Kerry Eleveld

GOP leaders try to hide internal data showing Trump's a total drag in competitive districts

As House Republicans line up to purge their ranks of any potential truth tellers about Donald Trump's 2020 loss, new reporting from the Washington Post suggests they are living a level of denial that exceeds mere strategic choice about how to retake the majority next year.

Not only are House GOP leaders ousting their No. 3, Rep. Liz of Cheney of Wyoming, for refusing to peddle Trump's Big Lie about rampant voter fraud, they are attempting to deprive their own members of the extent to which Trump could sink them in critical districts. During the caucus' April retreat, the Post reports that staffers from the National Republican Congressional Committee refused to disclose key elements of their own internal polling on Trump.

"Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one," writes the Post.

Even when one GOP member posed direct questions about Trump's support, the staffers conducting the briefing refused to come clean.

In short, they are not only living Trump's lie about the last election, they're also spinning their own lie about the next election.

It's the type of self-deluded miscalculation that could truly undercut their chances in critical swing districts, particularly as the party lurches to the right in an attempt to keep Trumpers engaged and activated for the midterms.

As I wrote in a post several weeks back, it's impossible to imagine the GOP hard-core embracing the political fringes of Trump's base without it somehow disrupting its relationship with high-propensity college-educated voters. It's a group that already has continued to move away from the party in the past two election cycles. And yes, I'm assuming that "core districts" likely refers to swingy suburban districts.

In Georgia, for instance, Biden's win was largely powered by the shift among voters in the suburbs, college graduates, and high-income earners, according to turnout data from The New York Times. Here's how they moved from 2016 to 2020:

  • High-income earners: +7 points more Democratic
  • Majority college graduates: +6 points more Democratic
  • Suburban: +6 points more Democratic

Another metric that seems to support what is reported in the Post is Trump's favorable rating nationally among independent college graduates, which is roughly 15 points underwater (17 points to be specific).

To be clear, the lack of specificity of the Post's reporting on the internal GOP data along with the fact that it's simply too early to game out which districts will be in play make it impossible to draw too many conclusions.

But the GOP's lurch rightward has been both real and undeniably overt, and Trump's unpopularity with suburban voters is also verifiably real. Bottom line: If Republican leaders are lying to their conference about Trump's overall drag on their candidates, that can't be good news for whatever strategerie they are planning for 2022.

Top Republicans are running scared — and relinquishing the GOP to the monster they helped create

Like a bunch of lemmings, Republican lawmakers in Congress and across the country have clung to Donald Trump's Big Lie that the only reason he lost the 2020 election was because it was riddled with fraud.

Of course, Trump never once proved a single instance of fraud in 60-plus trips to the courthouse, and he also helped ensure the massacre of at least half a million Americans due to the pandemic, so there's that.

But instead of being willing to admit what's plain as day to anyone with a brain and a pulse, GOP lawmakers tout Trump's Big Lie in conservative media and then run from reporters representing every news outlet that has a shred of integrity left.

"In Washington, normally chatty senators scramble to skirt the question," writes The Washington Post.

Of course, there's also the very public rift in the House GOP leadership between Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming who yet again on Monday reiterated the truth that Joe Biden was the rightful winner of the election.

"The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system," Cheney tweeted, in what amounts to GOP apostasy these days.

But the question is: Why? Why did McCarthy retreat from saying Trump "bears responsibility" for Jan. 6 to being a total Trump bootlicker? Why are chatty senators dodging reporters on Capitol Hill?

The answer comes at the state level, where wackadoodle Trumpers continue to worship the Orange Menace despite the fact that he hasn't been able to provide a shred of evidence for a single one of the conspiracies he's spewed. In a lede that is just beyond parody, the Post writes:

Debra Ell, a Republican organizer in Michigan and fervent supporter of former president Donald Trump, said she has good reason to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
"I think I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we've learned to trust when he says something, that he's not just going to spew something out there that's wrong and not verified," she said, referring to Trump's baseless claims that widespread electoral fraud caused his loss to President Biden in November.

Ell, a Republican precinct delegate, has reportedly been working feverishly to oust the Michigan Republican Party's executive director, Jason Cabel Roe, for daring to admit the truth: Trump lost fair and square.

"He said the election was not rigged, as Donald Trump had said, so we didn't agree with that, and then he didn't blame the Democrats for any election fraud," Ell complained. "He said there was no fraud — again, that's something that doesn't line up with what we think really happened — and then he said it's all Donald Trump's fault."

Well, that was clearly too bitter a reality pill to swallow for Ell. Of course, she doesn't appear to have provided any evidence whatsoever for her errant beliefs other than, 'Trump said so.' And, as she stated, "Trump has never actually been wrong" outside of the 30,573 lies he told during his four-year term. (Honestly, Trump lied at a mind-boggling pace—almost like he'd been training his whole life for that epic four-year stint.)

