The Surge

Slate’s guide to the most important figures in politics this week.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Surge, a newsletter than will not relent until the fraudulent election of 2020 is overtu—What’s that? We won our Republican newsletter primary? In that case: This is a newsletter that has always believed Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.

We start the roundup this week with a fresh, non–Rick Scott thorn in Mitch McConnell’s side.

Lindsey Graham.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Ting Shen/Pool/Getty Images.

Rank 1

1. Lindsey Graham

One neat trick to annoy everyone.

Republican leaders and campaign officials are trying their best to keep voter focus on inflation, crime, and immigration—and away from abortion. It came as an unwelcome surprise, then, when South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham held a press conference on Tuesday to introduce a bill that would ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (It would also allow any state with more stringent bans to keep them.) Democrats spent the remainder of the week skipping down the halls of Congress, leaping and clicking their heels, telling anyone and everyone about the Republican National Abortion Ban. Republican leaders, meanwhile, are trying to make it known that Graham was freelancing on this, abortion should be a state issue, and, also, (anonymously) that they hate Graham for doing this. He’s not getting a lot of help from the right-wing commentariat, either! So why would Graham, who only a few months ago felt abortion rights was a matter for the states, do this? Maybe he’s trying to stake out what he believes to be a middle ground on the issue, even though it isn’t. But he’s also trying to give something to the Republican base, which has seen its leaders scurrying away from the issue since Dobbs. As we wrote this week, Republicans would have greatly preferred not to have one of their most high-profile senators introduce an abortion ban before the midterms. This “leave it to the states” attitude, though, isn’t going to cut it in Republican primary politics for long.

Rank 2

2. Don Bolduc

A later primary means a harder pivot.

Primary season finally concluded this week in New Hampshire, and in appropriate fashion: The most out-there, pro-Trump candidate in the state won the Republican Senate primary with assistance from Democratic groups. That candidate, Don Bolduc, a retired military officer and 2020 election denier, celebrated with a little Captain America/Battle of Thermopylae crossover cosplay at his election night event. With the primary coming so late, though, Bolduc had to quickly pivot to the general election. And SHEESH, did he ever. In a Thursday interview, Bolduc said that, actually, the 2020 election was perfectly legitimate. “I’ve done a lot of research on this,” he told Fox News, “and I’ve spent the past couple weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state from every party, and I have come to the conclusion—and I want to be definitive on this—the election was not stolen.” It’s not just that Bolduc was playing footsie with election denialism during the primary. The conspiracy was foundational to the political entity known as Don Bolduc! “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election, and, damnit, I stand by my letter,” he said in a primary debate, for example. “I’m not switching horses, baby. This is it.” He explained his new position this way: “We, you know, live and learn, right?” Modifying stances after winning a primary is something that nearly all politicians do. Republicans, though, had to take stances from the planet Mars in order to win their primaries this year. They can’t expect to get back to Earth in a day.

Rank 3

3. Chuck Schumer

A rare election-season show of good faith.

When last we checked on Senate negotiations over a bill to codify same-sex marriage rights, there was some Republican grousing over the finer points of protecting religious liberties and making it extra clear to polygamists that there wasn’t any room on the bus for them. Excuses, excuses—it was just getting close to Election Day, and Republicans were looking for an off-ramp from an issue that presented confusing politics for them. It looked more and more like negotiators wouldn’t be able to secure the necessary 10 Republican votes before the Senate broke at the end of the month. That left Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer with a choice: hold a failed vote and campaign against Republicans on the issue, or punt the issue until the lame-duck session later this year when Republican votes would be more readily supplied. In a rare show of pre-election trust between the two sides, Schumer agreed to the latter. There must have been a strong commitment from Republicans to supply enough votes after the election, because Schumer would have loved to pound them for blocking it ahead of the election. Just as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a signature win for President Barack Obama following Election Day 2010, so could federal protection of same-sex marriage rights be for President Joe Biden following Election Day 2022.

