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Former congressman launches campaign to unseat Ohio governor in Republican primary

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Renacci tapped into another well of conservative grievances just after the election when he trashed DeWine for recognizing Joe Biden’s victory. The governor’s situation got considerably more serious days later when Donald Trump, who still had a Twitter account, wrote, “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” However, while Trump has continued to train his venom on two other GOP governors, Arizona’s Doug Ducey and Georgia’s Brian Kemp, he’s largely left DeWine alone during 2021.

That could change at any time of course, but if Renacci is counting on Trump’s backing, he may be in for a big disappointment: NBC reports that Trump is unlikely to endorse the ex-congressman because of his underwhelming 2018 Senate campaign. Indeed, Renacci’s defeat at the hands of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown that year makes him the one Republican to lose a partisan election in Ohio over the last four cycles. (Democrats have prevailed in officially nonpartisan state Supreme Court races.)

Renacci originally entered the race for governor in a field that included DeWine, but he switched to the Senate contest after the presumptive nominee, ex-Treasurer Josh Mandel, suddenly dropped out. Republicans hoped that the state’s rightward drift would give them a strong chance to unseat Brown, but they soon became dispirited by unfavorable polls and what they saw as a weak effort from Renacci.

Team Red was especially pissed that the challenger loaned his campaign $4 million but never spent most of it (almost $3.5 million in loans were repaid to the candidate after the campaign was over), and his actual fundraising proved to be unimpressive. It didn’t help that he managed to attract unhelpful headlines like, “Jim Renacci failed to pay strip club owner for governor campaign flights,” and major outside groups never bothered to spend much money to aid him. Brown ended up winning 53-47, even as DeWine prevailed 50-47 and the GOP swept every other partisan statewide race that same evening.


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Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: We have a deal, at least on infrastructure

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Greg Sargent/WaPo:

Joe Manchin is about to extract his pound of flesh. Here’s what Biden must do now.

This is supposed to represent a big loss to the left because it’s less than Biden originally proposed on concrete infrastructure and doesn’t include the “human infrastructure” priorities in Biden’s agenda — investments in children and families, climate and caregiving infrastructure, etc.

But Democrats are proceeding on two tracks. On one is the bipartisan deal. On the other, Sanders, as Senate Budget Committee chair, is crafting a large package that includes many of those other priorities — this one paid for by corporate tax hikes — and would pass by simple-majority reconciliation later.

By all indications, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a lead negotiator in the bipartisan group, is insisting on this deal — or an exhaustive effort at reaching one — as a precondition for supporting a reconciliation package later.

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AP:

Unvaccinated Missourians fuel COVID: ‘We will be the canary’

As the U.S. emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, Missouri is becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the country: It is seeing an alarming rise in cases because of a combination of the fast-spreading delta variant and stubborn resistance among many people to getting vaccinated.

Intensive care beds are filling up with surprisingly young, unvaccinated patients, and staff members are getting burned out fighting a battle that was supposed to be in its final throes.

The hope among some health leaders is that the rest of the U.S. might at least learn something from Missouri’s plight.

“If people elsewhere in the country are looking to us and saying, ‘No thanks’ and they are getting vaccinated, that is good,” said Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital Springfield, which has been inundated with COVID-19 patients as the variant first identified in India rips through the largely non-immunized community. “We will be the canary.”

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Andre E Johnson/Religion Dispatches:

WHERE DID WHITE EVANGELICALISM’S HATRED OF CRITICAL RACE THEORY REALLY BEGIN?

After his appearance on “Tucker,” [Christopher Rufo] received a call the following day from Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who invited him to come to Washington and assist in drafting the Executive Order that President Trump would issue on September 4, 2020. Reflecting on his work, Rufo remarked, “This entire movement came from nothing,” while Wallace-Wells gives all the credit to Rufo for causing the current ‘CRT controversy.’

However, the truth is that before Rufo “discovered” CRT from the footnotes of documents leaked to him by frustrated employees in anti-bias and diversity training classes, white evangelicals had already been laying the groundwork for the attack on CRT. For instance, the libertarian evangelical blog Truth and Liberty warned fellow evangelicals about CRT in Don’t Let Critical Race Theory Infiltrate the Church. The writer argued that CRT is not conducive to the gospel because of its “Marxist” orientation and its “flawed” definition of racism.

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WaPo:

Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen

Wealthy allies of former president Donald Trump have spent millions on films, rallies and other efforts to tout falsehoods about the 2020 vote.

