BIDEN IS ALREADY VISITING THE BATTLEGROUNDS. Time: “The trips also reveal a longer-term strategy, advisers and strategists say. Presidential travel during the pandemic takes on greater meaning when large parts of the country have effectively been in lockdown for a year and public safety guidelines must be strictly adhered to. In selecting two of the most critical battleground states, he’s using his political capital to tell the voters that helped send him to the White House how he’s delivering on his campaign pledges — and why they should stick with Democrats in elections to come.”
Said Democratic Strategist Jim Margolis: “It’s no accident that Wisconsin and Michigan are the first two trips for Biden. They were must-win states in 2020, have big elections in 2022 and will undoubtedly be in the electoral bullseye again in 2024.”
Nathaniel Rakich: “From the 27 states, plus Washington, D.C., where we were able to obtain data, only 297,347 out of 47,999,299 absentee ballots cast in the 2020 general election were rejected — a rejection rate of 0.6 percent. And in 20 of the 23 jurisdictions that provided data for the last two presidential elections, the 2020 rejection rate was lower than 2016’s.”
“What’s behind this remarkable success? Election-administration experts cite several factors, but a big one was that voters submitted their absentee ballots early. That’s important because, in a normal election, the number-one reason that absentee ballots are not counted is that they arrive too late.”
IOWA U.S. SENATOR — Longtime Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he may decide in a few weeks whether to seek another term in 2022, the DeWitt Observer reports. Grassley, 87, would be 95 at the end of what would be his eighth term.
While Sen. Chuck Grassley has yet to make a decision about seeking an eighth term, one fellow Republican has already announced a bid for his seat: state Sen. Jim Carlin, a pro-Trump die-hard who has baselessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen and spouted antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming wealthy Jews like Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros for the outcome.
Just last week, Carlin introduced legislation requiring that all employees of Iowa’s public universities be interrogated about their political beliefs, part of a long-running conservative crusade against higher education. He’s also pushing a “bathroom bill” that would target transgender people and has proposed a measure requiring that schoolchildren be taught cursive handwriting.
CONNECTICUT 2ND CD— Republican state Rep. Mike France has filed paperwork for a possible challenge to veteran Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, but he hasn’t yet announced a campaign and did not respond to press inquiries. After ousting Republican Rep. Rob Simmons by just 83 votes in the 2006 Democratic wave, Courtney’s never faced a difficult re-election, winning with at least 59% of the vote every time.
The 2nd District, which occupies the entirety of eastern Connecticut, normally is reliably blue turf, but in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried it just 49-46. In 2020, it returned to form last year, supporting Joe Biden 54-44. Simmons described himself as “excited” about France’s potential candidacy, though the former congressman, who had a relatively moderate reputation during his time in office, recently went full tinfoil and blamed the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection on “antifa.”
LOUISIANA 2ND CD — Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter is spending at least $100,000 on a TV buy ahead of the March 20 all-party primary to succeed former Rep. Cedric Richmond. “Throughout my career I’ve remained laser focused on the simple ways to improve people’s day to day lives,” Carter says, “like guaranteeing access to COVID-19 vaccine, equal pay for women, criminal justice reform, and fighting for a living wage.”
Carter continues by pledging, “In Congress, I’ll have your back and I’ll get things done.” The candidate does not mention Richmond, though on-screen text informs the viewer that Carter has the former congressman’s endorsement.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson has been endorsed by the state Democratic Party, which she chaired for many years before stepping down last September.
TEXAS 6TH CD — Republican Brian Harrison, who served as chief of staff to former Trump HHS chief Alex Azar during his disastrous handling of the COVID pandemic, is reportedly considering a campaign for the late Rep. Ron Wright’s vacant 6th Congressional District. Notes Politico, “In the West Wing, a handful of his detractors derisively referred to Harrison as ‘the dog breeder’—a reference to the labradoodle-breeding family business that he helped run prior to joining the Trump administration.” More on that here.
Meanwhile, communications consultant Jana Lynne Sanchez announced her entry into the race on Tuesday, making her the first notable Democrat to do so. Sanchez ran here in 2018 and lost 53-45 to Republican Ron Wright. Sanchez’s campaign says she’s already raised $100,000, putting her on a much faster pace compared with her prior campaign, when she brought in $730,000 all told.
Donald Trump carried this district by a fairly slender 51-48 margin, potentially making for a competitive special election (whose date has yet to be set).
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT — Both of Pennsylvania’s major parties have endorsed candidates in the May 18 primary for a key open seat on the state Supreme Court, with Democrats backing Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin and Republicans giving their support to Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson.
Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania who don’t earn their party’s official seal of approval often drop out, and we may yet see that happen. While PoliticsPA says that Superior Court Judge Carolyn Nichols, who is hoping to become the first Black woman to sit on the high court, intends to continue her bid for the Democratic nod, she said in a statement that she will “consider the next steps in this election,” which could presage a departure.
The situation for the GOP is even more uncertain, since the party’s two other hopefuls, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick and Commonwealth Court Judge Patty McCullough, both declined to comment when asked about their plans. Any questions will be resolved soon, though, since the filing deadline is March 9. Democrats currently hold a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court but could expand it in November since this year’s race is for the seat held by Republican Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.
ST. LOUIS MAYOR — The Missouri Scout has released a survey from the GOP firm Remington Research of the March 2 nonpartisan primary, which will be the city’s first experience using the “approval voting” system.
