Democrats have been boosting ultra-right candidates. It coul

Re: Democrats have been boosting ultra-right candidates. It

Postby admin » Sun Aug 14, 2022 9:38 pm

The Democrats Are Trying To Lose
by David Sirota
Dec 19, 2021



Cognitive dissonance is one of the defining traits of American politics, but with this weekend’s blow against the Build Back Better bill, we’ve now reached an inflection point: Americans are being simultaneously asked to believe that Democrats are mounting a valiant last-ditch defense of democracy against insurrectionists and election deniers, and yet we’re also watching Democrats proudly surrender the midterm elections to those same fascists, knowingly creating Weimar-esque conditions for an authoritarian takeover.

Taken together, this is far more than hypocrisy: In JFK lingo, this is an admission that the ruling party wants the bear-any-burden brand of democracy defenders, but without the pay-any-price actions that might assure the survival and success of liberty.

In the last week, the contradictions have been too blatant to miss, even if corporate news outlets continue doing their best to ignore, omit, downplay, and distract from them.

On the one hand, we see congressional Democrats casting themselves as the heroes of a West Wing episode, rightly screaming about all the web of connections between the January 6th rioters, right-wing news outlets, and top Trump officials, who appear to have been entertaining plans for an actual coup.

On the other hand, we see Democrats fully leaning into a likely 2022 disaster. They are going far beyond merely refusing to give Americans an affirmative reason to vote for them; in sabotaging their own purported agenda, they seem to be deliberately trying to lose to the very fascists they claim to oppose, going out of their way to insult and harm as many voters as possible before their likely collapse.

A Barrage Of Betrayals, Capitulations, And Insults

This weekend’s big news is the likely death of the Build Back Better bill, which includes most of the party’s climate, health care, housing, and other social spending promises. But this plot twist is only the latest chapter in a larger story. Consider what’s happened in the lead up:

• Upon assuming office, one of President Joe Biden’s first moves was to tell governors that his $15 minimum wage campaign promise was effectively a lie — and congressional Democrats then insulted everyone’s intelligence by blaming their own fireable parliamentary adviser, an appointed bureaucrat with no real power, for the betrayal.
• While flirting with cuts to housing programs, Democrats have mismanaged meager rental assistance programs and allowed the eviction moratorium to end — a one-two punch that is now creating a mass eviction process reminiscent of the meltdown that caused Democrats’ 2010 electoral massacre.
• Democrats spent months touting their plan for permanent tax breaks for wealthy mansion owners in affluent blue-state locales, while limiting a proposed child tax credit extension to just one year, even as survey data suggest the tax credit is one of the only things that has made some Trump voters like Democrats a bit more.
• Just 48 hours after new polling data showed swing-state voters are most concerned about rampant political corruption, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made national headlines brushing off the idea of anti-corruption legislation to stop her and other lawmakers from personally enriching themselves off inside information they receive as government officials. She rejected the concept even after a new report showed lawmakers and their staffers flagrantly violating existing ethics rules governing stock trades.
• Amid the Omicron surge, the Democratic White House scoffed at the idea of providing free COVID tests, has refused to use its executive authority to share vaccine recipes, and has completely discarded its promised public health insurance option, instead offering its insurance donors more subsidies in exchange for inadequate insurance that bankrupts people.
• Biden is now heading into the election year openly reneging on his student debt relief promise as he hemorrhages support from young people. Instead, he is pledging to restart loan repayment, even as new research shows that this debt is contributing to the housing crisis. Meanwhile, the eviction machine is firing on all cylinders.

All of this culminated in the modern expression of austerity, corruption, ineptitude, and let-them-eat-cakeism that coincided with the rise of fascism in Europe less than a century ago: In this iteration, a Maserati-driving coal magnate from one of the country’s poorest states stepped off his luxury yacht and told the country that he’s rescinding his promised support for any relief, just after he proudly backed a giant defense spending authorization bill, and after he previously demanded a giant bailout for his Wall Street donors. The declaration by the Wolf of West Virginia was a huge win for corporate lobbyists, Manchin’s billionaire donors, and his family’s fossil fuel business.

