Kerry Eleveld

Democratic organizers have a bad message for the White House on GOP-led voter suppression

While White House officials continue to be dedicated to the proposition that grassroots groups can "out-organize voter suppression" efforts in the states, leaders of those very same grassroots groups have a different message for the White House: "We're fucked."

That's exactly what Georgia organizer Nsé Ufot told Politico about the GOP's new voter suppression laws in the crucial swing state.

Ufot, who's the CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project, said their organization is trying to lay the groundwork to overcome the Republican attack on voting rights in the state, but "if there isn't a way for us to repeat what happened in November 2020, we're fucked," she said. "We are doing what we do to make sure that not only our constituents, our base, the people, the communities that we organize with, get it. We're trying to make sure that our elected officials get it as well," Ufot added.

In other words, yes, we're organizing on the ground, but hey, elected officials, how about you do your part too?

Activists across the country are desperately trying to disabuse White House officials of the notion that inaction is a reasonable course of action to combat the raft of GOP-led voter suppression laws already passed in some 18 states.

In Georgia, one of the most onerous changes to state voting laws is the voter identification requirement for mail-in ballots that could prove prohibitive for nearly 300,000 voters who lack such identification. In addition, the GOP's severe reduction in the availability of drop boxes could jam hundreds of thousands more voters in the Atlanta suburbs who used those boxes to cast ballots in 2020, along with voters in other parts of the state. Taken together, those two changes alone threaten to impact hundreds of thousands of voters in a state where then-candidate Joe Biden eked out a win by roughly 12,000 votes.

The Georgia State Democratic Party is rushing to reactivate its 2018 midterm network in order to train county chairs, Democratic activists, and voters in all 159 state counties on the new voter ID laws, according to Politico. The party has also hired three new outreach directors for Black, Latino, and Asian American communities.

Democratic activists in the Peach State will get somewhat of a trial run for their new organizing efforts later this fall during the Atlanta mayoral election. While the political contours of Atlanta-based Fulton County are somewhat distinct from other areas of the state, it's also the most populous county and critical to Democratic fortunes.

But Democratic organizers in states across the nation face similar hurdles, and organizers continue to be baffled by the lax response from Democrats in Washington.

"I'm super worried," said Max Wood, founder and CEO of progressive data analytics firm Deck. "I do think there are times when this kind of stuff can galvanize enthusiasm and turnout," Wood added, "but I don't know that that will be enough, especially with how extreme some of these laws are."

And for all the pitfalls the Biden administration has avoided repeating from the Obama administration, failing to properly elevate 2018 and spearhead a coordinated midterm campaign could potentially prove catastrophic for Democratic fortunes nationwide, not to mention President Biden's agenda.

"I don't think the Democratic Party as a whole is prioritizing this issue and its potential damage in the way that they should," said Doug Herman, a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. "We just went through an insurrection that was stoked by voter fraud lies, and the reaction to that from the Republican Party is to restrict the voting process so severely that only their voters can participate. And I don't understand the lack of fierce resistance to that from Americans and Democrats."

How Senate Republican candidates' embrace of Trump's election conspiracy is dimming GOP takeover hopes

It's hard to overstate just how desperate congressional GOP leaders seem to push a forward-looking message next year even as they remain tethered to Donald Trump's backward-looking 2020 deadweight. But witness this attempt by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the Senate GOP campaign arm, to bury the last election so Republicans can get on with the 2022 midterms.

"The election happened. President Biden won the election. He's constitutionally elected," Sen. Scott, who voted against certification of the election results, conceded recently to VICE news reporter Cameron Joseph. But in his next breath, Scott sought to dictate the tenor of GOP campaigns over the coming year. "What the conversation's going to be about is the Biden agenda and what we're going to do going forward," Scott told VICE.

Yet Republicans' hapless predicament is also maddeningly inexplicable. They most certainly had an opportunity earlier this year to cut themselves loose from Trump, and still they explicitly chose to embrace him and his whopper election-fraud lies as an electoral ploy. Had congressional Republicans simply severed ties and gone on cruise control, the historical trends for how midterms play out for incumbent parties with one-party control of Washington would have overwhelmingly favored the GOP. Instead, in some exceedingly dim corner of their minds, Republicans concluded Trump would be a net-plus for them even after a notable number of conservative voters rejected Trump at the top of the ticket while still voting for down-ballot GOP candidates. It was a perplexing choice for Senate Republicans, in particular, who only need to net one seat next year to reclaim a majority in the upper chamber.