Approval voting allows voters to cast as many votes in the primary as there are candidates, and Remington finds that 59% of the sample plans to back Aldermanic President Lewis Reed. City Treasurer Tishaura Jones has the support of 51% of respondents, while a third Democrat, Alderman Cara Spencer, is in third with 40%. Just 19%, however, intend to vote for the final contender, Republican Andrew Jones. The two candidates with the most votes will face off in the April 6 general.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that the pro-Spencer group Gateway to Progress is spending at least $45,000 on a TV ad praising her for “cracking down on predatory lenders, slum landlords, and City Hall insiders.”
LADY G THREATENS MCCONNELL. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) offered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) some unsolicited advice on Hannity last night.
Said Graham: “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own. President Trump is the most consequential Republican in the party. If Mitch McConnell doesn’t understand that, he’s missing a lot… We need to knock this off. Kevin McCarthy is the leader of the house Republicans. He has taken a different approach to President Trump. I would advise Senator McConnell to do that.”
He added: “I know Trump can be a handful, but he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party. We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump.”
SOUTH CAROLINA — “Fresh off a successful 2020 campaign with an expanded majority, Republicans in the South Carolina Statehouse are eyeing changes to the state’s election agency that could give their party more influence over the process in the future,” the Charleston Post & Courier reports.
“Taken together, the bill in its latest form would effectively give Republicans the opportunity to build a 6-3 partisan advantage on the State Election Commission while simultaneously granting that agency more power to handle what happens at the ballot box.”
PENNSYLVANIA — Philadelphia Inquirer: “The rush to punish Toomey, one of just seven Republicans who voted Saturday to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, reflects the hold that the former president and his devoted voters retain within the party. Toomey’s defenders, meanwhile, have so far come largely from a more traditional GOP power base: Republicans in the moderate suburbs or the business community, elements that historically drove the party’s candidates, including Toomey, to statewide victories.”
“But they appear outnumbered as the GOP center of gravity has increasingly moved to the rural and postindustrial areas that provided Trump his largest margins. His supporters there aren’t driven by the wonky, conservative economic policies Toomey championed, but by cultural clashes, white, working-class populism, and fury at Democrats.”
GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR — Former Republican Sen. David Perdue confirmed on Tuesday that he’s exploring a comeback bid against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who captured Georgia’s other Senate seat in last month’s legendary special election. Perdue filed paperwork with the FEC on Monday ahead of a possible run, which an unnamed advisor said he’s “leaning heavily toward.” Another aide said Perdue would make a decision in March followed by a formal kickoff in April if the answer is yes.
Whatever unfolds, Perdue certainly hasn’t gotten over his stunning loss to Democrat Jon Ossoff, whose name he’s still incapable of uttering. In a statement, he took loser-speaker to new heights (depths?) in declaring that the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day—i.e., the Nov. 3 election he failed to win. “Five million Georgians, the most ever, voted in that General election and it is the best poll of where Georgia is right now,” claimed Perdue, despite the fact he lost the only election that actually mattered: the one on Jan. 6, when a rather impressive 4.5 million voters cast ballots.
He also argued that “[m]ore than 52% of Georgians rejected my opponent and the liberal Democrat agenda” in November, but the problem there is that 50.3% of Georgians also rejected Perdue and his far-right Trumpist agenda (oh, plus, did we mention that he lost the one race that actually mattered?). Perdue even went so far as to suggest that the runoff itself was unfair, carping that Ossoff and Warnock “do not fairly represent most Georgians.”
Perdue’s complaints about the runoff process are particularly rich coming from a Republican, since it was Republican lawmakers themselves who reinstituted general election runoffs in 2005 after Democrats had repealed them a decade earlier, knowing that Black voters—who disproportionately favor Democrats—tend to turn out at lower rates whenever there’s a second round of voting. That pattern of low Black turnout hurting Democrats held true in every statewide runoff from 2006 to 2018, but of course now that the first and only runoff has happened that favored Democrats, Perdue has suddenly found flaws in the process.
As the New York Times’ Alex Burns put it, Perdue is undoubtedly “among the best-known candidates Republicans could plausibly field and money wouldn’t be a problem.” But, added Burns, he’s also “one of very few living republicans who has proven capable of losing a senate race in [G]eorgia.” The other, of course, is Kelly Loeffler, who, along with former Rep. Doug Collins, is reportedly waiting to see what Perdue does before deciding whether to run.
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR — 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign announced that he’d collected enough small donations to qualify for the city’s matching-funds program. The city Campaign Finance Board still needs to verify that Yang has raised at least $250,000 from city residents who contributed between $10 and $250 before he can receive any public financing, though, and one of Yang’s intra-party opponents learned the hard way on Tuesday just how complicated this process can be.
Attorney Maya Wiley said a month ago that she’d raised enough to unlock matching funds, which would have allowed her to collect at least $2 million at Tuesday’s meeting. The Board, though, announced this week that it could not confirm that she’d hit the necessary threshold.
The New York Daily News notes that it’s possible that the denial is due to “technical issues in data her campaign submitted to the Campaign Finance Board” that Wiley could correct. However, even if Wiley did raise the requisite $250,000 from small donors and fixed any issues, she would not be able to receive any public money until March 15. The only two contenders who have officially qualified for public financing so far are City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Meanwhile, Republican billionaire John Catsimatidis made a slight concession to reality this week when he announced that he would not switch parties to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor. We say slight because Catsimatidis, who is an ardent Trump supporter, did not rule out running for Team Red as a “Republican-Liberal.” That “Liberal” refers to the Liberal Party, which infamously endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 1993 and went on to lose its automatic spot on the ballot nearly a decade later.