Good Friday Morning! Especially to the University of Michigan. If you’re a college football fan whose team is not involved, the hilarity and drama of this story are something you can’t get enough of. Even the Wall Street Journal jumped into the fray, finding lawsuits and businesses that Connor Stallions owned. By the time you read this, the Big10 might already have punished Michigan/Harbaugh.
ESPN is reporting that a suspension or fine on Harbaugh is most likely. But we’ll see. The memes and jokes continue, though. And that’s the most critical part of this, as an SEC/Tennessee homer like myself.
This week, I will dig into the off-year election results that happened this week and how to fit that in with Joe Manchin’s announcement that he isn’t running for re-election in West Virginia – links to follow.
- I cover it in my Friday CI column, but it’s worth highlighting here, too. Honest Reporting dropped a bombshell this week, alleging that multiple Western outlets (AP, Reuters, CNN, NYT, etc.) essentially had journalists embedded with Hamas. The report included pictures, videos, and screen grabs of journalists essentially following Hamas into Israel to commit atrocities. How bad is it? The AP and CNN fired one of the people mentioned in Honest Reporting’s expose. CNN’s new CEO, Mark Thompson, had an internal call apologizing to staff for hiring someone close to Hamas. The charge is simple: because we know the attack was planned years in advance, these journalists also knew in advance and warned no one. They happily joined in the atrocities of Hamas. Bias is one thing; aiding and abetting is another.
- A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column detailing news that Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib was connected to three Hamas-linked individuals. The Canary Mission has updated that report to say she has connections to six Hamas-linked individuals. The evidence they offer is damning. The House censured Tlaib this week for her antisemitic remarks, calling for the eradication of all Jews. My Wednesday column concludes by saying that Congress will have to revisit the Tlaib censure. Her antisemitism isn’t some one-off bug. It’s a feature. She means every word she says. She’ll say more inflammatory things, calling for the end of Israel and Jews. She must be expelled.
- Federal Reserve head Jerome Powell made an interesting statement that’s worth bookmarking for later. CNBC picked up on it, “The Federal Open Market Committee is committed to achieving a stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive to bring inflation down to 2 percent over time; we are not confident that we have achieved such a stance,” he said in his prepared speech.” As I’ve said repeatedly, the Fed wants 2% inflation. It has yet to reach that spot. Powell is leaving the door cracked for more rate hikes if the current levels don’t bring inflation down. If inflation rates sneak back up in Q1/Q2 of 2024, rate hikes are back on the table. Right now, the Fed is cheering for that number to appear magically. It may be possible. But there are a lot of geopolitical risks that could complicate that.
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter.
Obama’s Democrats Support Anti-Jew Mobs – Conservative Institute
Congress Finally Censures Rashida Tlaib, But They’ll Have To Do It Again – Conservative Institute
The Journalists Who Aided Hamas In Real Time – Conservative Institute
America’s Closely Divided Politics Seem Destined To Continue
Last week, I wrote about how the economy was in a weird spot. This week, I will say the same thing about the political divide in America. I was scrolling through some Facebook memories and came across some observations I made of the 2022 midterms: they were just weird.
On the one hand, you have landslides by Ron DeSantis in Florida, NY Republicans gained considerable ground, and the GOP cut into the Democrat lead among Hispanic and Black voters. On the other hand, Republicans couldn’t secure a large majority in what should have been a wave election, and Democrats maintained control of the Senate.
One of the more significant takeaways I wrote here was that candidate quality mattered. Ron DeSantis was the big winner here, showing he could win big in a purple environment. But in places like Arizona and Pennsylvania, Democrats ran awful candidates who defeated even worse Republican candidates.
It’s hard to avoid similar conclusions after the off-year elections in Kentucky and Virginia. But the same elections happened in an environment where Joe Manchin announced he wasn’t running for re-election. And I get why he’s doing that – Joe Manchin had run his last trick in winning West Virginia.
West Virginia’s popular GOP governor, Jim Justice, is already running for Senate and about as safe a lock to defeat Manchin as possible. He’s been campaigning with his dog Babydog at events. He’s very popular, likely to storm that race, and will likely win north of 60% of the vote with Manchin out.
I saw some Democrats cheering Andy Beshear’s victory in Kentucky as a sign that “Democrats can still win in rural Trump country!” And while there’s some truth to that, it’s equally true that Kentucky loves itself some Beshear politicians, and Trump did just about everything in his power to sink that race.
