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Political Wire logo What Democrats Don’t Want to Hear
Glenn Youngkin’s Trump Dilemma
Jayapal Pushes Biden for $3 Trillion Spending Bill
Schumer Rips Republicans After Debt Limit Vote
Trump and His Allies Target McConnell
Trump Heads to Iowa

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Can Kicked Down the Road
      •  Biden Wants to Trim and Slash
      •  Abortion Is Back to Being Legal, at Least for Now
      •  Three Gubernatorial Races Are Crucial for 2024
      •  Senate Rundown
      •  Why Doesn't the Senate Work?
      •  Constitutional Reform Comes in Waves
      •  Americans Want Things That Are Contradictory
      •  Pence Is Gearing Up for a 2024 Run
      •  New Ratings for Colorado House Seats
      •  Trump Drops Off Forbes' List of 400 Top Billionaires

Can Kicked Down the Road

Another day, another chapter in the ongoing debt ceiling saga. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered to support raising the debt ceiling long enough to keep the country solvent through December. Late in the day, the Democrats took the deal. A vote is expected today.

McConnell's newfound flexibility no doubt has two sources. He knows that a government default would be disastrous, and he clearly suspects that Republicans would get much of the blame. He's been spinning so furiously over the last few days that he was probably freebasing Dramamine just to be able to keep functioning. However, the spin wasn't working especially well, and members of his conference were getting skittish, and may even have been nearing a revolt.

His other concern was (and is) that the Democrats might start tinkering with the filibuster, which is the best (and basically only) tool he has in his toolkit right now. It is instructive that when the Minority Leader decided to make a deal, his first phone call was to...Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). And the second was to...Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). McConnell knows full well which two members of the Senate are the linchpins of...well, everything these days.

McConnell knows exactly what he is doing here. What he wants is for Democrats to raise the debt ceiling using the reconciliation process so he can hammer them next year for taxing and spending. He knows full well that the debt ceiling has to do with paying the bills for programs Congress passed in the past and has nothing to do with the new programs they are considering now. But he also knows that most voters don't understand this and also knows that if need be, Republicans can simply lie in their ads and tell the voters that the Democrats raised the debt ceiling by trillions of dollars to pay for their socialist programs.

At the same time, McConnell understands the mechanics of the Senate very well and he realized that there was no time left to pass a reconciliation bill before the debt ceiling was approached, or possibly hit. So by moving D-day to December, he is giving the Democrats time to write and pass a reconciliation bill to raise the ceiling with no Republican fingerprints on it.

That said, and as Harold Wilson might have noted, in politics, 2 months is an incredibly long time. By the time the debt ceiling issue comes up again, the story of the infrastructure bills will almost certainly have been written. The Minority Leader actually offered to hammer out a long-term solution on the debt ceiling if the Democrats agreed to abandon the partisan bill. That offer went directly into the circular file. The big infrastructure bill is a must-have for the White House and for congressional Democrats, and whether it's $3.5 trillion or $2 trillion, they're going to get that done, along with the bipartisan bill. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and the other progressives may be angry to see the outlay cut down, but they're also very smart, and they know that $2 trillion is considerably better than $0 trillion. If they become confused on this point, fellow progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) can remind them, as she has a degree in economics.

So, when this comes up again, it will be a narrowly focused struggle over just one question: U.S. Senate procedures. Everyone agrees that the U.S. can't afford to breach the debt ceiling and go into default. Literally the only issue is whether the matter will be resolved using the additional debt-ceiling-lifting reconciliation bill that the office of the Senate Parliamentarian already approved, or by using a regular bill. The reconciliation option will take more time, and will give the Republicans more ammunition, since—barring a change—that approach requires an increase to a specific number, whereas a regular bill can just suspend the debt ceiling for [X] amount of time. "To pay for their wasteful socialist programs, the Democrats had to increase the debt by $5 trillion" is a better attack line (even if it's not truthful) than "To pay for their wasteful socialist programs, the Democrats had to suspend the debt ceiling for 18 months" (which would also be untruthful).