It was also a turn of events that seemed preordained by Democratic leaders who never once put Manchin on the spot, never once forced him to cast a single uncomfortable vote, never once tried to generate local pressure on him, and never once compelled him to explain his actions to his destitute constituents. Remember when a few protesters paddled up to Manchin's yacht to beg him to support the Build Back Better bill? That represented more pressure than the entire national Democratic Party machine and its Washington advocacy groups were willing to aim at the West Virginia senator.

And let’s not forget that in letting Manchin off the hook, Democratic leaders got a big assist from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), most of whose members dutifully followed White House orders and abandoned their promise to keep the relief bill tied to the infrastructure bill that Manchin helped write.

That high-profile CPC capitulation has been depicted as “know when to hold’em, know when to fold ‘em” savviness — but it came as Biden has been telegraphing his real intent all along. He pushed to slash the original Build Back Better bill, and has spent the year loafing around the White House with a pile of executive actions that he could issue under existing law but that he has refused to bother with.

Liberals and pundits in the capital have obediently tried to shift the blame for the impending political disaster to anyone other than the “get things done” president who was long touted as a legislative mastermind and Giant Of The Senate™. At the same time, there’s now a cottage industry of Washington media folk feigning confusion about why-oh-why Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted.

Biden refusing to use exec authority to fulfill promises
Libs: "Blame Manchin & Sinema!"

But the reason is obvious to any minimally functioning brain stem outside the Beltway: The pass-the-blame game isn’t working. As in the 2009-2010 period, Americans were promised specific economic benefits, the ruling party has made a show of refusing to deliver those things, and is now making an even bigger, bolder spectacle of betrayal. Naturally, voters don’t appreciate being given the middle finger, especially when they are engulfed in multiple crises.

Corporate media doesn’t like to acknowledge this simple story because it’s not exciting and doesn’t serve media owners’ interests, but every now and again there’s a begrudging admission like the one at the very bottom of a recent much-discussed New York Times article about the “socialism” label and declining Democratic support among Latinos. In the 12th paragraph of the piece, the newspaper finally admitted that “the majority of those surveyed said they wished that Mr. Biden could have enacted more change than he has so far, which pollsters tied to ‘deep anxiety about the economy.’”

Of course, had these capitulations, betrayals and insults risked the 2022 midterms in service of some larger moral-but-politically-divisive cause like combating the climate crisis, perhaps you could make a case that it was all worth it.

But, in fact, quite the opposite has happened: While flattering credulous liberals with “believe science” rhetoric, Biden has used his executive authority to ignore climate science, boost tar sands pipelines and vastly expand fossil fuel drilling, in some cases at an even faster clip than his Republican predecessor.

While Biden fans have spent months pretending the president somehow has no power to fight his own party members like Manchin, Biden’s White House has also been proving the opposite as it helps the fossil fuel industry stomp on Michigan’s Democratic governor and make the climate cataclysm even worse.

A Broken Formula

In October, The Daily Poster wrote that if Democrats were really serious about passing the Build Back Better bill, they would hold a vote and force Manchin to show whether he has the guts to publicly vote down so much aid to his own West Virginia constituents. Some House progressives are only now echoing that demand. Better late than never, but it might be too late.

If the legislation is dead, Democrats will now stumble into 2022 banking on two last arguments: They’ll protect abortion and voting rights. But in this tragicomedy of errors, they can’t seem to even stand by those most bedrock promises.

As the Supreme Court tries to transform America into Gilead, the party has been raising money off promising that “we will always fight tooth and nail to protect access to safe, legal abortion.” And yet Democratic congressional leaders have bottled up long-promised legislation to codify Roe in federal law, and the Biden White House doesn’t seem interested in a fight against corporate lobbyists to seriously reform the GOP’s radicalized Supreme Court. At the state level, it’s just as bad: Democratic legislative leaders in Virginia reportedly won’t even return from vacation to protect reproductive rights ahead of that state’s Republican takeover.

Likewise on voting rights, as Republicans spent months telegraphing their intent to gerrymander the next decade of congressional elections, Democrats bottled up their anti-gerrymandering legislation until after the key Census deadline that now allows such GOP manipulation to happen. Democrats have now performatively turned back to the voting rights bill, knowing that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have never faced the necessary public pressure campaign that might get them to stop propping up the filibuster blockade.

