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Minority Rules

Not even a third of Republicans are happy Kevin McCarthy was ousted, yet here we are.

Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary Jim Jordan is seen during a hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday September 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

A committed minority thwarts the will of the majority of the party. And after proving themselves a credible threat by their willingness to hand victory to the other side, that small share manages to take control of the whole operation.

That’s been the story of the Republican Party for the past eight years. We see it very much in the broken House Republican Conference, which is now following the path that the party as a whole has been taking since first acquiescing to Donald Trump’s hostile takeover bid in 2016. 

Radicals don’t usually beat pragmatists, but when insurgents can take advantage of a majority’s instinct for self-preservation, the fulcrum on which power tips can quickly move to the extremes.

Having Rep. Jim Jordan as speaker of the House would be very bad news for Republicans hoping to maintain or enlarge their majority in the lower chamber next year. It does not take an oracle to see how shutdowns, impeachment, and continual chaos would weaken Republicans chances up and down the ballot.

If persuadable voters are turned off by Trump—which they are—Trump running with a Freedom Caucus Congress would be doubly toxic. Trump understandably wants a House that will emphasize tormenting Biden and running interference on the former president’s many prosecutions, but it’s hard to think of a more damaging combination in the 40 or 50 districts that will not only decide the House majority but that will tip the Electoral College one way or another.

This is as plain as it was in 2022 when Trump inserted himself into what Republicans wanted to be a referendum on the unpopular president in power, not the even more unpopular former chief executive. Trump pushed weak candidates in key midterm races and wasted a massive GOP advantage. His selfishness then, as now, comes at an extraordinary price for the rest of the party.

A new CNN poll shows Trump with the support of more than half of Republicans nationally, which is where most surveys put the race today. But the poll reveals a notable separation underneath that broad division. Fifty-six percent of Trump backers approved of the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, compared to 37 percent in the rest of the party.

As for how the GOP should behave going forward, 52 percent of Trump supporters said House Republicans ought to stand firm and not compromise with Democrats. That’s compared to the rest of the party, where 77 percent said Republicans should work across the aisle.

So, fewer than a third of Republicans are happy that Rep. Matt Gaetz and seven other House members toppled McCarthy and an even smaller number want Republicans to make no deals with Democrats. And yet, Jordan is now the House Republicans’ designee to be speaker.

The majority of House Republicans know this would be a bad idea, but the only way to prevent that happening is if the pragmatists and institutionalists adopt the tactics of the insurgents and vote against the candidate of their own party. Can people who have spent years arguing for unity and tranquility learn to be troublemakers themselves?

Conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party have been failing that test pretty consistently since 2015.

Politico: “Top officials with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign made the case to a gathering of top donors opposed to Donald Trump on Friday that rival GOP candidate Nikki Haley could not defeat the former president in a head-to-head matchup. If they wanted to stop Trump, they argued, the Florida governor remained their best bet. In another presentation made to the same group, Haley’s team argued the opposite. DeSantis’ campaign had flatlined, they insisted, pointing to data that showed that the former UN ambassador was ascendent and, therefore, the logical choice for the anti-Trump crowd. Haley’s team, according to a person familiar with the arguments they made, pointed to public and private polling that showed her ahead of DeSantis in key early voting states. They also noted that Haley’s campaign has more cash on hand than DeSantis, who is leaning heavily on an allied super PAC to pick up much of the tab.”

Haley sees a surge in fundraising: New York Times: “Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, has ramped up her fund-raising in recent months, a sign that her performance in the early presidential debates may have invigorated her 2024 candidacy. Ms. Haley, who, according to her campaign, has raised $11 million across her political committees, entered October with significantly more cash on hand that can be spent on the 2024 primary than Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida — $9.1 million to roughly his $5 million. … Her campaign said it had saved roughly half of every dollar it had raised into her 2024 account in the last three months. … Overall, her campaign has topped 100,000 unique contributors. … Ms. Haley’s campaign [is] expanding its operations in Iowa, opening a headquarters in Clive and hiring staff and advisers.” 

George Will: Tim Scott should drop out and endorse Haley: Washington Post: “By catalyzing a coalescence around Haley, Scott could transform the nation’s political mood. As long as the Republican race pits Donald Trump against a cluster of lagging pursuers, the nominating electorate cannot ponder a binary choice. When, however, it is Trump against one experienced, polished, steely and unintimidated adversary, voters can internalize this exhilarating reality: There is a choice suitable for a great nation. … If after Super Tuesday (March 5), a Trump nomination seems highly probable, a serious third-party candidacy will become probable, as will multiplying uncertainties. If, however, Haley deflates the Trump blimp, the Democratic Party also could benefit. … Haley has established policy preeminence among her Republican rivals. … Their replication of the tragedy of the commons will, unless disrupted now, produce a national tragedy.” 

