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    Bush Dynasty, Its Influence Fading, Pins Hopes on One Last Stand in Texas

    ARGYLE, Texas — His famous name shadows George P. Bush, the only member of the dynastic political clan now in public office, as he enters the final days of an uphill campaign to unseat Texas’ attorney general.To some Texans, the Bush family name is a badge of integrity, harking back to a bygone era of rectitude and respectful political debate. To others, it is the disqualifying mark of a Republican old guard that failed the party and betrayed its last president, Donald J. Trump.Mr. Bush would like to make the campaign about the two-term Republican incumbent, Ken Paxton, whose serious legal troubles — including an indictment on securities fraud charges and a continuing federal corruption investigation — prompted high-profile Republicans to take him on in the primary. Mr. Bush made it to a runoff with Mr. Paxton that takes place on Tuesday.A few years ago, Mr. Bush, whose mother is from Mexico and whose father was the governor of Florida, might have won the race handily, his aides believe, and then been held up as a prominent example of a new, more diverse generation of Republicans.But that was before the ground shifted and his family spoke out publicly against Mr. Trump, in an unsuccessful effort to derail his bid for the presidency.Mr. Bush broke with his father (Jeb), his uncle (George W.) and his grandfather (George H.W.) and aligned himself with Mr. Trump and his followers. The effort to distance himself from his relatives was captured in a campaign beer koozie that his campaign handed out last year, quoting Mr. Trump: “This is the Bush that got it right. I like him,” it says, beneath a line drawing of Mr. Trump shaking Mr. Bush’s hand.The effort did not pay off. Mr. Trump endorsed Mr. Paxton, who had filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 election and had appeared with Mr. Trump at his rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, before members of the crowd stormed the Capitol.Mr. Bush, the Texas state land commissioner, bears a family name that evokes a pre-Trump style of Republican politics. Shelby Tauber for The New York TimesSome Texans say the political obituary has already been written for the Bush family, and see Mr. Bush, who is currently the state land commissioner, as its last flickering ember, with little of his forebears’ appeal.“Daddy Bush was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” Carolyn Lightfoot, a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, said of Mr. Bush’s grandfather. But the organization has criticized George P. Bush’s moves as land commissioner over his handling of the Alamo in San Antonio. Ms. Lightfoot said the Bush family and the party establishment were “trying to stuff him down our throats because of his Latino heritage.”For all that the family’s importance may have faded among Texas Republicans, Mr. Bush may still emerge victorious in the runoff. A poll this month had Mr. Paxton’s support at less than 50 percent, and Mr. Bush trailing him by only a few percentage points. Donors have pumped new money into Mr. Bush’s campaign in the final stretch, hoping to push him over the top.Mr. Bush has tried to refine and target his attacks on Mr. Paxton in recent weeks, after his campaign’s internal polling suggested that earlier efforts were hurting his own standing along with Mr. Paxton’s. And Mr. Bush has proudly invoked his family, both in a closing-message political ad and while speaking to audiences that might be unimpressed with the Bush name.“It’s all about ethics,” Mr. Bush told a gathering of Republican women this month in Argyle, a town in the rapidly growing, largely Republican suburbs of Fort Worth. “When people say the last thing we need is another Bush, my response is, this is precisely the time that we need a Bush.”As he barnstorms the state, Mr. Bush, 46, is invariably asked about his relatives, told about some fond memory of them, or challenged to reiterate his loyalty to Mr. Trump.After the event in Argyle, a man in a cowboy hat waited outside for Mr. Bush to emerge so he could confront the candidate.“Would you support for president the Republican nominee, even if it is Trump in 2024?” the man asked.“Yeah, no, I would support him again,” Mr. Bush replied as he walked to his car, wearing black cowboy boots emblazoned with a White House seal and a reference to his uncle’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. “But we’ll see who comes out.”At one campaign stop after another, Mr. Bush is asked about his family or his support for Donald J. Trump.Shelby Tauber for The New York TimesAt a Republican club event in Houston, held down the road from an apartment George W. Bush used to occupy in an area George H.W. Bush used to represent in Congress, George P. Bush delivered a speech attacking Democrats and Mr. Paxton. He promised to strengthen the state’s border with Mexico and to address Houston’s rising murder rate. He opened the floor to questions, but got a comment to start.“I enjoyed watching you talk, because to me, you have all the mannerisms of Governor Bush,” a man told him, to laughter in the room. “Your hands are just like ‘Saturday Night Live.’”Another attendee also made reference to his family. “I’ve heard people say that they’re not going to vote for you because they’re tired of the Bush dynasty,” said Doug Smith, a club member, echoing the views of some in the room. “How do you respond to those people?”“I’ll never run away from being a Bush; I love my family,” he said. Most of the crowd applauded.To live in Texas is to be exposed to the ubiquity of the Bushes, whose family name is borne by airports, roads and schools from Houston to Dallas to Midland. Both Bush presidents have their presidential libraries in the state. In Houston, there are even dog parks named for the canine companions of George P. Bush’s grandmother Barbara Bush, who died in 2018.Exposed to a national spotlight from a young age, Mr. Bush has been hearing about his bright political future for decades. “The Republican convention is doubling as a dress rehearsal for a man Republicans talk about as an up-and-coming heir to the Bush legacy,” The Baltimore Sun wrote of him in 2000, referring to him as a “hunk” who could put “the passion in compassionate conservatism.”Mr. Bush, left, was seen as an up-and-comer in Republican circles in 2000. His uncle George W. Bush was governor of Texas and a candidate for president, and his father, Jeb Bush, was governor of Florida. Ozier Muhammad/The New York TimesBut that is not the message Republicans want to hear now, Texas political consultants, donors and observers said.“Everything was lining up to give him the brass ring, but the party changed too much,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston. “The Republican base changed in such a fast way that many were left without a chair when the music stopped. Bush is a great example of that.”Jay Zeidman, a longtime friend of Mr. Bush’s, said he believed that those shifts masked a dissatisfaction with the direction the party had taken. “There’s a lack of political courage in this state right now because of Donald Trump,” he said. “I think Americans and Texans are thirsty for some reversion back to what politics used to be.”As he campaigns, Mr. Bush, who grew up in Florida, underscores his ties to Texas: Born in Houston, college at Rice University, a law career in the state. In an interview, Mr. Bush said he understood the legacy of his family as something Texan, as well as “quintessentially American and patriotic.”“My role is to close the wounds of the past,” Mr. Bush said. “What I focus on are areas that I can control, and not focus on the areas that I can’t control. Because that would be futile.”Mr. Bush has staked out hard-line positions that appeal to Republican primary voters on issues like the teaching of race and gender in schools. On immigration, he has urged Texas to formally invoke passages in the U.S. Constitution referring to “invasion,” a step toward the state seizing war powers and a move that Mr. Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have so far avoided making. He has said there was “fraud and irregularity” in the 2020 election, though he did not believe it changed the outcome.Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, faces Mr. Bush in a primary runoff on Tuesday.Cooper Neill for The New York TimesHe has challenged Mr. Paxton to debate him on issues, but the two have not shared a stage during the campaign. Mr. Bush contrasts his willingness to field questions from reporters and from a variety of audiences with Mr. Paxton’s practice of rarely holding news conferences or taking challenging questions.Mr. Paxton’s campaign declined a request for an interview.