The Downballot: How MAGA candidates are blowing up the GOP (transcript)

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Are Republicans torching their chances in November by nominating ultra-extreme MAGA loons? They just might be! This week on The Downballot, Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser joins us to gawk at a bunch of GOP primaries across the nation where hardcore Trump worshippers with blemished resumes and disturbing views could prevail over more mainstream alternatives. On the docket are Pennsylvania's marquee contests for Senate and governor, House races in Michigan and North Carolina, and the secretary of state's race in Colorado—where a prominent Big Lie proponent was just barred by a judge from performing her duties as a local election clerk. 

Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also review Tuesday's primaries, including the first incumbent-vs.-incumbent contest of the year in West Virginia; highlight a brand-new court ruling striking down a key component of Ron DeSantis' congressional gerrymander for undermining Black voters, and recap major elections in Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

David Beard:

Hello and welcome. I'm David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir:

And I'm David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. The Downballot is a weekly podcast dedicated to the thousands of elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to City Council. Thanks to your listenership, The Downballot has been growing leaps and bounds. You would be doing us a huge favor if you would rate us on Apple Podcasts. Just go to the Apple Podcasts app on your mobile device or desktop, type in The Downballot, and give us a five-star rating. And if you have a moment, please leave us a review.

David Beard:

We're into primary season. So what is on the docket for this week?

David Nir:

We are going to discuss some interesting results that came out of West Virginia and Nebraska, the two states that held primaries this week. There was also a favorable redistricting ruling for Democrats, believe it or not, in Florida. We have a couple of foreign elections on the docket on opposite ends of the world in Northern Ireland and the Philippines. And then we will be talking with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser about GOP primaries, where Republicans are at risk of nominating ultra-MAGA, crazy candidates who stand a chance of jeopardizing their chances in the general election.

David Beard:

Okay, well, let's dive in.

David Beard:

This week was a relatively quiet primary week for May, but we still had a couple of races that were competitive and we wanted to talk about. Nir, why don't you get us started in West Virginia?

David Nir:

You bet. So West Virginia was one of just three states in the entire country that lost population between 2010 and 2020. In fact, it lost the most of any state, 3% of its population. And as a result, the state lost a seat in reapportionment. It had three seats in the House and it had to go down to two and with three Republican members of Congress representing the state in the House, that meant almost certainly that we were going to wind up with our first incumbent versus incumbent matchup of the cycle. And this happens every redistricting year. The way things played out is that David McKinley and Alex Mooney, who represent the northern part of the state and the eastern part of the state, were thrown into one district together.

David Nir:

Mooney won pretty much in a landslide, 54-36. He'll go on to easily win reelection. This is a super red seat in November, and McKinley's congressional career, which has lasted a decade, is now over. But what brought us to Tuesday night was really a pretty fascinating contest. McKinley is a classic West Virginia politician. His family had been in the state for seven generations and he in fact had a big geographic advantage coming into the race because he represented two-thirds of the new district while Mooney only represented one-third of the new district. The rest of Mooney's seat wound up in west Virginia's other House seat where Congresswoman Carol Miller was easily securing renomination on Tuesday night. Mooney, by contrast, cut such a different profile from McKinley. He was a former state senator in Maryland. That's not West Virginia. And in fact, he even tried to run for Congress once in Maryland, but wasn't allowed on the ballot.

David Nir:

And so finally he decided in 2014 to hop across the state line and run for an open House seat in West Virginia, and he managed to win despite having really no ties to the state. In fact, once upon a time, he even ran for the state House in New Hampshire, I think when he was back in college. So really it would be hard to find someone with even weaker ties to West Virginia than Mooney. And to add to things, he was under investigation by congressional investigators for allegedly misusing both campaign funds and taxpayer funds to benefit himself. So this ordinarily would not seem like the kind of resume you'd want to pit against McKinley's, but we're operating in a totally different world these days. McKinley's biggest sin was probably voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which only a handful of Republicans wound up supporting. He also voted in favor of creating the January 6th Commission and Mooney ran a pure MAGA campaign and he won Trump's endorsement. McKinley had, believe it or not, the endorsement of Joe Manchin, who is quite popular these days with Republicans in West Virginia for obstructing most of the Democratic agenda in D.C. McKinley also had the support of Governor Jim Justice, a former Democrat turned Republican, who is in fact also a Trump favorite. And it just wasn't enough.

David Nir:

Really not all that long ago, someone like McKinley would really have been favored. We're talking about a seventh-generation West Virginian who excelled at bringing home the bacon against a Marylander who is under investigation. But while Trump has faced a number of setbacks in various primaries that he's gotten involved in, this really still is his Republican party. Mooney's big win shows exactly where the GOP electorate is. And in fact, maybe the most telling statistic comes from Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, who calculated that Mooney won his portion of the district, in other words, the one-third that he already represented, by an enormous 71-22 margin, and that's really not a surprise. But he also won the two-thirds of the district that McKinley had represented for a decade by a 46-42 margin. So even local ties and long familiarity with his constituents were simply not enough to overcome the MAGA-fication of West Virginia, its GOP, and really the GOP in general.

David Nir:

So like I said, McKinley now calls it a career and Mooney will go on almost certainly to another term in Congress.

David Beard:

And potentially a challenge to Joe Manchin in 2024 as has been rumored, and may have been one of the reasons that Manchin went against him and tried to see McKinley win this primary.

David Nir:

Definitely very possible. Obviously we will be keeping a close eye on that one. And also I should note, there are a bunch of other incumbent versus incumbent primaries coming up this year. They tend to be some of the most compelling races and we will definitely be keeping tabs on them and reporting back to you after each of those primaries.

David Beard:

So I'm going to take us to Nebraska, the other state that held a primary this week, where there was a Trump-endorsed candidate in the governor's race who didn't win, but it wasn't really evidence of Trump's weakness in that race, but some really extenuating circumstances around this candidate. University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen is the candidate who won the primary in a close race, 33-30 over Trump's pick, which was self-funding businessmen Charles Herbster. Pillen was the favorite of termed-out Governor Pete Ricketts, and there was a lot of money spent on Pillen's behalf. Herbster, of course, being self-funding had also had a ton of money spent. And then there was a third place candidate, Brett Lindstrom, who took 26%.

David Beard:

So Herbster, who was Trump's candidate, attended the January 6th Trump rally. And he actually led the race for a lot of March. Ricketts was running ads attacking Herbster as a Missouri millionaire and also airing ads that Lindstrom, that third candidate, was insufficiently conservative. But the race took a dark turn in April when eight women, including Republican State Senator Julie Slama, accused Herbster of sexual assault. And Herbster responded by running a TV ad pretty much directly attacking Slama and claiming her allegations were part of a scheme by Pillen and Ricketts to stop him from winning the primary. Trump of course, given his history, stood by Herbster, saying he's the most innocent human being in that typical Trump speak, but fortunately, enough Republican voters followed Ricketts' lead and voted for Pillen to barely keep Herbster out of winning the primary and probably the governor's office, because given how blood-red Nebraska is, I would not have been this surprised to see Herbster win the general election if he had been able to win this primary.

David Beard:

But Pillen is going to go on advance to the general. He faces Democratic state Senator Carol Blood in the general election, but he is the strong, strong favorite to win that race this fall.

David Nir:

And I would just add, we saw something happen like this in the Ohio Senate GOP primary last week. Just because a candidate might only win, say a third of the vote as Trump's pick, it doesn't mean that the rest of the primary electorate is anti-Trump. If anything, to the contrary. Lindstrom definitely was someone who deviated from conservative orthodoxies, but Pillen was not. And so you really have a Republican primary electorate that regardless of who actually wins is still heavily pro-Trump.

David Beard:

And you see in both of these states, there is a candidate Lindstrom here, Dolan in Ohio, who was the one who was the least Trumpy, who wasn't really going in the Trump direction—not that he was actively going against Trump, but was not a Trumpy candidate. And they both won somewhere in the twenties. They both did very well in the urban areas and really, really awful in most of the rest of the state. So I think that's a pattern I wouldn't be surprised to see continue. And the other part is really just depending on how many Trumpist candidates there are outside of that, which really is determining these things.

David Beard:

One race I did want to just briefly touch on, Nebraska's Second, where incumbent Republican Representative Don Bacon easily advanced to the general. The Democratic primary had State Senator Tony Vargas advance over mental health counselor Alicia Shelton, 69-31. So that's going to be a competitive race in November and one that Democrats are going to be looking to pick up since Biden won the seat 52-46 in 2020.

