Looks like we're back to right-wing super-spreader events again, the kind that Kristi Noem, Ron DeSantis and Señor Trumpanzee particularly, used to help kill over 626,000 Americans. On Friday The State's Lyn Riddle reported that an evangelical brain washing center for teens in Brevard on the border between North and South Carolina, is responsible for at least 58 people in 14 states being infected with COVID. The right-wing indoctrination camp is supported by 300 anti-Jesus churches and a quarter million victims are sent there each year. 37 of the cases are staffers.
It isn't completely fair to call this Trump's legacy. After all, he couldn't have accomplished it without the full-throated support of the Republican Party. Their policies have ensured that the pandemic is starting up again in counties filled with Trump voters. These are the only counties that have seen a hospitalization spike of over 450%-- 16 the biggest COVID-related hospitalization upticks in the last 2 weeks-- along with Trump's 2020 share of the vote in each:
Clarke, MS-- +1582% (Trump- 64.97%)
Lauderdale, MS-- +1,582 (Trump- 57.50%)
Neshoda, MS-- +1582% (Trump- 71.09%)
Newton, MS-- +1582% (Trump- 68.71%)
Noxubee, MS-- +1582% (Trump- 23.2%)
Harrison, IN-- +653% (Trump- 71.98%)
Henry, TN-- +631% (Trump- 74.69%)
Titus, TX-- +626% (Trump- 71.81%)
Toombs, GA-- +590% (Trump- 72.13%)
Cocke, TN-- +551% (Trump- 81.85%)
Amite, MS-- +534% (Trump- 62.58%)
Pike, MS-- +534% (Trump- 48.84%)
Escambia, AL-- +526% (Trump- 68.32%)
Jackson, IL-- +505% (Trump- 48.09%)
Putnam, GA-- +481% (Trump- 69.94%)
Crawford, OH-- +464% (Trump- 74.52%)
Also keep in mind that the states with the biggest increases of COVID-related hospitalizations in the last two weeks are all Trump states. These half dozen all at least doubled their hospitalization rates (and their statewide Trump win numbers):
Alaska +140% (52.83%)
Louisiana +135% (58.46)
South Carolina +119% (55.11%)
Kansas +112% (56.21%)
Florida +105% (51.22%)
Alabama +100% (62.03%)
Are Republicans angry at Trump about this? No, not even a little-- they've crowned him king-in-exile and look forward to bringing him back to DC in 2024. And meanwhile many of them are enthusiastic about him picking their candidates for the midterms, some of whom are crackpots unlikely to win. The L.A. Times' Janet Hook looked at the Mar-a-Lago primary, where Trump wields power with endorsements, but some in GOP fear midterm damage. She notes that Señor T is "again upending American political norms [by] moving to remake Congress and the Republican Party in his own image. Since leaving the White House, he has issued a spate of endorsements of House and Senate candidates for next year’s crucial midterm election, including an array of political outsiders, conspiracy theorists and others who-- like Trump himself-- break the traditional mold. While most former presidents have steered clear of politics, Trump is intervening in Republican primaries like an old-style ward boss: rewarding allies, punishing enemies and trying to use his vast popularity among Republican voters to keep himself and his agenda at the center of the GOP."
Targeting one of his most prominent Republican critics, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Trump plans to meet this week at his New Jersey golf club with Wyoming Republicans who are running against her. His goal: to endorse one, clear the field of others and set up a head-to-head contest.
But Trump’s heavy hand in GOP primaries carries risks for his party. Some Republicans fear that some of his endorsements-- those based not on electability but on candidates’ loyalty to him and his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen-- could make it harder for the party to win in swing states.
“If we as Republicans continue to relitigate a past lost election, we will not position ourselves to win in the midterms,” said John Watson, former Georgia Republican Party chairman. “We have the issues on our side if we will just get out of our own way.”
A former NFL star Trump is promoting for a potential Senate run in Georgia-- Herschel Walker-- is beloved in the state where he started his career as a Heisman Trophy winner. But he is an untested political novice, and it’s been decades since he lived in Georgia.
In North Carolina, Trump is backing Rep. Ted Budd to replace the state’s retiring Republican senator. Budd, a gun store owner, is an ardent defender of the former president but has trailed in early polling and fundraising.
