Kerry Eleveld

Kevin McCarthy's plan to appease the radicals in his ranks is backfiring spectacularly

GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's dreams of one day becoming speaker of the House are going up in flames as the Republican caucus devolves into a raging inferno of internecine guerrilla warfare.

Specifically, House GOP radicals have turned caucus politics into an unsightly brawl more resembling the kicking, screaming, hair pulling, and spitting of a middle-school rivalry than the growing pains of major political party plotting its path to renewed relevance.

No one is more central to this uniquely embarrassing GOP drama than McCarthy, who has turned spinelessness into an ethic in his quest for power. McCarthy's moral deficit has left any members of the GOP conference who still possess a shred of integrity to condemn the actions of the extremists putting the lives of both their GOP colleagues and Democratic counterparts at risk.

It started last month with McCarthy allowing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to target as "traitors" the 13 House Republicans who voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill supported by nearly two-thirds of the country. Egged on by Greene & Co., death threats ensued, but McCarthy turned the other cheek, because speakership.

But death threats left unchecked breed more death threats and, once McCarthy proved his obsequiousness, the GOP extremists were bound to expand outward. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado got right to work, deploying Islamophobic slurs against Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

After Boebert tagged Omar the "jihad squad” and McCarthy crawled under a rock, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois called Boebert "TRASH" for hurling the anti-Muslim trope.

But it was Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina who would draw the next trashy moniker after she "100%" condemned Boebert's dangerous antics on CNN Tuesday. In response, Greene labeled Mace "the trash of the GOP Conference" in a Tuesday morning tweet.

Despite Mace telling CNN Tuesday that she hadn't come to Congress to name-call, the exchange devolved quickly.

“Marjorie Taylor Greene is a liar. And I’m not going to tolerate lies, racism or bigotry, whether you are Republican or Democrat,” Mace said during a Tuesday interview on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business show. “She’s crazy. She’s insane. She’s bad for the party. And I’m not going to put up with it.”

This is exactly what happens in a caucus completely devoid of moral leadership. Indeed, McCarthy has become so useless, some of the GOP's saner caucus members are actually publicly begging him to at least act like a leader.

“I think when you’re in a position of leadership, you have to stand up. You have to deal with it,” said Rep. Tom Reed of New York, one of the 13 GOP House members who voted for the infrastructure bill. “I appreciate the fact that Kevin called our colleague directly to discuss the matter with her. But at some point in time, you also have to stand up and just call it out for what it is. This type of rhetoric cannot be condoned. It cannot be upheld.”

If McCarthy had more than two brain cells to rub together, he would realize this truth: His bid for the speakership is over, particularly if he continues to let the GOP radicals roll him like a limbless log day in and day out. Last week, Greene used Rep. Matt Gaetz’s podcast to note that McCarthy doesn't have “the full support" of the caucus to be speaker.

"There’s many of us that are very unhappy about the failure to hold Republicans accountable, while conservatives like me, Paul Gosar and many others just constantly take the abuse by the Democrats," Greene said.

It’s over, McCarthy. You appeased the radicals right into burning you at the stake.

Trump looks to put the screws to both McCarthy and McConnell

When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked by a reporter this week when he last talked to Donald Trump, he paused for a millisecond before landing on what was probably the truth.

"Uhhh, this morning," McCarthy said on Thursday, the day after House Democrats censured GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona over his violent tweet depicting the execution of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Democrats also rightfully stripped Gosar of his committee assignments as McCarthy did the dirty work of shielding him from any backlash within the GOP caucus. Trump topped off the entire episode of GOP ignominy by endorsing Gosar.

The whole saga was a reminder of something everyone of us already knew: McCarthy is nothing more than Trump's stooge.

As the week wore on, McCarthy's antics began to have the whiff of desperation. His 8-hour pre-Build Back Better vote diatribe—perhaps most memorable for uncovering the baby carrot conspiracy—felt less like a Mel Gibson rallying cry in Braveheart than a Steve Carell non sequitur in The Office.

