Morning Digest: Landslide wins close out Hawaii’s biggest weekend primaries

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

Leading Off

Hawaii: The Aloha State held its primary Saturday, and we have a summary of each of the big contests below.

 HI-Gov: Lt. Gov. Josh Green defeated businesswoman Vicky Cayetano 63-21 in the primary to succeed their fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. David Ige, while freshman Rep. Kai Kahele notched third with 15%. Green, who continued to work as a physician after going into politics, had a large media presence throughout the worst months of the pandemic, and he was the frontrunner from the start.

Green remains the favorite in November against former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, a two-time Republican nominee who scored a 50-26 victory over Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn. Aiona was defeated by former Rep. Neil Abercrombie 58-41 in the 2010 general election, and Aiona lost his chance for a rematch four years later when Ige beat the unpopular Abercrombie in the primary. Both parties believed that Aiona still had a real shot with another GOP wave looming and with conservative Democrat-turned-independent Mufi Hannemann threatening to siphon off votes from the Democratic ticket, but Ige turned back Aiona 49-37.

Joe Biden carried Hawaii 64-34 (he took each of the state’s two congressional districts by that same margin), and national Republicans haven’t shown any obvious sign of interest in targeting this seat again. Indeed, the RGA didn’t even respond for a Washington Post article that ran just before the primary.

 HI-01: Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case held off attorney Sergio Alcubilla by a lopsided 83-17 margin in this Honolulu-based seat. Alcubilla, who ran to Case’s left, had the backing of a few big unions, but he raised little himself and never attracted any serious outside spending.

 HI-02: Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda beat state Rep. Patrick Branco 58-25 in the Democratic primary to replace Kai Kahele in a constituency that includes northern Oahu and all of the state’s other islands.

Tokuda, who lost a tight 2018 primary to lieutenant governor to Josh Green, entered the race as the frontrunner, but a quartet of major outside groups—VoteVets, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Web3 Forward, and Mainstream Democrats PAC— spent a total of $1.2 million to elevate Branco or attack her. While this ad barrage represented a truly massive amount for a Hawaii congressional race, it turned out to be far from enough to stop Tokuda.

Senate

FL-Sen: Democratic Rep. Val Demings' allies at EMILY's List have publicized a poll from Change Research that shows her deadlocked 46-46 against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, a release that came days after two progressive groups unveiled their own survey from Clarity Campaigns that found a 45-45 tie. We have not seen any independent polls of this contest since winter.  

 NC-Sen: NBC reports that Republican Ted Budd and the NRSC will launch a joint ad campaign for $750,000, which will make this Budd's first TV commercial since he won the primary all the way back in May. Democrat Cheri Beasley, by contrast, has deployed $4.7 million since she won the nomination, though the NRSC has spent $6.3 million against her.

House

AK-AL: Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, a Republican whose city is home to about 40% of the state's population, has endorsed businessman Nick Begich III ahead of Tuesday's instant-runoff special.

Meanwhile another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, announced Friday that she'd registered with the state as an official write-in candidate for the special "after repeated requests from supporters," though she said her main focus would be to advance out of the top-four primary for a full two-year term.

FL-01: Self-funding businessman Mark Lombardo's latest commercial against Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz opens with the primary challenger declaring, "As a member of Congress, Matt Gaetz took an oath to protect America's secrets. He broke that oath when he engaged in illicit behavior on foreign soil, leaving himself vulnerable to blackmail and putting our nation's secrets at risk." Lombardo doesn't let up as the ad goes on, continuing, "To cover up, he paid pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's attorney with donors' cash and pressured Trump for a pardon for any or all crimes."

FL-13: While 2020 nominee Anna Paulina Luna has always looked like the frontrunner to claim the Republican nomination again on Aug. 23 in this newly gerrymandered seat, attorney Kevin Hayslett's outside group allies are deploying a serious amount to stop her. Florida Politics reports that Stand for Florida, a PAC that was set up in February, has spent $860,000 in recent days, which takes its total investment here all the way up to $1.5 million.

Luna, though, has gotten plenty of outside help herself, as the Club for Growth has dropped over $1.8 million to promote her. Conservative Outsider PAC, which is funded in part by Club donor Dick Uihlein, is also using about $110,000 for a commercial that responds to a recent Hayslett commercial that featured a clip of Luna appearing to praise Obama. The audience sees Luna warning that undocumented immigrants will cost conservatives "this country," before the narrator notes that she's Trump's endorsed candidate.

The only recent poll we've seen here was a late July Hayslett internal that showed him trailing Luna 36-34 for this constituency in the St. Petersburg area.

FL-23: Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has earned endorsements from the National Education Association, the Florida Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers ahead of this month's Democratic primary.  

NY-01: While Nick LaLota once appeared to have a smooth path through the Aug. 23 GOP primary for this competitive open seat, the chief of staff of the Suffolk County Legislature went up with a commercial against his main intra-party rival, cryptocurrency trader Michelle Bond, earlier this month.

The narrator insists that Bond is a "liberal D.C. lobbyist" with a history of "working for Obama and Biden as a registered Democrat." The spot also declares that Bond "bankrolled a Trump-hating senator [and] lives in a mansion in the Swamp." (That last bit is a reference to Bond's newly purchased estate in Maryland, which she said is one of the "multiple residences" she has.) The rest of the ad promotes LaLota as a loyal Long Island conservative and "Trump conservative."

Bond is airing her own ads (here and here) that tout her as a conservative businesswoman, though they do not mention LaLota. Bond has used her personal wealth to decisively outpace LaLota in the money race, and the outside spending has also very much benefited her. Stand for New York, a group that hasn't gotten involved in any other races, has dropped $580,000 to attack LaLota. Another committee called Crypto Innovation PAC has also spent another $160,000 to promote Bond: The group is funded by crypto notable Ryan Salame, who just happens to be her boyfriend. (Salame has also bankrolled American Dream Federal Action, another super PAC that's gotten involved in other GOP primaries.)

LaLota has not received any super PAC aid, though he does sport endorsements from the local Republican and Conservative parties. The contest to succeed GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin also includes government relations firm executive Anthony Figliola, though he's attracted little money or attention. The winner will go up against Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who has no Democratic primary opposition, in an eastern Long Island constituency that Biden would have carried by a tiny 49.4-49.2.

NY-10: Attorney Dan Goldman on Saturday earned the backing of the New York Times, which is arguably one of the few newspaper endorsements still capable of moving voters in a local Democratic primary, ahead of the packed Aug. 23 contest for this safely blue seat based in Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn. The Times’ nod was especially coveted here: City & State wrote earlier this month, “One campaign said they’ve probably had 20 supporters email or call members of the board to make their case,” while an unnamed operative added, “Everybody lobbies … The question is to what degree.”

Those candidates may have had good reason to lobby. City & State notes that the NYT’s endorsement last year provided a huge lift to then-Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in the primary for mayor of New York City and helped establish her as a frontrunner. Garcia still narrowly lost the instant-runoff contest to Eric Adams, but she performed well in areas that overlap with the 10th District as well as the 12th, which is home to another big Democratic primary.

Politico's Joe Anuta also reports that Goldman has so far spent $2.8 million on TV ads, which is a truly massive sum for a campaign taking place in America's priciest media market. Goldman, though, is an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, and he has plenty of personal wealth and connections: The candidate, who would be one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has self-funded $4 million so far and raised another $1.5 million from donors through Aug. 3.  

Anuta relays that only one Goldman opponent, 17th District Rep. Mondaire Jones, has joined him on television, and he's deployed a considerably smaller $784,000. The other contenders have stayed off the airwaves, which is a common strategy for candidates running in the massive New York City media market. (Over 20 million people live in this market, and relatively few can vote in the 10th District's primary.)

"You're wasting your spending on 90% of the people who see your ad," explained Matthew Rey, a strategist who isn't involved in this race. He added, "So is it a powerful way to persuasively and effectively reach that other 10%? Yes. But dollar-for-dollar, it's a luxury." Another unaligned consultant, Basil Smikle Jr., was even more skeptical, saying, "In a congressional race where you are expecting turnout to be low, there are much more efficient ways to spend your money than doing a large broadcast buy in the last couple of weeks."

Goldman, though, is betting that voters will indeed react well to his TV spots, including a new piece touting his work in civil rights law and "leading the impeachment of Donald Trump." The commercial also displays Trump's message on his Truth Social platform (which, yes, still exists) reading, "Dan Goldman puts in his ad used in running for Congress that he 'impeached Donald Trump'" to argue, "Donald Trump doesn't want Dan Goldman in Congress, but we do."

 NY-12: The New York Times on Saturday endorsed incumbent Jerry Nadler in his Democratic primary against fellow Rep. Carolyn Maloney and attorney Suraj Patel. 

NY-17: The New York City Police Benevolent Association, which endorsed Trump in 2020, has spent $310,000 to oppose state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in her Democratic primary against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. The spot labels Biaggi an “anti-police extremist,” which is the type of rhetoric Republicans usually love to throw at Democrats in general elections.

 NY-19 (special): VoteVets has launched what Politico reports is a $450,000 ad buy to aid Democrat Pat Ryan, which makes this Team Blue's first major independent expenditure ahead of an Aug. 23 special election. The narrator echoes Ryan in framing the contest as a choice between a pro-choice candidate and "a Congress that'll pass a nationwide ban on abortion first chance they get." She adds that Ryan, who served with the Army in Iraq "sure didn't fight for our freedom abroad to see it taken away from women here at home."

The NRCC, for its part, is continuing to try to frame Ryan as weak on public safety in its new spot.

 OH-09: Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur's latest commercial argues that, while she's fighting to lower drug prices, Republican J.R. Majewski "made a rap video." Yes, you read that right: The QAnon-aligned candidate did indeed star in a piece called "Let's Go Brandon Save America," and Kaptur's spot treats viewers to a mercifully small piece of it. "Not to poke fun at dementia, it's a serious disease," raps Majewski, "But come on, man, squeeze your cheeks when you sneeze." Kaptur's narrator concludes, "We don't need celebrity wannabes, we need serious leaders tackling serious challenges."

