Kari Lake

In Arizona Senate Race, Kari Lake Is A Big GOP Problem

Senate Republicans already have an Arizona problem they are trying to fix.

Their top GOP candidate, 2022 gubernatorial loser Kari Lake, isn't polling well against the top Democratic candidate, Rep. Ruben Gallego, and independent incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. In fact, one recent survey found Sinema, who is polling third in the contest, pulling more votes away from Lake than Gallego.

Noble Predictive Insights’ late October polling of the hypothetical three-way contest showed Gallego at 39 percent, Lake at 33 percent, and Sinema at 29 percent. Notably, Gallego inspired far more party loyalty than Lake, with Sinema drawing support from nearly twice as many Republican voters (23 percent) as Democrats (12 percent).

In early October, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Gallego campaign similarly showed him winning a 41 percent plurality of the vote to Lake's 36 percent, with Sinema garnering just 15 percent. The same poll found a head-to-head favoring Gallego at 48 percent over Lake at 43 percent.

What makes the polling particularly ominous for Republicans is the fact that Lake is extremely well known by voters across the state after her high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful bid for governor last cycle. In other words, most voters have made up their mind about her.

That leaves Republicans with one chief tactic at this point: trying to drive down support for the other two candidates. Thus, the National Republican Senatorial Committee's latest ad blasting Gallego's personal life and tying Sinema's voting record to President Joe Biden. The ad frames the choice facing voters as one between "Rotten Rubin," who "abandoned" his pregnant wife when he filed for divorce, and Sinema, who "voted for Biden's agenda 100% of the time." The ad accuses Gallego of being a "deadbeat dad" without providing any evidence and slams Sinema as a "liberal Democrat." Yikes, what could be worse?

But the main takeaway here is that Senate Republicans are already grasping at straws in order to prop up a Trump-aligned election denier who enters the race with high name ID and a boatload of baggage.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Pete Aguilar

'Political Malpractice': Democrats Giddy Over House Republicans' Massive Cuts

House majorities are famous for taking what's known as "messaging votes" on bills that stand no chance of becoming law because they either can't clear the Senate or will ultimately get vetoed—or both.

The idea for the majority party is to use the votes as a way of signaling to voters all the important and popular policies they would prioritize if they had greater control of the government. Importantly, those votes are also designed to work to the advantage of the most vulnerable members of their caucus. In other words, the majority’s messaging bills boost its members’ reelection chances and, therefore, the prospect of maintaining the majority.

Unless, of course, the majority is held by an anti-democratic party living in a fantasy bubble where its members believe their deeply unpopular beliefs should rule the masses regardless of what the masses want. In other words, those messaging bills help the majority’s incumbents unless you're in the Republican Party—then your leaders schedule a bunch of messaging votes that Democrats can weaponize against you.

That's exactly the bind that more than a dozen vulnerable Republicans in Democratic-leaning swing districts find themselves in as whiz-bang Speaker Mike Johnson pushes through a series of spending measures that include everything from slashing critical programs to banning mail-order abortion pills.

The political malpractice is so glaring that Democrats can hardly believe their good fortune.

“It’s just very puzzling to us that they continue to put their members in positions to support these terrible cuts that are not going to become law,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar of California told Politico.

House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Democrats' super PAC, is already packaging up the GOP presents and deploying them in the home districts of Republicans they hope to unseat.

One of those GOP members, Rep. Mike Garcia of California, who sits in a district that favored Joe Biden by 12.4 percentage points in 2020, may come to regret voting in favor of Johnson's funding cuts. Democrats have already sent mailers out claiming that “no family is safe from" the cuts Garcia approved.

“These mailers are going out — and these hit ads are going out — based on a first negotiation position,” Garcia told Politico, “which is probably more conservative than what we’re going to end up with.”

Garcia is correct. Republicans' extreme funding cuts, which are dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate, will surely be rolled back over the course of negotiations. But House Republicans wanted to send out a message highlighting their wildly unpopular agenda and Democrats are simply helping them do it.

Here are the issues where Democrats are looking to gain an advantage:

  • Schools: House Majority Forward suggests GOP spending reductions at the Department of Education could cut loose some 108,000 teachers and aides across the country.
  • Abortion: A Republican spending bill for the FDA and Department of Agriculture includes a rider banning mail-order abortion pills nationwide. The rider, which is still a work in progress, is highly contentious within the Republican caucus, so just imagine how much damage it could do with everyday voters.
  • Defunding the police, Republican style: Current GOP spending levels would slash the FBI budget by more than 9% (roughly $1 billion) and the Justice Department budget by more than 6%. President Joe Biden claims the cuts, left unchecked, would result in a net loss of some 30,000 law enforcement officers at the FBI, DEA, and elsewhere.
  • Amtrak cuts: Even House Republicans who hail from the Northeast are freaked out over their party proposing to cut upward of $1 billion in federal subsidies to Amtrak—a staple mode of transportation in the region.

"Without question" is what Democratic Rep. Rose DeLauro of Connecticut, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, answered when asked whether her party planned to use the massive railroad cuts against Republicans.

“Because how do you deal with a 67 percent cut to Amtrak?” said DeLauro. “Our votes are public, as they should be. And the public needs to know what harm these bills are doing to them.”

Republicans are sending a message all right—one that Democrats are happy to spread.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Mike Johnson

In Battleground House Districts, Republicans Are Sinking Fast

Fresh off congressional Republicans' new job approval rating of 12 percent comes a poll showing Republican incumbents in battleground districts are in dire shape.

Overall, Republicans in Congress now have a net -22 favorability rating among voters in some 60 battleground districts, 10 points worse than their -12 rating in July, according to the new survey from the progressive consortium Navigator Research.

Congressional Democrats, by comparison, held steady at a -10 favorability rating in both surveys.