Anyway, Ell is not alone. Salleigh Grubbs, the newly elected chair of the Cobb County Republican Party in Georgia, is equally as certain of Trump's win because all the Republicans in her social circle say it's so.

"There's no Republican that I know of, that I've spoken with, who has come to me and said, 'Biden won fair and square,' " Grubbs said. Except for maybe the Republican state elections officials and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp. They all say that.

"I absolutely do believe that there were irregularities in the election. I absolutely believe that our voices were shut out," she said.

Sure enough—when you're wrong and you can't provide any evidence of "irregularities" over the course of three separate recounts in your state, then people have a tendency to "shut out" your voice.

Anyway, these are the geniuses to whom people like McCarthy have relinquished control of the party. A lot of it probably has to do with the regularity with which threats—and death threats, in particular—get hurled at anyone with a foot in reality.

In Iowa — after telling a local newspaper that Trump should be impeached for his "atrocious conduct" in egging on the Jan. 6 attacks — Dave Millage was called a "traitor" and forced to step down as chair of the Scott County Republican Party. In Missouri, the state Republican Party's executive director, Jean Evans, resigned from her term several weeks early amid angry and threatening calls from Trump supporters, who urged her to do more to help Trump hold on to the White House after his loss in November.

Of course, Republican lawmakers have been dumbing down their voters for decades, and the monster they helped create is what has now come to life.

"It feels like this has been happening in the Republican Party for a really long time," said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. "If you allow an entire contingent of your caucus to be steeped in conspiratorial thinking, what . . . do you think is going to happen? They're going to turn on you."

And before you know it, the pitch forks are headed your way.

Trump may have botched the census — and screwed Republicans in the process

Both Democrats and Republicans across the country are scratching their heads over the U.S. Census data released this week, and the one thing everyone knows is that there's a better-than-decent chance that Donald Trump and his bumpkins messed it up.

First off, the news that just 13 states stood to gain or lose seats seemed weird. As The Washington Post's Philip Bump notes, it was "an unusually low number," which also means that "the House will look to a large extent in 2023 the way it does now." In the end, Republicans are clearly poised to net several more seats than Democrats, but it's not the shakeup many had expected, and California, despite losing one seat, will maintain the nation's largest congressional delegation.

But the biggest surprises by far came in the Sun Belt states of Texas, Florida, and Arizona, where many political strategists expected a gain of six seats total—three in Texas, two in Florida, and one in Arizona. Instead, each state gained one seat less than expected: Texas (2), Florida (1), and no pick up in Arizona.

For now, the Census Bureau has only released the top line numbers, with a release of some of the more granular demographic data still several months away. But many demographic experts and statisticians are already zeroing in on an undercount of Latino voters as potentially being responsible for lagging gains in these Sun Belt states.

On the one hand, Latinos and other underserved communities are often more difficult to count from the get-go. But then Trump and his bumpkins had the stellar idea of trying to force a citizenship question into the census, which could have very well suppressed responsiveness in these communities even further.

The costs of such an undercount are both human and political. For next decade, "undercounted communities could lose out on an untold amount of federal funding that uses census data as a base," reports Politico.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California, who previously led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PAC, told Politico, "An undercount means that there's less money for the kids in your neighborhood, there's less money coming your way for the seniors who need support in your neighborhood. That is the ultimate cost to a community."

But politically speaking, it likely hurt Republicans more than Democrats. GOP strategists had been salivating over the idea of gaining five seats between Texas and Florida alone. In Texas, in particular, they could have drawn two safe Republican districts and created a third as a Democratic "vote sink." So much for that.

In Arizona, where a nonpartisan commission would have overseen redistricting, Democrats may have missed out on an opportunity. The ever-growing Phoenix suburbs might have been a natural fit to locate a brand new seat.

Some observers are also attributing the anemic pick ups in the Sun Belt to a lack of investment from state legislatures in the region. California, for instance, invested nearly $200 million in an outreach program that sought to increase the Census response rate in the state.

"Three of the states with large Latino populations — Arizona, Texas, Florida — who underperformed in the apportionment gains, were also three states that virtually invested nothing in outreach to complement what the Census Bureau was doing," said Arturo Vargas, the CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, an organization for Latino politicians. "Texas did something at the very last minute, but Florida and Arizona did not invest the kind of resources that you saw, for example, New Mexico put in, or New York or California."

That was also the assessment of Michael Li, a redistricting expert at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

"We'll have to wait for more granular data, but it certainly looks like the Texas Legislature's decision not to budget $ to encourage census participation combined with the Trump administration efforts to add a citizenship question cost Texas a congressional district," Li tweeted Monday.