In fact, Sen. Scott's prediction bears absolutely no resemblance to the conspiracy-driven melee that is already enveloping all but one of the eight most competitive 2022 Senate contests. Indeed, it doesn't matter whether Republicans are playing offense or defense, whether there's an open seat or a GOP incumbent, Trump's 2020 election conspiracies are dominating campaigns and defining Republican candidates in the process. What follows is a brief overview taken from Joseph's reporting for VICE.

Democrats on defense

In Georgia, Republicans itching to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock are still facing a frozen GOP field courtesy of Trump. Just last week, Trump declared he had convinced former Georgia football star Herschel Walker—who hasn't lived in the state for decades—to run for a seat that Republicans view as one of their top pick-up chances. Walker has avidly backed Trump's 2020 conspiracies but he isn't exactly known for his political prowess—and that has Peach State Republicans worried.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has been term limited out of the governor's mansion, would have been a strong statewide Senate candidate. But Ducey's dreams were dashed by his inability to illegally overturn the 2020 election results in Trump's favor. In his wake, came GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who also proved insufficiently loyal in gifting the state to Trump and has been working overtime to ingratiate himself ever since announcing his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

Last month, Brnovich penned an angry letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, defending the Senate GOP's sham audit and accusing the Justice Department of being "more interested in supporting the hysterical outcries of leftist pundits on cable television, rather than the rule of law." He also said Garland harbored an "alarming disdain for state sovereignty." Jury's still out on whether Trump will warm to Brnovich, whom he has called "lackluster."

In Nevada, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt has gone above and beyond to associate himself with Trump's election fraud lies from the get-go. 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. The third time wasn't the charm.

Nonetheless, Laxalt's successive failures and penchant for lying have apparently made him a prime GOP recruit to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto next year, though he has yet to announce his candidacy.

Democrats on offense

In North Carolina, Trump upended the GOP field by endorsing Republican Rep. Ted Budd, who voted against certification of the 2020 election results. Former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory is likely the party's strongest statewide candidate to win the open seat, but he made the unforgivable mistake of admitting Biden won.

In Pennsylvania, three GOP candidates are trying to out-Trump each other in order to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Former House candidate and Trump ally Sean Parnell is pushing for an Arizona-style fraudit in the Keystone State. Real estate developer Jeff Bartos has questioned the 2020 results and helped fund GOP poll watchers in the state. And former Trump donor and U.S. Ambassador Carla Sands has repeatedly complained that her vote wasn't counted last November. Tragic.

In Ohio, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel launched his campaign to win the state's open seat by predicting history would reveal that 2020 was "in large part ... stolen from President Trump." Likewise, former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken kicked off her candidacy by asserting there had been "widespread fraud and irregularities" in 2020 that were "swept under the bus"—which isn't really a thing, but that's not the point. Loyalty to Trump, and no one but Trump, is the point. Neither of them have provided any evidence to back up their claims, but again, that's not the point.

And in Wisconsin, the GOP field is currently Trump loyalist and conspiracy theory enthusiast Sen. Ron Johnson, who hasn't declared whether he'll run for another term or retire. But yeah, the seat is currently held by one of the Senate GOP's biggest purveyors of dangerous anti-democratic, anti-science propaganda. If Johnson vacates, an immediate race to the bottom will ensue among Republican hopefuls.

At this point, New Hampshire stands out as the only competitive race where Trump isn't haunting the GOP... yet. Democrats are playing defense there, hoping to boost Sen. Maggie Hassan to reelection. Republicans hope the state's popular GOP governor, Chris Sununu, will escape Trump's shadow after Sununu recently disputed Dear Leader's assertion that the Granite State's election was plagued by large-scale election fraud.

Even so, Trump dominating seven of eight top-tier races with his grievance-driven lies is a pretty good place for Senate Democrats to start.

Trouble in GOP paradise: The Trump-DeSantis alliance frays

Ever since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis edged out Donald Trump for the top spot in a presidential straw poll last month, it seemed inevitable that tensions between the once-chummy camps of both men would flare. Indeed, that appears to be the case in the latest squabbling over who told whom to do what regarding Trump's Sarasota rally last weekend.