 OK-02: The newest commercial in what's turned into a very expensive Aug. 23 Republican runoff is a spot from the Club for Growth affiliate School Freedom Fund starring Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who extols former state Sen. Josh Brecheen as an ardent "Trump conservative."

This group has deployed $1.8 million during the second round to promote Brecheen, who is a former Club fellow, or rip his opponent, state Rep. Avery Fix, in the contest for this safely red eastern Oklahoma constituency. Two other organizations, Fund for a Working Congress and American Jobs and Growth PAC, have dropped a similar amount to help Frix, who outpaced Brecheen just 15-14 in late June.

Other Races

 GA Public Service Commission: On Friday, an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel stayed a recent lower court ruling that had blocked Georgia from holding elections this fall for two seats on its Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, on the grounds that the statewide election method violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters. The district court ruling had postponed the elections until Georgia lawmakers adopted a district-based election method next year, but the appellate judges ruled that it was too close to November to implement any election changes to ongoing 2022 elections and stayed the lower court's decision while Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's appeal is pending.

Ad Roundup

Morning Digest: New House fundraising reports shed light on incumbent-vs.-incumbent races

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

Leading Off

Fundraising: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our comprehensive roundups of fundraising data for the final three months of 2021 for both the House and the Senate.

With redistricting underway—and complete in many states—many sitting representatives have now found themselves paired with colleagues in redrawn House districts. These new reports are the first to give us insight into these incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchups, which at the moment number seven in total.

The first to come online was the contest in the deeply conservative 2nd District in West Virginia, which completed the remapping process in October. Thanks to the loss of a seat in reapportionment, two Republicans, Alex Mooney and David McKinley, got thrown together in the northern half of the state. McKinley swamped Mooney in the fourth quarter, outraising him $599,000 to $199,000 and self-funding another half-million for good measure. But because Mooney had stockpiled much more money prior to the start of most recent fundraising period, he still finished with a cash lead of $2.4 million to $1.6 million.

Campaign Action

McKinley, however, has an important advantage: He currently represents two-thirds of the new district, with Mooney representing the remaining third. Mooney, conversely, won Donald Trump's seal of approval in November … but he's under investigation for allegedly misusing campaign funds. How these factors will all balance out is hard to say, though, as the two sides have released competing polls showing them each with fairly modest leads. It'll all get settled soon enough, though, as the primary is on May 10.

Here's how things stack up in the other half-dozen similarly situated races:

  • GA-07: Lucy McBath beat out Carolyn Bourdeaux $736,000 to $400,000 and had $3.2 million on-hand versus $2.4 million in this safely blue seat in the Atlanta suburbs. A third candidate in the Democratic primary, state Rep. Donna McLeod, raised just $22,0000. Bourdeaux represents 57% of the district and McBath just 12%. The primary is May 24, with a June 21 runoff if no one takes a majority. Polling for McBath and her allies has found her leading by about 10 to 20 points.
  • IL-06: Sean Casten more than doubled up fellow Democrat Marie Newman, taking in $699,000 to her $337,000. He also has almost twice the bankroll: $1.9 million to $1 million for Newman. But Newman represents 41% of this solidly blue seat in the Chicago area while Casten represents 23%. However, she also faces an ethics investigation into charges she sought to keep a potential primary opponent out of the race when she ran in 2020 by offering him a job as a top aide if she won. The two will face off on June 28.
  • IL-15: Rodney Davis, the more moderate of the two Republicans running in this deep red district in central Illinois, raised $410,000 compared to $164,000 for Mary Miller, who has Trump's endorsement. Davis also has $1.8 million saved up while Miller had just $783,000 at her disposal. Both are encountering a lot of new turf, though: Miller represents 31% of the new district and Davis 28%.
  • MI-04: This matchup hasn't yet firmed up: Bill Huizenga, a Trump loyalist, has said he'll seek re-election in this red-tilting district in southwestern Michigan, but Fred Upton, who voted for impeachment, has yet to announce his plans. Upton certainly keeps bringing in the bucks like he expects to run again, though: He raised $719,000 to Huizenga's $396,000 and has a $1.6 million to $1.2 million cash edge. A third candidate, state Rep. Steve Carra, recently switched districts to run here but raised just $129,000. However, Trump did endorse him when he was running one-on-one against Upton, who represents 64% of this seat; Huizenga represents 25%. The primary is not until Aug. 2.
  • MI-11: Haley Stevens outraised Andy Levin $627,000 to $335,000 in this blue district in the Detroit suburbs, and also has much more money to spend: $2.6 million versus $1.3 million. In addition, Stevens represents 45% of the district while Levin represents 25%. Levin could still change course and run in the open 10th—a much swingier seat, but one he already represents two-thirds of. A recent Stevens internal showed her up 7 points.
  • NC-11: This solidly red district in the Greensboro region is the only one that's lumped together members of opposite parties: Democrat Kathy Manning, who raised $280,000 and had $1.1 million left over, and Republican Virginia Foxx, who took in $231,000 and finished with $957,000 in her war chest. Manning represents 42% of the redrawn 11th and Foxx 30%, but it would have voted 57-42 for Trump, making Foxx the overwhelming favorite. Manning, however, hasn't yet said whether she'll seek re-election, likely because a lawsuit challenging the GOP's new map is pending before the state Supreme Court.

The number of intramural battles could grow or shrink in the coming months as the remapping process continues to unfold and various members settle on their plans or alter them. In the meantime, you can dig deeper into all of these numbers and many, many more for both the House and the Senate by checking out our new charts.

Redistricting

FL Redistricting: Both chambers of Florida's Republican-run legislature have passed new legislative maps, which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis does not have the power to either sign or veto. However, the state constitution requires the new maps to first be reviewed by the state's conservative Supreme Court to determine their "validity" before they can become law. Whatever the justices decide, litigation is likely, as critics have charged that the maps fail to adequately increase representation for communities of color even though most of the state's growth has come from Black and Latino residents.

Meanwhile, congressional redistricting is now paused as DeSantis has asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion as to whether a new map can legally dismantle the plurality-Black 5th District, held by Democrat Al Lawson. A map that ignored DeSantis' wishes and left the 5th largely intact passed the state Senate last month, but the House says it will wait until the justices rule before proceeding further.

NY Redistricting: Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new congressional and legislative maps on Thursday evening, just hours after lawmakers in the Democratic-run legislature completed work on new districts for their own chambers. The congressional plan, if it works as Democrats intend, could bump their advantage in the state’s delegation from 19-8 to 22-4.

WA Redistricting: Washington's Democratic-run state House approved congressional and legislative maps drawn by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission with minor tweaks in a wide bipartisan vote on Wednesday. The plans now head to the state Senate, which must act by Feb. 8.

Senate

AZ-Sen: The radical anti-tax Club for Growth has endorsed Blake Masters, a top aide to conservative megadonor Peter Thiel who also has the support of a super PAC funded by his boss, in the crowded August Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

Ohio: Candidate filing closed on Wednesday for most of the offices that will be on Ohio's May 3 primary ballot, but the legislature previously moved the deadline for U.S. House races to March 4. That delay came about because the state Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander in mid-January, and new boundaries have yet to be approved.

But the situation is also unclear for candidates for the state legislature, who still had to file Wednesday. The state's highest court likewise threw out the GOP's legislative maps last month, and Republicans on Ohio's bipartisan redistricting commission approved new ones on Jan. 22―just eight days before the filing deadline. The court has said it would "retain jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing the new plan adopted by the commission," so no one knows yet if these new districts will be final.

Some legislative candidates responded to the uncertainty by simply ending their campaigns, though one congressional contender tried something different. Attorney Shay Hawkins, a Republican who last year announced a bid for the 13th District, filed Tuesday for a seat in the legislature and said he'd make an ultimate decision about which office to seek once congressional districts are in place. (Based on state deadlines, that might not be until March or later.)

A list of statewide candidates can be found at the secretary of state's site, but anyone looking for a list of legislative candidates won't be able to find them all from a single official source. That's because candidates for district-level office file with the county that makes up the largest proportion of their district rather than with the state, so lists of contenders can only be found on county election sites. Below we'll run down the fields in the Buckeye State's marquee statewide races for Senate and governor.

OH-Sen: On Thursday evening, one day after candidate filing closed, wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno announced that he was dropping out of what’s now an eight-person Republican primary to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman. Moreno, who kicked off a $4 million TV ad campaign in December, said, “After talking to President Trump we both agreed this race has too many Trump candidates and could cost the MAGA movement a conservative seat.” 

The development came one day after another Republican contender, former state Treasurer, Josh Mandel, released a WPA Intelligence poll arguing that he has the lead in this extremely expensive primary. The toplines are below, with the numbers from an early January WPA survey for Mandel's allies at the Club for Growth in parenthesis:

former state Treasurer Josh Mandel: 28 (26)

Businessman Mike Gibbons: 17 (14)

Venture capitalist J.D. Vance: 13 (10)

former state party chair Jane Timken: 9 (15)

Businessman Bernie Moreno: 6 (7)

State Sen. Matt Dolan: 5 (4)

Three other Republicans are also in, but none of them have been making a serious effort.

Timken, Moreno, and Gibbons have themselves released polls this year, each arguing that neither Mandel nor anyone else has a decisive lead. (Though Moreno’s subsequent departure indicates that he didn’t feel good about his own path to victory.) What every survey we've seen agrees on, however, is that Dolan is in last place. That's not a surprise, though: In September, Donald Trump blasted the state senator, who co-owns Cleveland's Major League Baseball team, over its plans to change its name, snarling, "I know of at least one person in the race who I won't be endorsing."

Dolan is trying to better his fortunes by using personal wealth to go on TV, but he's far from alone: The Republican firm Medium Buying reports that close to $24 million has already been spent or reserved to air ads. The GOP primary will likely get far more expensive still, as all six of these contenders ended 2021 with at least $1 million in the bank. Their fourth quarter fundraising numbers are below:

  • Timken: $595,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $3.6 million cash-on-hand
  • Vance: $530,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Mandel: $370,000 raised, $6 million cash-on-hand
  • Dolan: $360,000 raised, additional $10.5 million self-funded, $10.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Gibbons: $70,000 raised, additional $3.5 million self-funded, $6.4 million cash-on-hand

Things are far less chaotic on the Democratic side, where Rep. Tim Ryan is the likely nominee. He faces Morgan Harper, a former advisor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Joyce Beatty for renomination in 2020, as well as two little-known candidates. Ryan outraised Harper $2.9 million to $335,000 in the most recent quarter, and he held a $5 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand edge.