But Trump extends his lead in the money race: AP: “Donald Trump’s campaign said Wednesday it raised more than $45.5 million in the third quarter of the year — a haul that far surpasses Ron DeSantis. … The Trump campaign says it ended September with over $37.5 million cash on hand, bolstered by fundraising off his legal challenges. DeSantis’ team said Wednesday they intend to report raising $15 million during the third quarter of 2023 — less than his $20 million second quarter fundraising total. … In releasing fundraising numbers hours after the DeSantis news, the Trump campaign sought to show dominance over the Florida governor. … Trump’s campaign said it made $3 million by selling coffee mugs, T-shirts and posters of the mug shot taken of him in Atlanta.” 

Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 40.8%
Average disapproval: 56.2%
Net score: -15.4 points 

Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.4 points                        
Change from one month ago: ↓ 2.4 points

[Average includes: 40% approve-57% disapprove; Marquette: 39% approve-61% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Maris: 43% approve-51% disapprove; Monmouth: 39% approve-55% disapprove; NewsNation: 43% approve-57% disapprove]

Polling Roulette

Author Harrison Scott Key takes a slow train for Longreads: “In 2014, the National Rail Passenger Corporation, best known as Amtrak, pulled off one of the epic marketing coups of U.S. railroad history—granted, there haven’t been many of late—when they announced the Amtrak Residency for Writers, where they would send 24 writers on cross-country trips, meals and beds gratis, to write the Great American Novel. The announcement of this perfect marriage of two beloved dinosaurs—trains and publishing!—set Twitter aflame, like hearing Panasonic and Oldsmobile had teamed up to launch a new line of gas-powered fax machines. … Amtrak received 16,000 [applications], including mine. Having just landed my first book deal, I was in urgent need of somewhere quiet to finish the manuscript, and when I think ‘quiet,’ I think ‘trains.’ I knew just which one I wanted to ride. I was born hardly a mile from Central Station in Memphis, Tennessee, midpoint for that fabled locomotive of song, Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.”

AP: “The race to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards tops the list of contests Louisiana voters will decide [today] in one of only three gubernatorial elections scheduled for this year. … If no candidate receives a majority in [today’s] election, the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on Nov. 18. … Republican hopefuls include state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, state Treasurer John Schroder, former business trade association CEO Stephen Waguespack, and three others. … Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson is the only major Democratic candidate. … With Republicans splitting the vote among seven active candidates, the winner may not be known until a runoff in November.”

Kentucky challenger looks to tie Beshear to Biden: Louisville Courier Journal: “The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce hosted Thursday the first face-to-face debate between Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron in Kentucky’s race for governor. … Cameron was eager early and often in the debate to tie Beshear to the president who lost Kentucky to Donald Trump by 26 percentage points in 2020, laying much of the blame for the state of the economy and the coal industry at the feet of Biden, while saying Beshear has done nothing to resist him. … Cameron referenced Biden’s name at least 16 times in the debate. … The governor countered that Cameron’s attacks showed that ‘having an overly partisan governor is dangerous.’”

Ohio abortion fight ratchets up ahead of November vote: Politico: “Anti-abortion groups are banking on Ohio to end the movement’s run of state-level losses and create a blueprint for battles in 2024 and beyond. In four weeks, voters in the Buckeye State will decide whether to enshrine abortion protections into the state constitution. … Conservatives also see Ohio’s referendum as a bellwether for 2024, when abortion rights could be on the ballot in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri and will feature heavily in Democratic efforts to hold the White House. … Anti-abortion advocates are also hoping to win by going after voting blocs they feel their counterparts neglected in other states—including college students, communities of color and people who support abortion rights. … A July USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University poll found nearly 60 percent of Ohio voters supported the abortion-rights proposal.”

The Hill: “Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is trailing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) by 13 points in the latest poll of voters in the state. … The Emerson College survey … showed Justice with 41 percent support, and Manchin with 28 percent; 15 percent of voters said they would support someone else in such a scenario, and 16 percent are undecided. … Manchin, however, wins a match-up against Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), who is challenging Justice for the Senate Republican nomination. … Manchin has previously said the Senate Republican primary will be a battle, implying his eventual opponent would be weakened. … Manchin said in August that he was ‘thinking seriously’ about leaving the Democratic Party.” 

Tester doubles Sheehy’s fundraising in Montana as Rosendale hesitates: KTVH: “This was the first quarter Tim Sheehy, a businessman and Navy veteran from Gallatin County, had to report his fundraising. On Tuesday, his campaign announced he raised more than $2.8 million over three months. … [Sen. Jon Tester’s] campaign said it raised more than $5 million in the third quarter—following another $5 million each of the previous two quarters. They reported having more than $13 million available to spend at the start of October. … There’s still speculation U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale may join the Republican race for Senate.” 