"@GOPLeader is bringing it on the floor right now!" enthused Florida man, Rep. Matt Gaetz, on the early side of McCarthy's harangue. But by Friday, Gaetz was denigrating McCarthy's speech as "a really long death rattle" and railing against House GOP leadership for starting "this march to socialism because they allowed 13 Turncoats to cross the line."

Gaetz is an interesting test case in the GOP caucus, since he's a primo Trump-wannabe hack whom McCarthy shielded from repercussions when it was revealed he was under federal investigation for having sex with a minor and potential sex trafficking. In other words, Gaetz is one of at least a handful of House Republicans to whom McCarthy has effectively given a free pass, in order to earn their vote for his speakership. But despite selling his soul, things don't seem to be going as planned for McCarthy.

In fact, two former GOP strategists and never-Trumpers, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson, think McCarthy's days at GOP leader are numbered, particularly if Republicans recapture the majority.

"His crazy caucus of radicals is going to put his head on a spike & elect Jim Jordan," Stevens tweeted Thursday night, calling McCarthy's speech the "desperate plea bargain of a man who knows he is done."

Wilson tweeted out a hypothetical Q&A scenario, with a question he apparently gets a lot: "Why don't you pay more attention to Kevin McCarthy?"

"A: Because if the GOP retakes the House Jim Jordan will be Speaker," Wilson wrote.

Look, if Republicans win back the House, whoever takes over as Speaker will undoubtedly be nothing more than Trump's mouthpiece. But it does feel as though Trump is making a purity power play to eventually install his handpicked people as heads of both House and Senate Republicans. McCarthy simply won't do after he slipped up one fateful week in mid-January and dared to admit Trump "bears responsibility" for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

No amount of groveling or spinelessness is going to make up for that.

Which brings us to the Senate. In a little-noticed multi-page statement Wednesday, Trump upgraded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from the "Old Crow" to the "Broken Old Crow," charging that he missed his chance to jam President Joe Biden's agenda.

"He could have won it all using the Debt Ceiling—they were ready to fold. Now the Democrats have a big victory and the wind at their back," Trump wrote, referring to the infrastructure bill that McConnell keeps praising in his home state of Kentucky.

"It was extremely good for our state. I'm proud of my vote," McConnell reaffirmed Tuesday, after previously hailing the package as a "godsend" to Kentucky."

For a solid two weeks, Trump has been stewing about passage of the bipartisan measure that 32 congressional Republicans voted for and, let's face it, much like his 2020 loss, it will never be over for Trump. More than just about anything—including the ouster of McCarthy—Trump hopes to orchestrate McConnell's demise. In fact, Trump has been actively agitating "to depose" McConnell for months.

That's what made an Axios story about GOP donors being "furious" over passage of the bipartisan deal stand out. At the center of the story was Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who reportedly informed his Senate counterparts this week that he had been fielding complaints from angry donors about congressional Republicans handing Biden a big win.

The reporting raised a bunch of provocative questions: Who leaked it, which donors complained, and how many? It's certainly not a story a Republican operative would leak to reflect positively on the Senate GOP conference—19 of whom voted for the bill. It also figured particularly poorly for McConnell, so it likely would have been leaked by a Trump ally trying to make a point.

If anyone is positioned to potentially oust McConnell as leader at some point, it's Rick Scott, who has buddied up to Trump (in contrast to McConnell) and was one of only eight GOP senators to vote against certification of the 2020 election. In that sense, Scott is a purist, while McConnell is a giant thorn in Trump's side.

Scott is also busy building his donor list as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which would help him blunt one of McConnell's biggest leverage points as leader: his ability to dole out campaign funds to members via his massive fundraising network.

Rick Scott undoubtedly sees himself running for president one day. But if Trump runs in 2024, one could see him vying for Senate leader instead, to bide his time until the time is right for a presidential bid. For Trump, Scott sort of hits the sweet spot between someone like McConnell, an establishment Trump detractor, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Trump convert who is loathed by his colleagues.

