Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Last Call For These Disunited States, Con't

Democrats have finally figured out, after some ten years, that state legislatures are where the real action is as far as what rights Americans in those states are actually afforded. Likewise, they're pouring $20 million into state legislative races in key states like Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

With the battle for state legislatures taking on an elevated importance during this midterm cycle, a Democratic super PAC is investing more than $20 million in state legislative races, with about 70 percent of the funds going to support candidates in 25 districts across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

The investment is from Forward Majority, the super PAC, as Democrats across the country are pouring significant resources into state legislative races. Last month, the States Project, another Democratic super PAC, pledged to spend $60 million in legislative races in five states. And Tech + Campaigns, another Democratic group, has pledged to spend $8 million on such races.

State legislatures have long been dominated by Republicans, who have excelled at motivating their voters to engage beyond federal races. The party made a concerted effort to win state legislatures ahead of the 2010 redistricting cycle and then proceeded to draw gerrymandered legislative maps to help shore up their control. As a result, Republicans have complete control of 29 state legislatures.

But with the Supreme Court set to rule in a case that could give state legislatures nearly unchecked authority over federal elections, Democratic groups have been aggressively playing catch-up, reaching parity with Republicans in television ad spending this year.

Forward Majority, however, is focusing more of its spending on the detailed aspects of campaigning, like voter registration and a tactic known as “boosted news,” or the practice of paying to promote news articles on social media newsfeeds.

The group has been targeting suburban and exurban districts that are split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats with a push to register new Democrats, who may be voters who have moved or who haven’t been engaged in a while, and encourage them to vote on the whole ballot instead of just the top of the ticket.

“Even as we see Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, Gretchen Whitmer win at the top of the ticket, we are still losing those races down-ballot,” said Vicky Hausman, a co-founder of Forward Majority. “So we have been obsessed with finding ways to add additional margin and add additional votes in these races.”

Republicans have noticed the increased investments of Democrats in state legislative races and have sounded the alarm to donors.

“We don’t have the luxury of relying on reinforcements to come save us,” Dee Duncan, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, wrote to donors last month. “We are the cavalry.”

The path for Democrats in Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania is narrow, but Ms. Hausman pointed to the thin margins in recent state legislative battles as an encouraging sign.

“The Virginia House was decided by about 600 votes in 2021,” she said. “The Arizona House came down to about 3,000 votes in two districts in 2020. So it is going to be a dogfight.”


I'm glad Democrats are finally playing hardball, but the time for this was in 2010.  Democrats gave away a dozen state legislatures to the GOP to be locked in through permanent gerrymandering in states like Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and if SCOTUS sides on the plenary state legislature theory, you may never see a Democrat win a statewide race or even a House race in those states again, they'll simply be overturned by Republican supermajorities in each state legislature.

We've got one more chance to decide before SCOTUS weighs in.

Vote like your country depends on it.

That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

I'm no polling expert, I just call them how I see them. Having said that, UVA's Kayle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman are such polling experts, and what they are seeing is polls being all over the place, with possible major upsets in a number of sleeper races as polling outfits change from registered voters to likely voters, and likely voter models are favoring the GOP.

With 3 weeks to go until Election Day, there are a few signs that some of the usual midterm dynamics — which push such elections to break against the White House — are reasserting themselves.

President Biden remains unpopular, and House generic ballot polling — probably the best polling catch-all we have for the overall political environment — has gotten a little bit better for Republicans as of late. The headline-grabber was a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Monday that showed Republicans moving into a 49%-45% lead on the generic ballot. As of this writing, the Democratic edge in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker is down to half a point, and the Republicans are up a couple of points in the RealClearPolitics tracker (the latter uses fewer polls and is also more sensitive to short-term changes).

It would not surprise us if the numbers improve a bit for Republicans down the stretch. Despite Democratic improvements after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and some candidate and image problems for Republicans, the usual midterm headwinds remain for Democrats. It’s just tough for a party to thrive with an unpopular president and with the public having significant concerns about issues, like the economy and inflation, that the opposition can pin on the party in power. This is why the House remains very likely to flip to the Republicans and why, despite the aforementioned challenges, Republican chances to win the Senate remain no worse than a coin flip.

With that out of the way, we’ll also say this: There are some weird things going on out there. And there probably will be races that upset our expectations. If in fact Republicans end up doing better down the stretch, that’ll involve races where Democrats appear favored flipping to the GOP. But there are also some opportunities for Democrats to potentially play spoiler, or at least come closer than expected in certain places.

Those following the day-to-day churn of the polls could cherry-pick their way to telling very different stories about the election. For instance, some closer-than-expected polls in the New York gubernatorial race, where Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is trying to win her first full elected term against Rep. Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), might indicate that we’re in a clear Republican wave environment.

Likewise, a series of polls showing Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) tied or trailing state Superintendent of Education Joy Hofmeister (D) might indicate the opposite.

It may be that these particular gubernatorial races don’t tell us much about the environment. Maybe it’s a classic case of the dominant party in a given state being underestimated in polls for one reason or another. Or maybe there are localized reasons that both races will end up being close in the same election. It’s hard to know.


These are all long shots, but if any of them pan out, it could be a sign of not just a wave election, but a tsunami.

Don't be surprised, is the warning.  And hey, we've seen it all in the last couple of cycles.

And The Meek Shall Inherit A Raid

A very bizarre story from Rolling Stone's Tatiana Siegel today, detailing the disappearance of former ABC News national security producer James Meek. The FBI raided his apartment in Virginia in April, and apparently he has dropped off the grid for the last six months as nobody seems to know where he went.