“Texas voters have made it clear that they are sick and tired of the Bush family dynasty and their RINO establishment donors playing kingmaker in Texas politics,” said Kimi Hubbard, a Paxton campaign spokeswoman, using an acronym meaning “Republican in name only.”Mr. Bush was careful in an interview with The New York Times not to question the shifts in the Republican Party that have made his run for office more difficult. He said the concerns of party voters were largely the same as when he first ran for land commissioner in the 2014 election: “Concerns on my family, concerns on crime, border security.”Have voters’ feelings about the Bush dynasty hurt him? “I wouldn’t say so,” he said. “I’ve won.”A significant number of Republicans polled in Texas say they would not support Mr. Bush because of his family background. But his lineage is not simply a liability.In this month’s poll by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, people planning to vote in the primary runoff for attorney general were asked what they liked about their chosen candidate. One of the top factors Mr. Paxton’s supporters mentioned was that he was not a Bush. But about the same share of Mr. Bush’s backers said they were drawn to him specifically because he was a Bush.Mr. Bush has drawn financial support from his family’s network, including six-figure checks from some longtime Bush supporters and more than $100,000 directly from his uncle George W. Bush, campaign finance records show.Mr. Bush fielded questions at a Republican gathering in Flower Mound.Shelby Tauber for The New York TimesA week before the runoff, outside an early voting location in his grandfather’s old congressional district in Houston, Mr. Bush’s family name loomed large for Republican voters, both for and against.“We support George P.,” said Julie Treadwell, 50, who had just voted with her 18-year-old daughter. “We want to get back to that,” she said of his family and what they represented to her: “Conservative Republicans that are more even-keel and levelheaded.”Darla Ryden, 59, who overheard Ms. Treadwell’s remarks, waited until she had walked away to her car before describing her own views, which she said were just the opposite.“I was all for George Bush, daddy and son, but now I feel, with the Bushes, it’s more about power than it is about people,” Ms. Ryden said. She voted for Mr. Paxton in the runoff and supported him in the first round of the primary as well, she said, despite “his own struggles.”“The Bushes?” she added. “It’s done.” More

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    Ginni Thomas Urged Arizona Lawmakers to Overturn Election

    The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote to legislators in a crucial swing state after the Trump campaign’s loss in 2020.In the weeks after the 2020 presidential election, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, twice lobbied the speaker of the Arizona House and another lawmaker to effectively reverse Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s popular-vote victory and deliver the crucial swing state to Donald J. Trump.Ms. Thomas, known as Ginni, a right-wing political activist who became a close ally of Mr. Trump during his presidency, made the entreaties in emails to Russell Bowers, the Republican speaker, and Shawnna Bolick, a Republican state representative. Ms. Bolick’s husband, Clint, once worked with Justice Thomas and now sits on the Arizona Supreme Court.The emails came as Mr. Trump and his allies were engaged in a legal effort to overturn his defeats in several battleground states. While the Arizona emails did not mention either presidential candidate by name, they echoed the former president’s false claims of voter fraud and his legal team’s dubious contention that the power to choose electors therefore rested not with the voters but with state legislatures.“Do your constitutional duty,” Ms. Thomas wrote the lawmakers on Nov. 9. On Dec. 13, with Mr. Trump still refusing to concede on the eve of the Electoral College vote, she contacted the lawmakers again.“The nation’s eyes are on you now,” she warned, adding, “Please consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you do not stand up and lead.”After she sent her first round of emails, but before the second round, Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, more directly pressured Mr. Bowers. They called him and urged him to have the state legislature step in and choose Arizona’s electors.Mr. Bowers could not be reached for comment on Friday. In a statement to The Arizona Republic, a spokesman said that Mr. Bowers never saw Ms. Thomas’s email. He ended up rebuffing all the requests to intervene, even in the face of protests outside his house.Ms. Bolick, who did not return requests for comment and is now running to become Arizona’s next secretary of state on a platform to “restore election integrity,” proved more of an ally. She thanked Ms. Thomas for reaching out, writing that she hoped “you and Clarence are doing great!” Among other things, she would go on to urge Congress to throw out Arizona’s presidential election results and award the state’s Electoral College votes to Mr. Trump.The emails, reported earlier by The Washington Post and obtained by The New York Times, were part of a letter-writing campaign hosted on FreeRoots, a political advocacy platform. On Friday, Mark Paoletta, a lawyer and close friend of the Thomases, said on Twitter that Ms. Thomas “did not write the letter and had no input in the content,” but rather merely “signed her name to a pre-written form letter that was signed by thousands of citizens.”“How disturbing, what a threat!” he wrote, dismissing the revelations as a “lame story.” He added: “A private citizen joining a letter writing campaign, hosted by a platform that served both conservative and liberal causes. Welcome to America.”In fact, the emails are a reflection of the far broader and more integral role that Justice Thomas’s wife played in efforts to delegitimize the election and install Mr. Trump for a second term — efforts that culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, with a protest called the “March to Save America” that turned into a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.As a string of revelations by The Times and other outlets in recent months has demonstrated, Ms. Thomas actively supported and participated at the highest levels in schemes to overturn the election. Those efforts have, in turn, cast a spotlight on her husband, who from his lifetime perch on the Supreme Court has issued opinions favoring Mr. Trump’s efforts to both reverse his loss and stymie a congressional investigation into the events of Jan. 6.This February, The New York Times Magazine reported on Ms. Thomas’s role on the board of C.N.P. Action, a conservative group that had instructed members to adopt letter-writing tactics — of the kind she personally used in Arizona — to pressure Republican lawmakers in swing states to circumvent voters by appointing alternate electors.C.N.P. Action had also circulated a newsletter in December 2020 that included a report targeting five swing states, including Arizona, where Mr. Trump and his allies were pressing litigation. It warned that time was running out for the courts to “declare the elections null and void.” The report was co-written by one of Mr. Trump’s leading election lawyers, Cleta Mitchell, a friend of Ms. Thomas.And in the lead-up to the rally on Jan. 6, Ms. Thomas played a mediating role, uniting feuding factions of planners so that there “wouldn’t be any division,” one of the organizers, Dustin Stockton, later told The Times.Ms. Thomas declined to speak to The Times for that article, but a few weeks later, in an interview with a friendly conservative outlet, she denied playing any role in the organization of the rally, even as she acknowledged attending it. (She said she left before Mr. Trump addressed the crowd.)But she has adamantly opposed a fuller inquiry into the insurrection. Last December, she co-signed a letter calling for House Republicans to expel Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from their conference for joining the committee investigating the Capitol riot, saying it brought “disrespect to our country’s rule of law” and “legal harassment to private citizens who have done nothing wrong.”And in late March, The Post and CBS reported that she had sent a series of text messages to Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, imploring him to take steps to reverse the election. Ms. Thomas urged him to “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down,” invoking a slogan popular on the right that refers to a set of conspiratorial claims that Trump supporters believed would overturn the vote. In the text messages, she also indicated that she had been in contact with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, about a post-election legal strategy.Democrats expressed outrage. In a letter after the text messages were reported, two dozen Democrats, including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, wrote: “Given the recent disclosures about Ms. Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election and her specific communications with White House officials about doing so, Justice Thomas’s participation in cases involving the 2020 election and the January 6th attack is exceedingly difficult to reconcile with federal ethics requirements.”Still, it remains an open question whether the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will seek an interview with Ms. Thomas. In March, people familiar with the committee’s work signaled a desire to ask Ms. Thomas to voluntarily sit for an interview. But the committee has yet to do so, and its chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, told reporters that Ms. Thomas had not come up recently in the panel’s discussions.Justice Thomas has remained defiant amid questions about his own impartiality, resisting calls that he recuse himself from matters that overlap with his wife’s activism. Earlier this year, when the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 to allow the release of records from the Trump White House related to Jan. 6, Justice Thomas was the sole dissenter. In February last year, he sharply dissented when the court declined to hear a case brought by Pennsylvania Republicans seeking to disqualify certain mail-in ballots.The latest revelations about his wife follow a speech last week in which he lambasted protests in front of the houses of justices after a draft opinion was leaked that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them,” he told a conference of fellow conservatives. “And then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country.”And he flashed at his own partisanship in claiming that the left’s protests lacked the decorum of the right — while failing to mention last year’s attack on the Capitol, or protests like those in front of Mr. Bowers’s house.“You would never visit Supreme Court justices’ houses when things didn’t go our way,” he said. “We didn’t throw temper tantrums. It is incumbent on us to always act appropriately and not to repay tit for tat.”Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife have frequently appeared at political events despite longstanding customs of the Supreme Court.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesThe Thomases have long defied norms of the high court, where justices often avoid political events and entanglements and their spouses often keep low profiles. No spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice has ever been as overt a political activist as Ms. Thomas. C.N.P. Action, where she sits on the board, is a branch of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative organization that includes leaders from the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group. Ms. Thomas also founded an organization called Groundswell that holds a weekly meeting of influential conservatives, many of whom work directly on issues that have come before the Supreme Court.Justice Thomas, for his part, has frequently appeared at political events hosted by advocates hoping to sway the court. He and his wife sometimes appear together at such events, and often portray themselves as standing in the breach amid a crumbling society.“It’s very exciting,” Ms. Thomas said during a 2018 Council for National Policy meeting, “the fact that there’s a resistance on our side to their side.”Luke Broadwater More

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    Warning Signs of a Future Mass Killer

    More from our inbox:The Republican Checklist After Another ShootingNew York Mayor’s Rejection of Covid MandatesVoters, Defend DemocracyEstonia’s Tough Voice Against Russian AggressionAbortion Funds Already ExistA crowd gathered Sunday outside Tops Market for a vigil the day after the shooting in Buffalo.Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York TimesTo the Editor:Re “Before Attack, Solitary Teen Caused Alarm” (front page, May 16):In the days after the mass shooting in Buffalo we have witnessed a heightened focus on the mental health of adolescents. A few months ago, after the Michigan school shooting, we heard a similar concern.In each case the youths, when confronted with their potentially homicidal “behaviors,” denied them. They offered explanations that were accepted by school authorities and mental health professionals.Having worked in an emergency room where individuals were brought by the police for “behavioral issues,” I needed after assessing each of them to decide whether they should be hospitalized or discharged. These assessments frequently occurred in the middle of the night. In all cases the individuals I assessed assured me that they were fine and would harm no one. Some I hospitalized and some I allowed to leave the emergency room.One morning when my rotation was completed, I was afraid to turn on my car radio for fear I would hear of a shooting by two young men I let leave. I did not.Mass shootings are not simply a mental health problem that mental health workers can fix. They are also societal problems fueled by the availability of guns and the ubiquity of prejudice.Sidney WeissmanChicagoThe writer is a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.To the Editor:Re “Others Joined Chat Room With Suspect Before Attack” (news article, May 18):I’m a 70-year-old tech dinosaur. I don’t understand what an algorithm is, but I do know that we have a significant problem if a racist openly discussed in chat rooms his plans to carry out an atrocity and no one did anything to stop it.Robert SalzmanNew YorkTo the Editor:Pages and pages about the recent tragic shooting in Buffalo. And in newspapers across the country, other incidents of gun violence involving young people as shooters. In schools, churches and places where people shop. The beat goes on, and the conversation remains the same. Hate. Gun control. Political bickering. And inaction.What’s missing in all too many of these gun tragedies are parent controls. Parents asleep at the wheel or parents being complicit or enabling seems to be a common thread. But not much discussion about that, by either journalists or political leaders. Maybe there should be.George PeternelArlington Heights, Ill.The Republican Checklist After Another ShootingTo the Editor:The Republican checklist after a mass shooting:Thoughts and prayers: Check.This is not the time: Check.Let’s not politicize: Check.Guns are not the problem: Check.Just enforce the laws we have: Check.More mental health care: Check.(Repeat.)Jon MerrittLos AngelesNew York Mayor’s Rejection of Covid MandatesSuzette Burgess, 79, of Morris Heights in the Bronx, gave out free masks on Thursday as part of her own personal campaign to fight the virus.Dave Sanders for The New York TimesTo the Editor:Re “Adams Resists New Mandates as Covid Rises” (front page, May 20):We just don’t get it. Every time we “open up” and remove protective measures, Covid soars. Over a million Americans have died from the virus, depriving their loved ones of their presence. And needless hospitalization costs more than prevention and taxes the health system, already enormously overwhelmed.As physicians, we aim to prevent disease. New York City’s mayor thinks that it is better to treat Covid (with expensive drugs that don’t always work and can cause serious side effects) than to take the necessary steps to avoid it. And it may be more than just the mayor’s “tickle in my throat” if you wind up in the I.C.U. or get long Covid.Yes, the economy is vital, but more disease makes fewer people able to shop or eat out or go to work. And we don’t yet know the long-term effects on the brain and body. So prevention is key, and we need to follow the advice of public health experts who should be in control of this, not politicians.It is not a burden to get vaccinated and boosted and wear a good-quality mask. It is a responsibility to our fellow citizens and ourselves. We used to care about each other. Taking these steps would help us finally emerge from this scourge.Stephen DanzigerBrooklynThe writer, a physician, is a member of the Covid-19 Task Force of the Medical Society of the County of Kings (Brooklyn).Voters, Defend Democracy Jason Andrew for The New York TimesTo the Editor:Re “In Primaries, G.O.P. Voters Reward a Lie” (news analysis, front page, May 19):In November, voters must decide to cast their ballots either for congressional candidates who view fidelity to the rule of law as sacrosanct or for those who consider the oath to “support and defend the Constitution” a hollow pledge. The outcome may determine whether or not our constitutional republic survives.John Adams pessimistically asserted: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” If, as Adams suggested, our form of government is on a path toward suicide, then we must look to the electorate for intervention.To prove Adams wrong, the electorate must once again rise to the occasion as it did in the 2020 presidential election when it ousted Donald Trump for undermining democratic governance.Jane LarkinTampa, Fla.Estonia’s Tough Voice Against Russian AggressionPrime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia in Brussels just after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.Pool photo by John ThysTo the Editor:Re “Estonian Leader Warns Against Deal With Putin” (news article, May 17):As an American living in Estonia, I have watched with great admiration Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s leadership on all issues related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She