If Trump were going to work to elevate anyone to that post, Scott would be a good pick—with the added benefit of distracting him from a 2024 presidential bid.

Trump injects himself into West Virginia GOP primary battle after Biden infrastructure win

Donald Trump's first order of business after escaping his second impeachment conviction (with the blessing of Senate Republicans) was to get revenge on the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. His message was clear: Hold Trump accountable and you'll pay for it.

Back then, what qualified as an affront to Trump seemed directly related to taking an action that immediately harmed him, such as supporting his ouster from office.

Now Trump is widening his list of offenses to include any action that might benefit one of his political enemies, such as helping President Joe Biden enact a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. In other words: The friend of my enemy is my enemy.

That's the new bar Trump is demanding GOP lawmakers factor in as they tip-toe around him and his exceedingly fragile ego. And if it prevents a Republican lawmaker from giving their constituents what they want, too bad.

Trump's new standard became apparent this week when he chose sides in a West Virginia House race that is now pitting two sitting GOP members against each other after redistricting merged their districts into one.

Rep. David McKinley voted for the infrastructure bill; Rep. Alex Mooney voted against it. Guess who Trump endorsed: Mooney, who traveled down to Mar-a-Lago last Friday in the wake of his "no" vote on the bipartisan measure, according to CNN.

McKinley told CNN that he gave the voters and local officials what they had been craving for years: new roads and bridges.

"They've wanted infrastructure," McKinley said.

Trump injecting himself into a West Virginia primary between two GOP incumbents is just a continuation of the war that has erupted within the Republican Party over the Biden infrastructure win that Trump wasn't skilled enough to pull off. Trump's personal insertion into the drama also guarantees the rift will never heal—just one more way for Trump to turn Republicans against each other as the party further disintegrates.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be having the time of his life.

"Seventy-five percent of the American people support infrastructure," McConnell said Tuesday. "From a Kentucky point of view, it was extremely good for our state. I'm proud of my vote."

Go ahead and yuck it up, McConnell. By the time Trump finishes with GOP voters, two-thirds of them will believe it was treasonous for any Republican to vote in favor of the infrastructure measure. In Trump's GOP, no one is allowed to have nice things unless he's the biggest beneficiary.

'Traitors': How Biden got Republicans to go to war with themselves

Shortly after 13 House Republicans joined 215 Democrats last week to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, GOP lawmakers went to war with each other.

Some House radicals—who are apparently the dominant force in the GOP caucus—labeled the measure "socialist" and called their 13 colleagues "traitors." Presumably, that went for Senate Republicans, too, after they helped negotiate the bill and about 40% of their caucus voted for it.

The pettiest man alive, Donald Trump, groused that "Old Crow" Mitch McConnell had voted for it while being "incapable" of delivering a similar bill during Trump's tenure. McConnell, in turn, called the Biden bill a "godsend" to his state.

Republicans are still warring over the bill even as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 63% of Americans support the bill while just 32% oppose it.

The survey question was very simple: Do you support or oppose the federal government spending one trillion dollars on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure?

And yes, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they did support the trillion-dollar investment in roads, bridges, rural broadband, and more, while a fringey 32% opposed the spending.

The poll—entirely in line with polling of the bipartisan measure over the last several months—highlights that while the American people still broadly support infrastructure investments to benefit everyone, congressional Republicans have become so extreme, they are inciting death threats against their own members for giving the voters what they want.

In the Republican Party, you can no longer do broadly popular things if it in any way benefits your opponents. Passing good things for your constituents is treasonous if it also helps the other party and their constituency. In other words, backing anything that benefits everyone is an act of treason.

Republicans are still at each others' throats over the passage of the popular legislation. During a House GOP conference meeting Monday, Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina filed a resolution to strip Rep. John Katko of New York of being the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee.

But that was relatively mild compared to the screaming match that broke out between Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, according to CNN reporter Melanie Zanona.

Roy was lamenting that he'll be on the hook to explain to voters in his district why they should support Republicans when just handed Democrats a big infrastructure win.

