GOP COULDN’T UNINSTALL TRUMP RANSOMWARE
There are still six states left to hold primaries between now and the middle of September. Those contests certainly have significance for locals in places like Massachusetts and New York, where general elections are often not competitive, and the Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire could matter in the battle for control of the upper chamber of Congress.
But with this week’s Wyoming primary and its long-foreshadowed defeat of Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, we can say that the tale of the 2022 primary season has been told. There were several different trends—the revenge of the Democratic mainstream, efforts at primary reform, shifting issue sets, and the struggle over the conduct of elections themselves among them. There’s no question, though, that since the process started five months and millions of votes ago, the main point of contention has been the degree of loyalty among Republicans to former President Donald Trump.
The punishing fight among Republican factions that has raged since at least the party’s loss in the 2012 presidential election has intensified, despite Trump’s 2020 defeat and the sacking of the Capitol that followed. In a midterm election that party leaders had hoped would unite the right and focus on an unpopular sitting president and grinding inflation, Republicans in their primaries showed almost no ability to set aside their own civil war. Nor is there any question about which side came out ahead.
While there were certainly plenty of exceptions, particularly the stand Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp made in blocking Trump’s most ambitious play, the verdict was overwhelming: In all six of the most hotly contested Senate races—Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin—the GOP standard bearer is a Trump ally, in some cases one who tried to aid Trump’s effort to steal a second term.
If it wasn’t for the feud Trump started with Kemp over the Georgia governor’s refusal to go along with Trump’s plan in 2020, all seven of the biggest gubernatorial races would be a clean sweep for Trumpers. For the candidates for governor in Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin, there can be no doubt. Some could be in positions to help Trump try to filch electoral votes in 2024 in a similar scenario to 2020.
Democrats may be giving themselves too much credit for helping rig these primaries in the advantage of Republican extremists, but the blue team is unquestionably overconfident in its abilities to dispatch these candidates. While the electoral climate has improved for Democrats since the depths of their despair in the spring and early summer, there is plenty of time left for things to revert to an atmosphere of electoral doom for the majority party. In years like that, the wind blows all kinds of strange creatures into power.
But to say the least, Republicans are mostly responsible for their candidate choices. And many of those choices pose unnecessary risks for a party looking to ride midterm momentum. Weak candidates in two of the open Senate seats Republicans must defend, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and in the two top targets to defeat incumbent Democrats, Georgia and Arizona, will prove to be drains on resources Republicans could have used elsewhere if primary voters in those states would have picked mainstream GOP candidates.
The good news for Republicans in all this, though, is that the stalemate in their internal conflict appears to be over. The party faithful overwhelmingly preferred Trump nationalist candidates to traditional conservatives or moderates. The idea that mainstream Republicans could gradually, quietly reassert control over their party is finished.
Trump is on the ballot this fall in every key Senate race and in almost every top-tier gubernatorial contest. That makes 2022 a referendum on Trump at least as much as it is about President Biden. Coming out of this cycle, Republicans will be able to draw conclusions about the value of the MAGA brand in a clear fashion. If Republicans have a great year and retake the House and Senate and gain a bunch of new governorships, Trump’s dominance will be unquestioned. If Republicans miss the mark in the Senate and in key state races, GOPers will conclude that they have overextended Trump’s credit limit. Unfortunately for Trump, expectations are very high on the red team.
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Biden job performance
Average approval: 39.4 percent
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent
Net score: -17.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.4 points
Change from one month ago: ↑ 6.4 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 42% approve-58% disapprove; Ipsos/Reuters: 40% approve-55% disapprove; Monmouth University: 38% approve-56% disapprove; Gallup: 38% approve-59% disapprove; Suffolk University/USA Today: 39% approve-56% disapprove]
Generic congressional ballot
Democrats: 42.8 percent
Republicans: 40.8 percent
Net advantage: Democratic Party +2.0 points
Change from one week ago: No change
Change from one month ago: Republican Party ↑ 1.0 points
[Average includes: 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: WHEN STARS ALIGN
The Atlantic: “Gravity can do some pretty astonishing things out there in the universe. When it’s not ensuring the downward trajectory of your spilled coffee directly onto your shirt here on Earth, the invisible force is playing arts and crafts with cosmic matter: crushing gas and dust into radiant new stars, smoothing clumpy rock into spherical planets, and, my personal favorite, smushing entire galaxies together. Gravity nudges galaxies toward one another—sometimes two, sometimes more—until they meet, their contents whooshing and mixing, and the slow-moving chaos molds them all into one big galactic ball. … The two galaxies involved—NGC 4567 at top, and NGC 4568 at bottom—will swing around each other, jostling existing stars and sparking new ones, until everything coalesces in about 500 million years. For now, they almost look like a little paper heart. … Galaxy mergers are some of the most imagination-sparking events in the universe.”
PENCE DENOUNCES PRO-TRUMP ATTACKS ON FBI
Associated Press: “Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday implored fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Donald Trump’s Florida home and denounced calls by some of the former president’s allies to defund the FBI, saying that was ‘just as wrong’ as a push by Democratic activists to shift money from police. … Speaking in New Hampshire, Pence said he has been troubled by what he called the politicization of the FBI. He also said the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland should be more forthcoming about what led authorities to conduct the search. …. ‘I also want to remind my fellow Republicans, we can hold the attorney general accountable for the decision he made without attacking the rank-and-file law enforcement personnel at the FBI,’ he said at the Politics & Eggs event, a breakfast gathering at St. Anselm College for business leaders that has become a customary stop for White House hopefuls in the early-voting state.”