David Nir:

There was even a thought that Don Bacon could be in a little bit of trouble. Trump at a rally for Charles Herbster not long ago said that, he asked the audience to vote for quote, Steve, whoever the hell you are, but Bacon wound up winning 77-23. So Steve is still whoever the hell you are.

David Beard:

The best thing Republicans have going for them is when Trump doesn't even know their opponent's name. So it's hard to then advocate for voting for them if he doesn't know their name.

David Nir:

So we are going to do a little bit of a redistricting roundup because on Wednesday, Democrats got some excellent news in Florida where a state court judge struck down the GOP's new map. You might recall we talked about this on a recent episode of The Downballot. The most salient feature of this map, which was demanded by Ron DeSantis and passed by a totally supine GOP-run legislature, was to dismantle Florida's Fifth Congressional District. This is a safely blue, plurality-Black district that the State Supreme Court had blessed in a previous round of litigation several years ago. It runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and it has a Black plurality and is represented by a Black Democrat.

David Nir:

It has a Black plurality, and is represented by a Black Democrat who is, in legal parlance, the preferred candidate of the voters in this district. The problem for DeSantis is that Florida's Constitution forbids undermining or rolling back the voting power of minorities in the state. And this map clearly did that, there was no question.

David Nir:

In fact, DeSantis was open about his intentions. So the real question here was what the courts were going to do about this? Interestingly, the judge who said this district was unconstitutional, violated the state constitution, was a DeSantis appointee, and he imposed a remedial map that essentially restores the previous east-west Jacksonville to Tallahassee district that Democrat Al Lawson has represented for years.

David Nir:

We know that this is going to be appealed, and the Florida Supreme Court has gotten much more conservative over the years, thanks to appointments by DeSantis and his predecessor, Rick Scott. But the law is really quite clear, this anti-retrogression, to use the legal term, amendment.

David Nir:

So the Florida Supreme Court may well uphold this ruling. Certainly, Democrats have their fingers crossed that they will. And I should also add that a challenge is ongoing to other parts of the map, alleging that they are partisan gerrymanders, which are also outlawed by the Florida Constitution. Those challenges likely aren't going to be adjudicated this year.

David Nir:

There's also a chance that the appellate courts don't even rule on the substance of this decision striking down Florida's Fifth District. And instead, they say, "Oh, it's just too close to the primary, which is not until the end of August."

David Nir:

That would really be BS, but of course, we've seen many courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, pull that kind of ruling this year. So we will keep our fingers crossed that this ruling gets upheld on appeal, because it's not only good news for Democrats, but also, it is good news for the cause of Black representation in the state of Florida.

David Beard:

I'll just add that New York still doesn't have a map. We're still waiting on the special master on that front, and their election got moved to a similar time period as Florida's. So clearly, there's plenty of time for this new district to be implemented.

David Beard:

That is fair rather than saying that, "Oh, it's too late," but of course, expecting judicial consistency between New York and Florida? We'll see.

David Nir:

Yeah. In fact, New York's primary for congressional races, lets move to the exact same date, August 23rd, and we still don't have a map here in New York. So who knows?

David Beard:

Yeah. Anyway, I'm going to wrap up our weekly hits with a couple of international elections that took place in the past week. First, we're going to go over to Northern Ireland, which held their Assembly elections, as part of a broader U.K. local and regional elections that took place.

David Beard:

Just briefly, Northern Ireland is divided politically between predominantly Catholic nationalists, who want to leave the U.K. and unite with the rest of Ireland, and predominantly Protestant Unionists, who want to remain in the U.K. So Sinn Fein, the leading nationalist party, won the most seats for the first time under the current system.

David Beard:

But that was mostly as a result of the fragmentation of Unionist votes, rather than some sort of surge and support for Sinn Fein, or nationalism in general. They won the same number of seats, 27, as they did in 2017. And they were up one percentage point in the overall vote.

David Beard:

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party, who is the leading Unionist party, they lost nearly seven percentage points, and three seats, to fall from first place to second place. And that's important, because the first-place party gets to have the First Minister and the second place party of a different grouping, in this case, unionist versus nationalist, gets the Deputy First Minister position.

David Beard:

Now, of course, they have exactly equal responsibilities, but symbolically, of course, everyone cares about who gets to be First Minister, and who gets to be Deputy First Minister. The big winners were actually the non-aligned Alliance Party, which took third place, up 4.5 percentage points, and up nine seats, to go from eight seats to 17.

David Beard:

The Traditional Unionist Voice, which is sort of the hard-right Unionists, they gained five percentage points, largely from the DUP. They got up to 7.6%, but they only won one seat, because they weren't able to break through in Northern Ireland's election system.

David Beard:

In theory, there should be a government formed with Sinn Fein having the First Minister spot, and the DUP being the Deputy First Minister. But the DUP has said that they'll refuse to form this executive, until the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, is changed.

David Beard:

Because Brexit resulted in a lot of border checks between Northern Ireland and the U.K., because of a lot of complicated customs issues. The Unionists really hate it, because they feel it's separating them from the rest of the U.K.

David Beard:

So they're trying to get that change, and they've decided they're not going to allow the executive to form, which it can't without them, until this has changed through negotiations between the U.K. and the European Union.

David Beard:

Now, I'm going to take us all the way across the world to the Philippines, which had their presidential election. The presidency is for a six-year term in the Philippines. You can't run for re-election, and there's no runoff.

David Beard:

So just the candidate who gets the highest number of vote wins, which in the past has resulted in candidates with just a plurality winning, and not a majority. But in this case, wasn't an issue.

David Beard:

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose nickname is "Bongbong," easily won the race, defeating sitting Vice President Leni Robredo. He won with about 60% of the vote, so an easy majority.

David Beard:

Marcos is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines under mostly martial law, from 1972 until 1986, when he was overthrown by the People Power revolution, and fled the country. Now, Marcos Jr. also fled the country then, but he was allowed to return in 1989 after the death of his father, and has since been very involved in politics, serving as a congressman, senator, and in government in different times.

David Beard:

Now, the entire Marcos family was very involved in a ton of corruption, and was investigated, and there were a lot of legal issues. Marcos Jr. never went to jail, and never had to stop being involved in politics any in any way.

David Beard:

He actually ran for vice president six years ago, and narrowly lost to Robredo, but this year he had the support of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, and was allied with Duterte's daughter who was running for vice president.

David Beard:

She also easily won that race, and so they'll be moving into the presidency and vice presidency together. She is now obviously the favorite for this sort of family dynastic politics that's going on between these two families, to likely run for president six years from now.

David Beard:

As I said, there's a ton of corruption issues around Marcos, but it's possible that he may be slightly more moderate, actually, than outgoing president Duterte, just because Duterte was such an extreme right-winger. He advocated extrajudicial killings for drug traffickers. He has been very much on the far right.

David Beard:

So Marcos, as a more establishment figure, in some ways, may be a slightly more moderating force than Duterte was. That's not to take away from the corruption, or from the fact that he's never repudiated any of the killings and oppressions that went on during his father's reign, and is just, either not repudiated them, or just ignored the questions, refused to engage with them. So this is in no way a good thing, but he is a slightly different figure than Duterte is.

David Nir:

Well, that does it for our weekly hits. Up next, we are going to be talking with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser about MAGA candidates who may cost the GOP winnable elections, if they win their primaries over slightly more acceptable alternatives. Stay with us, after the break.

David Nir:

We are now joined by Daily Kos Elections contributing editor Steve Singiser, who has been with the site for many, many years. We are going to dive into the fun, crazy, and messy world of Republican primaries, particularly those that could jeopardize GOP chances this year, if Republicans wind up nominating their most MAGA-fied extremists.

David Nir:

And Steve, I want to start off with a race where some just totally wild and crazy news broke on the very day we were recording this episode on Wednesday, and it's a contest that definitely hasn't gotten as much attention as it should, because this kind of race never gets the sort of attention that it should.

David Nir:

But that's what we live to do here at Daily Kos Elections. And that is the Colorado Secretary of State race. So tell us what just went down there.

Steve Singiser:

Well, a judge has barred the Clerk of Mesa County, Tina Peters, who also happens to be a candidate for the statewide Secretary of State position, from adjudicating the Mesa County elections, which is, given the name, normally in her job description. But because she has committed so many acts of awfulness, for which she's under investigation, up to and including letting a complete stranger into their most sensitive hardware, because she is an avowed MAGA conspiracy theorist that the judge has now barred her from adjudicating elections, and has actually put it in the hands of someone appointed by the Secretary of State, who is a Democrat.

Steve Singiser:

Just one of many cases where it seems like the minimum criteria for being a Republican candidate for Secretary of State is a deep-seated affection for the Big Lie, and affinity for Donald Trump. And in this case, the odd thing is, as we saw this week in Nebraska, being deeply indebted to the Big Lie is not a barrier to getting nominated, it might be an advantage.