An interesting side note from the Navigator bar graph pictured above: "MAGA Republicans," specifically, have a higher "very favorable" rating at 24 percent than either Republicans (11 percent) or Democrats (18 percent). But MAGA Republicans also score the highest "very unfavorable" rating at 50 percent, compared to Republicans (-40 percent) and Democrats (-42 percent). In essence, MAGA Republicans are equally as polarizing as their standard-bearer Donald Trump.

Perhaps the most telling part of the survey related to named incumbents in the competitive congressional districts. Democratic incumbents who were identified by name held a job approval rating of +8, at 40 percent approve -- 32 percent disapprove (relatively unchanged since their +7 approval in July).

Named Republican incumbents, by comparison, held a -10 job approval rating at 33 percent approve -- 43 percent disapprove — 8 points worse than their net -2 approval rating in July.

The bottom line here: In the battleground districts that will decide control of the House next year, voters are relatively pleased with the performance of their Democratic members, and relatively displeased with their Republican members. And not by a small margin—by a double-digit margin.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Mike Johnson

Why Democrats Will Love Mike Johnson In 2024

Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the newly minted Republican speaker of the House, is quite simply a dreamboat GOP leader for House Democrats to run against next year.

He's a bonafide MAGA election denier who voted against certifying the 2020 election and labored to block the peaceful transfer of power.

He's an anti-abortion extremist who has voted for a national abortion ban and celebrated the fall of Roe v. Wade as "a historic and joyful day."

He's a former anti-LGBTQ+ legal advocate who vehemently supported the criminalization of gay sex, even in the privacy of one's own home.

Just before Johnson secured the requisite votes Wednesday, Politico columnist Jonathan Martin paraphrased the musings of an unnamed Democrat.

"A sage Dem texts, basically: Repubs are gonna elevate a speaker who tried to overthrow the election and backs an abortion ban - the two issues we won on in 2022," Martin tweeted.

“What are they thinking?” the Democrat posited to Martin.

In his Message Box Substack, Dan Pfeiffer, Pod Save America podcaster and former Obama White House communications director, offered this amusing amalgam of Johnson's political profile: "Paul Ryan’s economic policies + Mike Pence’s views on abortion + Donald Trump’s dangerously wacky views on the 2020 election = Mike Johnson."

Perfect! One big trash heap of dumpy GOP politicians pushing dim anti-democratic, anti-freedom policies.

There's truly so much for Democrats to like about Johnson, it's almost hard to choose. Still, after the vote, House Democrats quickly established their attack lanes.

"Instead of choosing bipartisanship, House Republicans have elevated MAGA extremist Mike Johnson to the Speaker’s chair," they tweeted. "Their agenda is clear: Attack our democracy, ban abortion, and slash Social Security and Medicare."

To top it all off, Johnson has zero fundraising experience and even less familiarity with insulating Republicans in swingy districts from his own extremist impulses, along with those of the Republican caucus. One of congressional Republicans' biggest failures leading up the 2022 red-wave-that-wasn't was their candidates' inability to keep pace with their Democratic counterparts. Without the fundraising expertise of Kevin McCarthy, the campaign committees and super PACs now under Johnson's domain will almost surely be hobbled in their ability to make up the difference.

If House Democrats didn't already have a reasonably good path to reclaiming the majority in 2024, House Republicans just handed them a golden opportunity—the cherry on top of three solid weeks of highly visible GOP incompetence and infighting.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

GOP 'Moderates' Kneel As House Picks Election-Denying Extremist Speaker

GOP 'Moderates' Kneel As House Picks Election-Denying Extremist Speaker

By Wednesday morning, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who initiated the House Republicans' speaker debacle, was already celebrating the impending elevation of a MAGA election denier as the next speaker of the House.

"If you don't think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you're not paying attention," Gaetz gushed on Steve Bannon's podcast "War Room."

Gaetz isn't wrong. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana ha been a quintessential pro-Trump, pro-insurrectionist flamethrower from the word “go.”

As CBS News' Robert Costa tweeted:

Important to know: Johnson was deeply involved in efforts to keep Trump in power starting immediately after 2020 election. Early Nov. 2020. I know because I spent months reporting on that period and he was part of letters and behind-scenes efforts with key outside groups. I’ve talked with key sources from that time about how Johnson — then all but unknown — worked with allied Trump groups and conservative leaders in a coordinated way to make sure that whole orbit was working together to help Trump.

Now, with Johnson officially in control of the gavel, the MAGA wing of the Republican Party will have forced their will on the majority of House Republicans who would have preferred someone more moderate, such as Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, a member of leadership who voted to certify the 2020 election.

That's why a cohesive group of House GOP members with at least a toehold in reality coordinated their votes to doom the speaker bid of Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan built his career on trying to destroy the institution he worked in, engineering the exit of at least semi-reasonable Republican speakers-past, such as Rep. John Boehner of Ohio and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

So why did Republicans coalesce around Johnson, a democracy subverter in the mold of Jordan? Here are two potential reasons: Johnson, who began his first term in 2017, has had a decade less time to amass the number of enemies that Jordan has since joining the House in 2007.

Second, and equally as important, the relatively saner members of the House Republican caucus probably came to a simple conclusion: They would have to settle for an election denier as their leader because Trump and his MAGA allies would never let anyone else through. Trump runs the party, and the speakership runs through him. Trump single-handedly doomed Emmer's speaker bid precisely because he voted to certify the 2020 election.

So the choice for the Republican realists was either elect a MAGA election denier or work with Democrats to elect someone who hasn’t been an outright subverter of American democracy. And to do that, it would have meant placing the country over their own electoral ambitions because any Republican realist in a red district surely would have drawn a primary opponent.

The takeaways of a Johnson speakership are simple: The MAGA wing of the Republican Party, having beaten down the so-called GOP moderates, is running the joint, leaving the Sen. Mitch McConnell wing of the party on an island taking incoming fire from all sides.

Moderate House Republicans can never again be counted on to tone down their MAGA allies, because those MAGA allies would sooner burn down the House, so to speak, than let saner forces run it. In other words, moderates in pursuit of governance will never outmaneuver MAGA nihilists.

