Progressive stalwart Rep. Katie Porter is in the fight of her life after redistricting

As with many progressives, I have developed a great admiration for Congressperson Katie Porter (D-CA). But her district was already a swing district, and now her district was redrawn to the point that her re-election looks to be on shakier ground than before.

PORTER HAS BECOME A DEMOCRATIC MEDIA SENSATION over the past few years, beloved for her takedowns of corporate CEOs in hearings and her general no-bullshit attitude. What’s more, she did it as a frontliner, Washington’s name for House Democrats in swing seats whose electoral outcomes typically determine which party controls the chamber. Where frontliners often aim for the most inoffensive, bland position possible on any issue, pandering either to an imagined fussy median voter or to the donor class, Porter’s more unyielding stances are what she believes gives her broad buy-in with a divided electorate.

After redistricting, about 70 percent of voters in California’s 47th Congressional District will see Porter’s name on the ballot for the first time.

“I didn’t run as a typical politician,” she said. “And I think I’ve delivered on not being a typical politician.”

This fall, Porter faces Scott Baugh, a state assemblyman in the 1990s and the former chair of the Orange County Republican Party. The fact that Baugh paid fines for multiple state campaign finance violations while in the legislature, and became a lobbyist for the county after his terms in the assembly, plays into Porter’s narrative about taking on special interests.

“I think there’s a pretty clear contrast between someone who is one of the dozen members of Congress who doesn’t take lobbyist money, and someone who’s been a professional lobbyist,” she said. “I ran on good governance, and on standing up to special-interest money, and he has been involved in projects that corrupt our political system.”

Porter’s popularity has given her an insurmountable fundraising lead, with an incredible $19.8 million in cash on hand as of the end of June. Baugh had about $1.1 million in the bank at that point. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the leading House Republican PAC, has spent a nominal sum of about $800,000 on the race.

Still, Porter has never won more than 53.5 percent of the vote in her two House victories, and Republicans are loaded for bear against her. First, they highlighted a discounted home she purchased in University Hills, on the UC Irvine campus, as part of a program the university uses to attract professors who would otherwise be priced out of a city where the median home price exceeds $1 million. Because she is currently on leave from the school, some have questioned whether Porter should still be eligible for that discount, or whether under the rules of the arrangement she should have to pay off the mortgage entirely.

Fingers crossed her substantial war chest gives her the advantage she needs in November. (See her campaign web site here.)

Meanwhile, the video below is from her greatest hits of holding the rich and powerful to account in ways most elected officials can only dream about.

Is Biden the best president for unions ever?

As this very good article on Wonkette by Erik Loomis (nee Lawyers, Guns and Money) notes, the answer to that question looks likely to be yes. But it’s also too early to tell:

As the nation faced a rail strike last week, the Biden administration sprang into action. It had many reasons to do so. First, a rail strike could break already stressed supply chains. The economic impact might lead to much higher prices at a moment when the media desperately wants to report on inflation in a way that compares Joe Biden to Jimmy Carter, which for a certain generation of reporter and Beltway hack is what a Democrat always is. Second, a rail strike could make the administration look weak, flailing in the face of a few workers holding the nation’s economy hostage. That they have legitimate complaints would likely disappear in media coverage of the strike, which would again just blame it on the White House.

But Biden also engaged with this labor situation because he really believes in labor unions. Biden’s political career has shifted significantly over the years. He’s always been a middle-of-the-party kind of guy. When the party has moved right, he’s moved right, and now that the party has moved back to the left, he’s moved left too. That’s fine, I guess; it’s a politician for you.

However, Biden does have deep-seated values and they include the value of a labor union. Despite governing over a deeply divided nation and, on issues like unions, no small amount of division within his party, Biden has used a significant amount of political capital supporting unions. This is remarkable. No other president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has ever used that much capital in supporting organized labor. Moreover, the only reason FDR could do this is because he had enormous majorities in both the House and Senate that allowed for legislation to get through the usual alliance of Republicans and Dixiecrats that would forestall anything to help working Americans. Biden doesn’t have that, and yet he is doing whatever he can to help unions.

There is absolutely incontrovertible proof in verifiable statistics that in states and cities where unions are strong, wages and benefits far surpass those of states that are actively anti-union. Not only that, but even non-union people benefit from unions because even non-union wages and benefits average out higher in heavily unionized areas because non-union companies have to offer better deals to the employees to keep up.