After DeSantis reportedly begged Trump last week to delay his campaign-style rally out of respect for the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts in the Surfside condominium collapse, things started getting murky in terms of which Florida Man flipped off the other one first.

Had DeSantis snubbed Trump by saying he would not attend the rally, or had Trump stiff-armed DeSantis into keeping his distance? That depends on whom you ask. In the world according to Trump, he was the one who told DeSantis not to attend the rally, which was being held some 200 miles away from the site of the Surfside tragedy.

"We mutually agreed. He is working very hard. He is doing a very good job. He should be there," Trump told Newsmax. "I told him: 'You should stay there, this is not that important for you.' He of all people should be there."

But DeSantis aides told the New York Times it was the Florida governor who made the call. "He spoke with President Trump, who agreed that it was the right decision, because the governor's duty is to be in Surfside," said DeSantis press secretary, Christina Pushaw, who also denied any effort by the governor to delay the rally.

Whatever the case, Trump held the rally, DeSantis did not attend, and somehow Trump shockingly forgot to give DeSantis even a single mention in his 90-minute stemwinder—despite thanking other local GOP officials in Florida.

What Trump did manage to work in was a teaser about his own potential 2024 presidential bid. "We are looking at the election, more than looking at it," Trump said to an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

Some allies of both men have been trying to downplay talk of tensions between the two. But the Times' Annie Karni confirms what we all know to be true—Trump's tragically tiny ego simply cannot tolerate the notion of anyone cutting into his limelight.

People close to Mr. Trump said he had become mildly suspicious of a supposed ally. He has grilled multiple advisers and friends, asking "what's Ron doing," after hearing rumors at Mar-a-Lago that Mr. DeSantis had been courting donors for a potential presidential run of his own. He has asked aides their opinion of a Western Conservative Summit presidential straw poll for 2024 Republican presidential candidates, an unscientific online poll that showed Mr. DeSantis beating Mr. Trump.
In case you didn't get your fill of fireworks over the 4th, don't fret! There's sure to be an epic display over the coming months courtesy of the GOP's elite force of Florida Men

New analysis reveals the secrets of Biden's 2020 win

Overall participation in the 2020 election among U.S. adults rose 7 points from 2016 to reach 66% last year. A new analysis of validated voters from Pew Research Center (which provides a bigger, more reliable sample than exit polls) built on several of the 2020 trends that have already been reported. Here're some of the key takeaways:

New 2020 voters

One in 4 voters in 2020, or 25%, had not voted in 2016. About 6% of those new 2020 voters turned out in 2018, spiking participation in that midterm election. And voters who turned out in 2018 after skipping the 2016 presidential election were about twice as likely to back Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020.

But the 19% of new voters who came out in 2020 after skipping both 2016 and the midterms divided up almost evenly among Biden and Trump, 49%-47%. However, what was most notable about that group of new 2020 voters was the age disparity, writes Pew:

Among those under age 30 who voted in 2020 but not in either of the two previous elections, Biden led 59% to 33%, while Trump won among new or irregular voters ages 30 and older by 55% to 42%. Younger voters also made up an outsize share of these voters: Those under age 30 made up 38% of new or irregular 2020 voters, though they represented just 15% of all 2020 voters.

Third party

Between 2016 and 2020, the electorate apparently got the memo that rolling the dice on a third-party candidate against Trump was effectively rolling the dice on democracy.

While 6% of 2016 voters cast a ballot for one of several third-party candidates, just 2% of the electorate voted third party in 2020.

Overall, third-party 2016 voters who turned out in 2020 voted 53%-36% for Biden over Trump, with 10% opting for a third-party candidate.

Suburban voters

Biden made a solid nine-point gain with suburban voters, winning 54% of their vote compared to Hillary Clinton's 45% share.

This shift was also seen among White voters: Trump narrowly won White suburban voters by 4 points in 2020 (51%-47%); he carried this group by 16 points in 2016 (54%-38%).

Latino voters

While Biden still won a 59% majority of Latino voters, Trump made double-digit gains among the demographic, winning 38% of them. In 2016, Clinton carried Latino voters 66%-28%.

One noteworthy feature of the 2020 election was the wide education gap among Hispanic voters. In 2020, Biden won college-educated Hispanic voters 69% to 30%. At the same time, Biden's advantage over Trump among Hispanic voters who did not have a college degree was far narrower (55% to 41%).

