Morning Digest: Primary season marches on with another big night across the South

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

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Leading Off

Primary Night: You Kemp Lose If You Don't Play: We have another big primary night in store on Tuesday as voters in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia head to the polls. That's not all, though, as Texas is holding runoffs for races where no one earned a majority of the vote in the March 1 primary. On top of that, both Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District will pick nominees for an Aug. 9 special election to succeed Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February. And as always, we've put together our preview of what to watch.  

Perhaps the biggest race on the calendar is the Democratic runoff for Texas' 28th Congressional District where Henry Cuellar, who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House, is trying to fend off progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros. The Lone Star State is also hosting the GOP runoff for attorney general between incumbent Ken Paxton, who has spent almost seven years under indictment with no trial date in sight, and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Meanwhile, although Donald Trump's efforts to torpedo Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp seems to be about to spectacularly flame out, he may have more success going after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr, two other statewide Republicans who declined to enable the Big Lie. Over in the 7th District in the Atlanta area, we have an incumbent vs. incumbent Democratic primary between Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, though this one may need to be resolved in a runoff. There's plenty more to watch in all five states, and you can find more in our preview.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in Georgia. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you'll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has conducted a poll testing hypothetical general election matchups in Arizona that finds Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly with double-digit leads over three of his prospective Republican foes; there's no word as to who, if anyone, is their client. Kelly beats businessman Jim Lamon 48-34, outpaces state Attorney General Mark Brnovich 50-33, and prevails 49-32 over former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters. These numbers are the best we've seen for Kelly by anyone this cycle, though few pollsters have released surveys here so far.

NC-Sen: The Democratic-affiliated Senate Majority PAC has launched a new TV ad supporting former Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley as part of a $1.4 million buy over the next three weeks, which is notable after SMP previously omitted North Carolina when it revealed its fall ad reservations back in April. The ad hits back against unmentioned GOP attacks by trying to portray Beasley as tough-on-crime and noting that she even applied the death penalty in a case where a man killed a child.

Meanwhile, a new East Carolina University poll finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd holding a 47-39 lead over Beasley after the two won their respective parties' primaries last week.

OH-Sen: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has debuted his first ad following his primary win earlier this month, and it continues his focus on bringing well-paying blue collar jobs to Ohio. The spot attacks GOP nominee J.D. Vance over a past statement where he said we may have to just accept that "a 55-year-old worker in Dayton, Ohio who spent his entire life in manufacturing ... may not be able to find a good paying job for the rest of his working life."

UT-Sen: A new Dan Jones & Associates poll of the June 28 Republican primary on behalf of the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics shows GOP Sen. Mike Lee ahead by 49-19 over former state Rep. Becky Edwards, while businesswoman Ally Isom takes just 6%. Both Edwards and Isom are challenging the incumbent for being too extreme.

Governors

GA-Gov, GA-Sen, GA-AG, GA-SoS: The GOP firm Landmark Communications has conducted its final poll ahead of Tuesday's Republican primaries, and there was no indication who, if anyone, was their client. The survey finds Gov. Brian Kemp poised for a 60-30 blowout win over former Sen. David Perdue, while former NFL star Herschel Walker sports an even larger 60-12 edge over banking executive Latham Saddler in the Senate race.

Further downballot in the primary for attorney general, incumbent Chris Carr is ahead by 49-24 over Big Lie proponent John Gordon, while the secretary of state's race sees incumbent Brad Raffensperger trailing by 39-38 against Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump's endorsement and is also campaigning on the Big Lie. However, with 9% going to former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and 2% to another candidate, Hice's lead isn't large enough to avoid a June 21 runoff.

MA-Gov: Massachusetts Republicans held their state party convention on Saturday, and former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who has Trump's backing and lost by a wide margin as the GOP's 2018 Senate nominee, won the party endorsement 71-29 over businessman Chris Doughty, who has pitched himself as a moderate. Diehl will still have to face off with Doughty in the September primary, however, because Doughty cleared the 15% threshold needed to advance to the primary ballot.