Election challenge for 2022 and 2024: try to figure out why polls were so wrong and how to correct for it

There is one nightmare that must make Democratic election operatives wake up in cold sweats: much of the presidential polling was wrong in 2016 and again in 2020. Some of the biggest polls overstated Democratic support in both elections.

How and why this happened — and how to adjust for it in polling — is still somewhat of a mystery.

The New York Times debuts a newsletter today called The Tilt by Nate Cohn. (Sign up here.) Cohn examines in the inaugural edition of the newsletter these vexing questions.

Ahead of the last presidential election, we created a website tracking the latest polls — internally, we called it a “polling diary.” Despite a tough polling cycle, one feature proved to be particularly helpful: a table showing what would happen if the 2020 polls were as “wrong” as they were in 2016, when pollsters systematically underestimated Donald J. Trump’s strength against Hillary Clinton.

The table proved eerily prescient. Here’s what it looked like on Election Day in 2020, plus a new column with the final result. As you can see, the final results were a lot like the poll estimates “with 2016-like poll error.”

We created this poll error table for a reason: Early in the 2020 cycle, we noticed that Joe Biden seemed to be outperforming Mrs. Clinton in the same places where the polls overestimated her four years earlier. That pattern didn’t necessarily mean the polls would be wrong — it could have just reflected Mr. Biden’s promised strength among white working-class voters, for instance — but it was a warning sign.

That warning sign is flashing again: Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

Cohn goes on to note:

The pattern of Democratic strength isn’t the only sign that the polls might still be off in similar ways. Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion, some pollsters have said they’re seeing the familiar signs of nonresponse bias — when people who don’t respond to a poll are meaningfully different from those who participate — creeping back into their surveys.

Brian Stryker, a partner at Impact Research (Mr. Biden is a client), told me that his polling firm was getting “a ton of Democratic responses” in recent surveys, especially in “the familiar places” where the polls have erred in recent cycles.

None of this means the polls are destined to be as wrong as they were in 2020. Some of the polling challenges in 2020 might have since subsided, such as the greater likelihood that liberals were at home (and thus more likely to take polls) during the pandemic. And historically, it has been hard to anticipate polling error simply by looking at the error from the previous cycle. For example, the polls in 2018 weren’t so bad.

Some pollsters are making efforts to deal with the challenge. Mr. Stryker said his firm was “restricting the number of Democratic primary voters, early voters and other super-engaged Democrats” in their surveys. The New York Times/Siena College polls take similar steps.

My biggest fear is that the overstating of Democratic support will depress turnout among progressive voters. These polling mistakes only prove that, no matter how much you think Democrats are ahead, all of us need to get out and vote every time.

Source: New York Times.

Judge strikes down massive gift Democrats in NJ gave to gaming industry

The sneaky sneaksters — Democrats, all of them — who tried to slip special tax treatment for New Jersey casinos into law, were rebuked this week by a state judge who said the law was passed improperly and likely violated the state constitution.

A Superior Court judge in New Jersey has struck down a state law granting Atlantic City’s casinos tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks, saying that the measure was passed on dubious grounds and violated the state Constitution.

The ruling, handed down Monday, deals a blow to Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s legislative leaders, who fast-tracked the legislation through the Legislature last year. It is also a rebuke to the gaming industry, which had argued the bill was needed because it was struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At issue in the court case were changes to a local taxing program known as PILOT, or payment in lieu of property taxes. Since 2016, instead of paying property taxes, each casino has paid a share of an industrywide assessment that was distributed to Atlantic City, its school district and the county to fund various operations. The number was calculated based on the prior year’s total gaming revenue. But last year, the industry pressed for and won a key legislative change to that formula, excluding online gaming — a fast-growing sector of its business — from the program. The alteration reduced the gaming companies’ total PILOT liability this year by $55 million — revenue cuts that disproportionately impacted Atlantic City, one of the state’s most distressed cities.

A conservative nonprofit group called Liberty and Prosperity 1776 challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying the state’s founding document bars preferential tax treatment. The state countered that the new law was exempt from that prohibition because it served a “permissible public purpose.” On Monday, Atlantic County Assignment Judge Michael Blee sided with the nonprofit, potentially increasing casinos’ tax bills and sending tens of millions of additional dollars into local coffers.

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ll bet that these state leaders — again, mostly Democrats — have profited handsomely in some way from the gaming industry.

New Jersey has a Democratic trifecta. Both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office are all controlled by Democrats.

Which goes to show you, that no matter how bad the Republicans are — and they are mostly much worse than Democrats in every way — there will always also be Democrats willing to sell out voters to large, well-funded corporations.

