This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 10
- Biden’s unmemorable State of the Union
- The worst in Ukraine is still to come
- Texas Hispanics continue their drift toward the Republicans
Biden administration: For his State of the Union address last week, Joe Biden gave a speech that would have been just fine for a president enjoying some popularity and getting his agenda through Congress — for a president addressing a nation filled with people who are mostly pleased and believe that the country is headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately for Biden, he is definitely not that president. And for that reason, the speech probably didn’t do him much good.
Biden is sure to benefit from some amount of temporary rallying around the flag over Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. But that is unlikely to last.
We have in previous weeks spelled out most of the issues where Biden is suffering, but there is still another shoe to drop. With Russia failing in its goals for a quick takeover of Ukraine, the Russian military is resorting to increasingly brutal tactics. It is deliberately targeting civilians with abandon, reducing civilian residences and infrastructure to rubble. Russia will “win” the war — to the extent that any sort of victory is possible — by terrorizing the civilian population, using similar tactics to the ones Russian forces used in Syria. Win or lose, Ukraine is about to face immense human tragedy at the hands of a merciless foe.
Ukraine: Early Ukrainian success in the war has galvanized Europe. That is a positive. But this early success will probably give way to bitter disappointment and finger-pointing later, over the fact that the war was ever permitted to take place to begin with.
Although it is now within the Ukrainians’ power to bog Russia down in a lengthy conflict with appalling levels of casualties, Putin’s stubbornness virtually guarantees that that is the best outcome. This is not going to turn into something that anybody is very proud of or happy with.
When people start to ask the question about how this war was allowed to begin in the first place, they will point to two main factors: First, Angela Merkel’s spineless refusal to arm her country and wean it from Russian gas; second, Biden’s decisions in the year leading up to the attack, as he lobbied Congress to prevent tougher Russia sanctions and sought to placate German feelings.
At the time when the U.S. still had a chance to deter a Russian invasion with a strong show of support, Biden had to be shamed by NATO allies in the region — mainly Poland and the Baltic states — into arming the Ukrainians properly at the very last minute. Biden’s decision to drop Trump era sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was one of the main factors that caused Putin to believe he could get away with this invasion.
Again, Putin is in big trouble because of what he has done here. At this point, the best scenario for him is a lengthy and bloody occupation in which there is no clear definition of success. His continued reign is constantly under threat at home.
But that’s little consolation for the tens of thousands who will end up dead and displaced even by the end of next week. Ultimately, a leadership vacuum in the White House is the problem.
Missouri: Republicans are increasingly worried that former President Trump will endorse disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens. Greitens might be the only Republican with any serious chance of losing the seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt.
Pennsylvania: With just over two months left before the Keystone State’s May 17 primary, the relative newcomer to the race, David McCormick, leads celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz for the Republican nomination for Senate. A new poll of likely Republican primary voters has McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO and military veteran, in the lead with 25%, ahead of Oz at 19 percent.
That isn’t an impressive lead in a four-way field, except for two things. First, Oz has a strikingly high negative rating of 40%, perhaps a reflection of conservative disdain for celebrities in general. This will make it hard for him to gain ground with the 25% who remain undecided. Second, this is the first poll in which McCormick holds an actual lead — two earlier surveys by Trafalgar Group gave the lead to Oz.
Georgia: A local media poll shows governor Brian Kemp with a nine-point lead over former Sen. David Perdue for the GOP nomination for governor, 44 to 35 percent. So far, Donald Trump’s endorsement has not been enough to put Purdue in a commanding position. Still, Purdue has until May to make up the ground. The winner needs to get 50% to avoid a runoff, and there are five declared candidates.
Michigan: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig leads the field for the Republican nomination to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with 32 percent support, according to a new local poll. The rest of the candidates are at 10% and below.
Texas: Last week’s Texas primary elections did not produce too many surprises. One of the more important results was in the attorney general race, in which the incumbent, Ken Paxton, fell well short (at under 43%) of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He will face George P. Bush (son of Jeb) in the runoff. Bush got 23 percent in the first round.
Likewise, moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar was forced into a runoff by leftist attorney Jessica Cisneros. Despite being under Federal investigation, Cuellar finished first with 48.4% of the vote.
The more interesting result, perhaps, was not connected to any particular office. It was the fact that two and a half times as many residents of the Rio Grande Valley voted in the Republican primary this year as did so in the last midterm, 2018. (Texas has no party registration.) The Democratic number stayed almost the same. Democrats went from having six times as many primary voters to having just twice as many. This is a measure of the votes cast in Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr, and Willacy Counties, traditionally heavily Democratic counties in South Texas.
This is just one more data point in the long running trend of Hispanic South Texas voters toward the GOP during the Trump era.
Texas-3: There was a post-election development. After making the runoff, Congressman Van Taylor abruptly dropped his re-election campaign after admitting to his affair with an ISIS bride.
Breitbart broke the story.