AT A MINUTE before 5 a.m. on April 27, ABC News’ James Gordon Meek fired off a tweet with a single word: “FACTS.”

The network’s national-security investigative producer was responding to former CIA agent Marc Polymeropoulos’ take that the Ukrainian military — with assistance from the U.S. — was thriving against Russian forces. Polymeropoulos’ tweet — filled with acronyms indecipherable to the layperson, like “TTPs,” “UW,” and “EW” — was itself a reply to a missive from Washington Post Pentagon reporter Dan Lamothe, who noted the wealth of information the U.S. military had gathered about Russian ops by observing their combat strategy in real time. The interchange illustrated the interplay between the national-security community and those who cover it. And no one straddled both worlds quite like Meek, an Emmy-winning deep-dive journalist who also was a former senior counterterrorism adviser and investigator for the House Homeland Security Committee. To his detractors within ABC, Meek was something of a “military fanboy.” But his track record of exclusives was undeniable, breaking the news of foiled terrorist plots in New York City and the Army’s coverup of the fratricidal death of Pfc. Dave Sharrett II in Iraq, a bombshell that earned Meek a face-to-face meeting with President Obama. With nine years at ABC under his belt, a buzzy Hulu documentary poised for Emmy attention, and an upcoming book on the military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the 52-year-old bear of a man seemed to be at the height of his powers and the pinnacle of his profession.

Outside his Arlington, Virginia, apartment, a surreal scene was unfolding, and his storied career was about to come crashing down. Meek’s tweet marked the last time he’s posted on the social media platform.

The first thing Meek’s neighbor John Antonelli noticed that morning was the black utility vehicle with blacked out windows blocking traffic in both directions on Columbia Pike. It was just before dawn on that brisk April day, and self-described police-vehicle historian Antonelli was about to grab a coffee at a Starbucks before embarking on his daily three-mile walk. He inched closer to get a better vantage, when he saw an olive-green Lenco BearCat G2, an armored tactical vehicle often employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other law-enforcement agencies. A few Arlington County cruisers surrounded the jaw-dropping scene, but all of the other vehicles were unmarked, including the BearCat. Antonelli counted at least 10 heavily armed personnel in the group. None bore anything identifying which agency was conducting the raid. After just 10 minutes, the operation inside the Siena Park apartment complex — a six-story, upscale building for D.C. professionals, with rents fetching about $2,000 to $3,000 a month — was over.

“They didn’t stick around. They took off pretty quickly and headed west on Columbia Pike towards Fairfax County,” Antonelli recalls. “Most people seeing that green vehicle would think it’s some kind of tank. But I knew it was the Lenco BearCat. That vehicle is designed to be jumped out of so they can do a raid in that kind of time. It can return fire if they’re being fired upon.”

Multiple sources familiar with the matter say Meek was the target of an FBI raid at the Siena Park apartments, where he had been living on the top floor for more than a decade. An FBI representative told Rolling Stone its agents were present on the morning of April 27 “at the 2300 block of Columbia Pike, Arlington, Virginia, conducting court-authorized law-enforcement activity. The FBI cannot comment further due to an ongoing investigation.”

Meek has been charged with no crime. But independent observers believe the raid is among the first — and quite possibly, the first — to be carried out on a journalist by the Biden administration. A federal magistrate judge in the Virginia Eastern District Court signed off on the search warrant the day before the raid. If the raid was for Meek’s records, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco would have had to give her blessing; a new policy enacted last year prohibits federal prosecutors from seizing journalists’ documents. Any exception requires the deputy AG’s approval. (Gabe Rottman at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says, “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a case [since January 2021].”)

In the raid’s aftermath, Meek, who frequently collaborated with ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir, has made himself scarce. None of his Siena Park neighbors with whom Rolling Stone spoke have seen him since, with his apartment appearing to be vacant. Siena Park management declined to confirm that their longtime tenant was gone, citing “privacy policies.” Similarly, several ABC News colleagues — who are accustomed to unraveling mysteries and cracking investigative stories — tell Rolling Stone that they have no idea what happened to Meek.

“He fell off the face of the Earth,” says one. “And people asked, but no one knew the answer.”

An ABC representative tells Rolling Stone, “He resigned very abruptly and hasn’t worked for us for months.”

Sources familiar with the matter say federal agents allegedly found classified information on Meek’s laptop during their raid. One investigative journalist who worked with Meek says it would be highly unusual for a reporter or producer to keep any classified information on a computer.

“Mr. Meek is unaware of what allegations anonymous sources are making about his possession of classified documents,” his lawyer, Eugene Gorokhov, said in a statement. “If such documents exist, as claimed, this would be within the scope of his long career as an investigative journalist covering government wrongdoing. The allegations in your inquiry are troubling for a different reason: they appear to come from a source inside the government. It is highly inappropriate, and illegal, for individuals in the government to leak information about an ongoing investigation. We hope that the DOJ [Department of Justice] promptly investigates the source of this leak.”
This story is extremely weird on its face and it get more strange by the minute. This guy was a well-known national security journalist and producer, he's worked in print, TV, and online. For someone like that to vanish and nobody really saying anything about it for six months, when he had ongoing book and Emmy campaign activities going on?

All of this smells like a head cheese, limburger and durian sandwich.

The other observation is "If you or I had classified documents in our homes" argument about Trump's Mar-a-Lago trove of stolen classified material. Meek apparently did. The FBI showed up as a result.

There's a hell of a lot more to this story, and I'd want to see what it is, but I don't like any of this. All of it sets off my alarm bells, the timing of the story, the disappearance of a national security journalist, the raid, the whole thing just doesn't make much sense without additional context and this story raises more questions than answers.

Keep an eye on this one.
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