Between last week’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Idaho and elsewhere and this Tuesday’s contests in Georgia and Alabama, we’re in the midst of a pivotal couple of weeks for the future of the Republican Party. A few realities are emerging about the GOP electorate: DONALD TRUMP remains the looming heavyweight, though his political style sometimes has more purchase than his explicit endorsement. And even as his false claims about election fraud have remade the party, they too are running into some limits.
A smattering of stories that published this weekend highlight the many faces of Trump’s effect on the GOP and American democracy in 2022:
Big read of the day: A major NYT tally of all the lies about the 2020 election finds that Trump’s effort to subvert or cast doubt on that count has spread to a full 44% of Republican state legislators in nine key swing states, Nick Corasaniti, Karen Yourish and Keith Collins report. That’s more than 350 sitting lawmakers who have embraced the lies, “turning statehouses into hotbeds of conspiratorial thinking and specious legal theories.” Their ranks make up an outright majority of three chambers: the Arizona House, the Wisconsin House and the Texas Senate. They’ve laid the groundwork for new voting restrictions and, in some cases, new abilities to affect a vote count.
But, but, but: “The Times’s analysis also shows that these efforts have encountered significant resistance from key Republican figures, as well as Democrats. In most states, the lawmakers who challenged the 2020 results do not yet have the numbers, or the support of governors, secretaries of state or legislative leaders, to achieve their most audacious aims.”
More on the lies: The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey on KRISTINA KARAMO, the election fraud conspiracy theorist who could well oversee Michigan’s elections come next year.
More on the resistance: Both MEHMET OZ and DAVID MCCORMICK shrugged off Trump’s call for Oz to declare victory prematurely in the too-close-to-call Pennsylvania Senate primary, and losing MAGA candidates elsewhere accepted their losses fair and square. That prompts David Siders to call this “the week that Republicans ignored Trump’s election lies.” And though November could be a different story, David notes that this development is a change from 2020, when “losing candidates up and down the ballot [were] copying Trump’s fraud claims or refusing to concede.”
In Alabama … Natalie Allison and NYT’s Trip Gabriel both have stories this morning on the last-minute resurrection of Rep. MO BROOKS in the Alabama Senate primary, as he’s managed to bounce back from Trump’s dramatic un-endorsement by consolidating support among Trump supporters anyway. Natalie notes that a barrage of ads attacking frontrunner KATIE BRITT and MIKE DURANT have helped open up a lane for Brooks, who tried to help overturn the 2020 election. Once again, the Club for Growth has broken with Trump to back Brooks, who’s also getting support this week from Sens. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) and RAND PAUL (R-Ky.). But the MITCH MCCONNELL-aligned party establishment still opposes him.
In Georgia … As Gov. BRIAN KEMP looks set to cruise to renomination over Trump-backed DAVID PERDUE, NYT’s Richard Fausset reports that the former president perhaps failed to see “the willingness of many Georgia Republicans to remain simultaneously loyal to both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kemp.” There’s another factor at play too: the Republican Governors Association’s rare decision to invest in primaries to defend its incumbents. WaPo’s Annie Linskey, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Matthew Brown report this morning that the RGA created the plan in November, and both camps in Georgia say the group’s $5 million outlay in the state “has dealt a devastating blow to Perdue.” (See also: Idaho Gov. BRAD LITTLE.)
Good Sunday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
SPOTTED: Speaker NANCY PELOSI at the 9 a.m. Mass at Holy Trinity in Georgetown, where she was given communion.
SUNDAY BEST …
— National Economic Council Director BRIAN DEESE on whether the administration would support a federal gas tax holiday, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “We’re working with congressional leaders on a range of different options, and the president is open to anything that could constructively move to help bring some relief at the pump.”
— ASHISH JHA on how to respond to the uptick in Covid-19 cases, on “State of the Union”: “When you’re in an indoor space, you should be wearing a mask. I feel that very strongly, that in crowded indoor spaces, in places with high transmission, people should be doing that.”
