Matt Gaetz’s Constituents Hate Him

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Matt Gaetz’s Constituents Hate Him

Even Floridians don’t like Matt Gaetz.

A mere 21 percent of Floridians responded that they approve of the man they elected to congress while another 57 percent said they flat out disapprove of the job Gaetz has done since being elected, according to a Florida Atlantic University Mainstreet PolCom Lab survey. That’s a far cry from Gaetz’s results in the 2022 election, when he swept Florida’s 1st Congressional District by a margin of 35 percentage points.

The poll comes on the heels of several weeks of high drama sparked and stoked by the far-right congressman, in which he led a charge to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for daring to coordinate a bipartisan effort to avert a government shutdown. Since then, Gaetz has worked to aggressively divide and strong-arm the caucus alongside a minority cohort of conservative colleagues.

All that time in the limelight drew more attention to some of Gaetz’s other scandals, including the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misuse of funds by the congressman.

In February, the Justice Department concluded its own investigation into Gaetz, opting against criminal charges relating to allegations of sex trafficking and sex with a minor, determining that they couldn’t bring a strong enough case to court.

“I am the most investigated man in the United States Congress,” Gaetz said during an October ethics inquiry

Despite all the bad press, Gaetz has trudged ahead, with rumors swirling that the controversial politician may run to unseat Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during the 2026 gubernatorial election. Gaetz has since snubbed the report as “overblown clickbait,” clarifying that his singular focus is getting Donald Trump elected to a second term in the White House.

Failing the longshot bid, Gaetz may be pushed out of politics altogether if he falls short on gathering the numbers to keep his current seat.

“The poll was not great for the congressman, but it’s early and these assessments can change,” Kevin Wagner, a pollster and political science professor at FAU, told Newsweek. “Even people that disapprove can still vote for him if they like the other choices less.”

Ron DeSantis’s team can’t decide how to respond to Nikki Haley’s growing success in the presidential race. The infighting is so bad that some advisers are turning on each other.

Two leaders of DeSantis’s Never Back Down super PAC nearly got into a fistfight during a private meeting last week to discuss how to push back on Haley, NBC News reported Tuesday.

“You have a stick up your ass,” Never Back Down’s top consultant, Jeff Roe, told fellow board member Scott Wagner, according to an anonymous source who was in the room.

“Why don’t you come over here and get it?” demanded Wagner, a longtime DeSantis adviser. He had to be restrained by two other board members.

After the meeting, three close DeSantis allies launched a second super PAC for the Florida governor called Fight Right Inc. The move was partly urged by DeSantis and his wife, Casey, who are growing increasingly frustrated with Never Back Down’s leadership team, NBC reported.

DeSantis was once lauded as the natural successor to Donald Trump, but his campaign has failed to launch. When Haley first announced her candidacy, her support was in the single digits. She was far behind DeSantis, and even further behind front-runner Donald Trump.

But a Monmouth University poll released last week showed that Haley has surpassed DeSantis and now boasts a sizable lead over the Florida governor—even though she still trails the former president by a significant distance. Trump is still comfortably in first place with 46 percent support. But Haley has taken second place with 18 percent. DeSantis, meanwhile, trailed behind at a paltry 7 percent.

DeSantis’s major donors have grown frustrated with his lack of momentum, and one of his biggest former backers is considering switching to team Haley. Billionaire Ken Griffin, a Republican megadonor, told Bloomberg last week that he is “actively contemplating” donating to Haley’s campaign.

Griffin was DeSantis’s biggest donor during the 2022 election, giving $5 million to his gubernatorial reelection campaign. Griffin also repeatedly said he would “love” to see DeSantis run for president in 2024. But Griffin changed his mind in September, withdrawing his support from DeSantis in part due to the governor’s weird feud with Disney.

Biotech millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy seems to be making all the wrong moves on his Iowa tour, raising the question—is the GOP presidential candidate even trying to win?

With the January 15 Iowa caucuses around the corner, Ramaswamy is still trailing behind his Republican opponents, failing to curry favor with new audiences or differentiate himself enough from Trump, in a way that has relegated him to mid-to-high single-digit percentage points.

“If viability were the reason to stay in a race, he’s long since left that behind,” David Kochel, a Republican strategist, told the Associated Press. “If you like Vivek Ramaswamy and what he is saying in this campaign, you already have a candidate, and his name is Donald Trump.”