Steve Singiser:

The only thing that saved the incumbent there, who was someone who fought back against the Big Lie, was the fact that there were two pro-MAGA candidates who split the vote. He only got 44%.

Steve Singiser:

In Colorado, Ms. Peters, probably this charge against her, even though it costs her the basic job description that she has, will probably be an asset to her in her primary. Because as we know, Republican voters are very fond of the Big Lie.

Steve Singiser:

It's just a question of whether they can get the rest of the voters to follow suit. And in a state like Colorado, that's not exactly a high percentage play.

David Nir:

There was something pretty amusing, as well. Because Peters is under indictment, she recently wanted to travel to Mar-a-Lago, so that she could kneel at Trump's altar.

David Nir:

She had to get permission from the prosecutors in order to leave the state, which they actually granted to her. And she could very well wind up with Trump's formal seal of approval.

Steve Singiser:

The way that guy operates, I mean, it's a pretty upper percentage chance there, isn't it? Because she has paid her homage to him, both in person and indeed by, it's a whole different animal, if you'll allow, when somebody whose job it is to adjudicate elections is the one who is saying the elections are rigged.

Steve Singiser:

It's one thing for a whacked-out Marjorie Taylor Greene or Madison Cawthorn type, who's running for Congress, and wants to use it to electoral advantage to say. But when you're someone whose job it is to adjudicate elections? Boy, that, just to me, is just a little bit of a bridge too far ...

David Beard:

And while not a lawyer, I've obviously followed enough of these things to know judges do not like to tell elected officials that they can't do their jobs. That is an extreme measure. So the degree to which this judge had to be like, "No, there's no other choice. I literally cannot let you run an election," just goes to show how far outside normal sanity there is to have come to get to this point.

Steve Singiser:

Yeah. I mean, it's unreal that that is ... Like I said, that's pretty much her job description and they're like, "We can't quite trust you to do your job." And now she wants to do that same job not just in Mesa county in Western Colorado, but she wants to do it on the stage of the entire state of Colorado. It seems to be a pretty risky proposition.

David Nir:

And I should also add that in 2018, this was a big pickup when Democrats won the Colorado Secretary of State's office. Jena Griswold won that post in that year and she is going to be facing potentially a competitive reelection battle, even if the GOP winds up nominating someone crazy like Tina Peters.

David Beard:

Moving on to what might be MAGA central, at least in terms of top tier statewide races, is Pennsylvania, which has some very messy primaries for both governor and Senate on the Republican side. Let's start with the leader in the governor's Republican primary, which is Doug Mastriano. Tell us about him, Steve.

Steve Singiser:

Mastriano is an interesting case. For one thing, he describes himself as a Christian nationalist. He was present at January 6th at the Capitol. He is filmed actually going through breached barricades. I was laughing about this earlier today thinking about next week's primaries and when Lou Barletta is your moderate alternative in a race, how screwed are you officially? But with Mastriano in the race, that's actually accurate. He also is a guy who has spoken before QAnon conferences, conferences that have cast doubt on the September 11th attacks. I believe the conference's name was Patriots Arise for God and Country which is ... yeah.

Steve Singiser:

And so, here's a guy who is quite open about it. I think was also instrumental in trying to get the results reversed in 2020 in Pennsylvania from his perch in the state Senate. He represents sort of south central Pennsylvania, very rural, very MAGA territory. He is absolutely a guy that is so unelectable on any number of levels that Josh Shapiro has decided to go the Claire McCaskill route. Josh Shapiro, for those who do not know, is the likely Democratic nominee for governor, and the attorney general in the state of Pennsylvania. He's gone the McCaskill route and has actually run ads designed to kind of help Mastriano out, which is very similar to McCaskill in 2012 trying to boost Todd Akin knowing he was the least electable of the field.

Steve Singiser:

The situation in Pennsylvania's gotten so desperate that Jake Corman, who was sort of a mainstream garden variety member of the legislature there, who had been running kind of a quixotic campaign for governor that was going nowhere, is going to announce an endorsement of Lou Barletta. Which again, like I said, when Barletta is your moderate alternative, you don't have a moderate alternative.

Steve Singiser:

And the only guy that's got to be happy about this Republican field at this point's got to be Shapiro because it's a God-awful mess. And again, here's a guy who probably... Let's face it. And this is not a disrespect to legislators everywhere who many of whom work very hard, but garden-variety state senators, especially in a state like Pennsylvania where there's 50 of them and 203 House members, state legislators generally don't get a national profile and this guy has, and for one reason and one reason alone, and that is an almost sycophantic fealty to Donald Trump. And it'll probably propel him to the Republican nomination, but can it propel him to governor? That's another story altogether.

David Nir:

So Steve, you mentioned Lou Barletta. Tell us a little bit about him and why he's such a shock choice as the "moderate savior."

Steve Singiser:

Well, he was a former congressman from Northeastern Pennsylvania. And he came to public attention even before he was in the Senate as the mayor of Hazleton, which is in Northeastern Pennsylvania. And he was an absolutely vocal, to the point of being quite gross about it, anti-immigration crusader before Build the Wall was cool, but also from an electoral standpoint, he has had a tour on the big stage. He was the Republican Party Senate nominee in 2018 and got positively smashed by double digits. And so, again, if you're Shapiro, it's like on one end I got this state legislator who's best known for being in the Capitol on January 6th. And then over here, I got a guy who's already run statewide and lost by 15 points, but Barletta ran in 2018 as a staunch conservative, and really ran hand-in-glove sort of with Trump. A lot of good that did him here because Mastriano is getting that MAGA attention even though Trump has stayed out of the race, not unlike the Senate race, which I know we're going to get to in a minute, but in the governor's race, Mastriano is just seen as his guy because I mean the guy literally was there on January 6th. Can't say that, can you, Lou Barletta?

David Beard:

You got to take that extra step. You got to go to Mar-a-Lago. You got to be there on January 6th. That's what it's really about. Not any political position.

David Nir:

That really is exactly right. And there has been reporting in recent days that Republicans are doing their usual thing that they are fretting about Mastriano actually winning the nomination and worried about how that might set them back in the governor's race and perhaps even put it out of reach, but amazingly in really just the last few days, the Mastriano fretting has been going on, I think, for a few weeks. But in just the last few days, those worries have spilled over into Pennsylvania's other race. And of course, I'm talking about the Senate contest. So, what the hell is going on in that front?

Steve Singiser:

Well, it's one of those races where pretty much every big-money and somewhat-awful component of the Republican machine has their own candidate. All of a sudden you've got the Club for Growth getting behind Kathy Barnette, who was last seen getting ... again, I hate to use the same verb here, but smashed in Pennsylvania's Fourth District a couple years ago. And of course you have good old Dr. Oz, who was at a rally with Donald Trump just last week. And it's kind of in the same sense that we saw earlier in the week in Nebraska in the governor's race. It is a legit three-way race; you also have Rich McCormick. And again, if Barnette who couldn't even carry a House race gets the nomination ... or Oz who has a million problems, not the least of which is it's pretty well universally known dude does not live in Pennsylvania.

Steve Singiser:

Then again you have this downstream effect that I know you were talking about and you're right. Here's another factor that a lot of people aren't considering in Pennsylvania. The redistricting there is a rare state that went really well for Democrats to the point that both houses of the state legislature are nominally competitive. It seems more likely than not that Democrats could pick up seats in both just by the way that the seats were reconfigured, particularly, in the state House.

Steve Singiser:

Now, they have a higher climb in the state House, granted, but they already picked up two seats just by dint of the way the districts were redrawn pretty much. And those are both now like Biden plus 25 seats, or something that. So the point is if the head of their ticket is Mastriano and Barnette, my goodness, that could be a real anchor on them come November in this legislative race that could be very close. Anything could happen between now and November, of course, but they could wind up losing everything.

David Nir:

So, why does Barnette have Republicans so freaked out?

David Beard:

So it's actually really interesting. I've been thinking about this a lot because Dr. Oz is the endorsed Trump candidate. Trump endorsed Dr. Oz. There's a whole to-do about it. So you would think similar as we've seen in other places, that the MAGA support would go to Dr. Oz in line with Trump. But in this case, Barnette is really the ultra MAGA candidate almost sort of separate and beyond Trump, not to say obviously that she's not a big Trumpist in terms of who she supports and the way that she would act and govern, God forbid. But in the fact that she is almost sort of beyond sort of Trumpism into whatever the next stage of MAGA activism is. And so, those folks are drawn to her even though Dr. Oz is the one with the endorsements. So making it this very messy race where there's also, of course, as Steve mentioned, McCormick, who's just super rich guy who's sort of playing ... It seems a little bit like he's playing at Trumpism just because he wants to win. Not to say he is not very conservative, but it's the weird ways in which MAGA is beyond Trump in some ways. Not that he isn't, obviously, a major figure.

