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Sensemaker: Trump tracked

Sensemaker: Trump tracked

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Israeli officials and Palestinian militants agreed a ceasefire after three days of fighting prompted by the arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader on the West Bank. 
  • China ended climate cooperation with the US as part of its response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit last week to Taiwan.
  • Two campers found a gravity-defying dry-stone sculpture in the shape of a ring on a remote fell in the English Lakes.

Trump Tracked

America’s battle for the truth grinds on. Last week a Texan jury struck a blow for sanity by fining Alex Jones $45 million for calling the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax. But in the bigger showdown over the 2020 election, alternative facts still count.

Donald Trump is using his endorsements of Trumpist candidates in primaries for dozens of state and federal races to measure and enforce his influence on the Republican Party. 

The question. Eighteen months since the January 6th insurrection, can Trump still drag nominees into a parallel universe where the last presidential election was stolen, the next one will right the wrong and he’s in charge? 

The short answer is yes.

The candidates. Our research shows that the candidates Trump has backed in the primaries so far have done better than their rivals:

  • 121 of 126 Trump-backed candidates for the House of Representatives that have already contested primaries won. 
  • 16 Trump-backed Senate candidates have won their primaries.
  • 14 Trumpist candidates for secretary of state have banded together under the banner of the America First Coalition. While not all are officially endorsed by Trump, they’re united in maintaining that the 2020 election was stolen. So far, six have won, seven have lost, and one has yet to face the voters.
  • Last week in Arizona, ground zero for the stolen election fallacy, Trumpists won Republican primaries for attorney general, governor, senator and secretary of state. Abe Ramadeh, for attorney general, said on the eve of the vote: “We all know our elections have been hijacked.”

In some cases Trump’s backing seems to be decisive. In Ohio’s senate primary it led to a sharp uptick in support for the writer JD Vance, who went on to win whether he truly wanted the endorsement or not. 

The man. The clearest indicator that Trump remains de facto leader of the Republican Party is his consistent lead in polls as a presidential contender. He recently suggested to New York magazine that his mind was made up, the only question being whether to announce before or after the midterms. But by no means all Republicans would welcome a Trump candidacy, which could hurt them outside their silos. 

The caveats. 

  • Late endorsements. The Economist gives Trump’s candidates a primary win rate of nearly 80 per cent, but his endorsements have sometimes come as late as 24 hours before polling day, handed to candidates who by that point are already likely to win. 
  • Reluctant recipients. His list of approved candidates includes Kay Granger, a veteran congresswoman from Texas who said Trump should “move on” after his defeat in 2020 – and John Boozman of Arkansas, who previously said Trump “bears some responsibility for what happened” on 6 January.
  • Backfire. Trump is a polariser. His involvement would give Democrats a chance to shift the focus away from Biden’s failings and paint the Republican Party as dangerous and extreme. “Trump on the stump day after day as a 2024 candidate changes the subject, and gives Democrats a juicy target,” says the political scientist Larry Sabato. “It will energise deflated Democrats more than it will make any real difference on the Republican side since GOP voters are already energised.” There’s evidence of Democrats working to amplify pro-Trump candidates’ messages to bring about what they believe will be easier races in November.

January 6 – Congress’s primetime hearings on the January 6th insurrection should also help Democrat turnout and peel wavering Republicans away from the Trump camp. But they won’t convert Trump stalwarts; nor will they necessarily inoculate the US against future attempts to subvert the system. 

The counters. Elections to the secretary of state position are often overlooked but they’ve taken on new significance since Trump’s 2020 attempt to make Georgia’s secretary of state “find 11,780 votes”. If enough candidates who deny Trump lost in 2020 win, it could make a second Trump coup attempt in 2024 more likely. Of the six who’ve won so far, four are in swing states.


Biden’s bill
What started as a $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill ended up as the $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act, but it passed yesterday after an all-night session in the US Senate that puts real money behind US climate mitigation for the first time. It also gives Medicare new powers to cap drug prices, limits elderly diabetics’ monthly insulin costs to $35 and – because private equity people don’t get rich by giving up – preserves a tax loophole that lets them earn millions at a special low rate not available to mortals. Not a single Republican backed this messy package of subsidies and incentives. They lined up instead to say it would fuel inflation, which it might. But Joe Manchin of West Virginia backed it in return for oil and gas protections in the smallprint, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona held out successfully for the carried interest income loophole beloved of her private equity backers. Result: 51-50 in the Senate. Eyes on the prize: $370 billion for EV rebates and wind and solar incentives that could cut US CO2 emissions by up to 44 per cent next to 2005 levels by 2030. 