But the worst is yet to come. Under the leadership of Johnson, anti-democracy Republicans will surely provide a mesmerizing display of pyrotechnics aimed at destroying functional democracy both at home and abroad.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Surprise! Kevin McCarthy Says He Is 'Willing' To Run For Speaker Again

Surprise! Kevin McCarthy Says He Is 'Willing' To Run For Speaker Again

Ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy flip-flopped on Monday, saying he was open to taking the gavel back amid a Chernobyl-level meltdown in the Republican Party over the crisis in Israel.

Last week, shortly after a small band of MAGA maniacs engineered his ouster, McCarthy stated he would not seek the post again.

But that was last week. “Whatever the conference wants, I will do,” McCarthy told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt during an interview on Monday.

The prospect of McCarthy being reinstated solely with the votes of Republicans seems highly unlikely after his primary right-wing foe, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, achieved hero-level status among some MAGA faithful for ejecting McCarthy. McCarthy would need at least four of the eight Republican nihilists who voted him out last week to have a sudden change of heart.

McCarthy's cynical play to regain the speakership comes as House Republicans war with each other over their inability to provide extra aid to Israel after Hamas’ attack over the weekend. Nine Americans have been confirmed killed in the fighting, and there are unverified reports of potential American hostages—claims that McCarthy immediately sought to capitalize on.

"Our top priority right now must be to rescue all American hostages," he tweeted out Monday morning. "The Biden Administration cannot repeat the failures of Afghanistan. NO American left behind!"

McCarthy's potential successors are working overtime to cast themselves as the answer to the Republican-led predicament. “Make no mistake: The United States will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana tweeted out Saturday. And Sunday on Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio pledged that his first priority as speaker would be to help Israel. Both Scalise and Jordan are further right than McCarthy, and Jordan—the biggest chaos agent of the trio—has won the backing of former President Donald Trump.

House Republican infighting has ground the lower chamber to a halt due to the absence of a speaker. But now, instead of the House caucus simply making a binary choice between Jordan and Scalise for a new speaker, McCarthy is back in the mix. Nothing but further delay and pandemonium can come of that.

In the meantime, American priorities at home and allies around the globe will suffer the consequences.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Don Bacon

Swing District Polls Show Voters Reject GOP Biden Impeachment

Several months ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy began floating impeachment trial balloons, taking the midsummer pulse of his conference in closed-door meetings about exactly which Democrat they would prefer to launch an inquiry into: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland, or President Joe Biden.

By late July, when McCarthy cracked open the door on a potential Biden inquiry,Politico wrote:

Speaker Kevin McCarthy raised impeachment during a closed-door GOP meeting on Wednesday, cautioning his members that Republicans would launch a probe only when — and if — they secured the evidence to justify one, according to three lawmakers in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But after months of searching for Biden wrongdoing to no avail, it was apparently time to move. As The New York Times observed, far from launching the inquiry based on evidence, McCarthy simply bowed to pressure from his right-wingers who are threatening to oust him and shut down the government.

McCarthy may have survived the day, but Senate Republicans and some House GOP moderates are freaking out.

Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who holds one of the 18 Republican seats Biden won in 2020, stated a novel concept: “I think an inquiry should be based on evidence of a crime that points directly to President Biden," he said.

"[W]hat crime has the president committed?" Bacon wondered. "[W]e should dig that stuff up before we go down this path,” he added.

Other “Biden 18” members struck a more optimistic note on the question of due diligence.

“I think we’ve got enough substantiation for it to move forward, we’ve got critical mass,” said Rep. Mike Garcia of California, who represents a district Biden carried by double digits in 2020. “What I tell my constituents is we seek clarity, right, I think that’s what most Americans want is clarity. So let’s go get all the facts and data behind it."

Polling of voters in the 18 Biden districts suggests Garcia's rationale is going to be a tough sell. A Public Policy Polling survey of Biden 18 voters conducted last month found 56 percent thought opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden would be a "partisan political stunt," while just 41% said it would be a serious effort to investigate important problems. Fifty-six percent also said they thought opening such an inquiry would be more about damaging Biden politically than finding the truth, compared with 41 percent who said the opposite. In both instances, that yawning 15-point chasm should be a flashing warning sign to a Republican in enemy territory.

While some House Republicans, including the speaker, don't seem particularly concerned about risking their majority next year over a baseless inquiry, Senate Republicans spent the day breathing into a bag.

“It is frustrating, obviously,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia told The Hill. “I don’t know what the evidence is, where they’re going with this. I’m going to default to the position that the House is going to do what the House is going to do, and we’ll have to react to that.”

And one GOP senator who was granted anonymity to speak on the matter gave The Hill an earful. “Maybe this is just Kevin giving people their binkie to get through the shutdown,” the Senate Republican said.

Calling the inquiry "a fool's errand," the Republican senator added, “It seems like we’re spending a lot of time on things that matter to them that don’t matter to the people I want to have a positive opinion of Republicans next November."

The GOP senator concluded, "It doesn’t do anything to help us with our campaigns next year."

Nope, it sure doesn't.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Mitch McConnell

GOP Senators Squabbling Over McConnell's Latest 'Freeze-Up' (VIDEO)

Whatever Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would have you believe about his recovery following a concussion, Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama ain't buying it.

“The last freeze-up, it puts a question in everybody’s mind whether he can do it or not,” Tuberville told The Wall Street Journal regarding McConnell's latest freezing episode, adding that “if he freezes up again, he obviously knows that everybody else is going to have to get involved in this.”

McConnell, who has had two such episodes during press conferences in the past month, reportedly plans to address the topic of his health with Senate colleagues at a Republican conference meeting on Wednesday.

But the caucus is already breaking into factions, pitting pro-McConnell establishment types against McConnell detractors mostly aligned with former President Donald Trump.

“[W]e're gonna know more after lunch,” Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told Politico's Burgess Everett, adding that McConnell "has my full support.”