MI-Gov: Billionaire Dick DeVos has announced that he and his family are endorsing conservative radio host Tudor Dixon and that they intend "to provide support for her financially" in the GOP primary for governor this August. The DeVos family is very well connected in state GOP politics, with Dick DeVos having been the 2006 nominee for governor; his wife Betsy DeVos served as education secretary in the Trump administration and previously chaired the state party. The Detroit News noted that the DeVos family was Michigan's top donor in the 2018 election, having given more than $11 million that cycle according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network nonprofit.

Dixon faces a crowded August primary where former Detroit Police Chief James has appeared to be the frontrunner since last summer. There have been signs in recent months that Craig's lead is vulnerable, and Dixon had previously won endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain, along with praise from Trump that stopped just short of an endorsement, but that support has so far failed to translate to the polls. The only recent poll we have here from a reliable firm was a Glengariff Group survey that gave Craig a 23-8 lead over chiropractor Garrett Soldano, while Dixon took just 2%. However, with only 17% of Republicans in that poll having heard of her, Dixon's support may increase if she can effectively get her message out.

NM-Gov: A new Research & Polling Inc. survey of the June 7 GOP primary for the Albuquerque Journal finds former TV meteorologist and 2020 Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti leading by 45-17 over state Rep. Rebecca Dow, with retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti taking 9% and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block earning 8%. Marchetti's advantage in this latest poll is similar to a SurveyUSA poll from earlier this month that showed him up 44-12 over Block while Zanetti and Dow were close behind in third and fourth, respectively.

PA-Gov: Put Pennsylvania First, a PAC supported by the Democratic Governors Association, Planned Parenthood, and other Democratic-affiliated groups, has announced it is putting $6 million behind a campaign that includes $3 million for TV ads and $1 million for digital ads, with the rest going to voter outreach. The TV spot warns how the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and attacks newly minted GOP nominee Doug Mastriano for supporting a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

WI-Gov: Republicans at the state GOP convention on Saturday opted not to endorse a candidate after former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won the support of just 55% of delegates, which was shy of the 60% needed to earn the state party's backing. While party endorsement conventions in Wisconsin only began in the 2010 cycle and aren't nearly as important as in neighboring Minnesota, where rivals of endorsed candidates will often drop out instead of fight on to the primary, the Associated Press noted that winning the Wisconsin GOP's endorsement would have allowed the party to spend as much as it wanted on the victor.

House

CA-40: Physician Asif Mahmood is the latest in a string of Democrats this year who are trying to pick their opponents, but in a bit of a twist, he's also trying to prevent an incumbent from reaching the general election.

Mahmood is airing a new ad that calls out Republican Greg Raths for his hostility to abortion rights, calling him "too right-wing for Orange County"—exactly the kind of message that would excite conservative voters, of course, and one aimed at boosting Raths past Rep. Young Kim in next month's top-two primary. Kim also opposes abortion rights but Mahmood would unquestionably rather face the more vocally MAGA-fied Raths in November.

For Mahmood to be successful, Kim would have to come in third in the primary, a fate that's never befallen an incumbent in the decade since California adopted its current top-two system. However, Kim's incumbency is as thin as it gets: Thanks to redistricting, she represents just 20% of the redrawn 40th District. Raths, meanwhile, ran against Rep. Katie Porter last cycle in the old 45th District, which makes up almost two-thirds of the new 40th, though he lost 53-47.

IL-06: A new internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang for Rep. Sean Casten finds the congressman leading his rival in next month's primary, fellow Rep. Marie Newman, by a 36-27 margin, with 2% going to perennial candidate Charles Hughes and, presumably, 35% undecided. GHY's memo also says that "the race was even" when it last polled in January, though actual toplines for that older survey are not included. The only other poll of the contest was a Newman internal from February that had the two incumbents tied at 37 apiece.