Team Blue's eventual nominee will face a tough task in November in a longtime swing state that lurched hard to the right in the Trump era, but Democrats are hoping that a bloody GOP primary will give them a larger opening.

Governors

FL-Gov: Rep. Charlie Crist has released a GBAO Strategies survey giving him a 54-28 lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the August Democratic primary, with state Sen. Annette Taddeo at 7%. We haven't seen any other surveys of the contest to face Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis since well before Taddeo entered the race last October.

GA-Gov: Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she raised a massive $9.2 million in the month since she kicked off her second bid for governor and says she ended January with $7.2 million in the bank. Her red-hot pace outstripped Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who brought in $7.4 million in the second half of 2021, though he has a considerably larger $12.7 million war chest. Kemp, however, will have to spend much of that money in his already bitter primary feud with former Sen. David Perdue, who has yet to say how much he's raised and "has tried to downplay expectations," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Greg Bluestein.

HI-Gov: Hawaii News Now has gathered the fundraising reports for the second half of 2021, and the numbers for the three major Democrats are below:

  • Lt. Gov. Josh Green: $775,000 raised, $1.1 million cash-on-hand
  • Businesswoman Vicky Cayetano: $475,000 raised, additional $350,000 self-funded, $655,000 cash-on-hand
  • former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell: $345,000 raised, $720,000 cash-on-hand

None of the Republicans currently in the race have reported raising a notable amount.

IA-Gov: The Des Moines Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel relays that some Iowa Democrats are seeking an alternative to Deidre DeJear, the 2018 secretary of state nominee who ended last year with less than $10,000 on-hand, though there's no sign anyone else is looking to take on Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Pfannenstiel writes that some of "the names being floated" are 2018 nominee Fred Hubbell, state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, and state Reps. Chris Hall and Todd Prichard, but none of them have shown any obvious interest in getting in ahead of the March 18 filing deadline.

ME-Gov: Former state Sen. Tom Saviello said this week that he would not run as an independent. That's probably welcome news for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, whom Saviello backed in 2018.

MD-Gov: The Democratic Governors Association is out with new numbers from Public Policy Polling arguing that Del. Dan Cox, a Trump-endorsed candidate who played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by organizing a busload of people to attend the rally that preceded it, is well-positioned in the June Republican primary in this dark blue state.

Cox leads former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who has termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan's backing, 20-12, with a huge 68% majority undecided. (The poll did not include Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate who has self-funded $1.1 million.) But after respondents are told that Trump is supporting Cox while Schulz is backed by termed-out Gov. Larry Hogan, the delegate's margin balloons to 52-18. This is the very first poll we've seen of this primary.

MN-Gov: SurveyUSA, polling on behalf of a trio of Minnesota TV stations, tests Democratic Gov. Tim Walz against six different Republican foes, and it finds things considerably closer than when it went into the field in December. The results are below, with the firm's earlier numbers in parentheses:

  • 43-40 vs. former state Sen. Scott Jensen (48-36)
  • 42-37 vs. state Sen. Paul Gazelka (47-34)
  • 45-37 vs. state Sen. Michelle Benson (47-35)
  • 43-35 vs. healthcare executive Kendall Qualls
  • 44-35 vs. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy (47-36)
  • 45-34 vs. physician Neil Shah (48-31)

The earlier numbers did not include Qualls, who launched his bid last month. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who announced this week, was also not asked about in either poll.

Even though SurveyUSA shows Walz losing ground since December, he still posts a 45-37 favorable rating, which is the same margin as his 47-39 score from last time. His many opponents, by contrast, remain pretty anonymous: Even Jensen, who comes the closest in the head-to-heads, only sports a 18-12 favorable image.

NE-Gov: The Nebraska Examiner has collected all the 2021 fundraising numbers for the Republicans competing in the May primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts:

  • University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen: $4.4 million raised, additional $1 million self-funded, $4.2 million cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Brett Lindstrom: $1.6 million raised, $1.4 million cash-on-hand
  • Agribusinessman Charles Herbster: $200,000 raised, additional $4.7 million self-funded, $637,000 cash-on-hand
  • former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau: $106,000 raised, additional $7,000 self-funded, $87,000 cash-on-hand

Amusingly, Ricketts, who poured $12 million of his money into his unsuccessful 2006 campaign against Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, pooh-poohed Herbster's personal investment to the Examiner, saying that self-funding looks like "you're trying to buy the race." Ricketts, who is backing Pillen, added, "You want to engage Nebraskans across the state to invest in your campaign. And clearly Charles Herbster is not getting Nebraskans to invest in his campaign."

The only notable Democrat in the race, state Sen. Carol Blood, took in $76,000 and had $37,000 to spend.

NY-Gov: Rep. Lee Zeldin's first TV spot ahead of the June Republican primary features several photos of Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul with her disgraced predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, as the narrator argues that the state is in poor shape. The ad goes on to exalt Zeldin as a veteran who has "won seven tough elections" and a "tax-fighting, trusted conservative." There is no word on the size of the buy.

OH-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike DeWine faces three intra-party foes, but only former Rep. Jim Renacci appears to have the resources to make trouble for him. Renacci has filled his coffers with millions from his own wallet, though skeptical Republicans remember that he barely used any of the money he loaned himself for his 2018 Senate campaign, which ended in a 53-47 loss to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Also in the running are farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood, who badly lost last year's special election primary for the 15th Congressional District.

Renacci, who has spent his time trashing DeWine's handling of the pandemic, last week dropped a poll showing him leading the incumbent 46-38 in a two-way race. A Renacci win would represent a major upset, but no one else has responded with contradictory numbers.

The Democratic primary is a duel between two former mayors who each left office at the start of the year: Cincinnati's John Cranley and Dayton's Nan Whaley. The only poll we've seen was a Whaley internal she publicized last week giving her a 33-20 edge, but with a 48% plurality undecided. The former mayors both ended 2021 with close to $2 million to spend apiece.

OK-Gov: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt outraised Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a Republican-turned-Democrat, $1.2 million to $540,000 during the fourth quarter, and he ended 2021 with a $2.3 million to $435,000 cash-on-hand lead.

House

IL-03: State Rep. Delia Ramirez has picked up the support of the Illinois Federation of Teachers in the June Democratic primary for this safely blue open seat. Ramirez's main intra-party opponent is Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, who outraised her $385,000 to $115,000 during the fourth quarter of 2021 (the first in the race for both candidates) and ended December with a $375,000 to $110,000 cash-on-hand.

MI-10: Eric Esshaki, who was the 2020 Republican nominee in the old 11th District, announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the August primary for the new (and open) 10th District and would instead endorse two-time Senate nominee John James. James, who launched his House bid on Monday, currently is the only notable Republican seeking this suburban Detroit seat, which Donald Trump would have carried 50-49.

OR-06: Carrick Flynn, who has worked as a University of Oxford associate researcher, announced Tuesday that he was entering the Democratic primary for Oregon’s brand-new 6th District. Flynn filed FEC paperwork on Jan. 21 and said he had $430,000 banked after 10 days.

RI-02: State Rep. Teresa Tanzi said Thursday that she would not compete in the September Democratic primary for this open seat.

TX-08: The March 1 Republican primary to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady has turned into what the Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek characterizes as an expensive "proxy war" between retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell, who has the House GOP leadership in his corner, and Christian Collins, a former Brady campaign manager backed by Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus.

Luttrell far outraised Collins during the fourth quarter, $1.2 million to $335,000, and ended 2021 with a $1.6 million to $290,000 cash-on-hand lead. Collins, however, is getting some serious reinforcements: Svitek reports that three super PACs almost entirely funded by a Cruz ally, banker Robert Marling, have spent $800,000 for Collins while Luttrell has yet to benefit from any outside money.

The story notes that the two leading candidates for this safely red suburban Houston district don't seem to actually disagree on anything substantive, but Collins has been trying hard to frame the race as a battle between D.C. power players and "those who are the tip of the spear." He's also been seeking to use Luttrell's connections against him, including the $5,000 donation the SEAL veteran received from the PAC of Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Luttrell distanced himself from the congressman in January, saying he "didn't know the check was cashed," but a Kinzinger spokesperson told the Tribune that the donation was made "because it was solicited."

Luttrell, who is a close ally of former Gov. Rick Perry, has been focusing far more on his own military background, with his first ad talking about his recovery after a devastating helicopter crash. Luttrell also enjoys the backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, as well as 13th District Rep. Ronny Jackson, who was Trump's failed nominee for secretary of veteran's affairs in 2018. Nine other candidates are on the ballot, and while none of them have attracted much attention, they could keep Luttrell or Collins from winning the majority of the vote needed to avert a runoff.

TX-15: Insurance agent Monica De La Cruz's newest TV ad for the March 1 Republican primary features her flying over the border with Mexico as she bemoans how "socialists are ruining our border security, our values, and our economy." She concludes by pledging to "finish what Trump started."

VA-07: Spotsylvania County Supervisor David Ross said this week that he was joining the June Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Mayors

Los Angeles, CA Mayor: Los Angeles Magazine has summarized fundraising reports spanning the second half of 2021, which show Rep. Karen Bass went into the new year with a sizable financial edge over her many opponents in the June nonpartisan primary to lead this very blue city:

  • Rep. Karen Bass: $1.9 million raised, $1.6 million cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Kevin de León: $1.2 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Central City Association head Jessica Lall: $405,000 raised, $265,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Councilmember Joe Buscaino: $375,000 raised, $575,000 cash-on-hand
  • City Attorney Mike Feuer: $245,000 raised, $525,000 cash-on-hand
  • Businessman Ramit Varma: $180,000 raised, additional $1.5 million self-funded, $1.7 million cash-on-hand
  • Real estate broker Mel Wilson: $141,000 raised, $37,000 cash-on-hand

Perhaps the biggest question looming over the race ahead of the Feb. 12 filing deadline is whether real estate developer Rick Caruso, who has flirted with running before, gets in this time. Caruso recently changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, a move that came almost a decade after he left the GOP. The developer now describes himself as a "pro-centrist, pro-jobs, pro-public safety Democrat."

