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Flash Poll Shows Vast Majority Agrees With Guilty Verdict In Floyd Murder

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

A flash poll conducted in a three-hour window following the announcement of a guilty verdict for police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd found that the vast majority of Americans agreed with the jury's conclusion.

In the Ipsos poll conducted for USA Today, 71 percent of respondents said they agreed with the finding that Chauvin was guilty, and 62 percent said they planned on simply accepting the verdict with no further action.

Chauvin was found guilty on all three felony counts charged against him in the death of Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Although higher numbers of Democrats and independents agreed with the guilty verdict, 85 percent and 71 percent respectively, a 55 percent majority of Republicans also did.

But the public was divided on Chauvin's motivation for the killing, with 40 percent saying he was guilty of murder while 32 percent said Chauvin's actions amounted to negligence. Just 11 percent viewed Chauvin's actions as an accident.

Not surprisingly, perceptions of Chauvin's motivations broke down along partisan lines, with 51 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of independents saying Chauvin's conduct amounted to murder, while just 26 percent of Republicans said the same.

Across the board, 61 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and independents said they planned on accepting the verdict without taking any further actions. Among Democrats, 25 percent said they would accept the verdict and participate in marches and rallies going forward, while just 15 percent of Republicans said the same.

Still, some 20 percent of Republicans said they reject the verdict, but only five percent of Republicans both rejected the verdict and plan to protest it.

Pew Poll: Biden Smokes Trump On Every Measure Of Performance

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Pew Research Center released a sprawling polling overview of Joe Biden's early presidency, and the reviews are pretty damn good—particularly given the polarized political environment in this moment of national crisis.

For starters, 59 percent of American approve of the way Biden is doing his job, while 39 percent disapprove—that marks an improvement of a handful of points over last month when 54 percent approved of his job performance.

Biden's job approval has clearly been helped by public perception of his work in bringing the pandemic under control and getting the country back to work—the job Americans chiefly hired him to do.

In terms of the vaccine roll out, 72 percent rated the Biden administration's execution as excellent (29 percent) or good (43 percent), though the survey was taken before the latest halt/review of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That widespread approval includes 55% of Republicans and Republican leaners—a pretty impressive feat for a guy who most of them believe wasn't duly elected.

The public also continues to largely favor Biden's $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, with 67 percent of Americans approving of the bill, including 36 percent who strongly approve. Just 32 percent disapprove of the relief plan, with only 17 percent saying they strongly disapprove. The relief plan also continues to divide the GOP base by income level, with fully 55 percent of lower income Republicans and Republican leaners approving of the bill, compared to just 18 percent approval among Republicans with the highest incomes.

The relief plan's high approval—which is entirely consistent with public approval of the plan before it became law—suggests people not only like the plan but are also pleased so far with its rollout. Indeed, a Civiqs poll earlier this week found that 80 percent of respondents had received their direct payments and some 90 percent of those who reported receiving the money said the amount was about as expected.

On a series of less tangible, more perception-based questions, Biden also seems to be doing relatively well, particularly when compared to the former guy.

A 46 percent plurality of Americans say they like how Biden is conducting himself in office, with just 27 percent saying they don't and another 27 percent expressing mixed feelings on the matter. In February of 2020, just 15 percent said the same of Donald Trump. Biden's significant improvement on the matter is due to him drawing less criticism from the opposing party—while 59% or Republicans said they don't like the way Biden conducts himself, fully 85 percent of Democrats disliked how Trump conducted himself.

A 44 percent plurality of the public also thinks Biden has changed the tone and nature of national political discourse "for the better," while just 29 percent say he has changed it for the worse.

In the final year of Trump's tenure, a 55 percent majority of Americans believed Trump had changed the tone of political debate for the worse, with just 25 percent saying he had a positive effect on political discourse and 19 percent saying he hadn't affected it either way.

Finally, Democrats in Congress are also dusting their GOP counterparts in terms of approval rating. Half of Americans approve of congressional Democrats' performance while just 32 percent approve of Republicans' job performance.

Overall, the American public is giving President Biden a pretty glowing review for how he has comported himself at the outset of his presidency. He is largely delivering on the promises he made and the job he was hired to do. While public perception is likely to get more complicated down the road, Biden has earned himself more political capital to spend rather than depleting his cache right from the start.

Treasury Cites Manafort’s Election Espionage In New Russia Sanctions

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

After four long years of the former U.S. guy being a lapdog to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin's bill is finally coming due for its years-long cyber espionage campaign against the United States.

The Biden administration said Thursday it was imposing a new round of sanctions to constrict the Russian economy along with sanctioning six Russian companies that aid Russian Intelligence services, according to The Washington Post. In addition, the administration is expelling ten Russian intelligence officers posing as diplomats in the U.S.

Alongside the punitive actions, the Biden administration formalized a series of previously reported accusations about Moscow:

  • It officially blamed the Russian intelligence services for the extensive SolarWinds cyber hack that compromised thousands of government agencies and private sector entities alike. "The Russian Intelligence Services — specifically the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) — have executed some of the most dangerous and disruptive cyber attacks in recent history, including the SolarWinds cyber attack," according to sanctions outlined on the Treasury Department website.
  • It charged that the FSB (the Russian intelligence service) was directly involved in the August 2020 chemical poisoning of political Putin foe Aleksey Navalny; and further said the GRU (the Russian military intelligence service) "materially contributed to the possession, transportation, and use of Novichok" in the March 2018 poisoning of former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K.
  • Finally, for the very first time, the U.S. government connected the dots between sensitive polling from the Trump campaign being passed from Russian agent Konstantin Kilimnik to Russian intelligence agencies. You'll recall, this was the polling Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort delivered to Kilimnik in an infamous cigar bar meeting. But now, the U.S. government is confirming that Kilimnik then delivered that information to Kremlin spy agencies. "During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy," reads a statement on the Treasury site. "Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

What the Biden administration did not confirm was the allegation that Russia had placed bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan in 2019, an intelligence estimate in which U.S. agencies had expressed low to moderate confidence. But the administration also didn't entirely dismiss the allegation; it simply didn't tie the forthcoming sanctions to it.