Start paying attention!

If I lived in NJ and my Democratic legislators voted for this, I’d have a hard time voting for them again in the next Democratic primary.

Quietly, incrementally, Biden has transformed U.S. industrial policy where all other Democratic administrations have failed

There was a time when the idea that the U.S. government could and would do things to encourage industrial growth in America — including protecting U.S. companies from the unfair advantages posed by foreign competition that could produce products cheaper because they didn’t have to adhere to American laws about labor, safety, and environmental protections — was widely accepted and non-controversial.

But then Ronald Reagan was elected and Wall Street was in ascendance. And Wall Street wanted companies to be able to move operations and job overseas because Wall Street doesn’t now, and never has, put American workers and the environment ahead of naked greed.

Reagan and his Wall Street cronies — the people who really called the shots in his administration — shifted the debate away from wages and safety and good jobs, and onto the notion that “big government” had no place in “picking winners and losers” in the U.S. economy.

This is where the Biden administration’s greatest achievements may go down in history, because they have managed, in the short course of just one presidential term, to shift the balance of power away from Wall Street in ways that other Democratic administrations post-Reagan have failed utterly.

Writer Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic has a very good piece posted that looks at the big picture on these Biden victories, for which Biden is still receiving too little credit from a mainstream media that loves to repeat Republican talking points:

The idea is this: The era of passive, hands-off government is over. The laws embrace an approach to governing the economy that scholars call “industrial policy,” a catch-all name for a wide array of tools and tactics that all assume the government can help new domestic industries get started, grow, and reach massive scale. If “this country used to make things,” as the saying goes, and if it wants to make things again, then the government needs to help it. And if the country believes that certain industries bestow a strategic advantage, then it needs to protect them against foreign interference.

The approach is at the core of how the IRA seeks to resolve climate change. Democrats hope to create an economy where the government doesn’t just help Americans buy green technologies; it also helps nurture the industries that produce that technology.

This reflects a homecoming of sorts for the United States. From its founding to the 1970s, the country had an economic doctrine that was defined by its pragmatism and the willingness of its government to find new areas of growth. “Yes, there was an ‘invisible hand,’” Stephen Cohen and Brad DeLong write in their history of the topic, Concrete Economics. “But the invisible hand was repeatedly lifted at the elbow by the government, and placed in a new position from where it could go on to perform its magic.” That pragmatism faded in the 1980s, when industrial policy became scorned as one more instance of Big Government coming in to pick so-called winners and losers.

The IRA is not the only bill intent on bringing back industrial policy. The two other large bills passed by this Congress—the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act—make down payments on the future as well; both laws, notably, were passed by bipartisan majorities. They alone would be notable commitments to a different vision of the next decade. But it is in the IRA that these general commitments become specific, and therefore transformative.

Ever since the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, a massive achievement in itself, I have been amazed at what this administration has been able to accomplish. Yes, the change has been quiet and incremental, which means that much of it has escaped Beltway pundits who do not do well with quiet and incremental. Hell, the Inflation Reduction Act seemingly came out of nowhere because our pundit class was too busy writing Biden’s epitaph to realize that the very thing for which they most criticized Biden — have an alleged “lack of vision” — could not have been farther from the truth.

The future of a successful, vibrant America is an economy focused on American jobs in industries that might just save our dying planet. Biden is the first president to put us squarely on that path.

You can read the rest of the Atlantic article here.

Stock buyback tax in the Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer

One of the less-heralded but nonetheless important features of the Democrats’ just-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on its way for President Biden’s signature is the tax on stock buybacks.

As far back as 2014, even pro-business publications like the Harvard Business Review were sounding the alarm about the buybacks:

Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.

The buyback wave has gotten so big, in fact, that even shareholders—the presumed beneficiaries of all this corporate largesse—are getting worried. “It concerns us that, in the wake of the financial crisis, many companies have shied away from investing in the future growth of their companies,” Laurence Fink, the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote in an open letter to corporate America in March. “Too many companies have cut capital expenditure and even increased debt to boost dividends and increase share buybacks.”

Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? Corporate executives give several reasons, which I will discuss later. But none of them has close to the explanatory power of this simple truth: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily, and can enable the company to hit quarterly earnings per share (EPS) targets.

As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results.

So two of the key takeaways here are that corporate leaders could buy back company stocks, which has the dual purposes of shielding corporate profits from the IRS — “hey, we only had X amounts of profits this year because we used so much cash on stock buybacks.” All while simultaneously increasing their own pay because they are paid in stock and buybacks artificially increase their company’s stock price. (While actually doing nothing to make the company, its products, or its lower-level employees any better off.)

