Please excuse me, gentle readers, but I am writing to you from a deep eddy of book tour craziness. It’s a strange feeling to be asked to talk so much about something that is very personal, both because it includes some of my own experiences and because the topic is the vocation that I love and have been steeping in since I was 17 years old.
That’s not like doing the, as Jonah would say, “rank punditry” that is my forte, nor is it like promoting my previous book, which was a political history. This is all very close to home.
But I am very grateful for all the attention the book is getting, and the wonderful, overwhelmingly positive response. I never dreamed I’d be so high in the catbird seat. But it also means that I haven’t been in much of a place to stay up on politics. Fortunately, my new American Enterprise Institute colleague Nate Moore is getting in the swim of things with alacrity. Most of what you’ll find below is what he picked, hulled, and served up for you.
I am most eager to get back to writing about the news rather than the news about the news, and with just 75 days to go until the midterm elections, it couldn’t happen at a better time. I’ll be back and ranker than ever next week.
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: 40.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.0 percent
Net score: -15.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.6 points
Change from one month ago: ↑ 6.4 points
[Average includes: Marist: 39% approve-57% disapprove; NBC News: 42% approve-55% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve-58% disapprove; Ipsos/Reuters: 41% approve-54% disapprove; Monmouth University: 38% approve-56% disapprove; Suffolk University/USA Today: 39% approve-56% disapprove]
Generic congressional ballot
Democrats: 43.1 percent
Republicans: 41.8 percent
Net advantage: Democratic Party +1.3 points
Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↑ 0.7 points
Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↑ 0.7 points
[Average includes: NBC News: 45% Democrat, 47% Republican; Fox News: 41% Democrat, 41% Republican; Ipsos/Reuters: 35% Democrat, 33% Republican; Monmouth University: 49% Democrat, 46% Republican; Suffolk University/USA Today: 44% Democrat, 40% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 45% Democrat, 44% Republican]
TIME OUT: HOLY DOPPLEGANGERS, BATMAN
New York Times: “[Dr. Manel Esteller] had previously studied the physical differences between identical twins, and he wanted to examine the reverse: people who look alike but aren’t related. … The researchers used facial recognition software to quantify the similarities between the participants’ faces. Sixteen of those 32 pairs achieved similar overall scores to identical twins analyzed by the same software. … ‘These people really look alike because they share important parts of the genome, or the DNA sequence,’ [Esteller] said. That people who look more alike have more genes in common ‘would seem like common sense, but never had been shown,’ he added. … Because the doppelgängers’ appearances are more attributable to shared genes than shared life experiences, that means that, to some extent, their similarities are just the luck of the draw, spurred on by population growth. There are, after all, only so many ways to build a face. … It’s not unreasonable to assume that you, too, might have a look-alike out there.”
DEMS HIT HOPIUM BALLOONS AFTER SPECIAL ELECTION WIN
Wall Street Journal: “A win by Democrat Pat Ryan to fill an open U.S. House seat in New York’s Hudson Valley gave his party a jolt of good news as it tries to hang on to the chamber … prompting election watchers to downgrade their expectations for a Republican wave. … Republicans had grown increasingly confident of taking control of the House, pointing to voters’ worries about the state of the economy and inflation, as well as tendency of the party that controls the White House to lose seats in the midterms. But Mr. Ryan’s win … sparked new optimism among Democrats who had been bracing for a midterm wipeout. … Still, given Democrats slim majority in the House, most analysts still see a tough path for Democrats to maintain their majority this fall. “Republicans don’t need a wave to win back the House and the Senate,” [said] Nathan Gonzales, editor of the nonpartisan Inside Elections publication.
Debt cancellation a risky electoral gambit: CNN: “[President Joe Biden’s] move could stoke turnout among young voters this fall who had soured on Democrats, who, in recent elections have appealed to young college-educated voters and young suburban families. … [But] the enthusiasm gap could remain an issue for Democrats if their liberal base is peeved that Biden did not answer their calls for a much higher or total debt cancellation. … The sensitivity of Biden’s move was, meanwhile, underscored by the tepid reaction that it drew from some Democrats in tight midterm races. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Ohio, complained that it ‘sends the wrong message to the millions of Ohioans without a degree working just as hard to make ends meet.’ … For Republicans, the decision could be a chance to activate a working-class base, including many voters who may not be college graduates and will not benefit from what the GOP is branding as a government bailout for the elite.”
McConnell lowers expectations for GOP Senate candidates: Washington Post: “In an appearance back in his home state of Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) downplayed the odds of Republicans reclaiming the Senate… ‘I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,’ McConnell said, ‘Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.’ McConnell added: ‘Right now, we have a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 country, but I think when all is said and done this fall, we’re likely to have an extremely close Senate, either our side up slightly or their side up slightly.’ … Each party has approximately five seats they must worry about defending, with three or four of them in swing states. … [The Senate map] features some underperforming GOP candidates — most of whom were foisted upon the GOP with the help of Donald Trump.”