"But we do believe that this information puts the burden on the Russian government to explain its action and takes steps to address this disturbing pattern of behavior," the senior administration official said. "We expressed those concerns directly to the government of Russia."

According to the Post, "the package includes sanctions on all debt Russia issues after June 14, barring U.S. financial institutions from buying government bonds directly from the Russian Central Bank, Russian National Wealth Fund and the Ministry of Finance." The intended effect is to hinder Moscow's ability to raise money in global capital markets.

President Biden is walking a line with Moscow, trying to maintain open communication channels with the Kremlin while also drawing the line at its aggressive attacks on U.S. democracy and national interests.

"Our view is that no single action that we will take or could take in and of itself could directly alter Russia's malign behavior," Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer said. "But this is going to be a process that is going to take place over time, and it will involve a mix of significant pressure and finding ways to work together."

Packaging the punitive measures together is designed to allow the administration to move from a reactionary posture to a more proactive one.

"It's good to clearly message our priorities to Russia," Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told the Post. "By packaging a response to several things at once, the administration can get off the back foot and move on its agenda. What we don't want is to always be in response mode to Russia."

Major Law Firms Vow Action Against Voter Suppression

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Not only are American corporations readily ignoring Sen. Mitch McConnell's threats to shut their traps about voter suppression laws, now big law firms are getting active in the fight too.

Some 60 major law firms are uniting around an effort "to challenge voter suppression legislation and to support national legislation to protect voting rights and increase voter participation," Brad Karp, chairman of the heavyweight law firm Paul Weiss, told The New York Times.

Though the group has not been formally announced, Karp promised it would "emphatically denounce legislative efforts to make voting harder, not easier, for all eligible voters, by imposing unnecessary obstacles and barriers on the right to vote."

The firms are teaming up with the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit organization that has been tracking Republican legislation across the country, to strategize about which laws to file legal challenges against.

"We plan to challenge any election law that would impose unnecessary barriers on the right to vote and that would disenfranchise underrepresented groups in our country," Karp said. As one might expect, that includes the Georgia law, which has invited a flurry of fallout already for both the state and the Republican lawmakers who passed it.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center, told the Times the coalition of law firms put lawmakers "on notice" that unconstitutional and legally flawed laws will almost certainly result in legal pushback.

"This is beyond the pale," Waldman said of the GOP suppression laws. "You're hearing that from the business community and you're hearing it from the legal community."

Make no mistake, this is so far from over. On the heels of Major League Baseball pulling its All-Star Game from Georgia to protest the law, creators of the forthcoming Hollywood movie "Emancipation" about a runaway slave announced Monday that they would move production out of the Peach State.

"At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice," Antoine Fuqua, the movie's director, and actor Will Smith said in a joint statement. "We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access."

But perhaps the biggest development emerging from the rash of GOP voter suppression laws sweeping the nation is the deepening rift between Republicans and the wealthy sector of voters and donors who have traditionally gravitated toward the GOP for decades.

We could be witnessing nothing short of a political realignment that stands to upend American politics as we have known it for more than a generation.

Risking Everything, Republicans Bet On Angry Trumpist 'Lifestyle Brand'

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Republican Party, this year more than any other since I've been covering politics, has become a fascination for me. While some readers here say it's all business as usual, it seems anything but to me. Sure, the underlying motivators of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ hate, and amassing wealth and power have been and continue to be driving forces for the party and are simply more transparent than ever.

But on the other hand, Republicans' roadmap to obtaining power is perhaps more murky than at any point in my lifetime. When Mitch McConnell comes out and starts threatening American corporations, a sea change is at hand.

In fact, what seems to have happened since Donald Trump receded from the national stage is that congressional Republicans and some state officials have had to effectively become him in order to keep his base voters engaged—or should we say, enraged. So now, just like Trump threatened companies that angered him, McConnell is doing the same. And just like Trump swindled his base voters into donating gobs of money to him, House Republicans are now running the same scam. Perhaps even more telling, House Republicans are essentially presenting those donor solicitations as if they are coming from Trump himself. (Of course, Trump also relaunched his own fundraising operation this week complete with "Don't Blame Me — I Voted for Trump" swag. Not a joke. So now Trump's base will be getting fleeced from multiple directions.)

But it's a stunning turn of events—the party that once kowtowed to corporate America is now publicly jeering at them. That schism will only deepen as Republicans grow increasingly and more glaringly out of step with the culture of young, diverse, upwardly mobile consumers American businesses hope to cultivate. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are only getting more brazen and dug into their anti-culture politics. As I noted yesterday, Georgia's Republican House Speaker, David Ralston, defended the punitive measures they were targeting at their corporate detractors like this, "You don't feed a dog that bites your hand."

Ralph Reed, evangelical fire-breather and perennial GOP strategist, said the performative bellicosity had become the single most animating feature for Republican voters, describing it as a "virtue."

"It has become the overarching virtue Republicans look for in their leaders," Reed told the New York Times.

