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Stirewaltisms: Dems Do Some Dirty Work for GOP 2024
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Stirewaltisms: Dems Do Some Dirty Work for GOP 2024

The January 6 committee's work highlighting Trump's scurrilous post-election behavior can only help Republicans stave off trouble in the next presidential election.

It must vex Democrats on the January 6 Committee to know that their work is helping Republicans fumigate their own party of 2020 election kookism. 

The hearings are probably not going to have much effect on midterm elections, which, thanks to a combination of the midterm curse for first-term presidents and a rapidly deteriorating economic situation, are shaping up to be a bad beating for the blue team. But the hearings are providing a valuable service to Republicans who need a way to move on from Donald Trump before the 2024 cycle gets underway. 

Primary results in South Carolina and Nevada this week show that Trump and his attempted usurpation remain popular in significant portions of the GOP. 

Nevada Republicans this week chose a nominee to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, probably the second most vulnerable Democrat in the upper chamber after Georgia’s Raphael Warnock. Silver State Republicans picked former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who worked hard to bolster Trump’s efforts to steal a second term. While Laxalt has a famous name and has been elected statewide before, his embrace of a fairly radical version of Trump nationalism and claims about the 2020 election will be a problem for Republicans trying to flip a seat in a blue-hued swing state. 

In South Carolina, primary voters ditched Rep. Tom Rice, who voted to impeach Trump for directing an angry mob toward the Capitol on January 6 as part of his scheme. Rep. Nancy Mace was able to hold on by dancing the same kind of two-step that her political benefactor, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has attempted. The message from two states that host early presidential nominating contests is that Trump is no liability, and Republican voters are willing to embrace some sketchy stuff about the 2020 election. 

As we have discussed before, one of the most pernicious things about Trump’s efforts has been the way it has denied his party the chance to make an inventory of assets and liabilities following a quadrennial defeat. Trump has convinced a considerable number of Republicans that he did not actually lose in 2020, as well as those who go along out of greed, ambition or fear. 

On the other hand, we have good evidence from this year’s primaries in the battleground state of Georgia, as well as in Nebraska and some other contests, that rejection of Trumpism and election denialism does not have to be a disfiguring liability in the GOP. 

That’s why the work of the January 6 Committee is so important for Republicans. It is not clear where the consensus has landed in the party about Trump’s failed hijacking. It will surely help some Republicans move on to hear so many members of their own party, including those in Trump’s inner circle, declare that Trump’s claims were at best conniving and at worst totally unhinged. Republican voters formed a phalanx around Trump to defend him against attacks from the political press and Democrats. But that’s different from wanting to nominate him for president a second time. 

The problem for Republicans is that Trump is not a good choice even if one lays aside the constitutional and characterological considerations about his abuse of his office. Take a look here at this chart which shows the difference in Trump’s performance in key counties from 2016 to 2020:

This broad cross-section of counties includes wealthy, predominantly Republican places like Ozaukee county in the Milwaukee suburbs; Macomb county in Michigan, a bastion of blue-collar voters; Fulton county, Georgia, with its substantial black population; Maricopa county in Arizona with its diverse and fast-growing population; and Northampton county in the heart of the eastern Pennsylvania region that helped deliver the Keystone State for Trump in 2016. Trump did worse in every one, even where Biden was not able to make gains on Hillary Clinton’s poor performance four years prior. If you want to see how much worse Trump 2020 was than Trump 2016, check this out. The following chart plots all of the methodologically sound polls from the 2016 and 2020 elections. The lines represent the rolling average of those polls. As you can see, Trump did about as well in 2020 as he did in 2016, but without Clinton to run against (and voter fatigue at the thought of a third consecutive Democratic term), Trump was sunk. 

We don’t know who Democrats are going to nominate, but we certainly know that Trump will be in worse condition in 2024 than his already weakened state in 2020. Not only would he lack the advantages of incumbency, he would be dragging around the baggage of his efforts to steal a second term. If Republicans nominate him again, they will be taking the same path that Democrats did more than a century ago with William Jennings Bryan, whom they nominated thrice to increasingly bad results. 

The Democratic-led investigation into January 6 and the 2020 election is doing a service to Republicans. That must be unpleasant for some on the blue team, but is probably unavoidable if they want to do the work they have set out to do. 


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.


