Pro-Trump Candidates Look To Replace Squishy GOP Senate Retirees In 2022 Midterms

A much deeper shade of red could be on the horizon for Republicans in the Senate, as moderate GOP Senators in five states are retiring, and many of the candidates vying to replace them are not afraid to run on a Trumpian “Make America Great Again” platform.

Of the Senators retiring in those five states, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who replaces them would be more moderate – instead, candidates are looking to bring with them a much more conservative approach to the Senate, an approach that may spill over into the House.

RELATED: Pentagon ‘Concerned’ About Americans Left In Afghanistan But Doesn’t Foresee Military Saving Them

Some Key Races

In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, retiring Senators Richard Burr and Pat Toomey both voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, a vote that got them in hot water with their respective state parties.

Mark Walker, running in North Carolina, declared, “Wrong vote, Sen. Burr. I am running to replace Richard Burr because North Carolina needs a true conservative champion as their next senator.”

Ted Budd – who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, also lambasted Burr’s vote.

But it is not just voters wanting Trump back.

In Ohio, outgoing Senator Rob Portman was one of the architects of the trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure deal. Of ten Republicans running or considering a run, six of those candidates do not support the infrastructure bill.

Populist firebrand and author J.D. Vance, running for Portman’s seat said, “Republicans are bending over backwards to get this deal. Really, it’s just a partisan hatchet job.”

RELATED: When Reporters Ask About Abandoned Americans, Secretary Of State Blinken Turns Back And Walks Away

The Changing Face Of The Republican Party

Whether you love or hate Donald Trump, one thing is certain, he has changed the face of the Republican Party and who it appeals to. It is a sentiment echoed by North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley, who says,

“Trump has reshaped the Republican Party. We’re now a blue-collar party. We’re an America first party. It’s a different party than it was when [retiring Missouri Sen.] Roy Blunt and Richard Burr first got elected. And I don’t think the party is going back. It’s tough on China, protect the border, fight for the Second Amendment, fight for life. That has been an enormously popular agenda with the base.”

But the new face of the party isn’t going to change without the old face putting up a fight.

And because Republicans have zero room for mistakes if they want to win back the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he is more than willing to intervene in GOP primaries where he sees “electability” issues. 

Meaning, McConnell and the GOP establishment will do what it takes to keep outsiders… out.

There will be no other place where “electability issues” are more on display than in Missouri. 

Among the candidates vying for Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat is former Gov. Eric Greitens.

Greitens was elected in 2016, but resigned due to a sex scandal in 2018. His candidacy has Missouri GOP officials nervous. Greitens ran for Governor as an “outsider,” and says he has no plans to follow in the establishment footsteps of Roy Blunt.

RELATED: Pentagon’s John Kirby Claims U.S. Military Equipment In Viral Video Is ‘Unusable’

Afghanistan Changes Everything

In less than a year, Americans have put up with higher gas prices, food prices, COVID, and a wide open southern border courtesy of the Biden administration.

But aside from all the analysis and pundit predictions, the one giant horrendous game changer could be Afghanistan. The incompetence and ineptness of the Biden administration has also been on full display with no sign it will get better anytime soon.

While traditionally it is domestic issues that are front and center during midterm elections, and there are plenty of those to go around, there are exceptions. Vietnam in 1968, Iran in 1980, and Middle East terrorism in 2004. 

Democrats may count on Americans having short memories, but Republicans know that is what political ads are for. And in this case, even some Democrats want a full investigation into how this went so horribly wrong.

But former Pennsylvania State GOP Chair Rob Gleason says don’t count Donald Trump and his supporters out anytime soon.

“Primaries have low turnout but you can count on the Trump people because they’re still coming to rallies, they still fly Trump flags, they still wave Trump signs. In all of these states we’re talking about, Trump supporters are still really active and because of all the problems with this presidency now, they don’t just feel more energized. They feel vindicated.”

This may be a good sign for all of those deep red candidates. 

 

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Pro-Trump Republican Challenging Lisa Murkowski Releases First Ad: ‘America First, Always’

Kelly Tshibaka, a pro-Trump conservative challenging Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, has released her first ad.

Murkowski, a Republican, voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial.