Ramaswamy’s tactics in the battleground state are questionably counterintuitive for someone actually trying to get his foot in the White House.

On Monday, Ramaswamy nearly begged a diner full of Iowa voters to ask him about his controversial and baseless foreign policy positions, which rival Nikki Haley slammed as Putin-centric during the last GOP debate. “Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president,” Haley said.

Still, one voter took Ramaswamy up on it. “My foreign policy is clear: Stay out of World War III; declare economic independence from Communist China,” Ramaswamy responded.

Yet there may be more to the entrepreneur’s failures in the battleground state than just his eyebrow-raising policy positions. In fact, Ramaswamy’s campaign has spent just a fraction of its marketing budget, booking only $162,000 worth of ads compared to the $8 million it said it would earlier this month, according to data from the media tracking firm AdImpact.

That’s a far cry from the amount invested by the other Republican presidential candidates. So far, Haley and her allied super PAC have spent nearly $3.5 million on advertising while DeSantis and his allies have spent more than $3.3 million, reported the AP.

It appears that Donald Trump has crafted a win-win situation for himself out of the gag order in his federal election subversion trial.

On Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals indicated that it may pare back the October 17 gag order preventing the former president and his team from talking smack about court staff, the prosecution, and any potential witnesses as he runs for a second term in the White House. Still, the panel noted, Trump is not above the law and should be restricted from engaging in witness intimidation. 

“There’s a balance that has to be undertaken here, and it’s a very difficult balance,” said Judge Patricia Millett, who ruled on the appeal, according to The Washington Post.  “We’ve got to use a careful scalpel here and not step into really sort of skewing the political arena, don’t we?”

But either way that the panel rules, Trump will likely come out on top. If Trump wins the appeal, he’ll have an open floor to vilify special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution behind two of Trump’s criminal trials. Previously, Trump has lambasted Smith as a “lunatic” and referred to his staff as “thugs.”

However, if Trump loses the appeal, it will effectively add a new weapon to his arsenal on the campaign trail, the claim that the state is preventing him from running for president again. As CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote, this is part of the former president’s larger assault on American institutions. “It’s hard to see how the legal system escapes the fate of other institutions of accountability whose images have been tarnished after seeking to contain or expose the ex-president’s unique brand of rule breaking,” Collinson argued. 

Trump’s legal team has argued that restricting his speech in any matter is an unconstitutional assault to his freedom of political speech, but that may not fly with the judge’s panel, which is responsible for the scope of rights permitted to a criminal defendant, especially one accused of thwarting the 2020 election, reported CNN.

Meanwhile, the original gag order, issued by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, never prevented Trump from attacking his opponents on the campaign trail. Instead, it explicitly permitted the former president to assail any of his formal political rivals, from President Joe Biden to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has been charged with four felonies related to his efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election results. He has pleaded not guilty.

Florida Republicans have introduced a bill to make it even harder to pass ballot initiatives, ahead of a crucial vote for abortion access in the state.

State Representative Rick Roth quietly introduced a measure in early November to raise the threshold for ballot initiatives to 66.7 percent of votes. Florida already requires 60 percent of voters to support amending the state constitution, meaning the minority rules the Sunshine State. But Roth’s bill would make it even harder to ratify amendments.

Roth and his fellow Republicans argue that the new threshold is necessary to ensure “broader public support” for amendments. But what’s more likely is that they want to ensure certain issues never succeed at the ballot box.

One such issue is abortion access. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban went before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds the law, then an even more restrictive measure banning abortion at six weeks—before most people know they are pregnant—will go into effect. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the hugely unpopular bill in April.

The pro-abortion group Floridians Protecting Freedom is working to get an abortion rights referendum on the state’s 2024 ballot. The group has collected a little more than half the signatures necessary to get on the ballot, but it already has enough for the state Supreme Court to review the amendment for a potential vote.

If it succeeds, then abortion protections would likely be enshrined in the state constitution, overriding any laws the legislature has passed. A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases—more than enough to defeat the state’s 60 percent minimum.

Hence the Republican need for Roth’s bill to raise the minimum to 67 percent. Roth introduced a similar measure last year that easily passed the state House, but it failed in the Senate.

Republicans are panicking about their ability to block abortion, and it’s no secret why. Every time an abortion-related measure is on a ballot, voters consistently choose to increase protections for the procedure, even in otherwise red states.

Most recently, Ohio voters chose overwhelmingly to enshrine abortion in the state constitution. The November ballot initiative came just a few months after Ohioans handily defeated a Republican attempt to raise the ballot initiative threshold to 60 percent.

