The Honest Republicans...
They know they have a problem that isn't just about Donald Trump....
As precious as this:
As inscrutable as this:
Even if not as sage as this:
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Now — on with the show!!!!
First of all, please spare me your accusations that I have taken the morning off.
I read, watched, listened, and reported as deep and wide as usual before hitting “SEND.”
As always, this episode of Wide World of News reflects my best effort to bring you the right stuff out there to start your day off fast.
Second, even TikTok is not giving me a great sense of what is going on with Ukraine and with China, although these two tweets about the latter are informative on the latest:
There really are only two other stories for you to focus on today.
Numero One is as obvious as it is epic:
The second yarn is the inexorable (for now….) storyline about how Democratic Party and Biden fortunes are rising and the Republicans are crashing and burning.
With the Dominant Media rooting for abortion politics to stymie any Red Wave and the Senate convening for a (cue the cliché) rare Saturday session to move along the reconciliation package, the signs are everywhere that Keith Urban has it exactly wrong about America – Blue IS the color, at the moment.
Start with the latest Heather Cox Richardson summary:
The introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act caps what has turned out to be a spectacular week for the Biden administration. Jobs numbers out today showed not the downturn that many expected, but instead the addition of 528,000 new jobs, restoring the U.S. job numbers to where they were before the pandemic and putting unemployment at 3.5%, the lowest rate in 50 years. The United States Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) and the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) have both passed Congress. The president authorized and troops achieved the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. And gas prices have hit a 50-day low.
Then move to the AFP conceptual lede:
So what do Americans see in Joe Biden -- a doddery has-been whom even his own party doesn't want around, or an improbable superhero? After an extraordinary week in Washington politics, the answer is a bit of both.
The 79-year-old's political obituary has been issued more times than can be counted since he took office in 2021 amid the political wreckage of Donald Trump's presidency, a pandemic and fear of economic disaster.
Now he's fighting back. Or at least his alter-ego, a comically sinister cartoon character dubbed "Dark Brandon" is.
In political nerd circles, the meme has been doing the rounds -- and it started going viral on Twitter this week as Biden notched win after against-the-odds win.
Then there is this wondrous Joseph Epstein tone poem in homage to the Cheneys, including and especially Liz (the Democrats’ great hero now), splashed onto the Wall Street Journal editorial page:
I have never given money to politicians or political parties. Yet I am about to send a $200 check to Liz Cheney for her Wyoming congressional campaign. Ms. Cheney, who is trailing more than 20 points in the polls against Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman, appears all but guaranteed to lose her congressional seat in the Aug. 16 primary….
She didn’t have to do what she did and continues to do on the committee to investigate Jan. 6. Yet she has done it with gravity and high intelligence. Not since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan have I encountered a political figure for whom I felt the same strong respect.
Few politicians risk losing their next election to take the high ground of just action. Ms. Cheney’s performance is all the more admirable when placed next to various Republicans—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is vying for speaker if Republicans take the House, is a sad example—spinning, squirming, hedging their true views of Mr. Trump lest they and their party lose his support in the midterm elections. The sight is not pretty and gives good reason why politicians, and politics generally, are often held in richly deserved contempt by many Americans.
By dramatic contrast Ms. Cheney bathes not in self-righteousness but genuine righteousness, which is good for the political complexion. She claims to have taken the position she has because she felt it was “right” to do so. “The single most important thing is protecting the nation from Donald Trump,” Ms. Cheney said in an interview last month with ABC News. For her, moral rectitude comes before party. This is most impressive—and extremely rare.
Don’t forget this Bill Barr gem:
Former Attorney General Bill Barr called the newest federal grand jury subpoenas probing the Jan. 6, 202, Capitol riot "a significant event," one that suggests that government prosecutors are probing high-ranking Trump administration officials and allies, and even former President Donald Trump.
"This suggests to me that they're taking a hard look at the group at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him who were involved in this," Barr told CBS News' Catherine Herridge in an interview Friday.
