“This has never been about overturning an election,” state Sen. Karen Fann said Friday, opening up a briefing on the Republican-led review of Maricopa County's nearly 2.1 million ballots. “This has never been about decertifying.”
Hours later, Fann shared a rally stage with state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who waved a letter co-signed by 40 other state legislators and addressed to “the citizens of the United States of America.” They were asking for audits and door-to-door canvasses across the country, after which each state with close margins could “decertify its electors” and let “the rightful winner” be installed by Congress.
“This is our new declaration of independence,” Rogers said. “This is our new manifesto of freedom.”
The Arizona audit, which grew out of last year's “Stop the Steal” protests and raised nearly $6 million from private donors, ended up finding 360 new votes for President Biden. That's not how the audit's proponents chose to see it. Since Friday, supporters of more ballot reviews in Arizona and elsewhere have insisted that there were enough suspicious ballots to demand “decertification” in close states, audits in states where the election was not close, and the reinstallation of Donald Trump as president by any means necessary.
“We won on the Arizona forensic audit yesterday at a level that you wouldn’t believe,” Trump told supporters in Georgia on Saturday. “This is the most interesting part of the speech. The rest of my speech, you’ve sort of heard before, right?”
More than 10 months after the 2020 election, the argument for overturning it hasn't really changed. The wildest accusations of fraud — rigged machines, fake votes manufactured en masse — fell apart in Maricopa County, where hundreds of volunteers spent the summer looking at ballots. There was no evidence of bamboo traces, of bubbles filed in by machines, or of Republican votes being tossed because of the pens used to mark them.
But neither Democrats nor Republicans had expected attacks on the 2020 election to end after an audit conducted on Republican terms. Even before the audit began, the mainstream Republican argument for nullifying the election — the one that Trump makes — has been that a candidate's winning margin must be bigger than the total of number of ballots challenged, even without merit, by the losing candidate.
In Wisconsin, that meant suing to throw out hundreds of thousands of votes cast in the state's most heavily Democratic counties, arguing that local election officials had tainted the election by expanding voter access without permission from the state legislature. In Georgia, that meant pressuring the Republican secretary of state, unsuccessfully, to recalculate the vote total based on pro-Trump activist estimates of potential fraud.
And in Arizona, the Cyber Ninjas-produced report repeated what audit proponents had been saying for months: There were more ballots with potential problems than there were ballots separating Biden from Trump. After its initial conclusion, that a scouring of the ballots increased Biden's margin, the report described several kinds of ballots with questions they could not answer.
The largest number, 23,344 “impacted ballots,” came from a comparison of a commercial database of voter residences to the list of voters who had moved before the registration deadline. It was a discrepancy between two unrelated databases assembled for different reasons, neither of which was the official list of registered voters. But for Trump and other audit supporters, what mattered was that the number was twice as big as Biden's statewide win margin — and therefore, a reason to decertify the election.
If discrepancies like this were reason enough to invalidate close elections, most close elections would be invalidated. That's what worries Democrats and other Trump critics, especially after Washington Post reporters Robert Costa and Bob Woodward uncovered a 2020 memo from Trump election attorney John Eastman, arguing before Jan. 6 that Biden's win could be nullified if enough states simply did not certify their results. The “declaration” shared by Rogers on Friday followed that plan, suggesting that the House of Representatives could remove Biden from office if enough Republican-led state legislatures retroactively invalidated their 2020 election results.
“If it is shown that either Joe Biden would receive fewer than 270 tallied electoral votes, or Donald Trump would receive more than 270 electoral votes, then we call for the U.S. House of Representatives to convene and vote per the U.S. Constitution by means of one vote per state to decide the rightful winner of the election in accordance with the constitutional process of choosing electors,” the letter reads.
Because 27 states have majority-GOP delegations to the House, Rogers and her allies view that as the most realistic chance of reinstalling Trump in the presidency before 2025. And the odds of doing that may go up over time: while dozens of House Republicans rejected the Jan. 6 challenges to electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona, the makeup of Congress in three years could be very different.
In the meantime, the response to the Arizona review clarified what critics of the 2020 election want, and what they can get from constant political pressure. Republicans fit roughly into three camps: A minority who believe that Biden won legitimately, a majority who believe that the election was stolen but can't be undone, and a smaller but incredibly vocal group who believe there is still a chance to remove Biden by challenging the 2020 results.
“If it were up to me,” Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) told an undercover liberal activist Friday, “we'd say: That was a fraudulent election, and as far as the president goes, we should let them do it again.”
Most Republicans have stopped short of saying that — but have endorsed more audits anyway. After she received the Cyber Ninjas report, Fann referred the findings to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and told protesters outside the state capitol that he had the power to “open an investigation” and find what auditors could not.