How Biden is capitalizing on the growing rift between American businesses and the GOP

As the decades-long bond between Republicans and corporate America sours, the Biden White House is seeking to take full advantage of the schism and the openings it leaves for Democrats.

Although President Joe Biden is seeking to raise the corporate tax rate in order to partially fund his jobs and infrastructure bill, the administration is simultaneously reaching out to the business community as a reasonable alternative to a toxic Republican Party.

Even as Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan calling for a seven-point corporate tax increase to 28%, White House officials were briefing the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and four other big bank chiefs on the proposal, according to the Washington Post. In the following 24 hours, top White House aides courted influential business lobby groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, a group of high-powered business executives.

The result hasn't been total cooperation, but it has led to both a muted and splintered response from the business community. The Chamber, for instance, said it supports the investment but not the corporate tax hikes, while a big tech interest group led by Amazon, Facebook, and Google has effectively embraced the whole plan, calling it "A deal the tech industry can embrace: Pay more taxes, get better infrastructure."

What corporations are now weighing is whether they want to deal with a stable party of adults with which they can negotiate or a bunch of mercurial self-interested opportunists who might blindside them at any given moment. Whether it's Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatening "consequences," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas condemning Major League Baseball, or Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "fight back" against "woke" corporations "colluding" with the left, it's all part of the same volatile beast that is the GOP.

Republicans can't seem to decide whether they're coming or going, which makes for a very uncertain business environment. Even within the same Post article, GOP operatives were all over the place on how to handle corporate America.

"It's a thankless job defending corporate America," complained Brian Riedl, a former aide to Sen. Rob Portman. Riedl, who now works for the Manhattan Institute, added, "When I talk to Republicans, they are really, really frustrated about this. They are exhausted from defending the 2017 tax cuts from attacks that it was too tilted to the rich and don't see political upside in defending low taxes for corporations."

In fact, Republicans are so exhausted by defending all the terrible policies they've enacted on behalf of corporations, why even bother?

"If these corporations want to act like mini-governments and they're going to throw in with the other side nonstop, we should stop pretending they're our allies," said Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist. "If they're not our allies, why would we ever waste any political capital on them for some of the very unpopular things they want to get done in government?"

On the other hand, Democrats' bid to raise the corporate tax rate is supposedly energizing the GOP.

"Regardless of what the business community does, Republicans will never not be energized to run against Democrats who raise your taxes," a senior Senate Republican aide told the Post.

Oh, and once again with the argument that Democrats are still the real threat, even if Republicans did help inspire a deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

"After the riots on January 6, I told people, why don't you wait and see what the new president's policies are and that should direct your giving?" said Lisa Spies, a GOP fundraiser. "You should just focus on the policies."

Yeah, whatever you do, don't actually listen to what Republicans are saying—just focus on the policies.

So Republicans are apparently sick and tired of doing all the heavy lifting for corporate America, but still enthused by fighting tax increases—and can still be bought off far more reliably than Democrats. It doesn't exactly sound like everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

As for Democrats, there seems to be a lot more consensus. The general view of the White House and Democratic strategists is that raising the corporate tax rate several points isn't a dealbreaker for the business community given all the benefits it will reap from a revolutionary upgrade to the nation's infrastructure.

"A raise from 21 to 25 — which is where [West Virginia Sen. Joe] Manchin has put the marker at — is not going to create mass hysteria, particularly when many corporations had an economic boom during the pandemic," said Jefrey Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group, a Democratic public relations and polling firm.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, who served as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, agrees with that sentiment, noting that the corporate community prizes the stability Democrats are offering over the populist whims now guiding Republican politicians.

"The business community—responsible elements of the business community—have figured out it's in their interest to help defuse angry populism," Frank said. "They're not afraid of Joe Biden. Biden does not say they're bad people, and that's a large part of it. But they're also not as afraid of what Democrats will do. They're much more afraid of the Republicans."

Republicans lock in their losing position against Biden's American Jobs Plan

The more one thinks about the position Republican lawmakers are taking on President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, the more preposterous it seems.

In essence, they are eager to kill an infrastructure proposal that will create millions of jobs, in order to preserve the skimpy corporate tax rate they set in a 2017 law that absolutely bombed with the American public.

It's a loser any way you slice it, starting with the proposition that Americans never liked the GOP's tax giveaway to the wealthy to begin with, and still don't. A series of polls taken around tax time in 2019 found the GOP tax law was consistently underwater and peaked at 40% approval.

Yet this unfortunate piece of Trump-era legislation is indeed where Republicans have planted their flag, in service of maintaining an obscenely low corporate tax rate of 21% when most Americans already believe corporations aren't paying their fair share. In fact, multiple polls have now shown that increasing corporate taxes to help fund Biden's infrastructure package actually makes the plan more popular.