David Beard:

And the other factor is that Mastriano going back to the governor's race and Barnette have cross-endorsed each other so that they're pushing each other in these races and sort of building their support among the MAGA segment of the primary electorate to have them both win and move on to the general election, which would just create some really strange results in Pennsylvania looking towards November.

David Nir:

So, the Pennsylvania primaries are coming up very soon on May 17. That is this coming Tuesday. And also on the same day, another big swing state is going to be hosting its primaries and that's North Carolina. And there's one district I know, Steve, that you had some thoughts about in particular where Republicans could really be screwing themselves over if they nominate the wrong person. And that is North Carolina's 13th District. So, why don't you give us a little background on the district and the candidates there?

Steve Singiser:

Well, the North Carolina 13th is part of that big redraw in North Carolina and it has become a Biden-plus two district. So it's one of the classic swing districts come November. They have a well-funded, what we kind of call before-2020, traditional Republican in the form of Kelly Daughtry. She's a businesswoman, lawyer. Has raised something like $2 million. Some of it's self-funded. You go to look at her campaign website and it talks about fighting Bidenomics, which is the first time I've heard that particular phrase used, but also just your good traditional boiler plate that’s been Republican mantra for time immemorial. But her main opponent for that gig is a Trump-endorsed 26-year-old who managed just to look half that age who used to play football in North Carolina state named Bo Hines.

Steve Singiser:

If you go to Hines's website by contrast to Daughtry's, you don't even see a picture on the main screen. You got to scroll a little bit before you see a picture of the candidate. What you see first in very large is a picture of Donald Trump, and the fact that Donald Trump has endorsed Hines. He's been pretty thin on issues. His website says he's 100% pro-gun, pro freedom of speech, and pro-Trump, but he doesn't really say anything much more than that, and he's been criticized in some corners as being a bit thin on the issues, but what he's counting on quite clearly is that having Donald Trump's face front and center in his campaign will be the ticket to a primary win and in a multi-candidate field, it may well be. The threshold to get through the runoff in North Carolina is only 30%. So, with those two in the lead position, it's very likely that one of the two of them will win. So if Hines wins it, all of a sudden you have a very conservative, very closely tied-to-Trump candidate in a district that is ostensibly a 50-50 district.

David Beard:

And Hines, of course, is classically the candidate who went district shopping. As the maps changed, he started off running for Congress in more western districts, closer to Charlotte, and then eventually had to find a district, as he was continuing to run despite the districts changing, and found himself in this southern Raleigh district where he has no connections and just ended up running there because that was the open seat. But he still had Trump's endorsement in his back pocket, so that's what's pushing him along here.

David Nir:

Have Trump endorsement, will travel, I guess. Steve, who are the Democrats running here?

Steve Singiser:

So the danger for the Republicans is if Hines wins this seat as an ill-experienced, very MAGA-oriented candidate in a district that Biden actually got 50% of the vote in, the Democrats have a contested primary with legitimate candidates. State legislators and people who are reasonably well-funded will be at the fore ready to take advantage of the fact that they have this guy whose only real nominal reason for running was his closeness to Trump in a district that Trump didn't do all that well in.

David Beard:

So there's a race where this is even more clear-cut up in Michigan, where Trump is supporting a primary challenger to an incumbent Republican because, of course, it was one of the Republicans who voted to impeach him. So what's going on up in Michigan there?

Steve Singiser:

So in Michigan's third district, we have Peter Meijer. Meijer very notably voted for the impeachment of Donald Trump, had fashioned himself as something of a centrist Republican, and that would probably be a necessity in a district like his that in redistricting changed to be a fairly pro-Biden district. It was a 53-45 Biden district.

Steve Singiser:

Well, along comes Donald Trump, not happy about the fact that Peter Meijer went against him and probably not at this point happy about the fact that Peter Meijer exists, so he puts his weight behind one of his former administration officials, a guy by the name of John Gibbs. And that's one of his endorsees.

Steve Singiser:

Now the problem there for the Republicans is that's an even more Democratic district than the North Carolina district we were just referencing and, in fact, more Democratic than the state of Pennsylvania statewide. So if Gibbs replaces Meijer, who I think in part won that district because he was viewed as somebody who was not overly ideological and then went to prove his bona fides in that regard by one of his earliest votes being a vote to impeach Donald Trump... if that's the case, can John Gibbs run the same percentages in a district where Donald Trump only got 45% of the vote? It seems unlikely.

Steve Singiser:

So there is another seat that Republicans, in a normal year, could probably count on that if they lose this primary, they're going to have to sweat a little bit. And they're probably going to have to throw some money Gibbs' way because that's a district you've got to think the Democrats will gun for pretty hard.

David Nir:

And speaking of Democrats, their candidate from 2020 is running again, Hilary Scholten. She is certainly well-funded. And in a lot of these races, perhaps the difference between a Peter Meijer and a John Gibbs might only make a difference of one or two or three percentage points, but in a close contest, which we have so many of, that could really be all the difference in the world.

David Beard:

And particularly in this district, we've talked a lot about how this has the potential to be a very good Republican year, which hopefully obviously won't be, but we know that's something that's very possible. In a Biden-plus-eight district, that could still be a district that Republicans lose even in a good year because it has moved to the left thanks to the un-gerrymandering of Michigan. But Peter Meijer is the type of candidate who could hold a D+8 seat in a good Republican year. That combination is what you'd need to get a seat that Democratic, but John Gibbs is not that candidate. So this is really a race where it's most clearly where you're really, from the Republican point of view, potentially just throwing away a seat, just because Trump doesn't want anybody who opposes him around. He would be happy to throw away the seat to get rid of Meijer.

David Nir:

So another state that has had some extremely close elections recently that we really ought to talk about is Arizona. And there we have an open governor's race because the current incumbent, Doug Ducey, who Trump hates, is term limited. And Republicans once again have a multi-way primary to try to succeed Ducey, and one candidate in particular really stands out as a big time MAGA problem.

Steve Singiser:

Yeah, that would be Kari Lake. Kari Lake has been in Arizona news for a long time. She was an anchor on television news there. She's probably best known in recent vintage for being one of the most vocal Big Lie proponents in a state that literally built an entire investigation around the Big Lie, as we all know. She at one point called for the Democratic Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, to be imprisoned for election crimes that were never quite specified, which would be something that could yield some fruit, given that the likely Democratic nominee, although the primaries are still into the future, is that same Katie Hobbs. Again, here is a candidate who's in the frontier in every poll whose only real merit in terms of political experience or resume is their closeness to Trump and their endorsement by Trump.

David Nir:

And I think, Beard, you made a really excellent point that Donald Trump absolutely doesn't care about electability. He thinks that any candidate he endorses in a primary is obviously going to win the general election. His understanding of electoral politics is, shall we say, extremely shallow. But as we so often caution, just because Republicans nominate a total whack job doesn't mean they can't win, and Donald Trump is the best example of that.

David Nir:

So we don't want to be smug about any of these races. We certainly can't sit back and say, "Oh, well, if the GOP nominates Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania governor's race, then Josh Shapiro will win in a walk." That absolutely isn't going happen. And Steve, earlier you mentioned the example of Claire McCaskill ratfucking the GOP primary in 2012 in Missouri to promote Todd Akin. Well, there still is a lot of work left to ruin Akin, though Akin did a huge job ruining himself with his “legitimate rape” remarks.

David Nir:

So none of these races will be over and done just because Republicans nominate their worst possible candidate on primary day. But the other point I'd like to make is we couldn't do a parallel episode like this with the Democratic Party. We just couldn't, and that's not because we're partisan hacks or because we think the Democratic Party is flawless. Far from it. You've heard us criticize Democrats plenty of times on this show. But for the most part, not even for the most part, really almost overall, there really just aren't any primaries out there where Democrats are at risk of nominating someone so far to the left that they put a race in jeopardy.

David Nir:

And in the few occasions where this kind of thing has happened, those candidates have tended to get crushed in the primaries. I remember Alan Grayson, the unhinged congressman from Florida who ran for Senate several years ago, he got smooshed, to use Steve's favorite word, in the Senate primary. So really it's just, to me, a remarkable lack of symmetry between the two parties. And this lack of symmetry, I think, is something that is poorly understood by the traditional media in particular that always wants to both-sides everything and assumes that because there are crazy Republicans, there's a commensurate number of crazy Democrats. And that just is not the case.

