The Political Report – 4/29/21

A new CNN poll finds 53% of Americans approve of the way President Biden is handling the job and say he has had the right priorities, and 59% say he is doing a good job keeping his campaign promises. Doing things that are popular is apparently popular.

A new CBS News/YouGov poll suggests big public support for President Biden’s decision to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan, with 77% supporting the move.

The same poll finds 58% of Americans say President Biden is trying to find common ground with Republicans in Congress. In contrast, 61% said that Republicans were just opposing Biden as much as possible.

Dan Pfeiffer: “We live in an era of negative partisanship — where hatred for the other party is the biggest driving factor in political action. This is why Biden’s policies can poll in the seventies, and his approval rating can be in the low fifties. Hatred towards Trump was the number one factor in Democratic turnout in 2020.”

“Therefore, as we think about 2022, we should focus a little more on Biden’s disapproval rating. In the aforementioned ABC/Washington Post poll, only 42 percent of respondents disapprove of Biden’s job performance. Based on recent history, this number is impressively low. At this point in his Presidency, Trump’s disapproval was 53 percent. Biden’s number is only three points higher than Bill Clinton’s at the 100-day mark in a radically less polarized era.”

“Biden hasn’t gotten Republican voters to like him, but he has prevented them from hating him — a truly remarkable achievement. And one that bodes well for 2022 if it continues. Republicans need high turnout in the midterms, which might be difficult to achieve without Trump on the ballot if they can’t turn Biden into a scary and hated figure.”

This is why the “Uncle Joe” nickname can be helpful for Democrats.

McClatchy: “Republican lawmakers are struggling to define him. The conservative base is more agitated about ‘cancel culture.’ And even former President Donald Trump is turning his attention elsewhere.”

“Right now, nobody inside the GOP knows quite what to do with President Joe Biden.”

“In the nearly 100 days since Biden took office, Republicans have not yet mounted a sustained, vigorous opposition to the new White House, slowed by a president who has avoided being villainized thanks — at least in part — to a low-key style that stands in stark contrast with his immediate predecessor.”

It’s helped that Trump is mostly invisible now, but he is still just active to continue to divide Republicans.

Washington Examiner: “House Republicans, eager to elevate border security to a top 2022 campaign issue, said Monday they would revive the now-stalled construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that was championed by former President Donald Trump and nixed by President Joe Biden.”

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) slammed the efforts of Republicans in her state to lead an election audit of ballots cast during 2020, saying that it “seems like such a farce” and should end, The Hill reports.

Said Hobbs: “A group of Republicans are continuing to try to appease their base who refuse to accept that… Trump lost Arizona and that he’s not the president anymore.”

She added: “I kind of don’t want to call it an audit. I think that’s an insult to professional auditors everywhere because they’re making this stuff up as they go along.”

SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR — Joe Cunningham (D) raised more than $400,000 in the first 48 hours of his bid for South Carolina governor, besting the total that incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster (R) brought in over the first three months of the year, the Charleston Post & Courier reports.

Cunningham lost his bid for a second term in Congress by a narrow 51-49 to Republican Nancy Mace last year as Donald Trump was taking the 1st District 52-46, and he’ll face a decidedly uphill climb in a state that Trump won by a much-larger 55-43 spread. Still, Democrats are hoping that two uninterrupted decades of GOP governors, as well as a potentially competitive Republican primary, could give them an opening to score their first statewide win since 2006.

Cunningham is McMaster’s only notable opponent from either party so far, but a few Republicans have shown some interest in taking on the governor. The most vocal member of this group is businessman John Warren, who lost the 2018 runoff to McMaster 54-46 and didn’t rule out a rematch back in January.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR — Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) announced he’ll run for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. His announcement video features two monster trucks running over the “liberal agenda.” Later, he describes how he will prevent America from becoming a “woke socialist wasteland.” After saying this, Budd is offered an assault weapon by a man in sunglasses. Budd declines it, saying “we can skip the shooting part, I own a gun store.”