Tuberville, who has been at odds with McConnell over his radical blockade of military promotions, has been particularly outspoken.

On Tuesday evening, Tuberville told CNN's Manu Raju that, as a college football coach, he's seen players "really struggle" for a long period after suffering concussions on the field. McConnell's recent freeze-ups are likely related to a concussion he suffered in the spring after falling at a private event.

"That’s the reason you don’t play them after that," Tuberville explained, referring to concussed players. "They don’t go back in the game until you’re completely well. And … obviously, he’s not completely well."

Tuberville is joined by populist pro-Trumpers like Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and even McConnell's fellow senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, who suggested McConnell should "be more forthcoming" about the health challenges he's facing.

“I don’t think it’s been particularly helpful to have the Senate doctor describe it as dehydration," said Paul, an ophthalmologist, referring to the Capitol attending physician's initial explanation of McConnell's freezing episodes. “What’s occurring from what I’ve seen, it’s a neurological event.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s incapacitating, doesn’t mean he can’t serve,” Paul told Capitol Hill reporters. “But it means that somebody ought to wake up and say, ‘Wow, this looks like a seizure.’”

On Tuesday, McConnell's office released another note from Capitol physician Dr. Brian Monahan, who suggested the GOP leader was not experiencing seizures.

“There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA, or movement disorder such as Parkinson's disease," Monahan wrote, using the acronym for transient ischemic attack, which is a stroke lasting several minutes.

Hawley used the swirling questions about McConnell, 81, to take a whack at President Joe Biden, who's 80 but hasn't exhibited any neurologic episodes.

"I’m concerned about his health, just like I’m concerned about the president’s health,” Hawley told Politico, acknowledging that he hadn't voted for McConnell as leader. "So my views on this are kind of well-known."

Following the 2022 midterms, McConnell handily crushed a leadership challenge mounted by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. Still, Scott's effort represented the first challenge to McConnell's grip on the Senate Republican conference since he first assumed the leadership role in 2007.

In short, some of McConnell's troops are restless and he's in a more precarious position than at any point in his 16-year leadership of the caucus. But the establishment types seem very wary of wading into a leadership battle amid an already politically fraught landscape for the Republican Party.

As Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told ABC News, he still "firmly" backs McConnell, even with the occasional freezing episode.

"We may expect that Mitch McConnell will check out for 20 seconds a day. But the other 86,380 seconds in the day, he does a pretty darn good job," Romney said. "I'm firmly behind his remaining as our leader."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Tim Scott

Is Bachelor Tim Scott Gay? Big Republican Donors Want To Know

In their desperate quest to find a 2024 alternative to former President Donald Trump, GOP donors have stumbled upon an elephant in the room: Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is single.

That fact, long known among casual political observers, has suddenly sparked “curiosity” and a round of pearl-clutching among the GOP's well-heeled donors, some of whom spoke to Axiosanonymously given the "sensitivity of the issue." As Axios notes, the country has not put a bachelor in the White House since Grover Cleveland in 1884.

Scott, a Bible-thumper with a sunny disposition and an inspirational personal story, has some upsides in Iowa, where the evangelical vote can ignite a GOP candidacy. But any legitimate Trump alternative also has to persuade donors they can go the distance against a man who will say basically anything to tear down a legitimate threat to his frontrunner status. Scott hasn't reached that point yet, but it's not hard to imagine Trump taking a swipe at Solo Scott.

Never been married, folks, at 57, Trump might say. I don't know, I don't know. Something weird going on there.

The not-so-subtle implication would be that Scott is gay—gasp!—which is exactly what Republican donors are freaking out about. Axios writes:

Top GOP donors and their allies privately are pushing Sen. Tim Scott's team for more detail about his bachelor status before deciding how much to support him in the presidential campaign, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

It's perfectly on brand for a party weirdly obsessed with what people do in their bedrooms and bathrooms.

Scott doesn't often bring up the topic of his own accord, but he did address it withAxios reporter Sophia Cai in a May interview. After Cai dared to broach the subject, Scott said he did have a girlfriend but didn't disclose her name and then remarked that someone's marital status has no bearing on their ability to be president.

"The fact that half of America's adult population is single for the first time, to suggest that somehow being married or not married is going to be the determining factor of whether you're a good president or not—it sounds like we're living in 1963 and not 2023," Scott said. Amen, brother. Just don't tell the Republicans you're unhitched.

In fact, Scott suggested, not being married was a real plus for a position so demanding. "I probably have more time, more energy, and more latitude to do the job," Scott said. "My girlfriend wants to see me when I come home, but at the end of the day, the truth is that I am so thankful to be who I am, where I am." Sounds like an unbreakable bond.

One source told Axios some donors aren't super concerned about it, observing, "I'm surprised it doesn't come up more."

Oh, it will. If Scott gets serious traction, it will.

But as of right now, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Scott's fellow South Carolinian and 2024 rival, upstaged him at last week's debate. At the same time, Scott has the advantage of being boosted by billionaire backer Larry Ellison, who has showered a pro-Scott super PAC with tens of millions of dollars.

Regardless, this should get interesting. Scott reportedly plans to start addressing the issue of his bachelordom more in the weeks ahead. What could go wrong?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Spurning Loyalty Pledge, Trump Breaks Republican National Committee

Donald Trump has now officially rendered the Republican National Committee useless, and the RNC is proving equal to the task.

On Wednesday, Trump told the right-wing outlet Newsmax he would not sign the RNC's so-called loyalty pledge to support whoever won the 2024 Republican nomination.

“Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn’t have," Trump offered in the interview with Eric Bolling. “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem right there,” he added, declining to name names. Trump did single out Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy for praise, an admittedly clever way of putting two up and comers on notice that they might be in line for vice president if they play their cards right.

The RNC has made signing the pledge a prerequisite for qualifying for the first Republican debate coming up on Aug. 23, which Trump also deems as useless as the RNC given his current dominance of the field.