MO-07: Former state Sen. Jay Wasson has released a new poll of the Aug. 2 Republican primary for Missouri's open 7th District, conducted by American Viewpoint, that shows him leading state Sen. Mike Moon 21-17, with state Sen. Eric Burlison at 15 and all other candidates in single digits; 31% were undecided. We've seen just one other survey here, from Republican pollster Remington Research on behalf of the tipsheet Missouri Scout all the way back in January, that had Burlison leading Moon 21-12, with Wasson at 9.

NY-10: New York's radically reconfigured 10th District in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn has already attracted a trio of prominent Democratic contenders, but a whole bunch more are considering the race for this newly open and safely blue seat. The potential candidates who've publicly stated their interest include:

  • state Sen. Simcha Felder, who spent many years caucusing with Republicans
  • former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who represented a different part of Brooklyn in the 1970s and is now 80 years old
  • Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon
  • attorney Dawn Smalls, who took 4% in the 2019 special election for New York City public advocate

Several others are reportedly interested:

  • attorney Daniel Goldman, who was chief Democratic counsel for Donald Trump's first impeachment
  • City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who filed paperwork with the FEC
  • former City Comptroller Scott Stringer, though he's reportedly planning to seek an open state Senate seat in Manhattan
  • former City Councilman David Yassky, according to Councilwoman Gale Brewer

Already running are former Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, and Hudson Valley Rep. Mondaire Jones. Assemblyman Robert Carroll, however, is a no. The 10th District is open because the state's new court-drawn map moved Rep. Jerry Nadler's Upper West Side base into the 12th District, where he'll face off against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary.

NY-12: Attorney Suraj Patel, who was waging a third straight primary challenge against Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney after coming up just shy in 2020, says he's continuing his campaign despite the fact that he'll now be going up against Rep. Jerry Nadler, too. Another candidate who'd been taking on Maloney, community organizer Rana Abdelhamid, does not appear to have commented on her plans since the state's new court-drawn map was adopted over the weekend.

NY-17, NY-03: State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who'd been running for New York's open 3rd Congressional District, announced on Monday that she would instead challenge DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney in the 17th.

Biaggi, who represents a slice of Westchester and the Bronx in the legislature, was originally drawn into the 3rd District in the map she and her colleagues passed in February. However, the new court-imposed boundaries returned the 3rd to an all-Long Island configuration similar to the way it had looked for the previous decade. That left Biaggi well outside the new 3rd, facing off against a squadron of Long Island natives across the sound.

However, Biaggi doesn't have any obvious ties to the 17th District, either. She lives in the Westchester town of Pelham on the Bronx border, and even the northernmost tip of her Senate district is still well south of the 17th, which includes northern Westchester, all of Rockland and Putnam counties, and the southern reaches of Dutchess County.

But Maloney's been roundly lambasted, including by several House colleagues, for his own debatable connections to the 17th. Maloney immediately announced after the court-appointed special master published a draft map last week that he'd abandon the 18th to instead run one district to the south, despite representing just a quarter of the 17th and 71% of the 18th. He justified the decision by arguing his home is in the 17th, but in switching districts, he not only left the 18th more vulnerable, he forced fellow Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones out of the 17th, even though he represented 73% of the district. (Jones is instead seeking an open seat in New York City.)

Biaggi specifically cited Maloney's move in explaining her decision to run, saying, "What hurt the party was having the head of the campaign arm not stay in his district, not maximize the number of seats New York can have to hold the majority." She also has experience defeating well-funded senior party leaders: In 2018, she unseated powerful state Sen. Jeff Klein, who for years had allowed Republicans to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with his caucus of renegade Democrats known as the IDC, or Independent Democratic Conference. Biaggi now has three months to find out whether she can play the role of political giant-slayer once more.