"McCarthy then got up and shot back that he's had to explain to voters many times votes that Roy has taken," according to Zanona.

As Zanona put it: "House Republicans are more angry at the GOP lawmakers who voted for infrastructure than at Paul Gosar for posting a video depicting violence against Dems." Gosar's video depicted him executing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, to be exact.

But, yes, exactly. In today's GOP, bipartisanship is more unforgivable than fomenting violence against your opponents.

How Trump is trampling on McConnell's efforts to win back the Senate

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu dealt a serious blow to Senate Republicans Tuesday when he took a pass on running for Senate against one of the GOP's top targets—Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

But Sununu is no exception to the rule, and he could very well be the canary in the coal mine for Senate Republicans. While Republicans had been eyeing New Hampshire as a serious pick-up opportunity, they had also dabbled with the idea of making Democrats at least squander some resources on playing defense in blue states like Vermont and Maryland. But as NBC News points out, that GOP aspiration is contingent on one of those state's popular Republican governors showing any interest at all in signing on to be part of the Senate GOP caucus.

"Vermont Gov. Phil Scott won re-election by 15 percentage points in 2018, the same year his famously progressive state overwhelmingly handed independent Sen. Bernie Sanders a third term," writes NBC. But Scott—really the only Vermont Republican who could pull off an upset against incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy—didn't even vote for Trump and has no interest in running for Senate.

Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is in the same boat—popular but uninterested in running.

In short, it appears no moderate, sane-ish Republicans are jumping at the chance to join Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's caucus, particularly because Trump is so clearly calling the shots. Sununu's very public rejection of the Senate GOP also isn't going to make joining the caucus seem any more appealing to the kinds of candidates who would likely fare better in a general election.

So as moderate Republicans decline to run while fringe GOP candidates dominate the field, the entire Republican line up is getting more extreme.

That has Brian Walsh, a former Senate GOP campaign operative, hearing "echoes of 2010," when Senate Republicans failed to seize a majority despite the pro-Republican political environment.

"Arguably, Republicans lost five seats between 2010 and 2012 because of bad general election candidates," Walsh told NBC. "I'm not saying that's necessarily going to happen here. We don't know that yet. But broadly, candidates matter."

Here's the GOP scorecard so far:

In New Hampshire, which Republicans had slated as a top target for a pick up, they're now scrambling for a candidate.

In Georgia, another GOP pick-up opportunity, Republicans will likely be saddled with Trump pick Herschel Walker, who has a violent and allegedly abusive history.

In Nevada, which Republicans also hope to flip, the state party is in the midst of an epic meltdown. At the same time, they appear to be rallying around former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who made stoking Trump's Big Lie his life's mission.

Laxalt sued to stop the ballot counting in the state's largest county (which Trump lost), sued to overturn Biden's victory, baselessly claimed votes of dead people had been counted, baselessly claimed votes from undocumented immigrants had tipped the state to Biden, and again filed a post-certification lawsuit alleging the GOP secretary of state had allowed non-citizens to vote.

In Arizona, another GOP flip opportunity, the four-person primary is headed hard right and nasty negative as state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, energy executive Jim Lamon, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire and Blake Masters duke it out. Brnovich (aka nunchuck guy) likely has the highest statewide name recognition outside of GOP Gov. Doug Ducey (who Trump hates and has declined to run). But Masters runs billionaire Peter Thiel's investment firm and just this week Trump announced a fundraiser for him (because Trump also faults Brnovich for failing to overturn the state's 2020 results).

In Pennsylvania, one of Democrats' best pick-up opportunities, the GOP primary for the open seat has turned downright embarrassing. Trump endorsed Army vet Sean Parnell, who is embroiled in an ugly custody battle in which his estranged wife testified that Parnell abused her and one of their children. Senate Republicans are dodging questions about the race as Parnell's candidacy spirals.