On the Democratic side, Cheri Beasley (D), the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, announced she will run for U.S. Senate from North Carolina, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. Beasley narrowly lost her 2020 election for chief justice by 401 votes to fellow Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby.

Beasley began her career in elective politics in 2008, when she won a seat on the state Court of Appeals, making her the first Black woman to win a statewide election in North Carolina without having previously been appointed by the governor. She was later tapped for the Supreme Court by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in 2012 and won election in her own right to a full eight-year term two years later. In 2019, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper named Beasley chief justice, but she lost re-election last year against then-Associate Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, by a painfully close margin of 401 votes out of 5.4 million votes cast.

Several other Democrats are already running, the most prominent of whom is state Sen. Jeff Jackson, who is white. Several more are still potential contenders, though Inside Politics’ Jacob Rubashkin reports that Democratic operatives do not expect Beasley and former astronaut Joan Higginbotham, who is also Black, to run against one another.

Meanwhile, the state’s other senator, Republican Thom Tillis, has yet to take sides, though he recently offered some mild praise for both Budd and another recent entrant, former Gov. Pat McCrory, in an interview with CNN. However, he savaged the candidate who’s been in the race the longest. “I have no support for Mark Walker,” Tillis said of the former congressman. “I don’t think he’s right for the job. You look at his body of work. There’s not a lot to rely on.” Last cycle, Walker contemplated running against Tillis in the GOP primary after the incumbent flip-flopped on supporting Donald Trump’s bogus emergency declaration regarding his fantasy of building a wall on the southern border with Mexico.

CNN: “Far from a conventional post-White House retirement, Trump’s first 100 days out of office illustrate a man who has preferred plotting the next chapter of his political career to planning his presidential library, recruiting MAGA-aligned Republican primary challengers to writing a post-presidential memoir. Whereas his predecessors disengaged from politics for months after leaving office, Trump has turned the same political warfare that defined his presidency into a full-time retirement hobby as he weighs a full return to the spotlight with a potential comeback presidential bid in 2024.”

“More than a dozen Trump aides, confidants and allies who spoke with CNN say the former President, who remains bitter about his defeat in the 2020 election, has nevertheless come to enjoy his status as a GOP kingmaker, relishing his ability to disrupt races or elevate pro-Trump figures against dissenters inside the party. Others noted that he is yearning to return to the White House and claimed that his efforts to build a post-presidential political machine are principally aimed at supporting that goal.”

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR — City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Tuesday became the most prominent candidate to launch a TV ad for the June 22 Democratic primary, and his campaign says it will run for just under $1 million. Two other contenders, former financial executive Raymond McGuire and ex-White House budget chief Shaun Donovan, have already been running commercials, but unlike Stringer, they haven’t posted much support in the few polls that have been released so far.

Stringer’s debut spot opens with him getting suited and masked up to leave his apartment as a narrator declares, “He’s not a celebrity. He doesn’t govern by tweet or TikTok.” That line very much seems to be a reference to 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who has led in every survey that’s been made public, though the ad doesn’t mention him or any of the comptroller’s other rivals directly.

As Stringer boards an elevator, the narrator continues by extolling how he “got his start as a housing activist” and “fought in the trenches against domestic violence and global warming when it was still called … well, ‘global warming.'” The ad goes on to say the candidate has “been a progressive from Day 1 who will be ready on Day 1 to lead our city’s greatest comeback. And he still wears a suit, because it suits him.” Stringer briefly looks directly at the camera and lowers his mask to let off a quick smile and shrug at that last bit before remasking.

OHIO SPECIAL ELECTIONS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has scheduled the special election for the seat held by departing Rep. Steve Stivers (R) on the same day as the one he set for former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D), who is now HUD Secretary. The primary for both elections will be on August 3. The general election will be November 2.

Cook Political Report: “These estimates are not hard and fast and will be updated frequently throughout 2021 and 2022. But right now, Republicans might expect to gain between zero and eight House seats via map changes — potentially enough to regain House control.”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Partisan losses in the states losing seats may be a mixed bag collectively. But Republicans may have an edge in the states gaining seats.”