has been a firm and unyielding voice urging tough measures against Russian aggression.Estonia is a small country, but it punches well above its weight in terms of its commitment to NATO, its commitment to helping Ukraine, including taking in a huge number of refugees relative to its population, and its commitment to freedom and democracy.Ms. Kallas has advocated a 21st-century strategy of “smart containment,” appropriately building on the 20th-century Cold War “containment” policy first advocated by George F. Kennan. She has insisted on Western resolve to stop Russia before Vladimir Putin’s desire to re-form the Soviet Union through war is realized.The West should heed Ms. Kallas, especially her forceful argument that Russia must lose this war, and any result short of that is unacceptable. Tragically, if her policy of “smart containment” had been largely implemented before the Russian invasion, Mr. Putin would have never invaded.It’s not as if the war in Ukraine was a surprise — certainly not to those in the Baltics who through history and proximity know Russia well.Michael G. BrautigamTallinn, EstoniaAbortion Funds Already ExistTo the Editor:Re “An Abortion Fund” (letter, May 16):We appreciate Jack Funt’s interest in a national fund that would support people traveling for abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Mr. Funt will be delighted to learn that a network of more than 80 abortion funds already exists.Legal abortion has never meant accessible abortion. The cost of a first-trimester abortion averages $575, but can exceed $1,000. Three-quarters of abortion patients are low income. Even with Roe in effect, many Americans struggle to pay for their abortions and travel to clinics. Since before 1973, abortion funds have helped people access care that would otherwise have been out of reach.We encourage people to learn about and support the work already being done to ensure abortion access. Readers can find their local abortion fund by visiting the website of the National Network of Abortion Funds.Rhian LewisAriella MessingThe writers direct the Online Abortion Resource Squad, which connects people to high-quality information about abortion. More

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    It’s Trump’s Party, and He’ll Lie if He Wants To

    To win a Republican primary in 2022, you’ll probably need to support a coup attempt.It’s not sufficient — David Perdue, a former senator, looks like he’s going to lose to the incumbent governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, in next week’s primary, despite his support for the “big lie” — but it makes a difference.The Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, won his race on the strength of his enthusiastic support for Donald Trump’s effort to subvert and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. As a state senator, Mastriano demanded that lawmakers invalidate Joe Biden’s electoral votes. He attended the “stop the steal” rally on Jan. 6 and has continued to accuse Democrats of fraud. Mastriano has not commented on the 2024 election, but he has let it be known that he supports the view that state legislatures can assign electoral votes against the will of the voting public.The Republican nominee for the Senate in North Carolina, Ted Budd, was similarly committed to Trump’s effort to keep himself in office. He was among the 139 House members who objected to certifying the presidential election in Biden’s favor.J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Ohio, has not endorsed the claim that Biden stole the election from Trump, but he did play footsie with the idea during his campaign. “I think we’ve got to investigate as much as possible,” Vance said of the 2020 election results. “I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant. And we’re going to learn a lot about what happened. But, you know, I think at a basic level we already know mostly what happened.”Overall, there are hundreds of Republican candidates in races across the country who have embraced Trump’s false claims about his defeat. Many, like Budd, voted against Biden’s Electoral College victory. Some, like Mastriano, attended the “stop the steal” protest in Washington on Jan. 6. And others signed legal briefs or resolutions challenging Biden’s victory.The extent to which election denialism and pro-insurrectionism are now litmus tests for Republican politicians is clearly attributable to Trump’s huge influence over the Republican Party. Despite his defeat, he is still the leader. But even if that were not true — if, instead of the boss, Trump were only one influential figure among many — there would still be reason for Republicans to embrace this view.That’s because Republican election denialism is simply the strongest form of a belief that has defined the Republican Party since at least the Newt Gingrich era in the 1990s. For many Republicans, theirs is the only legitimate political party and their voters, irrespective of their actual numbers, are the only legitimate voters — and the only legitimate majority. Democrats, from this vantage point, are presumptively illegitimate, their victories suspect, their policies un-American, even when they have the support of most people in the country.You see this in the years of voter fraud hysteria that preceded Trump’s claim, after the 2016 election, that he had been cheated of millions of votes. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” he said, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”In 2001, for example, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a crackdown on voter fraud, accusing unnamed actors (presumably Democrats) of manipulating elections. “Votes have been bought, voters intimidated and ballot boxes stuffed,” he said at a news conference that year. “The polling process has been disrupted or not completed. Voters have been duped into signing absentee ballots believing they were applications for public relief. And the residents of cemeteries have infamously shown up at the polls on Election Day.”After the 2008 election, Republicans went into a frenzy over the group ACORN, accusing it of perpetrating fraud on a national scale. How else, after all, could you explain Barack Obama’s unexpected victories in traditionally Republican states like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina?The obsession with nonexistent voter fraud is hard to ignore. But there were other ways that Republicans expressed their belief that they were the only legitimate members of the political community.Sarah Palin’s rhetoric about the “real America,” very much in evidence during the 2008 presidential campaign — “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America” — was one of these ways. So was the Tea Party movement, whose members understood themselves as a disenfranchised majority, under siege by a Democratic Party of burdensome illegal immigrants, ungrateful minorities and entitled young people. The Fox News commentator Glenn Beck captured some of this feeling during a 2010 broadcast. “This is the Tea Party. This is you and me,” he said. “You are not alone, America. You are the majority.”Mitt Romney’s infamous claim that there are “47 percent of the people” who are “dependent upon government,” “believe they are victims” and are unable to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives” was condemned as classist and prejudiced during the 2012 presidential election. But you can also read it as an expression of the belief that there are some Americans who count — the “makers,” in the language of his vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan — and some Americans who don’t.Yes, the Republican Party’s present-day election denialism is much more extreme than the rhetoric surrounding voter fraud or the idea that there is a “real America.” But the difference is ultimately one of degree, not kind: Republicans have been trying to write Democrats out of the political community in one way or another for decades. It was only a matter of time before this escalated to denying that Democrats and Democratic voters can win elections at all.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    Democrats, the Midterm Jinx Is Not Inevitable