But the description of the GOP and its base that really brought it home for me this week came from Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark. "Republican voters—a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.—no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government," he wrote. "What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand."

That to me, is the best summation possible of the hollowed out, defunct, and unmoored Republican Party—it's no longer a political party, it's a lifestyle brand.

The questions I'm left with are: just how enticing will that newfangled lifestyle brand be to Trumpers; and can it appeal to the voters who still harbor a fondness for the political party they formerly belonged to? Because for all sorts of reasons, it's hard to imagine that Trump voters alone—even if they turn out readily in 2022, and it's a big if—will be enough to bring home big wins for Republibrand in the midterms.

There's already been signs of dissatisfaction within the GOP ranks since last November, though it's impossible to know exactly what to make of them. Identification with the Republican Party appears to have taken at least somewhat of a hit since last November and the Capitol attack, in particular, though it's not clear how significant or meaningful that hit is.

Bottom line—somebody's unhappy but it's hard to tell exactly who, how unhappy they are, and what that will mean for GOP turnout in the midterms. That said, there's nothing ideal about having a base that's a moving target and having almost zero data other than November 2020 to guide your turnout calculations.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Republibrand lawmakers is that they are courting two groups of voters that seem to be stylistically at odds with each other: angry Trumpers and suburbanites. I continue to be skeptical of the notion that the brass-knuckle tactics that have become a "virtue" for much of the GOP base hold nearly as much appeal in the more mild-mannered American suburbs, where people seem generally more inclined to want to work their jobs, spend time with family, and carve out a "comfortable" existence. Those folks typically want a growth economy that grows with their family, not a war on Major League Baseball at all costs or attacks on American businesses that interferes with their bottom lines. What suburbanites want is a measure of predictability so they can plan for the future with some measure of confidence that the world as they know it today won't be radically and fundamentally different from the world tomorrow. And nothing about the new Republibrand inspires confidence and stability.

Probably the best case study to date in how the new Republibrand will play in the suburbs during the midterms comes from the suburban vote in Georgia both last fall and in the January Senate runoffs.

In one instance, Trump is on that ticket and, in the next instance, Trump isn't. So we get to measure that difference. As an added bonus, both Republican candidates doubled down on Trumpism as they fought to win their runoffs. Sen. Kelly Loeffler went all in on racism, and Sen. David Perdue became the Trump mini-me of grift, notching a new stock-trading scandal almost weekly. Perdue also just decided to skip out on his debates with Democratic rival Jon Ossoff and he did so with impunity. In other words, both GOP candidates behaved about about as we can imagine many Republican candidates will in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ran like they were part of a political party, promising policy solutions aimed at meeting the needs of their constituents. One of their biggest promises, in fact, was passing a new coronavirus relief package that would include $2,000 direct payments.

In the runoffs, Ossoff ultimately defeated Perdue by just over a percentage point, 50.6 percent – 49.4 percent; while Democrat Raphael Warnock triumphed over Loeffler beat Loeffler by 2 points, 51 percent – 49 percent. But let's use Ossoff as an example since he was the squeaker.

In the general election, Joe Biden's win was powered by the shift among voters in the suburbs, college graduates, and high-income earners, according to turnout data from the New York Times. Here's how they shifted from 2016 to 2020:

  • High-income earners: +7 points more Democratic
  • Majority college graduates: +6 points more Democratic
  • Suburban: +6 points more Democratic

Biden won the state 49.5 percent - 49.2 percent. Ossoff ran a touch behind Biden, losing to Perdue 47.9 percent– 49.7 perent. It was good enough to force the runoff, but also left Perdue with a reasonable opening to win reelection.

But the two Democratic Senate candidates prevailed in January based mostly on two factors: increased Black turnout in both suburban and rural counties, and depressed Trump turnout. Suburban voters of all races, particularly those surrounding Atlanta, helped contribute to those wins, though the biggest demographic shift in turnout was among Black voters specifically.

But for our purposes, the Republican Senators didn't fare much better among suburban voters in January without Trump on the ticket and, in fact, mostly fared worse. In suburban Cobb County, for instance, Ossoff ran +10.54 ahead of Perdue (53.96-43.42) in the general election but did even better in the January runoffs, running +12.08 (56.04-43.96) ahead of Perdue. The same was true for the largely suburban counties of Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Henry—Ossoff won with a bigger margin than in November.

So if the Georgia Senate runoffs are any gauge, Republibrand didn't pan out so well for the GOP in suburban America, even as voter turnout among Trumpers sank.

In truth, it's nearly impossible to know how all this will play out in the 2022 midterms. But the GOP brand is evolving and its base will necessarily evolve too. There's just no way Republicans can continue down this path of radical transformation without it having electoral consequences for their base. It's a fascinating turn of events given that just several months ago GOP lawmakers in Washington had a chance to abandon Trump. Now they are doing their level best to embody him and recreate the electoral magic that cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House. It seems nothing short of desperate, but they have also concluded it's their last best option.

Worried McConnell Backs Off Threat To Corporate Leaders

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has had quite a week. On Monday, McConnell threatened American businesses with "serious consequences" if they spoke out against the rash of GOP voter suppression laws sweeping the nation. On Tuesday, he doubled down, saying, "My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics." McConnell quickly added that he wasn't "talking about political contributions," because of course not. Effectively—"shut your traps and donate, or else the GOP will quit doing your bidding."

Perhaps being extorted isn't sitting so well with the GOP's corporate donor base. On Wednesday, McConnell tried to put a more genteel spin on his threat.