While the ad avoids making any negative commentary about her opponent, Tshibaka does sprinkle in some clearly Trumpian elements to her message.

“I’m a conservative, pro-life, pro-second amendment,” she confidently states. “And America first, always.”

Tshibaka also positions herself as an outsider running against an establishment Republican.

“The insiders don’t like me because I spent my career exposing taxpayer fraud and abuse,” she tells potential voters. “That’s okay, I’m not running for them, I am running for you.”

Tshibaka most recently served as Alaska commissioner of administration, a position from which she stepped down to announce her campaign to unseat Lisa Murkowski.

RELATED: Report: 9 Of The 10 Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Trump Facing Primary Challengers

Pro-Trump Kelly Tshibaka Ready To Take On Murkowski

While the new ad by Kelly Tshibaka doesn’t delve into any specific messages contrasting herself with Senator Lisa Murkowski, she is, as Alaska’s News Source reports, “closely aligned politically with former President Donald Trump.”

Tshibaka has defined herself as a “new generation” of Alaska conservatives and chastised Murkowski for siding with Democrats in the impeachment trial, voting to convict Trump for the charge of incitement of insurrection related to the Capitol protest.

“President Trump has been great for Alaska, and we need to remember that in both elections Alaska selected President Trump as our president,” Tshibaka told the outlet.

“I don’t think it helps Alaska when our senator goes against and picks a fight with a president who’s benefiting our state.”

Tshibaka has also reportedly hired several advisers with ties to the former President to help her with a campaign to defeat Murkowski.

“Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark and battleground states director Nick Trainer … will serve as Tshibaka’s senior advisers,” Politico reveals.

She also brought on Tim Murtaugh, who was communications director on Trump’s reelection effort.

RELATED: Here Are the 6 Republicans Who Voted That Trump’s Impeachment Trial Is Constitutional

Trump: I’ll be There To Campaign Against Murkowski

Donald Trump has yet to endorse anybody against Lisa Murkowski though Politico notes he is “on the hunt for a credible Murkowski opponent on the senator’s right flank.”

Trump has repeatedly bashed Murkowski not only for her impeachment vote but for consistently standing alongside Senator Susan Collins and the late John McCain in obstructing a conservative agenda.

He recently knocked Murkowski for her role in voting to confirm appointees for President Biden who have, he states, led to the revocation of ANWR drilling permits.

“Not only did Murkowski kill the biggest economic stimulant for the State, but also one of the biggest energy-producing sites in the world,” he criticized.

“She’s the best friend Washington Democrats ever had—and Alaska’s reward for that betrayal is an empowered Left coming after their wealth and jobs,” he added.

“I think she will be met very harshly by the Alaska voters in 15 months, and I will be there to campaign against her!”

“We can’t let the Radical Left destroy Alaska’s Energy Industry with their Socialist job-killing agenda,” Tshibaka recently tweeted.

“If Liberal Lisa Murkowski won’t protect us, I will!” she added.

 

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Conservatives Are Lining Up To Primary Anti-Trump Cheney In Wyoming

On Wednesday, House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her position as GOP Conference Chair, and now challengers in Wyoming are lining up to oust her from her Congressional seat altogether.

As many as six people have already announced they will challenge Cheney for her House seat in the 2022 midterms. A defiant Cheney told reporters on Thursday that she “obviously welcomes” anyone who wants to throw their hat in the ring against her. 

“There are millions and millions of Republicans out there who want us to be a party that stands for principles and who are very worried about the direction that the party is going and don’t want the party to be dragged backward by the former president.”

Cheney has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, and has also spoken out about her concern with the direction of the Republican Party as influenced by Trump.

RELATED: Gas Lines, Inflation Evoke Biden-As-Carter Memories

Trouble For Cheney Started With Impeachment

Liz Cheney’s troubles began not long after her impeachment vote against Donald Trump. In February, Cheney was censured by the Republican parties of ten Wyoming counties. Some used phrases in their announcements of a censure like “betrayed the trust” of voters, and “devalued the political influence of the state of Wyoming.”

Cheney also survived an attempt in February to remove her from the Conference chair position, with even fellow Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida traveling to Wyoming to encourage voters there to remove her from office. 