In North Carolina, which also has an open Senate seat, Trump complicated the race with an early endorsement of a lesser-known GOP congressman, Rep. Ted Budd, while former Gov. Pat McCrory has a higher profile and a likely edge among Republican voters. If McCrory triumphs, it remains to be seen whether he can win over Trump voters in the general election.

Other potential Democratic pick ups include Florida and Wisconsin, with incumbent Sens. Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson, and on the outside edge, open seats in Ohio and Missouri, where Republicans just might manage to put the seats in play despite their considerable advantages in each state.

Notably, Trump is playing key role in nearly every one of those Senate contests. In almost every state, Trump has done at least one of several things: repelled a top-tier candidate, made an endorsement, radicalized the GOP field, or become a complicating factor by incessantly pushing his election fraud lies and demanding absolute fealty.

New report shows Biden actually has lots of good news to brag about — but the message isn't getting through

As Republicans scrambled to pass a tax giveaway to the wealthy in late 2017, Donald Trump developed a slogan: "How's your 401(k) doing?"

Trump floated the inquiry at fundraisers, campaign rallies, and White House events. While less than half of private sector employees even had a 401(k) at the time, some of Trump's most fervent supporters adopted the mantra. As reporters scoured the earth for every last 2016 Trump voter to ask what they thought of the job he was doing, many of them responded like Pavlov's dogs: "My 401(k) has soared under Trump."

The truth is, President Obama's economy grew the stock market more than Trump's did even before the pandemic hit. But that's beside the point. Trump remained focused on the stock market throughout his tenure, and his cult followers were convinced their personal finances had improved by leaps and bounds.

In fact, in one of the worst debate performances in modern political history, Trump crassly warned voters of Biden, "If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell."

The stock market disagreed almost immediately after Biden's victory, and it has logged historic growth ever since. One year after he was elected, the S&P 500 was up 37%, a presidential record. On Friday, following news of the U.S. economy adding 531,000 jobs in October, stocks hit record highs again under Biden (though the day's trading hadn't closed at the time of publication). Here's what that growth looks like in chart form ever since Biden was elected last November.

Graph showing the Dow Jones climbing from roughly 28,400 points on Nov. 5, 2020 to more than 36,000 points on Nov. 5, 2021.

Following their Tuesday night drubbing, Democrats have come up with all sorts of explanations for why Democratic gubernatorial candidates in both Virginia and New Jersey had such a bruising night even though New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ultimately prevailed. The merit of those explanations varies, but here's one thing to consider: Voters don't seem to be getting any good news about the Biden administration. And sure, that's partly a matter of what the media is writing, but it's also a matter of what Democrats are selling. And they simply aren't capitalizing on a heap of good news.

As former GOP strategist and anti-Trumper Stuart Stevens noted Friday, the Dow Jones is in 36,000-plus territory; Biden has added jobs to the economy—more than 5 million—at a record clip; and in 10 months, the Biden administration has administered 220 million vaccine doses with 70% of the U.S. adult population now fully vaccinated. And yet, less than 30% of voters say the country is on the right track.

"The Democratic Party has a messaging problem," Stevens concluded.

MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle added, "If Trump had 1 OF THESE, he'd be wall-to-wall rose garden ceremonies, prime time speeches & parades."

The truth is, the summer delta variant surge dealt a giant blow to the American psyche after everyone got a little taste of freedom last spring. But since then, the Biden administration has done such an effective job in its continued vaccination push that the pandemic has receded as a chief concern for most Americans. On Election Day, Civiqs tracking found that just 13% are extremely concerned about outbreaks in their local area.

Likewise, this week's Civiqs survey asking voters to gauge the issues that cause them the most dissatisfaction found the pandemic ranked so low among their list of concerns that it didn't even break the top 10. Just 36% of voters counted themselves dissatisfied with the handling of the pandemic in their area.

In that same survey, financial issues such as the price of gas and consumer goods and a lack of personal savings topped the list.

Civiqs tracking also shows voters' views of the national economy are abysmal, plummeting since late April when the country momentarily began to believe the worst of the pandemic was over.

