This week: The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 10
- Congress is testing the public’s patience for big spending
- Andrew Cuomo hangs by a thread, faces impeachment
- Trump will campaign against Alaska’s Sen. Murkowski
COVID-stimulus: Is there any limit to what Big Government can spend? America is probably about to find out. After $4 trillion in pandemic-related relief, Congress is readying to bail out state governments (which largely are not hurting because of the pandemic) and send another check to individuals.
Most people welcome the money of course, but the strange part is that Democrats were so eager to shovel it out the door without regard to the fact that a lot of it (at least initially) was going to go to high-income individuals. That has changed, at least. But between this and the Trump-era cap on the federal deduction for state and local taxes (known as the SALT deduction), but there does seem to be a very real inversion of the old Democratic mantra about “tax cuts for the rich.”
Meanwhile, additional trillions are now being spent so much faster than usual that a tea-party-style backlash is possible. As amendment votes took place in the Senate last week and over the weekend, Republicans were already accusing Democrats of bailing out Andrew Cuomo, for example — an accusation that suddenly has all sorts of new connotations. This is a line that could play well in Republican and swing states with good fiscal management.
To conservatives this might seem a bit rich. Suddenly, with Democrats in office, deficits are going to matter again. Then again, they probably mattered the whole time. Is it too much of a good thing? A double-standard? Or better late than never?
Kansas: Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, who stepped in briefly to replace an unpopular Sam Brownback upon his appointment to the Trump administration, narrowly missed out in the primary for governor in 2018. As a result, Kris Kobach went on to lose the governorship to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. This time, he is the first Republican into the race.
Given the more outspokenly conservative Kobach’s subsequent fall from grace — Republican primary voters soundly rejected him in the 2020 Senate primary after stories abounded of how he had wasted the gubernatorial nomination with a joke of a campaign in 2018 — Colyer starts out in a very strong position pursuing the GOP nomination.
New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo suddenly finds himself in the hot seat for two reasons. One is that suddenly President Trump isn’t around to blame for everything that he’s done wrong on COVID. The other is that women keep coming forward (there are five as of this writing) to make allegations that he verbally or physically sexually harassed them.
At this point, the Democratic leaders of both the state House and the state Senate — Carl Heastie and Andrea Stewart-Cousins — have called on him to resign. He says that isn’t happening. He is daring them to impeach him. So far, it is unclear whether the numbers are there to do it. He doesn’t seem to think so. Or at least, he thinks he can stall for time by getting lawmakers to wait for the outcome of an attorney general investigation.
An impeachment trial would basically work the same way as it does at the federal level. The state House can impeach with a simple majority vote, and the state Senate can remove Cuomo with a two-thirds majority, or 46 out of 63 senators.
Alaska: President Trump’s promise last week to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, must surely be taken seriously. Trump, after all, carried the state by ten points amid high turnout. He is sore after her vote for impeachment, not to mention her vote against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
But the effect of Trump’s involvement in this race is necessarily as obvious as one might expect.
Murkowski’s situation has always been at least a bit precarious. In 2004, she narrowly won her first election after being appointed by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, an official act that rubbed many Alaskans the wrong way.
In 2010, Murkowski actually lost her primary to conservative opponent Joe Miller, only to return and win the general election after a write-in campaign against him. This was due largely to his own missteps.
Alaska’s new open-primary, ranked-choice voting system will, in a way, protect Murkowski, but in a way it will also put her in greater danger. This new system is unique in that it pits the top four finishers from the first round against each other in the general election.
So as long as she runs, Murkowski is sure to appear on the ballot in the general election. But if conservatives feel comfortable making her their second or third choice in that general election, just so that a Democrat doesn’t win, it could cost her her seat.
Missouri: Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s retirement announcement comes at a good time for Republicans. He had a very difficult time winning re-election in 2016 — he won only 49 percent and prevailed by just 2.8 points — despite Trump’s overperformance in Missouri. Now he will bow out as a Democratic president likely faces the headwinds of his first midterm.
Missouri is an increasingly Republican state — far more Republican than it was as recently as 2006, when Claire McCaskill was first elected.
Interestingly, not long before that announcement, disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens had expressed interest in running a primary against Blunt. Such a political comeback would be incredibly controversial.
Greitens avoided going down on criminal charges related to an affair he had carried on, but this was framed at the time as part of a deal. He announced his resignation from office in 2018 at the end of May 2018. Greitens had little choice but to resign, as he was also under threat of impeachment by his fellow Republicans. This was all a rather traumatic development for the state and its Republican Party.
Worse is the specific charge of which Greitens stood accused. It was revenge porn — that is, an affair partner claimed he had threatened to release compromising material on her. Even if there is some kind of heretofore not released explanation, this is not the sort of charge that a candidate for high office would want to explain.
There are currently five Republican statewide elected officials who might potentially take an interest in entering this race.
Democrats, meanwhile, have only one statewide officeholder in Missouri at this point — Auditor Nicole Galloway, who was originally appointed to her current job in 2015. She kept the position by defeating a politically inexperienced upstart Republican candidate who surprisingly won her primary in 2018 — Saundra McDowell, who lacked even a budget even to run ads in her primary.
Galloway will be up for re-election in 2022 unless she gets into this race or does something else. But don’t think of her as the great Democratic hope — she just lost for governor in 2020 (against Gov. Mike Parson, Greitens’ Republican replacement) by 17 points.