In Arizona, many Republicans believe Gov. Doug Ducey would be the best candidate against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. But Ducey, who has been pummeled by Trump for not doing more to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, has said he won’t run.
Trump derided him on Ducey’s own turf Saturday, recalling in a Phoenix speech his reaction to Ducey’s possible candidacy. Trump said he was asked, “Sir, would you like him to run for the Senate?” and replied, “He’s not getting my endorsement, I can tell you.”
Trump allies argue that the party would face far graver political problems if he were not so engaged. Many see him as essential to motivating GOP voters in 2022’s high-stakes election, especially since turnout usually drops in midterms.
“This is largely going to be a turnout-based election. If the candidate is Trumpy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said a person familiar with the former president’s thinking. “The wishy-washy vanilla candidate is going to be problematic in a race that is really all about energy and turnout and excitement.”
The aggressive endorsement strategy also is a gamble for Trump himself: If his candidates lose, he may end up looking like a paper tiger.
...Trump instead has been conducting what some Republicans call the Mar-a-Lago primary. He has met, mostly at his Florida resort, with dozens of GOP candidates seeking his support. Those meetings are often a crucial part of his decision on whether to endorse.
It was a few days after such a visit that Trump announced he was endorsing Kelly Tshibaka, a former Alaska government official running against GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Three-term incumbent Murkowski is a top Trump target because she opposed him and many of his priorities from the outset of his presidency. Trump won Alaska by double-digit margins in 2016 and 2020.
“Her support among Republicans has cratered,” Tim Murtaugh, a former Trump campaign advisor who is now advising Tshibaka, said of Murkowski. “It’s hard to see how she puts her coalition together without any Republicans.”
...In deep-red Alabama, Republicans are all but guaranteed to hold on to the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, but a bitter primary is brewing. Trump has endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks, a vocal supporter of election-fraud claims who has asserted that anti-COVID masks could cause cancer.
Trump and Brooks are in an escalating feud with a primary rival endorsed by Shelby-- his former chief of staff, Katie Britt. In a statement this month, Trump derided Britt and called Shelby a “RINO”-- Republican in name only-- and an ally of “Old Crow Mitch McConnell.”
Arizona is far more politically competitive, and beating Kelly, the new Democratic senator, is a top GOP goal for 2022. Many Republicans hoped Ducey would run after easily winning two terms as governor, but in January he said he would not.
Yet Scott, the Republican Senatorial Committee chair, said on the podcast “Ruthless” last week that there still was “a shot” that Ducey would get into the race.
The power and limits of Trump’s backing were illustrated in North Carolina early last month when he made his surprise endorsement of Budd in the contest to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr. That catapulted Budd from the back of the pack to new prominence.
But it did not clear the field. Former Gov. Pat McCrory is leading most polls and raised nearly $1.25 million in the second quarter of 2021, compared with Budd’s $700,000, which included almost a month of post-endorsement fundraising.
Paul Shumaker, a GOP pollster who advises McCrory, raised doubts in a memo to his clients about the value of a Trump endorsement. His polling found that North Carolina voters were more likely-- by a 10-percentage point margin-- to support a Biden-endorsed candidate than one backed by Trump.
A couple of days ago, Washington Post reporters Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey looked the the Missouri Senate race through the same Trumpy prism: A scandal-scarred Senate candidate wants Donald Trump’s endorsement. Other Republicans worry he’ll give it. The fear is simple: sex scandal scarred former governor Eric Greitens would likely sweep the Republican primary with Trump's endorsement... and then lose a general election.
Greitens has been endorsed by a load of crackpot Trumpist degenerates including Giuliani, Sebastian Gorka, Ryan Zinke, Kimberly Giulfoyle, Bernard Kerik, Boris Epshteyn and the notorious husband-wife team of Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing. "Few candidates have done more in recent months to court Trump," wrote Scherer and Dawsey, "or to compare his own controversy to the scandals that enveloped the former president. Yet in a state that Trump won by 15 points in 2020, the Greitens campaign has tested the question of just how far the former president and Republican voters are willing to go to overlook past misdeeds.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who is leading the Senate GOP campaign effort, is among those encouraging Trump to stay out of the primary in Missouri and elsewhere.