There have been some attempts by Trump and his crowd to blame the Kentucky loss on Mitch McConnell and “the establishment.” That makes some sense because Daniel Cameron was a McConnell protege for several years. But in this election, Cameron heavily depended on Trump to drive out the vote. And Trump lauded Cameron in endorsement posts.
That all fell apart against Beshear. The part that stings even more is that the three McConnell-aligned undercard races involving the Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Auditor all went the Republicans’ way, with all candidates winning north of 60% of the vote. Cameron fell around 70k votes short of Beshear.
Virginia was more of a reversion to the mean. It swung towards Republicans in 2022 and pivoted back towards the center. It’s still evenly divided. Trump’s presence weighs heavily there because of the proximity to DC. Also, Virginia recently brought in an election commission that drew new congressional districts, and they purposely made it a Democratic-lean state (Sean Trende helped draw those lines and describes the process and reacts to the election here). One of many reasons I hate election commissions.
Does this negate my beliefs that Trump or a Republican could defeat Biden in 2024? Nope. It’s easy to paint a picture of Trump winning. In 2016 and 2020, fewer than 100,000 votes between a handful of states decided the race. We’re talking about razor-thin margins, so marginal things get amplified when talking about photo finishes.
Another thing that matters at the margins in these close races is money. If you’re a Republican, none of the money being raised right now is going to elections, races, voter turnout, or anything. It’s going to Donald Trump and his legal fees (there’s a reason Trump’s bottom-tier pundits are begging DeSantis to drop out and give all his money to Trump – they’ve got nothing).
According to Virginia Republicans, this was a partial factor. National Review reports:
In purple Virginia, state GOP Chairman Rich Anderson is taking special aim at the RNC for denying his early October request for cash, which he made a month after President Joe Biden directed the Democratic National Committee to pour more than $1 million into the state. Anderson had hoped that bringing House of Delegates speaker Todd Gilbert along to a DC meeting with RNC officials would help close the deal.
“That’s where they told us that being an off year, they simply just didn’t have the resources,” Anderson told National Review in an interview Thursday morning. “We never have an off year in Virginia but the rest of the country does. And as a result of that, their giving levels are down significantly, and that was the reason.”
Dave Rexrode, executive director of Youngkin’s PAC Spirit of Virginia, says the GOP’s message got drowned out by the barrage of Democratic spending in DC media market, where many blue-leaning Northern Virginia candidates got hit the hardest on TV. That’s when outside GOP groups should have stepped in, he says.
Spirit of Virginia spent $14 million on candidates through November 7 and millions more on polling, voter-contact efforts, and advertising, according to a memo the PAC released on Wednesday. The Republican State Leadership Committee spent roughly $7 million on behalf of Republicans through Election Day, RSLC spokesman Mason Di Palma confirmed to NR.
Spirit of Virginia’s Wednesday memo estimated that Democratic spending in Virginia reached “at least” $50 million.
The RNC tells a different story: “RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has a different version of events. “The RNC’s not a state committee, we’re a federal committee,” McDaniel told WMAL host Larry O’Connor Wednesday evening in the post-debate spin room. “Your candidates can take unlimited state dollars and your governor can take unlimited state dollars. And your governor actually said: ‘We don’t need you guys.'”
As Ben Domenech pointed out, “Two options here: 1. the RNC chair is lying, or 2. she actually believes this is true. Which is worse? (The DNC, meanwhile, transferred more than a million to the Virginia Democratic Party, and ran ads.).” I’ll tell you here: she’s lying.
Officially, we know Trump has dropped $40 million on legal bills related to everything he’s facing. He’s using donor money from the RNC and other organizations to get that cash. His PACs have faced a significant shortfall as well.
In other words, it’s more likely the RNC isn’t spending because it can’t. Everything else is spin. If you’re in a tough race in 2024, you can’t plan on the RNC or any other national Republican group to save you. Trump is soaking up everything, and since he’s throwing it all at his legal bills, there’s nothing for down-ballot races. That’s something that’s not a big deal in larger races but matters a lot at the margins.
The margins matter when fewer than 100,000 votes in swing states decide your elections. Ben Domenech and Patrick Ruffini had another observation I’ve been thinking about, too, “There’s a real chance of the inverse of the Obama-era dynamic moving forward: GOP wins the presidency with high turnout, Dems with more downballot offices with BA+ 4-of-4s.”