— Pennsylvania A.G. JOSH SHAPIRO on his general-election gubernatorial opponent, DOUG MASTRIANO, on “State of the Union”: “Sen. Mastriano has made it clear that he will appoint the electors based on his belief system. Listen, he’s essentially saying, ‘Sure, you can go vote, but I’ll pick the winner.’ That’s incredibly dangerous. And it is what is at stake in this governor’s race.”
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president has already spoken about Hyundai’s plan to invest in an electric vehicle/battery facility in Georgia, met with U.S. Embassy staff in Seoul and met with service members at Osan Air Base. He’s now arrived in Tokyo for the next leg of his Asia trip.
In Seoul, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Biden about the possibility of North Korea conducting a nuclear test. “We are prepared for anything North Korea does,” the president said, per pooler Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the NYT. “I’m not concerned, if that’s what you’re asking.” When Collins asked if Biden had any message for KIM JONG UN, he answered, “Hello … period.”
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
8 THINGS FOR YOUR RADAR
1. KEYSTONE STATE LATEST: In a wonky turn, McCormick’s campaign is arguing that Pennsylvania should count absentee/mail-in ballots that are missing a date, following a relevant judicial ruling Friday in an unrelated 2021 election, Holly Otterbein and Zach Montellaro scoop. McCormick has done better than Oz on such ballots. But “[t]here is still uncertainty in the state over how far the circuit court’s decision will extend beyond the 2021 judgeship election.” Guidance to counties from the Pennsylvania Department of State could come within days.
RNC Chair RONNA MCDANIEL on “Fox News Sunday” today: “Well, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this year, and the RNC very much supports, that ballots should not be counted without a date. I think that’s the law in Pennsylvania. I think that should be followed. And we certainly do not think that ballots without dates should be counted, because how do you know when they came in? I think that’s common sense, and that is definitely where the RNC and the GOP is.” Fact check: The ballots at issue were submitted by the return-by deadline; voters just neglected to write a date on them. Under federal law, that omission is “immaterial” as to whether the ballots should count, according to Friday’s court ruling.
2. GEORGIA ON MY MIND: JENNIFER STRAHAN is the latest primary challenger to a fringe GOP member of Congress, MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE. But don’t necessarily expect a MADISON CAWTHORN redux this week: CNN’s Simone Pathe reports from Rome that there hasn’t been “the same level of organized opposition” to Greene, and “even many of the GOP voters whom CNN met in the 14th Congressional District who had qualms about Greene … hadn’t heard of the Republicans running against her.”
3. FEEL THE CLYBURN: Having played a major role in delivering the 2020 presidential nomination to Biden, House Majority Whip JIM CLYBURN (D-S.C.) is trying to act as kingmaker again in two House Dem primaries this month, WSJ’s Eliza Collins reports. In backing Rep. HENRY CUELLAR over JESSICA CISNEROS in Texas and Rep. LUCY MCBATH over Rep. CAROLYN BOURDEAUX in Georgia, Clyburn has rankled some activists, but he’s defending his role in choosing who he thinks are the best candidates.
Says Clyburn, regarding criticism that party leadership is too old: “Interesting, all these people telling me what to do, and they just got here.”
4. BIDEN’S EXISTENTIAL WORRIES: NYT’s Thomas Friedman had lunch with Biden last week, which he recounts in a new op-ed this morning — sort of. (It was off the record.) Beyond the “chocolate milkshake for dessert that was so good it should have been against the law,” he writes, Friedman left with “a heavy heart,” in spite of his admiration for Biden’s handling of Ukraine and NATO. “Biden didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t have to. I could hear it between the lines: He’s worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.”
Related read: The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk on America’s entrenched partisan divide, including a new study finding that “[n]o established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S.”