Even as Republicans seem keen to pick this fight, corporate America has been a bit more skittish about it. CNBC reports that businesses were "divided" over how aggressively to combat Biden's suggested tax hike to 28%, which is still 7 points lower than the 35% they paid before Republicans slashed it. Biden's 28% proposal is also very competitive with the tax rates of similarly situated countries.

But at the end of the day, corporations both want and need the $2.3 trillion overhaul to the nation's ailing infrastructure and have been mulling "whether to put up much of a fight," according to CNBC. Additionally, taking the position that major businesses shouldn't help foot the bill for investments that will clearly benefit them seems almost preposterous. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, said the country needed "a big and bold program to modernize our nation's crumbling infrastructure." But the Chamber also opposed the tax increase, explaining the plan "should be paid for over time—say 30 years—by the users who benefit from the investment." The suggestion, in case you missed it, is that American corporations somehow won't be benefitting from the investment.

But corporate opposition is already faltering. Outgoing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has thrown his weight behind Biden's plan, specifically saying he was "supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate" and hailing the administration's "focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure." The benefits of the overhaul, in Bezos' estimation, clearly outweighed the costs of a several-point bump in the tax rate.

This week, a new center-left group associated with Amazon also backed Biden's plan. The Chamber of Progress, a tech industry group funded by behemoths like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, announced its support in a Medium post titled, "A deal the tech industry can embrace: Pay more taxes, get better infrastructure."

Chamber of Progress founder and CEO Adam Kovacevich quoted none other than Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in his post, noting her observation that "by choosing to compete on taxes, we've neglected to compete on the skill of our workers and the strength of our infrastructure. It's a self-defeating competition."

In essence, Republicans' indefensible position against raising taxes is already imploding, and they are barely a few weeks into the fight.

Even centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—who has promised Republican votes exist on infrastructure—seems unimpressed by the GOP's starting position of a $600 to $800 billion package. "We're going to do whatever it takes. If it takes $4 trillion, I'd do $4 trillion, but we have to pay for it," Manchin said Thursday, noting that lawmakers still needed to identify what type of investments should be included in the bill. "There's no number that should be set on at all," he added.

Wherever Republicans land, it seems safe to say that $4 trillion is a far cry from $600 billion. Manchin has also indicated an openness to raising the corporate tax rate to 25%. In fact, if anything, Manchin already seems a little annoyed by Republicans' unyielding opposition to President Biden's proposals.

"I just hope they help me a little bit in bipartisanship," Manchin said of Republicans. "That's all."

Perhaps the GOP's "red line" on raising corporate taxes is already wearing thin with one of the only Senate Democrats willing to entertain Republican antics.

So just to sum up: Republicans are trying to sell voters on the notion that it's worth killing jobs to protect a corporate tax cut they never liked to begin with, while corporations themselves splinter on the matter and one of the GOP's only Democratic allies feels further alienated.

Please proceed, senators.

Here's why Democrats have reason to hope for 2022

The Republican Party, this year more than any other since I've been covering politics, has become a fascination for me. While some readers here say it's all business as usual, it seems anything but to me. Sure, the underlying motivators of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ hate, and amassing wealth and power have been and continue to be driving forces for the party and are simply more transparent than ever.

But on the other hand, Republicans' roadmap to obtaining power is perhaps more murky than at any point in my lifetime. When Mitch McConnell comes out and starts threatening American corporations, a sea change is at hand.

In fact, what seems to have happened since Donald Trump receded from the national stage is that congressional Republicans and some state officials have had to effectively become him in order to keep his base voters engaged—or should we say, enraged. So now, just like Trump threatened companies that angered him, McConnell is doing the same. And just like Trump swindled his base voters into donating gobs of money to him, House Republicans are now running the same scam. Perhaps even more telling, House Republicans are essentially presenting those donor solicitations as if they are coming from Trump himself. (Of course, Trump also relaunched his own fundraising operation this week complete with "Don't Blame Me — I Voted for Trump" swag. Not a joke. So now Trump's base will be getting fleeced from multiple directions.)

But it's a stunning turn of events—the party that once kowtowed to corporate America is now publicly jeering at them. That schism will only deepen as Republicans grow increasingly and more glaringly out of step with the culture of young, diverse, upwardly mobile consumers American businesses hope to cultivate. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are only getting more brazen and dug into their anti-culture politics. As I noted yesterday, Georgia's Republican House Speaker, David Ralston, defended the punitive measures they were targeting at their corporate detractors like this, "You don't feed a dog that bites your hand."

Ralph Reed, evangelical fire-breather and perennial GOP strategist, said the performative bellicosity had become the single most animating feature for Republican voters, describing it as a "virtue."