What does this mean? Ever since George W. Bush, Democrats have been competitive nationally because they have high turnout in Presidential years. But in anything less than a Presidential year, the GOP steamrolled Democrats because they had more dedicated voters. A BA+ with 4-of-4 is a person who has voted in the last four election cycles – that’s the gold standard voter for elections. People fight over those voters.
If Democrats have those now, it makes midterms and off-year elections much harder. It also makes GOP candidate selection much more critical. The better the candidate, the more capable they are at driving out those less likely to vote people. People may like Donald Trump, but he’s not expanding the GOP. Democrats are expanding their voter base by bringing in suburban voters, who will split their ballots – like voting for Beshear by GOP in other races.
This observation is not necessarily true. There are signs that Republicans like Ron DeSantis can split that difference and drive a stake through the Democratic Party’s coalition. But Trump and his coalition dominate the primaries, costing Republicans easy races. If Daniel Cameron runs as a McConnell Republican, odds are he’s closer in that race.
The RNC and other more moderate Republicans are blaming the abortion issue. That would make some sense if there weren’t also a mountain of evidence next to Donald Trump. Abortion is a marginal issue that impacts the bottom line in some races. But it’s hard to tease that out from other marginal factors that are easier to control. For instance, Democrats are losing on issues like crime, the economy, and foreign policy. Abortion isn’t going to swamp the kitchen table issues.
I used to joke that Barack Obama was great at getting himself elected but awful for everyone else. We have the inverse now. Donald Trump is good at campaigning for himself and may win again, but he’s costing the party everywhere else. And that’s both literal, with his legal fees, and metaphorically with voters.
Ron DeSantis splits the difference, but until Trump is gone, there’s no room for anyone else. And the reason I continue to focus on DeSantis is simple: his voting base; if he drops out, his voters will shift to Trump. In every poll, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie voters end up with DeSantis. DeSantis is the only one pulling support from Trump, hence his strength in Iowa. The rest of the field does not.
Haley has not been able to pull from Trump, nor is she prepared to compete in Iowa, Nevada, or New Hampshire. The Haley path starts in South Carolina. Here’s the math: if DeSantis wins in Iowa, there’s a shot at a competitive primary that will be decided in South Carolina. If Trump wins Iowa, the race is over.
If Trump loses in Iowa, he’s a near lock to bounce back in New Hampshire. Nevada would be a toss-up depending on who wins in Iowa can get that caucus on their side. That sets up the showdown in South Carolina. And whoever wins there wins the primary because it’ll swing voters headed into Super Tuesday.
Nikki Haley is more likely to coronate Trump with her strategy than win. And it’s still most likely that Trump sweeps the field, and this isn’t even a possibility. It’s Trump’s race to lose, which gives America the rematch it doesn’t want. And Trump will fight a general election while sending most of his cash to lawyers and ignoring all other GOP races.
That’s a recipe for disaster to me. And there’s no sign the closely divided government we have right now will end. DeSantis could break the stalemate by shifting the environment. Trump won’t change anything. And Biden is just more disasters that we’re used to, with Harris as the worst backup possible.
There’s a path out of this stalemate, but we don’t seem destined to take that path. That’s the most frustrating aspect of everything for me.
Links of the week
Jewish man feels ‘lucky’ to be alive after brutal anti-Semitic attack by Palestine supporters in Sydney: Police are investigating an alleged anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish man in Sydney’s inner west by Palestine supporters with the 44-year-old victim saying he feels lucky to be alive. – Sky News
Night of Broken Class – Seth Mandel, Commentary
Is Campus Rage Fueled by Middle Eastern Money? According to a new report, at least 200 American colleges and universities illegally withheld information on approximately $13 billion in undisclosed contributions from foreign regimes. – Bari Weiss, The FP
Anti-Israel protests fueled by terror-tied dark money groups: ‘National security issue’ – The Washington Examiner
Shocked by the Jew-Hate on College Campuses? I Wasn’t. For several decades, institutions have incubated a worldview, based on revisionist history, that seeks to justify the murder of Israelis and Jews. – Rachel Fish, The FP
Post-Election Analysis: Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi – RealClearPolitics
X/Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Harvard Crew Team Unveils New U-Boat – Babylon Bee
George Santos’ new autobiography, To Hell and Back, beautiful meditation on combat
Congressman survived expulsion, many imaginary combat tours – Duffel Blog
“I Can Fix Him,” Says Woman Who Is Worse – The Hard Times
Thanks for reading!