    In November, the Democrats are widely expected to lose the House and probably also the Senate. Large defeats are the norm for a new president’s first midterm. A harbinger is a president’s approval rating, and President Biden’s stands at a lackluster 41.1 percent.But standard political history may not be a good guide to 2022. The Democrats are facing long odds, but there are several reasons this could be an unusual political year.For starters, Donald Trump is just as likely to hobble Republicans as he is to energize them. Mr. Trump will not be on the ballot, but many of his surrogates will. He has endorsed over 175 candidates in federal and state elections, and in his clumsy efforts to play kingmaker, Mr. Trump has promoted some badly compromised candidates and challenged party unity.In the Georgia primary for governor, a Trump surrogate, Sonny Purdue, is polling well behind Mr. Trump’s nemesis, the incumbent Brian Kemp. In the Georgia Senate race, Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate, Herschel Walker, is running away from his past and locked in a tight race against the incumbent Raphael Warnock. It may not happen again, but in 2020, Mr. Trump’s meddling backfired and helped Democrats take two Senate seats.To hold the Senate, Democrats need to defend incumbents in New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. But they have pickup opportunities in several states.In Pennsylvania, the popular lieutenant governor John Fetterman, an economic populist, will run against the winner of a close Republican primary, either the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz or the financier David McCormick. Mr. Oz, who was endorsed by Mr. Trump, has a very slight edge, as well as a very slight connection to Pennsylvania, having lived in New Jersey for many years. Either nominee would most likely alienate part of the Trump base, and neither is remotely populist.In Ohio, Mr. Trump’s endorsement helped the author and venture capitalist executive J.D. Vance prevail. In the general election, we will get a test of the divisive culture-war populism of Mr. Vance versus the genuine pocketbook populism of Representative Tim Ryan — the kind that keeps re-electing Ohio’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown.For Democrats to succeed in many of these races, their base will have to be energized — but at the moment, it is not. Still, there’s hope: Even if the ubiquitous lunacy of Mr. Trump doesn’t wake Democrats up, the likelihood of abortion being banned in half the country probably will.If the leaked opinion in the Supreme Court abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, becomes law in an official June decision, it will not just allow states to criminalize abortion, but will turn doctors into agents of the state when they treat women for miscarriages. This extremism on women’s health does not have the support of most voters.The Democratic revival of 2017-20 began with the epic women’s marches of January 2017. If Democrats are more competitive than expected this year, it will be in part because women are galvanized, especially women in the Democratic base but also independent or “soft Republican” college-educated suburban women.Something like this happened in 2017, when large numbers of liberals and moderates, appalled by Mr. Trump’s presidency, saw the 2018 election as a firebreak. That year, Democrats made a net gain of 40 seats in the House, and historic turnout gains in 2018, relative to the previous midterm, were a great benefit for Democrats.All will depend on how closely 2022 resembles 2018. With the electorate so divided, there are relatively few swing voters — but potentially dozens of swing districts. How they swing depends entirely on turnout.A Democratic effort reminiscent of grass roots groups in 2017 is beginning to gear up. For example, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland sponsors a Democracy Summer for college students who want to get out and organize. This idea has been picked up in dozens of other congressional districts.Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, in the January 2021 runoff election that won him a Senate seat, helped pioneer a technique called paid relational organizing. He hired some 2,800 Georgians to reach out to their own peer networks to win support for Mr. Ossoff. Now several people who worked with Senator Ossoff are taking this strategy national.Other events this summer may have bearing on the fall. The House panel investigating the attack of Jan. 6, 2021, will hold public hearings in June. Closer to the midterms, it will release its final report, which will put Republicans on the spot to answer for their defense of an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Mr. Trump will surely continue to insist the 2020 election was stolen, but most Republicans will be whipsawed between the demands of Mr. Trump and his base and their wish to focus on more winning issues.Mr. Trump’s own behavior is exposing all the latent fissures in the contradictory coalition that narrowly elected him. Democratic candidates will be reminding Americans of the potential menace of a second Trump term. If Mr. Trump rejoins Twitter, he will remind them himself.Even so, Republican extremism is at risk of being overshadowed by economic conditions, none more than inflation. Federal Reserve economists project that inflation could begin to subside by fall. As with so much in politics, sheer luck and timing will play a role in the Democrats’ prospects and the future of our Republic.Stranger things have happened than a Democrat midterm resurgence. A wipeout is still likely, but far from inevitable — if Democrats can get organized.Robert Kuttner is a co-editor of The American Prospect and the author of “Going Big: FDR’s Legacy, Biden’s New Deal, and the Struggle to Save Democracy.”The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    How Democrats Can Win the Morality Wars

    I’m a fan of FiveThirtyEight, a website that looks at policy issues from a data-heavy perspective, but everyone publishes a clunker once in a while. In February, FiveThirtyEight ran a piece called “Why Democrats Keep Losing Culture Wars.” The core assertion was that Republicans prevail because a lot of Americans are ignorant about issues like abortion and school curriculum, and they believe the lies the right feeds them. The essay had a very heavy “deplorables are idiots” vibe.Nate Hochman, writing in the conservative National Review, recognized a hanging curve when he saw one and he walloped the piece. He noted that “all the ‘experts’ that the FiveThirtyEight writers cite in their piece are invested in believing that the progressive worldview is the objective one, and that any deviations from it are the result of irrational or insidious impulses in the electorate.”He added: “All this is a perfect example of why the left’s cultural aggression is alienating to so many voters. Progressive elites are plagued by an inability to understand the nature and function of social issues in American life as anything other than a battle between the forces of truth and justice on one side and those of ignorance and bigotry on the other.”There’s a lot of truth to that. The essence of good citizenship in a democratic society is to spend time with those who disagree with you so you can understand their best arguments.But over the last few decades, as Republicans have been using cultural issues to rally support more and more, Democrats have understood what’s going on less and less. Many progressives have developed an inability to see how good and wise people could be on the other side, a lazy tendency to assume that anybody who’s not a social progressive must be a racist or a misogynist, a tendency to think the culture wars are merely a distraction Republican politicians kick up to divert attention from the real issues, like economics — as if the moral health of society was some trivial sideshow.Even worse, many progressives have been blind to their own cultural power. Liberals dominate the elite cultural institutions — the universities, much of the mainstream news media, entertainment, many of the big nonprofits — and many do not seem to understand how infuriatingly condescending it looks when they describe their opponents as rubes and bigots.The Republican Party capitalizes on this. Some days it seems as if this is the only thing the party does. For example, Republican candidates could probably cruise to victory in this fall’s elections just by talking about inflation. Instead, many are doubling down on the sort of cultural issues that helped propel Glenn Youngkin to the governor’s office in Virginia.They’re doing it because many Americans believe the moral fabric of society is fraying, and the Republican messages on this resonate. In a recent Fox News poll, 60 percent of Hispanic respondents favored laws that would bar teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students before the fourth grade. Nearly three-quarters of American voters are very or extremely concerned about “what’s taught in public schools.”Documents this year from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recognized that the Republican culture war issues are “alarmingly potent” and that some battleground state voters think the Democrats are “preachy” and “judgmental.”The fact is the culture wars are not a struggle between the enlightened few and the ignorant and bigoted masses. They are a tension between two legitimate moral traditions. Democrats will never prevail on social issues unless they understand the nature of the struggle.In the hurly-burly of everyday life, very few of us think about systemic moral philosophies. But deep down we are formed by moral ecologies we are raised within or choose, systems of thought and feeling that go back centuries. We may think we are making up our own minds about things, but usually our judgments and moral sentiments are shaped by these long moral traditions.In this essay I’m going to try to offer a respectful version of the two rival moral traditions that undergird our morality wars. I’ll try to summarize the strengths and weaknesses of each. I’ll also try to point to the opportunities Democrats now have to create a governing majority on social and cultural matters.