RELAX, HAVE A JULEP
Primary season is like the Kentucky Derby. Whether you are obsessed with the horse race in the literal or figurative sense of the term, you have been focused on this spring’s contests for many months. But for normal consumers of news and sports, the month of May brings the surprise that things are getting serious.
And just like with the Run for the Roses, this month’s primaries are producing lots of rank speculation, often ill-informed.
We can draw a lot of information out of J.D. Vance’s victory in Ohio’s Republican Senate primary. It certainly can tell us a great deal about the power of Donald Trump inside his party, about the populist attitudes of Ohio’s electorate, and Vance’s own probably underrated abilities as a politician. We might even be able to look ahead to November and try to assess just how large Vance’s advantage over Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan will be in the general.
But we should be careful to not listen too closely to the touts hanging around the paddock. Ohio is not Nebraska; Vance is not Dr. Oz; Matt Dolan is not Brian Kemp. There are hints here, but not certainties.
One caution I would give you is that analysis of primaries tends to be overly focused on ideology. The No. 1 priority for primary voters in either party is the same: to beat the other team in November. The reason Republicans fell in line behind Trump in 2016 at the end of the presidential primaries was the desire to coalesce in order to beat Hillary Clinton. The same went for Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2020 with Donald Trump. Be careful whenever you hear people overinterpreting what may be practical choices as ideology.
Speaking of overinterpreted, I may have never seen any news story more overblown in discussion of political effects than the leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito.
Whether Roe v. Wade is actually reversed or just hobbled a bit will have political consequences for sure. But this will not be the determining issue of this year’s election or, probably, the election in 2024.
Americans’ opinion on abortion are very complicated and very personal. And those voters for whom the subject is a high priority are already aligned with one party or the other. That is not to say that this will not be a powerful motivator for core Democratic voters, to say nothing of its fundraising potential. I would only encourage you to maintain a little perspective here and not embrace the apocalyptic takes that have been flying around this week.
I have never been very good at picking Derby winners, but I have had some success at picking political horse flesh. I can assure you that it’s a bad idea to start picking long odds on either Trump’s influence on primaries or the political consequences of a change to Roe.
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: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 54 percent
Net score: -12 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.8 points
[Average includes: Ipsos: 44% approve-54% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve-53% disapprove; CNN/SSRS: 41% approve-59% disapprove; ABC News/Washington Post: 42% approve-52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve-52% disapprove]
Generic congressional ballot
Democrats: 43 percent
Republicans: 44.8 percent
Net advantage: Republican Party +1.8
Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↑ 1.2
[Average includes: Fox News: 39% Democrat, 46% Republican; ABC News/Washington Post: 46% Democrat, 45% Republican; NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College: 44% Democrat, 47% Republican; Quinnipiac University: 42% Democrat, 45% Republican; NBC News: 44% Democrat, 46% Republican]
TIME OUT: SIRI, WHICH WAY IS MECCA?
New York Times: “Walking through the courtyard of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on a recent afternoon, Nisreen Biqwaidar wore a pink Apple Watch on her wrist to count her steps and a green ring on her finger to count her religious recitations. ‘Every day I say, ‘God is great’ 1,000 times and ‘glory be to God’ 1,000 times.’ … The ring is superior to prayer beads, she said, because it ‘is faster and it stays on your hand.’ Throughout the day, each time she recites, she says, she presses a silver button on the ring and her tally on the digital monitor ticks up. At the end of the day, she presses a smaller reset button, clearing the ring for the next day’s remembrances. … Increasingly, Palestinians like Nisreen have turned to digital prayer counters to track their recitations, like a Fitbit for their Allahu akbars, Arabic for ‘God is great.’ … Many Muslims still favor prayer beads — which are often about 100 beads long but can be even longer — and the older faithful often keep their beads constantly in hand. But it can be hard to remember the total. Enter the prayer counters.”