It’s gotten so much worse since that 2014 article was written

Fast forward to last week and the passage of the IRA.

As New Republic writer Timothy Noah explains:

Stock buybacks hit a record $882 billion last year, and they may reach $1 trillion this year. The biggest corporations spend the most on buybacks. Thus Apple lavished $91 billion over the previous four quarters, according to The Wall Street Journal; Alphabet (Google), $55 billion; Meta (Facebook), $53 billion; Microsoft, $33 billion; and Bank of America, $21 billion.

But even with corporate profits at record highs, earnings can no longer meet the voracious demand for buybacks. So a growing proportion of buybacks—one recent estimate put it as high as 56 percent— are now “leveraged buybacks” paid for with corporate debt. Corporations are going into hock so they can shower more cash on shareholders and their top executives.

The proposed excise tax on buybacks is only 1 percent, so its initial effect on this drunken binge will be minimal. Indeed, in the short term it will likely create an uptick in buybacks as some corporations accelerate buybacks to avoid the tax’s implementation in 2023. The initial proposal by Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon—Brown is the Banking Committee chairman, while Wyden leads the Finance Committee—was for a 2 percent tax on buybacks, which would have been better. Five or 10 percent would be better still.

In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. But the excise tax’s creation establishes a beachhead. In coming years, it can and probably will be increased. In the meantime, it isn’t a bad revenue-raiser. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, this itty-bitty 1 percent tax will raise $74 billion over the next decade. If the outlook for the stock market improves, it will raise more. And if the excise tax is increased in the coming years, it will raise even more than that. So please join me in welcoming this new provision to the tax code. Its debut is long overdue.

Another reason we have to back campaigns such as the 50+2 effort trying to increase the U.S. Senate majority from 50 to 52 so as to counter the influence of Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, who both blocked Wall Steet reforms in the IRA that would be true game-changers for reigning in the excesses of corporate America — and slowing down climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi celebrates by showing off the official final tally in the House for the successful passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, for which not a single Republican voted.

WaPo columnist talks to some of the people who voted against banning abortion in Kansas

No matter where you stand on the abortion divide — most people are firmly in the middle somewhere — this column by the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon, Jr. is an interesting read:

Even if all the unaffiliated Kansans who voted last week took the pro-abortion rights stance, the results would have been about 50-50, assuming everyone else voted along party lines. The election results suggestion that more than 80,000 Republicans, around a fifth of those who voted in Kansas last week, also took the pro-abortion rights position, leading to the 59-41 blowout for that side. That’s surprising, at least at first glance. I had assumed that registered Republicans who turn out for primaries would be aligned with the party on one of its long-standing core positions.

But that result didn’t come from nowhere, either. Polls have long suggested that from one-fifth to one-third of Republicans support abortion rights, depending on how the question is phrased. These Republicans can rarely express that preference without voting for a Democratic candidate.

And we know that Americans often have views that conflict with their party’s stands. Measures to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid and reduce gerrymandering have passed in red states over the past decade, even as GOP leaders oppose all three positions. A 2020 ballot measure to lift a ban on affirmative action failed in heavily Democratic California.

I asked Melissa Clark, a 42-year-old registered Republican who works in sales in the Kansas City area, what restrictions on abortion she would support. “None,” she replied.

“Politicians should not be involved in health-care decisions,” she wrote. “Women and all humans can make their own healthcare decisions. … I think it is a personal decision that is something that should be left in the hands of the individual under all circumstances.”

“Generally Republicans have gotten more of my votes,” said Cheryl Bannon, a 61-year-old retired title closing officer in the Wichita area who is also a Republican. “I am not in favor of large giveaway programs. However the Republicans are just getting too far out there — ‘don’t touch our rights to buy assault rifles in any way but let’s make women and, yes, children carry embryos to term.’”

Great column by a usually very good Bacon, Jr.

You can read the rest at this link.

Yards signs before the Kansas vote.

Possible increase in IRS enforcement budget has billionaires in a panic

There’s a lot in the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act for Republicans to hate, but the part that has the GOP and the billionaires it represents most up in arms is the massive increase in the IRS budget to go after rich tax cheats.

Notes the Wall Street Journal:

Treasury and IRS officials have said the new funds for enforcement won’t increase audit rates on filers making less than $400,000, and on Aug. 4 IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig sent letters to Congress stating this. The bill omits an earlier proposal requiring banks to report account cash-flow information to the IRS.