GOP frets over likely three-way race in Arizona: New York Times: “Many political strategists had figured that a re-election bid from Ms. Sinema, who dropped her Democratic affiliation last year, would split votes in her former party and increase the odds that Ms. Lake, the controversial front-runner for the Republican nomination, would be sworn in to the Senate. … But private and public polling has suggested that Ms. Sinema is viewed much more favorably by Republican voters than by Democrats. Those surveys indicated that Mr. Gallego would benefit in a three-way race. … In response, Ms. Lake’s campaign has produced a nine-page internal memo aimed at reassuring the party that she stands to benefit the most from a three-way race.” 

Dodger legend Steve Garvey joins California Senate race as a Republican: Los Angeles Times: “Garvey announced Tuesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Dianne Feinstein, a gambit by a political newcomer banking on his baseball fame and affable demeanor to overcome the long odds Republicans face in this solidly Democratic state. … Garvey may possess enough star appeal to consolidate California’s GOP vote and lure enough admiring baseball fans to wind up on the November ballot. If so, only one of the three formidable Democrats currently in the running may survive past the March primary. … Garvey is arguably the most well-known Republican to mount a statewide campaign since Olympian Caitlyn Jenner. … Democrats are doubtful that Garvey will affect the outcome of the race, given California’s left-leaning electorate.” 

Pyramid scheme? Menendez hit with Egyptian foreign agent charge: New Jersey Globe: “U.S. Senator Bob Menendez was charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Egyptian government today, adding another charge to the already-shocking federal indictment released against Menendez last month. … The new charge is particularly explosive given that, for some of the time period covered by the indictment, Menendez was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—making him possibly the single most powerful member of Congress on foreign affairs at the time. … [The] additional charge, which was brought by a federal grand jury in Manhattan, will likely further intensify the massive pressure Menendez has faced to resign.”

Politico: “Just hours after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he would run for president as an independent, more than $11 million gushed to the coffers of the super PAC supporting him. … [PAC co-founder] Tony Lyons is also in talks with billionaire-entrepreneur Elon Musk to court his support, he said in an interview with POLITICO following Kennedy’s speech in Philadelphia. … American Values 2024 said that the donations on Monday came from ‘people of all political persuasions.’ … The PAC has raised money from prominent Democratic donors like Abby Rockefeller, but the majority of the money given to the PAC has come from Republican donors, including former Donald Trump donor Tim Mellon.”

Political analyst Kevin Phillips, who foretold Reagan realignment, dead at 82—New York Times

How Dem gerrymandering promoted GOP extremism in Illinois—Washington Post

SCOTUS appears to favor South Carolina GOP in gerrymandering case—Politico

“I’m wearing the scarlet letter after the week I just had last week being a woman up here and being demonized for my vote and for my voice.”—Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) explaining to reporters why she was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a giant “A” in a reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, a move commentator Mary Katherine Ham said made the congresswoman “Hester Prynne-stagram.”


“If a No Labels candidate got enough electoral votes so that no one clears 270, doesn’t that just kick it to the House and then the Republicans there would just vote for Trump? That seems like the second most likely outcome. The first being that they get no electoral votes at all. I seem to remember that was [Evan McMullin’s] strategy in 2016, except he thought he could get the House to vote for him.”—Mike Matzek, Slinger, Wisconsin

First, as an aficionado of great American place names, let me say that I am absolutely thrilled by your hometown, Mr. Matzek. I’m sure I’ve never been through Slinger, because I surely would have remembered it and would cherish it to this day. But I have been in your part of the world, so I know it’s a beautiful name in a beautiful place. One of the reasons I am so stingy with the “what ifs” is that once we throw open the doors to unlikely scenarios, it’s hard to set new barriers to considering potential outcomes. But, yes, the most likely scenario is that No Labels, a Kennedy-Libertarian fusion ticket, nor any party other than the two major ones would not win any states outright. And, also yes, the hope of those backing McMullin in 2016 was that if he could win Utah’s six electoral votes it could deny both major-party candidates an Electoral College majority and throw the decision to the House of Representatives. He did surprisingly well in the Beehive State and lost to Donald Trump by only … 23 points. If we’re indulging ourselves, though, and playing out the scenario of no candidate hitting 270, it’s less certain that the Republican nominee, particularly if it is Donald Trump, would prevail. Each state’s delegation would get one vote, decided by the members in the House themselves. In the current Congress, Democrats hold majorities in the delegations of 22 states, Republicans in 26, and two states, North Carolina and Minnesota are evenly divided. But it would be the next Congress, the one elected next November, that would decide. There’s every reason to think right now that Republicans will lose some seats in the House. Could it be enough to tip the partisan balance in enough delegations to favor Democrats? Are there enough dissident Republicans in narrowly divided delegations to flip a few? Could a bipartisan No Labels candidate emerge as a consensus in the case of partisan deadlock? Probably, none of that will happen. But it’s undeniable that we live in some very strange days, so considering odd outcomes seems prudent. But I hope we can put the “what ifs” back on the shelf for a while.        