Tellingly, the Democratic Senate didn’t make time to even debate the voting rights legislation that Democrats suddenly purport to care about, but somehow the same Senate found time to secure a plum job for disgraced former mayor Rahm Emanuel.

It is profoundly illuminating that Democrats are betting on a half-hearted, likely-doomed-to-fail voting-rights initiative as their 2022 savior. It evinces a deeply cynical belief that voters will keep being fooled by their Lucy-and-the-football act of pretending to be for things while setting those things up to never actually happen. And even if you think the belated initiative somehow represents a serious attempt to legislate, it nonetheless illustrates party leaders’ warped world view, their sense of entitlement, and their assumption of inevitability.

For decades, the basic formula in Democratic politics involved three steps: 1) You get elected on promises, 2) you deliver on said promises, and 3) you then make it as easy as possible for people to vote for you in the next election.

But since Obama won in 2008, modern-era Democrats seem intent on skipping the second step and maybe even the third, as if governing and delivering aren’t important to electoral success — and as if serving the donor class is the only thing that matters. Back then it was enriching Wall Street donors while millions were foreclosed on, today it is demanding an infrastructure bill that oil lobbyists want while killing social programs that everyone else needs. The details change, but the story remains the same.

The presumption seems to be that come election time, voters owe the Democrats their support, rather than Democrats owing voters the promised policies that improve people’s lives. Democrats also seem to believe that democratic institutions unto themselves — in absence of policy followthrough — will automatically generate positive political outcomes for their party. The idea is that people will vote harder, because they have to, given the alternative.

The national elections of 2010, 2014 and 2016 — as well as Virginia’s 2021 election — prove the opposite. They show that when a ruling party so obviously sides with its corporate sponsors, voters are perfectly willing to stay home or use those democratic institutions to throw that party out of office — even if that means electing an even worse set of villains.

In this era, those villains aren’t just the anti-tax zealots or libertarians of old — they are Republican extremists willing to exacerbate a deadly pandemic, threaten violence, and destroy the last shreds of democracy in order to seize power.

In what should be an archetypal good-versus-evil Hollywood story, Democratic leaders have changed up the script — they’ve made clear they are unwilling to do what’s necessary to ward off this menace. Indeed, some of them have explicitly ridiculed the idea of any kind of FDR-esque response to the very real, very explicit rise of fascism.

Intent on owning the left and serving their donors, Democrats are waving the white flag of surrender. Though in truth, even that metaphor isn’t apt. Now more than ever it seems as if Democrats are willing participants in a theatrical production whose conclusion is already scripted. Forced to choose between their sponsors’ demands and fulfilling the campaign promises necessary to win the midterms, these Democrats have chosen the former — with most of them knowing they’ll be richly rewarded with post-government payouts as the rest of the country burns.

This is a parable that has been told countless times in history — the story of an effete ruling party trying to satiate the greedy rich and also somehow placate the desperately destitute, and then that contradiction being ridiculed, shamed, and exploited by right-wing opportunists.

It is a gut-wrenching tale that never ends well, but it is a tale worth telling — if only to know what went so horribly wrong, so that perhaps this fate can be avoided when the Democratic gerontocracy is long gone.

Maybe then all the obvious cautionary lessons from the Weimar era to the present won’t fall on such deaf ears. Thanks to what’s happening right now, it will be a long and difficult path to that future — but if we want any kind of future at all, that future must start now.
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Re: Democrats have been boosting ultra-right candidates. It

Postby admin » Sun Aug 14, 2022 9:41 pm

They Are Not Even Pretending Anymore: Top Democratic leaders are joining with oligarchs to try to permanently destroy the progressive movement.
by David Sirota
May 17, 2022



Republicans want a revolution, Democrats want to go to brunch — that’s been a concise way to understand American politics, but 2022’s primary season has made clear it is not exactly accurate.

Democratic leaders don’t just want avocado toast and mimosas — they want an outright counterrevolution. Only not against the GOP insurrection — against the Democratic rank and file, and in many cases for the politicians most hostile to the party’s (purported) agenda.

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sounded an important alarm about all this, slamming billionaires and conservative advocacy groups blanketing the airwaves with television ads supporting corporate candidates in this week’s pivotal Democratic congressional primaries. But the Vermont senator understated the situation.