“Why would you do that when you’re leading by so much?” he told Bolling. "It's not a question of guts. It’s a question of intelligence." (Daily Kos readers appear to have correctly predicted Trump’s absence, with some 61 percent saying he would skip the debate compared to 29 percent believing he would participate.)

Trump isn't wrong. As the epic disintegration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues, Trump now leads his chief rival by some 40 points in the FiveThirtyEight national aggregate. In fact, a national survey released Thursday by the Republican pollster Cygnal found that Ramaswamy at 11 percent has overtaken DeSantis at 10 percent.

National polling certainly isn't predictive of outcomes in early primary states, except maybe when a candidate who once polled in the 30s starts flirting with single-digit territory. Yikes.

But insofar as the RNC loyalty pledge goes, Trump has finally revealed it to be the joke it was from the start. One way or the other, Trump was bound to spurn the pledge and summarily rub the RNC's nose in it while doing so. He would either take the pledge and then renege on it in front of a live audience during the first debate (a lá 2016), or decide he didn't need the RNC's piss-ant debate anyway. Trump appears to be opting for the latter.

Asked for comment on Trump's rejection, the premier Republican organization in the country demurred, instead pointing reporters to remarks made last month by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel.

“The rules aren’t changing,” she told CNN. “We’ve been very vocal with them.”

Translation: We're a toothless organization that has been fronting for Trump from the get-go.

At least one GOP candidate took the newly neutered pledge as a golden ticket. On Thursday morning, former UN ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tweeted out her signed pledge right on the heels of Trump's rejection, joining Ramaswamy and DeSantis in making her subservience official.

"Alright fellas, your turn," Haley tweeted, with a screenshot of the pledge attached.

Nice one, Haley. She’d make a great vice presidential candidate assuming she’s enthused about the prospect of being the target of Trump's gallows treatment one day.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Polls: Trump Still Leads GOP Primary But Enthusiasm Is Waning

While Donald Trump is still dominating the 2024 Republican primary in national polls, signs of trouble are starting to emerge as his legal peril mounts.

An NPR/PBS/Marist poll released Friday found a nine-point drop since last month among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who say Trump has done "nothing wrong," from 50 percent to 41 percent.

Trump also lost support from the Republican cohort, with 58 percent now saying they are likely to back Trump in the primary, down six points from 64 percent last month.

The survey was in the field from July 24 - 27, before Thursday afternoon’s announcement of a superseding indictment in the classified documents case added more heft to Trump's criminal count haul.

Normally, a stand-alone poll finding notable swings from one month to the next is cause for caution. But in this case, the NPR/PBS/Marist poll isn't a singular outlier.

The July Daily Kos/Civiqs poll fielded last week also showed flagging enthusiasm for Trump. The survey found that if Trump was the Republican nominee, 31 percent of the electorate said they would "definitely" vote for him in the general election—an eight-point drop from a month earlier, when 39 percent of voters said they would "definitely" vote Trump in 2024.

Between June and July, some of Trump's “definite” voters appear to have downgraded themselves to "probably" vote for him, while his "vote for someone else" category rose 3 points, from 50 percent to 53 percent.


Definitely vote for him39%31%-8
Probably vote for him6%10%+4
Probably vote someone else3%3%0
Definitely vote someone else50%53%+3

It's not a wholesale collapse, but it could be an opening for one of Trump's Republican rivals. The problem, of course, is that none of them have proven capable of consolidating the not-Trump vote (anti-Trumpers plus pro-Trumpers looking for an alternative).

As Sarah Longwell, host of The Focus Group podcast and executive director of the Republican Accountability Project, told the New York Times this week, "The No. 1 reason Trump is dominating right now is because of lack of political talent from the people who are challenging him.”

That is a perfect explanation of why Trump's support could be softening even as he remains top dog in the 2024 GOP field. If that is indeed true and Trump still manages to limp across the finish line in first place next year, he will be an even weaker general election candidate than initially anticipated.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ron DeSantis

DeSantis 'Reboot' Launches With A Sunburst Of Neo-Fascism

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign reboot has started with a bang.

Team DeSantis plans to "let Ron be Ron," so they can "expose" voters to more DeSantis (their wording, not mine).

Great. Let the exposing begin—this time with double the fascism! First, The New York Times revealed Sunday that the weirdly homoerotic anti-LGBTQ+ video tweeted out earlier this month by the DeSantis campaign was actually made in-house by a DeSantis aide. The campaign then enlisted an outside supporter (who later deleted the original tweet) to send it out on Twitter.

Also Sunday, a DeSantis staffer retweeted an anti-Trump, pro-DeSantis video that literally morphed the Florida State flag into a Nazi emblem with DeSantis' head superimposed on it.

The new Nazi video is strangely reminiscent of the now infamous anti-LGBTQ+ ad.

Thematically, the video similarly features Trump's political failures on the right—even using some of the same images of Trump holding up a Pride flag. In terms of pacing, the video also utilizes quick cuts, interspersing images of DeSantis into a series of bizarre sequences, just like the anti-LGBTQ+ video did. Yet in the final eight seconds, the ad nearly grinds to a halt as the center seal of Florida's state flag transforms into a "sunwheel"—an ancient European symbol appropriated by the Nazis and now embraced by white supremacists—while troops march toward the Nazi symbol centered on the screen. DeSantis appears on the wheel for several seconds before fading away.

Drink that in for a second: Troops marching toward the sun, depicted as Nazi memorabilia with DeSantis' mug in the middle of it all. It's a lot to consider.

The final similarity is the video has now been pulled down from the original account after it was retweeted by a member of Team DeSantis.

In mid-July, I documented the GOP donor migration away from DeSantis, starting with a closing of wallets in the spring and escalating to sheer panic among the Republican donor class as they tried to locate a legitimate Trump alternative amid the DeSantis collapse. Originally, the donors began questioning his appeal in a general election; then they began questioning his ability to even get the job done in the primary.