“If he needs to go canvass and knock on doors to verify information that has been given to someone else, he has that ability,” Fann said. That idea — a large scale, partisan survey of voters at their homes, with no guarantee that their self-reported answers are accurate — was floated by Arizona auditors, and shut down when the Justice Department intervened. Fann was suggesting that Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate and has been attacked by Trump for not working harder to overturn the election, simply try it again.
Other Republicans suggested that more audits would do the trick, producing hard numbers of how many ballots were flawed, or at least could be characterized that way. “The patchwork of laws and processes across counties likely resulted in additional irregularities,” Shawnna Bolick, a Republican state legislator running for secretary of state, said in a statement after the report was released. “I call on the Arizona Senate to finish the job it started and complete an audit of the entire state.”
Mark Finchem, another state legislator running for secretary of state, went further, announcing a petition drive to audit the results in Pima, Arizona's second-most populous county and its biggest Democratic stronghold. And candidates in other states, like Trump, suggested that the real finding of the audit was that the election was fatally flawed and that every state must scrub through its 2020 results. (Few were suggesting audits of Republican counties).
“Arizona must decertify!” former Missouri governor Eric Greitens, a candidate for U.S. Senate whose campaign website features an oversize photo of Trump, tweeted last week. “We MUST have forensic audits across the country!”
In Arizona, the demands for even more audits occasionally came with lurid fantasies of revenge. State Rep. Walt Blackman, who represents the same mostly-rural district as Rogers, said on Friday that “we need to find these folks accountable that come up from this audit and this hearing” and, once identified, “put them in jail, put them behind bars.” State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, the majority whip, suggest that the election might have been hacked — the report didn't show that — and suggested that if it was, the hackers should be put to death.
“If we find that there’s domestic interference mixed with foreign interference, somebody belongs against the wall,” Borrelli said.
“Democrats outside D.C. worry party will blow its chance of enacting historic agenda — a failure with grave political consequences,” by Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager
Why liberal activists think they're saving the party from itself.
“The mini-Trump blowing up local GOP politics,” by Michael Kruse
Lies, debt, threats and endless political pressure.
How plans for a nonpartisan map crashed into political reality.
Life after Larry Elder.
Changing rules, and moving goal posts.
“How an anti-Trump plotter in 2016 became his champion against Liz Cheney,” by Reid J. Epstein
Harriet Hageman now blames the media for her decision to oppose Trump as the nominee in 2016.
On the trail
If they’ve watched Terry McAuliffe’s advertising in this year’s campaign for governor, sharp-eyed Virginians may have experienced deja vu. The Democrat, seeking a comeback after four years in the private sector, is using some of the same images and language that appeared in his 2013 ad campaign.
“We need a governor who’s focused on creating jobs and giving us good schools. Not someone who wants to do my job,” says a doctor in “What It Means,” an ad McAuliffe is running this year to warn that GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin would work to ban abortion.
Eight years ago, in an ad titled “Offended,” a different doctor made the same criticism of then-GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli. “I want a governor who’s focused on schools and creating jobs,” she said. “Not someone who wants to do my job.”
Virginia is the only state where governors are not permitted to seek reelection, though they can run again for the office after someone else has held it. In his successful 2013 bid, McAuliffe tapped Democratic ad-maker Adam Magnus to produce his spots. Magnus went on to found an ad firm, Magnus Pearson Media, which McAuliffe hired for this campaign. One result: The reappearance of some familiar footage and messages. (Magnus did not respond to a request for comment.)
In a 2013 spot titled “Sensible,” the Democrat was pictured talking to diners while wearing a dark shirt with bright stripes. In “Enough,” an ad from this year’s campaign, McAuliffe can be seen wearing the same shirt, in the same diner, with the same customers. The old “Sensible” spot also features footage of McAuliffe speaking to a man in a factory that first appeared in a 2013 spot, titled “In the Race.”
The McAuliffe campaign confirmed that the footage was reused but did not comment on why. While the shifting nature of the pandemic has occasionally grounded candidates, McAuliffe has held plenty of public events, and fresh footage appears in other spots.
“Terry McAuliffe is running a cookie-cutter campaign and recycling his old material because he’s a tired, failed politician of the past with no new ideas,” said Youngkin spokesman Christian Martinez.
The Democrat’s campaign did criticize Youngkin over some of his ads — specifically, some testimonial spots that have featured supporters who oppose vaccine mandates. “Education,” a Youngkin ad about the state’s teaching standards, features Paul Troth, a teacher who has posted critically on Facebook about vaccines.