NY-18: Shortly after draft maps were released last week, Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis said that he was considering a bid for New York's 18th District, which is open because of the DCCC's Sean Patrick Maloney's selfish decision to seek the 17th instead. However, Skoufis hasn't said anything since the map was finalized.

NY-19 (special): Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday that Rep. Antonio Delgado would be sworn in as her new lieutenant governor on Wednesday, allowing her to consolidate the special election for Delgado's House seat with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. A new state law says that the governor has 10 days after a congressional vacancy to schedule a special election, which must take place 70 to 80 days thereafter. That gives Hochul a maximum window of 90 days, which is why Delgado has delayed his departure from Congress, even though his appointment was announced several weeks ago.

NY-23 (special): Democratic county chairs in New York's 23rd Congressional District have selected Air Force veteran Max Della Pia to run in the upcoming special election to replace former GOP Rep. Tom Reed. Republicans have yet to pick their nominee for the special, which will take place under the old district lines. Della Pia, who earned a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, says he will also run in November for the new 23rd District. The old district voted for Donald Trump 55-43; the new version would have backed him 58-40.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to schedule the special, though it will likely be consolidated with the Aug. 23 primary for U.S. House and state Senate races. But while Reed announced that he would resign effective immediately on May 10, state officials say they have yet to receive a letter from the congressman informing them of a vacancy. Reed may be delaying transmission of such a letter for the same reason Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado has likewise not yet vacated his seat—see our NY-19 item just above. It's less clear, however, why Reed might wish to make election administration easier for Hochul, a Democrat, though he has sometimes dissented from GOP orthodoxy.

OR-06: We now know how much it costs to bend a top Democratic super PAC to your will: $5 million.

As we learned late on Friday night, cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried donated $6 million to the House Majority PAC on April 4, just days before HMP began spending $1 million to boost first-time candidate Carrick Flynn in the Democratic primary for Oregon's brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The move infuriated countless Democrats, who demanded to know why HMP, which had never before involved itself in a primary like this in its decade-long existence, had chosen this race to break with past practice. It particularly enraged the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which was backing state Rep. Andrea Salinas and had given the PAC more than $6 million since 2012 in order to defeat Republicans, not fellow Democrats.

The group's only explanation was transparent bullshit: "House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022," a spokesperson said, "and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal." No one believed that, prompting widespread speculation, as a campaign manager for a rival campaign put it, "that promises have been made."

HMP's financial report for the month of April, however, was not due at the FEC until May 20—three days after the primary. That's why we're only now finding out exactly what that promise appears to have been.

Bankman-Fried himself spent far more heavily on Flynn through his own super PAC, Protect Our Future, which ultimately shelled out an astonishing $11.4 million directly—some of which even went to attack Salinas—as well as nearly a million dollars more indirectly. Bankman-Fried's interest in Flynn was never clear, however. Supporters claimed that Bankman-Fried was drawn to Flynn because of a shared interest in pandemic preparedness, but Bankman-Fried was publicly silent about the race until just days prior to the election, and Flynn didn't campaign on the issue.

(Flynn had denied knowing Bankman-Fried, but his wife had once worked at the same organization as his benefactor, and Flynn acknowledged he was friends with Bankman-Fried's brother, Gabriel, who's heavily involved in the family's political giving. Campaigns and super PACs, by law, are not allowed to coordinate their activities.)

What's even less clear is why Bankman-Fried would bother making his arrangement with House Majority PAC in the first place. Given his apparently limitless resources, he could have easily sent another million bucks to Protect Our Future had he wanted to. Instead, he spent six times that amount to net just a $1 million boost for his preferred candidate. You don't need to be a titan of finance to know how appalling that rate of return is, unless your actual aim is to prove you can make a major arm of the Democratic Party do your bidding.

In the short term, at least, Bankman-Fried's efforts on behalf of Flynn—and HMP's decision to sell out on his behalf—were a debacle. Salinas doubled up Flynn, winning the nomination 36-18, and Flynn's final cost-per-vote will likely exceed $1,000—another terrible return on investment. HMP will also have some serious relationship-mending to do, especially with the CHC.