Some of Americans' concerns over the cost of gas and consumer goods is justified; prices of certain items are steep (though Democrats also provided most Americans with a financial boost and tax cuts through passage of the American Rescue Plan). And while the national economy certainly suffered a setback during the delta surge, it is both demonstrably trending back in a positive direction and undoubtedly better than it was when Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.

So if Democrats in Congress are worried about the midterms, it's time for them to simply pass Biden's agenda so everyone—including the media—can quit talking about it and start selling the Biden administration's considerable number of accomplishments.

Liz Cheney's revelation about the Jan. 6 committee should terrify McCarthy

Imagine for a moment House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leisurely sipping on his morning coffee when he suddenly sees the news that the select committee investigating Jan. 6 has interviewed more than 150 people already in their probe.

Fun, right? That heart-attack-inducing moment may have actually occurred Thursday when Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming dropped a bomb.

"We've had, actually, over 150 interviews with a whole range of people connected to the events, connected to understanding what happens, so that just gives you a sense," Cheney, the panel's vice-chair, told Politico. "It is a range of engagements—some formal interviews, some depositions … There really is a huge amount of work underway that is leading to real progress for us."

In other words, the Jan. 6 panel has been burning through witnesses even as they face reluctance from a handful of holdouts close to Donald Trump. It's been known that the committee has interviewed some Trump officials, like former Trump White House aide Alyssa Farah and former Trump Department of Justice officials like Jeffrey Clark and Richard Donoghue. But by the sounds of it, the committee's work is proceeding urgently and at a break-neck pace. As the other GOP member of the Jan. 6 panel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, noted last weekend on ABC's This Week, Republicans will surely kill the Jan. 6 probe if they retake control of the chamber in next year's midterms.

The Justice Department has yet to act on a two-week-old criminal referral from the House for Steve Bannon after defying a congressional subpoena. That surely hasn't helped the committee's bid to secure testimony from other Trump confidants, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former national security and Defense Department aide Kash Patel.

But the committee's efforts could soon be getting a real boost nonetheless in the form of a treasure trove of information from the National Archives. Trump has sought to block congressional investigators from obtaining key call records, visitor logs, and sensitive files of his inner circle. But the federal judge who heard arguments in Trump's legal challenge Thursday, Judge Tanya Chutkan, appeared to take a very skeptical view of his executive privilege claim.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected Trump's assertion of executive privilege. Politico reports that unless the court intervenes, Archivist David Ferriero plans to ship the first batch of information to lawmakers on Nov. 12.

A rejection of Trump's privilege claim could also light a fire under the Justice Department on the matter of Bannon's criminal referral. Bannon has also claimed he is shielded from complying with investigators based on executive privilege, but his claim is even weaker than Trump's is. So an official rejection of Trump's claim by Judge Chutkan could deal a final blow to Bannon's already flimsy argument in the eyes of Justice Department officials.

Sean Parnell's 'fictional' novel is not so fictional after all

Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Sean Parnell wrote a fiction thriller in 2018 that coincidentally included scenes where women were violently abused, strangled, pinned down, and called "whore"—all things his estranged wife said she endured at the hands of Parnell in sworn testimony earlier this week in a custody hearing regarding their three children.

Parnell has the blessing of Donald Trump in his campaign for the Keystone State Senate seat left open by the retirement of GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. But Parnell's candidacy has been rocked in recent months as his personal history of alleged abuse comes into clearer focus. His estranged wife testified that Parnell also slapped one of their children so hard it left welts on the child's skin.

Details of Parnell's book, Man of War, are just one more piece of the puzzle. And given the testimony of his estranged wife, the book seems far more biographical than fictional. According to Politico, Parnell, who is an Army combat vet, "portrays multiple scenes of men assaulting women in the 2018 novel, the first of four in a fiction series."

The abusive behavior in the book includes scenes of women being hit, pulled by their hair, and dragged across the floor. Some male characters also relish the pain they are inflicting on their female victims. Politico writes of one scene:

"Nate grabbed a handful of Meg's hair and roughly forced her head around," Parnell wrote of a female CIA agent being beaten by a rogue military official who "savored the grimace of pain that flitted across her face and the fear that sparked in her eyes."