When this finally does come up again, the Democrats have a few things going for them. First, they'll have 2 months to get some messaging out there, and to explain to the voting public how this all works. This issue came up in (Z)'s classes yesterday, as students drew a parallel between the Populists' economic program (inflated currency backed by silver) and McConnell's current maneuvering. When (Z) explained the debt ceiling to them, the response was: "Wow. McConnell is clearly misrepresenting this whole thing." Yes, yes he is. (As a sidebar, they were flabbergasted to learn that the national government who owns the largest percentage of U.S. debt is not China, but instead the U.S. government.) Specifically, when the Social Security Administration takes in more money in payroll taxes than it sends out in benefits checks, it has to do something with the money. The administrator does not walk down the street to a local bank to deposit the excess money. The SSA buys treasury bonds— billions of dollars worth every year—and puts them in the SSA trust fund. The whole thing is just an accounting device. There is no cash in the trust fund.

Anyhow, point is, there is some value in trying to educate the American people on this subject, because most don't understand it.

What the Democrats also have going for them is that the drop-dead date for doing this via a reconciliation bill, since reconciliation bills are complicated, is considerably earlier than the drop-dead date for an actual default. So, they can wait until reconciliation is no longer practicable in December, then pass a straight debt-ceiling-increase bill, and announce to the public that they've done their part, that it's now up to McConnell & Co., and that the red team has 14 days (or so) to decide whether they want to crash the economy or not. The Minority Leader will know full well that would leave him with two options: (1) accept, or (2) risk wrecking the economy and/or the filibuster getting trimmed. Note also that part of what motivated Republicans to become "flexible" yesterday was that they don't want to miss the vacation they have scheduled for next week. Presumably, McConnell's conference will be even less enthusiastic about missing out on Christmas.

Finally, the Democrats can also put into their hip pockets the knowledge that, when push came to shove, McConnell was the first to blink. And if he blinked now, why wouldn't he do it again? This is presumably why Democrats are unanimous in saying that they're happy to kick the can down the road, but there is no way they will use reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling.

Once again, we must say that as a matter of political strategy, we are unimpressed with how McConnell played his hand here. The Republicans are clearly going to wield the Democrats' spending as a weapon in 2022, but they are going to do that regardless of what happens, and regardless of how truthful the attacks actually are. Does a pretty "inside baseball" difference in debt-ceiling-raising procedure really materially change anything?

We also wonder if, in some ways, the politics game has passed McConnell by. The national debt was a potent issue when he came of age as a politician in the 1990s. However, today's GOP is first and foremost about culture wars. Has Donald Trump mentioned the debt ceiling, even once, at one of his rallies? We seriously doubt it. And that says something about what does, and what does not, motivate today's Republican voter. Put another way, the Minority Leader seems to be playing by 1991 rules, not 2021 rules.

Anyhow, this likely spares everyone—for now—from having to read additional items on this issue. Too bad it couldn't linger one more day, though; we had a whole chess analogy ready to go. (Z & V)

Biden Wants to Trim and Slash

On Monday, we led with a story focused on whether the Democrats would trim all the items in the soft reconciliation bill to make it small enough to drown in the bathtub or kill off many programs and fund the others at 100%. Joe Biden is apparently thinking of using a combination of the two, but hasn't committed to anything quite yet. He is well aware that killing any program (e.g., free pre-K, dental care, climate change) will generate a huge backlash from congressional Democrats for whom the scuttled programs are their top priorities. He also knows that funding all of them halfway will make them ineffective and not get him much political credit. So it looks like he will trim many of them and slash a few that don't have a lot of political support.

Biden isn't the only player here. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is said to favor funding fewer programs but with more money for a longer time. But if she does that, she will have to take the heat. One source said: "There's a constituency for every almond in the package." Progressives would prefer funding all the priorities but for a shorter time period, hoping that a future Congress will extend them. But that runs the risk of a future Republican president or Republican Congress simply doing nothing to allow Biden's legacy to time out and expire on its own. Biden knows this, too.

The idea of funding all the programs, but for a shorter time to get the total cost into the range $1.9-$2.3 trillion range, is being called the "haircut strategy." Several key Democrats are advising Biden that it is a bad idea. Their model is do fewer things but do them better. Picking a small number of things and doing them well is also easier to explain to the voters. But picking which programs live and which die is fraught with difficulties because many of the "fewer but better" folks don't agree on the winners and losers.