Steve Singiser:

Oh, I agree 100%. And what's more, to go to your first point, I want to reiterate, I agree with you completely that at the end of the day, what these possibilities of primaries putting the most MAGA-friendly candidate to the fore, in some cases that just means seats that probably the Democrats would have conceded as defeats they may take a second look at, Michigan’s 3rd being an example of that.

Steve Singiser:

I don't think they were ever going to concede the Pennsylvania or Arizona statewides, but every little bit helps. And where it also helps potentially is those very thin margins in those legislative races. If there is a legislative chamber besides Pennsylvania that the Democrats would love to get ahold of, it's Arizona, where the margins are also extremely close. So there's more than just the benefit of that individual race.

Steve Singiser:

But to your second point, my goodness, you could look across the board, and there are very few examples, even in the last 10 years, of Democrats basically disqualifying themselves from a major race because they nominated somebody that was wholly unelectable. Grayson put as much money and effort as he could into that race against Patrick Murphy a few years back, and it came all for naught. And you see examples of that over and over and over again.

Steve Singiser:

And so at the end of the day, you see examples, we've gone through half a dozen or more just this cycle, of Republicans having to beat back what would be viewed as extremist challenges and clearly trying to, in some cases, Mastriano being perhaps the most clear example in this campaign cycle, but you just don't see those on the Democratic side. And I think that's notable in the age of Trump, because as we've all mentioned over the course of the past few minutes, it seems now the biggest litmus test in the Republican party is no longer ideological. It's personal. It's do you stand with Trump? And there's just nothing like that on the Democratic side. Fealty to Joe Biden is not considered a requirement to be a Democratic office holder.

David Beard:

Well, it's almost a negative.

Steve Singiser:

Nor does he demand it, to his credit.

David Nir:

We have been talking Republican primaries, MAGA candidates who might harm GOP chances in November with longtime Daily Kos Elections contributing editor, Steve Singiser. Steve, thank you so much for joining us.

Steve Singiser:

It's been a pleasure. Thank you both.

David Beard:

That's all from us this week. Thanks to Steve Singiser for joining us. The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach us by email at thedownballotat@dailykos.com. And if you haven't already, please like and subscribe to The Downballot and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our producer, Cara Zelaya, and editor, Tim Einenkel. We'll be back next week with a new episode.

The Qronicles: Biolabs, and JFK conspiracy is back. This time he’s moonlighting as Donald Trump!

The Qronicles is a series that will collect some of the news, videos, and general mis/disinformation roiling around the conspiracy world of QAnon. You can cringe, you can laugh, but these folks are organizing and showing up at the polls!

WelQom back! (YAYYYYY!!!!!) It’s time for some Qronicles! The QAnon world is always busy because conspiracy theories need water, webs, roots, and a boatload of manure to grow. You need to trim those offshoots that didn’t work out and move the goalposts all the time. If you didn’t constantly tend to it, your massively outrageous conspiracy theory would die on the vine. Just ask QAnon toe-dipper Robert “RJ” Regan of Michigan, who blamed the media after he made a strangely triple-offensive remark concerning his daughters, the Big Lie, and sexual assault. There are benefits to keeping QAnon folks frothy with mystery and the dopamine-inducing empty epiphany. 

Related: JFK’s return didn’t materialize. Now QAnoners drink from a communal bleach punch bowl—literally

Related: JFQ Jr. announces Senate run

Related: QAnon Chronicles: Somehow, the JFK Jr. conspiracy crew got even weirder

First up is Ukraine. We discussed in the last Qronicles that QAnon’s conspiracy theories of Donald Trump and his secret war against all that is evil in the world had folded the invasion of Ukraine by Russia into the grand design. The narrative is that there are secret biolabs—wait, stop. These biolabs aren’t secret, they are well known and have published information that pretty much anyone can see. Shut up! There are biolabs, and they are secretly making bioweapons! Ukraine is making bioweapons? No, dummy! Dr. Anthony Fauci is making bioweapons with the help of Hillary Clinton and George Soros! It’s New World Order shit, daddy-o! They are going to begin controlling the new world from Ukraine!

That’s why Vladimir Putin is invading Ukraine? Exactly. Remember how all of those Ukrainians and Americans in Ukraine testified and released evidence that Donald Trump attempted to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden? Totally! He was impeached for that. But isn’t this the New World Order that can control the government, make it seem like Joe Biden is the actual president while the real president is playing golf in Florida, and hold the occasional rally? Didn’t they let Hunter Biden’s laptop get into the hands of Fox News and those folks?

Yup. They’re depraved!

It’s weird how QAnon folks seem to be arrested for things like child abuse and child pornography, and the conservative party they’re tied to seems to be filled with those kinds of cretins. Forget about all of that logic! I said biolabs!

Russia’s early struggles to push disinformation and propaganda about Ukraine have picked up momentum in recent days, thanks to a variety of debunked conspiracy theories about biological research labs in Ukraine. Much of the false information is flourishing in Russian social media, far-right online spaces and U.S. conservative media, including Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News.

This hogwash was recently parroted by former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard on Sunday, March 13. It has also received the now-common (and always profitable) libertarian wing of journalism’s seal of “We’re just asking questions.” Represented by folks like Glenn Greenwald and Michael Tracey, these are usually once somewhat respected anti-establishment journos who have found a lucrative financial niche in maintaining their anti-establishment bonafides while pretending not to notice that the right-wing-o-sphere makes up an extraordinarily large part of the media landscape. This allows them the chance to make a lot of money speaking to (mostly) men who, while they’re not against gay marriage and may even know some Black folks they call friends, do feel like capitalism has let them down. But they aren’t willing—or are too narcissistic—to put the blame on the systemic inequalities in our society and the need to make changes to deal with them. This makes them feel like they’re getting left further behind, and they’ve cornered themselves in a shame circle shaped like a penis.

Here’s an offshoot of this Ukraine conspiracy theory, care of VICE: Some QAnonites believe that Dear Leader Trump has long been telegraphing the secret mission now being undertaken by both himself and Putin! Specifically, his strange pronunciation of “China.” Even more specifically, some QAnoners believe the code-cracking is that Shpyl'chyna is the “Chy-na” Trump has been saying all these years—while also talking about the global superpower China at the same time. (12-dimensional chess and all that.)

The Ukrainian “chy-na” is in fact just part of the name of what appears to be a village on the outskirts of Lviv. In Ukrainian, it is called “Шпильчина,” but on Google Maps, it’s referred to as “Shpyl’chyna.” Unfortunately, this is a bad transliteration: The ‘y’ is meant to represent a very soft ‘i’ sound that’s hard to transliterate, because it’s rarely used in English.

English, shminglish! Let’s get back to John F. Kennedy!

After JFK, his son, and his wife failed to materialize—in fact, even Trump didn’t show up and technically he is alive—Michael Protzman, the originator of this JFK-based conspiracy theory, just dug in deeper. The people that stayed are very easily described as a cult. In fact, this Q-offshoot group has worried many of its adherents’ friends and family members

Michael Protzman aka -48 told his online followers after the rally that it wasn’t Trump on stage, It was JFK because of his height. He brings people on stage so you can see it’s not him. pic.twitter.com/Pt9VWyrz9L

— 2022 Karma 🌻🌻 (@2022_Karma) March 13, 2022

So Trump was wearing a John F. Kennedy suit? Wow. That had not occurred to me. Does this mean Donald Trump has always been dead and JFK has always been Donald Trump? Maybe it has something to do with an island. QAnon folks love a secret rich guy island where nefarious things happen. (Unless it’s Donald Trump hanging with well-known sexual predator and human sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.)

Speaking of John F. Kennedy Jr.: That guy—Vinnie Fusca, the one that some QAnon folks believe is actually JFK Jr. openly hiding at events—has decided to try and cash in on his cult celebrity. He’s looking to run for Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania. I mean, I thought he lived in Manhattan, or at least on the secret Joe Biden island with Michael Jackson and Princess Diana. It’s hard to keep up.

If you haven’t heard, gas prices are rising. Some people believe it’s inflation. Some people believe it’s fossil fuel interests using the invasion of Ukraine and “supply chain” issues as cover for gouging prices for higher profits, and some people think it’s President Joe Biden’s fault. However, some people in the land of Q believe that Biden is at fault for the higher gas prices but that he isn’t really president, and that Donald Trump is still in control of everything. But the gas issue, that’s Biden’s problem. Not Trump. Something about waking people up. Try to keep up.