“I keep reading (mostly in comments) in National Review and in some of The Dispatch newsletters that many readers believe America will go up in flames or something to that effect if Biden and the Dems win in 2024. … I see the far left as stupid rather than evil and the far right as deluded and, in some cases, clearly evil. Trump and MAGA seem far more dangerous than the progressive left, but I may be missing something. Please advise.”—Eileen Klees, Chicago, Illinois

First, Ms. Klees, if you want to read the comments, please, please do not mistake them for a reflection of popular sentiment. They are not. At their best, comments sections can be a vibrant, respectful conversation between engaged, informed adults who form a community that can add context and new insights. I know The Dispatch works hard to offer that to our members. But most online comments are worse than nothing, generated by a handful of addicted superusers looking to generate discord, dunk on their rival trolls, or cheer on like-minded combatants. Evil is real in this fallen world in which we live, a fact that we are constantly being reminded of by the news at home and abroad. But in American politics, there’s very little of it. The overwhelming majority, I’d guess north of 95 percent, of people who are real participants in public life believe that they are doing the right things and a number nearly as large have firm moral boundaries around what kind of behavior and tactics they will condone. It’s sadly true that in the gap between those groups there are a number of well-intentioned people who, in substantial part because of their rotten media diets (including too much time in comments sections), abandon principles and decency because of what they believe to be a crisis. As I often remind folks, the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6 thought they were the good guys, a view that had been nourished by then-President Donald Trump and his many enablers in the media. And a mob, once summoned, is hard, if not impossible, to control. The big, dangerous fiction that animates much of our politics these days is that America is doomed, a failing nation in decline. The truth is that there has never been a better time or a better place in all of history to be alive. We are, as a whole, rich, free, healthy, and safe. But most of our politicians currently depend not on persuasion, but panic. A populace that is led to believe we are living at the end of days will vote and act accordingly. That is an affliction of the left and the right, but the Republicans are very clearly in the more apocalyptic mood, and that suits Trump perfectly. Convincing people that it’s either him or oblivion is to a demagogue’s great advantage. But I encourage you to rebel. Skip the comments and see America for what it was, is, and Lord hear our prayer, will remain.

You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the multi-tasking Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


(Photos by Angela Weiss and Mandel Ngan/ AFP/Getty Images)
(Photos by Angela Weiss and Mandel Ngan/ AFP/Getty Images)

The legal axiom holds that “hard cases make bad law.” But the opposite usually proves to be true for the Cutline Contest. There’s nothing inherently funny about the split-screen picture for this week’s contest, but you people always rise to the occasion.

“You say rock, I say paper. It’s a simple game, Joe”—Tom Walk, Greensboro, North Carolina

Winner, Turn Yourself Around Division:

“Joe, I said, ‘You put your left hand in.’ You can’t even Hokey Pokey…”—Allan Hardcastle, Lincoln, California

Winner, Sy Sperling Division:

“Hair Club for Men Presents: ‘Who Wore it Best?’”—Jeremy Felden, Alpine, California

Winner, Delaware Ripple Division:

“Joe, there’s a new flavor at Baskins & Robbins …”—Albert Turk, Benson, Arizona

Winner, Kramden ‘24 Division:

“One of these days Donald, pow! right in the kisser!”—Bill Funke, Winfield, Missouri

Winner, Ice Hole Division:

Grumpy Old Men 3 is going to be a doozy.”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia

Winner, An Echo Not a Choice Division:

“Blue tie, dark suit, white shirt, U.S. flag lapel pin, hair concern, whitened teeth, already elected once, oldest ever … the choice couldn’t be more clear.”—Richard Basuk, New York, New York

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


Detroit Free Press: “There are plenty of unconventional ways to tie the knot and honeymoon, and this German couple took things to the next level by celebrating at a McDonald’s. … Mike and Kathi Haller, from Munich, celebrated their marriage at a McDonald’s in Croswell, Michigan and included 23 guests, who were primarily from Germany. The couple, who frequently travel the world and are McDonald’s ‘mega fans,’ set out for an American wedding day experience following their engagement. … Kathi said one of the highlights from the day was the McDonald’s outing itself. … The newlyweds indulged in the classic McDonald’s experience by sharing a cheeseburger, fries, McNuggets, and Coca-Cola following a unique drive-thru experience where the bride and groom rolled up to the restaurant in a McDonald’s Ford Mustang. Grimace also joined in the festivities.” 

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.