Former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, a technology specialist who has advised the Treasury Department and Congress on improving the tax system, endorses new IRS efforts aimed at higher earners. “Most underreporting is from upper-income people, because that’s where most of the income is,” he says.

These taxpayers are also more likely to have income from sources not automatically reported to the IRS. (There’s little cheating on income like salaries or pensions that is reported, according to the agency.) While the IRS is getting good at mining data to find missing income, it lacks the resources to make the best use of its skills.

The boost to enforcement dollars aims to stem a long decline in the IRS’s ability to check taxpayer compliance, especially by the highest earners. From 2010 through 2019, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office, the number of audits of taxpayers earning more than $500,000 dropped by three-quarters, from 53,000 to 14,000. Over this period, the number of key IRS enforcement personnel also dropped 40%, according to agency data.

Everyone from apologists like the Heritage Foundation and National Review, to noted economics expert U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, are hitting the panic button.

Republicans and the right-wing media echo chamber have been incredibly successful over the last two decades in getting Congress to cut the IRS budget to the point that agency now tends to go after low-hanging fruit like poor people who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit mistakenly or fraudulently.

It costs a lot more money to go after rich people’s tax dodges because those often require forensic audits.

Ramping up IRS enforcement around complex illegal tax schemes requires money that the Republicans have made sure the IRS hasn’t had in the past.

So, yeah, they’re all scared, no doubt because many of them have something to hide.

There is much to love about the Inflation Reduction Act, even though it does not go as far as I’d have hoped. But that is the nature of our national legislative law-making process. You get as much as you can now, and then go back later for another bite at the apple.

If the Act passes largely intact, all my hesitation about the Democrats for the 2024 election will have largely been erased. The IRS tax enforcement provisions will be a large part of that.

One of the big reasons inequality has been allowed to grow exponentially in this country is because you and I pay our fair share of taxes, and the rich often pay little to nothing.

You can read the rest of the WSJ column at this link.

With help from the Democrats, moderate GOP House member loses primary to right-wing crazy

The Democrats are inserting themselves into Republican primaries in a bid to promote more extreme GOP candidates so the more moderate Republicans — and, presumeably the more electable Republicans — will not be the ones to face the Democrat in the general election.

It worked bigly in one U.S. House primary in Michigan:

Democrats this year have tried to interfere in multiple GOP primaries, using ads that appear to be attacks on more extreme candidates as a way to subtly promote those contenders. The idea is to line up opponents who the Democrats believe to be more easily beatable in the general election.

But Tuesday’s vote was the first in which the closeness of the outcome — Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs won with 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns — suggested that the Democrats’ meddling may have tipped the results.

Now, Democrats will see whether their high-stakes gambit to take out Rep. Peter Meijer will win them the seat in November. Regardless of what happens, critics say the attempt to boost Gibbs is reckless and undermines Democrats’ argument that they are the party upholding democracy.

“It’s cynical and dangerous,” said Richard Hasen, a UCLA law professor and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project. “We know that the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party is doing a lot to undermine people’s confidence in the fairness and integrity of elections. The idea that Democrats would be willing to gamble on electing more of these people because they think they’ll be easier to beat in the general election really is playing with fire.”

Meijer was one of the few principled Republicans left in the House, as long as you define “principled” loosely by the metrics of the current Republican Party. However, he only voted with Democrats 38% of the time. That is not a great number. He was courageous on some of the big questions — impeachment, holding Bannon in contempt, forming the Jan. 6 commission, etc. But most of the time — and this should be the paramount consideration — he voted exactly as you’d expect a billionaire Republican to vote.

Meijer was one of the few principled Republicans left in the House, as long as you define “principled” loosely by the metrics of the current Republican Party. However, he only voted with Democrats 38% of the time. That is not a great number. He was courageous on some of the big questions — impeachment, holding Bannon in contempt, forming the Jan. 6 commission, etc. But most of the time — and this should be the paramount consideration — he voted exactly as you’d expect a billionaire Republican to vote.

Losing a moderate Republican vote is a loss in today climate, no doubt. But losing a Republican and gaining a Democratic vote would do far more good in the House than saving Meijer’s congressional career.

Acting as election spoilers is hardball politics the way the Republicans have played politics for decades. Republicans have even promoted straw third-party candidates in general elections to siphon away liberal and moderate votes from Democratic candidates.

Sometimes it’s worked. Sometimes it has not.