That's likely one reason that Democrats did so well with Latino voters in 2018, winning them 72%-25%, according to Pew. The higher one's education level, the more likely one is to vote in a midterm election.

Men vs. women

In 2016, Trump won men by 11 points, but in 2020 they split almost even between Trump and Biden, 50%-48%, respectively. Women stayed roughly as loyal to Democrats in both presidential elections, with Biden garnering 55% to Clinton's 54%, but Trump increased his share of the female vote by five points in 2020 compared to 2016, 44%-39%.

As has been previously reported, Biden made gains among white men while Trump increased his showing among white women.

In 2016, Trump won White men by 30 points (62% to 32%). That gap narrowed to a 17-point margin for Trump in 2020 (57% to 40%). White women, a group sometimes categorized as swing voters and who broke nearly evenly in 2016 (47% for Trump to 45% for Clinton), favored him in 2020 (53% to 46%).

So in 2016, Trump won a plurality of white women, but in 2020 he won a narrow majority. Trump won a majority of white men in both cycles, but Biden trimmed Trump's margins in 2020 by nearly half. Overall, Trump's losses among white men and gains among white women decreased the gender gap among white voters.

White noncollege voters

Biden gained five points among white voters with only some college or less, winning 33% to Clinton's 28%, while Trump's numbers stayed about the same at 65% in 2020 versus 64% in 2015.

White men—even Republican ones—are starting to sour on Trump

Don't tell the Republican Party, but Donald Trump isn't exactly killing it with one of his most loyal demographics: white men.

Trump's biggest blow, according to Civiqs tracking, has come from white male independents, where his favorables have dropped a solid 10 points since a post-Election Day high of 53% in mid-November. Now Trump is 6 points underwater with the demographic, 43% - 49%.

But Trump's favorable rating over the past several months also shows him losing steam even faster with white GOP men than with white GOP women. Among white male Republicans, Trump's favorables have dropped 6 points since Election Day, 91% to 85%, while he only slipped 3 points among white Republican women, 92% to 89%. Here's the male side of that equation:

That also means Trump is now doing nearly a handful of points better with conservative white women than with conservative white men.

This whole trend among white men is super interesting, but let's focus on one particular aspect of it—education level. Trump is taking his biggest hit among white male Republicans and independents with higher levels of education. In fact, the more education, the worse it gets for Trump.

To take an extreme example, here's white male indies with postgraduate degrees, where Trump's unfavorables have jumped about 10 points since Election Day to 64% now.

And here's white male Republicans with postgraduate degrees, where Trump's favorables have plummeted from 84% on Election Day to 71% now.

The Trump era has been defined to some extent by Donald Trump's ability to defy political gravity, which makes this relative fall from grace among white men both notable and very interesting in the context of 2022. The Republican Party has doubled down on Trumpism at a time when Trump himself is losing favor with one of his most loyal demographics. And when it comes to winning the suburbs, Republicans don't seem to be doing themselves any favors.

Here's the real reason Republican leaders sold out their country and doubled down on Trumpism

t's still a marvel to many of us that Republican leaders decided to gift their party to a man who is presently ripping it apart at the seams. GOP leaders, particularly at the federal level, had the perfect opportunity following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to cut Donald Trump loose and rebuild their party with fresh ideas. Trump had already done them the favor of dismantling the traditional conservative agenda. It would have been an ideal time to take stock of what was working and not working and retool what the party stood for. For anyone with even an ounce of leadership skill and a smidge of entrepreneurial spirit, it could have been an exciting time of renewal.

But no. No leadership, no fresh thinking. Instead, Republicans in positions of power tied themselves to a mad man who doesn't give two craps about the party. It was the coward's way out, but new Civiqs polling this week sheds more light on why the Republican Party is where it is.

Asked whether they identified as pro-Trump, anti-Trump, or otherwise, right-leaning respondents who were pro-Trump still far outpaced the other wings of the party. Here's the breakdown of the general population when asked, "Do you consider yourself...":

  • A pro-Trump Republican: 31%
  • An anti-Trump Republican: 5%
  • A Republican who does not have strong feelings one way or the other about Trump: 9%
  • I'm not a Republican: 55%
  • Unsure: 1%

The partisan breakdown of that question showed 74% of Republican voters identifying as pro-Trump along with 23% of independent voters calling themselves pro-Trump. Here's the data.