"When she tried to jerk free, he struck a blade against her cheek and smiled at the involuntary flinch caused by the cold steel touching warm flesh," the book says.

The CIA agent was eventually strangled, zip-tied, and punched. She was also dismissed by Parnell as someone her male counterparts objectified and "just wanted to fuck."

Parnell included another graphic scene in which crying children witness their mother being gang raped by three men, one of them with a "toothy grin spread across his face."

Parnell's real-life estranged wife provided tearful testimony Monday in which she described being strangled, choked, verbally assaulted, and even forced out of the car by Parnell and left on the side of the road.

"He tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him," she said in one instance. "He was strangling me."

She also described the whole family—including their children—being "petrified" of Parnell and "walking on eggshells" whenever he was in the home.

Male candidates with allegedly abusive histories is becoming the norm for the GOP, not the exception, heading into the midterms next year.

Trump-driven extremism is seeping into every corner of the GOP's upcoming election cycle

As Donald Trump has consolidated power in the Republican Party this year, his slow-but-steady takeover has sometimes masked the overwhelming creep of extremism into every corner of the Republican Party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's embrace of Herschel Walker this week as the establishment pick to win back Georgia's Senate seat is a perfect example.

On the one hand, McConnell's cowardly cave to Trump's chosen candidate is such a laughable outcome for a guy who's hailed as a "master tactician" and repeatedly told reporters that his only red line for candidates was electability. While Walker is potentially electable in today's Republican Party, his open struggle with mental illness and alleged history of abusing women makes him a wounded candidate right out the gate. Whatever Walker's upsides might be, he isn't who you pick if ensuring electoral success is truly your North Star.

Lurking just one layer beneath McConnell's acquiescence to Trump's demands is the unmistakable surrender of the establishment wing of the GOP to Trump. He is 100% calling the shots now about the Grand Old Party's future, and there's no pretending otherwise.

And as the Republican establishment bows to Trump, his manifest dominance of the party has also convinced candidates running for critical seats that no amount of personal baggage is prohibitive. In fact, men with violent histories are flocking to Republican primaries, often earning Trump's endorsement. That is the case not only for Walker, but also Sean Parnell, an Army veteran running for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat. Parnell, who won Trump's early backing partly by pushing a fraudit of the Keystone State's 2020 election results, is in the middle of a contentious divorce and custody battle over his three children. Parnell's estranged wife once called 911 during a domestic dispute, and also secured two temporary protective orders against him as their marriage crumbled. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, temporary orders only require a hearing with the accuser; making them permanent would have required a judge to hear from both parties, which never happened.

But now Senate Republicans are in the position of potentially fielding two Trump acolytes, each with a mountain of personal baggage that hasn't even been fully mined, in two seats that will surely play a role in deciding the fate of the upper chamber.

Trump also might play an outsized role in mucking up the reelection of a man he despises: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. This week, we learned that former GOP Sen. David Perdue, who Trump campaigned for in the run up to the state's January runoffs, might mount a primary challenge to Kemp. Trump would love nothing more than to knock off Kemp, who he blames for not overturning the state's 2020 election results.

Perdue's potential entrance is already radicalizing the race on the Republican side and will surely continue to do so. On Friday, Kemp announced that Georgia was suing President Joe Biden over his vaccine mandate for federal contractors. It's a clear bid to cater to Trump's fringe anti-mitigation, pro-pandemic base—setting up a telling trajectory for a Kemp-Purdue primary that could hamstring Republicans in the general election. On top of that, if Perdue does enter the gubernatorial race, he will lean heavily on the support of Trump, who will spend his every waking breath grousing about 2020 and the supposedly stolen election in Georgia. The net effect would be months of Trump constantly reminding his voters that Georgia elections aren't secure, and that their vote may not even matter in the end. That's on top of the fact that Trump voters already decided to stay home the last time Perdue was on the ballot.