"I didn't say that very artfully yesterday," McConnell told Kentucky reporters, referring to his explicit threat. "They certainly are entitled to be involved in politics. They are," he conceded, referring to the corporations that have spoken out against Georgia's voter suppression law. "My principal complaint is they didn't read the darn bill," he said of corporate CEOs.

Gosh, golly gee, what a relief. For a second, it seemed as though McConnell had declared both the free enterprise and free speech of the corporate sector dead all in one breath. American businesses had to either toe the GOP line or suffer the consequences. It was quite a reversal for McConnell and Republicans, who have spent decades prioritizing the rights of corporations over the rights of everyday Americans, even when lives were on the line. But with corporate profits no longer aligning with Republicans' ongoing culture war, McConnell was drawing a line in the sand.

Let's be clear: The damage has been done. McConnell may be trying to soften the blow and give himself an out, but that threat was heard loud and clear in board rooms across the nation. And this is by no means the end of the story. The GOP's grievance politics will continue to be at odds with a culture that is rapidly outstripping Republicans and the increasing number of corporations trying to market to that culture.

The GOP Has No Vision, Weak Leadership, And Terrible Poll Ratings

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Ever since Donald Trump managed to get 74 million votes last November, Congressional Republicans have been obsessed with recreating that type of inflated turnout in subsequent election cycles despite the fact that Joe Biden beat Trump by 7 million votes. In fact, finding a way to lock in all those Trump voters has become some sort of white whale for the GOP.

As never-Trump Republican and The Bulwark founder Sarah Longwell told Markos Moulitsas and me on The Brief, Republicans are absolutely transfixed by that level of GOP turnout. "It's 74 million—they always say 75 million, but the reason they keep saying it over like it's a mantra is they can't believe that many people turned out for them," she explained.

But the vexing problem for Republicans now is: How can they possibly recreate 2020 turnout levels when Trump—the guy who lured a new slice of blue-collar voters into the party—is increasingly disengaged, and the corporatists running the party have no idea how to connect with his voters? That disconnect seems to have rendered congressional Republicans politically impotent in the past couple months—unsure about exactly what they stand for, who their constituency is, and how to reach that constituency.

That disorientation, for instance, resulted in a dazzling failure by party leaders to mount any response whatsoever to Joe Biden's first major victory as president—passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Sure, every GOP lawmaker voted "no" on the bill, but they were neither able to settle on one line of attack against the package nor translate that uniform opposition into any meaningful gains with voters. In fact, if anything, Biden's massive rescue plan only grew in popularity the longer it was litigated in Congress—an almost unheard of phenomenon by legislative standards.

While it's hard to quantify just how adrift Congressional Republicans are right now, examining the trend lines in Civiqs polling sheds some light on the topic.

As I noted in my column this weekend, ever since Joe Biden took office, the Republican Party's unfavorability rating has been registering at close to all-time highs compared to the past handful of years. Just after Biden's inauguration, the GOP's unpopularity peaked at 65 percent unfavorable and now rests at 62 percent unfavorable, with just 25 percent of Americans holding a favorable view of the party. By comparison, the Democratic Party is underwater by just six points nationally, with 50 percent viewing it unfavorably to 44 percent who hold a favorable view (click to view).

But what really sets the GOP apart is its lack of popularity among its own voters. While 88 percent of Democratic voters view their own party favorably, just 63 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of the GOP while 19 percent view it unfavorably. The party's favorability rating among Republicans plunged some 20 points following Election Day last November, when its favorables stood at about 83 percent among GOP voters. To some extent that fall from grace is a natural byproduct of losing a big election. The party also saw its favorables plummet following the midterm elections, when Democrats flipped a historic 41 House seats to regain control of the lower chamber (click to view).

The difference now is that the party's leadership is entirely divided amongst itself at a time when the makeup of the GOP base is still a bit of an enigma. Party leaders seem to realize that Trump attracted a new cohort of blue-collar voters, but they have no idea exactly how to appeal to them. So even as Democrats passed a bill that was largely popular among lower-income Republicans—63 percent of whom supported it—GOP lawmakers uniformly rejected the bill while railing about the great Seuss-Potato Head scandal of 2021.

The party also has no real leader to rally around who can steer it out of its current slump. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is epically unpopular among the GOP base, with just 22 percent of Republicans holding a favorable view of him. Former Vice President Mike Pence registers better than McConnell (because who wouldn't?), but even he garners just a 61 percent favorability rating among Republicans. It's perhaps telling that both McConnell and Pence took a major hit in popularity among the Republican base following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. In other words, in the view of self-identified Republicans, they were the people who failed the party, not Trump. Here are Pence's favorables among Republicans (click to view graph).

And while Trump remains the most popular figure in the party among Republicans voters at 88%, even his favorables have started to fall off a bit ever since Election Day. It's not earth-shattering fallout by any means, but one could imagine Trump's popularity among Republicans just continuing to slowly wane over time.

Perhaps more importantly in this moment, Trump seems to be a lot less interested in helping the GOP regain control of Congress than he is in punishing anyone who has proven disloyal to him. So while he's publicly made a show of cooperating with the GOP point people trying to win back the House and Senate, his most passionate pronouncements have been daggers targeting leaders like McConnell and Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican. Predictably, Trump is also still entirely consumed by his 2020 loss, so much so that he's now stealing microphones at Mar-a-Lago-based weddings and grousing about it to attendees.

The bottom line for the GOP is this—the only guy who still holds enough juice with base voters to perhaps improve their opinion of the party has no real interest in the party whatsoever.

