If you want to make it as a snitch in the fast-growing sport of muggle quidditch, there are a few simple rules to live by. Keep the two people with yellow headbands in your sight at all times. Call fouls when you see them. Don’t let your showboating get in the way of your performance. And keep your booty shaking. "You gotta do a little duck waddle—stick your butt out," advises Austin Nuckols, a lanky University of Richmond student with curly hair in a Spiderman-inspired quidditch jersey. "That's right, get a little twerk going," he says. "Work on your twerk!"
Nuckols in offering a tutorial in snitching in a back room at a convention center in downtown DC for the second day of the third annual QuidCon, the only convention focused on the nuts and bolts of starting or managing a quidditch team. Conceived eight years ago by a small group of students at Middlebury College in Vermont, the International Quidditch Association now boasts 225 official teams in at least 13 countries, in addition to wheelchair quidditch and several varieties of "kidditch." Even as the Harry Potter books and movies that first popularized it fade from view, the sport has begun to find its legs.
But like angsty, teenage Harry Potter in book five, competitive quidditch is finding that its new powers come with some growing pains—in the most literal sense. Muggle quidditch has a concussion problem.
Colorado Republicans thought they'd dodged a bullet last month when primary voters chose former GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez as their gubernatorial nominee over Tom Tancredo, a former congressman and notorious anti-immigration activist. Not so much. On Wednesday, Democrats circulated a little-noticed 2010 video in which Beauprez rails against the 47 percent of the American population who he claims are dependent on government. Sound familiar?
"I see something that frankly doesn't surprise me, having been on Ways and Means Committee: 47 percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax," Beauprez said in the video. "I'm guessing that most of you in this room are not in that 47 percent—God bless you—but what that tells me is that we've got almost half the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill, and most of that half is you all."
"I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half and have a permanent ruling majority by keeping over half of the population dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for," Beauprez said.
Beauprez's comments, which came in an address to a local rotary club, bear an uncanny resemblance to the infamous remarks, first reported by Mother Jones, that Mitt Romney made to donors during his presidential campaign. (Romney's final tally: 47 percent of the vote.) A survey released by Rasmussen on Wednesday showed Beauprez running even with incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is facing a serious primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis over the second-term congressman's frequent clashes with the Republican establishment. Amash lost his spot on the budget committee after voting against the Ryan budget, opposed John Boehner's bid for speaker, and led his party's far-right faction in forcing a government shutdown last fall. But it's Amash's opposition to the expansive national security and surveillance state that has drawn the fiercest backlash so far.
The latest example: this new ad from Ellis, featuring an ex-Marine calling Amash "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress":
The quote originally came from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose beef with Amash is longstanding. Ellis has received big bucks from his party's establishment donors, and Amash's Republican colleagues in the Michigan delegation have left him out to dry. But Amash, a charismatic disciple of former Rep. Ron Paul, has access to a rich grassroots fundraising network of his own, as well the generous support of the Club for Growth and the DeVos family, one of Michigan's most powerful political families.
Attack ads notwithstanding, Amash's efforts to build a bipartisan coalition to curtail the NSA appears to be working: Last week, the House voted—by a 170-vote margin—to rein warrantless "backdoor searches" of American citizens. And it doesn't appear to be hurting him in Southwest Michigan: A poll of the race from the Detroit Newsgave Amash a 55–35 lead.
Conservative activists came up short in some high-profile races on Tuesday. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel unexpectedly lost his runoff against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (thanks in part to high turnout among African-American voters turned off by McDaniel's positions). Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, famous for his fierce opposition to immigrants, blew a lead of his own in failing to win the GOP's Colorado gubernatorial nomination. Oklahoma speaker of the house T.W. Shannon, backed by reality star Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Cruz), came up short in his quest to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn.
But it wasn't all bad news. In Colorado, former state Sen. Ken Buck—one of a handful of tea partiers whose views cost the party control of the Senate four years ago—punched his ticket to Washington by securing the nomination in a safe Republican congressional seat. And in Oklahoma, state school superintendent Janet Barresi lost her primary to conservative challenger Joy Hofmeister. Superintendent races don't normally capture the public's attention, but Barresi was an endangered species—a red-state Republican who supports the Common Core State Standards, a set of math and English benchmarks backed by the Obama administration and adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.
According to supporters, Hofmeister's victory was fueled by widespread antipathy for both Barresi and the Common Core standards. The Legislature voted to repeal Oklahoma’s endorsement of the national education standards, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed the repeal bill into law earlier this month.
"Doggone it, we worked hard and we’re going to get rid of that old hag. Barresi knows she’s getting her hat handed to her," said Karen Yates, a Tea Party member from Oklahoma City.
Barresi pumped more than $1 million dollars of her money into her campaign and outspent Hofmeister. In the meantime, Hofmeister bested the incumbent in fundraising, garnering much of her support from educators throughout the state.