Many of those donors started eyeing Sen. Tim Scott, who just made a $40 million ad buy in Iowa, New Hampshire, and his home state of South Carolina.

What is emerging is a worst-case scenario for both DeSantis and anti-Trump Republicans: DeSantis failed to consolidate the anti-Trump and alternative-curious conservatives into a formidable coalition, giving life to several other 2024 hopefuls who are all but ensuring Trump’s nomination.

And who can blame them? DeSantis has proven to be a spectacularly bad candidate. In Iowa, for instance, Scott has broken into double-digit support at 11%, trailing DeSantis by just a handful of points, according to the latest Fox Business poll. Trump led the survey at 46%.

In South Carolina, the same outfit put former U.N. Ambassador and Palmetto State Gov. Nikki Haley one point ahead of DeSantis, 14% to 13% with Scott breathing down his neck at 10%. Trump led the poll at 48%.

And in New Hampshire, DeSantis is maxing out at roughly 15% or below in three of the four July polls in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, while Trump is either near or above 40% in each poll.

If the theoretical main challenger to Trump doesn’t win any one of the first several states in the GOP’s winner-takes-all primary, when exactly does he plan to start challenging the frontrunner?

Nationally, Civiqs tracking tells the same story of DeSantis' flailing campaign. Another week, another 1-point drop to 33% favorable, 56% unfavorable among registered voters. What's fascinating is that DeSantis isn't just sagging with independents (32% - 55%), he's also losing altitude with Republican voters. Since early July, DeSantis' favorability rate among Republicans has dropped from 74% to 70%. Solid.

The DeSantis campaign was correct in its assertion that without a shakeup, it was headed for disaster. But instead of recalibrating to address donor fears that DeSantis had tacked so far right he wouldn't be competitive in a general election, they doubled down and went full fascist.

In the two months since DeSantis announced his presidential bid, he's gone from being 'Trump without the baggage' to 'Not Trump, with the baggage' to 'Not Trump, double the baggage.' It's an impressive evolution from a 2024 candidacy full of hope to simply nope.

Only a campaign demonstrating that type of aptitude could devise a shakeup that landed on, "Ya know what the voters really need? More Ron."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Joe Biden

Polls Indicate Trump Indictments Are Hurting Him -- And Helping Biden

One of Republicans' favorite talking points about Donald Trump's successive indictments is the notion that every new criminal count only serves to make him stronger.

But as we pointed out earlier this week, while Trump continues to dominate the Republican primary, he's not getting any more popular with the general electorate and, even among Republican voters, his indictment bumps appear to be fading.

Another metric that suggests Trump's alleged criming isn't boosting his electoral chances derives from a recent spate of national general election head-to-heads showing President Joe Biden almost uniformly besting Trump.

Here's a sampling of national Biden versus Trump polls conducted by reputable pollsters over the last several weeks:

  • You Gov/Yahoo (July 13-17): Biden 47%-Trump 43%, Biden +4
  • Quinnipiac (July 13-17): 49%-44%, Biden +5
  • Monmouth (July 12-17): 47%-40%, Biden +7
  • Ipsos/Reuters (July 11-17): 37%-35%, Biden +2
  • Morning Consult (July 14-16): 43%-41%, Biden +2
  • YouGov/Economist (July 8-11): 42%-42%, even

Needless to say none of this is predictive and, in any other world, it would be way too early to even consider.

The only factor that makes it worth considering now is the claim and the perception that Trump's star keeps rising as he piles up a mountain of indictments.

If the latest head-to-head polls with Biden suggest anything it's that Trump's star is falling, particularly among the general electorate.

Enthusiasm aside, Trump's toxicity also exceeds Biden's in recent polling. In Monmouth, for instance, fully 50% of respondents said they definitely would not vote for Trump, while 46% ruled out voting for Biden. It's not a particularly heartwarming metric, but it renders Trump incapable of winning a majority of the electorate.


According to the YouGov/Yahoo survey, Trump is also moving in the wrong direction with Republican voters while Biden is moving in the right direction with Democratic voters.

While nearly half (49%) of potential GOP primary voters continue to prefer Trump to an unnamed, hypothetical alternative — the same as last month — the share who select “someone else” has now jumped to 43%. That’s 4 points higher than it was in June, and the highest number so far this year. ...Biden, in contrast, has modestly improved his position among Democrats. Today, more than half (53%) of potential Democratic primary voters now prefer Biden to an unnamed alternative Democratic candidate, up from 48% in the June survey.

None of this data is predictive, of course—there's still eons between now and next November. Plus whatever the national polls say, the 2024 contest will be decided by the battleground states, where the contest will inevitably be tight. A July poll of Michigan conducted by Public Opinion Strategies put Biden over Trump by a single point, 45%-44%.

Another gut check came in late June from a poll of swing states commissioned by a group that recently formed to sound the alarms about a potential third-party spoiler. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, the survey found Biden and Trump were dead even (50%-50%) and in Nevada, Biden was edging out Trump by just 2 points, 51%-49%.

The election in 2024 is bound to be tight no matter who runs, but Trump simply isn't getting stronger with every new indictment. If anyone is benefiting right now from Trump's alleged criming, it's Biden.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

Are Iowa Evangelicals Slipping Away From The Trump Cult?

You know Donald Trump might be facing trouble in Iowa when a focus group of 18 pro-Trump evangelicals—15 of whom believe the 2020 election was stolen—start asking questions about his ability to seal the deal in 2024.

“Do you know of any people that now support Trump that didn’t support him then?” one man asked, according toSemafor's Shelby Talcott. “He’s only losing voters.”

Wow, not bad.

Of course, one voter suggested Trump should apologize for Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership Trump initiated in May 2020 to accelerate development of COVID-19 vaccines. So there's that.