STATSHOT

Biden job performance

Average approval: 38.8 percent

Average disapproval: 55.0 percent

Net score: -16.2 points

Change from one week ago: No change

Change from one month ago: ↓ 0.6 points

[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 39% approve-56% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve-57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 33% approve-55% disapprove; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 38% approve-53% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve-54% disapprove]

Generic congressional ballot 

Democrats: 43.4 percent

Republicans: 43.6 percent

Net advantage: Republican Party +0.2 points

Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↓ 0.8 points 

Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↓ 2.4 points

[Average includes: Fox News: 44% Democrat, 47% Republican; Ipsos/Reuters: 39% Democrat, 37% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 41% Democrat, 46% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 47% Democrat, 42% Republican; NBC News: 46% Democrat, 46% Republican]


TIME OUT: “A REAL NEW YORK APARTMENT”

New York Times: “As interest in short-term rental properties has risen over recent years, so too has interest in an even shorter-term rental opportunity: Booking private residences by the hour as alternatives to traditional sets and studios. …[T]he number of hosts listing residential properties on Peerspace [an online marketplace similar to AirBNB] increased by 300 percent from March 2021 to March 2022. Advertising a location on the platform is free, and Peerspace earns 15 percent of each booking. … In January 2021, [New York City special-education teacher Hattie Kolp] began advertising her apartment for hourly rentals…after someone from the platform…contacted her. While renters have appreciated the touches she has added, they’ve been particularly fascinated by the old-world charm of the unit, paying as much as $245 an hour to book it. ‘People are like, ‘Oh my God, it’s a real New York apartment,’’ she said.”


NEVADA SENATE RACE SET FOR UGLY CONTEST 

NBC News: “Adam Laxalt’s GOP primary win launched Wednesday what is poised to become one of the most closely watched, costliest and perhaps among the nastiest Senate races in the country, with results that have implications for how the battleground presidential state swings in 2024. … Millions of dollars have already poured into the race…with Democrats and allied groups beginning their attacks on Laxalt during the primary election. Both campaigns were already up Wednesday morning with attack ads, with [incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto] hitting Laxalt on ties to big oil and Laxalt’s campaign blaming Cortez Masto’s leadership for rising crime and dismantling the border. … Mike Noble, who conducted independent polls throughout the Nevada primary, said both parties must pay close attention to Latinos, who can hold major sway in the general election. ‘You’re seeing Latinos getting more and more engaged,’ he said. ‘That can be an X factor in the general [election].’”

Trumpism blooms with Nevada primaries: New York Times: “Jim Marchant, one of the organizers of a Trump-inspired “America First” slate of candidates who continue to question the legitimacy of the 2020 election, easily won the Republican nomination for secretary of state in Nevada, a key political battleground. … In the general election, he will face Cisco Aguilar, a Democratic lawyer who once worked for former Senator Harry Reid, in what will be a closely watched race that could hinge on the outcome of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s re-election bid. … Recent meetings and events held by the “America First” slate have featured prominent adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and the candidates have often traveled to other states to speak at rallies focused on the 2020 election. Mr. Marchant is the fourth member of the group to succeed in securing a Republican nomination…”

House incumbent toppled in South Carolina: Washington Post: “Competing wings of the Republican Party collided across the country Tuesday, with a pair of congressional Republicans in South Carolina offering lessons in survival and defeat in GOP politics after a spat with former president Donald Trump. Rep. Tom Rice, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, lost, while Rep. Nancy Mace, who drew Trump’s ire after voting to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, won her primary against a Trump-backed challenger. … Tuesday’s vote … served as the latest checkpoint of the attitudes in the Republican Party and the ability of the former president to steer its direction. … Of the 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump … only six have opted to seek reelection. … Rice is the second to face voters in the primaries so far this year, and he has defended his vote. The other is Rep. David G. Valadao (R-Calif.), who is hoping to advance to November’s election.”

Cotton weighs a presidential bid in 2024: Politico: “Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton huddled with two dozen of his top donors Tuesday morning to describe his planning for a potential 2024 White House campaign, telling them a comeback bid by former President Donald Trump wouldn’t deter him from running. … While the senator lacks the national profile of some other would-be candidates, such as Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his team made a case for why the Arkansas Republican should be considered a serious contender. … When Cotton rose to speak, he argued that he had developed appeal to the populist and establishment wings of the party, which he contended would serve him well in a primary. The Cotton team also argued that they were in strong financial shape, noting that Cotton’s Senate campaign committee has $8 million that could immediately be transferred to a presidential effort, enough to sustain him through the early stages of a campaign.”

