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Symbolic solution in search of an actual problem
Support of 9 Southern Republicans for Respect for Marriage Act shows why Supreme Court isn’t about to ban same-sex marriage
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
Also in this report:
- Texas U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls gets his knickers in a twist over Biden’s bicycle tumble
- Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul fuss like an old married couple
Twice-divorced South Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace had a pithy reply to explain why she voted in favor of the Democrat-sponsored Respect for Marriage Act:
“If gay couples want to be as happily or miserably married as straight couples, more power to them. Trust me, I’ve tried it more than once.”
Mace was one of nine Southern House Republicans, and 47 Republicans overall, who voted in favor of what was a symbolic maneuver to provide federal protection for both same-sex and interracial marriages – neither of which anyone is threatening.
The bill is being pushed by supporters of legal abortion to advance a fear-mongering argument that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs. Wade means that the Supreme Court is also about to torpedo marriage rights.
The vote in the House shows just how specious this argument is.
The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority can’t, willy nilly, just decide to come after gay or interracial marriages. The justices must be presented with a case that allows them to do so. And that means that a majority of legislators in a state, along with its governor, would have to approve a measure banning same-sex or interracial marriage that could then be challenged in court to give justices the opportunity to make mischief.
The notion that in the 21st century a state would ban interracial marriage is, of course, preposterous. And the fact that 47 Republicans broke ranks to support this symbolic bill is evidence of the weakness of the political appetite to ban same-sex marriage either.
Would state legislators and a governor in a Southern red state really deliberately wade into a boycott-filled political firestorm to pass a bill in hopes that the Supreme Court might bless it, given that a majority of even Republicans now support same-sex marriage?
Fat. Chance. This particular sky is not falling, no matter how much supporters of legal abortion might try to claim that it is.
By the way, the other Southern Republicans who supported the measure besides Mace include the three Cuban-American members from South Florida – Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar and Mario Diaz-Balart – along with three other Florida members — Kat Cammack from Gainesville, Brian Mast from the Treasure Coast, and Michael Waltz from St. Augustine.
Tony Gonzalez from West Texas and Tom Rice from South Carolina also voted yes; Rice lost his re-election primary after supporting Donald Trump’s impeachment.
♦Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls turned a routine transportation hearing into a public spectacle when he questioned Biden transport chief Pete Buttigieg about whether the Cabinet has discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Joe Biden from office.
Biden, said Nehls, “shakes hands with ghosts and imaginary people, and he falls off bicycles,” a reference to the president’s recent tumble from a bike while chatting with a crowd near his vacation home.
This is all part of an ongoing effort by Republicans to insinuate that Biden is an incompetent doddering old fool – a highly curious argument coming from fans of a septuagenarian with a tenuous grip on reality named Donald Trump.
Buttigieg called Nehls comment “insulting” before saying Biden “is as vigorous a colleague or boss as I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Which raises interesting questions about Buttigieg’s previous workplaces.
♦Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul — who hold each other in what can best be described as minimum high regard — fussed like an old married couple this week over a failed federal court nomination.
McConnell had, somehow, persuaded the Biden administration to nominate conservative, pro-life candidate Chad Meredith to a U.S. District Court seat in Eastern Kentucky. But Paul put a hold on the nomination – not because he didn’t support the nominee but because, he said, he had been shut out of what he termed a “secret deal” McConnell had cooked up with the White House.
The Biden administration then pulled the nomination, which had also run into a buzzsaw of opposition from Senate liberals; McConnell and the White House blamed Paul.
Asked about his relationship with McConnell after the dust-up, Paul replied “I think I’ve said enough.”
Translation: “Bless his heart.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden makes comeback with blowout win in South Carolina
Biden revives his fortunes heading into Super Tuesday with nearly 30-point triumph in the Palmetto State
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden revived his flagging presidential campaign Saturday with a clear, convincing win in South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, giving him crucial momentum heading into next week’s Super Tuesday contests.
Biden won 48 percent of the vote and carried all 46 counties, defeating Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who came in a distant second at 20 percent.
“Just days ago, the press and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” Biden told jubilant supporters in Columbia. “Now, thanks to you, the heart of the Democratic Party, we’ve just won, and we won big.”
Biden used his victory speech to draw a contrast with Sanders, urging Democrats in the Super Tuesday states to “nominate someone who will build on Obamacare, not scrap it; take on the NRA and gun manufacturers, not protect them; [and] stand up to give the poor a fighting chance and have the middle class restored, not raise their taxes.”
The result in South Carolina was welcome news for Biden, who finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire, and a distant second to Sanders in Nevada. It also marked the first ever primary win for Biden in his third try for the White House.