“Stay strong and much respect,” Troth wrote on a news story about an Olympic swimmer refusing the coronavirus vaccine. In another post, he criticized Loudoun County Public Schools for requiring vaccines for teachers. “Shame on you who don’t speak out against this slippery slope of tyranny,” he added.
“Glenn Youngkin has been remarkably consistent in peddling anti-vaccine rhetoric, emboldening anti-vaccine extremists, and advancing dangerous policies that would prolong the pandemic and hurt our economy,” said McAuliffe spokesman Renzo Olivari.
Youngkin’s campaign dismissed that criticism, pointing to an ad buy in which Youngkin urged Virginians to get vaccinated. “Every chance he gets, Youngkin encourages Virginians to join him in getting vaccinated because that’s what leaders do,” Martinez said. “Terry McAuliffe is doing what power-hungry rulers do and wants people to be fired if they don’t obey his orders.”
McAuliffe and Youngkin will meet tonight in their second televised debate, hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Virginia governor (Monmouth, 801 registered voters)
Terry McAuliffe (D): 48% (+1 since August)
Glenn Youngkin (R): 43% (+1)
When he hits back at the Democratic nominee, Youngkin frequently suggests that McAuliffe is desperate and sees the Nov. 2 election slipping away from him. Public polling has found more consistency than movement in the race, though, with the Democrat leading in all but one poll — one that found Republican voters far more interested in voting — and never leading by much. Little has changed in Monmouth's surveys, but McAuliffe has gained ground in one swing region, Tidewater, while Youngkin has gained in another, the Richmond suburbs. On each issue polled, except for the “economy,” voters have slightly more trust in McAuliffe than in Youngkin; on abortion, which McAuliffe seized onto as an issue after the Supreme Court let stand a Texas measure sharply limiting abortion, the Democrat leads by 8 points, smaller than his advantage on handling the pandemic.
On Monday, Oregon became the first state to finish its congressional maps for the coming decade, after Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed off on lines drawn by Democrats to give the party a 5-to-1 advantage — up from their current 4-to-1 advantage. It was a reversal from what Republicans expected earlier this year, after the Democratic majority gave the minority equal representation on a redistricting committee to prevent it from exiting the capitol in Salem and denying quorum. Republicans quickly announced plans to challenge the map.
“The only community of interest this map seeks to keep together are Democrat voters,” said Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod in a statement. Republicans did not walk out to delay the map, in part, because doing so would have given the secretary of state, also a Democrat, the power to draw maps for the state legislature, which may have been worse for the GOP than the map they got.
In Texas, the Republican majority moved closer to finalizing its next map, with Democrats expected to sue. The state gained two seats, which the draft map released by some Republican lawmakers would split between the parties — a new, safely blue seat in Austin, and a new, safely red seat around Houston. It gets there by reversing a Republican tactic from 2011 that nearly backfired — splitting the state's biggest cities and suburbs into multiple districts to dilute Democratic power.
In 2018 and 2020, that led to single-digit races in areas that had been completely noncompetitive for years, as suburban and non-White voters moved in droves away from an increasingly conservative GOP. The new map shores up Reps. Lizzie Fletcher (D) and Colin Allred (D), who flipped suburban seats in Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in 2018 and held onto them in 2020. Both would represent safely Democratic seats next year, while nearby districts that had grown closer have had more Republican precincts added.
The trend in both states was toward majority parties using their clout to draw as few competitive districts as possible. Look for a full analysis of what that means in the next Trailer.
In the states
Massachusetts. Boston Mayor Kim Janey endorsed city councilor Michelle Wu on Saturday, a boost for a liberal candidate who got the most votes in the Sept. 14 primary but struggled in majority-Black precincts. Janey, who became the city's first Black mayor when she took over after the departure of Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, was the fourth-place finisher in the primary contest.
“We cannot squander the next opportunity to make sure the voices of Black and Brown people are at the center of the discussion, at the center of the policies that will move our city forward,” said Janey, explaining why she supported Wu over city councilor Annissa Essaibi George, a moderate of Polish and Tunisian descent who split with Wu and Janey on policies like a city eviction freeze.
Janey's defeat two weeks ago was a disappointment for Black Democrats, who watched three Black candidates divide the vote and lock each other out of the Nov. 2 runoff. The mayor ran strongest in majority-Black neighborhoods like Roxbury and majority-minority neighborhoods like Dorchester; Wu placed second or third in most of those precincts, while Essaibi George ran strongest in South Boston and West Roxbury.
Ohio. Former state senator Nina Turner moved toward a potential rematch with Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown, filing FEC paperwork to keep her Nina Turner for Us campaign active. Brown, who narrowly defeated Turner in August in a special election to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, is all but certain to win the Nov. 2 election and represent the Cleveland-based 11th Congressional District, but she'll face voters again in a May 2022 primary.
