This week: Nov. 29, 2021, The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 47
- Ailing Biden downplays problems, looks for scapegoats
- Matthew McConaughey will not run
- Sen. Oz? Sean Parnell’s exit creates a vacuum in Pennsylvania
Biden administration: How badly are things going for the Biden administration? They are now trying to blame oil companies for high gas prices that have resulted from their restrictions on drilling.
This is the only aim of Biden’s order to the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into the easily demonized Big Oil. It shouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Biden is himself the culprit — as his former boss President Barack Obama once acknowledged, the means to a carbon-free climate is to make oil prices skyrocket, and Biden is doing what he has to on that front.
For a time, Biden administration officials were openly ridiculing people’s concerns about inflation and also ongoing supply chain problems. This was a very bad idea for a message, and in the case of inflation at least, it was also a direct insult to most voters’ intelligence.
But this one really takes the cake. It’s as if Biden robbed a bank and then ordered an investigation of the bankers who let themselves be robbed.
Oil companies, of course, do not control the value of the commodity they sell. American and multinational corporations are especially powerless when it comes to oil, whose price has historically been manipulated by the foreign nations that belong to OPEC.
Between the supply chain problems, the gas prices, and the inflation — not to mention his hugely unpopular handling of the border crisis — Biden has an approval rating eight points lower at this point in his presidency than Barack Obama did leading up to the drubbing his party received in 2010. Indeed, according to Gallup, Obama’s rating never got this low (42 percent) at any point in 2009 or 2010, nor did his disapproval rating get as high (55 percent) as Biden’s is now. Between approval and disapproval, Obama was 21 points better off in November 2009 than Biden is today.
New York: The decision by Rep. Tom Suozzi, D, to run for governor will give Republicans just a glimmer of hope in a redistricting process that Democrats have the power to rig. Because his third district seat is quite swingy and could go for the right Republican in a year like 2022, Democrats may opt to make it safer, increasing the Republican margins of the GOP-leaning seats already on Long Island. Alternatively, they might reason, they could overreach and risk allowing a Republican to get elected in this district.
The bottom line is that Suozzi could have kept this seat safe for them if he had stayed in the House, but his departure limits their flexibility in gerrymandering Long Island and perhaps the rest of the state as well.
Texas: The decision by actor Matthew McConaughey not to run for governor as an independent is probably moderately bad news for Gov. Greg Abbott, as now there won’t be a celebrity candidate to split the left-leaning vote.
Abbott faces nominal opposition in the Republican primary, whereas Democrats seem fated to nominate former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Despite losing elections both for Senate and president, O’Rourke is only a one-time loser in a statewide Texas race. This means he is a perfectly appropriate candidate from a Democratic perspective, despite the unwritten rule of “two-strikes-and-you’re-out” that governs most statewide election runs.
That is not to say that O’Rourke will do anywhere near as well as he did in the Democratic wave election of 2018, but his wife’s family can bring significant resources into the race, potentially helping Democrats down-ballot, as they did in 2018.
Pennsylvania: the sudden suspension of Sean Parnell’s campaign has injected a significant amount of chaos into the Republican primary for Senate in the Keystone State. Parnell had been viewed as the frontrunner, given his electoral performance in 2020 against Democratic congressman Connor Lamb, and more importantly his endorsement by former President Donald Trump and a bevy of important local Republicans.
But then Parnell unexpectedly lost his child custody case in a contentious divorce, in which his wife had leveled physical abuse accusations. Aside from the credibility of the accusations or the lack thereof, the judge in the case specifically cited Parnell’s political campaign as an obstacle to his being an effective parent. This is a devastating ruling for any father, and Parnell understandably would rather remain a dad than a potential senator.
Still, this leaves Pennsylvania Republicans back at square one in defending the open seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R.
Currently, there are three other Republicans in the race, none of them particularly — Jeff Bartos, the developer unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, is the most famous, and he has barely registered in polling so far. Also running is former Ambassador Carla Sands.
This leaves open the door to another intriguing possibility — that Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous as a celebrity television doctor with his own show, will step in and run for the open seat.
If there’s ever a great year for a famous person to get into politics as a Republican, this is it. Just consider the Biden administration’s immense unpopularity and, in Pennsylvania at least, a Democratic field that isn’t especially impressive, at the tail end of 8 years of a Democratic governorship. The state is gradually trending more Republican, as local and statewide off-year elections proved at the beginning of November.
Then again, be careful what you ask for. Dr. Oz was appointed by President Trump to his council on sports, fitness, and nutrition, and most (not all) of his political donations have gone to Republicans. Celebrities can learn the skills of politicians, as Donald Trump clearly demonstrates, but Trump had more political grounding to begin with. Oz’s precise political orientation, in contrast, is not obvious. Perhaps he can be counted on as a public health voice that has embraced the reopening of American society after COVID, but in 2007, he referred to himself as a moderate Republican, citing Arnold Schwarzenegger as his type. Will conservatives be content with that? Or will he renounce it, and can he succeed if he does?
Oz also offered some strange praise for China’s lockdown at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, although he can likely explain this away by pleading that nobody really understood at the time exactly what was going on.
There is speculation that former west Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus might run, but there are no indications yet that he has actually set anything in motion just yet. Another possibility is David McCormick, a decorated Gulf War Army combat veteran who runs the world’s biggest hedge fund.