The perpetrators rigging these elections aren’t just meddling oligarchs operating on their own. This call is coming from inside the Democratic house from party leaders, who are at minimum passively condoning the trend, and in many cases actively fueling it with endorsements and its machine.

In all, more than a dozen consulting firms that have worked directly for either Democratic Party committees or President Joe Biden’s political apparatus have been paid more than $12 million by the allegedly independent super PACs now buying primary elections for corporate candidates, according to federal disclosures reviewed by The Lever.

Among the firms is SKDK, led by Biden White House senior advisor Anita Dunn, and Waterfront Strategies, an affiliate of the Democratic media buying firm GMMB that works with the super PACs for both House and Senate Democrats. One of the committees is run by longtime Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who has advised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which elects House Democrats, as well as corporate clients in the health insurance and pharmaceutical sectors.

The first few months of 2022 tell the story of their leadership-sanctioned crusade to snuff out the progressive movement:

- In Oregon’s newly drawn 5th congressional district, Biden defied local Democratic county organizations and endorsed incumbent Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader over his more progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Biden said that “when it has mattered most, Kurt has been there for me” — despite Schrader opposing and then helping gut Biden’s long-promised legislation to reduce the price of medicine. Schrader also helped Republicans sever Biden’s social spending legislation from a bipartisan, corporate-friendly infrastructure bill — effectively killing the former. Schrader’s campaign is being boosted by a super PAC bankrolled by a Big Pharma front group.

- Also in Oregon, House Democrats’ super PAC has spent $1 million for Carrick Flynn, who The Oregonian notes is “an electoral novice who’s barely participated in Oregon civic life,” supporting him over progressive State Rep. Andrea Salinas. The move appears to be designed to ingratiate House Democrats with cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, a top Biden donor who is bankrolling a separate super PAC boosting Flynn and other corporate Democratic primary candidates across the country. Meanwhile, in Oregon’s 4th congressional district, top Democratic leaders are intervening to tilt that open-seat primary toward former Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has backed a controversial fracked gas pipeline.

- In Ohio, Biden and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) intervened to secure the election for corporate-friendly Democrat Shontel Brown in Cleveland’s newly-drawn safe Democratic House seat. In that race, the Democratic leaders aligned themselves against progressive Nina Turner and with an oil-industry-funded super PAC called Democratic Majority For Israel (DMFI) in support of a candidate who refused to co-sponsor the party’s major climate legislation. The effort to crush Turner also got a boost from the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, which endorsed Brown. DMFI is led by the pollster Mellman and an ally to the pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

- In Pennsylvania, Democratic power brokers are joining an AIPAC-funded super PAC’s effort to try to tank progressive state Rep. Summer Lee (D) in her battle against Steve Irwin, who previously led the “union avoidance” division of a corporate law firm.The spending has reportedly erased Lee’s lead in the race.

- In North Carolina, Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, a Green New Deal supporter, is being flamethrowered by DMFI, AIPAC donors and Bankman-Fried’s super PAC, which are backing a more conservative candidate.

- In Texas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Clyburn responded to the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade by reiterating their support for incumbent anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar in his primary with pro-choice candidate Jessica Cisneros. The House leadership is sticking by Cuellar even after law enforcement officials raided his home. "I'm supporting Henry Cuellar, he's a valued member of our caucus," Pelosi declared, adding: “The FBI has said he is not under investigation."

There Is No Pretense Anymore

Taken together, the endorsements, the donor overlap, and the party ties of the allegedly independent committees show there is no real separation between the Democratic leadership and the “outside” spending. This is one large party-sanctioned operation aimed at the left, even when corporatists are undermining the party’s agenda and its own president. Indeed, rather than amping up potential progressive primary pressure on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Biden’s political machine actually ran ads touting her as she was killing his signature economic legislation and driving down his approval ratings.

This lack of pretense, where the leadership isn’t even pretending to be impartial or progressive, represents a significant break from the past.

Once upon a time (read: up to the mid 2000s), Democratic leaders typically stayed officially neutral in intraparty battles. These weren’t exactly halcyon days — the power brokers still quietly encouraged donor support for preferred candidates. However, that kind of rigging was hidden in the shadows, so as to not publicly violate the once-sacrosanct idea that Democratic voters should be trusted to choose nominees and — by extension — the party’s ideological complexion.