“What they meant for evil turned into good, and I believe that’s the same case for me whether I run again or not,” Turner told the Intercept's Ryan Grim in a podcast interview last week, comparing the campaign to defeat her to the campaigns that defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016 and 2020. “I got all options on the table.”
Iowa. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R) will seek an eighth term next year, when he will turn 89. “There's a lot of crises that have been formulated: inflation, the southern border, things of that nature,” he told the Des Moines Register. “I'm looking forward to helping solve those problems and get the country back on the straight and narrow again.”
Only a few senators have sought terms that would last into their 90s; two of them, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), now serve alongside Grassley. Democrats have lost to Grassley by at least 20 points since his first, and closer, Senate election in 1980, but one-term Rep. Abby Finkenauer jumped into their primary before Grassley made his plans known; a Des Moines Register poll last week found the Democrat trailing by 18 points.
New York. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) may get a challenge from New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who told New York magazine that he was considering running in the June 2022 primary.
“If you’re going to renew and recover, you should remove that infrastructure that enabled someone like Cuomo to be around for so long, either by people explicitly supporting or enabling through silence,” he told Hunter Walker.
Williams is one of the city's leading left-wing politicians, passing a police accountability bill a year before the killing of Eric Garner and, in 2018, challenging then-Lt. Gov. Hochul for her job. The New York Times endorsed him that year, and Williams ran strong enough in the city to hold Hochul to a single-digit win. One year later, he replaced fellow Working Families Party protege Letitia James as the city's Public Advocate — traditionally, a springboard to a mayoral run.
California. Rep. Karen Bass (D) is running for mayor of Los Angeles, as first reported by The Post's Tyler Pager and Sean Sullivan and confirmed by the candidate on Tuesday. “I’ve spent my entire life bringing groups of people together in coalitions to solve complex problems and produce concrete change, especially in times of crisis,” she said, joining a race with two stages — a primary next summer and a runoff between the top two finishers in November 2022. Bass does not have to resign from Congress to run.
Three years ago, before winning his last term in Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) gave an interview that would unravel his career. He had built an audience on the far right as an unapologetic critic of increased immigration, and an Austrian magazine, Unzensureit, got him talking about the idea that migrants were pushing Europeans and their American descendants out of power.
“Great replacement,” King said. “These people walking into Europe by ethnic migration, 80 percent are young men.”
Six months later, after expanding on his views to the New York Times, King was stripped of his committee assignments; 18 months later, he lost his primary. But he didn't invent the concept of a “great replacement,” and like many ideas formerly confined to the far right, it's been increasingly adopted by elected Republicans.
“Apparently the #FakeNews is triggered because I said we are being replaced,” Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers wrote on Twitter two months ago. “We Americans who love this country are being replaced by people who do not love this country.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly accused Democrats of favoring increased migration to increase their political power, used the term last week, got condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, and got quick backup from conservatives.
“Tucker Carlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America,” wrote Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) last week, after Carlson used the term to describe “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries.”
People who cite the idea, and people who are horrified when it's cited, agree on the same obvious point. Legal immigration, illegal immigration and higher non-White birthrates are making the country more racially diverse. Polling has found most voters unconcerned with the changes, and more voters than not saying diversity is good for the country.
But since 1968, most non-White voters have supported Democratic candidates for president, and most White voters have supported Republicans. And many Republicans say that Democrats favor generous immigration and asylum quotas as a way to win the electorate of the future; Democrats consider that criticism to be racist.
“Democrats have made the decision that millions of illegal aliens voting are likely to vote for Democrats,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said in May.
That's a common sentiment among Republicans, though there's been hesitation before now to use the term “replacement,” because of its far-right associations. It was popularized in 2012, initially in France, amid anger at migrant communities from former colonies. The Republican Party of nine years ago was divided on immigration reform, with a shrinking but influential wing believing that the party could win votes from socially conservative, naturalized immigrants by acknowledging a more positive view of them.
The Trump-era party rejected that argument, especially as Trump improved with non-White voters despite enforcing the strictest immigration policies since the 1960s. But the term was still toxic, after mass shooters in New Zealand and El Paso cited it, and after marchers in the 2017 Unite the Right rally chanted “They will not replace us.”
There are ways to make the point, as Cruz did, without echoing language used by white nationalists. But other terms don't get the same furious response from liberals and extremism-watchers like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. And angering those sorts of people is the point.
“It's emblematic of the Republican moving further right after Trump,” said Hannah Gais, a researcher at the SPLC who studies white nationalism. “Trump let them come out and say it.”
… 35 days until elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and primaries in Florida’s 20th Congressional District
… 105 days until the election in Florida's 20th Congressional District