The key to his win Saturday was a strong performance among African American voters, who made up 56 percent of the Palmetto State electorate. Exit polls showed that Biden took 60 percent of the black vote, running more than 40 points ahead of his nearest rival, Sanders.
Coming in third place in the statewide results was California billionaire Tom Steyer at 11 percent; followed by former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttegieg, 8 percent; U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 7 percent; U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 3 percent; and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii at 1 percent.
After the results came in, Steyer dropped out of the race.
Biden and Sanders were the only two candidates on the ballot Saturday who cleared the 15 percent threshold needed statewide and in congressional districts to claim delegates to this summer’s Democratic National Convention. Biden took 39 delegates, to 14 for Sanders.
However, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent nearly $500 million of his own fortune on his campaign, did not compete in South Carolina. He will make his debut in contests on Tuesday in 14 states, including seven in the South.
Only Democrats had a primary in South Carolina; Republicans canceled their primary in deference to President Donald Trump.
For Sanders, South Carolina marked his first defeat of the campaign, after tying for first in Iowa and winning outright in New Hampshire and Nevada. He also got a smaller percentage of the vote in than he did in 2016, when he won 26 percent in a two-way race against Hillary Clinton, and once again lost every county in the state.
Speaking to supporters in Virginia Beach, Sanders offered his congratulations to Biden before pivoting to make the case that he and not Biden offers the kind of revolutionary change that can lead to a Democratic victory in November.
“In order to defeat Trump, we are going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of this country,” Sanders said. “Old-fashioned politics — the same old, same old type of politics that doesn’t excite anybody, that doesn’t energize anybody — that is not going to be the campaign that beats Trump.”
Biden, Sanders and the rest of the field now turn their attention to Super Tuesday, with more than 1,300 delegates at stake nationwide, including 621 across the South.
The list of Southern states holding primaries Tuesday includes Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Outside the region, primaries will be held in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, Utah and Vermont.
The state of the races in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma is a big unknown, given a paucity of public polling in any of those states. The polling that has been done in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia shows Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg bunched at the top, with the other candidates trailing behind.
The question for Biden is whether his win in South Carolina will give him the momentum to push through in the Super Tuesday states, where he is being outspent by Bloomberg and will face Sanders’s formidable ground operation.
One of the biggest factors in who can carry these Southern states will be performance among African American voters, who make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in Alabama and more than a quarter in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
While Biden ran away with the black vote in South Carolina, he will face new competition Tuesday from Bloomberg, who has been organizing across the region and getting endorsements from African American elected officials.
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South Carolina Democrats deciding first-in-the-South presidential primary
Joe Biden faces crucial test against Bernie Sanders in the Palmetto State
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON (CFP) — Democrats are going to the polls across South Carolina Saturday to pick their favorite for the party’s presidential nomination, which former Vice President Joe Biden hoping to revive his flagging fortunes heading into Super Tuesday and Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders hoping to add to his list of victories.
Not on the ballot in Saturday’s first-in-the-South primary is former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent nearly $500 million of his own fortune on his campaign and will make his debut in contests on Tuesday in 14 states, including seven in the South.
Polls in the Palmetto State close at 7 p.m. ET. Only Democrats are voting; South Carolina Republicans opted to cancel their primary in support of President Donald Trump.
After finishing fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire and a distant second to Sanders in Iowa, Biden’s campaign hopes his strong support among African American voters — who will make up about 60 percent of the electorate in South Carolina — will propel him to his first victory of the presidential race.
Four years ago, Sanders was crushed nearly 3-to-1 in South Carolina by Hillary Clinton, who carried all 46 counties. But this time around, his chances will be helped by a more fractured field and a strong statewide organization built since his defeat last time around.
Most public polling in the last week of the race showed no statistically significant difference between Biden and Sanders, although some polls showed the former vice president had built a lead.
Five other candidates are on the ballot Saturday: California businessman Tom Steyer, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttegieg, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Polls show Steyer, who wasn’t a factor in the first three contests, in third place behind Biden and Sanders in South Carolina, with the rest of the candidates trailing.
A pot of 54 delegates are at stake Saturday, 12 allocated proportionally based on the statewide results and 35 allocated proportionally based on the results in the state’s seven congressional districts. However, only candidates who win at least 15 percent of the vote statewide or in a congressional district qualify for any delegates.
Pre-election polling indicates that Biden and Sanders could end up splitting all 54 delegates between them, although that will depend on district-level results, where public polling has not been done.
After Saturday, the presidential race in the South turns to seven Super Tuesday states where delegates will be selected — Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
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March Madness: Presidential primary season turns South with a vengeance
10 Southern states hold primaries during March, with nearly 1,000 Democratic delegates at stake
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
The 2020 presidential primary calendar finally turns to the South on the last day of February, when South Carolina Democrats cast their ballots in their state’s first-in-the-South primary.