***The phrase “moral freedom” captures a prominent progressive moral tradition. It recognizes the individual conscience as the ultimate authority and holds that in a diverse society, each person should have the right to lead her own authentic life and make up her own mind about moral matters. If a woman decides to get an abortion, then we should respect her freedom of choice. If a teenager concludes they are nonbinary, or decides to transition to another gender, then we should celebrate their efforts to live a life that is authentic to who they really are.In this ethos society would be rich with a great diversity of human types.This ethos has a pretty clear sense of right and wrong. It is wrong to try to impose your morality or your religious faith on others. Society goes wrong when it prevents gay people from marrying who they want, when it restricts the choices women can make, when it demeans transgender people by restricting where they can go to the bathroom and what sports they can play after school.This moral freedom ethos has made modern life better in a variety of ways. There are now fewer restrictions that repress and discriminate against people from marginalized groups. Women have more social freedom to craft their own lives and to be respected for the choices they make. People in the L.G.B.T.Q. communities have greater opportunities to lead open and flourishing lives. There’s less conformity. There’s more tolerance for different lifestyles. There’s less repression and more openness about sex. People have more freedom to discover and express their true selves.However, there are weaknesses. The moral freedom ethos puts tremendous emphasis on individual conscience and freedom of choice. Can a society thrive if there is no shared moral order? The tremendous emphasis on self-fulfillment means that all relationships are voluntary. Marriage is transformed from a permanent covenant to an institution in which two people support each other on their respective journeys to self-fulfillment. What happens when people are free to leave their commitments based on some momentary vision of their own needs?If people find their moral beliefs by turning inward, the philosopher Charles Taylor warned, they may lose contact with what he called the “horizons of significance,” the standards of truth, beauty and moral excellence that are handed down by tradition, history or God.A lot of people will revert to what the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre calls “emotivism”: What is morally right is what feels right to me. Emotivism has a tendency to devolve into a bland mediocrity and self-indulgence. If we’re all creating our own moral criteria based on feelings, we’re probably going to grade ourselves on a forgiving curve.Self-created identities are also fragile. We need to have our identities constantly affirmed by others if we are to feel secure. People who live within this moral ecology are going to be hypersensitive to sleights that they perceive as oppression. Politics devolves into identity wars, as different identities seek recognition over the others.The critics of moral freedom say that while it opens up lifestyle choices, it also devolves into what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” When everybody defines his own values, the basic categories of life turn fluid. You wind up in a world in which a Supreme Court nominee like Ketanji Brown Jackson has to dodge the seemingly basic question of what a woman is. I don’t blame her. I don’t know how to answer that question anymore, either.Under the sway of the moral freedom ethos, the left has generally won the identity wars but lost the cosmology wars. America has moved left on feminist and L.G.B.T.Q. issues and is much more tolerant of diverse lifestyles. But many Americans don’t quite trust Democrats to tend the moral fabric that binds us all together. They worry that the left threatens our national narratives as well as religious institutions and the family, which are the seedbeds of virtue.***The conservative moral tradition has a very different conception of human nature, the world and how the good society is formed. I’ll call it “you are not your own,” after the recent book by the English professor and Christian author Alan Noble.People who subscribe to this worldview believe that individuals are embedded in a larger and pre-existing moral order in which there is objective moral truth, independent of the knower. As Charles Taylor summarizes the ethos, “independent of my will there is something noble, courageous and hence significant in giving shape to my own life.”In this ethos, ultimate authority is outside the self. For many people who share this worldview, the ultimate source of authority is God’s truth, as revealed in Scripture. For others, the ultimate moral authority is the community and its traditions.We’re in a different moral world here, with emphasis on obedience, dependence, deference and supplication. This moral tradition has a loftier vision of perfect good, but it takes a dimmer view of human nature: Left to their own devices, people will tend to be selfish and shortsighted. They will rebel against the established order and seek autonomy. If a person does not submit to the moral order of the universe — or the community — he may become self-destructive, a slave to his own passions.The healthier life is one lived within limits — limits imposed by God’s commandments, by the customs and sacred truths of a culture and its institutions. These limits on choice root you so you have a secure identity and secure attachments. They enforce habits that slowly turn into virtues.In the “moral freedom” world you have to be free to realize your highest moral potential.In the “you are not your own” world you must be morally formed by institutions before you are capable of handling freedom. In this world there are certain fixed categories. Male and female are essential categories of personhood. In this ethos there are limits on freedom of choice. You don’t get to choose to abort your fetus, because that fetus is not just cells that belong to you. That fetus belongs to that which brings forth life.Researchers Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt and Brian Nosek found that liberals are powerfully moved to heal pain and prevent cruelty. Conservatives, they discovered, are more attuned than liberals to the moral foundations that preserve a stable social order. They highly value loyalty and are sensitive to betrayal. They value authority and are sensitive to subversion.The strengths of this moral tradition are pretty obvious. It gives people unconditional attachments and a series of rituals and practices that morally form individuals.The weaknesses of this tradition are pretty obvious, too. It can lead to rigid moral codes that people with power use to justify systems of oppression. This ethos leads to a lot of othering — people not in our moral order are inferior and can be conquered and oppressed.But the big problem today with the “you are not your own” ethos is that fewer and fewer people believe in it. Fewer and fewer people in the United States believe in God. And more Americans of all stripes have abandoned the submissive, surrendering, dependent concept of the self.This is the ultimate crisis on the right. Many conservatives say there is an objective moral order that demands obedience, but they’ve been formed by America’s prevailing autonomy culture, just like everybody else. In practice, they don’t actually want to surrender obediently to a force outside themselves; they want to make up their own minds. The autonomous self has triumphed across the political spectrum, on the left where it makes sense, and also on the right, where it doesn’t.