In sign of J.D. Vance’s weakness, GOP drops $28 million in Ohio: Plain Dealer: “A political action committee with close ties to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is launching a massive new ad campaign in Ohio, a clear sign that national Republicans are shifting more toward playing defense in the Buckeye State. … The Senate Leadership Fund is reserving $28 million worth of TV and radio ads that will air statewide…the new ad buy is a sign that Republicans continue to view the Ohio race as competitive as they prioritize races nationally. … ‘Would Republicans prefer to spend this money somewhere else? The answer is almost certainly yes, and if Rob Portman were running for re-election they almost certainly wouldn’t have had to have done this,’ [political analyst] Kyle Kondik said.”
Gov. Glenn Youngkin to stump nationally for GOP candidates: Politico: “Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is set to make a campaign stop next month in Nevada, his first appearance in early 2024 nominating state and part of a broader midterm push that’s coming amid speculation he’s weighing a presidential bid. … Other states Youngkin is expected to visit include New Mexico, Oregon, and Kansas — all states where Republican challengers are looking to knock off incumbent Democrats. The party is particularly focused on Nevada, where [Joe Lombardo], the Clark County sheriff, is looking to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. ‘My focus is on 2022,’ Youngkin told WJLA, the Washington, D.C.-area ABC affiliate. “Twenty-twenty-four is a long way off … We’ve got a giant agenda the rest of this year and into next year, and 2024 will happen when 2024 gets here.’”
Former Gov. Charlie Crist rejects any and all crossover support—National Review
RNC chair pleads with big donors for Senate cash infusion—Politico
Val Demings winning in fundraising, losing in polls—Tampa Bay Times
Trailing in Pennsylvania, Dr. Oz spins McConnell’s candidate quality jab—Mediaite
WITHIN EARSHOT: MONEY DOESN’T GROW ON TREES
“They’re not helping you out, because a lot of the money is going into trees. You know that, don’t you? It’s going into trees. We’ve got enough trees. Don’t we have enough trees around here?”—Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker on the Inflation Reduction Act at an event with the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“What is a [West Virginia] Toe Tap? I heard it referenced in a country music song but couldn’t find much online about it.”—Joseph Stevens, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I don’t know, but it sounds awesome! I assume it’s a reference to the kind of catchy music from West Virginians like Brad Paisley, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Bill Withers.
“It’s looking (at least to me) that the Republicans will fail to take either the Senate or the House during the 2022 midterm elections — not because the Democrats have done such a sterling job of governance, but because Donald Trump’s involvement in the primaries resulted in the nomination of weak candidates who will have made the election about the pretender Trump instead of about the incumbent Biden. The question is which top level Republican politician will be courageous enough say to Trump after his own loss in 2020, his costing the Republicans the Senate in 2021, and the failure of his candidates to wrest legislative majorities from the Democrats in 2022 the words that Senator Everett Dirksen said during the 1952 Republican National Convention to Thomas Dewey, the losing candidate in 1944 and 1948: ‘We followed you before, and you took us down the path to defeat!’”—Bob Foys, Chicago, Illinois
Democrats should be careful about counting their Senate seats before they’re hatched. It is true that the combination of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion and the success of the MAGA wing of the GOP in the party’s ongoing civil war has dimmed Republican chances this year. But even so, Democrats are still facing almost certain defeat in the House. The Senate is a tossup, but a little breeze could blow even weak candidates into office. Most of all, though, Democrats should remember that there is still time for the political climate to change yet again—maybe even twice. As President Biden’s decision to forgive student loans illustrates, there’s plenty of time for the party in power to take back the narrative. And as we know well these days, it’s usually worse to be the main story in an era of high voter dissatisfaction. It’s far better to be seen as the alternative.
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 fearless Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!
CUTLINE CONTEST: ROCK ‘EM SOCK ‘EM
As our August contest draws to a close, an impressive, *ahem* round of entries for the cutline contest for the photo of former President Donald Trump grabbing for the levers of power once again.
“So on these knuckles I’m gonna tattoo ‘Biden’ and on the left it’ll be ‘Sucks’. Biden sucks. Total disaster.”—Joel Stewart, Edmond, Oklahoma
I’m a great boxer. The best. My right hook is yuuuuge. Truly beautiful.”—Nico Ravenna, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I have the roundest, most luxurious knuckles. I prefer my Right. OK? I prefer my Right, but the Left gets overlooked. That I can tell you.”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia
“… and since the FBI didn’t correctly guess which hand held the nuclear launch codes, I had no legal obligation to turn them over.”—Peter Gessel, Riverton, Utah
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!
NPR: “Two tourists in Venice, Italy, infuriated the city’s mayor by riding motorized surfboards through the famed Grand Canal this week, prompting Mayor Luigi Brugnaro to call them ‘imbeciles’ who were making a mockery of Venice. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro posted video of the pair on Facebook and Twitter, asking everyone in his city to help find the surfers. As extra motivation, he offered a free dinner for anyone who could identify the two and bring them to justice. ‘Venice is NOT Disneyland,’ the mayor wrote as he posted a second video showing the pair skimming their boards under an arched bridge in the city widely known for its serene beauty. Passersby gaped and filmed the spectacle. …The surfing scofflaws are visitors from Australia who have now been hit with fines of 1,500 euros. …The mayor also wants to see them prosecuted for harming Venice’s image.”
Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a new book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.