Ted Cruz is trying to discredit the prosecution of violent seditionists. Any guesses why?

Sen. Ted Cruz has been beating pro-seditionist conspiracy theory drums since before the Jan. 6 insurrection ever took place. It's still a bit novel to see Cruz use his pro-sedition conspiracy theory as a campaign fundraising gimmick, though.

But here we are, and the man who once ran for president—only to be crushed by Donald Trump, then subsumed into the fold of Trump's most obsequious boot-polishers—is using the newest Republican hoax to raise money from pro-sedition members of his base. The hoax Ted Cruz is promoting is the "Ray Epps" theory:

"Who is Ray Epps? Was Ray Epps a federal agent or informant?" asks Ted. Because "We know the FBI has been misused in the past to target President Trump" and just "look at the Russia Collusion Hoax" and "Peter Strzok" and "Merrick Garland won't answer questions" and "What are they trying to hide now about the events of January 6, 2021?"

If it sounds like any other Republican fundraising letter, down to the buzzwords and linked conspiracy theories and warnings of an "extreme-left agenda," it's because the party's vocabulary has dwindled down to a mere 500 words or so, all of them focus-grouped to the last serif, and half of those are references to theories that exist only in the Fox News universe. Literally any Republican in the party could send this same letter with only a sentence or two changed to fit their current position. Whatever individuality Ted once had, back in the days when he was known mostly for being the least pleasant person to be around even in Washington, D.C., has been smoothed out in favor of Generic Pro-Trump Conspiracy Guy.

Same fundraising language, same conspiracies, same blanket defenses of the most bumbling and crooked president of the modern era as being the fault of whatever enemies Donald has a personal grudge against.

The "Ray Epps" theory is, short version, a conspiracy theory being peddled by Republican sedition backers (including, of course, Trump backers who participated in the day's violence) that supposes that actually, the crowd that Trump and Trump allies scrambled to assemble on that day and hour were goaded into mounting a violent rebellion by the FBI. Or by antifa. Or by somebody. But the important point, in the theory, is claiming that the seditionists attempted to overthrow the government only because the government egged them into doing it, and so everybody should go free and once again we really should be investigating Trump's enemies, not the people doing grotesquely illegal things on Trump's personal behalf.

Sure, the crowd attacked police officers. Sure, there were deaths. But you see, some guy was seen outside the Capitol on that day but hasn't yet been charged by federal agents, ergo that guy must have been a plant and not a real Trump supporter, ergo the crimes don't count and none of this ever happened.

Ted Cruz has some personal stake in this, of course, given that Ted Cruz was one of those who attempted to nullify an American election that day, erasing the new administration rather than obliging Trump to hand over power. Ted can't well claim that the FBI goaded him into supporting an attempted autogolpe on the Senate floor, but as federal prosecutors target individual insurrectionists with "seditious conspiracy"—the first in-court acknowledgement that individuals in the violent crowd planned their actions as a serious effort to bring down the nation's government—it is to his advantage to argue that the only coup attempt that day was his own effort and that those people were doing something else entirely.

It's not true. Both efforts were linked, as documents from inside Trump's band of schemers have now shown. Republican lawmakers and Mike Pence were supposed to challenge the election's results as corrupted and invalid; Trump and allies had organized the large crowd to "march" to the Capitol grounds at exactly the same moment to intimidate waffling lawmakers into going along—and, under the assumption that violence would break out when Trump's crowd met "antifa" opponents that never appeared that day, provide grounds for using the Insurrection Act to summon the military, declare the election nullified, and promise a "do-over" election that might or might not have ever happened.

Ted Cruz did his part on that day, and the crowd of Trump supporters did theirs. The plan failed only because Mike Pence did not go along, and the expected counter-demonstrators never appeared—which meant there was no plausible deniability for the pro-Trump militia members and others who committed violence that day.

Cruz and his seditionist allies in the House and Senate near-immediately began inventing new theories to explain why the violence was actually the fault of antifa or other "anti-Trump" forces regardless of what we saw and heard on our televisions; one of the catch-all theories has been that the FBI staged the whole thing themselves, or at least helped plan it, or at least were the people goading Trump's frothing supporters into storming the Capitol and attacking people.

It was a theory invented in real time on pro-insurrection television programs and among pro-sedition lawmakers. It was based on nothing—another hoax in the now endless stream of pro-Trump hoaxes.

In real life, Ray Epps is a longtime militia member who was once president of the Arizona branch of the Oath Keepers, one of the two militias whose members are now facing seditious conspiracy charges due to their actions before and during the coup. He was in the pro-Trump crowd for the same reason as the others: to back Trump's attempt to remain in power regardless of the election's actual results. He has so far not been charged with criminal acts for a rather mundane reason: Epps appears to have never entered the Capitol building himself, and while there is footage of him encouraging others to go inside, there is so far no footage of him telling the crowd to be anything but "peaceful."

That makes him a small fry, when it comes to prosecution efforts. Courts and prosecutors are already overburdened with insurrection cases, and even those who did enter the building are not necessarily facing much punishment unless they manage to stack up other illegal acts as well. Prosecutors aren't targeting Epps because it's a harder case to prove than the others and his violations were less severe. So far.

If Ted Cruz is going to claim that every member of the pro-Trump crowd who hasn't been charged with crimes has not been charged with crimes because they're working for the FBI, he's welcome to go nuts with that. But he'd obviously be lying—and he's obviously lying now.

The last remaining bit of this farce hinges around the question that Cruz and other seditionists demand be asked: What if Epps was an FBI informant at some point? What if he did cooperate with investigators?

Okay, Ted, you've got me. What of it? Let's say this guy talked with the FBI and squealed as squealingly as a squealer could squeal—let's say he, or somebody else in the militia movement, sat down in front of a computer screen with three FBI agents named Edward, Thaddeus, and Bifftholomew and spent 10 solid hours going through security footage, naming every last face he recognized.

So then what? Oh my goodness, somebody cooperated with law enforcement to name people who attacked police officers, ransacked offices, or threatened to hang the vice president.

That's your conspiracy theory, Ted, so tell us what that would mean. Don't snivel like a seditionist little coward and suggest that something like that might be true; come out and tell us what the actual outrage would be.

Is it that somebody, somewhere might be cooperating with law enforcement to bring Trump's most violent supporters to justice? Is that what has you so upset?

Are you suggesting that those who stockpiled weapons and who planned their actions on that day so that they would have the best possible chance of toppling constitutional government should be set free, because somebody in the crowd is a snitch?

How very odd. But it's a pattern we've seen from Cruz and the near-entirety of Republicanism over and over again; whenever Donald Trump or someone close to him gets caught doing something that would have been grounds for immediate impeachment, removal, and likely prosecution during any previous administration, the Republican Party immediately launches an all-out war against whatever public official discovered the corruption. Every last time. The Republican enemies list is now just an unending list of names of government workers, foreign diplomats, top journalists, law enforcement agents and others who have reported or testified that Donald Trump did something corrupt.

Merrick Garland is now on that list because Ted is outraged Garland's Justice Department is charging people who attacked police officers and went hunting for lawmakers with crimes. That says a lot more about Ted Cruz than it does about anything else.

There's no mastery as to what is happening here. Ted Cruz was part of a far-right effort to nullify a United States election based on a fraudulent hoax dreamed up by conspiracy theorists and seized upon by his whole party as convenient excuse. He, personally, was accessory to an attempt to erase an election rather than recognize its results. It was all a lie, and Ted Cruz was one of its chief spokesmen.

But it failed, and now Ted and the other lawmakers who engaged in that seditious conspiracy are attempting to throw up whatever barricades they can between themselves and those who are investigating the day's events. They stonewalled congressional investigation—as in, the premise that there should even be one. They have supported architects of the day's events as those figures have defied congressional subpoenas demanding their testimony. They have tossed out countless new conspiracy theories intended to discredit law enforcement investigations of the people who were caught, on camera, attacking and injuring hundreds of police officers.

Ted would rather everyone who attacked police officers and ransacked offices that day go free, so long as that means federal and congressional investigations of who sent them there are stopped in their tracks.

Why?

Because Ted Cruz was part of a seditious conspiracy himself. And however large his part is known to be, it's very, very clear that it's Ted and his fellow lawmakers who are "trying to hide" the "full truth" of what happened that day.

What do you have to hide, Ted? What's so important that you're willing to shove conspiracy theories out to your base, attempting to discredit the entire federal investigation?

Just how low do you intend to sink, buddy?

Morning Digest: Onetime ‘Boy Mayor’ Dennis Kucinich campaigns to reclaim office he lost in 1979

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

Leading Off

Cleveland, OH Mayor: Former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced Monday that he'd run this year to regain his old job as mayor of Cleveland, the post that first catapulted him to fame more than four decades ago. Kucinich joins what's already a crowded September nonpartisan primary for a four-year term to succeed retiring incumbent Frank Jackson, who is this heavily blue city's longest-serving mayor; the top-two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.

Kucinich, who got his start in public office as a member of the City Council, was elected mayor in 1977 at the age of 31 in a close race, a victory that made him the youngest person to ever run a major American city. His accomplishment earned him national attention and the nickname "Boy Mayor," but his two years in office would prove to be extremely difficult.

Kucinich had a terrible relationship with the head of the City Council and the local business community, but his clash with Richard Hongisto, the city's popular police chief, proved to be especially costly. Hongisto accused the mayor's staff of pressuring the force to commit "unethical acts," which led Kucinich, who said the chief had failed to submit a report detailing his allegations, to fire him on live TV.