Driverless in Wuhan
Real robotaxis are coming to China, without safety drivers even in the passenger seat. Authorities granted permits to Baidu, the search engine, to operate two fleets of five totally driverless taxis – one each in Wuhan and Chongqing – starting today. Driverless taxis already operate in parts of Beijing, but with safety drivers in the passenger seat. The world’s first fully driverless taxis operate in San Francisco courtesy of Cruise LLC., a unit of General Motors, but only in limited areas and at night. China is playing catch-up. The tech giants’ investment in autonomous driving has been huge but so are the potential rewards. They envisage nothing less than replacing the entire global taxi-driving sector with algorithms that work for free.

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Archie’s legacy
There is nothing worse than the loss of a child. The pain of losing a child after months of public legal battles over his medical care can only be imagined. Relatives of Archie Battersbee, a 12 year-old whose life support was withdrawn on Saturday, have called for changes in the way these cases are managed in Britain, saying “no parent or family must go through this again”. Archie was found unconscious at his home in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, on April 7, apparently after taking part in a dangerous online challenge. He remained in a coma as his parents launched legal proceedings against Barts Health NHS trust, with the support of campaigning group the Christian Legal Centre, first to maintain his life support after doctors declared him to be “brainstem-dead” and then in an unsuccessful attempt to move Archie to a hospice. Similarly difficult cases between parents and medical staff also led to calls for change, which may now be coming – the Department of Health and Social Care is commissioning a review into the care of seriously ill children, with a focus on better independent mediation to avoid the “adversarial conflict” of court.

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

German sun
Germany has reported record levels of solar energy production for three months in a row, but on bright days its grid is having to cut off solar power plants to prevent high-voltage transmission lines becoming overloaded. Wind and solar currently account for 42 per cent of German power supply. The plan is to boost that to 80 per cent by the end of the decade but in the meantime a cold December looms as restricted Russian supply prevents the normal build-up of stored natural gas. A rush is on across Europe to source gas elsewhere, but Germans are also being encouraged to cut their own domestic use by 20 per cent, and their chancellor has warned that a plan to end German nuclear power production this year “may no longer be viable”. The decommissioning of three remaining nuclear stations that produce 6 per cent of Germany’s energy is on hold. 


Amnesty in the dock
An Amnesty International report that accuses Ukraine of violating international humanitarian law by locating forces in residential areas, schools and hospitals has provoked a furious reaction in Ukraine. Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch was not involved in the investigation or the writing of the report. The head of the branch, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned saying she opposed the report’s publication as a propaganda gift to Russia. President Zelensky has accused Amnesty of distracting attention from Russia’s responsibility for the war, noting for example that it hasn’t reported on Russia’s use of the Zaporizhya nuclear power plant as a military object, potentially putting the whole of Europe at risk. Amnesty apologised on Sunday for the “distress and anger” caused by the report but said it stands by its findings, adding: “Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations.” At least that’s clear.

Week ahead


8/8 – Conservative leadership contender Liz Truss tours Essex to meet party members as her rival Rishi Sunak heads to Chester, Bury and Carlisle; Met Police report on strip-searching of children released; former Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs goes on trial accused of attacking ex-girlfriend and her sister; 2022 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, 9/8 – Conservative leadership hustings in Darlington; Scotland results day for students who sat National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams, 10/8 – Sunak interviewed by BBC’s Nick Robinson at 7pm BST, while Truss appears on GB News with Alastair Stewart at 5pm BST; Suella Braverman, attorney general, delivers speech to Policy Exchange on equalities and rights, 11/8 – UK’s Heathrow airport monthly traffic figures; Conservative leadership hustings in Cheltenham; NHS monthly key services performance data released; Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, 12/8 – First estimates of UK’s growth in second quarter; Unite workers on Glasgow Subway to strike on Rangers match day; “Glorious Twelfth” marks start of grouse shooting season; Kent and Sussex hosepipe ban takes effect, 13/8 – Train drivers at nine rail companies in Aslef union go on strike in dispute over pay.


8/8 – Gustavo Petro sworn in as Colombia’s first left-wing president; US secretary of state Antony Blinken makes speech on US policy in Africa; Ashura; BioNTech releases second quarter results, 9/8 – Kenya elections; Rudy Giuliani testifies in front of Georgia grand jury investigating 2020 election tampering; World Health Organization publishes first position paper on brain health; Independence Day public holiday in Singapore, 10/8 – EU import ban on Russian coal comes into effect, 11/8 – British skipper goes on trial in Le Havre accused on illegally fishing in French waters; Copenhagen donors’ conference on Ukraine; second multi-sport European Championships begin in Munich; International Energy Agency and Opec publish monthly oil market report; Japan Mountain Day public holiday, 12/8 – Perseid meteor shower, 14/8 – Pakistan Independence Day public holiday marking 75 years since end of British rule.

Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what you think. Send an email to sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

James Wilson

Additional reporting by Giles Whittell, Nina Kuryata, Jessica Winch and Eleanor Barzun

Photographs Getty Images

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