Sinema goes solo

“Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” said Kyrsten Sinema when she explained this morning’s surprise announcement that she is changing her party affiliation from Democrat to independent. That assurance poses a question: why leave?

“Registering as an independent and showing up to work as an independent is a reflection of who I’ve always been,” she explained in a video clip on Twitter. In an article for the Arizona Republic she went further: “I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent.”

Sinema has always had an independent streak, and it is in keeping with what Spectator contributor Stephen Miller identified as her very Gen X preference to avoid boomer-on-boomer culture wars. But is temperament alone a satisfactory explanation for the move?

Electoral politics — and a looming re-election bid in 2024 — is surely a bigger part of the story than Sinema is letting on. Sinema has had run-ins with progressives in her state and there had been talk of Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego challenging Sinema from the left in the Senate primary. Earlier this year, Data for Progress pushed polling showing dire favorability ratings for Sinema among Democratic primary voters. By switching her affiliation, she swerves that particular obstacle.

Gallego released a fiery statement this morning criticizing Sinema for putting “her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans” and saying his state needs “senators who will put Arizonans ahead of big drug companies and Wall Street bankers.”

For now, though, Democrats will be less concerned with 2024 and more interested in whether Sinema’s move will make a meaningful difference to how the Senate operates. And while the switch puts a dampener on the week in which Raphael Warnock triumphed in Georgia, it is far from a game-changer when it comes to day-to-day life in the Senate.

Asked about the consequences of the move by Politico, Sinema said, “I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure… I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”

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McCarthy’s magic number

Kevin McCarthy’s magic number is 218 — that’s how many votes he needs next month to become Speaker of the House. I have a profile of McCarthy up on the site today in which I look at his relationships-first approach to politics and ask whether it will be enough to secure the job he has long coveted. “You can’t have too many friends,” McCarthy was fond of saying when he was majority whip. A decade on, that mantra is truer than ever.

If there were any doubt that McCarthy still has a lot of work to do to secure the votes he needs, a reminder came last night in the form of a letter from seven members of the House Freedom Caucus outlining their requirements for a speaker candidate. They include reinstating the motion to vacate, which would allow House members to force a vote to oust a sitting speaker, a promise that leadership stays out of primaries, and play hardball on must-pass bills.

Jim Baker’s curious cameo

There is a lot to digest in the Twitter files being combed through by journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. But one curious DC detail sticks out: the revelation that Jim Baker, former FBI general counsel, was, in his role as Twitter deputy general counsel, filtering what Taibbi and Weiss had access to — and doing so without Elon Musk’s knowledge or approval. When Musk found out, he fired him. But as my colleague Freddy Gray writes, “Any intelligent commentator who doesn’t recognize this as a potentially enormous scandal is being willfully blind at best.”

What you should be reading today

Matthew Foldi: All I want for Christmas is a TikTok ban
Ben Domenech: How to end the permanent pandemic
William Murchison: Down with the American morality police
Ruy Teixiera, the Liberal Patriot: The Democrats’ tenuous hold on the suburbs
Jack Shafer, Politico: The empty threat from the New York Times union
Nick Catoggio, the Dispatch: How Russia jammed up Biden on Brittney Griner’s release

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 41.2 percent
Disapprove: 54.1 percent
Net approval: -12.9 (RCP Average)

Are we living in end times?
Yes: 39 percent
No: 58 percent (Pew)

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