Then, buckle up. The political version of March Madness is about to take off.
During March, 10 Southern states will hold Democratic presidential primaries, with 981 delegates at stake — nearly 25 percent of the total pledged delegates who will officially pick the party’s presidential nominee in Milwaukee in July.
Louisiana, which votes in April, and West Virginia and Kentucky, which vote in May, are the only three Southern states who won’t pick delegates in March.
On March 3, seven Southern states — Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and North Carolina — will vote, with 621 Democratic delegates on the line, including 228 alone in the Lone Star State. Florida, with 219 delegates, goes two weeks later, and Georgia, with 105, goes the week after that.
In most of these states, the amount of public polling on the Democratic race has been sparse to non-existent. That, combined with the fluidity of the race after Iowa and New Hampshire, means all of the Southern races are shrouded in uncertainty.
So the presidential race takes on a twang, here are some things to watch for:
If Biden Bites the Dust: The former vice president’s campaign will be on life support, or worse, if he loses in South Carolina, which will particularly shake up the landscape in the South because of his heretofore solid support among African American voters.
Black voters make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana; they are a smaller but still powerful group everywhere else. If Biden exits after South Carolina, his African American supporters will be looking for a new home, opening up an avenue for someone to come in and hoover up a crop of Southern delegates. Or, the black vote could fracture between multiple candidates, adding even more uncertainty to the overall race.
Bloomberg’s Debut: The March 3 Super Tuesday primaries (seven in the South and seven in other parts of the country) will be the first test for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been building staff and airing ads across the region while his competitors dallied and debated in the early states. If he can tap into Biden’s African American support, Bloomberg could become an unstoppable force; his performance across the South will tell us whether that’s probable or even possible.
Bernie, Bless His Heart: Four years ago, Hillary Clinton plum wore out Bernie Sanders all across the South. The only states he carried were West Virginia and Oklahoma (and how on earth did a self-described socialist win Oklahoma?), a haul that gave her an insurmountable delegate lead. Against a much more fractured field, Sanders is likely to improve on that dismal performance, but if Bloomberg or one of the other candidates puts together a coalition that sweeps the South, it could be deja vu all over again for Bernie and his ‘bros.
Wave the Rainbow Shirt: Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay man to make a serious run for the presidential nomination in either political party. How will this play in the evangelical South? Or among culturally conservative African American voters? Polling to date has shed little light on this; the results in March might, although there are a myriad of reasons Buttigieg might falter in the South that have nothing to do with his sexual identity, particularly his sparse political resume.
Danged Yankees: The 2020 Democratic race features one current (Bloomberg) and one former (Sanders) New Yorker, along with candidates from Boston, Delaware, Minnesota, and Indiana. Indeed, for the first time since the modern primary process took root in the 1950s, a competitive Democratic primary race is taking off with nary a Southerner among the major players (if one remembers that for all her New York bona fides, Hillary Clinton was once first lady of Arkansas.) So to the degree that any regional political affinity remains, it won’t be in play in 2020, although Elizabeth Warren does try to remind folks at every opportunity that she grew up in Oklahoma. (As if that compensates for moving to Boston and becoming a Red Sox fan.)
Expanding The Map: If one considers that the primary — perhaps only — purpose of a presidential primary process is to pick a candidate who can win in November, the outcomes of Democratic primary season would seem a poor barometer to predict what might happen in the general election. After all, no matter how well a Democrat does in Arkansas or Alabama or Mississippi in March, she or he is not going to carry these states in November, unless something goes catastrophically wrong on the Republican side.
However, Florida and North Carolina will be hotly contested in the general election, and Democrats have hopes of flipping Texas and Georgia. So time, energy and money (think Bloomberg) expended in those states in the primary seasons could pay dividends down the line. (It’s worth noting that after Barack Obama organized in Virginia and Indiana to compete against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries, he flipped both of those states in November.)
What About Trump? The GOP is holding primaries at the same time as Democrats in all of the Southern states except for South Carolina and Virginia, where they have been cancelled in deference to President Donald Trump. Trump, of course, has no serious opposition, but his campaign has embarked on a strategy of trying to drive up his vote totals in uncontested primaries as a sign of strength. So don’t be surprised if you see Trump parachuting into the South during March to rally his faithful — and, as a delightful bonus, to irritate the Democrats.