NEBRASKA GOP PRIMARY A BIG DRAW
Nebraska Examiner: “The Nebraska GOP has picked up more than 8,400 members over the past two months, including about 6,400 more just during the month of April, according to figures from the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office. … John Hibbing, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor, said it is only ‘sensible’ that Democrats and nonpartisans would want to vote in the tight, three-way race between University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, Falls City businessman Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha. … Hibbing said most of those switching to the GOP are likely doing so to vote for Lindstrom, who has been perceived as the most moderate of the three top Republican candidates. Some, he said, might also be switching to vote for Pillen. … The political science professor said he doubted that any of those switching parties will be voting for Herbster … given the reporting of the last month, in which eight women have alleged that Herbster groped them…”
Trump candidate touts “tele-rally”: KETV: “Charles Herbster will host what’s being described as a ‘tele-rally’ Thursday evening with former President Donald Trump days ahead of the May primary. The call with voters comes on the heels of Sunday’s Greenwood, Nebraska, rally where Trump spoke before a crowd of thousands at the I-80 Speedway.”
In West Virginia Republican primary, it’s Manchin vs. Trump: CNN: “Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin appears to be taking sides in the bitter Republican primary in his home state of West Virginia that pits US Rep. David McKinley against Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney. In a 30-second video ad … Manchin says: ‘Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is all about us.’ McKinley and Mooney are facing off in the May 10 Republican primary for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District after the state lost a seat in redistricting following the 2020 census. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mooney last year after he voted against a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was a key part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. McKinley voted for the infrastructure package, which Biden later signed into law.”
Clyburn: “Party should embrace pro-life Democrats”: Texas Tribune: “The No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives [Jim Clyburn] charged into a raging national firestorm over abortion rights Wednesday as he visited Texas to campaign with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a rare Democrat who opposes the practice, in his hotly contested primary runoff. … Clyburn told reporters after an evening rally at an outdoor barbecue joint…‘I don’t believe we ought to have a litmus test in the Democratic Party. I think we have to bring as many people into the party as we possibly can.’ … Asked about the high court’s leaked opinion after the rally, Cuellar reiterated a statement he issued Tuesday evening. He criticized the draft opinion, saying it is ‘not based on precedent’ and ‘not incremental in nature like they should be.’ But he told reporters he is a Catholic and ‘you know my position,’ adding that many people in his district believe in ‘at least some sort of limitation on exception.’”
Polls show abortion attitudes are complex and ambivalent: AEI: “Polling over the years has shown that Americans do not want Roe overturned, but they have long been willing to put significant restrictions on its use. Polls have also shown that attitudes vary considerably by state. We know from Gallup’s polling in 2019 and 2020 that around a quarter say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views, while about half say it is just one of many important factors, and a quarter believe it is not a major issue affecting their vote. Will more people become single-issue abortion voters and which side will benefit? Will Congress act on the issue? What will different states do as a result of the decision? And what about the activists on both sides? Our crystal ball on this complex issue is cloudy indeed.”
Bernie-backed candidate falters again: Associated Press: “Democratic U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown beat former state Sen. Nina Turner for the second time since last summer, easily prevailing Tuesday in an Ohio primary billed nationally as a key showdown between the party’s more moderate establishment and its activist progressive wing. Brown, who had campaigned with South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the most senior Black member of Congress, and as a strong ally to President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, had topped Turner in July’s special election primary — and did so again. … A former Democratic Party county chair, Brown has only been in Congress a matter of months but came into the rematch with the power of incumbency. Turner, a leading surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, was endorsed by the Vermont senator and top progressive groups, who had hoped for a second-try upset.”
Bill DeBlasio, yes, that Bill DeBlasio, has messaging advice for Biden—The Atlantic
RIP Norman Mineta—San Jose Mercury News
Hochul appoints Rep. Anthony Delgado as lieutenant governor—New York Times
WITHIN EARSHOT: JUST TYPICAL COUSIN THINGS
“I was being crass with a friend, trying to be funny. We were acting foolish, and joking. That’s it. I’m NOT backing down.”—Madison Cawthorn’s tweet after a video of him wrestling naked with a male friend in a bed surfaced on the internet.