This is sausage-making at its finest. Having spent 30 years in the Senate, Biden knows how the process works. But he also knows where the buck stops. (V)

Abortion Is Back to Being Legal, at Least for Now

The country has finally found a judge who has at least glanced at a law book. That would be Robert Pitman, who serves on the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. In response to a suit filed by the Dept. of Justice, Pitman issued a ruling yesterday that suspends enforcement of the Texas abortion law until the law has been properly examined by the courts.

Regardless of one's opinion on abortion, there is no question that it is settled law, at least until Congress or the Supreme Court says otherwise. For judges to allow Texas to pretend that is not the case was incredibly irresponsible and an abrogation of their duties. And that's before we talk about the exotic enforcement mechanism that opens enough cans of worms to keep a tackle store supplied for a year. Forcing a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy clearly does irreversible harm, and there is every chance that the people challenging the law would prevail. Under those circumstances, an injunction should have been automatic. Pitman's 113-page ruling says much the same thing: "Despite the State's attempts to obscure the question ... people seeking abortions face irreparable harm when they are unable to access abortions; these individuals are entitled access to abortions under the U.S. Constitution ... that other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right."

Texas has already moved to appeal the ruling, so this is far from over, of course. Further, the law includes the dubious provision that if it is suspended by a judge, people can still go back and sue retroactively if and when it gets unsuspended. That's another pretty obvious end run around normal procedure, but end runs around normal procedure are a Texas speciality these days. (Z)

Three Gubernatorial Races Are Crucial for 2024

In Arizona and Georgia, Republican state legislatures have made voting more difficult. The result could be that the Republican candidate for president wins in 2024 simply because too many Democrats aren't able to jump through enough hoops to vote. However, restrictive laws in these two states (and Texas, which is not really competitive yet) are not quite enough to do the trick. If Donald Trump had won those two states in 2020, he would have still lost the electoral vote 279-259. With the new numbers of electors for 2024 after reapportionment, it would have been 276-262, which is still not enough for Trump. To win in 2024, the Republicans have to flip one of the close states in the Upper "Midwest," namely Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania.

Although Republicans control the state legislatures in all three, these states have not enacted tough new restrictive voting laws for a simple reason: all three governors are Democrats and have vetoed all the restrictive bills the legislatures have passed. However, all three states have gubernatorial races in 2022, so a Republican victory in one of the three races would almost certainly result in restrictive new voting laws before Feb. 2023. If 2022 is a Republican wave year, flipping one or more of them is a real possibility.

But new laws aren't the only issue. After a presidential election, governors are required to submit to Congress a certificate of ascertainment specifying who won each of the state's electoral votes. What if a (Republican) governor refused to do that, saying that the results were not clear? Or worse yet, what if a governor just made up fake numbers and put them on the certificate? Or what would happen if the governor and secretary of state sent competing slates of electors to Congress? The Electoral Count Act of 1887 seems to make the governor's choice the tiebreaker in that situation. But what would Congress decide? Until 2020, questions like that would never even have been asked. Now they have to be asked.

Let's take a closer look. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) is running for a second term. Before being elected governor, he was twice elected superintendent of public instruction, so he has won statewide races three times. In 2018, he narrowly beat incumbent Scott Walker (R) 49.5% to 48.4%. Evers' 2022 opponent will almost certainly be Rebecca Kleefisch, who parlayed her win as Miss Ohio Teen to become a TV anchor for a Milwaukee TV station and then became Walker's lieutenant governor for 8 years. She is very far right, opposing same-sex marriage on the grounds that it is the same as marrying a dog. She doesn't believe in anthropogenic climate change and has called the ACA an abomination. She has also defended Donald Trump's claims of election fraud. Polling is weak but Evers has a small lead, probably because Kleefisch is too far-right for an evenly divided state like Wisconsin.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is running for a second term. In 2018, she beat then-state-AG Bill Schuette 53% to 44%, but governors have to actually do stuff and some people don't like what they do. On the whole, her handling of the coronavirus has been popular, but many Republicans opposed her stay-at-home orders. The state Supreme Court ruling that she didn't have the power to take emergency measures without approval from the legislature made the Republicans even angrier and more self-righteous. A right-wing militia attempted to kidnap her, but the FBI caught them in time. So far, nine people have filed to run in the Republican gubernatorial primary. None of them have ever won an election. The best known candidate is James Craig, former chief of police in Detroit. The fact that no heavyweight Republican has filed suggests that Republicans on the ground in Michigan think she will be very tough to beat and don't want to risk it.