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Things got so bad that Kucinich, in response to death threats, wore a bulletproof vest to the Cleveland Indians' 1978 opening game. He left the event safely, though he would recount, "When they called my name, I got a standing boo from about 75,000 people." Kucinich's opponents also saw their chance to end his term early by waging a recall campaign against him that year. Almost every influential group in the city backed his ouster, but the incumbent held on by 236 votes.

Kucinich's troubles were hardly over, though. In late 1978, after an ulcer prevented him from making a planned appearance at a parade, he learned that the local mob planned to murder him at the event. He also more recently divulged that he knows of two other attempts on his life during his tenure.

Near the end of that year, Kucinich refused recommendations to sell the publicly-owned Municipal Light (also known as Muny Light) power company to Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) in order to help the city pay its debts. Cleveland soon became the first major American city to default since the Great Depression, but the mayor defended his decision by arguing that the sale would have given CEI a monopoly that would drive up electricity rates.

Kucinich persuaded voters in the following year's referendums to raise income taxes and to keep Muny city owned, but he wasn't so effective at advocating for himself. Cleveland mayors at the time were up for re-election every two years, and the incumbent lost his bid for a second term by a 56-44 margin to Lt. Gov. George Voinovich, a Republican who would go on to be elected governor and U.S. senator.

That wide defeat was far from the end of Kucinich's time in politics, though. After losing a close primary for secretary of state to future-Sen. Sherrod Brown in 1982, he rebounded by regaining a seat on the City Council the next year. He went on to get elected to the state Senate before winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1996 on the fifth such attempt of his career.

Kucinich used his perch in Congress to wage two presidential runs in 2004 and 2008; while neither came close to succeeding, the campaigns, as well as his vote against the Iraq War, helped Kucinich gain a small but vocal following with progressives nationally. He had problems at home in 2012, though, when redistricting placed him in the same seat as fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. After flirting with running for the House in other states, including Washington, Kucinich stuck it out in Ohio and lost the primary 56-40.

While Kucinich portrayed himself as a progressive hero during his time in D.C., he went on to use his subsequent job as a Fox commentator to defend none other than Donald Trump. He spent early 2017 praising Trump's inauguration speech (you know, the "American carnage" one), arguing that U.S. intelligence agencies forced Michael Flynn to resign as Trump's national security advisor, and agreeing with Sean Hannity that the "deep state" was out to get Trump. Kucinich also repeatedly met with and defended Syria's murderous dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Kucinich tried to make another return to office in 2018 when he competed in the Democratic primary for governor against establishment favorite Richard Cordray. During that campaign, Kucinich announced he was returning $20,000 in speaking fees from the pro-Assad Syria Solidarity Movement that he had previously failed to disclose on financial forms.

While Kucinich had praised that organization the prior week as a "civil rights advocacy group," he now insisted that he hadn't known what it really stood for; he also very belatedly denounced the Assad regime's "repressive practices." Cordray ended up winning the primary 62-23, but Kucinich narrowly carried Cleveland.

That brings us to 2021, where the 74-year-old onetime "Boy Mayor" is hoping to become his city's oldest leader. Kucinich used his campaign kickoff to focus on concerns like crime, police accountability, and poverty, but the fate of Cleveland's public utility will also likely be a big issue in his comeback campaign.

In the months before his launch, Kucinich released a memoir focused on his successful battle to prevent Muny Light, which is now known as Cleveland Public Power, from being privatized in the late 1970s. The future of the utility, which is still owned by the city, is likely to come up on the campaign trail: Last year, Kucinich argued that the city is doing a poor job overseeing Cleveland Public Power, declaring, "When money is being lost, or the rates keep going up, that means something is wrong."

Cleveland.com also notes that his longtime antagonist CEI, which remains Cleveland Public Power's main competitor, could also be a factor in this race. CEI's parent company, FirstEnergy, is currently at the center of a high-profile scandal over an alleged $60 million bribery scheme involving then-state House Speaker Larry Householder.

Kucinich will face several other high-profile contenders in the September nonpartisan primary. The only other major white candidate in this majority-Black city is City Council President Kevin Kelley, who also hails from the West Side: Last month, Cleveland.com's Seth Richardson suggested that the two would end up "going after each other's base of supporters," which could prevent either of them from advancing to the general election.

The field also includes four serious Black contenders: Councilman Basheer Jones; former Councilman Zack Reed, who lost to Jackson in 2017; state Sen. Sandra Williams; and nonprofit executive Justin Bibb. The filing deadline is Wednesday, so it would be a surprise if another notable contender runs at this point.

Senate

PA-Sen, PA-04: Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean announced on Tuesday that she would not run for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat next year and will instead seek re-election. Dean's name came up as a possible contender earlier this year after she served as one of the House managers for Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, but she never spoke about her interest publicly.

Governors

IA-Gov, IA-Sen: State Rep. Ras Smith kicked off a bid for Iowa's governorship on Tuesday, giving Democrats their first notable candidate in next year's race against Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Smith, who at 33 is the youngest of the state's six Black lawmakers, has been a vocal advocate for racial justice and spearheaded a bill to bring greater accountability to the police that passed the legislature unanimously last year in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

Smith had also weighed a run for the Senate but always sounded more likely to seek state office, saying in April that "it's hard to see myself living anywhere where I can't throw my dog in the back of the truck, my shotgun and a box of shells and drive 20 minutes in any direction and do some pheasant hunting or some turkey hunting."

A number of other prominent Democrats are also still considering the governor's race, though, including Rep. Cindy Axne, 2018 secretary of state nominee Deidre DeJear, and state Auditor Rob Sand. Reynolds, meanwhile, hasn't officially kicked off her re-election campaign, but earlier this month she said she would "make a formal announcement later."

NM-Gov: Retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti has launched a bid against Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, making him the second notable Republican in the race. Zanetti unsuccessfully sought his party's nod for lieutenant governor all the way back in 1994, then ran an abortive campaign for governor in 2009, dropping out after just a few months. He's also served as Bernalillo County GOP chair twice and, in his day job as an investment advisor, has regularly appeared on local radio to offer financial advice.

Already in the race for Republicans is Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Brock, though several other notable candidates are still considering, including state GOP chair (and former Rep.) Steve Pearce.

House

FL-13: Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna, who was the GOP's nominee for Florida's 13th Congressional District in 2020 and is running again this cycle, has received a temporary restraining order against a fellow candidate, Will Braddock, claiming that Braddock and two other potential rivals, Matt Tito and Amanda Makki, were conspiring to murder her to prevent her from winning next year's election. Braddock responded by saying, "This woman is off her rocker," Makki (who lost to Luna in last year's primary) called the claims "nonsense," and Tito said he was talking to a lawyer about pursuing a possible defamation suit. A hearing on whether to continue the restraining order is scheduled for June 22.

IA-01: Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis says she's "seriously considering" a bid against freshman Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson in Iowa's 1st Congressional District and will make an announcement in "late July." Mathis first won office in a key special election in 2011, after Democrat Swati Dandekar accepted an appointment from Terry Branstad, the Republican governor at the time, that threatened Democrats' narrow 26-24 majority in the Senate. She's since won re-election twice, by double digits both times.

KWWL's Ron Steele also notes that, were Mathis to run, it could set up a race between two former TV news personalities. Mathis began her career as a news anchor alongside Steele at KWWL in 1980, then later worked at KCRG, both of which are in Cedar Rapids, before retiring from broadcasting in 2007. Hinson also worked at KCRG for a decade as a reporter prior to her election to the state House in 2017.

SC-07: Despite forming what he called an exploratory committee in January, state Rep. William Bailey announced this week that he would not challenge Rep. Tom Rice in next year's Republican primary and would instead seek re-election. Bailey explained his decision by saying that "we clearly have a number of strong conservatives that most likely will jump into the race and challenge Rice," who enraged Republicans when he voted to impeach Donald Trump in January.

Two notable candidates are in fact running, Horry County School Board chair Ken Richardson and former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, while several others are still considering. South Carolina requires a runoff if no candidate takes a majority in the primary.

TX-06: Ted Cruz has endorsed conservative activist Susan Wright in the all-Republican special election runoff for Texas' 6th Congressional District that'll take place on July 27. Prior to the first round of voting on May 1, Cruz had attacked Wright's opponent, state Rep. Jake Ellzey, for his "financial support from never-Trumpers, openness to amnesty, and opposition to school choice."

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: Data for Progress has released a survey of next week's instant runoff Democratic primary that finds Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading attorney Maya Wiley 26-20, with 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at 16% and 14%, respectively. That's a huge shift from two months ago, when DFP had Yang leading Adams 26-13.

DFP made it clear as it was releasing this latest poll that it hopes Wiley, who has picked up a number of endorsements from high-profile progressives in recent days, will stop the more moderate Adams. Data for Progress Political Director Marcela Mulholland released a statement saying, "In close second, Wiley has a window of opportunity to bring together a winning coalition ahead of next Tuesday — and block Eric Adams, a veritable Republican who's looking out for the NYPD and corporate interests instead of working New Yorkers, from becoming Mayor."  

The only other poll we've seen that was conducted in June was a Marist College survey that had Adams leading with a similar 24%, though it showed Garcia in second with 17%. Marist found Wiley a close third with 15% while Yang, who was the frontrunner in early polls, was in fourth with just 13%.

Yang is hoping to regain his footing, though, with a new spot that labels Adams "a conservative Republican." This commercial, just like a recent negative ad from Yang's allies at Future Forward PAC, does not mention any of the other mayoral candidates.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Data for Progress has released a survey of next week's rarely-polled Democratic primary that shows two former prosecutors, Alvin Bragg and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, deadlocked at 26% apiece; a third ex-prosecutor, Lucy Lang, is a distant third with 8%.

DFP is using this data to explicitly argue that progressives "have an obligation to consolidate" behind Bragg, calling him "the only progressive positioned to beat Farhadian Weinstein." The winner of the primary—where only a plurality is necessary—should have no trouble prevailing in the general election to succeed retiring incumbent Cyrus Vance as head of what's arguably the most prominent local prosecutor's office in America.

