The Surge

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

Welcome to the Surge. God save King Charl—err … we’ll leave that to God’s discretion.

A WORLD MOURNS … MANNA for MANCHIN? … MITCH and RICK, do they click? … the PERFECT MURDER … but not REALLY … who wears the crown of ALASKA? … POLLS … POLYGAMY … SHUTDOWNS … the WORLD-CLASS GMC YUKON … We might do EVERY INTRO this way … it is FUN …


Dr. Oz in front of a stack of rectangular shapes, three of them red, one blue
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images.

Rank 1

Last Week Up from last week #5

1. Mehmet Oz

It’s going to be close.

Labor Day has passed, which means we are officially in the final stretch of the 2022 midterms election. (You hear that, New Hampshire? Maybe speed it up with the primary?) This makes it as good a time as any to note that all those polls you saw over the summer don’t matter. No one is winning any key Senate race by 10 points, and the chamber is very much up for grabs despite Democrats’ improving fortunes. Consider Pennsylvania, where we saw Democrat John Fetterman owning Mehmet Oz the whole summer. A couple of reputable pollsters showed Fetterman with leads of 11 and 13 points. A lot of that, though, was fallout from the bruising Republican primary. But now it’s the general, and those Republican voters who don’t like Oz will mostly “come home”—in fact, they already are. Recent polls have shown a narrower race. The Oz campaign also successfully applied some pressure on Fetterman to come clean this week with his debate plans, with Fetterman announcing he would debate at least once. (This will only ensure Republicans keep pressing the matter.) So settle in for a bit of a slog for this one. Or, just go have fun with your life and don’t worry about any of this stuff! It’s just politics.

Rank 2

Last Week

2. Joe Manchin

The rocky path for Joe’s side deal.

Some tremendous news: After a month out, the Senate has returned! [All of America breakdances in unison] Its main item of business before recessing again for campaign season will be a short-term government-funding bill due by the end of the month. That sounds easy enough—but would that it were so simple. As you may recall, Democratic leaders promised West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin passage of permitting reform legislation in exchange for his vote on the Inflation Reduction Act last month. Manchin believes this legislation will be attached to the government-funding bill, and Schumer has said it’s his “intention” to do that. This makes for a tricky vote-counting situation, though. Republicans, even if they like the idea of permitting reform abstractly, are not inclined to help Democratic leaders fulfill their side deal with Manchin. And there are progressive Democrats in both the House and Senate who are opposed to permitting reform, believing it would help greenlight too many fossil fuel projects. One possibility under discussion is to also attach legislation protecting same-sex marriage rights to the package as a means of strong-arming progressives into supporting it. What will the final package look like? Whatever the absolute minimum is that gets a funding package across the finish line, because Democrats aren’t going to close out campaign season during a shutdown.

Rank 3

Last Week

3. Ron Johnson

Same-sex marriage legislation politics: the treat we don’t deserve.

Same-sex marriage legislation is going to get a vote one way or another, either as a stand-alone piece of legislation or lumped into the government funding bill. On this front, we’ve seen a couple of developments that have, officially, made the Surge giggle. First: Some intensely lame snitch has pointed out to the bill’s negotiators that a “drafting error” may leave the door open for federal recognition of polygamy, and Republicans Have Raised Concerns. One option here is for Republicans to live a little, you know? The other, more likely option is that the legislation will be updated with some comically hard-ass language clarifying NO POLYGAMY, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Another sticking point is language regarding religious liberty. Frankly, Republicans who don’t know what to do about this legislation are using that as their off-ramp from supporting it. Chief among them is Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who is confused about how he’s supposed to run for reelection. When the legislation was first introduced over the summer, he said he saw “no reason to oppose it” but was generally irritable about having to deal with it. He remains generally irritable about having to deal with it, but now is saying he won’t support it “in its current state.” He also explained to radio host Hugh Hewitt that there’s nothing to worry about, as Obergefell “will never be overturned” by the Supreme Court: “I mean, stare decisis protects decisions that if they were overturned, it would disrupt people’s lives. I don’t want to disrupt people’s lives.” Yep, that’s the SCOTUS we know and love: Definitely wouldn’t disrupt people’s lives.

Rank 4

Last Week

4. Mitch McConnell

Rick Scott and I love each other, you guys!

One more on them Senate boys. Among the first matters reporters asked Senate Republicans about, following a summer apart, was the feud between Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chair of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. You have to love the matter-of-factness of these quotes. “I don't think it's a good strategy to be feuding two months before the election,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said. “I don’t think it ever makes sense,” North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said. In short, the position of the Senate Republican Conference is: It would be preferable if the bad thing were not happening. But then again, what bad thing?? Scott, himself, who wrote the op-ed that appeared targeted at McConnell and others who mentioned Republican “candidate quality” issues, told reporters it was “absolutely not” targeted at McConnell. Sure. And McConnell, in his Tuesday press conference, said that “All 50 members of the Senate on my side of the aisle are doing everything they can to find a way to help get to 51.” (But also maybe leaking about the people who are blowing it?)

Rank 5

Last Week

5. Robert Telles

Some people will do anything to get in the Surge.

This next story, good GOD. Last weekend, a longtime reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff German, was found stabbed to death outside his home. Among the recent investigations German had worked on was one that looked into Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles’ conduct in office and an “inappropriate relationship” with a staffer. Telles lost his Democratic primary following the revelations, and German began working on a “potential follow-up” story. But he was killed before any other story could come out. After the murder, police released an image of the car tied to the suspect: a red or maroon GMC Yukon. Review-Journal reporters, staking out Telles’ home this week, saw him standing in his driveway next to … a red or maroon GMC Yukon. Police later towed the vehicle and searched Telles’ home. A few hours later, they came back and arrested Telles on suspicion of murder, carrying him out of his house on a stretcher. Cue the Netflix documentary.

Rank 6

Last Week

6. Sarah Palin

Pretty clear who should quit here.

Alaska Republicans are still reeling from their House special election defeat, in which Democrat Mary Peltola edged out Sarah Palin by a few points according to the final ranked-choice results. The problem for Republicans, in this case, is that a lot of voters for the third-place finisher—“establishment” Republican Nick Begich—placed Peltola second, or didn’t rank a second choice at all. Republicans don’t want the same pattern to repeat itself when voters go to the polls for the general election and have to choose between all three of these candidates again—this time for a full term. What the party would prefer is for one Republican to drop out. And both Begich and Palin agree: The other one should drop out. How to resolve this? Perhaps there’s some history to go by. Even recent history. The last time the numbers were run, Palin had higher Republican base support but too toxic of an image to beat the Democrat. Maybe … she … should quit? We don’t know. We don’t know. Frankly, these are grown adults who can do whatever they want. See if we care!

Rank 7

Last Week

7. Queen Elizabeth

The penultimate British monarch.

[Googles for five minutes] The Surge is an expert on British politics. And we at Surge HQ offer deepest condolences to the British people on the death of Queen Elizabeth and regret at the ascension of King Charles. Liz Windsor saw some things. For example, just think of the way recent American presidents embarrassed themselves upon meeting her. Barack Obama’s official gift to her in 2009 was an iPod. Donald Trump couldn’t walk right. And Joe Biden told her, “you know what they say about Philly girls … ” and gave her a poke on the rib cage. (The last one might not be true. But it also might be.) Innocent times. Well, there’s no way the United Kingdom is going to withstand Charles for more than six months before abolishing the monarchy. A fond farewell to the last proper monarch, to the end of the House of Windsor, and to the dearest dogs.