Partisan breakdown of voters favoring/rejecting Trump

Republican voters Indpendent voters
A pro-Trump Republican 74% 23%
An anti-Trump Republican 6% 5%
GOP, but no strong feelings on Trump 17% 11%
I'm not a Republican 2% 60%
Unsure 1% 1%

(Note: Please don't ask me to explain the 2% of self-identified GOP voters who say they aren't Republicans.)

In a separate question, 70% of Republican voters said GOP candidates for office "should be supporters of Donald Trump," while just 3% of GOP voters said they should oppose him. Another 14% of Republican voters said GOP candidates should simply "not pay attention to Trump," suggesting they wished their party would just ignore him and move on.

It's worth noting that the GOP's wholesale support of Trump since Jan. 6 has likely only increased how much appetite Republican voters have for Trumpian views and candidates. But certainly Republican voters' strong underlying support for Trump also helped convince GOP leadership to make the irresponsibly craven political calculation that doubling down on Trumpism was the way to go.

With domestic political leadership like that, who needs international enemies?

Liberal states expand voting access — creating 'stark' partisan divide in voting rights

Even as Republican-led states erect barriers to the ballot box across the country, more than half of U.S. states have locked in laws since the 2020 election that make voting more accessible, according to The Washington Post.

Many of these laws are the result of steps lawmakers took last year to make voting safer and easier amid the pandemic, efforts that ultimately yielded record voter participation. The laws typically streamlined registering to vote while also expanding access to early voting and voting by mail. But other laws enabled people with past felony convictions to vote and offered more options to voters with disabilities.

Virginia also enacted a law requiring locales to get preapproval or feedback to any changes they plan to make to local voting ordinances, an attempt to counteract the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Right Act in 2013.

In the meantime, the nonpartisan group Voting Rights Lab (VRL) recently found that more than 30 new laws in 18 states have restricted access to the ballot box. The laws affect some 36 million people, or roughly 16% of all eligible voters. On the flip side of the coin, laws making voting more accessible in 28 states are affecting some 63 million eligible voters, or about 27% of the eligible voting pool.

The divide between the changes taking place in liberal- versus conservative-leaning states was highlighted in a recent report from VRL called, "A Tale of Two Democracies: How the 2021 Wave of State Voting Laws Created a New American Fault Line."

"There's a fault line that's developing between states working to strengthen our democracy and states actively restricting it," Liz Avore, vice president for law and policy at VRL, told the Post. "It is stark when you look at the map … That division is really remarkable."

That said, some positive changes have emerged in a handful of GOP-led states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Montana. In some cases, states have increased ballot drop-off locations or expanded early vote hours; in others, they have opened eligibility to people with felony convictions or made voting easier for people with disabilities.

Kentucky's Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams has made a particularly unusual case, saying his party needs to "stop being scared of voters."

"Let them vote, and go out and make the case," Adams said. "I want Republicans to succeed. I think it's an unforced error to shoot themselves in the foot in these states by shrinking access. You don't need to do that."

That is just truly novel thinking for a Republican these days—and dare we say it, pro-democracy.

Below is a VRL roundup of voting changes from across the country.

PRO-VOTER TRENDS

  • 10 states expanded in-person early voting
    and only one has restricted it
  • Nine states are giving election officials more time to process ballots
    with zero states cutting back pre-processing time
  • Five states passed ballot error notice and cure processes
    and zero states have rolled theirs back
  • Four states expanded voting eligibility or access for citizens with past felony convictions
    and zero states have done the reverse
  • Four states passed new or improved electronic ballot tracking laws
    and zero states have done the reverse

ANTI-VOTER TRENDS

  • 11 states have passed new laws shifting election authority,
    with potentially chilling ramifications for nonpartisan election administration in some of these places
  • 10 states have created election-related crimes
    with potentially suppressive effects
  • Eight states made it more difficult to return ballots on behalf of voters
    while one state made it easier
  • Six states imposed new or more restrictive voter ID laws
    while only one state took action to make its voter ID law more equitable

MIXED OUTCOMES

  • 22 states expanded mail voting
    while 11 have restricted it
  • 13 states improved voter registration
    while three states imposed new registration barriers
  • Eight states expanded ballot drop off locations
    while four states restricted them

Georgia GOP quickly moving to oust Democrats from local election posts

Republicans in Georgia are moving swiftly to capitalize on their election-law power grab by removing anyone in local election posts who might interfere with their efforts to suppress Democratic voters and manipulate election outcomes.