But even though Bankman-Fried failed to buy a congressional election, he was able to buy the most important super PAC devoted to winning House races for Democrats. For a system already awash in dark money, it's a dark sign for the future.

PA-12: On Friday evening, the Associated Press called the extremely close Democratic primary in Pennsylvania's open 12th District for state Rep. Summer Lee, who defeated Steve Irwin, a former head of the state Securities Commission, by a 41.8 to 41.1 margin. Lee, who presented herself as the more progressive option, would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress. Lee will be the heavy favorite in this Pittsburgh-based district, which would have voted for Joe Biden 59-40, against Plum Borough Councilman Mike Doyle, a Republican who happens to share the same name as the retiring Democratic incumbent.

VA-10: Navy veteran Hung Cao won the GOP nomination for Virginia's 10th Congressional District in a major upset on Saturday, defeating the better-known and better-funded Jeanine Lawson, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, by a 52-34 margin in the seventh and final round of an instant runoff. Rather than rely on a traditional state-run primary, Republicans used a party-run "firehouse primary" that saw a total turnout of about 15,000 voters. By contrast, the last contested primary in this district in a midterm year saw 53,000 people turn out to vote in the Democratic nominating contest in 2018, which then-state Sen. Jennifer Wexton won easily.

Wexton went on to oust Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock by a wide 56-44 margin that November in a northern Virginia district that's rapidly moved to the left in recent years and won re-election by a similar spread. Under the new lines, the 10th would have voted for Joe Biden 58-40, according to Dave's Redistricting App, which is very similar to the president's performance in the previous version of this seat. However, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin lost the 10th just 52-47 in his successful bid for governor last year, per OurCampaigns.

Ad Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything to avoid reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) March 5, 2021

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

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

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

— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) March 10, 2021

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

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

— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) March 9, 2021

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

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

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

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

House Republicans became the Party of Q this week. Democrats won’t let voters forget it in 2022

The word "nightmare" is trending in Republican circles lately. Thursday Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina characterized the idea of Donald Trump testifying at his impeachment trial as "a nightmare for the country." Or as a Politico headline put it, "Trump's allies fear the impeachment trial could be a PR nightmare"—which is what Graham really meant.  

Democrats agree, and the House Democratic campaign arm is moving quickly to bring that nightmare home to the House GOP, which officially declared itself the QAnon caucus this week when 199 of its 211 members voted against stripping its chief Q adherent, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, of her committee assignments. 

In its opening salvo in the 2022 battle for control of the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a campaign ad indicting House Republicans for standing "with Q not you." The ad places the conspiracy cult at the center of the deadly Jan. 6 riot, saying that QAnon "with Donald Trump, incited a mob that attacked the Capitol and murdered a cop."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previewed the strategy this week when she referred to GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as "Qevin McCarthy, Q-CA" in a tweet. McCarthy helpfully lived up to the moniker by refusing to remove Greene from her committee assignments and forcing his caucus to go on record in support of someone who not only espouses QAnon, but has also endorsed the execution of Pelosi and other Democrats and has verbally assaulted survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And frankly, that's just a small taste of Greene's abhorrent quackery.

House Democrats are betting that won't play well in the very districts that will likely decide control of the House for the second half of President Joe Biden's term.

"If Kevin McCarthy wants to take his party to ‘crazy town’ and follow these dangerous ideas, he shouldn't expect to do well in the next election,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Politico. "They can do QAnon, or they can do college-educated voters. They cannot do both."

According to Politico, the DCCC's $500,000 TV and digital ad campaign will run in the districts of seven vulnerable Republicans: Reps. Mike Garcia, Young Kim and Michelle Steel of California; Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida; Don Bacon of Nebraska; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; and Beth Van Duyne of Texas.