And a just-posted New York Times story on the clown rodeo that is the covey of Republican Senate candidates in battleground states whose weakness and chances for disaster are actually understated by this essential reading piece.
The story primarily focuses on Herschel Walker in Georgia, Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, and Blake Masters in Arizona, but the party’s the less-than-stellar hopefuls in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Hampshire should not be ignored either.
Nor should the strength, determination, and fundraising power of nearly all of the Democrats running in those same states, starting with the clever, fun, and hard-charging Tim Ryan in the Buckeye State:
Even Fox News is getting in on the storyline of how dire the Republican situation appears:
Now, the Times piece gives voice to the hopes and spin of some strategists, who claim that, in the end, all this August stuff is just a Blue mirage, and that these GOP candidates are going to come charging through the tape by Election Day:
The history of midterms and unpopular presidents, however, is working against them. With the fall election less than 100 days away, the defining question of the struggle for the Senate is how long Democrats in crucial races can continue to outpace Mr. Biden’s unpopularity — and by how much.
“That’s the billion-dollar question,” said Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster who has studied the pattern of how a president’s support has affected Senate races over the last decade. His findings: Precious few candidates can outrun the president by more than a half-dozen percentage points — a worrisome fact for Democrats when Mr. Biden’s approval has fallen below 40 percent nationally.
“The president’s approval rating acts as a weight on their party’s nominee,” Mr. Blizzard said. “Gravity is going to apply at some point….”
“The Democrats do have some good candidates,” conceded Corry Bliss, a veteran Republican strategist. “But the key point is very simple: If Joe Biden has an approval rating in the 30s, what Raphael Warnock says or does is irrelevant. Because he’s going to lose. Period.”
Republicans, Mr. Bliss said, were suffering through a cyclical “summer of bed-wetting” before a fall landslide.
But if you want to know what’s really going on right now, your best bet is to listen to conservatives who are neither in denial nor overly pessimistic for effect.
So we close today by reprinting in full some brilliant analysis by Matthew Continetti that I wish I had written (most of it, at least; I associate myself with his analysis, if not necessarily his antidote).
Headlined “The GOP Summer Swoon: Republicans learn that a midterm victory won't come easily,” the piece is a splendid Goldilocks, not to hot or too cold, but just right. He well lays out the Reds’ current travails without going overboard.
I am giving you the whole thing here because (a) I don’t want you to miss a thing; (b) it would be hard to excerpt since every word is vital; and (c) I’m hoping his publisher sues me, because I could use the publicity a legal challenge would bring.
Take it away and play us off, Mr. Continetti:
Today caps off the worst week yet for Republicans in the 2022 campaign cycle. Their troubles began with Senate passage of the Chips and Science Act on Wednesday, July 27, and culminated in the Kansas pro-life rout on Tuesday, August 2. Before last week, the party was riding a red wave to victory in November’s elections. Now, one month before the campaign begins in earnest on Labor Day, aimless Republicans must fend off a Democratic Party that is playing offense.
Yes, the fundamentals continue to favor the GOP. Voters do not like this economy. They blame President Biden for inflation and supply shortages. The president’s job approval rating is 39 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls. Republicans are enthusiastic, Democrats less so. Nancy Pelosi’s days as speaker of the House are numbered: The FiveThirtyEight model gives the GOP an 80 percent chance of winning the lower chamber of Congress.
Yet Republicans want more than control of the House. No one wants to repeat the gridlock, frustration, debt crises, shutdowns, and sequester that roiled the country when Democrats held the White House and Senate between 2011 and 2015. If Republicans gain only in the House, Biden won’t feel as much pressure to triangulate off the GOP Congress. He will be able to count on Senate Democrats to confirm his executive and judicial branch appointees. He will turn Kevin McCarthy and the MAGA Squad into foils and scapegoats. The media will be happy to play along.