Last month at a GOP retreat in Florida, calls for her to be removed from the Conference Chair got louder as Cheney was at odds with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over the scope of a commission that is investigating the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

She also said that anyone who challenged the 2020 election results should be disqualified from being the 2024 GOP nominee – a clear shot at Trump.

RELATED: CDC Director Quickly Goes From ‘Impending Doom’ To ‘No Masks’, Prompting Questions About Timing  

Who Are Cheney’s Challengers?

State Senator, gun rights activist, and Cheyenne-area business owner Anthony Bouchard was the first to announce he intended to challenge Cheney.

Another Wyoming legislator, a conservative radio host whose family owns Casper-area radio stations, State Rep. Chuck Gray has also announced he is running. 

Retired Army Colonel Denton Knapp, who currently lives in California but grew up in Wyoming and plans to move back, has thrown his hat in the ring. He said what prompted him was, “What’s missing right now is trust in our elected officials. Wyomingites expected Cheney to vote a certain way and she didn’t. As a result, she’s going through consequences.”

Also in the running is Marissa Joy Selvig, former mayor of Pavillion, a small town of 200. Selvig said, “I’ve never been a Cheney fan.” She added, “She has been working more for herself and for the Republican Party than she has the citizens of Wyoming. That’s what I see.”

Businessman Darin Smith is the most recent challenger to announce his candidacy. He announced his intention to run last week.

RELATED: 3,309 New Earmarks Proposed by 324 Members Of Congress Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion

Could Be An Uphill Battle For Cheney Opponents

Liz Cheney has a formidable track record when it comes to campaigning. She has beaten both Democrat and Republican opponents in the Cowboy state, and enjoys all the benefits of incumbency.

In the first quarter of this year, she raked in $1.5 million, her best fundraising quarter yet. Being the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she enjoys universal name recognition and family legacy advantages, too.

Prior to being in the House, Cheney ran an ill-fated Senate campaign against then Senator Mike Enzi, but dropped out after only six months. Accusations of being a “carpet-bagger” dogged Cheney and claims that she had not spent much time in Wyoming until moving to affluent Jackson Hole in 2012.

Liz Cheney is free to do what she believes is right, but she might want to get home to see if the people in Wyoming agree with her.

 

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Republicans Release Plan to Target Vulnerable Democrats, Take Back The House

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released a list of 47 “vulnerable Democrats” they plan to target in 2022 in an effort to take back the House.

The memo reminds voters that Republicans are “just five seats short of a majority” following some unexpected successes in the 2020 election.

NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer says that in the first few weeks of the Biden administration, Americans are already “seeing the job-killing initiatives House Democrats support.”

House Democrats on the Education and Labor Committee, for example, are pushing for a $15 minimum wage proposal, despite warnings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that it would put 1.4 million Americans out of work.

“We will relentlessly hold House Democrats accountable for their socialist agenda,” Emmers adds, “and ensure voters understand the damaging impact policies like defunding the police, government-run health care, and ending the Keystone XL Pipeline will have on Americans’ everyday lives.”

RELATED: Democrats Have A Back-Up Plan That Might Still Bar Trump From Running Again If Impeachment Fails

Republicans Will Target Democrats, But They’re a Target As Well

While House Republicans will be targeting Democrats to win back the majority from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some of them will be targets themselves.

Former President Donald Trump is reportedly setting his sights on possible primary challenges to “Never Trump” Republicans, according to Newsmax.

His son Eric was floating the idea even prior to the impeachment fiasco.

“I will personally work to defeat every single Republican Senator/Congressman who doesn’t stand up against this fraud,” he tweeted regarding the 2020 election. “They will be primaried in their next election and they will lose.”

We doubt things have been patched up after the events that followed.

In mid-January, 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach the former President for “incitement of insurrection.”

RELATED: 64 Percent Of Republican Voters Would Join Trump If He Started A New Party

What Will Trump Do?

The ability of Republican candidates to target their Democrat counterparts may very well come down to what Trump does going forward.

Anger over Republicans joining Democrats in the impeachment effort has boiled over – a report notes that 7 out of the 10 GOP lawmakers who voted in favor of impeaching Trump are already facing primary challenges for their congressional seats.