***Both of these moral traditions have deep intellectual and historical roots. Both have a place in any pluralistic society. Right now, the conservative world looks politically strong, but it is existentially in crisis. Republicans will probably do extremely well in the 2022 midterms. But conservatism, especially Christian conservatism, is coming apart.Conservative Christians feel they are under massive assault from progressive cultural elites. Small-town traditionalists feel their entire way of life is being threatened by globalism and much else. They perceive that they are losing power as a cultural force. Many in the younger generations have little use for their god, their traditional rooted communities and their values.This has produced a moral panic. Consumed by the passion of the culture wars, many traditionalists and conservative Christians have adopted a hypermasculine warrior ethos diametrically opposed to the Sermon on the Mount moral order they claim as their guide. Unable to get people to embrace their moral order through suasion, they now seek to impose their moral order through politics. A movement that claims to make God their god now makes politics god. What was once a faith is now mostly a tribe.This moral panic has divided the traditionalist world, especially the Christian part of it, a division that has, for example, been described in different ways by me, by my Times colleague Ruth Graham and by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic. Millions of Americans who subscribe to the “you are not your own” ethos are appalled by what the Republican Party has become.So is there room in the Democratic Party for people who don’t subscribe to the progressive moral tradition but are appalled by what conservatism has become?First, will Democrats allow people to practice their faith even if some tenets of that faith conflict with progressive principles? For example, two bills in Congress demonstrate that clash. They both would amend federal civil rights law to require fair treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. people in housing, employment and other realms of life. One, the Fairness for All Act, would allow for substantial exceptions for religious institutions. A Catholic hospital, say, wouldn’t be compelled to offer gender transition surgeries. The other, the Equality Act, would override existing law that prevents the federal government from substantially burdening individuals’ exercise of religion without a compelling government interest.Right now, Democrats generally support the latter bill and oppose the former. But supporting the Fairness for All Act, which seeks to fight discrimination while leaving space for religious freedom, would send a strong signal to millions of wavering believers, and it would be good for America.Second, will Democrats stand up to the more radical cultural elements in their own coalition? Jonathan Rauch was an early champion of gay and lesbian rights. In an article in American Purpose, he notes that one wing of the movement saw gay rights as not a left-wing issue but a matter of human dignity. A more radical wing celebrated cultural transgression and disdained bourgeois morality. Ultimately, the gay rights movement triumphed in the court of public opinion when the nonradicals won and it became attached to the two essential bourgeois institutions — marriage and the military.Rauch argues that, similarly, the transgender rights movement has become entangled with ideas that are extraneous to the cause of transgender rights. Ideas like: Both gender and sex are chosen identities and denying or disputing that belief amounts is violence. Democrats would make great strides if they could champion transgender rights while not insisting upon these extraneous moral assertions that many people reject.The third question is, will Democrats realize that both moral traditions need each other? As usual, politics is a competition between partial truths. The moral freedom ethos, like liberalism generally, is wonderful in many respects, but liberal societies need nonliberal institutions if they are to thrive.America needs institutions built on the “you are not your own” ethos to create social bonds that are more permanent than individual choice. It needs that ethos to counter the me-centric, narcissistic tendencies in our culture. It needs that ethos to preserve a sense of the sacred, the idea that there are some truths so transcendentally right that they are absolutely true in all circumstances. It needs that ethos in order to pass along the sort of moral sensibilities that one finds in, say, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address — that people and nations have to pay for the wages of sin, that charity toward all is the right posture, that firmness in keeping with the right always has to be accompanied by humility about how much we can ever see of the right.Finally, we need this ethos, because morality is not only an individual thing; it’s something between people that binds us together. Even individualistic progressives say it takes a village to raise a child, but the village needs to have a shared moral sense of how to raise it.I’ll end on a personal note. I was raised in Lower Manhattan and was shaped by the progressive moral values that prevailed in the late 1960s and the 1970s. But as I’ve grown older I’ve come to see more and more wisdom in the “you are not your own” tradition.Is there room for people like us in the Democratic Party? Most days I think yes. Some days I’m not sure.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

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    A Pennsylvania Election Storm Brews Again, This Time in a G.O.P. Primary

    The Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania is about to get even wilder.The campaigns for David McCormick and Dr. Mehmet Oz, that election’s top two finishers, are obsessively monitoring the steady drip of numbers coming from the secretary of state’s office as well as from key counties.As of early Thursday evening, McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, and Oz, a celebrity surgeon who was endorsed by Donald Trump, were separated by a little over 1,000 votes, although the statewide results often lag the results in individual counties. Election officials have not yet declared a winner, and are not likely to do so anytime soon. Both campaigns are preparing for the possibility of a bruising recount.So, apparently, is Trump, who urged Oz to “declare victory” on Wednesday in a post on his Truth Social website.“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they just happened to find,” Trump added, though no evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing by the McCormick campaign or its allies.On a background call with reporters on Thursday, a senior official with the McCormick campaign argued that the combination of outstanding votes in several counties, plus military ballots that are yet to be counted, would put McCormick ahead. The official said the campaign believed there were more than 15,000 absentee ballots still uncounted, adding that the McCormick operation had invested heavily in its absentee voting program.“Facts show that the counting of valid absentee ballots is very likely to put @DaveMcCormickPA on top,” tweeted Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state under Trump who is a top surrogate for McCormick. Both men are alumni of West Point, where McCormick was captain of the wrestling team before going on to serve in Iraq as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.The Oz campaign likewise is projecting victory, citing the fact that Oz led McCormick in the official statewide count as of Thursday afternoon. But the gap has narrowed since Tuesday.The office of the Pennsylvania secretary of the commonwealth estimated that there were about 8,700 Republican absentee and mail ballots to be counted as of Thursday evening, a spokeswoman said in an email. Counties are required to report their unofficial results by 5 p.m. on May 24.McCormick leads by nine percentage points among mail absentee ballots cast so far, according to an analysis by Nate Cohn of The New York Times. If he leads among the uncounted mail ballots by a similar amount — and that’s not assured, Cohn says, as late-arriving mail ballots can differ from early mail ballots — then McCormick could squeak ahead of Oz as early as Friday.Pennsylvania law mandates a recount if the results of an election are within half a percentage point, and many close observers expect that might still be the case by next Thursday, the deadline for election officials to order a statewide re-examination of votes.“It seems almost certain to me that the vote will be within 0.5 percent,” said Bruce Marks, a lawyer who in 2020 filed an amicus brief on Trump’s behalf disputing the election results in Pennsylvania.The Republican Senate candidate David McCormick in Pittsburgh on Tuesday as votes were being counted.Jeff Swensen/Getty ImagesBracing for legal challengesThe McCormick campaign, meanwhile, recently hired a G.O.P. operative known for his expertise in the dark arts of challenging election results.According to federal election records, the McCormick campaign paid the operative’s firm, Michael Roman and Associates, $7,000 on April 21 for “consulting services.”Roman was the director of Election Day operations for Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020, and he later played an instrumental role in advancing claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania that courts repeatedly ruled were unfounded.In February, Roman was issued a subpoena by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The committee said it had obtained communications that showed his “involvement in a coordinated strategy to contact Republican members of state legislatures in certain states that former President Trump had lost and urge them to ‘reclaim’ their authority by sending an alternate slate of electors.”Roman worked closely with Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who promoted baseless conspiracy theories and pushed without success to overturn President Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.Roman’s hiring suggests that McCormick’s campaign was gearing up for a potentially protracted fight even before Tuesday, the day of