Meanwhile, even though Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) is term limited, Pennsylvania looks the brightest for the Democrats. AG Josh Shapiro (D) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) didn't want to compete against each other, so they made a deal. Shapiro would run for governor and Fetterman would run for the Senate seat Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is vacating. It's always a tough call about which job is better. Senators don't have term limits, whereas most governors do. In general, being governor of a big, important state is better than being a senator from it. However, being a senator from a small state is usually higher profile than being its governor, with apologies to veep wannabe Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD). The most likely Republican candidate is former small-town mayor and current Trump ally Lou Barletta, who ran for the Senate in 2018 and was crushed by 650,000 votes. Polling is scarce, but in 2018 Shapiro got 3,057,000 votes (for AG) and Barletta got 2,135,000 votes (for senator). That is obviously not a direct comparison since they were running for different offices (and in different years), but it does give a hint that the Trumpy Barletta, who has never won statewide, has his work cut out for him in a state Joe Biden won by 80,000 votes.

If governors' races are your thing, you're in luck (and possibly in need of an intervention). Politico has a rundown of all 36 of next year's races up today. (V)

Senate Rundown

We have a detailed rundown of all 34 Senate races on the site. You can get to it using the All Senate candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. We often update it without mentioning it on the main page, though. So periodically, we will highlight the top races on the front page. Since the above gubernatorial races all involve seats the Democrats hold, traditional journalistic both-sides-ism requires us to now balance that by talking about some vulnerable Republican seats. In our opinion, these five are the top races to watch, four of which are currently Republican held:


Incumbent Challenger Notes           Polls
Raphael Warnock

Candidate unknown

Raphael Warnock won a very close special election in 2020 to finish out the term to which Johnny Isakson was elected in 2016. After Isakson resigned from the Senate due to poor health, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Kelly Loeffler (R) to the seat. She is married to the guy who runs the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange and acted the part, greedy and aloof to the core. Stacey Abrams managed to register hundreds of thousands of new voters, many of them Black, and Warnock narrowly beat Loeffler. The 2022 race will be a real barnburner as Warnock tries for a full term. Donald Trump has persuaded former football player Herschel Walker to run, and that will probably clear the field and make Walker the nominee. He's a weak candidate given that he lives in Texas, has no political experience, and has several skeletons in the closet, including spousal abuse and some dishonest business practices. Warnock is a clear favorite, though it is at least possible Walker will be saved by ballot shenanigans.


Challenger Challenger Notes           Polls
Candidate unknown

Candidate unknown

For reasons best known to himself, Roy Blunt decided to retire. He could have won another two or three terms easily, but he apparently doesn't like the Senate anymore. This has created a complicated situation for the open seat. Disgraced former governor Eric Greitens (R), who blackmailed a woman with nude photos he took of her against her will, is trying to make a comeback. If he gets the Republican nomination, the Democrats could win this one. The state's AG, Eric Schmitt (R), is running, as is Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R) and the gun-wielding lawyer who confronted peaceful protesters, Mark McCloskey (R). The Democrats don't have a candidate, but if Greitens is the GOP nominee, they could nominate Generic Candidate, make the entire campaign about Greitens' lack of morals, and still win. So the Republicans will have to settle on a candidate (probably Schmitt) and do everything to block Greitens. If that works, they will hold the seat; otherwise, it could be a toss-up. The primary is Aug. 2, 2022.

North Carolina   

Challenger Challenger Notes           Polls
Candidate unknown

Candidate unknown

This is going to be the most expensive race in the country, maybe the most expensive Senate race in all of U.S. history. Richard Burr (R) is retiring due to an insider trading scandal. Former governor Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory (R) is trying to make a comeback, just like Greitens in Missouri, only McCrory's problem is the anti-trans bathroom bill he signed, and not his personal behavior. If he is nominated, the Democrats have a decent shot at picking up the seat in a state that is purple but trending blue. Donald Trump won it by only 1.5 points. Trump has endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (R), who is not terribly well known. Neither is former representative Mark Walker (R). Other candidates could join as well. On the Democratic side, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley, former state senator Erica Smith, and current state senator Jeff Jackson are all running, among others. With an open seat and so many candidates in a state that is almost 50-50, expect tons of money to pour in from out of state. It will be quite a show for political junkies. Beasley announced a Q2 haul of $1.3 million, beating Smith's Q1 take of $200K. The primary is March 8, 2022.