Lonnie Hollis is exactly that type of troublemaker, which is why Republicans will be ousting her this year from the Troup County election board in West Georgia, according to The New York Times.

"I speak out and I know the laws," said Hollis, a Black woman who has served on the board since 2013. "The bottom line is they don't like people that have some type of intelligence and know what they're doing, because they know they can't influence them."

Hollis and election board members in at least 10 other counties across the state are victims of the Georgia GOP's new power grabs. In Troup County, a local law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp handed over full control of the county election board to Republicans. The GOP-led county commission can now run the table on whatever changes it wants to make to the board, whereas election board members used to be chosen by county commissioners in conjunction with both political parties and the county's three biggest cities. Of the local election board members across Georgia who will likely either be replaced or eliminated, most are Democrats and five are people of color, according to the Times, but all of their seats will most likely be filled by Republicans.

Hollis, for instance, was clearly a problem—for which Republicans now have a solution. She has pushed for making voting more accessible by doing things like opening polls on Sunday and adding a new polling location at a Black church, for instance.

Georgia's statewide voter suppression law is one of 24 new election laws that Republican-led legislatures have enacted in more than a dozen states, with more likely to come. Some of those laws have included both front-end and back-end manipulations to protect against outcomes that Republicans don't like. So alongside restricting who can vote, Republican lawmakers have also taken power away from elected officials, put a stranglehold on state election boards, and empowered themselves to overturn any unfortunate election results.

But these early moves in Georgia suggest the fears of many voting rights advocates are already afoot. If partisan Republicans are already taking action to remove any Democratic and Republican local election board members who threaten to act in good faith in a disputed contest, then it's clear that they are already stacking the decks to get the results they want, regardless of who Georgia voters choose to represent them.

"It's a thinly veiled attempt to wrest control from officials who oversaw one of the most secure elections in our history and put it in the hands of bad actors," said Jena Griswold, chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the current Colorado secretary of state. "The risk is the destruction of democracy."

As election law expert and founder of Democracy Docket Marc Elias tweeted, "This is not normal. It is wrong. It is dangerous. And, it is happening."

Republicans run into early headwinds in two critical Senate races

Last year, Senate Republicans were already feeling so desperate about their upcoming midterm prospects that they rushed to wish Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa a speedy and full recovery from COVID-19 so that he could run for reelection in 2022. The power of incumbency is a huge advantage for any politician, and Republicans were clinging to the idea of sending Grassley—who will be 89 when the '22 general election rolls around—back to the upper chamber for another six-year term.

GOP fortunes have improved slightly since then, with historical trends improving their midterm prospects since Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But the Senate map is still a long ways away from a gimme for Republicans, and several recent developments have brought good news for Democrats.

The first of those is a new poll from the Des Moines Register showing that nearly two-thirds of Iowa voters (64%) believe "it's time for someone else" to hold Grassley's seat versus the 27% who want to see the octogenarian reelected to an eighth term. Women voters were especially brutal, with seven out of ten saying they were ready to give Grassley the heave-ho.

Grassley's numbers with GOP voters lagged too, with just 51% committing to supporting him again, while just 7% of Democrats and 23% of independents agreed. Grassley's overall job approval clocked in at a meager 45%; it's his lowest level since 1982.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., upends Republican thinking that another Grassley run could help safeguard the seat. In fact, Grassley may be a liability in the general election, or GOP primary voters may choose an alternative. In any case, Iowa's Senate race could prove more competitive than Republicans had hoped.

Meanwhile, the GOP primary race for North Carolina's open Senate seat has been scrambled by Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of hard-right Congressman Ted Budd, according to Politico. Following Trump's input at the state party convention earlier this month, former North Carolina governor-turned-Senate candidate Pat McCrory rushed to dismiss the endorsement as falling "flat" in the room.

Now, retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr is coming to McCrory's rescue, reportedly arguing both publicly and privately that he is "the only one in the race" who can win the seat statewide. "Pat McCrory has a commanding advantage," Burr told Politico.

Burr, one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump of impeachment charges, also took a swipe at Trump's rationale, or lack thereof.

"I can't tell you what motivates him," Burr said of Trump. "I've never seen individuals endorse a candidate a year before the primary. That's unusual."