Trump scores big on fundraising pleas around criminal probe: Washington Post: “Former president Donald Trump bombarded his supporters with more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off. Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million on at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. The daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information. The donations stayed unusually high for several more days and are still above average, both of these people said, though they have leveled off in recent days. There are more contributors than usual, these people said, and the average donation has climbed.”
Hinting at cash troubles, GOP cancels battleground ads: New York Times: “The National Republican Senatorial Committee has cut more than $5 million in Pennsylvania, including its reservations in the Philadelphia media market, according to two media-tracking sources. Reservations in Wisconsin, in the Madison and Green Bay markets, have also been curtailed, by more than $2 million. And in Arizona, all reservations after Sept. 30 have been cut in Phoenix and Tucson, the state’s only two major media markets, amounting to roughly $2 million more. … In a statement, Chris Hartline, the communications director for the N.R.S.C., said, ‘Nothing has changed about our commitment to winning in all of our target states.’ … As online fund-raising has slowed for Republicans in recent months, affecting both candidates and party committees, the party is increasingly dependent on major super PACs in the battle for the Senate.”
Ron Johnson losing ground in Wisconsin Senate race: WITI: “The results of the newest Marquette University Law School poll … show Democrats hold a slight edge in the races for Wisconsin governor and U.S. Senate following the August primary. The poll shows 45% of registered Wisconsin voters support Democrat Tony Evers for governor, 43% support Republican Tim Michels, 7% support independent Joan Beglinger, and 5% did not give a choice. In the race for U.S. Senate, the new Marquette University Law School poll shows 51% of registered Wisconsin voters support Democrat Mandela Barnes and 44% support Republican Ron Johnson. In the June poll, it was Barnes 46% and Johnson 44%.”
GOP split may deliver Alaska’s first-ever Democrat in the House: NYT: “For 50 years, Alaska’s lone House seat was held by the same larger-than-life Republican …. The woman leading the race to replace Representative Don Young after Tuesday’s electoral contests is in many ways his opposite… [Mary Peltola] was leading [former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin] in unofficial results on Wednesday… The winner of the House race could remain unknown for days or even weeks as Alaskan election officials continue to count mail-in ballots sent from some of the most far-flung reaches of the state. Ms. Peltola took 38 percent of the vote in the special election to fill the House seat through January. She is ahead of two top Republicans: Ms. Palin, … and Nick Begich III, a businessman and son of the best-known Democratic family in Alaska politics. Ms. Peltola was also leading Ms. Palin, Mr. Begich and 20 other candidates in a second, separate primary race to fill that seat beyond 2023.”
Murkowski advances: Anchorage Daily News: “In a primary race largely seen as a referendum on former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was leading Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in early results after voting concluded Tuesday. … Both candidates, along with third place finisher Democrat Pat Chesbro with 6.2% of the vote so far, are expected to advance to the November general election under Alaska’s new voting laws that eliminated partisan primaries. … Trump made good on a promise to campaign against Murkowski when he traveled to Alaska last month for a rally in Anchorage, where he excoriated her as “worse than a RINO,” or a so-called Republican in name only.”
Redistricting, abortion raise the stakes of state supreme court races—Politico
Feds charge former Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox with major fraud—Fresno Bee
Gaetz primary challenger suggests congressman was the mole who tipped Feds on Mar-a-Lago—Mediaite
WITHIN EARSHOT: YA GOTTA DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE
“It won’t be dog penis. I ate a whole plate of dog penis one time. I’m not doing that again.”—Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, in an interview on the Ruthless podcast, when asked what he would choose for his last meal. He said he ate the dish in Korea as part of his travels as a White House physician, which suggests it actually may have been this local delicacy.
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!
“No, Stormy Daniels has not been found yet.”—Leo Algminas, Wilmette, Illinois
“I’d love to see those FBI guys’ faces when they find the ticket.”—Bill Ward, St. Augustine Beach, Florida
“He lost his golf ball again? You must be new here. I always carry a bunch. Just drop this one in the rough and say you found it.”—Richard Basuk, New York, New York
“Wow, I can’t believe the nuclear launch code is 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia
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!
UNEASY LIES THE BUN THAT WEARS THE KRAUT
WBCO: “A familiar face at the [Bucyrus, Ohio] Bratwurst Festival opening ceremonies will be missing, particularly the original Queen Abigail Brocwell. Abigail was forced to give up her crown at a special meeting held by the Bratwurst Festival Board … According to sources [Brocwell] attended the Baltimore Festival held in Baltimore, Ohio, held August 4-6. … She registered and signed in under her own name, not attaching herself to the Bratwurst Festival or Royalty in any way. A Princess had been assigned to represent the Bratwurst Festival in an official capacity. [Brocwell] was stripped of her crown in a letter signed by seven unidentified board members. … Crawford County Now has learned that Brocwell was ordered to turn in the gifts she received from sponsors of the festival or face criminal charges.”
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.