...“I keep saying to the president: We want to nominate electable people. I think he’s trying to find the most Trumpian person who is electable,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently traveled to Trump’s Bedminster resort in New Jersey and said it was “an encouraging sign” for Republican chances to take over the Senate that the former president was, for now, staying out of some races. “A lot of people on the ground are encouraging him to stay out. They are saying don’t put Missouri in play.”
...“Gov. Greitens has unparalleled support among the MAGA base and beyond in ruby-red Missouri,” campaign adviser Epshteyn said in a statement, citing campaign event turnout and small-dollar donation numbers. “That support is evidenced in polling by President Trump’s pollster which shows Greitens annihilating all the other candidates.”
Greitens has also gone all in on Trump’s false claims of election fraud, even embracing the idea that a new ballot count in Arizona and other states could lead to President Biden being replaced by Trump before the next presidential election.
“If they don’t have the ballots in Arizona, they don’t have the victory,” Greitens said during a June appearance on another conservative podcast, a comment that goes beyond the position taken by his rivals in the Senate contest, who have also expressed concern about the fairness of the presidential election but left more fantastical predictions alone.
Stephen Bannon, the former Trump adviser who has taken a leading role in spreading falsehoods about the last election, has heaped praise on Greitens for saying that Biden’s electors may have to be decertified if the private Republican ballot audit in Arizona finds a different result.
“Eric Greitens said the quiet part out loud,” Bannon said in a June 11 broadcast on his show, after Greitens made his statement.
Such public displays of fealty to Trump’s false claims have not yet proved enough to win any official blessing, say people who have spoken to Trump. The former president has instead expressed frustration to others that Guilfoyle signed on to the Greitens campaign before he took a position on the race. She also serves as a finance chair for Make America Great Again Action, a Trump-backed super PAC.
...Greitens was once seen as a rising star in the party, with a movie-star appearance and campaign talent that Trump typically gravitates toward. But his rise was upset in 2018, when his former hairdresser accused him of coercing her into a sexual encounter three years earlier.
She testified under oath to a special investigative committee of the Missouri House that he led her to his basement, bound her hands, blindfolded and undressed her and later coerced her into performing oral sex. She said she believed he had taken a photo of her at the time and threatened to release it publicly if she spoke of their relationship. Greitens declined to testify in his own defense, but he made his cellphone available to police, who found no evidence that a photo was taken.
In a separate audio recording made days after the encounter, the woman agreed when an acquaintance asked if she had been “half-raped and blackmailed,” according to a bipartisan report written by the Republican-held Missouri House. “Yes,” she said.
She later told House investigators, when asked whether she consented to sex, that “it felt like consent, but, no, I didn’t want to do it.”
...On the campaign trail, Greitens has become practiced at minimizing and deflecting questions about the accusations, largely by claiming that he is the victim of the same liberal forces that attacked Trump in office, and dismissing criticism from “Republicans in name only.” He has also emphasized that the criminal prosecution against him collapsed.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have lived through that,” Greitens told a conservative audience at a town hall July 15 in O’Fallon, Missouri, of his various scandals. “Because I feel like I had a window into the true viciousness of the left. I had a window into what is really at stake for this country. I feel like I was pulled aside and I had an opportunity to come back with stronger faith, with more courage, even bolder.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, has made clear that he does not think Greitens has been absolved of wrongdoing. As Missouri’s attorney general, he had called for Greitens’s resignation in 2018, and when asked this year whether he stood by that decision, he said, “I wouldn’t change any of that.”
Hawley is one of the three senators, along with Scott and Graham, who are known to have discussed the race with Trump, and advisers working for Greitens’s rivals consider him an asset in their efforts to prevent Trump’s endorsement of the former governor.
“Josh has had a number of conversations with different candidates and President Trump,” Kyle Plotkin, Hawley’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “He hasn’t made any decisions, but stay tuned.”
Greitens’s campaign remains confident of his ability to win over Trump supporters in next year’s primary, regardless of the positions taken by other elected officials.
“There’s one thing RINOs and liberals have in common-- they’re terrified of Governor Greitens going to Washington to fight for President Trump’s policy,” Greitens’s campaign manager Dylan Johnson said in a statement.
Democrats are keeping their fingers crossed that Trump endorses Greitens and that he wins the Republican primary. An issues-oriented progressive-- Lucas Kunce, a military veteran like Greitens-- would turn that red seat blue. Blue America has endorsed him and contributions are welcome, of course.