Washington Post: “A day after the government released the first results from the 2020 Census, some states and civic organizations were reeling from unexpected results, and wondered if the differences between projections and actual data might be an indicator of problems with the count.”

“Census counts for the majority of states came within 1 percent of what was projected. But in Arizona and the District, the final count was 3 percent less than projected. On the other end, New York and New Jersey counts came in more than 4 percent higher than what was estimated.”

Washington Examiner: “Some analysts theorize that the Trump administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the census could have created a chilling effect that resulted in Hispanic and Latino people being under-counted, perhaps accounting for the smaller-than-expected gains for Texas and Florida.”

Said J. Miles Coleman on the possibility of under-counting Hispanics and Latinos harming Republicans: “Those states are controlled by Republicans, so that may be a bit ironic.”

OHIO 1ST CD — Franklin Mayor Brent Centers recently filed paperwork with the FEC, but the Republican isn’t ready to launch a bid for Congress yet. Centers recently told the National Journal that he wasn’t making any decisions until he sees Ohio’s new congressional map, though he added that he wanted to run for the seat in the Cincinnati suburbs. The mayor also said of Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who appears to be his most likely opponent, “After 25 years, we need new energy. I would hope he retires.” Chabot, however, has insisted time after time that he’s not going anywhere.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged political consultant Jaime Schwartz, a longtime campaign manager for Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, with embezzling $1.4 million from his former employer over the past decade. The development brings some belated clarity to a very strange and long-running scandal that overshadowed Chabot’s hotly contested campaign for re-election against Democrat Kate Schroder last year.

Schwartz’s name burst into the limelight in 2019 when Chabot amended a fundraising report from earlier that year to show an additional $124,000 in receipts that hadn’t previously been accounted for, which prompted the FEC to launch an investigation. Schwartz shuttered his consultancy and went to ground, and the campaign treasurer who apparently signed that report and many others—Jim Schwartz, father of Jamie—insisted he’d never in fact served in that role, a claim that befuddled what remained of the Chabot campaign.

It was later reported that the younger Schwartz had turned himself in to the U.S. Attorney’s office not long after the original story broke, but no further explanations as to what went down had emerged until now. Schroder ran ads last year attacking Chabot over the missing money, though the congressman always maintained he’d been the victim, not the perpetrator, of wrongdoing. (Chabot wound up winning 52-45.)

The charging document filed by prosecutors supports Chabot’s position: It repeatedly alleges that Schwartz defrauded the campaign, including by overbilling, fabricating bank statements, and cutting himself checks he hadn’t earned. It also wraps up a longstanding mystery, explaining that Schwartz “misrepresented” to the FEC that his father was the campaign’s treasurer even though Schwartz himself “was actually serving as the de facto treasurer.” According to prosecutors, Schwartz could face up to 20 years in prison.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR / GOVERNOR — The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Republican Rep. Mike Kelly or his team have told at least two of his colleagues that he’ll seek re-election rather than run for Senate or for governor.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR — Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist recently created a political committee that allows him to raise money for a potential bid for governor.

NEVADA GOVERNOR — North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee didn’t rule out a run for governor earlier this month just before he left the Democratic Party to join the Republicans, and political columnist Jim Hartman writes that he’s indeed considering taking on Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak. Hartman also adds that 2018 nominee Adam Laxalt has turned his attention to a possible campaign against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and doesn’t appear interested in another campaign against Sisolak.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR — Rep. Tim Ryan, who so far is the only prominent Democrat running in Ohio’s open Senate contest, just received endorsements from one of his House colleagues, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, as well as former Gov. Ted Strickland, who was the Democratic nominee in the 2016 race for this seat. Kaptur had been mentioned as a possible candidate by the occupant of the state’s other Senate seat, Sherrod Brown, but she never publicly expressed any interest.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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