That tradition began to change in 2006 after Rahm Emanuel bought a Chicago-area congressional seat and began hand-picking House Democratic nominees through the party’s campaign apparatus. Later, the party’s political machine went all in against Sanders’ 2020 presidential primary campaign and then went in even stronger for corporate candidates in contested Senate primaries in Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado — and in the latter case, even progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) participated in the scale-thumbing.

All of this escalated to the DCCC literally blacklisting political consultants who worked for unapproved Democratic candidates.

For their part, Democratic operatives don’t ever admit they are trying to help business donors pulverize rank-and-file voters and perform a hostile takeover of the party. Instead, they often make the “pragmatism” argument, asserting (with few facts) their primary interventions are designed to help corporate candidates who are allegedly the most “electable” in tough general elections.

The existence of reasonably progressive red- and purple-state senators like Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin should debunk such assumptions, but also: Many of the party leadership’s interventions were and continue to happen in Democratic-leaning locales whose general elections inherently favor the eventual Democratic nominees, regardless of their ideological moorings.

Meanwhile, in purple states, many of those corporate-friendly candidates picked by party bosses for their alleged “electability” last cycle were summarily crushed in their general elections.

None of those losses prompted accountability or change
— it’s still the same gerontocracy and consultants calling the shots, which spotlights an important truth.

Democratic leaders are bad at defeating Republicans in competitive races, bad at passing meaningful legislation, bad at coming up with a coherent message, and — according to new polling data -— bad at convincing most voters to like their party. The new redistricting maps in New York show they are even bad at protecting their own representation in blue states.

But they are extremely good at two things: preserving their own power inside their party and destroying the American Left.

Movements Cannot Be Built With Unicorns

Of course, there are always exceptions.

In 2018, the exception was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeating lobbyist favorite and Biff Tannen doppleganger Joe Crowley in a New York City Democratic primary.

In 2020, it was Cori Bush defeating the Clay machine in a St. Louis Democratic primary.

This year, with a little luck it could be Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeating corporate-bankrolled, establishment-backed Rep. Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania’s Senate Democratic primary.

The problem is that so far, such victories — laudable as they are — seem to be unicorn stories rather than reflections of a systemic power shift in primary politics that can be reliably replicated.

Ocasio-Cortez snuck up on a lazy Democratic incumbent who was both ideologically and demographically out of touch with his district.

Bush had run once before and then won a low-turnout primary against an incumbent who was so preposterously corrupt and loyal to bankers that he was portrayed as at odds even with Wall Street favorite Barack Obama — an electoral death sentence in a Democratic primary in a majority African American district.

As for Fetterman, he may be the closest to creating a replicable model, but there are caveats.

He’s been running for a Senate seat for seven straight years, and vaulted himself into a statewide office by winning a primary against a scandal-plagued incumbent. In that interim, he has used sartorial iconoclasm and tireless campaigning to develop a quasi-celebrity brand, build a grassroots fundraising base, and deter Senate Democrats from officially intervening in the Pennsylvania primary like they previously had in 2020 primaries.

All of that is to his credit. Fetterman is now in the rare position of being a serious Senate contender with progressive positions that have drawn powerful corporate enemies — and if he wins Tuesday’s primary, it is undoubtedly a major defeat for the Democratic machine.

However, Fetterman’s playbook is difficult to employ further down the ballot in lower profile House races or state legislative battles where candidates struggle to achieve any name recognition at all. The same goes for many Senate and gubernatorial races.

Sure, if you’ve never worked on a campaign, it’s easy to blame progressive candidates and insist they should all just find a way to pull off miracles like AOC or Bush or (hopefully) Fetterman. But American politics isn’t Moneyball. There’s no way that progressive candidates in most races can be Billy Bean’s Oakland A’s engineering a Cinderella story by finding a glitch in the numbers — at least not consistently.

Yes, the occasional unicorn with a unique brand and notoriety in the exact right situation can win a primary every now and again (and I say that as the spouse of a Democratic legislator who did that). But a national movement up and down the ballot to dethrone a corrupt and decrepit Democratic Party establishment almost certainly will not be successful if it must rely only on once-in-a-blue-moon candidates running in extremely rare conditions.