5. POTUS ABROAD: NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece and the L.A. Times’ Noah Bierman both preview Biden’s meeting this week with Indian PM NARENDRA MODI, when the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies will have to navigate no small amount of awkwardness. The latest irritant in the relationship is India’s unwillingness to join the West’s isolation campaign against Russia. But India is also a key ally for the U.S. as it plots its long-term China strategy. “The Biden administration is furiously lobbying India behind the scenes,” Bierman writes. “But don’t expect the president to call out Modi publicly when they meet this week.”
6. KNOWING LARA LOGAN: NYT’s Jeremy Peters profiles the former star CBS News reporter, who’s now spreading Covid falsehoods and election fraud conspiracies in far-right media. Her turn has disappointed some former colleagues who recall her brave war reporting from around the world. But others “said she sometimes revealed political leanings that made them question whether she could objectively cover the Obama administration’s military and foreign policy moves.” Logan called the story “a hit piece” and didn’t take part.
7. POLL OF THE DAY: By a 55%-45% margin, Americans oppose lifting the Title 42 public health order at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new POLITICO/Harvard poll. “The fact that so many Americans also support using a public health measure to stop immigration unrelated to the pandemic is ultimately a reflection of lawmakers’ failure to make progress on immigration reform,” per one Harvard professor, Krista Mahr reports.
8. MCKINSEY IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A new NBC investigation from Dan De Luce and Yasmine Salam reveals that McKinsey was consulting for a major Russian state-owned defense conglomerate while also working on national security projects for the U.S. McKinsey wasn’t directly involved with Rostec’s weapons work, which includes making the engines for the missiles now bombarding Ukraine. But the news could rattle U.S. lawmakers, who have previously raised concerns about McKinsey’s China work. The company says there’s no conflict of interest between its different branches.
LATEST UKRAINE/RUSSIA DEVELOPMENTS
— Russia updated its list of banned Americans on Saturday. Among the additions: Harris, Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG, JEN PSAKI, HUNTER BIDEN, HILLARY CLINTON, MARK ZUCKERBERG and many members of Congress. Also, JOHN MCCAIN, ORRIN HATCH and HARRY REID, who … Russia didn’t really need to worry about visiting. Trump was not among the barred. More from CNBC
— Heavy fighting is hitting Sievierodonetsk, where Ukraine pushed back a Russian advance on one of the last holdouts in the east. “Russia appeared to have made slow grinding moves forward in the Donbas in recent days,” report AP’s Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan.
— Ukraine won’t accept any cease-fire that includes giving up territory to Russia, its lead negotiator told Reuters’ Natalia Zinets and Tom Balmforth.
The winning horse at the Preakness on Saturday was named Early Voting.
Jim Obergefell says his task “is to help people understand just how afraid they should be” that same-sex marriage legalization could be repealed post-Roe.
OUT AND ABOUT — The Public Relations Society of America held its annual Anvil Awards at the Edison Ballroom in New York City, where Finsbury Glover Hering received the top Best of Silver Anvil prize, for its work in support of the prosecution for the murder of George Floyd. SPOTTED: Minnesota A.G. Keith Ellison,Mike Feldman, Nedra Pickler, Sydney Walley, Willie Roberson, Galia Slayen, Sophia Boyer and Divya Pandove.
TRANSITIONS — Kim Corbin is joining Pioneer Public Affairs as a partner. She most recently was senior adviser to House Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and is a Martin Heinrich alum. … Austin Hacker is joining Rep. James Comer’s (R-Ky.) office as comms director. He currently is deputy comms director for the House Oversight GOP. …
… Lauren Baldwin is joining the Conservative Partnership Institute as a government affairs coordinator. She previously was a policy analyst at the America First Policy Institute. … Julia Sibley is rejoining the International Republican Institute as senior adviser for comms. She previously was director of comms at Hudson Institute. … Zach Jacobs is joining Virginia Farm Bureau in government affairs. He previously was senior legislative assistant for Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.).