Challenger Challenger Notes           Polls
Candidate unknown

Candidate unknown

This is by far the Democrats' best pickup chance. Pat Toomey (R) is retiring, so there is an open seat in a blue state and the blue team has a deep bench here. To start with, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), a giant with a Harvard degree and the persona of a Hells Angel, is in. He is also very progressive, at least on most issues (can't be a progressive on coal if you want to win office in Pennsylvania). Rep. Conor Lamb (D) has also jumped in. Lamb is a centrist who has a history of winning in red districts, but who does not have a history of winning statewide elections, since he's never run in one. Seven other lesser-known candidates are also in on the Democratic side, but this one is shaping up to be a mega-battle between Fetterman and Lamb. On the Republican side, nobody you have ever heard of is in. Also nobody Pennsylvanians have heard of is in. The primary is May 17, 2022.


Incumbent Challenger Notes           Polls
Ron Johnson

Candidate unknown

The $64,000 question here is: Will he or won't he? That is: Will Ron Johnson (R) run for a third term? Before being elected to the Senate, Johnson said he would retire after two terms. The second term is almost over so now he has to either keep his promise or break it. Wisconsin is a swing state and Johnson isn't that popular. In general, Democrats would be expected to do better in an open-seat race, but given Johnson's embrace of Donald Trump, they might actually do better with him in the race, where they can accuse him of breaking his promise to the voters and being Trumpier than hell as well. But until Johnson makes a decision, this race is in suspended animation.

These are the top races, but those in Alaska, Florida, and Ohio could heat up over time and also become competitive. (V)

Why Doesn't the Senate Work?

To anyone who has been paying attention, it is clear that the Senate simply doesn't function anymore. Ronald Brownstein definitely is paying attention and has an interesting piece about it. To start with, it is not about Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). It is much deeper and worse than that. Compared to the 20th century, it is now rare for either party to have a working majority of 55 or more seats. When either party has at least 55 seats, it is nearly impossible for a couple of renegades to blackmail the party. With 50 seats, everyone gets a veto over everything, and even with 51 or 52, extremely good party discipline is needed to get anything big through. By way of contrast, from 1961 to 1980, Democrats had at least 55 seats in every new Senate except 1971. From 1981 to 2000, one party or the other had at least 55 seats seven times. Now the margins are always tiny.

Second, partisanship is extremely high now. No Democratic president can expect a lot of Republican votes in the Senate on anything and vice versa. In fact, getting even one member of the opposing party to side with the president is almost unheard of now. Combined with a very closely divided Senate, all wings of the majority party have to be in agreement to get anything done. Right now it is Manchin vs. Bernie, but Republicans aren't unified either, except on tax cuts and judges. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) don't see eye to eye on much, for example. Remember that during the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency, the Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and they couldn't repeal the ACA or do anything else except tax cuts and judges. This wasn't always the case. The 1964 Civil Rights Act got 27 Republican votes in the Senate (and 136 in the House). If H.R. 1 came up for a vote now in the Senate, it would get 0 Republican votes.

Third, there is the filibuster. Even if the majority party can cobble together 51 or 52 votes on something, the other side will filibuster it. Successfully invoking cloture never happens any more.

Part of the deadlock is that the country is very evenly divided and Senate elections almost always go the same way as the presidential elections now. Only six states have split delegations in the Senate: Maine, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Among the other 44 states, all the states Joe Biden won have two Democratic senators and all the states Donald Trump won have two Republican senators. So 44/50, or 88%, of the Senate is strictly partisan. Put slightly differently, in the 25 states that voted for Biden, Democrats hold 47 of the 50 seats. In the 25 states than went for Trump, 47 of the 50 senators are Republicans. Contrast this with 1979 when there were 27 split delegations, as many people voted for the person they liked best, irrespective of party affiliation. That is unthinkable now.

The strength of this partisanship makes it virtually impossible for a senator to buck his or her party and vote with the other side on anything important. Given the nearly always evenly balanced Senate, sometimes coupled with a renegade or two (remember John McCain's decisive thumbs down vote on repealing the ACA?), the Senate is stuck in a rut.