But whether they were positing intriguing questions or pushing deluded opinions, these 18 voters were broadly skeptical about another Trump presidency, even though they mostly defended his first term. One 2020 Trump voter in the group, hosted by conservative pollster Frank Luntz, even questioned whether she would cast another vote for him in the general election.

Trump has been having a moment in Iowa—a not-so-good one.

Earlier this week, he attacked the Hawkeye State's very popular Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for her decision to remain publicly neutral in the presidential contest (privately, she appears to favor Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis).

"I opened up the Governor position for Kim Reynolds, & when she fell behind, I ENDORSED her, did big Rallies, & she won," Trump wrote Monday on Truth Social. "Now, she wants to remain 'NEUTRAL.' I don't invite her to events!"

In isolation, a spat with the governor—even a popular one—might not move the needle much (though one GOP Iowa state senator switched his support from Trump to DeSantis in response). But what could move the needle in Iowa is a widespread defection by evangelical voters. The influential group is known for making winners in the first-in-the-nation caucus, and they largely coalesce late in the game and move en masse.

Many analysts believed Trump sunk himself in Iowa in 2016 when he skipped the debate and evangelicals rallied behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who won the caucus. Trump came roaring back in New Hampshire, but the dynamics are different now. A Trump stumble in the first contest could be more damaging this cycle; since he is dominating national polls, an Iowa loss would make him look vulnerable.

On Friday, evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats hosted six GOP hopefuls at his organization's candidate forum, the Family Leadership Summit: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Trump was notably absent.

Vander Plaats has not endorsed anyone and does not plan to do so until closer to Thanksgiving, but he has made no secret of the fact that he is looking beyond Trump.

That was also obvious within the evangelical focus group. Some participants liked the idea of DeSantis.

“The biggest difference between DeSantis and Trump for me is DeSantis drives the boat,” one participant explained. “Trump looks to see where the wind is blowing, and drives in that direction. Whether it’s the right direction or not.”

Scott, a genuine true believer, also drew interest from multiple participants, according to Semafor.

“Tim Scott has an amazing story and that’s really compelling for me,” another person said. “That’s not gonna make my decision for me … but it causes me to look into him a lot more than I would have without knowing his story.”

Trump is still very much in the driver's seat of the Republican nomination. But whatever the national polls look like now, and even early next year, a loss in Iowa could upend the national landscape and the trajectory of the race.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ron DeSantis

As DeSantis Campaign Stalls, Expectations Are Plunging

When it comes to the 2024 presidential bid of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, everyone agrees on one thing: It's not going well.

But how to fix it? That's a different story with a plethora of answers, none of which pass the smell test.

Some pundits and Republican strategists are advocating a strategy that the DeSantis camp itself has already embraced: run to the right of Trump—it's the only way.

The hateful yet weirdly homoerotic anti-LGBTQ video shared by Team DeSantis last week on Twitter epitomized the entire strategy. Pick an already disenfranchised group—in this case transgender Americans, whom MAGA cultists freakishly believe are ruining their lives—and then unleash a heinous attack on them to prove you don't possess a shred of human decency. Bonus points for courting deeply disturbed misanthropes such as incels in the process.

As governor, DeSantis has deployed his fascist savagery on every disenfranchised minority he can locate, duping vulnerable migrants into being flown to Martha's Vineyard, outlawing any mention of gay or transgender individuals in K-12 educational settings, and empowering books bans in school libraries on any material any parent finds objectionable (e.g., books covering Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ people and sexual themes, among others).

DeSantis also moved to the right of his chief rival Donald Trump—whom he continues to trail in national polls by some 30 points—on abortion. In evangelical-laden Iowa, DeSantis is playing up his anti-abortion bona fides after signing a near-total six-week abortion ban (despite the fact that he buried it in the dead of night). Trump may have packed the high court that overturned Roe v. Wade with anti-abortion zealots, but he has specifically avoided pledging to sign a national abortion ban.

The main problem with the end-run-around-Trump strategy is that it entirely reinforces the sociopathic inhumanity that DeSantis comes by so naturally. If the Florida governor is trying to prove he's an irredeemable cretin devoid of empathy because Team DeSantis has concluded cruelty is the singular criteria for winning over the MAGA cult, then mission accomplished. At 35% favorable, 56% unfavorable in Civiqs tracking, DeSantis has been successfully shedding a little over 3 points per month in likability for the past seven months.

So in the process of trying to endear himself to the cruelty lovers, DeSantis is entirely killing his electability argument. His favorables with independents are even slightly worse at 33% favorable, 55% unfavorable.

As Focus Group podcast host Sarah Longwell told The New York Times, "He is alienating college-educated, suburban voters who want to move past Trump."

On Twitter, Longwell added that the consultants advising DeSantis to outflank Trump on the right "should be sacked."

In response to his sinking palatability, Team DeSantis has deployed his camera-fluent wife and former TV anchor, Casey DeSantis, in order to "humanize" him. It's not the first presidential campaign to try the ploy and it certainly won't be the last. But just how much of a makeover can a wife give a man who was advised before a 2018 debate to write "LIKABLE" in all caps at the top of his notepad as a reminder to be, well, human?

The DeSantis camp is also spinning the notion that the first GOP debate in August will be the moment when their candidate turns this whole thing around.

“That’s when people are really going to start paying attention to the primary,” DeSantis recently told The Messenger. “I think up to this point, a lot of [Trump’s advantage] has been about some of these legal cases," he added unironically of his opponent's criminal indictments.

A big debate turnaround for DeSantis smacks of sheer fantasy. If Trump shows up for the debate, he will outperform his understudy because Trump is an actual entertainer. However repulsive Trump is to over half the country, he sure knows how to work a crowd of MAGA misfits. Baffling as it is, Trump’s cultists actually enjoy his rallies as a cultural experience. DeSantis, in contrast, is a joyless purveyor of misery.

But if Trump no-shows at the debate then Chris Christie will pummel DeSantis, assuming he's able to make the stage. Christie offered a preview of that smackdown several weeks ago on CNN, skewering a clip of DeSantis campaigning in New Hampshire. It was brutal.