"It has become the overarching virtue Republicans look for in their leaders," Reed told the New York Times.

But the description of the GOP and its base that really brought it home for me this week came from Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark. "Republican voters—a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.—no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government," he wrote. "What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand."

That to me, is the best summation possible of the hollowed out, defunct, and unmoored Republican Party—it's no longer a political party, it's a lifestyle brand.

The questions I'm left with are: just how enticing will that newfangled lifestyle brand be to Trumpers; and can it appeal to the voters who still harbor a fondness for the political party they formerly belonged to? Because for all sorts of reasons, it's hard to imagine that Trump voters alone—even if they turn out readily in 2022, and it's a big if—will be enough to bring home big wins for Republibrand in the midterms.

There's already been signs of dissatisfaction within the GOP ranks since last November, though it's impossible to know exactly what to make of them. Identification with the Republican Party appears to have taken at least somewhat of a hit since last November and the Capitol attack, in particular, though it's not clear how significant or meaningful that hit is.

Bottom line—somebody's unhappy but it's hard to tell exactly who, how unhappy they are, and what that will mean for GOP turnout in the midterms. That said, there's nothing ideal about having a base that's a moving target and having almost zero data other than November 2020 to guide your turnout calculations.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Republibrand lawmakers is that they are courting two groups of voters that seem to be stylistically at odds with each other: angry Trumpers and suburbanites. I continue to be skeptical of the notion that the brass-knuckle tactics that have become a "virtue" for much of the GOP base hold nearly as much appeal in the more mild-mannered American suburbs, where people seem generally more inclined to want to work their jobs, spend time with family, and carve out a "comfortable" existence. Those folks typically want a growth economy that grows with their family, not a war on Major League Baseball at all costs or attacks on American businesses that interferes with their bottom lines. What suburbanites want is a measure of predictability so they can plan for the future with some measure of confidence that the world as they know it today won't be radically and fundamentally different from the world tomorrow. And nothing about the new Republibrand inspires confidence and stability.

Probably the best case study to date in how the new Republibrand will play in the suburbs during the midterms comes from the suburban vote in Georgia both last fall and in the January Senate runoffs.

In one instance, Trump is on that ticket and, in the next instance, Trump isn't. So we get to measure that difference. As an added bonus, both Republican candidates doubled down on Trumpism as they fought to win their runoffs. Sen. Kelly Loeffler went all in on racism, and Sen. David Perdue became the Trump mini-me of grift, notching a new stock-trading scandal almost weekly. Perdue also just decided to skip out on his debates with Democratic rival Jon Ossoff and he did so with impunity. In other words, both GOP candidates behaved about about as we can imagine many Republican candidates will in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ran like they were part of a political party, promising policy solutions aimed at meeting the needs of their constituents. One of their biggest promises, in fact, was passing a new coronavirus relief package that would include $2,000 direct payments.

In the runoffs, Ossoff ultimately defeated Perdue by just over a percentage point, 50.6% – 49.4%; while Democrat Raphael Warnock triumphed over Loeffler beat Loeffler by 2 points, 51% – 49%. But let's use Ossoff as an example since he was the squeaker.

In the general election, Joe Biden's win was powered by the shift among voters in the suburbs, college graduates, and high-income earners, according to turnout data from the New York Times. Here's how they shifted from 2016 to 2020:

  • High-income earners: +7 points more Democratic
  • Majority college graduates: +6 points more Democratic
  • Suburban: +6 points more Democratic

Biden won the state 49.5% - 49.2%. Ossoff ran a touch behind Biden, losing to Perdue 47.9% – 49.7%. It was good enough to force the runoff, but also left Perdue with a reasonable opening to win reelection.

But the two Democratic Senate candidates prevailed in January based mostly on two factors: increased Black turnout in both suburban and rural counties, and depressed Trump turnout. Suburban voters of all races, particularly those surrounding Atlanta, helped contribute to those wins, though the biggest demographic shift in turnout was among Black voters specifically.

But for our purposes, the Republican Senators didn't fare much better among suburban voters in January without Trump on the ticket and, in fact, mostly fared worse. In suburban Cobb County, for instance, Ossoff ran +10.54 ahead of Perdue (53.96-43.42) in the general election but did even better in the January runoffs, running +12.08 (56.04-43.96) ahead of Perdue. The same was true for the largely suburban counties of Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Henry—Ossoff won with a bigger margin than in November.

So if the Georgia Senate runoffs are any gauge, Republibrand didn't pan out so well for the GOP in suburban America, even as voter turnout among Trumpers sank.

