is airing a spot where several women warn that, under a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, they could be "investigated and imprisoned for a miscarriage."

And back in Arizona, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs proclaims she'll "protect a woman's right to choose, fix our schools, and lower costs." Other recent Hobbs ads also attack each of the GOP frontrunners, former TV news anchor Kari Lake and Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, for opposing abortion rights. (Hobbs began airing her ads as Tuesday's GOP primary was still too close to call.)

Republicans, by contrast, have been reluctant to discuss abortion at all in their general election commercials even before this week's big defeat for anti-choice forces in Kansas. One notable exception came last month when Mark Ronchetti, who is Team Red's nominee for governor of New Mexico, argued that his policy to restrict the procedure to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy was reasonable and that Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham was "extreme" for supporting "abortion up to birth."

Most Republicans, though, remain content to avoid the topic altogether. Masters, for his part, is spending at least $650,000 on an opening general election ad campaign starring his wife, who says he's running because he loves the country and the state. (Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin points out that Masters just days ago was campaigning as a conservative border warrior who warned, "There's a genocide happening in America.") The RGA, meanwhile, is attacking Hobbs on border security―but not abortion.


AZ-Sen: Republican Blake Masters' allies at Saving Arizona PAC have dusted off a mid-July internal from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates that shows him trailing Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly 49-44, which is identical to what OnMessage Inc. found in a more recent survey for another conservative group. Both firms are releasing these unfavorable numbers to argue that the political climate will be a big asset to Masters.


FL-Gov: St. Pete Polls' newest survey for Florida Politics finds Rep. Charlie Crist beating Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in a 56-24 landslide in the first poll we've seen in nearly a month for the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.

Fried's allied PAC, meanwhile, is running the first negative commercial of the race, and it goes after Crist for appointing an "anti-choice extremist" to the state Supreme Court when he was Florida's Republican governor. The spot also features footage from this year of Crist saying, "I'm still pro-life," though it doesn't include him continuing, "meaning I'm for life. I hope most people are." (Crist used that same interview to express his regret over his anti-abortion judicial picks.) Politico says the spot is airing in the Orlando market, which covers about 20% of the state.

RI-Gov: Gov. Dan McKee has secured an endorsement from RI Council 94, which is Rhode Island's largest state employee union, for the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, meanwhile, has earned the backing of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, which is one of the state's two teachers unions: The other, the NEA, is for McKee.

WI-Gov: Wealthy businessman Tim Michels said just one month ago that "[w]hen politicians are shocked to find themselves losing, they go negative out of desperation," but you can probably guess what he's now doing days ahead of Tuesday's Republican primary. Yep, the Trump-endorsed candidate is airing his first attack ad against former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, whom Michels' narrator dubs "the ultimate Madison insider" and a "[p]ro-China, pro-amnesty, anti-Trump politician."

Kleefisch and her allies went on the offensive in early July, with the former lieutenant governor arguing that Michels "pushed for years to raise our gas tax while getting rich from massive government contracts." That prompted Michels to put out a statement bemoaning that "it is sad that the former Lieutenant Governor has decided to go negative by falling in line with politics as usual."

The anti-tax Club for Growth was all too happy to attack Kleefisch last month, but Michels himself insisted as recently as Monday that he was still taking the high road. "I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race," he said, explaining, "And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition." Michels added, "And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you."

So why did Michels decide to court disrespect and try out some "bad policy" just days later? Kleefisch's team, of course, told the Associated Press' Scott Bauer that this about-face proves their candidate "has all the momentum." Michels' own spokesperson, though, also hinted that they felt the ads were doing them some real damage, arguing, "When your opponent does that for weeks on end, it can't go unanswered forever."

Unfortunately, we have almost no recent polling to indicate if either of the candidates campaigning to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are going "negative out of desperation." The one and only survey we've seen in the last month was a mid-July internal for a pro-Michels group that had him up 43-35, numbers that are quite dusty now.