Poll shows Democrats favored in Pennsylvania: Erie [Pa] Times-News: “According to the Suffolk University Political Research Center, Democrat John Fetterman holds a 9-point lead over Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s closely watched U.S. Senate race. … In the state’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Josh Shapiro has a 4-point advantage over Republican Doug Mastriano… The early leads for Fetterman and Shapiro come despite a Republican surge that’s reduced Democrats’ registration lead from 8 percentage points to 4 percentage points since 2018… Fetterman and Shapiro also seem to be bucking the headwinds of a poor economy and disapproval of President Joe Biden. … In the Senate race, Fetterman has much broader appeal than his opponent. His favorable rating is at 45% compared to 27% who view him unfavorably. Half of all respondents view Oz unfavorably, while 28% have a favorable opinion of him. … On the gubernatorial side, Shapiro’s favorable/unfavorable ratio is 45/28. Mastriano’s is 36/37.”

Nadler challenges colleague in New York primary: National Review: “Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is running in a primary against Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, for New York’s twelfth congressional district. … After last year’s census, … the state legislature attempted to gerrymander the state’s congressional map … The state Court of Appeals responded by … appointing … a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University … to redo it. … It resulted in the major part of Nadler’s old seat and his longtime power base … being clubbed with the Upper East Side, which Maloney represents. … Rather than run in the new tenth district, Nadler chose to run against Maloney instead. … ‘[Maloney] has a clear advantage,’ [former New York Congressman Peter King] said. Nadler, meanwhile, ‘isn’t looking too good.’ Polls seem to suggest this, with the most recent Emerson College poll showing Maloney in the lead with 31 percent — ten points above Nadler …”

New Mexico’s Otero County forced to verify election results: Washington Post: “New Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the county commissioners in rural Otero County to do their jobs and certify election results, two days after they refused, citing unsubstantiated concerns about fraud. … The commissioners’ refusal has thrust the small county of 66,000 on the Texas border into the national spotlight at a time of rising concern over the long-term damage from former president Donald Trump’s repeated claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him … At stake are the results of the primary for the county’s one statehouse seat and several other positions, including a district court judge, county assessor and county sheriff. Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, who is scheduled to be sentenced this Friday for trespassing at the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, said the board continues to have concerns about election security even after three official audits of the 2020 results and a partisan review by ‘volunteers’ turned up no evidence of widespread fraud.”

Democrats endorse far-right Republicans in state primaries: New York Times: “Even as national Democrats set off alarms over the threats posed by far-right Republican candidates, their campaign partners are … promoting some of those same far-right candidates in G.O.P. primaries in hopes that extremists will be easier for Democrats to beat in November. These efforts—starkest in the Central Valley of California, where a Democratic campaign ad lashed Representative David Valadao, a Republican, for voting to impeach Donald J. Trump—have prompted angry finger-pointing and a debate within the party over the perils and wisdom of the strategy … ‘I voted the way I voted because I thought it was important,’ Mr. Valadao said of his impeachment vote. ‘But … to use it as ammo against us in the campaigns, and put people that they potentially see as a threat to democracy in a position where they can become members of Congress, it tells me that they’re not serious about governing.’”

BRIEFLY

Michael Powell: Woke language isolates activists—New York Times

House approves legislation to protect families of Supreme Court justices—Wall Street Journal

Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Atlanta Mayor, to lead White House Office of Public Engagement—NBC News

WITHIN EARSHOT: OOOF 

“I think we’re more interested in the red wave than we are in red flags, quite honestly, as Republicans, and we have a pretty good opportunity to do that.” — North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer talking to reporters about his concerns with an emerging bipartisan deal to try to curb mass shootings, including red flag laws to prevent mentally ill or unstable individuals from obtaining firearms.


[Ed. note: Some sad and glad tidings today as I mark the end of my friend Samantha Goldstein’s time with me at the American Enterprise Institute. I am thrilled for the opportunities that lie ahead for her, but so sorry to lose her as a colleague. One of the best parts about my work is that I get to collaborate with so many truly exceptional young people like Samantha. They not only make me think anew and expand my horizons, but affirm my confidence about the future of our republic. But there is a downside, too: They don’t stay long. Sam was a big part of bringing this note into being and an incredible help on all my various projects, particularly my new book. She was also always an advocate for you, dear readers, especially when I was tempted to skip the mailbag. It seemed fitting, then, to have her try her hand in answering your questions this week as part of her swan song, some Goldsteinisms, if you will.]