Also a factor in the gridlock now is that the minority is usually close enough to a majority that it can smell victory after the next election. Under those considerations, no one in the minority wants to cast a vote that would give the majority something to brag about. Better to defeat every bill they propose and make them look weak and powerless. That absolutely was not the case in the 20th century, when senators voted for or against a bill based on the bill's merits.

For Democrats, this situation is extremely frustrating. They want to make changes on voting rights, health care, guns, Dreamers, inequality, racial justice, immigration, education, and a boatload of other issues. All Republicans want to do is cut taxes (which can be done using reconciliation) and confirm conservative judges (which can be done with the barest majority), so perpetual gridlock works fine for them.

Because the Republican base is low-population rural states, its 50 senators currently represent 44% of the national population while the 50 Democratic senators represent 56% of the population. Demographic changes are only going to make this more imbalanced. If this ever gets to 40-60%, which it might, combined with the filibuster, it will throw the entire legitimacy of the Senate as a governing body in question. The founders clearly never envisioned anything like this, but it seems we are stuck with it for now. (V)

Constitutional Reform Comes in Waves

As noted above, the federal government is completely gridlocked and getting anything done is very difficult. This isn't the first time in U.S. history, though. Two people from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU have written a piece published by Politico looking at historical analogies to the current time. They note that in the 232 years since the Constitution was ratified, there have been 27 Amendments. But they were not spaced nicely with one every 8 years or so. They came in four big waves, generally after a period of gridlock. Another wave might be possible.

The first wave was from 1789 to 1804, when a dozen Amendments, including the Bill of Rights, were belatedly tacked onto the Constitution. Then all was quiet for 61 years. Between 1865 and 1870, Republicans rammed through Amendments forbidding slavery and promising the former slaves a new beginning. This was followed by 40 years of polarization, corruption, and the vast inequities of the Gilded Age (1870s-1900 or so). Then we suddenly got direct election of senators, the income tax, and women's suffrage (plus Prohibition as an extra). Finally, another 40 years later during the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam, we got presidential electors for D.C., abolition of the poll tax, and suffrage for 18 year olds ("old enough to fight, then old enough to vote"). The last of this batch was the 26th, passed in 1971, 50 years ago. The only Amendment since then was a minor one, the 27th, ratified in 1992, which says Congressional pay raises don't take effect until after a House election. So it has been 50 years since the last wave. The authors think another wave might not be that far off.

They also note that a sense of defeatism is not new. In 1904, The Washington Post dismissed all the progressive reformers' schemes as pie in the sky. Half a decade later, Congress started the ball rolling on a new wave of amendments. During the Gilded Age a century ago, social problems and economic inequality raged. Immigration was changing the country in ways traditionalists hated (although the newcomers were white, many were Catholic or Jewish). The nation was polarized along regional lines. Elections were won by tiny margins. The Supreme Court blocked all change. A lot of this sounds familiar today. Before long, a leftward swing that few saw coming allowed Democrats to pass four Amendments that had been bottled up for years. Could it happen again? Who knows? (V)

Americans Want Things That Are Contradictory

Sometimes (maybe often) the public wants things that are inherently contradictory. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that support for the hard, bipartisan infrastructure bill is very strong, with 62% for it and 34% against it. Fine. That's a policy choice. You can be for it or against it. Americans also support the soft, reconciliation infrastructure bill, albeit not by quite as large a margin. Still 57% to 40% is pretty strong. Both are consistent with the fact that 33% of Americans want the federal government to do a lot more to help Americans and 40% want it to do more. Only 24% say it shouldn't do more to help people. So far, so good.

Now here's the inconsistency. On the generic ballot question, 46% want to see Republicans control the House and 43% want to see Democrats control the House. But many Republicans don't support the hard infrastructure bill and no Republicans support the soft infrastructure bill. So people want Republicans to run the show but they want them to carry out the Democrats' program. Ain't gonna happen.

Are people stupid? It doesn't make a lot of sense to support Republicans but also support programs that the Republicans are strongly opposed to. From our point of view, if you like the infrastructure bills, you should support the party that wants to pass them. If you oppose the bills, then you should support the party that is lukewarm to ice cold about them. Mix and match doesn't strike us as a great combination here. But maybe the American people as a whole know something that we haven't discovered yet. Must be the new math, or something.