Trump is still president but definitely don’t blame him for high gas prices. We got the news from this genius. pic.twitter.com/LuftMs2Hmd

— Davram (@davramdavram) March 3, 2022

Then there is the fear of being “digitiled.” What, you say, is that? It’s not technically a word, but as we can see in the clip, it’s a word now!

Asked a member of the trucker convoy what issues were important to her. Her answer was… interesting. pic.twitter.com/q7UDZHNxSE

— The Good Liars (@TheGoodLiars) March 7, 2022

It kind of seems to sound like what it is. How that might happen to this lady, be it by wearing a mask or by getting an injection, is unclear. I mean, I suspect her car has Bluetooth and she has a phone that sends occasional signals to and from satellites by way of cellular towers. Hopefully she never needs a pacemaker or any other such medical monitoring device as that would surely count as being “digitiled.”

And finally, there’s this.

This woman at the Trucker Convoy explained to us what covid19 REALLY means. pic.twitter.com/6XGRK1qcFr

— The Good Liars (@TheGoodLiars) March 14, 2022

The Gematria thing: It’s a numerology tool of sorts. Hebrew Gematria is much more involved and has the mysticism of being of “ancient” lineage. Unfortunately, Hebrew Gematria doesn’t get anything resembling the number of the beast. However, Simple Gematria does count “corona” as 66. It also counts my name as 154. According to numerology nation, this is a good sign for me! I’m in! COVID-19 is the Antichrist! Wait ... Oh, right, the surrender sheep thing. In Hebrew, “ovid” means “worker.” Ovid was a very famous Roman poet who lived from around 43 BCE to 17 CE. Maybe she meant “ovis?” “Ovis” is the Latin word for “sheep.” But this person with the very patriotic get-up must have missed the debunking of this “theory” done almost two years ago. The “19” code for “surrender” is not a thing.

So let’s fix it and call COVID-19 COVIS-surrender-in-202? I put the question mark there since we want to leave open the ongoing end of times date. Maybe it should be 20 just in case we end up in the next decade before the Clintons and Obamas finally take over the world and drink everybody’s baby blood.

Before we laugh too hard, remember: QAnon isn’t fringe. The most far flung aspects of the ideas may be fringe but they’re just the logic conclusions being reached by people who are having their ideas reflected back at them by pretend legitimate media outlets like Fox News. In turn it is the fountain from which all the right-wing news takes its propaganda cues these days. As the two views photocopy each other in an endless cycle, reality fades further and further away until the conspiracy has to be real otherwise what else will they have?

I’ll tell you one thing: People like Laura Ingraham will be richer—that’s for sure.

QAnon has a lot of funny wacky beliefs but I think important to remember the core of it is a day of the rope-style mass murder fantasy https://t.co/DdnKnykTfK

— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) March 10, 2022

Fox News ‘legal analyst’ forgets the United States jailed Martin Luther King Jr.—dozens of times

Fox News continues its attempts to generate chaos in the United States by reporting on the U.S.-anti-vaxxer-funded trucker protests in Canada. If that sentence sounds convoluted that’s because the concept it is trying to synthesize is hogwash. What has been a relatively small protest by right-wing extremists against public health mandates has been blown so far out of proportion by the Fox News propaganda machine that one wonders if Fox News has more than a little “investment” in it.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would be invoking the powers granted to him under the country’s Emergencies Act to try and bring an end to the protests, saying, "The blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety. We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue." 

On Tuesday, during one of the hate orgies of make-believe Fox News calls a show, “legal analyst” Jonathan Turley was brought on to speak about Trudeau’s announcement. It was … something to hear.

Turley began by saying the move to use emergency powers was “quite excessive.” Then, without a smirk, without even a smidgen of self-conscious reflection on what a true sociopath he sounds like, Jonathan Turley said this: "By this rationale, they could have cracked down on the civil rights movement. They could have arrested Martin Luther King."

Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley, on Canada PM Justin Trudeau invoking emergency powers to deal with the "Freedom Convoy" blockade: "By this rationale, they could have cracked down on the Civil Rights movement. They could have arrested Martin Luther King." pic.twitter.com/s9dwkcvihQ

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 15, 2022

That’s an amazing statement coming from the media outlet that truly hates Black civil disobedience (see: Black Lives Matter protests). It’s also deeply offensive, since it is complete make-believe. 

For one, one of the most famous essays written in American history was written in a Birmingham, Alabama, jail on April 16, 1963—by Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. was in jail for “demonstrating without a permit.” He had been in jail for four days before he wrote his essay. Unlike the Canadian trucker convoy, King’s law-breaking had to do with a racist judge, in a racist state, saying that Black people couldn’t hold a protest.

If Jonathan Turley wants to speak to the history of “excessive” use and abuse of state powers, Turley need only look to the at least 28 other times Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and jailed. Blackhistory.com has some of America’s lowlights:

January 26, 1956 -- He was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama as part of a “Get Tough” campaign to intimidate the bus boycotters. Four days later, on January 30, his home was bombed.

March 22, 1956 -- King, Rosa Parks and more than 100 others were arrested on charges of organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott in protest of Parks' treatment.

September 3, 1958 -- While attempting to attend the arraignment of a man accused of assaulting Abernathy, King is arrested outside Montgomery’s Recorder’s Court and charged with loitering. He is released a short time later on $100 bond.

[...]

October 19, 1960 -- He was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia during a sit-in while waiting to be served at a restaurant. He was sentenced to four months in jail, but after intervention by then presidential candidate John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, he was released.

[...]

July 27, 1962 -- He was arrested again and jailed for holding a prayer vigil in Albany, Georgia.

[...]

February 2, 1965 -- He was arrested in Selma, Alabama during a voting rights demonstration, but the demonstrations continued leading to demonstrators being beaten at the Pettus Bridge by state highway patrolmen and sheriff’s deputies.

Those ellipses above skip over other frivolous arrests of a man fighting for the right to be treated like a person, not a bunch of dunderheads who want the right to be shitheads because they’re afraid of medicine.

Here’s a fun response.

Fox News analysts already reaping the benefits of banning books, I see https://t.co/zFRBULnb0r

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 15, 2022

Sex trafficking investigation seems to be hurting Rep. Matt Gaetz’s pocketbook

If you haven’t heard, Florida Man Rep. Matt Gaetz continues to be the focus of speculation that he has done some real dirtbag criminal stuff. Since one of his best buds, Joel Greenberg, has cut a plea deal with investigators, there have been numerous reports of witnesses who seem to say Mr. Gaetz has involved himself in human trafficking, sex with a minor, illegal drug use, and possible misuse of campaign funds. This is on top of completely unrelated reports that Rep. Gaetz has received dubious campaign donations from sketchy sources. 

In the meanwhile, Gaetz has alternately hidden from the public, and then burst back into the public on what can only be called political theater events. Along with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other MAGA diehards who may be feeling the need to find a dictator who can pardon them in the future, Gaetz continues to promote the Trumpian Big Lie that our elections were stolen and that anyone investigating what happened on Jan. 6 is probably a part of the “deep state.”

These moves have seemed desperate attempts to both provide cover for what investigators may very well discover concerning a possible conspiracy to overturn the election results in 2020, and a way to fundraise for elected officials who have voted against every single piece of popular legislation that lands on their desks.

According to ABC News, Mr. Gaetz’s most recent campaign financial disclosures show that the suspected sex trafficker seems to be having a hard time keeping up the big fundraising numbers. In the final quarter of 2021, born-rich Gaetz reportedly pulled in just over $500,000 in donations—less than a third of what the Gaetz campaign was able to fundraise in the final quarter of 2020.

According to ABC, this diminishing return for the Gaetz campaign has been a pattern since Donald Trump lost the election, and certain GOP representatives decided to hitch their train to outright support of transplanting a fascist into power. This follows with how poorly Gaetz and fellow mad king cosplayer Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempt at fundraising together has gone. Over the summer, the Daily Beast reported that the Gaetz/Greene “joint fundraising committee” were posting “a combined loss of $342,000.” Not to get wonky here, but that’s the opposite of fundraising.

The Daily Beast is now reporting that Gaetz’s legal costs, the costs he put toward paying PR firms to spin the ongoing sex and drug crimes investigations have left his Friends of Matt Gaetz campaign committee at an almost $100,000 net loss on the year. Gaetz told the Beast that he is the only Republican that doesn’t take “lobbyist or PAC money.”

This may be true [once again, see the strange money contributions story about Matt Gaetz]. It may also be true that the money Matt Gaetz has taken for his campaign was used both illegally and for illegal things. But kissing the ring of a wannabe dictator is also costly, according to the Daily Beast.

