Axios Sneak Peek
November 27, 2022
Welcome back to Sneak. The weekday team is here subbing in for Josh Kraushaar, your usual Sunday Sneak pilot.
- Smart Brevity™ count: 930 words ... 3.5 minutes.
1 big thing: The growing, unchecked power of state legislatures
Half of all state legislatures are on track to have veto-proof majorities, handing the party in power a historic level of control over elections, redistricting, abortion rights, gun laws and other major policies, Axios' Stef Kight writes.
Why it matters: Supermajorities often boast sweeping power to amend state constitutions and overrule governors. In Wisconsin, where Republicans fell barely short of a supermajority in the midterms, a governor's veto is the only check standing in the way of a statewide abortion ban.
Between the lines: The balance of power in state governments could be even more critical with the Supreme Court poised to weigh in on the "independent state legislature theory," a once-fringe doctrine that would give legislatures sole control over election and redistricting rules.
- After the 2020 election, former President Trump and his allies sought to exploit the theory to allow GOP-controlled legislatures to overrule the popular vote in key battleground states.
- Lawmakers in Kansas and North Carolina who have gerrymandered maps to favor Republicans have also cited the theory in an effort to block state courts from intervening.
What they're saying: Tom Wolf, deputy director at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, called the independent state legislature theory and expanded veto-proof majorities "a perfect storm" that would erode "democratic controls and accountability for actions of state legislatures."
What to watch: Before the midterms, 21 states had veto-proof majorities, a vote margin that varies by state. At least 25 are poised to have supermajorities once results are finalized.
- That would give Republicans veto-proof majorities in 17 states and Democrats in nine, including New York, where results are still coming in.
- Vermont, Delaware, Illinois, Florida and Ohio are projected to be added to the list, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
- While supermajorities aren't always necessary when the party in power also holds the governor's mansion, even the threat of a veto "transfers significant policymaking power to state lawmakers," NCSL's Ben Williams writes.
By the numbers: After a decade of Republican dominance, Democrats finally started clawing back control of state governments in this year's midterms. With results still coming in, Republicans control 57 out of 98 state chambers, while Democrats control 40.
2. 🤫 GOP hushed on Trump's white nationalist dinner
Republican lawmakers have largely remained silent in the wake of former President Trump's dinner with antisemitic rapper Ye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.
- Spokespeople for nearly two dozen House and Senate Republicans — including party leaders, co-chairs of caucuses and task forces focused on Judaism or antisemitism and sponsors of legislation to combat antisemitic hate crimes — did not respond to requests for comment.
Why it matters: The dynamic highlights the stranglehold Trump still has on the Republican Party outside a small group of vocal critics, even in the aftermath of poor performances by his handpicked candidates in the midterm elections.
Driving the news: Only a handful of Republican members of Congress have condemned the dinner.
- Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called it "indefensible," while Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted: "[H]as [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] condemned this yet? Or nah?" Both are vocal Trump critics leaving office in January.
- Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), the GOP co-chair of the Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values, told Axios of the dinner: "I am appalled."
- Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), likely the next chair of the House Oversight Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Trump "needs better judgment in who he dines with."
Several potential Republican candidates for president in 2024 also spoke out:
- Trump administration Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called antisemitism a "cancer" in a tweet on Saturday but made no specific references to the dinner.
- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie responded more directly, saying the meeting is "another example of an awful lack of judgment" and makes Trump an "untenable" candidate to retake the White House.
3. 👀 Scoop: Kemp launches federal PAC
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create Hardworking Americans Inc., a federal PAC that will allow the Republican to boost his national profile, Axios' Emma Hurt has learned.
Why it matters: Kemp's unique success defeating a Trump-backed opponent in a primary and a Democrat in a key battleground has made him something of a case study for Republicans. It's also paved the way for speculation about his future national ambitions.
- The new PAC could set Kemp up for a federal run, including for U.S. Senate.
- Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will be defending his seat in 2026, the same year Kemp's gubernatorial term will end.
4. 💰 Cash floods Georgia
Even with Democrats already in control of the Senate, money is pouring into the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker:
- Warnock had just over $29 million on hand as of Nov. 16, raising an astonishing $52 million since late October.
- Walker had over $9.8 million on hand, raising nearly $21 million in the same time period.
5. 🗣️ Sunday best: Trump's "heart of darkness"
Marc Short, former Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, condemned Trump's dinner with Nick Fuentes, telling CNN's "State of the Union":
"Ever since the election in 2020, I think the president's descended deeper into heart of darkness here. And I think that it's a big challenge. And I think that it's another reason why I think Republicans are looking in a different direction in 2024."
📬 Thanks for starting your week with us. This newsletter was edited by Zachary Basu and copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.