All of the contenders except for Liz Crotty, a self-described centrist who takes just 5% in this poll, have pitched themselves as progressives who will bring much-needed changes to the post, though the three contenders who have never been prosecutors—attorney Tahanie Aboushi, public defender Eliza Orlins, and Assemblyman Dan Quart—have portrayed themselves as the most aggressive reformers. Bragg, Farhadian Weinstein, Lang, and yet another former prosecutor, Diana Florence, have all, in the words of the New York Times' Jonah Bromwich, "pitched themselves as occupying a middle ground, focused on less sweeping changes."

There are some notable differences, though, between Bragg and Farhadian Weinstein, who have been the top fundraisers in this contest. Ideologically, Bragg has generally staked out territory to the left of Farhadian Weinstein (who only registered as a Democrat in 2017), including on issues like the decriminalization of sex work and the imposition of long sentences.

And while Bragg, who previously worked as the chief deputy state attorney general, has bragged about suing Donald Trump "more than a hundred times," the Times reported earlier this month that Farhadian Weinstein met with Trump administration officials in 2017 about a potential judicial appointment. The paper, citing an unnamed source, writes that the discussion "became heated during a disagreement over constitutional law" and did not advance further.

Farhadian Weinstein's detractors have also taken issue with her connection to the financial industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than half of the candidate's fundraising from earlier this year "came from four dozen donors, many of whom work in the financial sector." Farhadian Weinstein, who is married to wealthy hedge fund manager Boaz Weinstein, also recently self-funded $8.2 million for her campaign, an amount that utterly dwarfs what everyone else has raised or spent combined.

Though Bragg doesn't have the resources of Farhadian Weinstein, he does have some important backers, including three of the city's most politically influential unions, as well as the endorsement of the Times, which often carries uncommon weight in local races.

As Bromwich has noted, every contender save Quart would achieve a historic first should they prevail. Six of the candidates would be the first woman to win this office, while Aboushi would additionally be the first Muslim or Arab American to hold the post. Bragg, meanwhile, would be Manhattan's first Black district attorney.

Other Races

New York City, NY Comptroller: Data for Progress has also released a poll of next week's Democratic primary for city comptroller, a post that has plenty of influence over the nation's largest city, that finds City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Councilman Brad Lander in a 23-23 tie; Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who badly lost a challenge from the right to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last year's primary, is in third with 10%.

DFP, which did not mention a rooting interest for any of the candidates, did not try to simulate the instant runoff process, though it did find that more voters preferred Johnson to Lander as their second or third choice. The winner will be the heavy favorite to hold an office that Democrats have controlled since 1946.

Johnson, who would be the first gay person elected citywide, was universally expected to run for mayor until he announced last September that he'd skip the contest in order to focus on his mental health. He ended up launching his campaign for comptroller in March, though, saying, "Where I was in September is not where I am today," and he's since earned endorsements from all of the city's major unions, as well as Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Richie Torres. Johnson, who entered the race with money he'd stockpiled for his planned mayoral bid, has also enjoyed a small fundraising advantage over Lander.

Lander, meanwhile, has the backing of several high-profile progressives, including AOC, fellow Rep. Jamaal Bowman, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, as well as the Working Families Party. Lander enjoys the backing of longtime Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, and the New York Times is also in his corner.

In addition to Johnson, Lander, and Caruso-Cabrera, the field includes state Sen. Brian Benjamin; Marine veteran Zach Iscol; state Sen. Kevin Parker; financial advisor Reshma Patel; and Assemblyman David Weprin, who unsuccessfully ran to succeed the disgraced Anthony Weiner in the 2011 special election for what was numbered the 9th Congressional District at the time. All of these contenders have qualified for at least $1 million in public financing, though they've each fallen well short of Johnson and Lander.

The comptroller's job is an influential post, though its duties are often not well understood. Among other things, the office is responsible for reviewing contracts, auditing and overseeing city agencies, and "[e]nsuring transparency and accountability in setting prevailing wage and vigorously enforcing prevailing wage and living wage laws." The comptroller is also one of only a trio of citywide elected offices: The other is public advocate, where Democratic incumbent Jumaane Williams doesn't face any serious opposition for re-election this year.

What the comptroller's post hasn't been, though, is a good springboard to the mayor's office. The last person to successfully make the jump was Democrat Abe Beame, who was elected mayor in 1973 on his second try and lost renomination four years later. Since then four other comptrollers have unsuccessfully campaigned for the city's top job, and it looks like that streak will continue this year: Comptroller Scott Stringer once looked like a formidable candidate for mayor, but he lost several major endorsements after two women accused him of sexual harassment.

Morning Digest: Far-right ex-cop wages intraparty bid against pro-impeachment GOP congressman

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

Leading Off

WA-04: Far-right ex-cop Loren Culp announced Thursday that he would challenge Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who is one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. Culp, who was the GOP’s 2020 nominee for governor, made it very clear he’d be making his campaign all about that vote: After accusing the incumbent of having a “spine made of jelly,” Culp, without offering any evidence, accused Newhouse of making “some kind of deal” with Democrats.

Newhouse was already facing intraparty challenges on his right from state Rep. Brad Klippert and businessman Jerrod Sessler in next year’s top-two primary, and more could still join. It’s possible that a crowded field of opponents could split the anti-Newhouse GOP vote in the 4th District and allow the congressman to advance to a general election with a Democrat, but that’s far from assured. This 58-40 Trump seat is red enough that Newhouse went up against a fellow Republican in both 2014 and 2016, and this eastern Washington seat will almost certainly remain very conservative turf after redistricting.

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Culp may also be prominent enough to emerge as Newhouse’s main foe, especially since Klippert did not report raising any money in the time between his January launch and the end of March. (Sessler entered the race in early April.) Culp himself served as mayor of the small community of Republic, which is located in the neighboring 5th District, in 2018 when he made news by announcing he wouldn't enforce a statewide gun safety ballot measure that had just passed 59-41.

Culp's stance drew a very favorable response from far-right rocker Ted Nugent, who posted a typo-ridden "Chief Loren Culp is an Anerican freedom warrior. Godbless the freedom warriors" message to his Facebook page.

Culp soon decided to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, and he quickly made it clear he would continue to obsessively cultivate the Trump base rather than appeal to a broader group of voters in this blue state. That tactic helped Culp advance through the top-two primary, an occasion he celebrated by reaffirming his opposition to Inslee's measures to stop the pandemic, including mask mandates.

Inslee ended up winning by a wide 57-43, but Culp responded by saying he’d “never concede.” Instead, he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a fellow Republican, that made baseless allegations of “intolerable voting anomalies” for a contest “that was at all times fraudulent.”

The state GOP did not welcome Culp’s refusal to leave the stage, though. Some Republicans also openly shared their complaints about Culp’s campaign spending, including what the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner described as “large, unexplained payments to a Marysville data firm while spending a relatively meager sum on traditional voter contact.”

Culp also gave himself a total of $48,000 for lost wages and mileage reimbursement, a sum that Brunner said “appears to be the largest-ever for a candidate in Washington state.” Republicans also griped that Culp had spent only about a fifth of his $3.3 million budget on advertising, a far smaller amount than what serious candidates normally expend.

Culp’s attorney ultimately withdrew the suit after being threatened with sanction for making “factually baseless” claims. Culp himself responded to the news by saying that, while the cost of continuing the legal battle would have been prohibitive, “It doesn’t mean that the war’s over … It just means that we’re not going to engage in this particular battle through the courts.”

Newhouse, for his part, responded to Culp’s new campaign by reaffirming that he’ll be running for a fifth term next year. Newhouse brought in $288,000 during the first quarter for his campaign, and he ended March with $528,000 to defend himself.

Senate

AK-Sen: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, endorsed Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Manchin previously crossed party lines by backing Maine Sen. Susan Collins last cycle; neither Murkowski nor Collins supported Manchin during his 2018 reelection bid.

FL-Sen, FL-Gov: Democratic Rep. Val Demings on Thursday reiterated her interest in running for Senate or governor, adding, "It's next year, right, and so I'd need to make that decision soon for sure by mid-year. And we're almost there now." Demings did not indicate if she was leaning towards one statewide race over the other.

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Democratic state Auditor Rob Sand recently told Iowa Press that he was thinking about running for the Senate, governor, or for reelection in 2022, and that he didn't have a timeline to decide. Sand won this post in 2018 by unseating a Republican incumbent 51-46 even as GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds was prevailing 50-48.

MO-Sen: The Kansas City Star recently asked former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards if he was interested in seeking the Republican nomination for this open seat, and he did not rule out the idea. Edwards said, "I don't have an active campaign going on," before he talked about his belief "in the founding principles and individual freedom and liberty and sustainability of our way of life." He added, "There might be a day when I'm able to help with that."

Governors

CA-Gov: Former reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner announced Friday that she would compete as a Republican in this year's likely recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. In addition to Jenner, the GOP field includes former Rep. Doug Ose, 2018 nominee John Cox, and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and it could still expand further.

Jenner, who would be the first transgender person elected statewide anywhere, has not sought office before, though she's not completely new to politics. She was a vocal Donald Trump supporter in 2016, although Politico recently reported that she didn't cast a ballot at all that year; Jenner also did not vote in 2018 when Newsom was elected governor.

Jenner insisted in 2017 that, while Trump has "made some mistakes" on LGBTQ issues, she didn't regret backing him, but she finally acknowledged the following year that she'd been wrong. That public break, however, didn't stop Jenner from hiring multiple high-level Trump campaign personnel for her bid or accepting help from former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

NH-Gov: 2020 Democratic nominee Dan Feltes told the Concord Monitor that he had "no intention right now of putting my name on the ballot in 2022," though he didn't rule out a second bid for governor.

Feltes, who was state Senate majority leader at the time, raised a credible $1.7 million last time for his bid against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, but the popular incumbent defeated him in a 65-33 landslide. Sununu has yet to announce if he'll run for a fourth two-year term or challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan instead.

House

FL-20: Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard said Thursday that he would not compete in the still-unscheduled special election for this safely blue seat.

KS-03: 2020 Republican nominee Amanda Adkins earned an endorsement Friday from 4th District Rep. Ron Estes for her second campaign against Democratic incumbent Sharice Davids.