As is customary for MAGA fixtures like Gaetz, the campaign paid its tributes to Donald Trump, tithing more than $2,200 to Trump properties in 2021. More than half of it came during the final months—$729 on Nov. 2 for lodging at Mar-a-Lago, and $445 for a late-October meal at Trump International Hotel in D.C.

Recently Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend reportedly reached an immunity deal with investigators in exchange for her cooperation in the investigation of the Florida official. Gaetz has steadfastly said that all reports of illegal activities on his part are lies, and that the investigation is a witch hunt of sorts. Does this sound familiar?

Rep. Adam Kinzinger brings a bazooka to Josh Hawley’s knife fight

After being one of only 10 House Republicans to vote for Donald Trump’s impeachment, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois announced that he would be retiring from the House in 2022. After cultivating Tea Party support back in 2010, Rep. Kinzinger has fallen out of favor with the fascist base the Tea Party movement has morphed into. Along with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Kinzinger has become the main public target for the MAGA-wing of the Republican Party in the battle for power being waged between the old guard and the monster love child they have created.

Rep. Kinzinger has the conservative qualities we have come to expect from GOP officials: he is willing to say some heavy shit to attack the people he perceives as his enemies. He is also one of the main Republicans on the House select committee to investigate what happened leading up to and around Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. This means the GOP’s loudest, most obnoxious, and likely criminal sector of the Party, have named Kinzinger as their enemy.

On Wednesday, news reports came out that Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri—best known for being a truly abhorrent coward of a man—was “urging the Biden administration to drop any U.S. support for Ukrainian membership in NATO.” To many, this statement shows a very mysterious and frightening bit of similarity with the openly corrupt moves and policies of former President Trump and the associates he was forced to pardon. Rep. Kinzinger made a statement on Twitter that, while lacking nuance, is pretty goddamn amazing.

With a link to an article about Hawley’s position, Kinzinger wrote, “I hate to be so personal, but Hawley is one of the worst human beings, and a self egrandizing [sic] con artist. When Trump goes down I certainly hope this evil will be layed [sic] in the open for all to see, and be ashamed of.” Those are the kinds of phone typos one makes when one is fuming angry.

To be clear, Sen. Hawley’s position on Ukraine isn’t some peacenik, let us deescalate tensions with Russia foreign policy idea. Hawley would like those military members back in our country, protecting a selection of whites from Americans he doesn’t want voting. Up until [checks watch] Donald Trump and Paul Manafort, it was his political party’s position that Ukraine should be a part of NATO.

A reminder, Rep. Kinzinger is still a large part of the problem, but he is fighting to wrestle it away from politicians who are somehow even more detestable than him and Liz Cheney. The fact that former dark lord of the underworld, Dick Cheney’s daughter isn’t evil enough for the current crop of GOP operatives is terrifying.

History will remember that when democracy was at stake Adam Kinzinger voted against voting rights, by proxy. pic.twitter.com/vgvSOrIvvn

— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) January 13, 2022

Sen. Hawley has already said all of the quiet things out loud. He has called Republican Jesus, Ronald Reagan, “ancient history,” and saluted the prospective insurrectionists with what seemed to be a white power sign, the morning of January 6, 2021. And he has always been this way. Since he was 15-years-old, he has defended the indefensible, people like disgraced racist Los Angeles cop Mark Fuhrman, and the Oklahoma City bombers. The state he represents has recently proposed a law that would in essence make murder legal, and more specifically the kind of murder our history books more correctly term “lynching.” 

Rep. Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney are fighting for their political lives at this point in time. They represent the previous GOP establishment that had a little more generational wealth attached to their version of white supremacy. Rep. Kinzinger made the mistake of believing that Trump would leave and that the rest of the GOP would rally around moving forward with their big donor list and the billionaires that support them. Unfortunately, we are living in desperate times and the only way that Cheney and Kinzinger can survive is to do the right thing and bring criminal charges to light about the complicity and the possible conspiracy by Republicans like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, and others, to overturn our democratically elected 46th President.

Report: Trump Plans To Resume MAGA Rallies

According to a report from CNN, former President Trump has been discussing the possibility of bringing back the Make America Great Again rallies that were so popular during his campaigns and president.

The report noted that Trump wants to remain a part of the political conversation despite no longer being president or having the ability to use Twitter, where he has been permanently banned. 

RELATED: Poll: 51% Have Unfavorable Impression Of Kamala Harris, Large Number Say ‘Not Qualified’ To Be President

Massive MAGA Rallies Were A Staple Of The Trump Years

Future rallies would reportedly be in support of Trump-endorsed candidates who are challenging sitting Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the January 6 Capitol protests.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is one of seven Republican senators who has criticized Trump and voted convict him in his second impeachment trial.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump held massive MAGA rallies throughout 2020. The rallies ended when Trump lost the general presidential election to Joe Biden. 

Trump Aide: ‘It Will Definitely Be Different In Terms Of The Setup’

A Trump aide told CNN of the planned rallies, “It will definitely be different in terms of the setup, but we got really good at planning these events in 2020, so we will probably use a lot of those same vendors again.”

Since Trump was banned from Twitter, he has been communicating through statements from his office, particularly speaking out against Republicans who have criticized him.

On Tuesday, Trump’s office released a statement calling Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney a “warmongering fool” after she said she had not running for president herself in 2024.

RELATED: Hawley Mocks Liz Cheney For Possible Presidential Run: She Has ‘No Support In Her Own Caucus’

New Trump Rallies Could Begin As Early As May

“Liz Cheney is polling sooo low in Wyoming, and has sooo little support, even from the Wyoming Republican Party, that she is looking for a way out of her Congressional race,” Trump said in a statement.

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Cheney is another sitting Republican who has received a GOP primary challenger due to her approach to Trump.

According to Trump aides via CNN, these rallies could begin in May.

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Meghan McCain Blasts Capitol Rioters As ‘Domestic Terrorists’ Who Should Be Sent To Guantanamo

On Monday’s episode of the ABC talk show “The View,” conservative cohost Meghan McCain blasted the Capitol rioters as “domestic terrorists” who should be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Meghan McCain Attacks Capitol Rioters

“I just think we need to treat the domestic terrorists the way we do actual terrorists,” she said. “I think we need to consider all the possibilities. I’m not against sending these people to Gitmo, That may sound extreme. These are domestic terrorists who attacked our own republic. They should be treated the same way we treat Al-Qaeda.”

McCain also called on Republicans to impeach President Donald Trump before he leaves office.

“People are really worried about violence on Inauguration Day. I think they have to send a direct message, Republicans and Democrats, that this cannot stand and there have to be ramifications for what happened,” McCain said. “This is one of the worst domestic terror attacks in our history.”

Related: Meghan McCain Breaks Down As She Begs Republicans To Remove Trump From Office Using 25th Amendment

“I have said this on this show numerous times: Facts are stubborn things. Normally I say it in relationship to Democrats — now I’m saying it to Republicans,” she added.

“If President Obama had incited this kind of riot, where he had lied to his voters, lied about the election and then sent a mob of people up on Capitol Hill where the vice president could have been killed or worse, there would be absolute bedlam worse than we’re seeing now,” McCain said. 

Whoopi Goldberg chimed in with a simple “oh my God” in agreement with McCain’s sentiment.

McCain Doubles Down

“So the problem I’m having now, and I’m just speaking to my own party — there has to be intellectual consistency in this,” McCain continued. “Because we always go on TV and say we are the party of law and order, we are the party of the ideals, we are the party of ramifications for people that screw with America, we’re gonna put a boot in your you-know-what if you screw with the American way. I have said that.”

“So why is it different when it’s MAGA supporters?” she continued. “That’s where I’m really confused right now. If we let this stand and we don’t have 100% for impeachment, the 25th amendment, anything and everything to get him out now — the existential threat of violence is still here.”

Related: Barack Obama Says Conservative Media ‘Ecosystem’ Is To Blame For Trump Supporters Storming Capitol

Democrats are making moves this week to impeach Trump, but it remains to be seen if they will be successful.

This piece was written by James Samson on January 11, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
The Possibility Of A Patriot Party
Giuliani Calls For Trump To Declassify Everything – Says He Owes It To MAGA Movement
Jon Voight Defies Hollywood To Praise Trump After Capitol Riots – ‘It’s Not Over’

The post Meghan McCain Blasts Capitol Rioters As ‘Domestic Terrorists’ Who Should Be Sent To Guantanamo appeared first on The Political Insider.

Watch right winger give out offer code for MyPillow during ‘StopTheSteal’ rally in Washington, D.C.