This isn't a declaration that the Republican Party is dead. But it does mean the GOP finds itself with a very unique, if not unprecedented, set of circumstances heading into 2022: It has no real leader, no real message, and a fluid electorate.

So while GOP lawmakers are tickled silly over the 74 million people who cast a vote for Trump last fall, they are basically playing a blindfolded electoral version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey as they head into 2022.

Biden Approval Ratings Soar On Vaccine Action And Relief Bill

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

President Joe Biden's approval ratings are soaring on what remains the top issue for a plurality of Americans, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. The survey found 72 percent of Americans approve of Biden's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a four-point improvement from earlier this month before Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion rescue plan. Just 28 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Biden's pandemic handling—an astoundingly low level of opposition in these polarized times.

Biden also gets fully 75 percent approval on distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. As ABC News notes, about 35 percent of adults nationally have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine and, last week, Biden pledged to administer 200 million doses within his first 100 days, doubling his original goal at the outset of his presidency. Even a majority of Republicans, 53 percent, now approve of how Biden is handling vaccine distribution.

Biden's high marks on the pandemic also appear to be translating to high marks on the economic recovery as well, with 60% of respondents approving of it. Between the pandemic and the economic recovery, Biden is earning strong support among both Democrats and Independents. Here's the breakdown:

JOE BIDEN APPROVAL RATINGS ON PANDEMIC, ECONOMY

PANDEMIC HANDLINGVACCINE DISTRIBUTIONECONOMIC RESPONSE
DEMOCRATS96%92%89%
INDEPENDENTS74%77%63%

Where Biden is underwater at the moment is on his handling of gun violence (42 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove) and the surge of migrant children at the border (41 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove).

But in terms of the issues that remain most important for most Americans at present—the pandemic and the economy—President Biden is meeting the moment. Biden and his White House will now pivot to passing a massive infrastructure bill that could revolutionize the country's economy for the 21st century.

Nine Hidden Trump Administration Scandals Now Emerging Despite Obstruction

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In at least nine instances, Donald Trump and his top White House officials aggressively combatted key oversight investigations that government watchdogs were attempting to conduct within the Trump administration, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Just a couple months into a new administration, some results from those nine impeded probes are starting to come to light. Among the most high profile was the recent conclusion by the Department of Transportation inspector general that former agency head Elaine Chao abused her office for personal reasons, including to boost the prospects of a family business. Another revelation was the finding that former White House physician, retired Navy rear admiral Ronny Jackson, abused substances on the job and created a toxic work environment for his staff.

The main problem with these long-awaited findings is that, for the most part, the damage has already been done and without consequence for the perpetrators of the abuses. Chao resigned her Cabinet post following Trump's insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Jackson made a successful bid for Congress last year and now represents Texas' 13th district.

While no leader or agency head is particularly excited about having an internal watchdog looking over their shoulder, investigators working within the Trump administration told the Post the obstacles they faced were particularly onerous. Administration attorneys insisted internal communications were confidential and off limits. They also demanded to be present at witness interviews. Information was either withheld entirely from investigators or released at a snail's pace. The result was an inability to assess and correct internal problems in real time, which is exactly the purpose an internal watchdog is intended to serve.

"IGs under Trump faced an angry, account-settling president who had no compunction about removing those who threatened to reveal bad things about him," said Gordon Heddell, a former inspector general at the Defense and Labor departments who served under Republican and Democratic presidents.

More delayed reports are expected to be released in the coming months, including one on whether the White House blocked delivery of post-Hurricane Maria financial aid to Puerto Rico and another on the Commerce Department's controversial addition of a citizenship question to the U.S. Census. The Pentagon is also conducting an inquiry into a $400 million border-wall contract that Trump repeatedly pushed to award to a North Dakota construction company even after he was told its bid was subpar. And the General Services Administration inspector general is conducting a sweeping review of how different federal agencies responded to the coronavirus.

While we await results from those inquiries, what is entirely clear already is that internal oversight met with unprecedented obstruction within the Trump administration—a hostile posture pushed by the White House—and that led to bad outcomes for U.S. government operations and taxpayers alike.

Prosecutor Says Capitol Rioters May Face Sedition Charges

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Federal investigators may have sufficient evidence to charge some defendants involved in the Capitol riot with seditious conspiracy, according to the federal official who until recently was in charge of the investigation.

"I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements," former interim U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told 60 Minutes in an interview that aired Sunday, just a couple days after he stepped down from leading the probe. Such a charge is rare and is brought against people who employ violence to block the execution of federal law.

Sherwin added that he believed the current facts "support those charges," and he predicted more evidence might also come to light to buttress such a charge. "I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that," he said, according to TheWashington Post.

The comments from Sherwin echoed sentiments he offered in late January when he said investigators were "closely" reviewing evidence related to sedition in several cases. "I think the results will bear fruit very soon," Sherwin said on Jan. 26. The fact that he has now reiterated that view suggests the facts have progressed in the manner he originally foresaw.

The U.S. attorney's office for the District of Columbia has already charged some 20 members of the extremist group the Proud Boys with making an initial push to overrun the Capitol. The latest of those indictments included a conspiracy charge against Proud Boys leaders from Washington State, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania for trying to obstruct congressional certification of the 2020 election and police actions to maintain order.

Ten members and associates of the far-right group the Oath Keepers have also been charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress. The Justice Department is now reviewing whether the evidence supports some sort of larger conspiracy case that can be brought.

The Post reports that the two right-wing groups now account for about ten percent of the 300 people charged in the Capitol riot. Authorities have predicted that at least 400 rioters will end up indicted for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack.