ME-02: The Bangor Daily News takes a look at the potential Republican field to take on Rep. Jared Golden in this 52-45 Trump seat, a northern Maine constituency that is the reddest Democratic-held House district in America. So far, though, the only notable politician who appears to have publicly expressed interest is state Rep. Mike Perkins, who said Thursday he was forming an exploratory committee.

2020 nominee Dale Crafts, meanwhile, said he wasn't ruling out a second try. Crafts, who is a former state representative, was decisively outraised by Golden last time, and major outside groups on both sides dramatically cut their ad buys in the final weeks of the race in what Politico characterized at the time as "a sign of no confidence" in the Republican. Golden ended up prevailing 53-47, which was far closer than what almost any publicly released poll showed.

State Sen. Lisa Keim and former state Rep. Alex Willette said they wouldn't run, but the Bangor Daily News writes that former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who lost this seat to Golden in 2018, did not respond to questions about his plans. Poliquin spent much of 2019 talking about seeking a rematch against Golden, but he ultimately announced that, while he was "itching to run again," he had to skip that race to care for his elderly parents.

While Democrats control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, redistricting isn't likely to alter Maine's congressional boundaries all that much. The state requires two-thirds of each chamber to pass a new map, and there are more than enough Republicans to block any districts they view as unfavorable. If the legislature deadlocks, the state Supreme Court would take charge of redistricting.

NV-04: 2020 candidate Sam Peters has announced that he'll once again compete for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. Peters, who is an Air Force veteran and businessman, lost last year's primary 35-28 to former Assemblyman Jim Marchant. Horsford went on to beat Marchant 51-46 as Joe Biden was carrying this northern Las Vegas area seat by a similar 51-47 spread.

OH-01: Franklin Mayor Brent Centers filed FEC paperwork Thursday for a potential campaign for the Cincinnati-area seat currently held by his fellow Republican, Rep. Steve Chabot. Centers previously said he planned to enter the race in early May.

TX-06: The progressive firm Data for Progress has released a survey of the May 1 all-party primary that shows Republican party activist Susan Wright, the wife of the late Rep. Ron Wright, in first with 22%.

2018 Democratic nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez leads Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey by a small 16-13 margin in the contest for the second spot in an all-but-assured runoff, with a few other candidates from each party also in striking distance. Former Trump administration official Brian Harrison and Democrat Shawn Lassiter, who works as an education advocate, are both at 10%, while 2020 Democratic state House nominee Lydia Bean is at 9%.

The only other poll we've seen all month was a Meeting Street Research survey for the conservative blog the Washington Free Beacon from mid-April that showed a very tight four-way race. Those numbers had Sanchez and Wright at 16% and 15%, respectively, with Ellzey at 14% and Harrison taking 12%.

Data for Progress also polled a hypothetical runoff between Wright and Sanchez and found the Republican up 53-43. This seat, which includes part of Arlington and rural areas south of Dallas, supported Trump only 51-48 in 2020 after backing him 54-42 four years before, but Republicans have done better downballot.

TX-15: 2020 GOP nominee Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez's second campaign picked up an endorsement Friday from Sen. Ted Cruz. De La Cruz-Hernandez, who held Democratic incumbent Vicente Gonzalez to a shockingly close 51-48 win last year, is the only notable Republican currently in the race for this Rio Grande Valley seat, which backed Joe Biden only 50-49 after supporting Hillary Clinton by a wide 57-40.

Mayors

New York City, NY Mayor: The city Campaign Finance Board on Thursday approved former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan for matching funds.

The board said the previous week that it was "deferring its decision" as it sought "further information" about a super PAC that has received at least $3 million from the candidate's father, but it cleared Donovan for public financing following its review. With this development, all of the notable Democrats competing in the June primary have received matching funds except former Citigroup executive Raymond McGuire, who is not taking part in the program.

Meanwhile, attorney Maya Wiley received an endorsement on Friday from EMILY's List. The field also includes two other pro-choice women, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales.

Prosecutors

Manhattan, NY District Attorney: Former State Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg recently picked up endorsements from two prominent labor groups ahead of the crowded June Democratic primary: the healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU and 32BJ, which represents building and airport employees.

Other Races

CA-AG: The state legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to confirm Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta to replace Xavier Becerra, who resigned last month to become U.S. secretary of health and human services, as California attorney general. Bonta, who has made a name for himself as a criminal justice reformer, is also the first Filipino American to hold this post.

Bonta already faces a challenge from Republican Nathan Hochman, a former federal prosecutor, in his 2022 campaign for a full four-year term. The bigger threat in this very blue state, though, could come from Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent who is publicly considering a bid.

Politico writes that Schubert, who attracted plenty of attention in 2016 after the Golden State Killer was apprehended, has also "hammered California's unemployment fraud failures and has excoriated [criminal justice] reformers." Schubert, though, would need to get through the top-two primary before she could focus on Bonta, and it's far from guaranteed that she'd be able to advance if Hochman or a different Republican emerges as Team Red's frontrunner.

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)

Ted Cruz is the poster boy for disaster capitalism, but then, he always has been

All it took for Ted Cruz to displace Bernie Sanders’ mittens at the top of the national meme board was a display of callous indifference so grand that the writers of the new Cruella de Vil movie are wondering if they can incorporate Ted’s move without it seeming too cartoonish. With the Republican-designed disaster capitalism power system leaving millions of Texans in the cold and dark, Ted decided to just skip the whole scene and take in the sun in Cancun. Because somehow, Cruz, with the most identifiable mini-mullet on the planet, thought he’d just slip through a Texas airport and collect a few beach days and no one would notice.

Cruz then hastily booked an abrupt return flight just seventeen hours later, then proceeded to lie about it, claiming this had always been the plan. Then he fell back on blaming his 10- and 12-year-old daughters, and admitted that he had intended to stay through the weekend to help them relax after a “tough week.” It was all such a display of over the top sneering at the people he is supposed to be serving, smeared with a frosting of rich-person privilege, that even Ted Cruz realizes it was a mistake. And that’s saying something.

Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke made over 150,000 wellness checks on seniors left in the cold during the blackout, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped raise over $1 million in relief funds through ActBlue. Do you get it yet, Texas?

Ted Cruz is not actually the Texas mayor who told his constituents to stop calling him for help because, “No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! … Only the strong will survive and the week will perish.” That mayor was forced to resign for his words. All Ted Cruz did was demonstrate those statements through his actions.

Rather than stay to help the people who elected him, Cruz left that to O’Rourke and AOC. Instead he decided a little beachside massage and umbrella drinks was the appropriate response to a crisis. Which means that Cruz’s reception on his return to his home state has been about as warm as the average Texas water pipe at this point. 

People at Ted Cruz’s house, waiting for him to get home. pic.twitter.com/3juZZ7nIa5

— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) February 19, 2021

Even Cruz’s “I had intended to stay over the weekend” is underselling his action considerably. His family absconded to Mexico on Wednesday. What he meant was he was actually taking a whole week off in the middle of a crisis that has turned deadly for his state. And his only real excuse seems to be that he’s worthless anyway, so why bother to stay? In fact, Cruz’s intrinsic lack of any purpose was the main defense provided to him by his pals at Fox News, who indignantly huffed on Thursday about how, if Cruz stuck around, it wasn’t like he was going to do anything.

As The Washington Post eloquently puts it:

“Nobody likes Ted Cruz. This was the place that Ted Cruz was starting from earlier this week. Then he went to Cancun. He went to Cancun, where it is mostly sunny and in the low 80s, while many of his ice-blasted constituents were without heating and plumbing, watching their ceilings collapse, huddling in warming centers, defecating in buckets, and generally not packing for a few days on the Yucatán Peninsula.”

To make it even more damning. This is also the Ted Cruz who voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy. The Ted Cruz who mocked California for much less severe rolling blackouts by saying the state “is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization.” And the Ted Cruz who not only has announced his opposition to President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, he voted against the last COVID-19 relief bill. This is the Ted Cruz who thinks nothing of paying for a week at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun and airline tickets bought on a whim with no advance discount, but believes that Americans don’t deserve a $2,000 relief check. That’s a lot of baggage, even for a spiffy bit of brand-new rolling luggage. 

And, oh yeah, this would also be the same Ted Cruz who helped to incite, support, and defend a deadly insurgency that smashed into the halls of the Capitol on January 6 and sought to murder members of Congress. It’s also the same Ted Cruz who openly and smugly conferenced with Donald Trump’s legal team to give them advice on the best way to escape justice in the Senate. 

On Friday, temperatures in Texas are up, and while hundreds of thousands are still purposely without power as the overstressed electrical grid puts itself back in order. All over the state, Texans are discovering that their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damage caused by bursting pipes, even when that led to collapsing floors and ceilings.  

And now Ted Cruz is back to his real job, which is appearing on Fox News to join in the endless lies about how the problems in Texas are actually all Democrats’ fault, even though Republicans have been running the system for decades. That’s because, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes has noted, Cruz sees himself as “Rush Limbaugh with a Senate office.” He’s not there to do anything. He’s not there to do anything for the people of his state. He only exists to make snide remarks and attack democracy.

On Friday, the Houston Chronicle summed Cruz up in an editorial as hot as the state’s been cold.

Take our advice, senator, and resign. Seems like you could use a break and we could, too, from an ineffective politician who, even in crisis, puts his personal itinerary before the needs of Texans.

Ted Cruz's vacation and the Mars rover landing coincide in a meme https://t.co/at3uefsdAl pic.twitter.com/dE8HO0w9KP

— Mashable (@mashable) February 19, 2021

Caught vacationing in Cancun during a pandemic as Texas voters froze, Ted Cruz blames his kids

All right, we have to do it. We have to spend a few moments celebrating these new accomplishments by the forever hapless but somehow still-sociopathic Sen. Ted Cruz, a man who once had presidential aspirations but who now spends his days humiliating himself and those around him, chipping away at his own integrity in what appears to be a spirited game of Dog Turd Jenga.

Oh, Ted. What are you, even?