Further complicating matters, some have speculated whether or not Trump would be better served to start his own party due to a fracture with the GOP.

A poll from earlier this month shows an overwhelming percentage of Republican voters would join a new political party established by the former president.

It seems the NRCC might want to focus on shoring up support from the former President if they are to have any chance of regaining a majority in the House.

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Trump Reportedly Eyes Primary Challenges Of ‘Never Trump’ Republicans Instead Of Third Party

Former President Donald Trump has reportedly, for the moment, put the idea of a possible third party on hold, and is setting his sights on focusing on possible primary challenges to “Never Trump” Republicans, according to Newsmax.

After the inauguration of Joe Biden, it had been reported that Trump had been talking with allies about creating a new third party, the “Patriot Party.”

Aides close to Trump said the third party idea came about after he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had exchanged words.

McConnell blamed Trump for the deadly riot at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. 

RELATED: Rand Paul Slams Impeachment “Farce” That “Should Be Dismissed”

Trump Thinking Senate Conviction Not Likely

New York Times Washington Correspondent Maggie Haberman reported that the third party was partly a means to stop Republicans from voting to convict him in the impeachment trial, but Trump does not feel that there will be any impeachment conviction in the Senate.

Seventeen Republicans would be needed to vote to convict in a Senate trial.

Haberman said Sunday, “In last 24 hours, after floating through a few folks that he was considering creating a third-party as a way to keep Senate R’s in line ahead of impeachment, Trump has been talked out of that and is making clear to people he isn’t pursuing it, per ppl familiar w his thinking.”

It has been nearly three weeks since Trump supporters protesting the certification of the electoral college votes stormed the Capitol building.

Many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, have accused Trump of inciting the violence. 

Haberman went on to say, “Trump has started to believe there are fewer votes to convict than there would have been if the vote had been held almost immediately after Jan. 6, the people familiar with his thinking said.”

RELATED: House Republicans Call For Cheney’s Removal From GOP Conference Chair After Impeachment Vote 

Possible Primary Targets For Trump

While there is no official word from Donald Trump yet about primary challenges, his son Eric was floating the idea even before the certification vote.

There are several prominent “Never Trump” Republicans in Washington that could make possible primary targets.

Not only is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) in trouble at home and has already gained a primary challenger for 2022, several other Republicans have spoken out against Trump in recent weeks.

Immediately following the violence at the Capitol, Utah Senator Mitt Romney chastised Trump, “What happened at the U.S. Capitol today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.”

Romney also stated that he believes that impeachment could bring “unity in our country.”

The Utah Senator has been famously “Never Trump,” since before the 2016 election.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also joined in by saying, “The mob was fed lies,” and went on to say that the Capitol riot was “provoked by the President.”

10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump could theoretically fire up Trump supporters for primary challenges. They include: 

  • Newly-elected Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer
  • Liz Cheney
  • South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice
  • Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler
  • Never Trump Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who once considered a third party challenge for President against Trump
  • Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez
  • Michigan Rep. Fred Upton
  • New York Rep. John Katko
  • California Rep. David Valadao

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said impeaching Trump was “appropriate,” but has not said if she would vote to convict.

RELATED: Trump Leaves The National Stage – Or Has He?

Trump Considering Several Future Plans?

There has been much speculation as to what Trump’s future plans might include, besides starting a third party.

Rick Grenell, former Acting Director of National Intelligence and one of Donald Trump’s most loyal Senior administration officials, said that Trump has said told him “personally, numerous times, he does want to run again.”

Grenell also said that “Trump needs the Republican Party as much as it needs him.”

Another possibility mentioned was Trump starting his own media outlet.

A report from Axios in November claims that Trump had told friends he wanted to start a digital media company to rival Fox News.

Many conservatives believe Fox made a huge mistake on election night by calling Arizona early for Joe Biden. 

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Daily Kos straw poll: Elizabeth Warren wins a plurality, Sanders and Bloomberg round out top three

In the first post-Yang Gang straw poll, we’re finally back to having a clear picture of the Daily Kos community’s presidential preferences. And as of now, Elizabeth Warren is still top dog around these parts. 