Put another way: Movements are built not from anomalies, but from the day to day slog of normalcy. A movement’s success can be judged on whether the political infrastructure exists not just to help a rare unicorn win a high-profile office, but to also win primaries for rank-and-file, non-celebrity candidates running for the lowest tier offices that voters barely know exist.

There are certainly parts of that infrastructure being constructed in fits and starts — from the Working Families Party to the Democratic Socialists of America, the latter of whose slate of successful New York legislative candidates dealt a blow to that state’s corrupt Democratic machine. Justice Democrats has also racked up a few congressional wins.

Those groups, though, still remain largely locked out of power. Indeed, much-touted Bush-era projects like the Democracy Alliance and liberals’ constellation of anti-GOP think tanks have spent nearly 20 years and $2 billion failing to halt the right, but they did win oligarch control of a crippled Democratic Party.

And so let’s be honest about where things stand: A full-fledged electoral movement for progressive representation in government still doesn’t exist — and now the Democratic leadership and its corporate donors have decided to do everything they can to make sure it never exists.

“Big Money corporate interests, with the aid of the House Democratic leadership and corporatist elements in the White House, are coming for the millions of progressive and economically populist voters who joined with center-left corporatists to elect Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress,” Sanders’ longtime top aide Jeff Weaver wrote this week. “The goal of (their) war is to make elected progressives extinct and to extinguish the agenda of higher wages, affordable health care, criminal justice reform, addressing climate change, and putting more economic and political power in the hands of everyday people of all races.”

There are no quick fixes here, no single trick that will make everything better. But at least there is no more pretending. Now we know the contours of this war, and as the old G.I. Joe cartoon told every kid my age: Knowing is half the battle.
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Re: Democrats have been boosting ultra-right candidates. It

Postby admin » Sun Aug 14, 2022 11:15 pm

Donald Trump’s bond with the GOP deepens after primary wins, FBI search
by PBS
Aug 11, 2022 2:46 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s pick for governor in the swing state of Wisconsin easily defeated a favorite of the Republican establishment. As the 2022 midterm season enters its final phase, the Republicans on the November ballot are tied to the divisive former president as never before — whether they like it or not.

In Connecticut, the state that launched the Bush family and its brand of compassionate conservatism, a fiery Senate contender who promoted Trump’s election lies upset the state GOP’s endorsed candidate. Meanwhile in Washington, Republicans ranging from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene defended Trump against an unprecedented FBI search.

And that was just this week.

The rapid developments crystalized the former president’s singular status atop a party he has spent the past seven years breaking down and rebuilding in his image. Facing mounting legal vulnerabilities and considering another presidential run, he needs support from the party to maintain his political career. But, whether they like it or not, many in the party also need Trump, whose endorsement has proven crucial for those seeking to advance to the November ballot.

“For a pretty good stretch, it felt like the Trump movement was losing more ground than it was gaining,” said Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is urging his party to move past Trump. But now, he said, Trump is benefiting from “an incredibly swift tail wind.”

The Republican response to the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida estate this week was an especially stark example of how the party is keeping Trump nearby. Some of the Republicans considering challenges to Trump in a 2024 presidential primary, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, were among those defending him. Even long-established Trump critics like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan questioned the search, pressing for details about its circumstances.

But even before the FBI showed up at Mar-a-Lago, Trump was gaining momentum in his post-presidential effort to shape the GOP. In all, nearly 180 Trump-endorsed candidates up and down the ballot have won their primaries since May while fewer than 20 have lost.

Only two of the 10 House Republicans who supported Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection are expected back in Congress next year. Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, R-Wash., who conceded defeat after her Tuesday primary, was the latest to fall. Leading Trump antagonist Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is at risk of joining her next week.

The Trump victories include a clean sweep of statewide primary elections in Arizona last week — including an election denier in the race for the state’s chief elections official. Trump’s allies also prevailed Tuesday across Wisconsin and Connecticut, a state long known for its moderate Republican leanings.

In Wisconsin’s Republican primary for governor, wealthy Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, an establishment favorite. And in Connecticut, Leora Levy, who promoted Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, surged to an unexpected victory over a more moderate rival after earning Trump’s official endorsement.