In truth, it's nearly impossible to know how all this will play out in the 2022 midterms. But the GOP brand is evolving and its base will necessarily evolve too. There's just no way Republicans can continue down this path of radical transformation without it having electoral consequences for their base. It's a fascinating turn of events given that just several months ago GOP lawmakers in Washington had a chance to abandon Trump. Now they are doing their level best to embody him and recreate the electoral magic that cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House. It seems nothing short of desperate, but they have also concluded it's their last best option.

Republicans dupe their low-information voters again — this time on the Capitol siege

Donald Trump's rabid base of GOP voters continue to consumes disinformation at a voracious pace. Not only do six in 10 Republicans believe the election was "stolen" from Trump, according to new Reuters polling, about half either believe the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack was largely peaceful or was staged by left-leaning activists "trying to make Trump look bad."

Sure, Trump supporters in para-military gear waving Trump flags and donning an endless amount of Trump paraphernalia literally climbed the walls of the Capitol in an assault that left five dead and injured more than a hundred police officers. But was it really that violent? And hey, it's not like Trump ever promoted violence at his rallies. So it all seem very dubious, no?

Just last week, Trump told Fox News that the Capitol siege posed "zero threat" to U.S. lawmakers working to certify the election results that day. Meanwhile, GOP senators like Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are busy selling the notion that Trump supporters wouldn't hurt a fly but Black Lives Matter protesters are where the real danger lies because, well, the obvious—the Trump supporters are overwhelmingly white. No small bit of racism there.

Obviously, the GOP can just get away with this stuff because Republican voters insist on continuing to be the most gullible group of lemmings known to man. The information is out there. The videos are compiled. The footage of Trump revving up his supporters at a same-day rally to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore" is there for anyone to consume.

But it's just far too much to ask of Trump supporters that they open the door to reality enough to let just a hint of light into the dark corners of their minds.

In the same poll, some 59% of Americans said Trump bore some responsibility for the deadly Capitol assault. But Republicans were, well—exceptional—with only three in 10 agreeing with the statement.

"Republicans have their own version of reality," John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University told Reuters. "It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence."

Accountability also requires some measure of personal responsibility that far too many Republican voters seem to be incapable of exhibiting.

GOP goes to war with Major League Baseball as Georgia's voter suppression law drains state revenues

Stacey Abrams is a visionary advocate but she's also just a damn good politician. As rumors swirled that Major League Baseball might pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Georgia to protest the state's newly enacted voter suppression law, Abrams did what anyone eyeing a potential 2022 gubernatorial bid might do, she argued the case of her constituents.

In a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday, Abrams urged corporate America to speak out against the voter suppression laws sweeping the nation, but cautioned against boycotting the state.

"Boycotts work," Abrams acknowledged. But in order for them to work, she added, "the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable. Otherwise, those least resilient bear the brunt of these actions; and in the aftermath, they struggle to access the victory." Abrams ultimately argued that instead of boycotting the state, corporate America should find other ways of supporting voting rights activists and holding Republican lawmakers accountable.

"Leaving us behind won't save us," she wrote, "So I ask you to bring your business to Georgia and, if you're already here, stay and fight."

The op-ed put Abrams in a commanding political position no matter what happened. If corporations held their fire, she could legitimately argue she had contributed to saving the state from economic pain. If they boycotted, she could both lament the revenue loss and praise the intent, which is exactly what she did when news broke Friday that the MLB had would indeed yank the All-Star Game and draft from the state.

"Disappointed @MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights," Abrams wrote on Twitter Friday. "GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression. On behalf of PoC targeted by #SB202 to lose votes + now wages, I urge events & productions to come & speak out or stay & fight."

The statement put Abrams on the right side of every piece of the argument: pulling for the bread and butter economics of Georgia voters, while still taking a righteous stand for voting rights. It also left Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the voter suppression bill behind closed doors, on the hook for what could amount to significant revenue losses across the state.

Kemp, with nowhere else to turn, embraced the GOP's option of last resort: culture war politics. Republicans now longer run on policies, just an airing of grievances.

"Georgians—and all Americans—should fully understand what the MLB's knee-jerk decision means," Kemp said in a statement. "Cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn't agree with you, facts & the truth do not matter."

If you're a Republican, you know you're losing when your best option is to attack the all-American sport of baseball. Next up: Kemp will expose hot dogs and apple pie as traitorous staples of the Left.

At a Saturday press conference, Kemp doubled down on his culture war, saying leftists would "stop at nothing to silence all of us." Asked about the possibility of a "snowball effect" of boycotts, Kemp responded, "We are not wavering," adding, "You can bow down to this cancel culture but I will give you a warning: If you do, it's never enough."

Georgia Republicans think this a boon to the party. Kemp—who has taken an onslaught of heat from Trump supporters for not overturning the state's legitimate 2020 results—can finally be their hero against cancel culture, as Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein noted.