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10 takeaways from the second 2020 Democratic debate
Kamala Harris draws blood on Joe Biden on race issue; Sanders stands pat as grumpy socialist
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
MIAMI (CFP) — The second flight of 10 Democrats took the stage in Miami Thursday night for the second of two nights of debate among the more than two dozen candidates running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Here’s a recap of some of the key takeaways from the proceedings:
1. Race and Fireworks: The tussle of the night — and the clip every network will play for days — was between former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California. It began when an emotional Harris took aim at Biden for his recent comments that he was able to work with segregationist senators in the past, which she called “hurtful.” “I will tell you on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats,” she said, explaining how she benefited from school busing in the 1970s, which Biden opposed at the time. Biden, his anger rising, was having none of it: “I did not praise racists. This is not true,” he said, before launching into a somewhat disjointed defense of his record on civil rights, which ended awkwardly when he noted that his time was up. The former vice president seemed a bit rattled after the exchange, although he recovered his equilibrium later in the debate.
2. Bernie Being Bernie: The most consistent performer on the stage was U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, in his own indomitable style, stuck to his battle-tested positions on the need for a political revolution to take America back from the greedy, unscrupulous capitalist class. Asked how he, as a older white man, could represent the party’s diversity, he stuck to his economic line: “How come today the worker in the middle of our economy is making no more money than he or she was making 45 years ago … We need a party that is diverse, but we need a party that has guts.” Love him or hate him, this is one grumpy socialist who knows his own mind and never wavers — and does it all at the top of his lungs.
3. South Bend Shooting: Mayor Pete Buttegieg had to handle a hot potato question about a shooting of a black man by a white police officer in the city he leads, South Bend, Indiana. “It’s a mess, and we’re hurting … I have to face the fact that nothing I can say will bring (the victim) back,” he said. And while conceding that he has not been able as mayor to bring more diversity to the city’s mostly white police force, he also said that the investigation into the shooting needs to run its course — and ignored a shouted demand from U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California that he fire the officer involved.
4. Generational Dust-Up: Swalwell got in a pointed dig at Biden by quoting a speech that the septuagenarian former vice president made calling for passing the torch to a new generation of leadership — 32 years ago, when Swalwell was 6. That set off a cacophony of cross-talk that only ended when Harris managed to get off the line of the night: “Hey guys, you know what, America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on the table.”
5. Private Insurance Fault Line: When asked by the moderator if they supported abolishing private health insurance as part of a Medicare-for-all plan, only two candidates — Sanders and Harris — raised their hands. Sanders offered a robust defense of the idea, saying that if other major countries such as Britain and Canada can operate a health care system for their citizens, the United States should be able to do the same. The biggest pushback on eliminating private insurance came from U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who noted that Canada has just a tenth of the population of the United States, and Biden, who touted his role in passing Obamacare and said he had no intention of scrapping it. Buttigieg proposed a mixture of public and private plans that he called “Medicare-for-all-who-want-it.”
6. At Back of the Pack: Unlike in the first debate, when former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro had a breakout performance, none of the candidates lagging at the back of the pack turned in a performance that is likely to move the needle. Bennet did manage to grab a bit of air time; Swalwell tried to create moments on gun control and his calls for generational change; and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York tried to do the same with her support for legal abortion. But neither they nor former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper are likely to play much of a role in the post-debate conversation.
7. Stepping Up The Trump Attacks: The candidates in the second debate had clearly paid attention to pundits’ commentary after the first debate that President Donald Trump had not been sufficiently targeted. They stepped up the rhetoric against the president, particularly on his immigration policies. As Sanders put it, with his characteristic subtlety: “Trump is a phony. Trump is a pathological liar and a racist.”
8. Making News: Very little of what the candidates said during the debate was unexpected or made much news, with one exception — Gillibrand said that if elected, “my first act will be to engage Iran to stabilize the Middle East,” which would change 40 years of official hostility to the imams in Tehran.
9. Um, Why Were These People on the Stage? Democrats did nothing to burnish their reputation for seriousness by including new age guru Marianne Williamson and tech bro Andrew Yang as part of the debate, both of whom seemed hopelessly out of place and, frankly, in the way. It was perhaps not as silly as hosting Kim Kardashian, but it was close. Yang, to his credit, was mostly mute and later complained that his microphone had been turned off (if only); Williamson, alas, opted to interject herself with any number of peculiar observations, including that her first phone call as president would be to the president of New Zealand (which, by the way, doesn’t have a president) and that she was going to “harness love” to beat Trump. Good luck with that.
10. Winners and Losers: The winner of the night was clearly Harris, who managed to make herself look presidential and take a bite out of Biden. The biggest loser of the evening was Biden, who, as the front-runner, needed to stay above the fray, but, by letting Harris get under his skin, may have punctured his aura of invincibility. Sanders and Buttigieg did no harm to their prospects, but Gillibrand clearly suffered in comparison to Harris, the only other woman on the stage.