What the poll also found—and this is not really a surprise—is that nobody likes Congress. Here are the ratings of the congressional parties and their leaders (approve/disapprove):

  • Congressional Democrats: 30/63 (underwater by 33 points)
  • Nancy Pelosi: 33/61 (underwater by 28 points)
  • Chuck Schumer: 32/54 (underwater by 22 points)
  • Congressional Republicans: 28/63 (underwater by 35 points)
  • Kevin McCarthy: 27/47 (underwater by 20 points)
  • Mitch McConnell: 23/65 (underwater by 42 points)

The two leaders who do the "best" (where "best" here means being under water by only 20-odd points) are Schumer and McCarthy, who are the least known. For McCarthy in particular, 25% don't know who he is or have an opinion of him. Still, it is clear from this poll that people are very angry with Congress. Joe Biden's slipping ratings indicate that people are also angry with him. People are just angry. This may or may not be related to the fact that Congress can't do anything (see previous item). (V)

Pence Is Gearing Up for a 2024 Run

Mike Pence is trying to reboot himself in advance of a 2024 presidential run. We doubt that he will try if Donald Trump actually runs, but if his former master declines to mount a bid, Pence is going to try to hog the evangelical lane. It is a plausible strategy, since none of the other major Republican wannabes, like Govs. Greg Abbott (TX) and Ron DeSantis (FL), Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Tom Cotton (AR), or even Nikki Haley are evangelical darlings. Most of the others are planning to run in the Trumpier-than-thou lane, which is quite different from going full-bore, Bible-thumping evangelical.

At this point, Pence is in Trump's doghouse, but 2024 is far, far away and that may not matter so much then. At least, that is Pence's gamble. He is currently taking the preliminary steps that would-be presidential candidates take. He signed a two-volume book deal with Simon & Schuster and opened a new advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom. Additionally, he hopscotches around the country giving six-figure speeches, appears on friendly media outlets, helps Republicans who might later endorse him raise money, does podcasts, and all the rest.

His biggest problem is explaining his role in the Jan. 6 coup attempt to Trump supporters when they ask: "Why didn't you just declare that Trump won?" Answers like "I didn't have that power" or "that would have violated the Constitution" don't cut no ice with them. However, for some evangelicals, a figure like Pence—who really is religious and doesn't fake it, is still married to wife #1, doesn't grab women by the p**sy (or have dinner with them, for that matter), and who has clearly read the Bible—might be like a breath of fresh air. He has all the charisma of moldy cheese, up to and including attracting flies, but no candidate is perfect. This means that he needs to focus on those Republicans for whom religion is more important than Trumpism. Whether that group is big enough to propel him forward remains to be seen.

Tim Miller, a former Republican strategist and Trump critic who writes for The Bulwark, said he recently watched focus groups of Trump supporters in Georgia and Ohio. The reaction to Pence was decidedly meh. On the other hand, the focus groups were filled with Trump supporters. Republican primary voters also include people who see themselves as evangelicals first and Trump supporters second.

A Pence campaign would have to bet the farm on South Carolina, the early state with the most evangelicals. Pence could conceivably campaign in Iowa (which also has a fair number of evangelicals), skip New Hampshire, and then go for broke in South Carolina. Another factor that helps Pence is that he is boring and not scary. That could help with Republican never-Trump voters in the suburbs who want a more traditional Republican. That said, those folks tend to be socially liberal, and Pence isn't a match there, by a long shot. Further, if Trump doesn't run and Pence does, Trump could get jealous of his former lackey and start attacking him. At this point, anything is possible. (V)

New Ratings for Colorado House Seats

As the states begin to finalize their maps, we will get a better idea of how the 2022 House elections will go. Colorado's independent commission has now all but finalized the congressional map, so elections analyst Nathan Gonzales has ventured a guess how the seats will go. Here is the map, followed by Gonzales' take on the districts.

Map of Colorado congressional districts, the text
below literally covers everything the map does, excepting that the map is garishly colored with different bright pastel-like colors

  • CO-01 Diana DeGette (D): This Denver-based district is a huge Democratic stronghold. Joe Biden carried the precincts in it by 61 points in 2020. Combining all elections over the past four cycles, the Democrats' baseline advantage is a 74% to 23% edge here. DeGette can probably serve another 20 years if she wants to. Rating: Solid Democratic.