Barresi isn't the first Republican school chief to go down in flames over the Core. In 2012, Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett (no relation) lost to a Democratic critic of the standards; the state then became the first to reverse course on implementation. And the prospect of more electoral losses has made the Core's early GOP supporters nervous. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, once an avid support of the Core, announced new measures to de facto remove his state from the program by delaying testing and reevaluating the standards. Meanwhile, activists have taken aim at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a supporter of Common Core who has made corporate education reform the centerpiece of his post-gubernatorial life.
Tuesday's news didn't have made much of a dent outside Oklahoma, but the aftershocks might be felt for much longer.
It's RINO season in Mississippi, and whining time for the tea party. In a surprising finish to a bizarre Senate Republican primary contest in the Magnolia State, on Tuesday night Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a tea party champion, defied the predictions of pundits and narrowly lost his bid to unseat longtime incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. Though much of the instant analysis focused on Cochran's savvy campaign strategy, Chris McDaniel's defeat was also made possible by the extreme rhetoric of a right-wing talk-radio host named Chris McDaniel.
After winning a close primary last month but by not enough to prevent a runoff election, McDaniel fell short in the GOP rerun. Though this electoral season has seen too much focus on the simplistic is-the-tea-party-dead-or-alive narrative, McDaniel's defeat is a blow to tea party hopes, and it will fuel the already intense intraparty feud. Before McDaniel made his oddly defiant nonconcession speech on Tuesday night—without mentioning Cochran and suggesting there was a way to contest the results—conservatives on Twitter were steaming mad at the GOP establishment that vanquished McDaniel in part because it persuaded African American voters to put their distaste for the GOP aside and vote for Cochran. Finally, a Republican candidate attracted black support—and the tea partiers were irate.
For the past year, the Cochran-McDaniel race often felt like a Coen brothers script. The contest managed to win the prize for most absurd Senate race in a cycle that featured an insurgent Republican in Kansas who posted X-rays of gunshot victims on his Facebook page and a tea partier in Kentucky who was caught attending a cockfight (and who denied he was there for the cockfighting). In June, a McDaniel supporter and two McDaniel campaign volunteers were arrested in connection with a break-in into the nursing home where Cochran's wife lives. This dirty trick seemed to be part of an elaborate plot to reveal that the senator was having an affair with an aide. And a Cochran campaign staffer was fired after defacing McDaniel campaign signs. With the race seemingly locked up for McDaniel prior to the runoff (if you believed the polling), the tea party favorite—who campaigned with a kooky anti-Obama conspiracy theorist—took to Facebook to taunt his opponent's daughter. Maybe that wasn't the best move.
McDaniel entered the race against Cochran last fall with the support of the big-money tea party outfits, such as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. He tapped into right-wing dissatisfaction with Cochran, who had brought billions of dollars in funding to the state since winning the seat in 1978. After the first primary, Cochran sought to counter the tea party assault by encouraging black voters to support him in the runoff. That move—soliciting crucial support from a Democratic voting bloc—further irked conservatives. Mississippi law prohibits voters from participating in a primary unless they plan to support the nominee—an unenforceable provision in a nation of secret balloting. McDaniel allies talked about sending in poll watchers, only, they said, to determine nothing fishy was going on. And on the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, Mississippi was once again embroiled in a controversy over black voting.
Team McDaniel's tactics seemed to bolster Cochran's outreach strategy. "The tea party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday," read one mailer distributed in black neighborhoods. It noted that McDaniel had once hosted a controversial radio show and had voted against a civil rights museum. "Mississippians cannot and will not be intimidated to the bygone era of intimidating black Mississippians from voting," this campaign flyer declared.
The mailer asserted that McDaniel "made racist comments on his radio show." It was a point Cochran's campaign had been hammering for months, seemingly without affecting a sufficient number of white Republican primary voters. As a right-wing radio host in the 2000s, McDaniel had blamed hip-hop for gun violence. He had mocked poor blacks for craving "big screen plasma TV's, Randy Moss jerseys, Air Jordan sneakers, or any type of 'bling-bling.'" He had decried discussion of reparations for slavery—pledging to move to Mexico, if such a law were ever passed. He also had spoken at events held by a neo-Confederate group that bashed Abraham Lincoln and celebrated secession. His incendiary comments, some of which were first reported by Mother Jones, gave Cochran a bona fide reason to ask African American voters, who comprise 36 percent of the state's electorate, to keep McDaniel far from Washington's halls of power.
After the votes were counted on election night—and McDaniel had lost by 1.6 points—the tea party insurgent showed no signs of surrendering. "We have to be absolutely certain that Republican primary was won by Republican voters," he told his supporters. "There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary decided by liberal Democrats." Guess which voters he was referring to. His race may be done, but the fight is not over.