Whatever the case, things may get a whole lot uglier on Friday when Trump, who has zero qualms about "talking bad about the competition," holds his pre-primary rally in Waukesha County. (You may have heard a few jokes about it if you've ever logged onto Twitter in the last decade.) We got a taste for Trump's dislike of the former lieutenant last month when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Daniel Bice reported that Trump used his April meeting with Michels to bring up a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn.

The elder Hagedorn went straight to the MAGA doghouse the next year when he provided the crucial vote to stop Trump's attempts to steal the election, and Bice reports that he was upset about the photo of the two teenagers. Kleefisch, who has trashed the justice herself, responded by declaring, "I'm outraged my opponent would use a photo of my underage daughter for political ammunition in order to score an endorsement." However, unnamed sources told Bice that Michels didn't actually know about the picture before Trump himself raised the topic ahead of his "little rant" against Brian Hagedorn.  


CO-03: Democrat Adam Frisch has released an internal from Keating Research that shows him trailing far-right freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert 49-42 in a western Colorado seat that Trump would have taken by a similar 53-45 spread.

FL-10: Both the state AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association have endorsed gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost ahead of the busy Democratic primary on Aug. 23.

FL-13: The Club for Growth is airing what appears to be the first negative TV ad of the Aug. 23 GOP primary, and its piece rips Kevin Hayslett as a "trial lawyer" who was disloyal to Donald Trump in 2016. The broadside comes days after Hayslett released an internal that showed him trailing 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna, whom both the Club and Trump are supporting, only 36-34.

The narrator informs the audience, "While Hillary's campaign called Trump a fraud, Hayslett declared it was 'ludicrous' Trump had not released his tax records." The commercial concludes that Hayslett, whose offense doesn't seem to have gone further than Facebook posts, is "guilty of aiding and abetting the Democrats to assault Donald Trump."

Hayslett himself launched his own negative spot around the same time arguing that it's Luna who's the GOP heretic. The audience is treated to footage of Luna saying, "I always agreed with President Obama's immigration policies," and favoring a "pathway to citizenship."

IN-02: A special election will take place this year to succeed Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, who died in a car crash on Wednesday, though it’s not yet clear when it will be and how the GOP nominee will be chosen. Almost everyone expects the special to coincide with the Nov. 8 general election, but it’s up to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to set the date. Trump carried the existing version of this northern Indiana seat 59-39, while he took the redrawn version by a similar 60-37 spread.

It will be up to the local GOP leadership to choose a new nominee for the special and regular two-year term, and Fox’s Chad Pergram explains that state law requires that any vacancy on the ballot “shall be filled by appointment by the district chairman of the political party.” The chair of the 2nd District Republican Party, though, was Zach Potts, a Walorski aide who was also killed in the collision.

MN-03: Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips is out with a poll from GQR giving him a hefty 57-36 edge over Navy veteran Tom Weiler, who has next week's Republican primary to himself. Biden would have carried this suburban Twin Cities constituency 59-39, though Weiler's allies are hoping that a GOP wave could reverse the dramatic Trump-era gains Democrats made in this once-swingy area.

MN-05: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, whose city makes up about 60% of this constituency, has endorsed former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels' bid against Rep. Ilhan Omar in next week's Democratic primary. Omar backed the mayor's two main rivals in last year's instant runoff race, though Frey ended up winning re-election convincingly. Frey and Samuels also defeated a 2021 ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, while Omar supported the "Yes" side.

NY-10: Impact Research's internal for attorney Dan Goldman shows him leading Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou 18-16 in the packed Aug. 23 Democratic primary, with New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones at 14% and 10%, respectively. Other polls have found different candidates ahead, but they all agree with Impact that a hefty plurality are undecided. 

NY-16: Former Rep. Eliot Engel has endorsed Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi's Democratic primary campaign against the man who unseated him two years ago, freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Gashi also earned the backing of Nita Lowey who, unlike Engel, left the House voluntarily last year after decades of service. About three-quarters of this seat's denizens live in the old 16th District where Bowman upset Engel, while the balance reside in Lowey's old turf.