House Republicans are trying to wrap up their impeachment effort against Joe Biden by January, a move that could disrupt attempts to avert a government shutdown.

Republicans have sought for months to prove that the president is guilty of influence peddling and corruption. The GOP’s lengthy investigation and impeachment proceedings have yet to produce any actual evidence of Biden’s wrongdoing. But House Republicans are hoping to finish the impeachment inquiry by January and then decide whether to file formal articles of impeachment.

“We get those depositions done this year and … then we can decide on whether or not there’s articles,” House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan told Politico in a Tuesday story.

But that schedule would run right up against one of two deadlines for the government budget. Biden signed an eleventh-hour temporary spending bill last week, delaying a potential government shutdown until 2024. Congress has until January 19 to pass appropriations bills for some federal agencies, and until February 2 to determine funding for the rest.

This could spell doom for the impeachment effort. The Republican majority in the House is razor-thin, and the entire caucus would need to vote unanimously for impeachment articles to pass.

It’s unclear that the impeachment backers have the votes. Many centrist Republicans have indicated they don’t think the impeachment inquiry turned up sufficient proof. Meanwhile, there are 18 Republicans who won in districts that Biden carried in 2020. Backing impeachment could put those 18 in vulnerable positions ahead of the 2024 elections.

“Any kind of an impeachment puts our Biden people in a really tough spot,” a GOP lawmaker involved in the investigation told Politico, speaking anonymously. “Impeachment hurts us politically—it makes our base feel better.”

Even some hard-line Republicans are skeptical of the impeachment inquiry. Colorado Representative Ken Buck, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, has been an outspoken critic of the impeachment effort.

In July, Buck accused then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy of using “impeachment theater” to distract from his efforts to reach a deal on the federal budget.

“What he’s doing is he’s saying, ‘There’s a shiny object over here, and we’re really going to focus on that. We just need to get all these things done so that we can focus on the shiny object,’” Buck said. “Most of us are concerned about spending.”

Buck has decided not to seek reelection, so he won’t be worried about any consequences from voting against articles of impeachment. But other budget hawks may follow his lead.

Elon Musk is going scorched earth on Media Matters after the news watchdog revealed that X (the social media network formerly known as Twitter) was placing ads from reputable companies alongside antisemitic, pro-Nazi posts.

On Monday, Musk filed a lawsuit against the company in a U.S. District Court in Texas, alleging that the publication defamed his platform by publishing its investigation.

The report’s explosive findings resulted in the mass hemorrhage of some of X’s biggest and markedly safe advertisers, such as Apple, IBM, Disney, Lionsgate, and Paramount.

“​​The overall effect on advertisers and users was to create the false, misleading perception that these types of pairings were common, widespread, and alarming,” the lawsuit reads. “Media Matters hid its manipulations through omissions, deceptive image selections, misrepresentations, and secrecy settings.”

In a legal complaint, the company argued that the Media Matters investigation “exploited” the platform’s features and algorithm in order to “force a situation in which a brand ad post appeared adjacent to fringe content.”

X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who has faced immense pressure to resign as chief executive amid the scandal, said she’s siding with the company. “If you know me, you know I’m committed to truth and fairness. Here’s the truth,” Yaccarino said.

“Not a single authentic user on X saw IBM’s, Comcast’s, or Oracle’s ads next to the content in Media Matters’ article. Only 2 users saw Apple’s ad next to the content, at least one of which was Media Matters. Data wins over manipulation or allegations. Don’t be manipulated. Stand with X.”

On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that his office was opening an investigation into the publication’s report, claiming he was “extremely troubled” by allegations that Media Matters had manipulated data on the social media platform.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who introduced an emergency rule earlier this year to ban health care for transgender adults in his state, also joined the legal charge, posting that his team “is looking into this matter.”

“Great!,” responded Musk.

Media Matters appeared unthreatened by the challenge, shrugging off the lawsuit in favor of standing behind its reporting. “This is a frivolous lawsuit meant to bully X’s critics into silence,” Media Matters’ president, Angelo Carusone, told Reuters in an emailed statement.

After Musk initially threatened the lawsuit on Friday, Carusone called Musk a “bully who threatens meritless lawsuits.”

“Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win,” Carusone said.

Apparently not satisfied with endorsing one horrific conspiracy theory, Elon Musk on Monday resurrected another: Pizzagate.