MAILBAG

“Most of what I know about NYC politics I know from listening to the Commentary Podcast. Their view seems to be [Eric Adams] may have run as relatively tough on crime but he isn’t doing any of the hard politics necessary to BE tough on crime. This is the problem the Dems will have to overcome: nobody believes they mean it.” — Richard Nevins, La Quinta, California

Thanks for your question, Richard. As a DC resident, I can tell you the crime issue has definitely been top of mind for my neighbors and myself. A major part of my job at AEI consisted of compiling and analyzing polls on Americans’ attitudes on these important topics. I began working here in May 2020 right before the killing of George Floyd and the racial reckoning that ensued. A Harvard/Harris Poll trend we’ve been tracking over the past two years is really illuminating on this front; when they first asked voters’ opinions on the police in June 2020, 60 percent viewed them favorability. As the summer continued and the outrage waned, Americans’ views on the police ticked up. The favorable response reached a high in May 2021 at 74 percent. In recent months as crime has become more salient for voters (especially elites), police approval is leveling off. Today it hovers between 67 and 69 percent. As a graduate of the University of Michigan’s fabulous political science department, I’d be remiss not to cite the thermostat theory of public opinion as a possible explanation. For those unfamiliar, the theory goes as follows: “When…activism increases, the public says ‘too hot’ and demands less. When…activism decreases, the public says ‘too cold’ demands more.” When voters realized the Democrats’ embrace of “defund the police” wasn’t actually solving racism – and actually led to more crime – the public turned against the mantra and increased their support for law enforcement. As to your question about voters’ disillusionment with the Democrats vis-a-vis crime, I think they’re still on the defense and trying desperately to shake that dogged association of being “soft on crime.” Eric Adams made fighting crime a central part of his platform, but the increased street violence and subway terror has put him in a tough spot. Police work is a stressful, scary job and the rhetoric about them no doubt contributed to the decrease in enrollments in police academies. 

“America is the only country in the world where the political parties don’t pick their own nominee for president. I am of the opinion that this has been a disaster. At any rate, if the country came to its senses and returned to the days of smoke filled rooms, who do you think the party bosses would choose to be the Republican nominee in 2024?” — Richard Baier, Pataskala, Ohio

Provocative question, Richard #2! I’m a staunch supporter of democracy and think the American voters should absolutely have a say in their representation. In today’s age when confidence in elections and the voting process is already so atrocious, changing our election system to a “smoke-filled room” would wreck the modicum of trust Americans (and in particular, strong partisans) still have. As my time here at AEI comes to a close, I look back on all the incredible work our scholars have done in this field with a newfound appreciation for American exceptionalism. I’ll be sad not to be a part of all the thought-provoking research we do here, but I’m grateful for all I’ve learned and, of course, the incredible mentorship I’ve received from Chris. I’m also thankful to all of you Dispatch readers for the community we’ve built over here at Stirewaltisms. It’s always the highlight of my week. 

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 anonymous. My colleague, the courageous Abbey Black, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack! 


CUTLINE CONTEST: BOUDIN BLANK 

Last week’s cutline of the exasperated, now former San Francisco District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, garnered some fantastic responses. Our winner this week is: 

“Oh @&$!, I had the Warriors in four”— Richard Basuk, New York, New York

Winner, dad joke division:

“The erstwhile San Francisco DA when he realized that his recall wasn’t Boudin well for him.”— Anson Walker, San Francisco, California

Winner, media elites division:

“WaPo management after reading Felicia Sonmez‘s tweet thread, after reading Lisa Rein‘s tweet, after reading Jose Del Real‘s thread, after reading Sonmez’s first tweet, after reading Dave Weigel‘s retweet.” — Brandon Cooper, Lombard, Illinois

Honorable mentionS: 

“You mean I wasn’t the Public Defender?”— Allan Hardcastle, Santa Rosa, California

“Wow. That must’ve been some party.”— Jack Funke, Poplar Bluff, Missouri

“Geez! Walgreens is out of my organic beard conditioner AGAIN?!? Why can’t they keep anything in stock?”— Bryan Gee, Lawrenceville, Georgia

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants 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! 


HE WAS TOLD THERE WOULD BE NO MATH 

KOVR: “A Rancho Cordova [Calif.] gas station manager who accidentally set his pumps at just 69 cents a gallon is speaking out after being fired. ‘Well, it was a mistake that I did, you know,’ said former gas station manager John Szczecina. Szczecina accidentally put a decimal in the wrong spot and began selling the $6.99 gas for just 69 cents. It cost the gas station $16,000 and it cost Szczecina his job. ‘And I thought, ‘this is a nightmare,” Szczecina said. ‘I put all three prices on there except the diesel, but the last one kind of didn’t go, you know, right.’ People started posting the low price on social media and calling friends and family. The lines formed fast to guzzle it up. Szczecina was fired Monday after the decimal point debacle. … The gas price glitch turned into a gift for drivers and a goodbye for a station manager who is now seeking a new job.”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a book on media and politics available August 23. Samantha Goldstein and Abbey Black contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt's Headshot

Chris Stirewalt

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.