NY-23: Barry Zeplowitz and Associates has conducted a survey that gives state GOP chair Nick Langworthy a 39-37 edge over 2010 gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino in this month's primary, which is dramatically different from Paladino's 54-24 lead in his own mid-July internal from WPA Intelligence. Veteran pollster Barry Zeplowitz said he conducted this new poll independently, though Paladino quickly called foul and attacked Zeplowitz for donating $99 to his rival.

"So because I gave $99 to a candidate who asked and gave nothing to a second candidate who did not, the poll is a complete scam?" Zeplowitz asked rhetorically, adding, "Mr. Paladino should be thanking me for giving his campaign a heads-up that he is involved in a toss-up. Let the best man win."

WY-AL: Rep. Liz Cheney's newest commercial for the Aug. 16 GOP primary opens with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, proclaiming, "In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump." Every poll that's been released shows the younger Cheney badly losing to Trump's pick, attorney Harriet Hageman, in what was the Trumpiest state in the nation in both 2016 and 2020.  


Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Seven candidates are competing in next week's officially nonpartisan primary to replace retiring incumbent Mike Freeman as the top prosecutor in Minnesota's largest county, but campaign finance reports show that only three of them have access to a serious amount of money. The two contenders with the most votes will advance to the November general election.

The top fundraiser through July 25 by far was state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, who took in $230,000 and has several unions on his side. Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty raised a smaller $140,000, but she sports high-profile endorsements from local Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party.

Retired judge Martha Holton Dimick, finally, hauled in a similar $130,000; Dimick, who would be the state's first Black county attorney, has the backing of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey as well as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

San Francisco, CA District Attorney: Former District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Thursday that he would not compete in this fall's instant-runoff special election to regain the post he lost in a June recall. His announcement came the same week that attorney Joe Alioto Veronese launched a bid to take on incumbent Brooke Jenkins, a recall leader whom Mayor London Breed appointed to replace Boudin last month.

Alioto Veronese is the grandson of the late Mayor Joseph Alioto, who served from 1968 to 1976; his mother, Angela Alioto Veronese, ran in the 2018 special election for mayor but took a distant fourth against Breed. The younger Alioto Veronese previously served as a California criminal justice commissioner and member of the city's police and fire commissions, but he doesn't appear to have run for office before now.

Under the city's current law, the district attorney's post would be on the ballot again in 2023 for a full four-year term. However, voters this fall will decide on a measure that would move the city's next set of local elections to 2024 and keep them in presidential cycles going forward.

Election Recaps

WA-03: The Associated Press on Wednesday evening called the first spot in the previous day's top-two primary for Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who notched 31%, but it remains unclear which Republican she'll face. With 158,000 votes counted, which the AP estimates is 83% of the total, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler leads Trump-backed Army veteran Joe Kent by a narrow 23-22. The five Republican candidates on the ballot are taking a combined 66% of the vote compared to 33% for Democrats in this 51-46 Trump seat, though Herrera Beutler may have won some support from Democratic voters after voting for impeachment.

Maricopa County, AZ Attorney: Former City of Goodyear Prosecutor Gina Godbehere has conceded Tuesday's Republican primary to appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell, who leads her 58-42. (The margin may shift as more votes are tabulated.) Both candidates were competing to succeed Allister Adel, a fellow Republican who resigned in March and died the next month.

Mitchell will now go up against Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who lost to Adel 51-49 in 2020, in a special election for the final two years of the term. This post will be up for a regular four-year term in 2024.

Montgomery County, MD Executive: It’s been more than two weeks since the July 19 Democratic primary, but we still don’t know who won the nomination to lead this populous and reliably blue county. With 132,000 ballots counted, incumbent Marc Elrich leads wealthy businessman David Blair 39.3-39.2―a margin of 154 votes.

Election officials say that there are about 4,000 mail-in votes left to tabulate as well as 7,250 provisional ballots to sort through, and that they’re aiming to certify the results by Aug. 12. The second-place candidate would then have three days to request a recount, which is what happened in the 2018 contest between these very two candidates: Elrich ultimately beat Blair by 77 votes four years ago.