I certainly don’t fault Democrats for trying trying to match the (far more numerous) cynical ploys of the Republicans, although if it backfires in this Michigan race and the crazy Republican is elected, there will be loads of Monday morning quarterbacking.

If the Democrat wins, all the better.

However, just to inject a bit of scary realism into the debate, Democrats have lost the last six elections in the district. The margins of GOP victory in all those races weren’t blowouts, but they weren’t super close either.

If I were the Democrat making the decision to meddle in this race, I’d definitely be torn.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Defeated Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) who lost his GOP primary Aug. 2.

Democrats put their money into the campaign of a hard-right GOP gubernatorial candidate who just won his primary in Maryland

Republican voters in Maryland — a state where Trump lost 2-to-1 in the last election — have selected in this week’s primary a MAGA kook, rather than the staid, pro-business acolyte of wildly popular outgoing GOP Gov. Larry Hogan.

QAnon nut Daniel L. Cox will now run against a Democrat who will not have to work very hard to make themselves more palatable than Cox. (Final results of Democrat primary still not in.)

As a side note, Democrats spent a lot of money on a spoiler tactic of getting Republican Cox elected, in a move that brought pooh-poohing from the tennis-and-martinis set writing the Washington Post‘s house editorials:

In today’s political landscape, his fringe views are not a joke; they are a menace. Last year, he arranged three buses to convey his constituents to the Jan. 6 rally that Mr. Trump had promised would be “wild” and that became, by design, a blood-spattered insurrection. At the very moment that violent rioters stormed the Capitol, beating and injuring scores of police officers, he tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor” for refusing to reject the certification of the election. As a mouthpiece for the Trumpian lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, Mr. Cox has positioned himself squarely as an enemy of democracy.

Maryland Republicans have made their choice — for a candidate described by Mr. Trump as “100 percent MAGA.” They made it despite the availability of a stark alternative, Kelly M. Schulz, a close political ally of term-limited GOP Gov. Larry Hogan. She served in his Cabinet for nearly the entirety of his eight years in office, first as labor secretary and then, until January, as commerce secretary. In turning their backs on Ms. Schulz, primary voters spurned a pro-business pragmatist in the mold of Mr. Hogan, whose moderate Republicanism and contempt for Mr. Trump have made him one of the nation’s most popular governors. His stratospheric approval levels might easily have helped propel Ms. Schulz, whom he warmly endorsed, to the governorship. She could have been the first woman to hold the job.

By contrast, Mr. Cox moved to impeach Mr. Hogan, a governor of his own party. He got no serious support in that gesture from either party — a indication of how he is regarded by his colleagues in Annapolis.

Democrats are delighted to have Mr. Cox on the ballot, and they played a part in his win. The Democratic Governors Association spent $1.2 million on advertising and mailers designed to elevate Mr. Cox, calculating that he would be easy prey in November. That assessment is probably accurate. Nonetheless, if by some remote chance it is wrong and some unforeseeable chain of events leads to Mr. Cox moving into Government House in Annapolis, Democrats will rue their cynical action.

Democrats would be stupid not to use the tactic of trying to get a spoiler Republican candidate on the ballot in some elections where it makes sense. Republicans do it all the time. In fact, Republicans run actual straw candidates all the time in order to gum up Democratic primaries.

Not to pile on President Biden, whom I will ultimately support if he becomes the nominee. But he has long traveled in the rarefied environs of the kinds of charity events where you rub shoulders with the owners and very top echelon of the Washington Post. He belongs to an era where the right kinds of people belonged to the right kinds of clubs and sent their kids to the right kinds of schools.

Places where a sitting president might play a couple rounds of genteel golf with the executive editor of the Post and the opposition leader in the U.S. Senate, and hammer out a “gentleman’s agreement” about how to advance important legislation in ways that benefits both parties and, possibly, the American people.

Mind you, it was still all, to use the Post’s word, “cynical.” Just not overtly so. Everyone went along to get along. In public.

Times have changed, of course. The Republicans stole at least one Supreme Court seat. They regularly play the part of Lucy to the Democrats’ Charlie Brown, as the GOP keeps yanking that football at the last second, leaving the Democrats flat-footed. Cynical isn’t even their fallback position. They lead with it.

So, good for Maryland Democrats for playing politics the way they should be played in 2022.

Yes, the spoiler candidate gambit might backfire now and then, although the performative hand-wringing by the Post about it happening in Maryland’s governor’s race is silly unless the Democratic candidate, whomever that ends up being, does something truly shocking and immoral before the general election.

You can read the rest of the WaPo editorial here.

GOP primary winner Cox on primary election night.