On Monday, just hours after the FBI search, Trump hosted a tele-town hall rally on her behalf. Levy thanked Trump in her acceptance speech, while railing against the FBI’s search.

“All of us can tell him how upset and offended and disgusted we were at what happened to him,” she said. “That is un-American. That is what they do in Cuba, in China, in dictatorships. And that will stop.”

Despite his recent dominance, Trump — and the Republicans close to him — face political and legal threats that could undermine their momentum as the GOP fights for control of Congress and statehouses across the nation this fall.

While Trump’s picks have notched notable victories in primaries this summer, they may struggle in the fall. That’s especially true in several governor’s races in Democratic-leaning states such as Connecticut and Maryland, where GOP candidates must track to the center to win a general election.

Meanwhile, several Republicans with White House ambitions are moving forward with a busy travel schedule that will take them to politically important states where they can back candidates on the ballot this year and build relationships heading into 2024.

DeSantis plans to boost high-profile Republican contenders across Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Former Vice President Mike Pence, another potential 2024 presidential contender, is scheduled to appear next week in New Hampshire.

On the legal front, the FBI search was part of an investigation into whether the former president took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence. While Republicans have rallied behind Trump, very few facts about the case have been released publicly. Trump’s attorneys have so far declined to release details from the search warrant.

Prosecutors in Washington and Georgia are also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election he falsely claimed was stolen. The Jan. 6 congressional commission has exposed damning details about Trump’s behavior from Republican witnesses in recent hearings, which have prompted new concerns, at least privately, among the GOP establishment and donor class.

And on Wednesday, Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he testified under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his business dealings.

Trump’s legal entanglements represent a distraction at best for Republican candidates who’d rather focus on President Joe Biden’s leadership, sky-high inflation and immigration troubles to help court moderate voters and independents in the general election.

“Today, every Republican in every state in this country should be talking about how bad Joe Biden is, how bad inflation is, how difficult it is to run a business and run a household,” said Duncan, the Georgia lieutenant governor. “But instead, we’re talking about some investigation, we’re talking about Donald Trump pleading the Fifth, we’re talking about Donald Trump endorsing some conspiracy theorist.”

Trump critics in both parties are ready and willing to highlight Trump’s shortcomings — and his relationship with midterm candidates — as more voters begin to pay attention to politics this fall.

“This is, and always has been, Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in an interview, condemning “MAGA Republicans” and their “extreme agenda” on abortion and other issues.

At the same time, the Republican Accountability Project and Protect Democracy launched a $3 million television and digital advertising campaign this week across seven swing states focused on Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The ads, which will run in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, feature testimonials from Republican voters who condemn Trump’s lies about nonexistent election fraud that fueled the Capitol attack.

One ad features congressional testimony from Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who has publicly declared that Trump should never hold public office again.

Still, Cheney faces her own primary election against a Trump-backed challenger next week in Wyoming. One of Trump’s top political targets this year, she is expected to lose. Anticipating a loss, Cheney’s allies suggest she may be better positioned to run for president in 2024, either as a Republican or independent.

Trump’s allies are supremely confident about his ability to win the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024. In fact, aides who had initially pushed him to launch his campaign after the November midterms are now encouraging him to announce sooner to help freeze out would-be Republican challengers.

“It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to take the nomination away from him in 2024,” said Stephen Moore, a former Trump economic adviser who has spoken with Trump about his 2024 intentions. “He is running. That is a certainty.”

Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., predicted that Trump would “lose in a landslide” if he sought the presidency again, adding that the former president’s overall grasp on the party is “eroding on the edges.”

“In a normal election, you’ve got to win not just the base. You’ve got to win the middle, too, right, and maybe crossover on the other side,” said Rice, who lost his recent primary after voting in favor of Trump’s second impeachment.

Rice warned that Trump far-right candidates could lead to unnecessary losses for the party in November. “Donald Trump is pushing things so far to the right,” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, eyeing a 2024 bid himself, warned against making bold political predictions two years before the Republican Party selects its next presidential nominee.

“We’re sitting here in August of 2022,” Christie said in an interview. “My sense is there’s a lot of water over the dam still to come before anybody can determine anybody’s individual position in the primaries of ’24 — except to say that if Donald Trump runs, he will certainly be a factor.”

Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
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