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Perhaps it was inevitable that someone who helped create the first reality TV White House would salsa his way into an actual reality show.
Clad in a shiny, neon-green ruffled shirt, like a pirate ready to storm a Celine Dion show, the former White House press secretary Sean Spicer shimmied his way through America’s living rooms on Monday night on “Dancing With the Stars.”
The reaction to his one-minute performance followed what has become a predictable pattern in the Trump era: liberal outrage, counter-conservative outrage and so, so many memes.
We’ve talked about all the conventions President Trump has broken in Washington. And we’ve also discussed how the president has turned so many traditionally apolitical corners of American life, from “Hamilton” to the N.F.L., into part of a new culture war that is likely to help fuel his re-election bid.
In all those incidents, Mr. Trump waded into the national conversation around sports or celebrity or race, choosing to fire up the outrage machine, often for his own political gain.
But the decision by “Dancing With the Stars” to cast Mr. Spicer is an even more cynical permutation of that strategy: a mainstream brand attempting to make money off the chaos and controversy that has overtaken American political life.
“Dancing With the Stars,” on ABC, is a show desperately seeking eyeballs. After years as a ratings titan, it barely made it into the top 35 most watched TV shows last season.
Mr. Spicer brings the one thing Hollywood craves — attention.
His casting was met with fierce backlash from liberals and some in the media, including a host of the show. But former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas cast a vote for Mr. Spicer as a strike against “Hollyweird,” a call Mr. Spicer answered by tweeting, “Let’s send a message to #Hollywood that those of us who stand for #Christ won’t be discounted.” (Mr. Spicer later deleted his tweet.)
Nielsen ratings, it’s worth noting, don’t measure whether viewers are hate-watching Mr. Spicer or Hollywood. Eyeballs are eyeballs.
“Dancing With the Stars” has a history of embracing political players eager to rehabilitate tarnished reputations. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, sambaed through in 2009, before being convicted of money laundering charges. And former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas attempted to execute the “butt rolls” in his cha-cha in 2016, after a disastrous presidential bid. (An informal survey of my New York Times politics colleagues rated both Texans as “lighter on their feet” than Mr. Spicer.)
Neither of those men appeared during the Trump era, when it was so clear that any affiliation with Mr. Trump would spark a firestorm. (But Mr. Perry went on to become Mr. Trump’s energy secretary.)
In the end, Mr. Spicer scored a 12 out of 30, with one judge describing his moves as at “pre-preschool level.” As a frequent attendee of children’s dance classes, I think this is unfair to preschoolers and, I suppose, the so-called pre-preschoolers. (Are those 2-year-olds? Maybe?)
But that’s all beside the point, since there is only one tastemaker whose opinion really matters in all of this. And he seemed to approve of the performance: Last month, Mr. Trump tweeted his support for Mr. Spicer to his 64 million followers. He’s expected to send another message ahead of next week’s voting.
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Shifting strategies in the early states
Our colleagues Astead W. Herndon and Sydney Ember provide these updates from the Harris and Sanders campaigns:
Senator Kamala Harris’s campaign announced a new push for political organizers and campaign staff in Iowa on Thursday morning, in what amounts to a risky political and financial bet on the first caucus state.
The announcement, coupled with Ms. Harris’s Iowa-heavy October schedule, is a sign that her struggling campaign is responding to her summer slump in the polls.
On a call with reporters, senior staff members for Ms. Harris characterized the investment as a natural next step. “We saw, certainly, a sugar high after that first debate” in June, said Lily Adams, Ms. Harris’s communications director. “I don’t think any of us thought we would bounce up and stay there for the rest of our lives.”
After Ms. Harris, a Democrat from California, spent much of the summer raising money at a slew of fund-raisers, her advisers said they now hoped to position her for a late-breaking Iowa surge. And they set a firm target: a top-three finish.
“Iowa has a history of breaking late,” said Juan Rodriguez, Ms. Harris’s campaign manager.
Meanwhile, over the weekend we reported that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had overhauled his New Hampshire operations, installing a new state director, Shannon Jackson, and moving the former state director, Joe Caiazzo, to Massachusetts.
The campaign said the moves were an attempt to expand Mr. Sanders’s operations and organize supporters in the Northeast, looking beyond the early New Hampshire primary. But some political watchers took the shake-up as a sign that Mr. Sanders was struggling to maintain support in a state he won in 2016 by more than 20 points.
Compounding matters, news came out this week that the campaign recently parted ways with its political director in Iowa. The campaign minimized the move, and it is true that a change in the political director position is not as dramatic as installing a new state leader. But the changes can’t help the campaign’s optics as Mr. Sanders’s chief ideological rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, gathers political momentum. One poll out of Iowa this week showed Mr. Sanders in fourth place in the state, effectively tied with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
What to read tonight
We are running out of birds. Or at least losing a lot of them. I’m not a scientist, but this does not seem … great.
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