    Elizabeth Warren 33

    Bernie Sanders 25

    Mike Bloomberg 13

    Amy Klobuchar 9

    Joe Biden 8

    Pete Buttigieg 7

    Tom Steyer 1

Despite a mediawide effort to erase Warren, she retains the plurality lead among Daily Kos readers (and outsiders urged on in various online forums). The two progressives in the race have 58% of the total, which is in line with results we were seeing last year. The difference? In October, the numbers were Warren 41, Sanders 15. Sanders has been consolidating the left offline, and he’s done that to some extent here online. 

The big surprise, or better said, disappointment, is that Bloomberg would get 13% around these parts—which just happens to be the rate he’s currently getting in the outside world. Turns out, sometimes we’re not just that different from the broader party. 

Chris Matthews Frets: If Bernie Wins the Nomination ‘We’ll Lose 49 States’

MSNBC host Chris Matthews is sounding the alarm suggesting that if the Democrat party goes all-in on radical socialist, Bernie Sanders, President Trump will wipe the floor with them on Election Day.

In discussing how the other candidates have withheld their fire against Sanders and his radical policies, Matthews predicted the ultimate outcome would be Trump winning 49 of 50 states. Or is it 57, Barack?

“They’re [other candidates] just pandering to the Bernie people and you know what pandering gets you? Nothing,” the MSNBC host complained. “It certainly doesn’t get you respect.”

“They’ve got to get out there and say I disagree with socialism; I believe in the markets; I think he’s wrong,” Matthews continued. “I think you’ll never get it done and this country will never go that direction, by the way we’ll lose forty-nine states.”

Safe to say, Chris has no thrill going up his leg for Bernie’s socialist candidacy.

RELATED: Chris Matthews: Obama’s Presidency ‘Still Thrilling to Me’

Let’s Analyze Those Comments

There is a lot to unpack in Matthews’ comments, not the least of which is how his prediction will probably come true. We’ll get to that in a minute, however.

Let’s begin with how the MSNBC host, who wants to convince viewers that he and his network are not an arm of the Democrat party, framed the comment.

We’ll lose forty-nine states.”

Why would he consider that a personal loss? A rhetorical question, of course.

Also worth considering, Mr. Matthews, is the possibility that Democrats aren’t exclusively pandering to Bernie’s people. Perhaps they have conformed to the extreme elements of the fringe left and are supportive of his socialist policies and platforms.

It’s not exactly a far-fetched notion for a party that has conformed to Bernie’s acolytes on impeachment hoaxes and theatrics from top to bottom.

RELATED: Chris Matthews Admits the Trump/Russia Collusion Story is Toast

He’s Right

Now back to our initial analysis – that Matthews may very well be right when he says the Democrats will suffer incalculable electoral losses on Election Day.

A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows the socialist curmudgeon dominating the field while more palatable choices amongst party moderates are plummeting.

And while Bernie-mania and his dreams of American socialism are popular amongst the extreme left, it remains extremely unpopular to the rest of America.

new poll found only 28% of Americans have a favorable view of socialism, while 58% have an unfavorable impression.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) believes Sanders’ name on the Democrat ticket will result in overwhelming losses for the party in November. Perhaps enough that the House could be flipped.

“Bernie Sanders and House Democrats’ socialist agenda will put an end to Nancy Pelosi’s unsuccessful second stint as Speaker,” NRCC Spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement.

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Former CNBC Anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera To Challenge Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is a former longtime CNBC anchor who just announced she will challenge Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her New York House seat.

After leaving CNBC full time in September 2018, Caruso-Cabrera became a contributor for the news outlet.  A CNBC spokesperson said she will take a leave of absence from her contributor role as she focuses on her campaign. The former anchor also serves as a member of the board of directors for financial services firm Beneficient.

RELATED: New Trump Impeachment Push For Democrats Over Roger Stone Affair?

Caruso-Cabrera More Moderate than Ocasio-Cortez

Caruso-Cabrera’s filing late Monday show that she will run in New York’s 14th District Democratic primary. More moderate than self-described socialist Ocasio-Cortez, Caruso-Cabrera has a reputation for being more skeptical of government and has supported free markets. Though she’s been a registered Democrat for years, in 2010 she published a book with what some might consider a more conservative or libertarian sounding title, “You Know I’m Right: More Prosperity, Less Government.”