Democrats' early decision to nationalize the race is a notable departure from their strategy in 2018, when they deployed a hyper-localized message around health care that ultimately netted them an historic 41 seats. Of course, the backdrop to that strategy was the GOP's repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have stripped millions of Americans of their coverage.

The backdrop to this decision were the horrific events of Jan. 6, an insurrection at the Capitol that Americans couldn’t have even imagined before they watched in horror as it played out in real time on screens across the country. A Yahoo News/YouGuv survey released this week found that 81% of Americans said the attack wasn't justified. And more than 9 in 10 Americans expressed revulsion about the attack, saying it made them feel “angry,” “ashamed” or “fearful.” 

Democrats will now have several weeks worth of a Senate trial to remind people of that revulsion and how the GOP underwrote that deadly attack before, during, and after it took place through its unyielding support of Trump's lies and its embrace of extremist groups like QAnon.

Democrats’ bet is that after they deliver results on COVID-19 relief, they will be able to head into 2022 saying that Democrats stood with the American people while Republicans stood with QAnon.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy gushes about ‘unity’ as he embraces extremism

Top Republicans are looking for big gains in the House in 2022, and they’ve decided that their best path to those gains is to welcome extremists to their party. Make that: to keep welcoming extremists to their party.

That’s the message they sent when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy first refused to discipline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for her violent rhetoric, anti-Semitism, and embrace of conspiracy theories, and it’s the message they put an exclamation point on Thursday night when all but 11 Republicans voted to keep her in her committee assignments. Those assignments included the education committee, despite Greene’s harassment of survivors of the Parkland school shooting and her claims that the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings had been hoaxes.

To McCarthy, the fact that Republicans voted both to keep Rep. Liz Cheney in leadership despite her vote to impeach Donald Trump and to protect Greene’s committee assignments is big evidence of the unity that will carry the party through 2022 successfully. “The number one thing that happened in this conference was unity,” he said after the five-hour meeting to fight over two women’s political fates. “Two years from now, we are going to win the majority.”

Both Democrats and Senate Republicans think McCarthy might be making the wrong bet in keeping the QAnon, insurrectionist far-right under the tent of the Republican establishment.

”House members never like us judging them, but I do think as a party we have to figure out what we stand for,” Republican Sen. John Thune said. “I think we’ve got to be the party, as I said, of ideas and policies and principles, and get away from members dabbling in conspiracy theories.”

”It’s only going to get worse unless we do something about it,” an unnamed adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Washington Post. But McCarthy doesn’t think the direction of his caucus is bad and getting worse, apparently. He didn’t have to make a decision between Cheney and Greene this time, and he seems to see that as a road map for the future.

The question is whether Democrats—facing the traditionally very difficult midterms for a party with a first-term president—can find the right message to voters. One Democratic group is already running ads saying “The QAnon conspiracies sound wild. But the danger is real” as they tie McCarthy to Greene’s offensive statements, including her denial of 9/11.

”You can do QAnon, and you can do swing districts, but you can’t do both,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His Republican counterpart, Rep. Tom Emmer, though, said “This is the same QAnon playbook they tried in 2020, and they lost 15 seats.”

A few other things happened in the 2020 elections, mind you. And it’s not just QAnon. It’s Proud Boys and other hate groups. It’s the non-Q things Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert and Donald Trump himself will do and say between now and November 2022. QAnon is an easy shorthand, but the full constellation of awful things that shorthand encompasses is pretty staggering, and not terribly popular with voters.

But it should be undeniable that Democrats need a message beyond QAnon. Passing a strong COVID-19 relief package, including a minimum wage increase, would be one great message. Competently administering vaccinations and getting the country back on track would be another. Democratic policies are popular. Get them into place now and then spend the next 20 months or so hammering the contrast between those accomplishments and Republican efforts to block those popular polices and Republican embrace of extremism. There should be plenty of material to work with on the Republican side—it’s getting the material on the Democratic side in place that’s the priority right now.