Rank 4

4. Mehmet Oz

I love same-sex marriage! Vote for me, a moderate!

A little more about the confusing politics of same-sex marriage for Republicans … Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson was receptive to voting for same-sex marriage in a swing state where he’s up for reelection, got some base feedback, and then said, “Blah blah religious liberty” and skedaddled for the exit. In Pennsylvania, though, Mehmet Oz this week said that he supports same-sex marriage rights. Here, his interest in proving to decisive suburban voters that he’s not an unlikable weirdo outweighed his interest in proving to Republican base voters that he’s not an unlikable weirdo. Johnson, on the other hand, is already understood to be an unlikable weirdo but wins every election he runs in anyway, so why change now? The point is: Though they land on different sides in states with similar profiles, both candidates would prefer for same-sex marriage to just not be an issue right now.

Rank 5

5. Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell

Why can’t our big boys just get along?

Lindsey Graham made an impressive leap up Mitch McConnell’s intra-party enemies’ list this week, but Florida Sen. Rick Scott remains ahead in the rankings. The chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, Scott seems to have been working at it all year. First, he released a controversial policy agenda when McConnell wanted to keep the focus on the lousy Democrats. Then, over the summer, the two bickered over Senate “candidate quality” and Scott’s management of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Now, there is a new front. (DISCLOSURE: This is about to get very Congress-y. You’re welcome.) The last thing Congress has to do before the end of September is pass a short-term bill to fund the government. But how short-term? Scott, along with Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, wrote an op-ed this week arguing that the funding should last until early next year. The thinking is that Republicans would have more power in the next Congress and could get a better deal. But McConnell, according to the Hill’s reporting, would prefer a shorter funding bill until, say, November or December, at which time Congress could pass a sweeping omnibus spending bill that would cover the government until next September. His thinking is that the new, would-be Republican majorities in Congress don’t want to spend their first months in power renegotiating a spending deal for a soon-to-be-expiring fiscal year. You will hear more about this in the coming days and weeks as it’s fought out. Donald Trump, famous for his keen interest in weeds-y budget politics, called McConnell an “absolute loser” in a Thursday statement over the stance.

Rank 6

6. Ron DeSantis

What better fun is there than to play games with people’s lives?

This week, dozens of migrants, most of whom were Venezuelan, were induced onto planes in Texas and flown to the wealthy, liberal island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts with no heads-up. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis later took credit for the move, the latest in a series of such trafficking stunts from conservative governors who feel like effete libs in blue enclaves should feel what it’s like to be INVADED! When the migrants arrived in Martha’s Vineyard, the citizens … treated them very well and everyone got along. By Friday, though, conservatives were noting that this celebration only lasted about 24 hours before the migrants were relocated to temporary housing at Joint Base Cape Cod. In a way, this worked out for everyone: Conservatives got to cackle at the rich libs getting all worked up, the rich libs got to show off their virtuousness in front of cameras, and hopefully the migrants will be treated better in Massachusetts than they would be in Texas, where they are prone to being kidnapped by Floridian presidential aspirants. And yet, let us consider the means here. Is a Florida governor who uses human beings as props for pranks … a good person?

Rank 7

7. Karoline Leavitt

One more Trump Scrub (there’s got to be a better term than that …)

How young are the young people now? This young: The fresh-out-of-school Capitol Hill press aides whom the Surge used to email for comment in 2021 are now congressional nominees! Stop being so young, young people! Anyway. Karoline Leavitt, a 25-year-old former press aide for both Trump and Rep. Elise Stefanik, won her House primary for New Hampshire’s 1st District on Tuesday. After she won, she thanked Trump for his congratulations … and then erased him out of her Twitter bio. By WEDNESDAY, the day after the primary, “America First Candidate” and her past job duties for Trump and Elise Stefanik were nowhere to be found. We love how they just do this. And maybe it will work.