It’s 2016 all over again, following a frozen Iowa caucus where Donald Trump told Republicans to get on the Trump Train… before it’s too late.
Trump’s top two rivals, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, are both staying in the race, whereas Vivek Ramaswamy, who spent much of his campaign running as Trump’s understudy, dropped out and endorsed Trump.
It’s hard to think of a better outcome for the former president; Alex Titus, an advisor to Trump’s former super PAC, called Iowa “a massive victory for Donald Trump,” and added that “the only ones surprised by the results are in the consultant class.” Trump narrowly eclipsed the 50 percent threshold many viewed as critical to serving as a strong showing; Haley and DeSantis virtually tied for second at around 20 percent each. Trump managed to carry all but one of Iowa’s ninety-nine counties (Haley won one county by one vote). The contest next heads to New Hampshire, where Haley is promising a “two-person race” between her and Trump.
At Trump’s election night party in Des Moines, I saw a wide range of congressional hopefuls and incumbents who are looking to curry favor with The Donald. Republicans from all across the country flocked to Iowa, some fleeing the oppressive cold of North Dakota, where it was -60 degrees in some parts, and others sacrificing sunny Florida, where it was 70 degrees in Tallahassee, on Caucus Day.
Hill vets like Jim Jordan and Byron Donalds mingled with military veterans like Representatives Ronny Jackson, Mike Waltz and Derrick Van Orden and Montana Senate candidate Tim Sheehy, along with congressional rookies like Mike Collins. The congressional presence was notable as part of Trump’s robust Election Day surrogate operation. On stage, Trump made sure that he shouted out not only “Brick Suit” on stage, but also his former 2024 rival Doug Burgum and his highest-profile Iowa backer, Attorney General Brenna Bird — with hints that Burgum may join his cabinet and that Bird may be Iowa’s governor down the road. Carrots are still available, Trump seemed to say, but there is a sell-by date.
In the days before and immediately following the Caucus, Trump has rolled out support from former foes like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to GOP mainstays like Darrell Issa, John Barrasso and Jim Risch. As for Trump’s fellow uber-rich Republicans in the donor class, Puck News reported that Trump’s campaign is giving GOP megadonors until a February 16 fundraiser to get on board, or “it will be noted on their permanent record — and any chance of forgiveness will get much more remote thereafter.”
DeSantis and Haley have to hope that strong showings in New Hampshire and/or South Carolina will give their allies something to write home — and checks — about before that fundraiser. Otherwise, it may be so over for them.
On our radar
HE’S MAKING A LIST The Houthis have once again been added to the US’s foreign terrorist list as they launch attacks against shipping vessels in the Red Sea. They were first put on the terror list under President Donald Trump and were removed early in Joe Biden’s presidency.
‘SCARED AS HECK’ Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on ABC’s The View on Wednesday to express her concerns about a second Trump presidency. Harris asserted that she is earning her and Biden’s reelection by “communicat[ing] what we achieved” to the American people.
CHEVRON UNDER FIRE The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case about fishing regulations that could lead to an upheaval of the authority federal agencies have to interpret and act on laws.
John Kerry jets out
John Kerry, the man who’s kept his finger in the dyke of climate change — which he’s called an “urgent threat to health, food supplies, biodiversity and livelihoods across the globe” — is calling it quits on the position he’s held for three years as President Joe Biden’s special climate envoy. A replacement has not been named.
Kerry couldn’t have picked a better time to make his departure known; the news comes during a week in which America is experiencing record-cold temperatures. The AP reports that the stunningly low temps are straining electrical grids and putting “electricity supplies at risk.” Mere weeks ago, reported the New York Times, Kerry announced “the United States supported a phaseout of fossil fuels” — something Cockburn thinks the folks in the Midwest enduring wind chills of minus-thirty degrees might take issue with.
But no matter: Kerry is moving onto greener pastures, reportedly to work on Biden’s reelection campaign, where, according to the Times, he’ll “stress the administration’s climate achievements.”
Topping the list — NPR’s, anyway — of said achievements is Kerry’s “relationships with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua” that “seem to be important” and involved the pair talking “frequently the past few years.” The Wall Street Journal, however, noted in December that China keeps building coal plants, and as Kerry “keeps demanding the end of fossil fuels … the world continues to blow through his apocalyptic warnings.”
Cockburn is not one to dance on a guy’s grave. Climate Envoy Kerry’s shameless hypocrisy is awe-inspiring. He spent the last decade manufacturing a climate crisis while globetrotting in his carbon-dioxide-spewing family jet to “fix” it. When the gig is up — Kerry told a reporter yesterday who questioned the size of the carbon footprint he left by his jet-setting to the World Economic Forum, “That’s a stupid question” — the eighty-year-old drifts gently into the stratosphere where he can peacefully watch the Earth, and Biden’s campaign, combust from the comfort of his five million-dollar homes.
Debates are so overrated
Donald Trump started a trend by dodging primary debates.
“Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” Nikki Haley told her supporters Monday night, after coming third in the Caucus. The next morning, she gave an ultimatum ahead of a scheduled debate on ABC News in New Hampshire on Thursday: “The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden.” ABC promptly canceled their debate last night — and this morning CNN followed suit, as a spokesperson said the network is “no longer moving forward” with their scheduled debate on Sunday. Only Ron DeSantis was committed to attending both events.
For those of you keeping tabs, here’s what happened: the Republican National Committee said they wouldn’t be sanctioning any more debates in December. Then CNN announced they would host a debate in Iowa on January 10 and one at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire on January 21. St. Anselm College said they had not been contacted by CNN about hosting a debate for them. Instead, ABC News said they were hosting a debate at St. Anselm on January 18, in partnership with the state’s Republican Party. CNN changed course, clarifying that their January 21 debate would in fact take place at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. Trump, the front-runner, never committed to doing any of these debates. The January 10 CNN clash in Iowa was between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Now all debates are off… and CNN will be hosting a town hall with Nikki Haley at New England College on January 18, at the time of the originally scheduled ABC debate. There is also a CNN town hall with Ron DeSantis at the same venue tonight.
Confused? You’re not alone. It’s not clear how helpful or constructive another DeSantis-Haley tête-à-tête would be for either candidate, given the lack of meaningful breakout moments in the previous five contests.
“Donald Trump won’t debate. Joe Biden won’t debate. Nikki Haley won’t debate. I will debate anyone. Because democracy dies without debate,” tweeted attention-starved Democratic primary candidate Congressman Dean Phillips.
Many other countries have copied the American model of televised debates — but not all democracies do it. Can we live without them?