Sherwin also told 60 Minutes that prosecutors are examining whether suspects toured the Capitol days before the attack in an effort at "casing or doing reconnaissance runs" for the January 6 siege.

Desperate Republicans Plead With Trump To ‘Play Team Ball’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Remember what a fricking mess of contradictions Republican messaging was in the Georgia runoffs? Senate Republicans have apparently decided they want to rerun that losing strategy in 2022.

On Friday, yet another picture of a GOP seditionist and congressional campaign chief kissing Donald Trump's ring at Mar-a-Lago made the rounds on social media. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy may have beaten him to it, but Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was still brimming with enthusiasm.

Yet another installment in the GOP chronicles of, "Can't live with him, don't have the mettle to give him the heave-ho."

So while Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are still trading jabs over who doomed their Senate majority, Trump bootlickers are begging him to be a team player in 2022 rather than settle personal scores.

"Endorse as many incumbents that you can. Come out for the folks that you can come out for," Sen. Lindsey Graham told Trump Monday, according to Politico. "Play team ball to the extent it's possible."

Because appealing to the King of Reason is definitely a recipe for success. I mean, what could possibly be more team-y than sending a cease and desist letter to all the GOP campaign committees using your likeness to fundraise?

But Republicans—who are simply too dim to find new ways to appeal to voters themselves—are stuck clinging to a loser. Sure, that loser might try to take a pick axe to the reelection bids of GOP incumbent senators like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Thune of South Dakota, but he's got that irresistible charisma.

"He brought a bunch of new voters into the party that we want to keep," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who's up for reelection next year and has been keeping Trump close.

Never mind the 80 million people Trump mobilized to come out and vote against him, which proved particularly devastating in former GOP strongholds such as Georgia and Arizona.

Meanwhile, Trump could easily doom Republicans again in 2022 by endorsing radicals for the GOP's open Senate seats, particularly in states like North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. One retiring GOP senator already seems resigned to Trump's kiss of death.

"I don't have the ability to keep someone from winning the primary. That's something that Pennsylvania Republican voters are going to decide," Sen. Pat Toomey said.

In the meantime, Republicans are hoping against hope they won't also be forced to defend open seats in two more states: Iowa and Wisconsin. So far, things are really coming together nicely for their big midterm comeback.

GOP Feud Flares As McConnell Trolls Trump’s Fundraising Flub

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The only thing that's more triggering to Donald Trump than being mocked by his political enemies is being fleeced by them. That means Minority Leader Mitch McConnell scored a twofer in their latest tussle over whether Republican Party committees such as the Senate's campaign arm would be allowed to use Trump's likeness and name in fundraising solicitations.

McConnell apparently boasted in private to his GOP Senate colleagues that their fundraising efforts had amassed a bigger haul than Trump's had. The snub came after a closed-door presentation by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), detailing the committee's work in preparation for the midterms, according to The New York Times.

But it's not like McConnell just threw a single barb at Trump. He printed out the tally on small cards and then distributed them to attendees so no one could possibly miss it—a little keepsake from the meeting, if you will. McConnell reportedly noted "several times" that the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC that typically doles out cash to help reelect GOP incumbents, had surpassed the fundraising totals of Trump's super PAC.

In terms of Senate GOP fundraising for the Georgia Senate races, the card read: "Total: $612+ million," adding, "In 3 cycles: nearly $1 billion."

Below that were the statistics for Trump's PAC, America First: "Trump: $148+ million." Ouch.

McConnell was basically laying fault for the dual losses in Georgia at Trump's feet.

Naturally, that sniping prompted an exchange of pleasantries with Trump spokesperson Jason Miller, who implied that McConnell's weak stimulus package was at fault for the twin failures.

"A better side-by-side comparison would be the $2,000 stimulus checks that the Democrat candidates promised in Georgia versus the $600 stimulus checks that the Republicans offered, which led to us losing both seats," Miller told the Times. "Just think, if we had done that one thing differently, Republicans would be in control of the Senate right now."

But they're not in control right now. Democrats are, and President Biden just helped shepherd the giant relief package through Congress that Trump had dreamed of but wasn't a good enough dealmaker to deliver.

Now Republicans are caught in the endless loop of a circular firing squad born of sheer desperation. A party with any ideas would have pivoted by now to start executing their strategy for 2022. Instead, they're railing about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head while Democrats just passed what is arguably the most transformational piece of legislation in a generation.

Democrats Welcome GOP ‘Strategy' Opposing Super-Popular Relief Bill

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Heading into a highly competitive 2022 landscape, Republicans are champing at the bit to hang President Joe Biden's COVID-19 rescue package—a bill supported by some 70 percent of Americans—around the necks of Democrats.

Go right on ahead, reply Democrats.

"Anytime you're delivering for the American people, you're strengthening your position politically," said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "We should shout it from the rooftops that we are passing historic legislation that will reboot the economy and end the pandemic."

Republicans, running a political play that's so last decade, are convinced they will benefit from unified obstruction of President Biden's agenda. They are also convinced they can turn the tide against a bill that addresses the acute needs caused by the pandemic and enjoys bipartisan backing from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.

The GOP's main attack line charges that the bill amounts to a liberal wishlist of socialist ideals. "Nobody denies that there's some stuff in the bill that's popular," said Chris Hartline, director of communications for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "But the cons of this bill have more staying power than the pros of this bill."

