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Vol. 2 No. 65: First Fantasy Football; Now Fantasy Primaries

 Member Newsletter
August 31, 2023 4:01 p.m.

My short update in The Backchannel today can be filed under the uncanny unreality of the GOP presidential primaries. It’s over. I mean, it’s 100% over and frankly it was over 6 or 7 months ago when everyone pretended otherwise. And yet there’s a whole industry, a whole slew of reporters and commentators and even SuperPACs and preening donors are committed to and going through the motions of the whole thing somehow being real. Today I note stories about big donors expressing “concern” that Tim Scott isn’t married and whether they should put big money behind him as long as that’s some kind of question mark.

Make what you will of the subtext and whether that’s still the world we’re living in. But invest in what exactly? Tim Scott beating Trump?

We’ll get back to that in a minute. But before that two data points on the Jan 6th fallout out front. Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs was sentenced to 17 years in prison today for his role in the events surrounding Jan 6th. That’s just shy of the longest sentence so far.

Next is Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia. Today in a press conference focused on updating the state on storm damage from Hurricane Idalia, Kemp moved unequivocally to shoot down all the talk of shutting down Fani Willis’s prosecution of Donald Trump. A far-right state senator has been demanding Willis be impeached or defunded or otherwise punished for prosecuting Donald Trump. He’s even threatened violence in the streets and his rabble rousing has led to threats against at least five other state senators. Kemp said no to all of it. It’s a reminder that Trump took his best shot at Kemp and failed miserably. Kemp won reelection handily even though Trump lined up what seemed to be a strong challenger.

It’s another sign that Kemp seems to be positioning himself as someone both very conservative and also entirely untainted by Trump when the Trump era comes to an end. It’s also a sign that the Georgia GOP, at its highest levels, is operating by a different logic from many other state parties in 2023.

Now back to Tim Scott.

A Tempest in a Teapot in a Far, Far Away Place

Originally Published: August 31, 2023 9:27 a.m.

This morning Axios leads with an “Exclusive”: “Donors fret over Scott’s single status.” As they look for the best challenger to the supremacy of Donald Trump, top GOP donors have been skittish about ponying up big money for South Carolina Senator Tim Scott because the 57 year old South Carolina Senator is unmarried. Back in May Scott told an on-stage interviewer he had a girlfriend but didn’t name her. The story says that the Scott campaign’s discussion of the issue has been “vague” while making clear that, at least according to one source, even if many donors have concerns it’s definitely not a majority of them.

This is simply an odd story on many levels. It feels a tad archaic to put it mildly. As Scott himself put during that May interview with Axios, “it sounds like we’re living in 1963 and not 2023.”

The Scott campaign says it will be addressing the issue in the coming weeks.

The subtext of the discussion speaks for itself. But that’s not actually the weirdest part of the story to me. The article at least on its face isn’t really only about scuttlebutt about why Scott has never married. It’s about the fact that Scott is having a hard time getting the big donors who dominate GOP politics to get behind his campaign now that Ron DeSantis has clearly failed as the Great Billionaire Hope for defeating Donald Trump.

In other words, Scott should be next but this singleness issue is holding him back.

But who are we kidding here? Donald Trump now routinely gets over 50% of the vote in GOP primary polls and is consistently a good 40 percentage points ahead of every rival. This race is so obviously over there’s a strong and uncanny unreality about the whole exercise. Meanwhile, if I’m counting right, Scott appears to be like 7th in a field of nine. At least for the moment he’s only ahead of Asa Hutchinson and that Burgum guy (whose first name I can’t even remember.)

In fairness, all the candidates after Trump are caught in a figurative if not literal margin of error with respect to everyone except Trump. Is Scott at 3% in any different position from Haley at 5.6%, Pence at 4.4% and Christie at 3.6%? My point is this. Apart from the archaic nature of the discussion, this is a race that is essentially over and we’re publishing full pieces about rumors that might be blocking full billionaire support for a guy who is currently at the back of the pack of the also-rans?

It is just another sign of the curious unreality of this whole campaign, a kind of alternative universe that exists within Republican politics today, a pretend world where Trump doesn’t exist even as it’s made up of people notionally trying to replace him.

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