In this world, ballot reviews like a Republican-commissioned recount now underway in Arizona are about to begin in other key swing states. Conspiracy theories that grow more dizzyingly complex by the day will soon be proven, showing that China or other foreign powers secretly flipped votes for Biden. Trump will be restored as president in months.

These falsehoods are now seeping into civic life, spurring citizens in multiple states to demand that local officials review the 2020 results.

Kim Wyman, the Republican secretary of state in Washington, said her staff contended with the latest barrage of email and calls just last week. “It told us something had transpired online,” she said, adding: “You can’t disprove the negatives that are being thrown out that are absolutely based on nothing.”

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AJC:

Michigan GOP report debunks election fraud claims, even in Georgia

An analysis produced by Michigan Republican senators concluded Wednesday that voters should be confident in the results of the presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won over Republican Donald Trump by 155,000 votes. Biden’s margin of victory was narrower in Georgia, less 12,000 votes.

“I have never doubted that competent, experienced and objective analysis would find what I have said from the beginning that the election was fair and accurate,” Raffensperger said Wednesday. “A similar examination here in Georgia will find that is true as it was in Michigan.”

Instead, some legislators in the Georgia Senate’s Republican majority have said they doubted the integrity of the election, and Raffensperger has become a frequent target of Trump loyalists.

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On Infrastructure, Biden Tests the Limits of Having It Both Ways

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His agreement with Senate centrists, including at least five Republicans, includes just under $600 billion in new federal spending, focused on physical infrastructure like highways and broadband. In the pursuit of enough Republican votes to clear a Senate filibuster, the deal excludes all the president’s proposals to more heavily tax corporations and the rich, much of his push to curb climate change and all his proposed investments in the “human infrastructure” of education, paid leave and child and elder care.

“Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal, and that’s what it means to compromise,” Mr. Biden told reporters in the East Room. “And it reflects something important: It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus.”

That consensus represents a small slice of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, and liberals were quick to call it insufficient. That is why Mr. Biden also said on Thursday that he would not sign the bipartisan agreement unless it was accompanied by a second bill, probably passed with only Democratic votes and funded by some tax increases on corporations and high earners, that would spend heavily on the parts of his agenda that were cut out of the deal at the insistence of Republicans.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Mr. Biden said, just moments after extolling the virtues of consensus. “It’s in tandem.”

Congressional leaders echoed him. “All parties understand, we won’t get enough votes to pass either unless we have enough votes to pass both,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor. “The bottom line is both tracks need to make progress concurrently.”

Top Republicans were quick to denounce the two-step. “That’s not the way to show you’re serious about getting a bipartisan outcome,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said on Thursday. “So I hope our colleagues can recover and get their good-faith efforts back on track.”

White House officials, though, say the president made clear to Republicans throughout the negotiations that he was pursuing both a bipartisan deal and a second bill to pass only with Democratic votes through a process known as budget reconciliation. They do not expect Republicans to walk away from the agreement struck this week.

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They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies.

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They also took aim at the administration of the Republican governor of Wyoming, Mark Gordon, whom hard-right conservatives considered far too moderate and whose candidacy Ms. Gore had opposed in 2018. They targeted a Republican state representative, now the Wyoming speaker of the house, because of his openness to liberalizing marijuana laws — a position Ms. Gore vigorously opposes.

Using her Democratic cover identity, Ms. LaRocca got a job working for a consortium of wealthy liberal donors in Wyoming — the Wyoming Investor Network, or WIN — that had decided to back some moderate Republicans. The job gave her access to valuable information.

“Getting the WIN stuff is really damaging,” said Chris Bell, who worked as a political consultant for the consortium. “It’s the entire strategy. Where the money is going. What we’re doing long term.”

Mr. Seddon, Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca did not respond to requests for comment about the operation or the campaign contributions. Cassie Craven, a lawyer for Ms. Gore, also did not respond to emails or a voice mail message seeking comment about the operation, nor did Ms. Gore herself.

When The Times reached out to political activists and politicians who had come to know Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca, informing them of the couple’s true agenda, some said the news confirmed their own suspicions that the pair might not have been on the level. Others were stunned and said they regretted any part they had played in helping them gain entree to political circles in the West.

George Durazzo Jr., a Colorado businessman and fund-raiser who coaxed the large donations from Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca and shepherded them around Las Vegas before the debate, said he was both angry and embarrassed. He had planned, he said, to take them to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee before the pandemic turned it into a virtual event.

“If they are indeed Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari,” he said, “I was the one who was fooled.”

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