And here's Republican Sen.John Cornyn of Texas straining to find the silver lining for united GOP opposition against a bill that has only grown more popular the more people learn about it. "Unfortunately, there's going to be a sugar high because free money is very popular," said Cornyn, a former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "But people are going to realize that only a small portion of the money was actually directed toward COVID-19. … So this may be temporarily popular, but it's going to wear thin over time."

The problem for the GOP is that the bill isn't just the one-and-done sugar high that Cornyn describes. Americans who have lost their jobs or income due to the pandemic—which includes 44 percent of households, according to AP-NORC polling—are going to get a lot more than a one-time direct payment to their bank account. They will also continue getting expanded unemployment insurance through September. If they have children, they will receive monthly direct payments to their bank accounts totaling at least $3,000 a year for each child. If they've lost their health insurance, many of them will be eligible for increased Affordable Care Act subsidies. And if they are paying out-of-pocket to continue their employer-based coverage through COBRA, most or all of that cost will be picked by the federal government for the next two years. Republicans are talking about theoretical harms, while Democrats are producing tangible goods. In fact, every family with kids will be getting a monthly reminder of how the Democratically controlled federal government is helping them.

All of those provisions will prove enormously popular, particularly for the nearly half of U.S. households that have suffered pandemic-related financial losses. Once more, many of those provisions could get extended if Democrats maintain control of Congress, while they would very obviously be dead on arrival if Republicans capture either chamber. So Democrats get two bites at the apple—not only can they say, "Look what we did for you," but also, "And we plan to do more of it if you put us in charge again."

NBC News reports that Republicans also plan to focus their ads on anti-immigrant messaging that the bill benefits undocumented immigrants as well as fearmongering related to transgender athletes participating in girls sports. Certainly Dr. Seuss will also fit into that messaging because no election cycle is complete without the GOP fanning the flames of a culture war on every possible front. But guess when people don't have the luxury of getting consumed by culture wars—when they can't put food on the table.

So let's shout away because the messaging war is far from over. A recent Monmouth University survey found that 52 percent of respondents said they've heard "a lot" about the bill while 47 percent have heard "a little" or "nothing at all" about it.

But messaging aside, many Americans are going to be getting monthly reminders of what Democrats did for them.

New Polls: Biden's Approval Roaring As GOP Numbers Plunge

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

It's not particularly surprising that Congressional Republicans—desperate for something to paper over their Trump-inspired rifts—would rally around blocking key pieces of President Biden's agenda.

What is notable, however, is them falling in line against Biden's concerted efforts to get a handle on the pandemic, get Americans back to work, get schools reopened, and restore a sense of normalcy to everyday life. Those efforts are now winning Biden a similar level of support among the American public as his wildly popular COVID-19 rescue plan is.

A new Associated Press-NORC poll released Friday found that 70 percent of Americans back Biden's handling of the response to the pandemic, including 44 percent of Republicans—a very similar level of support to what most surveys have found for Biden's COVID-19 relief package.

Biden's overall job performance approval came in at a strong 60 percent, but it's notable that he's doing ten points better on pandemic-specific issues. It suggests the popularity of Biden's pandemic relief is redounding to his benefit more broadly, along with his other efforts to speed up vaccine distribution and more generally provide palpable leadership on the issue. A Harris tracking poll this week also found public approval of vaccine distribution has risen to 66 percent, a 15-point jump in a single month.

Republicans, by prominently opposing that relief bill, are also broadly seen by the public as trying to jam Biden's efforts to improve the economy and combat the pandemic. A new Navigator Research poll found that 52 percent of Americans say Republicans in Congress are "blocking" Biden's efforts to improve the economy (just 20 percent say Republicans are helping) while a plurality of 40 percent say the same about Biden's efforts to combat the pandemic (just 31 percent say Republicans are helping).

Bottom line, in numerous polls, the American public likes both Biden's show of initiative and his specific initiatives on the pandemic.

Republicans, not so much. And this is the hill they have apparently chosen to die on.

Party Leaders Shrug As Trump Declares War On GOP Dissidents

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The two Republicans heading up the party's efforts to retake control of Congress in the midterms all but declared war on any GOP lawmaker who dares to cross Donald Trump between now and 2022.

On Friday, both Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) copped to the fact that not only did they fail to get a commitment from Trump not to make primary targets of their caucus members, but they also had no intention of doing so. Both men are also charter members of the Sedition Party, having voted to reject congressional certification of Joe Biden's victory even after Trump's murderous mob stormed the Capitol complex on January 6.

"I don't have a commitment on that," McCarthy told reporters Friday during a press conference, adding that he's working "closely" with Trump on "endorsements to win seats in the House."

The ten members of McCarthy's caucus who voted to impeach Trump face the most immediate threat from a Trump-backed 2022 primary. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, in particular, has drawn Trump's ire. Earlier this week, Cheney took a whack at Trump once again, telling reporters she didn't think Trump should be "playing a role in the future of the party or the country." McCarthy, on the other hand, flew down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump's ring in the weeks following the January 6 insurrection because he just wants to be Speaker of the House that badly.

As a nice touch, McCarthy wouldn't say whether he would help Cheney in her reelection bid. "Liz hasn't asked me," offered McCarthy. With friends like that ...

And then there's Scott, who's chairing the campaign arm of the Senate Republican caucus, basically spewing venom at Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Thune of South Dakota. Murkowski is the sole GOP senator who both voted to convict Trump and faces a 2022 reelection bid, while Thune has repeatedly said the party should steer away from Trump's cult of personality.