Still, a spokesperson for the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down also sounded a positive note about the upcoming debate.

"I am convinced that Governor DeSantis will outperform expectations and inform large audiences about his amazing life, political record, and winning agenda for the presidency,” Steve Cortes said.

Seems like the phrase "outperform expectations" is doing a lot of work there. Cortes issued that statement in response to reporter inquiries following a recent interview in which he described DeSantis as "way behind" and facing an "uphill battle" against Trump, who is the "runaway frontrunner."

Cortes also offered a more candid take on the debate dynamics in the interview.

“Is Ron the debater that Trump is?” he posited. “No, no he isn’t. Absolutely Donald Trump is the maestro of it right, no doubt about it."

Let's just say expectations are low and falling fast.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Poll: Public Disdains House GOP Investigations

Poll: Public Disdains House GOP Investigations

House Republicans generally have no interest in pushing anything with the majority support of the American people, and their lengthy list of pet investigations is no exception to the rule.

After Republicans reclaimed the lower chamber last year, the incoming majority promised a series of probes to supposedly combat wokeness (i.e., own the libs) and unmask the "Biden Crime Family.” Failures at the U.S.-Mexico border, the origins of COVID-19, and "woke" school board policies were all high on the list.

But House Republicans have ended up devoting the bulk of their energy to the seediest and most incendiary of probes: whether to impeach Joe Biden or his Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and digging into Hunter Biden's finances.

As new Morning Consult polling shows about support for the probes: Biden's impeachment rests at just 30 percent of voters (55 percent among Republicans, but just 24 percent among independents), Mayorkas' impeachment is at 22 percent (34 percent among Republicans and just 18 percent among independents), and Hunter Biden's finances rests at 27 percent (46 percent among Republicans and just 24 percent among independents). In other words, none of the current GOP probes dominating the headlines garner even a third of support from the general public.

The issue that does have more widespread support, investigating fentanyl trafficking (58 percent), remains ongoing but has been overshadowed by House Republicans' infighting and their fixation on claiming a scalp before finding any real evidence to support it.

Naturally, House Republicans' investigative efforts have also been plagued by buffoonish incompetence:

Oh, what the heck, let's just file an impeachment resolution and we'll figure out the criming part later.

That is the problem in a nutshell: House Republicans can't really put their finger on anything specific, but their base demands instant gratification, so MAGA misfits such as Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado are taking action into their own hands.

In March, a Navigator Research poll found that 50 percent of registered voters (including a 47 percent plurality of independents) believed Republicans in Congress would "overreach" with their various investigations into Biden and other Democrats. That 50 percent was a 3-point bump from when the outlet originally asked the question in January 2023.

To date, House Republicans have more than lived up to those voters’ estimations and done nothing to convince them otherwise. At some point, Navigator will re-ask the question and it will be interesting to see if the needle has moved.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Kevin McCarthy

McCarthy Won't Endorse Trump -- And America Will Pay The Price

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has reached that stage of a GOP-controlled congressional session where he is simply perfecting the art of playing political Whac-A-Mole—nothing more, nothing less.

Whatever supposed agenda House Republicans were pursuing, that all ended when McCarthy struck a deal with the White House on raising the debt ceiling that miraculously avoided a catastrophic debt default. While the country undoubtedly benefited from that relatively reasonable outcome given McCarthy’s band of heretics, we will all be paying the price for his betrayal of the caucus extremists for the remainder of his speakership.

The first bill came due in early June, when House GOP extremists shut down the floor and McCarthy was forced to recess the chamber for the better part of a week. Several weeks later, Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna went on a censure crusade against Rep. Adam Schiff of California over comments he made several years ago about Donald Trump's ties to Russia. Luna originally folded a $16 million fine into the measure, which she pushed in the form of a privileged resolution in order to skip going through committee and using regular order. But when 20 vulnerable Republicans sided with House Democrats to table the resolution, McCarthy sprang into action, trying to convince Luna that this very bad look for the GOP was only benefitting one person: Schiff, who ultimately raked in more than $8 million in second-quarter donations for his Senate bid. Luna dropped the fine, McCarthy backed the measure, and the censure passed on a party line vote, 213-209.

That same week, McCarthy went through the exact same drill with a privilege resolution pushed by Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado to impeach President Joe Biden: no investigation and no high crimes, misdemeanors, or explicit violations of the Constitution. She just felt like it—so there.

McCarthy once again convinces this low-level GOP talent that her resolution will fail, embarrass the Republican majority, and be a boon to Biden. Instead, she agrees to refer the articles to the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees in return for bragging rights that she initiated the impeachment push.

But that's what McCarthy exists for now—he's a glorified cat herder in a necktie.

"The best he can do in these situations is mitigate the damage," remarked The New York Times' Annie Karni on The Daily podcast. "And he knows every day that his troubles are not behind him and are only probably getting worse."

McCarthy's next challenge is avoiding a massive rift within his caucus over which 2024 Republican hopeful to back. For now, he has declined to endorse Trump—yet another slap in the face to the MAGA misfits who would just as soon burn the House down as build bridges.

It's a placeholder position that could yield fast considering how quickly McCarthy walked back his recent observation that Trump might not be "the strongest" Republican candidate in the GOP field.

Trump fumed over McCarthy’s disloyalty and, in a near-immediate clean up interview with Breitbart, McCarthy asserted, “Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016.”

Sure, watching McCarthy squirm amid the MAGA death grip is entertaining. But the longer McCarthy holds out on endorsing Trump, the bigger the price we'll pay. McCarthy owes his precious speaker’s gavel to Trump, and when Trump wants something, he'll hang McCarthy's delinquency over his head like the Sword of Damocles.

And more than likely, Trump will extract the biggest pound of flesh he can get from McCarthy, whether that's a massive investigation escalation into Biden’s son Hunter, or a full on impeachment proceeding. One way or the other, Trump will get his due.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.