Beyond Trump's impact at the federal and state level, his toxicity is also permeating local elections. Buzzfeed News reports that at least a dozen Republicans who attended Trump's Jan. 6 festivities at the Capitol are on the ballot for next week's elections. They include incumbent state lawmakers, first-time candidates for statehouses, and local officials—mostly running in New Jersey and Virginia, which have off-year elections. But that also suggests that the number of Jan. 6 participants running for office this year might just be the tip of the iceberg.

All of this information is just more evidence pointing to the fact that, whether or not Republicans take over congressional majorities next year, the party itself will be uniquely radicalized with an even more profound Trump bent following the midterms.

Republicans seem desperate to make sure 2022 isn't about Trump

Donald Trump has already turned into a drag on the Republican Party's midterm prospects, and GOP lawmakers know it.

That's why Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's heading up the Senate GOP's midterm efforts, really desperately wants to talk about anything but Trump.

Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told a group of reporters that President Joe Biden is "our best asset right now." Scott rooted his comments in an internal GOP poll of 1,200 suburban voters nationwide, putting Biden's approval rating underwater and showing that a majority of them think the country is on the "wrong track."

From a historical perspective, a president's approval rating is usually predictive of how well their party does in midterm elections. As wrote in March, "In the last four (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), the incumbent president's disapproval rating was higher than his approval, and in all four cases, the president's party lost a sizable bloc of House seats. (The Senate results aren't quite as tied to presidential approval.)"

One recent exception to that rule was in 2002, after the 9/11 attack, when a rally-around-the-flag mentality buoyed George W. Bush's approval ratings, and Republicans netted eight seats in the House.

So Scott isn't wrong to hope that Biden's approvals remain underwater. That said, it's entirely possible that Biden's low approval ratings will recover, at least somewhat, particularly if Democrats manage to deliver both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and his Build Back Better jobs bill. (After notching a major early win with pandemic relief, Biden has been dogged for months by the delta variant, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the inability of Democrats to push through his major agenda items.)

But the truth is, we have no way of forecasting Biden's approval ratings a year from now—or even six months from now. And what Scott's swagger entirely ignores is the corrosive effect Trump is already having on the GOP electorate, and the candidates to whom Senate Republicans will be asking voters to entrust their futures.

Look no further than Georgia, where Trump has now cleared the field for violence-prone abuser Herschel Walker to be the GOP's Senate nominee. This week, establishment Republicans officially began surrendering to Trump's bizarro pick for the critical race when Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, threw his support behind Walker.

So sure, we can look at approval ratings. But there's simply no historic measure for a party tethering itself to a twice-impeached defeated presidential incumbent who incited an attempted coup to maintain power indefinitely. And there's no historic measure for a party empowering that same mad man to handpick nearly every GOP candidate in all of the most hotly contested congressional races.

Scott bragged of the poll, "If I was a Democrat looking at this, it should scare the living daylights out of me."

But when asked about Trump's dominance in selecting GOP nominees, Politico reports, "Scott — without mentioning Trump directly by name — also insisted that endorsements aren't that important by noting that he won the Florida GOP primary for governor in 2010 despite widespread opposition."

Because according to Scott, the U.S. political landscape today hasn't shifted one iota since 2010, when the Republican Party—by today's standards—still seemed relatively sane and perhaps even interested (or maybe just resigned) to the notion of America remaining a democracy.

Republicans want to talk about President Biden right now for obvious reasons, but there's no guarantee that his approval ratings will stay where they are.

What Republicans absolutely don't want to talk about is Donald Trump and his conspiracy-driven obsession with the 2020 election results.

And while Biden's future approval ratings are a mystery to us all, Trump's preferred topic conversation is not: He will spend the rest of his days on this planet baselessly griping about the unfairness of the 2020 elections. And so long as he controls the GOP, that obsession will drive every election message and nearly every significant candidate selection regardless of what poll Rick Scott waves around in reporters' faces.

Two words: Herschel Walker.


Happy Holidays!