We'll see if that's how things really play out in the long run. Sure enough, Donald Trump chimed in on Saturday morning, encouraging his supporters to "boycott baseball" over the MLB's stand against racism. But whatever Trump supporters make of it, so-called "cancel culture" may not play as well in the Georgia suburbs, where the revenue losses could be more top of mind. Republican lawmakers are trying to pin the MLB's cancellation on Abrams, as though she was the one who passed an abhorrent law that has now become a national symbol of renewed Jim Crow fervor across the country.

More than likely, the MLB All-Star Game won't be the last of the cancellations and subsequent financial loss. As Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms noted Friday night, "Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed."

Just how costly could it be? Well, for comparison's sake, the hateful "bathroom bill" targeting transgender Americans passed by North Carolina Republicans in 2016 ultimately cost the state a whopping $3.76 billion in lost business revenues, according to an AP analysis conducted in 2017; even that was still considered to be an undercount of the economic fallout. That's an enormous hit.

Additionally, the GOP governor who signed that bill into law, Pat McCrory, lost his reelection bid in November 2016, in what was otherwise a very good year for Republicans nationally. Absent the anti-trans bathroom bill, McCrory almost surely would have been reelected by a comfortable margin, given that Trump won the Tar Heel State by nearly 4 points.

There's a lot more innings left to play in this entire episode. But Trump voters are still a total wild card in terms of turnout in any election where Trump doesn't actually appear on the ballot. Georgia Republicans are now betting heavily on some combination of Trumpers and voter suppression to deliver statewide wins for the party in 2022, and reclaim a U.S. Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

It's quite a bet. This right here is the fight of Stacey Abrams' life, and Georgia Democrats now have the proven organizing infrastructure to adapt to almost any voting environments Republicans throw at them. Meanwhile, Georgia Republicans are trying to motivate a group of Trump voters whose lack of enthusiasm cost them those two U.S. Senate seats to begin with.

If Abrams makes a gubernatorial bid next year alongside Warnock's reelection effort, it's hard to imagine a more energizing scenario for the Democratic base in the face of Republicans' epic voter suppression efforts. As for Republicans, at this point, it's not even clear who their base is. They might manage to invigorate Trump voters by stoking their anti-baseball culture war, but what about the far more dependable suburban voters who form the other side of their coalition?

Are those voters going to think losing tens of millions in revenues—or even hundreds of millions—is worth a GOP culture war that repositions the Peach State as a nostalgic throwback to the Confederacy, akin to Alabama and South Carolina? Georgia has spent decades trying to escape that historical anchor on the way to a more prosperous and progressive future—and it has largely succeeded, as the rapid growth of the state's suburbs have shown.

Now Republicans will be trying to sell those same suburban voters on the notion that the only forward is going backward in time. Trumpers in rural areas might happily take that bait, but it remains to be seen if GOP voters in the suburbs are willing to swallow that backward thinking hook, line, and sinker.

Deluge of bills aimed at restricting abortion access introduced in 44 states

Every legislative cycle anti-abortion advocates file an excessive number of bills across the country aimed at restricting abortion access with the ultimate goal of ending it altogether. But this legislative cycle is already proving to be far more fraught than in years past.

Enthused by the addition of religious ideologue Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, anti-abortion activists have introduced over 500 bills nationwide this cycle designed to curtail abortion access, according to NBC News. A new report from Planned Parenthood found that represented a marked increase of 200 bills over the some 300 measures introduced around this time in 2019.

"This legislative season is shaping up to be one of the most hostile in recent history for reproductive health and rights," Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, told NBC. "These abortion restrictions are about power and control over our bodies."

Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, called the effort "very bold and unapologetic," adding, "The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to see Roe v. Wade overturned."

At this point in 2019, just one anti-abortion bill had cleared a state legislature. But already this year, 12 anti-abortion measures have been signed into law in six states. The first, SB 1 in South Carolina, bans most abortions except in cases of rape or incest or where a person's life is in danger. Doctors must perform an ultrasound to determine if there's cardiac activity and, if so, an abortion is banned except in the exempted instances.

The South Carolina law is on hold for now after the abortion-rights group the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to prevent it from taking effect. Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the group, says the nature of the laws themselves have also changed alongside the pace of the legislation.

"We used to see more backhanded laws that forced clinics to shut down through impossible regulations," Northrup said, "but now politicians have dropped the smokescreen and are very open about their goal of banning abortion," she said.

The implication seems clear: Now that anti-abortion activists have a dependable sixth vote on the Supreme Court, there's no reason for them to veil their intentions anymore with obscured attempts at chipping away at Roe v. Wade over time. After meticulously following that strategy for decades, anti-abortion groups now plan to broadside the law in plain sight because the justices who will be deciding the matter no longer require the pretense.