P.S. This dragged-out count came about because Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a measure that would have allowed mail-in ballots to be processed ahead of Election Day. The author of that bill is state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents part of Montgomery County; Kagan has called for the state to change its policies to prevent another major delay this November.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: Wanda Vázquez, who became governor of Puerto Rico in 2019 after her predecessor resigned in disgrace, was indicted Thursday on bribery charges related to her unsuccessful 2020 campaign for a full term. Vázquez, who is affiliated with both the GOP and the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), responded by proclaiming her innocence.

Federal prosecutors allege that Vázquez fired the head of Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions and appointed a new one loyal to a campaign donor. Vázquez badly lost the PNP primary 58-42 to Pedro Pierluisi, who prevailed in a close general election.

Ad Roundup

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Retiring Sen. Toomey: Trump ‘disqualified himself’ and GOP will have ‘stronger candidate’ in 2024

Why is it that, with a few notable exceptions, prominent Republicans almost always wait until they’re on their way out the door to slag off Donald Trump? They’re like B-movie ninjas who attack an enemy one at a time. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re like doctors who watch the mole on your back gradually morph into a Rorschach blot over the course of six years before telling you, on the eve of their retirement, that you should probably think about getting that looked at.

Sen. Pat Toomey is one of these folks. While he voted to convict Donald Trump following his second impeachment (though not after the first)—and never really warmed up to the ocher arschloch during his reign of whatever-that-was—Toomey had already announced his retirement when he voted to dump Trump into the dustbin of history. So while his impeachment vote was more courageous than his compatriots’ votes to acquit, it wasn’t like he was risking his political future or anything.

That said, he's making his position perfectly clear before he rides off into the sunset to work at some noxious conservative think tank that will craft an elegant intellectual rationalization—based on time-honored Jeffersonian principles—for pushing Medicare recipients out to sea on ice floes.

But to his credit, he thinks Trump is garbage. Just listen to his very measured and dispassionate case, which he relayed toward the end of a recent Bloomberg TV interview:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R) Pennsylvania: “He disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior.” He also thinks the Republican Party will have a stronger candidate than Donald Trump in the next presidential election

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) June 30, 2022

TOOMEY: “I think he disqualified himself from serving in public office by virtue of his post-election behavior, especially leading right up to Jan. 6. I think the revelations from this committee make his path to even the Republican nomination much more tenuous. Never say never, and he decides whether to throw his hat in the ring, but I think we’ll have a stronger candidate.”

Okay, it’s nice of him to state the obvious and everything, but how about showing some urgency? How about dropping napalm like GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are doing? Maybe he could out his fellow Republican senators who agree with him but are too craven to admit it lest Trump’s preternaturally wee Chucky Doll hands “Truth” out some scarcely comprehensible, ungrammatical, ALL-CAPS DIATRIBES to his flying monkeys in the heartland. It’s not like the future of our democracy is at stake or anything! Hello! McFly! 

Donald Trump is not more powerful than every single member of the GOP combined. They didn’t need the revelations from the House Jan. 6 committee to sink him. They could have done that literally dozens of times over the past year and a half by closing ranks with whatever pro-democracy forces managed to crawl out of the smoldering wreckage of Jan. 6.

But, well, a mealy closing statement about the GOP having “better candidates” than Trump is something, isn’t it? It’s not much, but it’s something

Of course the party has better candidates. No one on the face of God’s green globule could be a worse candidate. But what exactly are you going to do about it once you’re out of Congress, Toomey? Fire off a handful of press releases and call it a day?

We are at a crossroads. One fork of the road leads to Putin-style fascism, the other to a healthier and happier democracy that can continue to thrive on a planet that will at most be half Mad Max hellscape if we manage to reverse course in time.

The Republicans who know better—and I’d like to think there are a lot more than just Cheney, Toomey, and Kinzinger who do—need to do their sworn duty to our Constitution, or it will eventually be worth less than Donald Trump thinks it is.

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.