"I never talked to [Trump] about that," Scott told The Wall Street Journal of Trump refraining from endorsing potential primary opponents. "Many are saying it is my job to mediate between warring factions on the right and mediate the war of words between party leaders … Well, I have news for them—I'm not going to mediate anything."

With friends like that ... oh wait, I already said that.

In any normal party, a basic commitment to do no harm to incumbent lawmakers would be standard. But not in today's Republican Party, where fascist loyalty to Trump supersedes all other rules of engagement. It's a truly special time to be a Republican—and goddess help us all if this version of the party ever regains control of the country.

Graham Heads To Mar-A-Lago For ‘Peace’ Talk With Trump

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's already doomed, which is why Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the perfect person to head south on a mission to soothe the mangy ruffled feathers of Donald Trump.

Here's how CNN frames the mission: "Graham plans to spend his time on the golf course with Trump -- ideally convincing the former president that regaining congressional majorities for Republicans will help bolster his own presidential legacy. This person said Graham wants to be 'constructive,' urging Trump to use his influence for the party's good."

A little golf, a few chats, and—voilá!suddenly Trump is going to morph from a self-obsessed ghoul into a vision of magnanimity willing to table his own concerns for the greater good. That seems realistic.

One thing Graham is right about is the fact that the internecine warfarebetween Trump and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a ginormous cumulonimbus cloud hanging over Senate Republicans heading into 2022.

"They're now at each other's throat," Graham told Fox News this week, adding, "I'm more worried about 2022 than I've ever been. I don't want to eat our own." Graham has also repeatedly insisted that Trump is the must-have, essential GOP ingredient to prevailing in the 2022 midterms, despite the fact that to date, there's zero evidence of Trump delivering his voters when he's not on the ticket.

In the meantime, McConnell has reportedly left Trump for dead and—hoo boy!—nothing ticks off Trump more than people who won't give him the time of day.

On the flip side of the Graham equation is one group that is indeed giving Trump the time of day: the never-Trump Republican Accountability Project. The group just launched a $1 million ad campaign targeted at Fox News viewers defending the GOP lawmakers who voted to convict Trump of betraying the country by inciting the Jan. 6 riot.

"After our capitol was attacked, our representatives in Congress were threatened, and a police officer was killed, Sen. Murkowksi had a choice," the narrator of one TV ad says, according to Politico. "She could look the other way and pretend it didn't happen or she could stand up and say, 'This can never happen again.' Thank you, Sen. Murkowski, for upholding your oath to the constitution and for protecting our country."

The campaign, which also includes placing billboards in some of the Republicans' home districts, is in part a response to the Republican state parties across the country that were quick to censure GOP lawmakers who voted to convict.

But the ad campaign is also a reminder that, far from being a fight that's confined to Beltway sniping, this GOP civil war will continue to bleed into the states throughout the 2022 cycle.

As GOP Ruptures, Former Officials Discuss Forming Breakaway Party

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The only good news about Republican lawmakers being hermetically sealed off from reality is that they can't see the headlights of the freight train that's bearing down on their party. And right now, that train appears to be gaining momentum at a rapid clip as political forces in the country pile on.

The most recent sign of trouble ahead for the GOP is a serious discussion among dozens of former Republican officials to form a "center-right breakaway party" to go head-to-head with the Republican Party for conservative voters. "More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of 'principled conservatism,' including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law—ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump," writes Reuters.

This is just one of a handful of recent events that suggest the Republican Party is headed for calamity, at least in the short term. Here are a few other notable factors:

  • Voters are fleeing the GOP: Voter registration data from states across the country show an unusually high exodus of people changing their party affiliation away from Republicans following the Jan. 6 insurrection. I documented this phenomenon last week, and The New York Times has some updated numbers this week, including the loss of more than 10,000 voters in Arizona, nearly 8,000 in North Carolina, and more than 12,000 in Pennsylvania—all states that will figure prominently in control for the Senate in 2022. "Nearly every state surveyed showed a noticeable increase" in GOP defections, writes the Times.
  • The Republican Party's image is plummeting: Americans' views of the GOP have slid seven points since early November to being seen favorably by just 37 percent of the public, according to Gallup. It's not the historic low of 28 percent the party reached when its leaders forced a government shutdown over their doomed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the trend line also hasn't evened out yet—so who knows. Nonetheless, it's a damning data point when paired up with the voter registration fallout since the Capitol siege. It also does not bode well for the GOP ahead of a vote on whether to acquit Donald Trump of impeachment charges that he incited the murderous mob. Voters are already registering their disgust with the party in tangible ways and GOP acquittal votes will likely serve to reinforce those feelings.
  • Donor backlash against the GOP continues: Last month, a number of high-profile corporate donors signaled an initial breakwith the Republican Party after 147 House members and eight senators chose sedition over patriotism in rejecting the certification of the election results. Many of those corporations said they were suspending political giving while they weighed the path forward. One of them, Microsoft, ultimately announced last week that it was halting donations through 2022 to Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying Biden's victory. Republicans are currently doing nothing to win back those donors as they prepare to block efforts at holding Trump accountable for his insurrection and preventing him from ever holding office again.

Taken together, these factors suggest the Republican Party is facing a totally unique set of circumstances—something beyond a momentary dip in popularity.

As Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, told the Times of the voter defections, "This is probably a tip of an iceberg." It's not so much the numbers, he said, as the overall feeling those registration changes likely indicate.

"Since this is such a highly unusual activity, it probably is indicative of a larger undercurrent that's happening, where there are other people who are likewise thinking that they no longer feel like they're part of the Republican Party, but they just haven't contacted election officials to tell them that they might change their party registration."