In 2016, a man opened fire in the Washington, D.C., restaurant Comet Ping Pong. He believed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that prominent Democrats were running a child sex trafficking ring partly through the pizza restaurant. Pizzagate’s clearest ideological successor is QAnon.

Musk tweeted Monday that “Media Matters is pure evil,” quoting a post that pointed out the media watchdog group was founded by liberal political consultant David Brock. One X (formerly Twitter) user replied that Brock used to date Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis.

“Weird,” Musk commented.

Musk’s animosity towards Media Matters is due to a report the group published last week. Media Matters found that X has been placing ads for brands including Apple, Bravo, IBM, Oracle, and Xfinity next to posts that promote Hitler and Nazi beliefs. Multiple major advertisers have yanked their business from X while they look into the report’s findings.

This isn’t the first time Musk has shared a dangerous lie. It’s not even the first time this month: Just last week, an X user posted that Jewish communities have pushed “diabolical hatred against whites,” a neo-Nazi talking point.

Musk replied, “You have said the actual truth.” About an hour later, he tried to claim he was only criticizing the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish nonprofit Musk has threatened to sue for monitoring hate speech on X.

Two rulings by Trump-appointed judges could gut the Voting Rights Act, dramatically reducing the protections it offers to millions of voters of color.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky ruled in February 2022 that only the U.S. attorney general, the head of the Justice Department, can bring lawsuits about Section 2 of the act, which forbids voting practices that discriminate based on race. Rudofsky, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, dismissed a case brought by advocacy groups on behalf of Black voters in Arkansas.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Rudofsky’s ruling on Monday, with Judge David Stras, another Trump appointee, writing the majority opinion.

“For much of the last half-century, courts have assumed that [Section 2] is privately enforceable,” Stras wrote. “A deeper look has revealed that this assumption rests on flimsy footing.” This suggests that no one had previously bothered to look closely at the Voting Rights Act for more than 50 years, an assertion that simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

Stras was joined by Judge Raymond Gruender, a George W. Bush appointee. Judge Lavenski Smith, another Bush appointee, dissented. He argued that nonfederal individuals should be allowed to bring Section 2 lawsuits until the Supreme Court or Congress formally changes the statute.

If allowed to stand, the two rulings would gut the protections offered by the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups, individual voters, and political parties would not be able to challenge discriminatory voting practices. This includes redistricting gerrymandered maps and voter ID requirements.

But Smith’s dissenting opinion pointed to how the case is likely to go. The case is widely expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court. While it’s never clear how the conservative-leaning court will land, the nine justices gave a major hint earlier this year.

The high court ruled in June that Alabama’s Republican-drawn congressional districts discriminated against Black voters under the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices for the 5–4 decision. It’s possible they could do so again when the Arkansas case comes before them.

A growing number of politicians have decided that the rat race to the highest echelons of government is simply not worth the effort anymore.

Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer announced his retirement last month, joining 28 other members of the House who’ve recently decided to pull the plug on their legislative careers. Other recent evacuees of Capitol Hill include Texas Representative Michael Burgess and Arizona Representative Debbie Lesko.

The mass desertion follows several weeks of chaos, including historic infighting among the Republican caucus that led to the ousting of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as well as actual fighting between McCarthy and Representative Tim Burchett, one of the members who voted for him to lose the coveted position.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol Building, Senator Markwayne Mullin threatened to brawl with a committee witness, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Sean O’Brien.

Amid the high drama, the House has teetered on the brink of a government shutdown several times over the last several months, opting each time to dismiss it with a stopgap spending measure rather than get to work on a bona fide budget. After passing yet another stopgap resolution, parts of the government will run out of funding in mid-January.

So far, 19 Democrats and 10 Republicans have decided to disconnect from the House, though out of that number, 16 members are planning to run for separate offices, reported The Washington Post.

That may not be an atypical resignation number for any year, but some politicians argue that the value of those retirements, which constitute several senior members and signify a sizable loss of expertise, will be felt for years to come.

In 2021, almost 46 percent of House members had served for less than five years, according to data from the Center for Effective Lawmaking—up 12 percent from nearly two decades prior.

“It’s not the quantity of retirements. It’s the quality,” former Representative Steve Israel told the outlet. “These are people who really understand how to get things done.”

But the recent slew of resignations could just be the tip of the iceberg, reported the Post, which hypothesized that another wave could be forthcoming after the holidays.

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