Judging by Budd's own internal polling, Burr has a point. McCrory enjoys far higher statewide name recognition, and he's leading Budd by about two dozen points, 45%-19%. Another Republican contender, former Rep. Mark Walker, garners just 12% of the vote, with 23% still undecided.

McCrory, who has been meeting with GOP senators to make his case, is running as an establishment Republican. Budd obviously occupies the Trump lane now. It's a scenario that could easily leave one side or the other feeling resentful depending on which Republican prevails, and any result on the GOP side could wind up depressing at least some general election turnout among Tar Heel Republicans.

But that's the least of the GOP's worries, according to McCrory's camp, which is intent on catastrophizing the ultimate result of a Budd primary win.

"If Republicans want a majority in the U.S. Senate, they will nominate Pat McCrory," said McCrory adviser Jordan Shaw. "Otherwise, Democrats are going to take this seat and keep the majority."

How Manchin's voting rights proposal puts GOP on defense

After months of heartache over Democrats' signature voting rights bill, the For The People Act, progressives finally got a small but distinct glimmer of hope this week. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia detailed what he thinks should be included in the bill, and his proposal was good enough to receive a gold-standard embrace from voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.

"Absolutely," Abrams responded enthusiastically Thursday, when she was asked if she could support Manchin's proposal. "What Sen. Manchin is putting forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography," Abrams explained.

As I noted earlier this week, getting Manchin invested in this bill—getting him to take some ownership—is a critical step in the direction of final passage even though plenty of hard work remains.

Senate Republicans also played their part beautifully, lining up practically arm-in-arm Thursday to assure Manchin that the 10 votes he's hoping to get to safeguard our elections have always been and will continue to be sheer fantasy. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that "all Republicans" would oppose it. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri dismissed Manchin's proposal as a "Stacey Abrams substitute" after she endorsed it. Why not just literally slap Manchin in the face and get it over with?

On the bright side, the united front Senate Republicans presented is a sure sign the GOP caucus is a touch nervous about what they are seeing. They had been perfectly happy with the status quo—praising Manchin as a great defender of democracy and Senate procedure while he continued to foil Biden's agenda. Manchin's proposal upended that GOP comfort zone pretty quickly.

But even if Democrats manage to coalesce around a substantive bill that excites Manchin and still passes muster with progressives, the Senate filibuster—which imposes a 60-vote procedural threshold—remains the effort's single biggest hurdle.

Still, it's at least possible that Manchin will find his way to a solution, even if it's for this singular bill and no other. Remember, he already suffered a humiliating defeat on the bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, where Senate Republicans inexplicably killed a measure that had met every single one of their demands. Now Republicans are telling Manchin to expect the same exact fate on voting legislation that he has said is critical.

"The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics," Manchin wrote in the opening sentence of his proposal. In the next sentence, Manchin insisted that any federal voting bill must be the "result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together" to find a solution.

That is clearly not going to happen, and then it will be choosing time for Manchin.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this negotiation isn't happening in a vacuum. Republicans dooming the Jan. 6 bill is at play. So are the ongoing bipartisan negotiations over an infrastructure/jobs plan. One school of thought is that the Senate managing to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal will free up Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to do the right thing on a voting rights bill. The other possibility is that Republicans proving their undying commitment to killing every piece of Biden's domestic agenda could eventually paint Manchin into a corner.


It's impossible to know how it will all play out, but the point is, negotiations either succeeding or falling apart in one area will absolutely effect the give and take over the voting rights legislation. And vice versa—if Republicans succeed in killing a voting rights bill that Manchin was central to negotiating, he may be far more willing to help Democrats go it alone on another reconciliation bill.

Whatever the case, I head into this weekend—our first official Juneteenth holiday—heartened by the small but important step forward Democrats made this week. Even if we do not succeed in getting a voting rights bill over the finish line this session (and we just might), the midterms are still not lost to us.

As Abrams told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace on Thursday, Republicans' brazen attack on democracy is likely to fail one way or the other precisely because of its brazenness.

"I think they are misreading the moment, just as they misread 2020 and indeed as they misread 2018," Abrams said. "Voter suppression works best when people aren't paying attention."

And people are most certainly paying attention.

Here's a fuller Abrams clip:

Stacey Abrams: 'Voter suppression works best when people aren't paying attention'



Stacey Abrams discusses Republicans' continued efforts to suppress the vote after Sen. Joe Manchin outlined his voting rights proposals.

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