the primary. It also means that an operative who helped lead Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results will now be pitted against a candidate endorsed by the former president.Marks said he had not been hired by either campaign, though he is close to Roman. In 1993, Roman helped Marks overturn a Pennsylvania State Senate election after arguing that the results had been tainted by voter fraud.The full scope of Roman’s duties was not immediately clear as of midday on Thursday, although two people familiar with his hiring said he had been brought on at least in part to help with the possibility of a disputed result. Roman did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.Asked about Roman’s responsibilities, Jess Szymanski, the press secretary for the McCormick campaign, said only, “We’ve got a lot of lawyers across the state.”What to readThe 2020 census undercounted the population of six states and overcounted in eight, but that won’t change the number of House seats allotted to each state during reapportionment, Michael Wines reports.The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill that would be the country’s strictest abortion law, defining life as beginning at fertilization.Herschel Walker, the likely Republican nominee for a Georgia Senate seat, said that a ban on abortion should not include exceptions, Jonathan Weisman reports.Administration officials struggled to explain how President Biden’s authorization of the use of the Defense Production Act will alleviate a shortage of baby formula, reports Michael Shear.HOW THEY RUNRepresentative Mo Brooks with supporters in Huntsville, Ala.Elijah Nouvelage/ReutersUnder the radar, Mo Brooks reboundsRepresentative Mo Brooks’s Senate campaign seemed dead in the water after Donald Trump withdrew his endorsement. But nearly two months after Trump’s change of heart and one week before the Alabama primary, Brooks shouldn’t be counted out.In Alabama, a primary candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to win the nomination. That’s unlikely to happen in this relatively crowded Republican Senate race, where the leading candidates are polling in the low 30s. The goal is to place in the top two before a runoff, which now seems within reach for Brooks.Different pollsters show Brooks battling with Michael Durant for the second spot, with Katie Britt consistently in the lead. But recently, these polls also indicate that Brooks has improved his standing.Shortly before Trump rescinded his endorsement in March, a Republican poll from The Alabama Daily News and Gray Television found Brooks lagging far behind in third place, with 16 percent. But a follow-up poll conducted in May found Brooks in second place with 28.5 percent. Separately, a poll from Emerson College and The Hill found Brooks improving his status from 12 percent in March to 25 percent in May.“Mo Brooks has just kept making his case to Alabama that he’s the most conservative guy in the race and voters seem to have responded,” Stan McDonald, the chairman of Brooks’s campaign, said in a statement.But part of Brooks’s recent success might be a result of something else. As his top two rivals spar, he has been on the receiving end of fewer television attack ads. Since April 26, candidates and outside groups have spent nearly $540,000 against Britt and $830,000 against Durant on broadcast television, according to AdImpact, compared with only $75,000 against Brooks.And while Brooks might be improving, Britt has held a lead in every recent public poll.“It’s clear from our strong momentum that Alabamians know that I am the best candidate to defend our Christian conservative values, fight for the America First agenda, and preserve the country that we know and love for our children and our children’s children,” Britt said in a statement.— Blake & LeahIs there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. More

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    Jeffries Fights New York District Maps: ‘Enough to Make Jim Crow Blush’

    Hakeem Jeffries hopes to pressure New York’s court-appointed special master to change congressional maps that split historically Black communities.Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the second-highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress, has launched an aggressive effort to discredit a proposed congressional map that would divide historically Black neighborhoods in New York, likening its configurations to Jim Crow tactics.Mr. Jeffries is spending tens of thousands of dollars on digital advertising as part of a scorched-earth campaign to try to stop New York’s courts from making the new map final without changes later this week.As construed, the map would split Bedford-Stuyvesant in central Brooklyn into two districts and Co-Op City in the Bronx into three, for example, while placing Black incumbents in the same districts — changes that Mr. Jeffries argues violate the State Constitution.“We find ourselves in an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Mr. Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat, said in an interview on Thursday. In the most recent ad, he says the changes took “a sledgehammer to Black districts. It’s enough to make Jim Crow blush.”Mr. Jeffries may be laying the groundwork for an eventual legal challenge, but his more immediate aim was to pressure Jonathan R. Cervas, New York’s court-appointed special master, to change congressional and State Senate maps that he first proposed on Monday before he presents final plans to a state court judge for approval on Friday.The stakes could scarcely be higher. After New York’s highest court struck down Democrat-friendly maps drawn by the State Legislature as unconstitutional last month, the judges have vested near total power in Mr. Cervas, a postdoctoral fellow from Carnegie Mellon, to lay lines that will govern elections for a decade to come.Mr. Cervas’s initial proposal unwound a map gerrymandered by the Democratic-led State Legislature, creating new pickup opportunities for Republicans. But it also significantly altered the shapes of districts in New York City — carefully drawn a decade earlier by another court — that reflected a patchwork of racial, geographic and economic divides.What to Know About RedistrictingRedistricting, Explained: Here are some answers to your most pressing questions about the process that is reshaping American politics.Understand Gerrymandering: Can you gerrymander your party to power? Try to draw your own districts in this imaginary state.Killing Competition: The number of competitive districts is dropping, as both parties use redistricting to draw themselves into safe seats.Deepening Divides: As political mapmakers create lopsided new district lines, the already polarized parties are being pulled even farther apart.Mr. Jeffries was far from alone in lodging last-ditch appeals. The court was inundated with hundreds of comments suggesting revisions from Democrats and Republicans alike — from party lawyers pressing for more politically favorable lines to an analysis of the differences between Jewish families on the East and West Sides of Manhattan.A broad coalition of public interest and minority advocacy groups told Mr. Cervas this week that his changes would risk diluting the power of historically marginalized communities. They included Common Cause New York and the United Map Coalition, an influential group of Latino, Black and Asian American legal groups.The proposed map would divide Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Brownsville — culturally significant Black communities in Brooklyn — between the 8th and 9th Congressional Districts. Each neighborhood currently falls in one or the other.The northeast Bronx, another predominantly Black area that includes Co-Op City and falls within Representative Jamaal Bowman’s district, would be split among three different districts.The groups have raised similar concerns about Mr. Cervas’s proposal to separate Manhattan’s Chinatown and Sunset Park, home to large Asian American populations, into two districts for the first time in decades. Other Jewish groups have made related appeals for their community in Brooklyn.Most of the changes are likely to have little impact on the partisan makeup of the districts, which are safely Democratic. But Lurie Daniel Favors, the executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, said that cutting through existing communities would further dilute the political power of historically marginalized groups.“Now, when Bedford-Stuyvesant wants to organize and petition at the congressional level, they have to split their efforts and go to two separate representatives,” she said.The maps would also push four of the state’s seven Black representatives into two districts, forcing them to compete with one another or run in a district where they do not live. Under the special master’s plan, Mr. Jeffries and Representative Yvette Clark would live in the same central Brooklyn district, and Mr. Bowman and Mondaire Jones would reside in the same Westchester County seat.How U.S. Redistricting WorksCard 1 of 8What is redistricting? More