The Trump administration is a swamp. The great con that Trump was able to to perpetrate on the Americans who voted for him was that his political outsider credentials—which were and remain real—would allow him to clean up the big money corruption developed and fostered predominantly by the Republican Party in Washington, D.C. The reality has been that not only has Trump further swampified the government, he’s also brought in new con men and women into the government—or more realistically, brought around the government to leech off of. These are people like Mike Lindell and David Harris. Lindell you might remember as the MyPillow guy who sort of makes up a lot of right-wing media advertising dollars. He’s a shameless mad hatter pushing unproven COVID-19 remedies and alien-level conspiracy theories about the election.

David Harris is a lesser known former vitamin huckster who rebranded himself as a Black conservative and received a big boost from Trump in popularity. His angle is that he’s conservative and he’s Black and there’s a financial niche market to be found in super racist right-wing circles if you can serve the purpose of making right-wingers feel less racist than they are. Harris was highlighted as one of the top “superspreaders” of Trump’s false election misinformation by The New York Times in the weeks after Election Day. On Sunday, Harris was in Washington, D.C. for one of the “Stop The Steal” Trump rallies of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government. He spoke on stage in front of others, like the Mike “MyPillow” Lindell. It turns out that before Harris went into his speech, which mostly consisted of a long-winded recitation of a Bible passage, he had some shilling to do.

One of the people helping to fund these rallies is Lindell, and Harris wanted to make sure the audience gave Lindell the applause and recognition he deserves; being a scumbag who wants to overthrow the government takes money and time and conning. Before Lindell went up to bluster away relatively incoherently about how all of the Biden votes are proof that Donald Trump has more votes (yes, that was the basic statement by MyPillow man on Sunday), Harris had some business to do for what we call in the entertainment business the money.:

DAVID HARRIS: A special thank you to the cosponsor that really helped fund a lot of this. Mr. MyPillow himself, Mike Lindell! Amazing patriot, loves this country, loves us, loves the president, and the president loves him. And I gotta tell you I love his codes, right? I love his pillows, I love his sheets, I love his mattress topper, and I love his codes because you know what, the Kraken has been released. You are a part of the Kraken. So for the best deals to support this patriot, use the code “Kraken” at mypillow.com. He does not talk about a lot of what goes through behind the scenes, but he goes through a lot of hell for standing up for us.

It’s very important to note here how Harris began by saying, “And I gotta tell you I love his codes, right?” before remembering that he needed to do the whole make sure to mention the things Lindell sells (i.e., sheets and bed toppers), and then mention the codes. It’s one of the things you learn doing live readings for ads. There are a few things you need to hit and if you nail it, you make it seem like you aren’t doing an ad. Usually you just have to remember to mention all of the things in the right order. Harris does a fine job selling that MyPillow merch. We are just weeks away from their discount promotional codes going from “Kraken” to things like “IAMASucker” and “PleaseTakeMyMoney.”

After the day’s events, Proud Boys and other racists from the day’s “peaceful protests” went on to enact seemingly state-sanctioned violence against Americans who are interested in protecting our democracy from ethno-state insurgents and domestic terrorists like Trump and friends.

Trump Snaps At ‘Lightweight’ Reporter: ‘Don’t Ever Talk to the President That Way’

President Trump snapped at a reporter who tried interjecting on his comments about the election, referring to him as a “lightweight” and demanding he shows some respect.

The reporter has been identified in multiple outlets as Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason.

The media is portraying it as a meltdown when, in reality, it was a proper reminder to reporters who have shown zero respect for the President of the United States over the past four years exactly where they sit on the food chain.

Trump began with an observation that Biden’s election performance is remarkable in crucial swing states compared to Barack Obama’s past election performances, a fact that raises eyebrows in his view.

RELATED: Report: Media’s Biased Coverage of the Election May Have Handed the Presidency to Biden

Trump Snaps at Lightweight Reporter Jeff Mason

Mason began by asking the President if he’d be willing to concede the election should the Electoral College votes for Biden.

“Just so you understand, this election was a fraud,” he said.

“They have Biden beating Obama in areas that matter in terms of the election in swing states.  And yet he’s losing to Obama all over the place,” Trump continued. “But he’s beating Obama in swing states which are states that mattered in terms of the election.”

Mason tried interrupting the President which didn’t work out too well for him. Trump quickly snaps back at the reporter over his lack of respect.

“Don’t talk to me that way,” Trump scolded. “You’re just a lightweight. Don’t talk to me that way. Don’t talk to …”

“I’m the President of the United States. Don’t ever talk to the president that way,” he continued before shifting to another question.

RELATED: Barack Obama Blasts Hispanics Who Voted For Trump – They Ignored The President’s Racism Because They Oppose Gay Marriage

Trump’s Touchy Relationship With a Biased, Unprofessional Media

President Trump has had to repeatedly battle a biased, unprofessional media that stands as perhaps one of the most corrupt institutions in America today.

At a press conference earlier this year, CNN reporter Jim Acosta claimed his network’s reputation “on delivering the truth is a lot better than yours.”

The President wrecked him on a national stage.

Acosta, of course, struggled to recall the fact that his network had to settle a massive lawsuit with Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann after the cable news station smeared him as a racist for the crime of wearing a MAGA hat.

Or the fact that CNN once had a ‘journalist of the year’ forced to resign at another outlet after it was discovered he fabricated his stories “on a grand scale” for many years.

Or the fact that three of their reporters had to leave the network after the publication of a ‘fake news’ report on Russia that was later retracted.

Or the fact that they blatantly helped doctor a call transcript with Ukraine to help fuel impeachment.

Or the numerous other stories that were proven to be false.

There have been other reporters at other outlets that the President has had to put in their place.

A Yahoo News reporter in April was on the receiving end of a verbal tongue-lashing when he tried to corner the President with false data about coronavirus testing.

President Trump had to tell CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond that his network is “fake news” and explained to the reporter he was sorely lacking in a major area.

PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor was on the receiving end of several testy retorts by the President over the years.

A study conducted by the Media Research Center recently shows biased media coverage very likely tilted the election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.

President Trump has repeatedly warned Americans that the media is the “enemy of the people.”

They’ve more than proven him right over the past four years.

The post Trump Snaps At ‘Lightweight’ Reporter: ‘Don’t Ever Talk to the President That Way’ appeared first on The Political Insider.

Trump’s new press secretary on Feb. 25: ‘We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here’

On Tuesday the White House announced that scam artist phantom Stephanie Grisham was out as press secretary. Vapid right-wing talking head Kayleigh McEnany was announced as the new White House lying machine. While Grisham decided to be mysteriously invisible during her time as the White House’s main liaison to the media, McEnany has a more boisterous personality with a more storied history of spewing lies and wrongheaded predictions. For example, here she is on Fox News with now-fired Trish Regan on Feb. 25 of this year. What’s she predicting? That Trump will stop the spread of COVID-19 by way of a travel ban on China? Yes. Let’s hear about it, Kayleigh!

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: This president will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here, and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama.

You can even watch her saying it!

On the same day Larry Kudlow said coronavirus was �contained� on Feb. 25th, Trump�s campaign spox made an even more bold claim. �We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama." pic.twitter.com/O0DDH3Rvkw

— andrew kaczynskiðÂ�¤Â� (@KFILE) April 4, 2020

McEnany has been auditioning for this part for some time now, as has virtually everyone who appears regularly on state misinformation channel Fox News. She’s checked all of requisite boxes of fealty, like saying impeachment proceedings—and in fact any criticism of Donald Trump—amounted to participating in a coup d’etat of our government

McEnany began her right-wing career speaking on CNN as a talking head, but quickly found that running into even the most modest of pushback on her talking points led to her stressing out and blinking strangely, as can be seen in this clip from a couple of years ago.

McEnany has done all the things one expects. She’s called the Mueller report an “exoneration” of Donald Trump; she’s done the softball interviews of truly awful Trump cabinet members like Betsy DeVos; and she’s tweeted out real through-the-looking-glass misinformation, like this:

BIG NEWS from President @realDonaldTrump�s Chinese Virus task force briefing! Dr. Birx shared that 40% of the country now have "EXTRAORDINARY LOW NUMBERS" of cases�� 19 of 50 states have less than 200 cases!

— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) March 26, 2020

But what may have finally gotten Kayleigh the job is her loud, fact-free, and enthusiastic delivery of conservative talking points with seemingly no shame whatsoever. But let’s never forget McEnany’s humble, racist, beginnings.

The new White House press secretary, ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/y3m9YAPtAr

— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) April 7, 2020

Tuesday, Apr 7, 2020 · 7:44:15 PM +00:00 · Walter Einenkel

This quote from Grisham, given to Axios before she was officially replaced, is worth adding here: “Sounds like more palace intrigue to me, but I’ve also been in quarantine. If true, how ironic that the press secretary would hear about being replaced in the press.”