Caruso-Cabrera released a statement explaining her decision to seek NY 14. “I am the daughter and granddaughter of working class Italian and Cuban immigrants,” the statement read. “I am so lucky to have had such a wonderful career and I want everybody to have the opportunity that I’ve had.”

“That’s why I’m running,” she added.

She Was a Longtime CNBC Contributor

Caruso-Cabrera spent more than two decades CNBC as the co-anchor of “Power Lunch” and also as the news outlet’s chief international correspondent.

Ocasio-Cortez’s profile has been elevated immensely since her election and she is considered one of the more influential voices on the left today. Nicknamed “AOC” the congresswoman has made national headlines for her support for policies like “Medicare for All” and the “Green New Deal,” which is supposed to target climate change but reads like socialist wish list.

Ocasio-Cortez also received plenty of attention when she endorsed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. President Donald Trump has even gone after Ocasio-Cortez in tweets and speeches.

RELATED: AOC Complains Government Healthcare Too Complex – ‘No One Should Go Through This’

Will AOC Be Ousted After Only Two Years?

AOC shocked many mainstream Democrats when she defeated veteran Rep. Joe Crowley in his 2018 House primary. Ocasio-Cortez then defeated her Republican opponent, Anthony Pappas, with a whopping 78 percent vote in the Democrat-leaning district.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera joins about a dozen other candidates who have already filed to run for AOC’s seat. The primary will be held June 23.

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

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

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

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

Anyway, let’s dive in to the rankings. 

1. Bernie Sanders ⬆️ (Last week: 2)

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

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

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

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

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

2. Biden ⬇️ (Last week: 1) 

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

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

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

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

Uh oh. 

3. Elizabeth Warren ⬇️ (last week: 3)

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

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

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

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

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

4. Pete Buttigieg ⬆️ (Last week: unranked)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election security at even higher risk in high-turnout election

High voter turnout is widely predicted in November, which is always good news for democracy. The bad news for democracy? Many voters are worried about election security and might not trust the eventual outcome of the presidential election. Concerns include voting machines that could be hacked, voter suppression, voter fraud, and widespread dissemination of misinformation.

The failure of technology in the Iowa caucuses only adds to that concern. The delay in reporting vote totals because of a new and untested smartphone app was frustrating, especially as cable news channels flooded the caucuses with reporters while talking heads tried to fill hours with new ways of asking, "What's going on?" Many are left asking whether they should trust the results at all.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is calling for drastic action.

Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.

— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) February 6, 2020

Iowa Democratic officials slogged their way through counting paper preference cards filled in by caucus-goers. But Democratic officials blamed Republican trolls for tying up phone hotlines that were supposed to be used to report vote totals, slowing the process even more. Photos of caucus paperwork featuring the hotline number were posted online, allowing any troublemaker to call. A story on Talking Points Memo summed up the situation as “(a) perfect storm of incompetence, over-reliance on technology, and new reporting requirements have delayed caucus results for days."

As many polls about impeachment show, a majority of voters believe that Donald Trump is encouraging election interference. In addition, a plurality of voters are worried about election security. A recent NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll showed that 41% of voters have a high level of concern that voting in 2020 will not be safe and secure, a figure that has gone up 3 percentage points since September 2018.

Poll respondents answered along party lines: 66% of Democrats say the U.S. is not very prepared or not prepared at all on election security, while only 11% of Republicans had such concerns. Responses from independents were evenly split and matched the overall responses, with 41% landing on either side of the voting security question.

Here were poll respondents' top voting security concerns:

35% of voters fear misleading information. 24% complain of voter fraud. 16% list voter suppression. 15% fear foreign interference. 5% report a fear of possible problems at a polling place, such as long lines, broken voting machines, or an inability to take time off work to vote.

Perhaps voters should be more concerned about problems at polling places.

Recent reports show how easy it is to hack into voting systems, which might have occurred in Georgia in 2016 and 2018. A report to the Senate Intelligence Committee states that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016. When election security experts assembled a group of 100 voting machines at a conference in August 2019, hackers were able to break into all of them. California officials have not yet certified a new electronic voting system in Los Angeles County because of multiple potential vulnerabilities.