As we all now know, Ted Cruz was caught taking a flight to the resort town of Cancun, Mexico, during (1) a massive natural disaster in his home state that caused much of the state to lose power and is now resulting in citizens dying in their homes and (2) a global pandemic that has killed 500,000 Americans, closed schools, shuttered businesses, and prevented many Americans from seeing their friends or loved ones for something approaching a full year now.

When caught, Ted blamed his young children. "Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too," says Ted. "With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon."

You've heard of the general edict between politicians and press to "leave the children out of it." This is the other edict: When in political danger, throw your youngest daughter at reporters and bolt.

Now, there are sev-er-al problems with Cruz's statement up there, and that's being generous. Cruz previously said that his home did not lose power, suggesting he was selflessly hosting the neighbor children who were not so fortunate. The airport pictures show Cruz with a rather significant amount of luggage for a supposed one-night stay, but we will be good sports and presume that he is merely moonlighting as a Texas drug mule or that he never, ever leaves the country without a two week supply of his favorite canned soups.

Fine. But then there's the rather bigger problem of Ted Cruz, a United States senator, willingly declaring that despite a deadly global pandemic, his kids got bored during a school break and insisted daddy spirit them off to Mexico for funsies, which he of course did, but of course he had to shepherd them there himself before, um, turning right around and coming back. Really now? Really? The rest of us are conducting half our lives over Zoom to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe during a plague while the senators ostensibly in charge of these things are letting their daughters organize their own international superspreader events? Outstanding. Just outstanding.

By far the biggest flaw with Ted's claims here, however—and it is a doozy—is that an airline-knowledgable reporter was quickly able to check with a source and reports that Cruz's original United Airlines tickets originally had him booked to return Saturday. Ted Cruz is, apparently, just brazenly lying his confederate beard off on this one.

I realize that does not really come as a surprise to anyone, given that the current crop of propaganda-spewing Republicans quite literally uses lying as means of governance and therefore lies about absolutely everything, all the time, but it still needs to be said that this yellowbellied Texas lungfish blamed a weekend Cancun vacation on his kids, then lied to everyone in his state about how Actually he was just tagging along to show them how to work the hotel vending machines.

Nope. It seems Cruz had, among senators, a very particular reason for being outraged at the notion that the Senate might have to hear evidence in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for longer than a few days. Cruz had an international beach trip planned for the Senate break, and didn't intend to let a probe of whether a former president attempted to have his vice president and a good chunk of the presidential line of succession killed in a coup attempt interfere with that.

Oh, and apparently he didn't even tell his staff where he was going, which was the reason his staff had no immediate response when pictures began flowing in of their boss leaving the damn country. The last time that happened we learned that a certain Republican governor had an Argentinian mistress, but not before his staff had piped up with a cover story claiming he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail on—shoulda done a little research on that one, kids—National Nude Hiking Day.

You may, at this point, be almost close to maybe having a microscopic bit of sympathy for Ted Cruz in the form of at least being embarrassed on his behalf for being such an amazingly craven little sea squirt. Don't bother. Once the Jan. 6 seditionist had been caught and had to book a quick flight back to Texas in order to pretend that he gave two biscuits about his voters freezing to death in their homes, one of the things his staff quickly made sure of was to contact the Houston Police Department to arrange for their "assistance" at the airport when he got back.

Sure, it's not like anyone in Texas has anything better to do right now. Surely there're some spare officers available to guide Cruz through an airport terminal and fend off anyone who wants to ask for more details about his international pandemic superspreader sleepover.

Cruz has managed to be a truly amazing human being these last few years, and that should not be taken as praise. He has managed to throw every member of his family, from his father to his wife to his children, under ye olde tour bus in his various attempts to slither through a political career. He has both Trump's sociopathic unwillingness to stick to the truth and a personality so magnificently awful that he could save 10 orphans from a burning orphanage and still somehow come out of it more hated than he was when he went inside. Above all, he somehow managed to maneuver himself into playing a central role in the biggest seditious anti-government conspiracy since the actual Civil War, all in service to an incompetent blowhard and gasbag, under the apparent impression that what the nation really needs these days is to just nix elections outright and put tax-dodging rapists in charge.

Did he support the nullification of an election because his kids and their friends were bored and wanted to play insurrection, or was that one on him? If any of us could still stomach even hearing this mulletfaced Gulf treasonfish bubble at us any longer it might make for a fascinating story, but if Texas voters still have a drop of dignity left maybe they'll run Ted out of town—the roads are slick, so a pair of skates and a little push is probably all it would take—and appoint a particularly irritable rat snake to fill out his term.

Who is Donald Trump’s most gutless toady?

The result of the latest Trump impeachment trial was a fait accompli when Mike Pence was pulled from his mother’s womb, saw his shadow, and scurried back home like a frightened baby wallaby for six more weeks of gestation.

The evidence now makes it abundantly clear that Donald Trump incited a riot, delighted in the mayhem, knew Mike Pence was in mortal danger, and not only did nothing to protect his unflinchingly loyal VP after hearing about his potential, you know, murder but actually sought to further incite the rioters by tweeting hateful lies directly at him. 

And what was Pence’s response to all this?

Crickets.

And not cool, genetically engineered murder crickets or anything—just plain old regular crickets.

Senate Republicans acquitted Donald Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors twice. So make them pay: Donate $1 right now to each of the Democratic nominee funds targeting vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2022.

The Washington Post:

[A]fter four years of obedience as vice president, Pence has no plans to condemn Trump or to speak out during the Senate impeachment trial, people close to the former vice president said. He is still operating from a playbook of obsequiousness that became second nature — he never aired his grievances publicly and delivered his often rose-colored counsel to Trump only in private, one-on-one settings.

I wonder if there’s a literal “playbook of obsequiousness,” and if so, does Mother let him read it after bedtime?

Oh, but Pence’s continued public deference to Trump doesn’t mean his feelings weren’t hurt by Trump’s decision to let him be hanged in public so Trump wouldn’t have to give up his extra White House ice cream scoop and unlimited free airplane rides. They were. You’d just never know it from talking to him.

But the rift that emerged between Trump and Pence — after Trump encouraged a frenzied mob that later chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as it stormed through the Capitol, in search of the then vice president — is unlikely ever to fully heal, people close to Pence said.

One ally described the former vice president as frustrated with what Trump did and said it would forever change his relationship with Trump. This person added, however, that Pence does not share the animus or fury that some of his former aides have for the president.

Do Republicans feel some weird frisson of excitement when Trump brutally attacks or betrays them? Is this something we mere mortals simply can’t understand? Because if any of my bosses had ever treated me this disrespectfully, I’d have immediately FedEx’d them my company-issued gimp costume (without dry-cleaning it first!) and never spoken to them again.

But Republicans keep coming back for more.

Why?

And it’s not just Milquetoast Mike Pence. 

Trump gave out Lindsey Graham’s private cell phone number at a rally, and Graham eventually became his champion.

Trump implied Ted Cruz’s wife was ugly and that his dad had a hand in JFK’s assassination, and Ted became his gracious and loyal servant.

Kevin McCarthy was harassed and nearly killed by Trump’s mob, and Trump refused to lift a finger to protect him. Nevertheless, McCarthy still flew down to Florida three weeks later to kiss his ring.

And despite knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump is the human equivalent of dumpster sushi, Mitch McConnell gladly wolfed down every rancid, mealy bite for years.

It’s inconceivable, but it is what it is. If these guys got into a gruesome clown car accident and you had to Frankenstein them together to confect one historically awful legislator, you’d be hard-pressed to locate a spine or recover a single languorous ball.

So who do you think is the worst? Answer the poll question and find out!

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Three ‘very friendly’ Republican senators met with Trump’s defense lawyers

At the beginning of an impeachment trial, senators swear an oath to “do impartial justice.” Most Republican senators have made clear throughout both of Donald Trump’s impeachment trials that this was a lie—at best, a fig leaf they used to get out of answering questions about how they saw the evidence. Then there’s Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz. Those three met with Trump’s defense lawyers Thursday evening to offer advice.

The “very friendly guys,” according to Trump lawyer David Schoen, were making sure Trump’s lawyers were “familiar with procedure.” Probable translation: Wanted to be sure these clowns didn’t screw this thing up too badly for even Republicans to ignore. Was that ethical, though? “Oh yeah, I think that's the practice of impeachment,” Schoen claimed. 

How badly do Graham, Lee, and Cruz think Trump’s lawyers are going to screw up their defense arguments? Alternatively, how worried are they that some Republicans were persuaded by the House impeachment managers’ case? All but six Republicans already voted against holding an impeachment trial at all on the obviously false grounds that it was unconstitutional, giving them an excuse to vote to acquit without engaging the substance of what Trump did at all. 

Sens. Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio are sticking with that claim, for instance. “My view is unchanged as to whether or not we have the authority to do this, and I’m certainly not bound by the fact that 56 people think we do,” Blunt said. “I get to cast my vote, and my view is that you can’t impeach a former president. And if the former president did things that were illegal, there is a process to go through for that.”

And Rubio: “The fundamental question for me, and I don’t know about for everybody else, is whether an impeachment trial is appropriate for someone who is no longer in office. I don’t believe that it is.”

Do Cruz, Lee, and Graham think Schoen and immediately notorious idiot Bruce Castor need their advice to get through what’s forecast to be a very abbreviated day of arguments? Or are they still trying that pathetically hard to suck up to Trump? They do seem to have gotten the attention of his inner circle, with sleazeball adviser Jason Miller repeatedly mentioning their involvement on Newsmax, making absolutely clear the senators were there to build the case for Trump. “It was a real honor to have those senators come in and give us some additional ideas,” he said.

Republican senators have that “not constitutional” sham to hide behind, and they are energetically doing so. They have state parties ready to attack them the minute they step out of line. Donald Trump has his own defense lawyers, albeit not exactly the prime talent of conservative law. And as of Thursday, he officially has three of the people sworn to do impartial justice actively strategizing to help him get off.

The House impeachment managers, on the other hand, had the truth of what happened, and it was too powerful for Republicans to fully ignore. But that is unlikely to be enough.