The GOP needs a full-spectrum victory if it wants to stop the left and shock Democrats into abandoning Biden. The data and events of the past week suggest that the party has a way to go. For starters: Republicans have enjoyed a modest lead in the congressional generic ballot since January. Now the ballot is tied.
Meanwhile, according to FiveThirtyEight, the GOP nominee leads in only one of six key Senate races. The lucky Republican is Ted Budd in North Carolina. He’s ahead of Cheri Beasley by 1 point. The other Republicans are either close behind (Adam Laxalt in Nevada) or far gone (Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania). The GOP needs to net one seat to win Senate control. If the election were held at the time of writing, the party would lose three.
I know, I know: Most of these races are tight. Surveys this far out are unreliable. There is time for Republican challengers to define their opposition. How candidates react under pressure to unknown events in the coming months will be important. Polls of registered voters or all adults do not consider the widespread GOP enthusiasm that will be reflected in polls of likely voters this fall. And state-based polling has been notoriously off since at least the 2014 cycle.
Still, there is no denying that Republicans are acting less confident than just a week ago. The reason? They have been surprised and shell-shocked. Senate leader Mitch McConnell pledged that Republicans would block the $280 billion Chips and Science Act of 2022 for as long as Democrats tried to reach agreement among themselves on a big-spending reconciliation bill. Republicans mistakenly assumed that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was opposed to reconciliation because of inflation. To be fair, he said exactly that on July 14.
On July 27, 17 Republicans voted to pass the Chips Act, subsidizing U.S. semiconductors for reasons of national security. Hours later, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that he had reached a deal with Manchin on a climate, health care, and tax bill absurdly known as the “Inflation Reduction Act.” Regardless of whether the deal holds, the Senate Republicans had been outmaneuvered. “Looks to me like we got rinky-doo’d,” said Sen. John Kennedy. “That’s a Louisiana word for ‘screwed.'”
Then, on August 2, voters in Kansas rejected an effort to overturn a state court’s ruling that the Sunflower State constitution guarantees a right to abortion. Similar referenda allowing state legislatures to regulate abortion have passed in West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana. But this was the first such initiative put to the ballot since the Supreme Court held Roe v. Wade unconstitutional. Kansas voted for Donald Trump by 15 points in 2020—and voted to maintain a state right to abortion by 18 points in 2022.
Kansas was a defeat for the pro-life movement. It also scared Republican strategists, whose eyes bugged out at the huge Democratic turnout in the middle of the summer. The GOP consultant class was leery of abortion politics to begin with. Now it is all but guaranteed to steer its clients away from a debate over the issue.
This is the wrong response. Too many Republican candidates won’t defend their stance on abortion and provide counter examples of pro-choice extremism. Afraid of what the party’s pro-life ultras might say, Republicans opt for reticence and mixed messaging on abortion rather than offering measures that command public support.
“Imagine thinking that what it will take to win the people’s support after this historic [Supreme Court] victory on the human right to life is to ignore it all together and put all your chips on economic issues,” wrote veteran conservative activist Gary Bauer on August 3. “Go on the campaign trail and talk about carried interest, semiconductor shortages, and misuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Follow the lead of presidential nominees Dole, McCain, and Romney, who rode social issue silence all the way to second-place finishes in national elections.”
Here, then, is the Republican dilemma: The party’s Senate candidates are weak, it has no economic message beyond lamenting inflation, and its fear of the social issues leaves it exposed. “Without an answer to the left’s attack, Republicans in extremely winnable races will lose—and badly,” warned social conservative leader Frank Cannon, who urged Republicans to get behind laws banning abortions after the fetus has a heartbeat and after it is capable of feeling pain. “Now we are in the democratic era of the abortion debate,” Cannon went on. “Republican members of Congress can no longer act like the decision is out of their hands.”
Nor can Republicans act like the outcome of the 2022 election is predetermined. They may have thought that the Democratic majority would collapse under its own weight. They learned this week that it won’t.