It's not just voting machines, according to a Bloomberg News report on cybersecurity.

Election machines are just one way hackers could try to infiltrate an election to change the vote or undermine its credibility. They also could corrupt voter registration rolls or lock up the computers of voting officials with ransomware. Only in the case of voting machines, though, does the safest technology also happen to be simpler and cheaper.

Predictably, 47% of Republicans listed the favorite GOP bugaboo, voter fraud, as a top concern, even though it's practically nonexistent. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School has put voter fraud incident rates at between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent of all votes cast. But facts don't matter to GOP voters who believe Trump's constant lies about "illegal voters" and "rigged elections."

Voter fraud hysteria gives Republican-led states an excuse to pass stricter voting requirements: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls, 35 of which are in force in 2020. Eighteen states ask for a photo ID, while 16 states ask for a non-photo ID.

When voter fraud does occur, it adds fuel to the GOP fire. A technical glitch recently discovered in Illinois meant that several hundred legal immigrants getting driver's licenses were actually registered to vote at the same time. State election officials estimate that only 16 members of that group actually cast ballots in 2018, but the number obviously should have been zero. The state is working with local election authorities "to make sure anyone who was mistakenly registered is taken off the rolls," says a story from Chicago's WGN-TV. Not surprisingly, the state's Republicans are up in arms.

A much bigger problem is voter suppression. In a different report, the Brennan Center found that states purged 16 million voters from voting rolls between 2014 and 2016 alone. Several Republican-led states, such as Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin (just to name a few) have purged or are in the process of purging voters, but even states led by Democrats, such as New York, have purged voters incorrectly, and California is deleting voters as a result of a settlement with the conservative group Judicial Watch. On the federal level, the House of Representatives passed a bill banning voter purging. It's in the Democrats' signature voting rights and election security bill that is now gathering dust on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk.

Voting security is only part of the story, though. Voters also are increasingly worried about the spread of disinformation. According to an NPR story about the poll, 59% of respondents said it was hard for them to tell the difference between facts and misleading information. A whopping 82% say it's "likely or very likely" that they will read misleading information on a social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. (If ever a poll result should be 100%, it's that response.)

Trump's reelection campaign already is spreading disinformation throughout social media, attacking Democrats, twisting people's words using out-of-context clips and quotes, and just flat-out lying. It's $1 billion operation is even being referred to as "the Death Star," according to a story in The Atlantic.

Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

Several questions must be answered in coming months as officials brace for a predicted avalanche of voters.

How will state and local officials handle a voting surge? Will they guarantee enough polling sites, enough ballots, enough voting machines, and enough election judges? How much will voter suppression tactics, such as voter ID laws, voter purges, and poll closures, especially in areas that skew Democratic, limit voter access, and thus affect outcomes? How will officials guarantee accuracy when votes are being counted on machines that are often bought over the objections of cybersecurity experts?

On the voting rights front, how much will efforts to open up voting, such as same-day registration, automatic voter registration, no-questions-asked absentee ballots, and early voting encourage more people to cast ballots? Right now, 18 states and the District of Columbia have automatic voter registration or are in the process of implementing it, most of them through the process of getting a driver's license or interacting with another state agency. Laws allowing automatic registration have been in effect for only five years but led to a big jump in registered voters: New registrations rose by as high as 94%, according to yet another report from the Brennan Center.

Henry Olsen, a Washington Post conservative columnist, admits that voters are right to be worried.

Our state election systems are almost certainly not prepared for this. We already face complaints that there are too few polling stations, especially in inner-city areas, to accommodate the people who wanted to vote in past years. Imagine if those two-hour waits double to four-hour waits. Affected populations would surely cry foul, leading to even more charges of intentional voter suppression and election manipulation. ...

Imagine what would happen if after an incredibly bitter campaign, millions of people faced insuperable burdens that lead to them either not voting or extending polling hours into the wee hours of the night to accommodate voter demand. Both parties would likely end up crying fraud, with the loser possibly even claiming the election was stolen.

No one wants to wake up on Nov. 4 to election results they don't trust. It's up to all of us to ensure that access to ballots remains fair and that everyone who wants to cast a vote can do so in a timely manner, without hassle, and be assured that their votes were counted fairly.