“Why are Republicans poised to do so well in the midterms? I understand there’s a lot of factors and midterms are referendums on the party in power—but c’mon! They don’t offer solutions or ideas for anything other than their fealty to Trump. I understand how irritating the “woke” stuff is, but how many more times do we need to hear about pronouns or youth gender transition? How is no one getting tired at this point of hearing the same thing over and over again? Also, all the bills state legislatures have passed on fighting the “culture war” are so poorly written, that they’re pretty much useless (like the Republican Party as a whole). For how terrible they are, isn’t it an indictment of our Democracy that they’re going to be rewarded with power?”— Lanie Kristoff, Boise, Idaho
One of the biggest problems that we have in American politics and government today is that neither party really seems to want to govern. Instead, they prefer to take their turn waiting like vultures for voters to become frustrated with the other side and reap their benefits in the next wave election. There are a lot of reasons this is true, most of them, I think, related to our very terrible primary election system. But, whatever the causes, the results are pretty obvious. We are reverse engineering a kind of parliamentary system instead of our far superior republican model of government. The only way problems are addressed is when a crisis emerges that forces bipartisan action. Most of the time, though, each side is waiting for unified control of Washington in order to jam through a bunch of policies favored by their respective team’s primary voters. The midterm curse is real, and even with a more successful record at governance, one would expect that President Biden would have followed all of his predecessors in the modern era, except for George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11, in facing losses in his first midterm. But imagine how things might look if Biden had taken more chances in his first two years and tried to pick up Republican support in the Senate from moderate or persuadable members on key issues. Rather than complaining about the failure of Democrats’ proposed changes to election laws, what if Biden had brought Mitt Romney and other Republicans into the negotiations to produce legislation narrowly aimed at preventing another effort like Trump’s 2020 power grab? Fears of base voters have in recent history driven presidents to trim their sails early in their presidencies and target narrowly partisan issues. That helps produce these wave elections, which then make problem solving even less likely. Like Democrats in 2018, Republicans are waiting around for a majority to fall off the back of a truck. It’s the smart play for them, but Biden and his predecessors have made it too easy.
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 gimlet-eyed Samantha Goldstein, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!
CUTLINE CONTEST: DON’T LOOK DOWN
We’ve made it to May, folks! And that means there’s a new cutline contest winner from April. Congratulations to Susan Carusi whose cutline on our April 7 note on the riot at the Chicago DNC in 1968, “A great time was had by all at the 2023 Oscars” had us chuckling. You have won a vintage, vinyl record of “Nixon’s the One” as sung by Connie Francis. Please email us with your address to claim your prize.
This week’s winner for the solemn picture of Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi huddling together is…
“Nancy Pelosi explains, ‘My eyes are up here, Chuck.’”—Michael Baughman, Inola, Oklahoma
“In the new crime drama Pelosi and Schumer, the detectives eye the corpse of the Democratic Party.”—George M. Olmsted, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Readers should send in their 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!
JUST TRYING TO GET READY FOR HOT GATOR SUMMER
Newsweek: “An unwanted reptile guest helped itself to one Florida family’s stash of drinks after busting into a garage last week. Karyn and Jamie Dobson were at their Collier County home watching TV on Wednesday night when, as they explained to WSVN News, they heard a loud crash. It was so loud, in fact, that they initially assumed that it must have been a car crash. … ‘I open the garage door about a quarter way, peek my head in, and there’s the alligator,’ Jamie added. … The alligator…had gotten into a box of Diet Coke and made a mess in the garage. The couple said that they were preparing for an upcoming party and had drinks banked up for the occasion. ‘There was Diet Coke spewing everywhere, because the gator was interested, tore open the box, had a few cans,’ Karyn told WSVN News. ‘Probably thought it was beer, maybe. I don’t know.’”
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 contributed to this report.