  • CO-02 Joe Neguse (D) Biden won the old CO-02 district by 30 points but would have won the new one by 40 points and the Democrats baseline advantage here over the past four cycles is 62% to 34%. Neguse is only 37, and if this district doesn't change much over time, he could serve another 50 years or until he gets bored with politics, whichever comes first. Rating: Solid Democratic.

  • CO-03 Lauren Boebert (R) Democrats can't stand her, which is a major part of her attractiveness to Republicans. Any possibility of defeating her went out the window with the new map. Donald Trump would have carried the new district by 8 points and the Republicans' baseline advantage here is 53% to 43%. To lose next year, Boebert would have to do something so outrageous that it even crossed the line for Republicans. Rating: Likely Republican.

  • CO-04 Ken Buck (R) Trump would have carried it by 18 points. The Republicans' baseline advantage is 62% to 34%. Buck's only vulnerability would be a primary challenge from the right. Rating: Solid Republican.

  • CO-05 Doug Lamborn (R) The district is now entirely within sprawling El Paso County. Trump would have carried it by 10 points. The Republicans' baseline advantage is 59% to 40%. Rating: Solid Republican.

  • CO-06 Jason Crow (D) Although Mike Coffman (R) used to represent this Aurora-area district, it is solidly Democratic now. Biden would have beat Trump by 24 points and the Democrats' baseline advantage is 53% to 43% It is a solid blue district now. Rating: Solid Democratic.

  • CO-07 Ed Perlmutter (D) Twenty years ago, this was a new, very competitive district. Now it has a noticeable Democratic lean. Biden would have carried it by 14 points. However, the Democrats' baseline advantage (which averages the past four cycles) is only 49% to 43% since the district is suburban and becoming more Democratic over time. Rating: Likely Democratic.

  • CO-08 New This new and open seat in Denver's northern suburbs will be very competitive. Unlike many suburban districts, though, this one is 40% Latino. Biden would have won it by 4 points. The baseline advantage goes to the Republicans, 48% to 47%. This is one of the seats that could determine control of the House. Rating: Tossup.

What is especially noteworthy here is that the map was drawn by an independent commission that was not tasked with protecting incumbents. Yet that is exactly what it did. Five of the eight districts are rated as "solid" and two are "likely." Only the new one is competitive. Part of the problem for the commission is that Colorado is a big state and pretty much all the Democrats live in Denver. The rest of the state is largely Republicans and sagebrush. This makes it difficult to draw competitive districts. (V)

Trump Drops Off Forbes' List of 400 Top Billionaires

We have written about Donald Trump and grift so many times we can't keep track. Why is grift so central with Trump? Maybe it's because he needs the money. While the rich generally get richer, that doesn't seem to be the case with Trump. Forbes Magazine maintains a list of the 400 wealthiest people in the country, all of them billionaires. When he became president, Trump was in the top half of the list. Now he has been dropped off the list altogether.

Forbes noted that making the list now requires a net worth of $2.9 billion, up from $2.1 billion last year. Trump's net worth is tied closely to his brand, and after two impeachments and an attempted coup, fewer people want to be associated with him, which translates into fewer people staying at his hotels and playing at his golf courses. As his properties' profits drop, so do their valuations and thus his net worth. In general, commercial real estate took a real beating during the pandemic and much of Trump's net worth is tied up in commercial real estate. This is the first time in 25 years that Trump failed to make the list.

Trump has loans of about $400 million due in the next couple of years. With his hotels and golf courses not doing so well, he is not getting a lot of income. With his properties depressed, selling some of them to get cash to pay back the loans is probably not high on his to-do list. So where will the money come from? Grift! Get the suckers to send him free money to fight the 2020 election results. Now it all begins to make sense.

If you want to see the whole Forbes list, here it is. To save you the trouble of finding the top 10 (with their wealth in gigabucks) here they are: Jeff Bezos ($201), Elon Musk ($191), Mark Zuckerberg ($135), Bill Gates ($134), Larry Page ($123), Sergey Brin ($119), Larry Ellison ($117), Warren Buffet ($102), Steve Ballmer ($97), and Michael Bloomberg ($70). (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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