The GOP has no clear leader, no clear message and no clear vision of its base

Ever since Donald Trump managed to get 74 million votes last November, congressional Republicans have been obsessed with recreating that type of inflated turnout in subsequent election cycles despite the fact that Joe Biden beat Trump by 7 million votes. In fact, finding a way to lock in all those Trump voters has become some sort of white whale for the GOP.

As never-Trump Republican and The Bulwark founder Sarah Longwell told Markos and me on The Brief, Republicans are absolutely transfixed by that level of GOP turnout. "It's 74 million—they always say 75 million, but the reason they keep saying it over like it's a mantra is they can't believe that many people turned out for them," she explained.

But the vexing problem for Republicans now is: How can they possibly recreate 2020 turnout levels when Trump—the guy who lured a new slice of blue-collar voters into the party—is increasingly disengaged, and the corporatists running the party have no idea how to connect with his voters? That disconnect seems to have rendered congressional Republicans politically impotent in the past couple months—unsure about exactly what they stand for, who their constituency is, and how to reach that constituency. That disorientation, for instance, resulted in a dazzling failure by party leaders to mount any response whatsoever to Joe Biden's first major victory as president—passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Sure, every GOP lawmaker voted 'no' on the bill, but they were neither able to settle on one line of attack against the package nor translate that uniform opposition into any meaningful gains with voters. In fact, if anything, Biden's massive rescue plan only grew in popularity the longer it was litigated in Congress—an almost unheard of phenomenon by legislative standards.

While it's hard to quantify just how adrift congressional Republicans are right now, examining the trend lines in Civiqs polling sheds some light on the topic.

As I noted in my column this weekend, ever since Joe Biden took office, the Republican Party's unfavorability rating has been registering at close to all-time highs compared to the past handful of years. Just after Biden's inauguration, the GOP's unpopularity peaked at 65% unfavorable and now rests at 62% unfavorable, with just 25% of Americans holding a favorable view of the party. By comparison, the Democratic Party is underwater by just 6 points nationally, with 50% viewing it unfavorably to 44% who hold a favorable view.

But what really sets the GOP apart is its lack of popularity among its own voters. While 88% of Democratic voters view their own party favorably, just 63% of Republicans hold a favorable view of the GOP while 19% view it unfavorably. The party's favorability rating among Republicans plunged some 20 points following Election Day last November, when its favorables stood at about 83% among GOP voters. To some extent that fall from grace is a natural byproduct of losing a big election. The party also saw its favorabilities plummet following the midterm elections, when Democrats flipped a historic 41 House seats to regain control of the lower chamber.

The difference now is that the party's leadership is entirely divided amongst itself at a time when the makeup of the GOP base is still a bit of an enigma. Party leaders seem to realize that Trump attracted a new cohort of blue-collar voters, but they have no idea exactly how to appeal to them. So even as Democrats passed a bill that was largely popular among lower-income Republicans—63% of whom supported it—GOP lawmakers uniformly rejected the bill while railing about the great Seuss-Potato Head scandal of 2021.

The party also has no real leader to rally around who can steer it out of its current slump. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is epically unpopular among the GOP base, with just 22% of Republicans holding a favorable view of him. Former Vice President Mike Pence registers better than McConnell (because who wouldn't?), but even he garners just a 61% favorability rating among Republicans. It's perhaps telling that both McConnell and Pence took a major hit in popularity among the Republican base following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In other words, in the view of self-identified Republicans, they were the people who failed the party, not Trump. Here are Pence's favorables among Republicans.

And while Trump remains the most popular figure in the party among Republicans voters at 88%, even his favorables have started to fall off a bit ever since Election Day. It's not earth-shattering fallout by any means, but one could imagine Trump's popularity among Republicans just continuing to slowly wane over time.

Perhaps more importantly in this moment, Trump seems to be a lot less interested in helping the GOP regain control of Congress than he is in punishing anyone who has proven disloyal to him. So while he's publicly made a show of cooperating with the GOP point people trying to win back the House and Senate, his most passionate pronouncements have been daggers targeting leaders like McConnell and Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican. Predictably, Trump is also still entirely consumed by his 2020 loss, so much so that he's now stealing microphones at Mar-a-Lago-based weddings and grousing about it to attendees.

The bottom line for the GOP is this—the only guy who still holds enough juice with base voters to perhaps improve their opinion of the party has no real interest in the party whatsoever.

This isn't a declaration that the Republican Party is dead (so please spare us those complaints in the comments). But it does mean the GOP finds itself with a very unique, if not unprecedented, set of circumstances heading into 2022: It has no real leader, no real message, and a fluid electorate.

So while GOP lawmakers are tickled silly over the 74 million people who cast a vote for Trump last fall, they are basically playing a blindfolded electoral version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey as they head into 2022.

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