In “Why Zelensky’s surprise US visit is so hugely significant” at CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson touches on Republican ambivalence about America’s support of the Ukrainian leader and the people of that brutalized country: “His visit to Congress will also play into an increasingly important debate on Capitol Hill over Ukraine aid with Republicans set to take over the House majority in the new year. Some pro-Donald Trump members, who will have significant leverage in the thin GOP majority, have warned that billions of dollars in US cash that have been sent to Ukraine should instead be shoring up the US southern border with a surge of new migrants expected within days….Conscious of pressure from his right flank, the possible next speaker, GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, has warned that Ukraine should not expect a “blank check” from the new House. Even though Ukraine still has strong Republican support in the Senate, it’s this kind of shifting political dynamic that appears to inform Kremlin perceptions about how long US resolve will last in a conflict on which Putin’s political survival may well depend.” Biden’s well-managed orchestration of Zelensky’s visit is an impressive testament to our President’s ability to call attention to the moral decay in the GOP core congressional leadership — just before Republicans take over the House speakership. For the most part, however, Republicans let their media ideologues make the nastiest comments about Zelensky. For some appalling examples, check out “Putin’s Useful Idiots: Right Wingers Lose It Over Zelensky Visit: The anti-Ukraine right can’t stand America standing as the arsenal of democracy” by Cathy Young at The Bulwark.
You are probably not shocked by revelations that “Trump paid no taxes in half of the last six years and his returns have dozens of potential issues, as Mark Sumner explains at Daily Kos. Bearing in mind that many Americans are tired of hearing about all things Trump, his tax avoidance is nonetheless a subject that should resonate with many swing voters – particularly if he somehow becomes a GOP presidential nominee. As Sumner notes, “In all, over the six years of returns, Trump reported making money only in 2018 and 2019. He used a combination of reported losses and questionable deductions to keep his tax bills to $750 in 2016, $750 in 2017, and $0 in 2020. Trump did pay $641,935 in 2015, but don’t worry. He still has a “claim for refund” filed for that year based on a claim that he was owed more for “historic restoration.” If that claim is successful, it will return that 2015 money to Trump….This gives Trump a reported $54 million loss over these six years. In those years when he did pay taxes, he paid effectively 4% of his reported income in 2018, and 3% in 2019. The 2015 numbers involved paying taxes that carried over from the previous year, but Trump is still asking the IRS to reduce that year to no more than $750….Trump also appears to have written off over $2 million in property taxes as an income deduction; the committee notes that New York law caps that deduction at $10,000.” Trump’s tax forms also cast further doubt on his ‘successful business leader’ persona in Sumner’s view. “What’s also striking is that in every single year, including 2018, Trump’s core businesses—his golf courses, hotels, and real estate—operated at a reported loss. If Donald Trump actually makes money at anything, it’s not any of the areas in which he brags about being a success. In his best year, Trump reported that he lost $11 million on real estate.”
From “Notes on the State of North Carolina” a superb update on the state’s politics by J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “While Democrats broadly overperformed expectations in last month’s midterms, some weak spots in their coalition have become evident as more detailed data has emerged. Generally, Democrats relied more on persuasion — convincing swing voters to stick with them, as opposed to going with the other guys — than turnout. In several of the historically Republican suburban counties across the country, this played well for Democrats. But as news organizations like the New York Times have found, the Black vote, a key part of the Democratic coalition, was not especially animated this year….As we noted last week, North Carolina was 1 of only 7 states to be decided by less than 3 points in the 2020 presidential race — and the only state among that group to vote for Donald Trump….Though its race wasn’t in the highest tier of battleground Senate contests — the Crystal Ball had it rated as Leans Republican the entire cycle — 2022 was another cycle where Democrats came up a few points short in North Carolina. Rep. Ted Budd (R, NC-13) — who was, in retrospect, one of the better Trump-endorsed candidates running in a marginal state — held the state’s open Senate seat for Republicans by just over 3 percentage points. He beat former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D)….Beasley was not a weak candidate: In 2020, as Joe Biden lost North Carolina by almost 75,000 votes, she lost her seat by 400 that year. Part of what made her an attractive candidate to Democrats was that, as a Black woman with statewide stature, she seemed well-positioned to inspire minority turnout. In 2020, Cal Cunningham, a white man who was their Senate nominee, got fewer votes than Biden in most areas of the state that have high Black populations — this was something that, if rectified, could have helped Democrats close the gap….To be fair to Beasley and North Carolina Democrats, low Black turnout was, again, a national problem for Democrats this year. It was especially pronounced in the South, given the region’s large Black population. In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina, several heavily-Black rural counties that easily went for Barack Obama 10 years ago gave the GOP nominees for governor clear margins last month. In the Georgia Senate race, Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-GA) numbers in non-urban Black areas were down from his 2021 showing — but, as Georgia has less of a rural component than North Carolina, Warnock won by expanding his margins in the Atlanta metro area.”
At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter flags four political developments coming up in 2023, which “could give us more insights into what 2024 could bring (as well as what we really learned from the 2022 midterms),” including: 1. Who Showed Up and Who Didn’t in 2022? 2. Who Stays Put and Who Retires? 3. Can Washington Work? and 4. Can Biden Keep His Momentum Going? Regarding the last point, Walter writes, “The better-than-expected midterm outcome have put President Biden in a strong position for 2024. Gone is the hand-wringing and second-guessing from his allies that dominated much of the 2021-2022 chatter. But, anyone who follows politics knows that the winds can shift at any moment. As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz noted, “despite Biden’s good fortunes in 2022 and Trump’s failures, there’s nothing certain about how 2024 will play out. Biden’s age and capacity to handle the job remain issues to many voters.” There will be unexpected events and crises. For now, the spotlight is trained on the former president and his troubles. But it won’t stay there permanently.” President Biden’s age, approval ratings and shifting winds notwithstanding, he does seem to have the determination to make an energetic run of it. Until that changes, Democrats would do well to focus more on preparing for down-ballot and state legislative races, plenty off which are also at stake in 2024.