The Political Report – 4/30/21

Politico: “Recall proponents have made a simple pitch: The Democratic governor’s pandemic mismanagement has devastated California’s economy and failed schoolchildren.”

“But a new statewide poll suggests those two pillars of anti-Newsom sentiment aren’t as sturdy as his foes think. The Public Policy Institute of California found 59 percent of likely voters approve of how Newsom has managed school reopening — and 59 percent approve how he has handled jobs and the economy.

“That figure is a few points higher than the share of likely voters who told PPIC in March they would vote to keep Newsom in office.”

In theory, the recall could still collapse: Under state law, voters who signed the recall petition now have until June 8 to withdraw their signatures, and if enough were to do so, no election would take place. However, while there are examples of precisely this sort of thing happening in the past—Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter successfully derailed a recall in 2017 thanks to signature withdrawals, for instance—it’s unlikely Newsom’s campaign will pursue this option given that some 100,000 voters would have to recant.

Assuming the signatures stand up, it’ll still be some time before a recall can take place, as officials must fulfill a number of procedural obligations first. One step involves calculating the cost of the election, which preliminary estimates put at $400 million. The most likely date for the recall is some time in November.

Noah Pransky: “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could not have two more radically-different approaches when it comes to managing the coronavirus crisis. The same could be said for California Governor Gavin Newsom and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.”

“Yet, the leaders of America’s most-populous states – all recently criticized in the national press following different controversies – have one surprising thing in common: middling approval ratings that are neither near the top nor the bottom of the nation’s 50 state leaders.”

FiveThirtyEight goes back decades to calculate the margin between the national vote and the “tipping point” vote that parties needed to overcome to win the Presidency, Senate, and House. As it turns out, 2020 was an unusually favorable year for Republicans.

  • For the 2020 presidential election, Democrats had to overcome a 3.5% vote margin between the national vote and the tipping point state to win an Electoral College victory.
  • In the Senate elections, Democrats had to overcome a 5.0% vote margin between the national vote and the tipping point seat to control the Senate.
  • In the House races, Democrats had to overcome a 2.1% vote margin.

At first glance, this shows we are truly falling short of majoritarian democracy.

It’s true that the Senate was originally designed as a check on the majority. And rules like the filibuster only exacerbate that bias.

But the House was designed to closely reflect the will of the majority. It’s the partisan control of redistricting in many states that makes the House less representative.

And while the Electoral College is more complicated — perhaps too complicated for a modern era — electoral votes are allocated based on population so it’s not inherently anti-majoritarian either. It’s the sorting of the voters — Democrats to densely populated urban areas, Republicans to rural areas — that makes it unrepresentative of the national vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declares in the Wall Street Journal that he won’t take any corporate PAC donations:

“For too long, woke CEOs have been fair-weather friends to the Republican Party: They like us until the left’s digital pitchforks come out. Then they run away. Or they mouth off on legislation they don’t understand—and hurt the reputations of patriotic leaders protecting our elections and expanding the right to vote. Enough is enough. Corporations that flagrantly misrepresent efforts to protect our elections need to be called out, singled out and cut off.”

“In my nine years in the Senate, I’ve received $2.6 million in contributions from corporate political-action committees. Starting today, I no longer accept money from any corporate PAC. I urge my GOP colleagues at all levels to do the same.”

NEW JERSEY 5TH CD — Investment banker Frank Pallotta announced on Monday that he’d seek a rematch against Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who won last year’s race by a 53-46 margin. Pallotta joins Wantage school board president Nicholas D’Agostino in seeking the Republican nomination for New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, a seat in the New York City suburbs that went for Joe Biden 52-47 in 2020.

NEW MEXICO 1ST CD — Without any backup, evidence, or citations whatsoever, Republican state Sen. Mark Moores’ new ad claims Democratic state Rep. Melanie Stansbury supports “legislation that defunds the police.” The New Mexico Democratic Party responded with a statement calling Moores’ spot “false” and pointed to examples of “bipartisan legislation that would protect and expand funding for law enforcement” that Stansbury has supported.

Stansbury, meanwhile, is running a new positive ad that touts her ties to the district (an approving biker calls her “a proud Burqueña”—local parlance for someone from Albuquerque) and says she’ll “work with President Biden and bring home jobs to New Mexico.”

OHIO 11TH CD — Former state Sen. Nina Turner is up with her first TV ad in the Democratic primary for the special election in Ohio’s 11th District, which says is backed by a $514,000 buy. The minute-long spot covers a wide range of topics, from Turner’s humble upbringing to her rise to become a history professor to her work on the Cleveland City Council and in the state Senate. She concludes by discussing her role as Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign co-chair and her priorities for Congress (equal pay for women and a living wage).

The reference to Sanders stands out because he did not perform particularly well in the 11th District during his 2016 bid, which Turner also backed: Hillary Clinton carried the district by a 68-32 margin in the primary, making it by far Sanders’ weakest district in the state. (Joe Biden also dominated in the 11th last year, but Sanders had dropped out of the race weeks earlier.)

VIRGINIA GOVERNORVirginia Mercury: “The Virginia GOP says 53,524 delegates have registered to vote in the party’s nominating convention next week, in which Republicans will select their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

Virginia GOP Chairman Rich Anderson said it would be “the largest state party convention ever in American history.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR — Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in 2022, once wrote in support of an “ex-gay” Christian organization that promoted discredited “conversion therapy” and said that homosexuality was caused by “sexual molestation during childhood,” CNN reports.

Tshibaka also urged gay people to “not be controlled by the ‘once-gay-always-gay-rhetoric’ used to advance political agendas” and said that gay people can instead “come out of homosexuality” with the help of Jesus Christ.

Kris Kobach (R) has filed paperwork to campaign for Kansas attorney general, marking his latest comeback attempt after losing bids for governor and U.S. Senate, the Kansas City Star reports.

Politico: “Trump has hosted at his private club some of the most powerful Republicans plus a spate of aspiring elected officials vying for his approval. He’s deployed his emailed blasts to zero in on targets for vengeance while offering up to loyalists across the country his imprimatur. He’s welcomed well-heeled would-be donors.”

“And it’s not just what he’s doing—it’s what he’s not. He’s not working on a memoir, and he’s not putting into motion a presidential library, after-the-Oval activities that are nothing if not conventional but also acknowledgements of a change in status—to more was than is. Trump, on the other hand, isn’t acting like a has-been—he’s acting like a still-here.”

“Indeed, ramping up of late the volume and frenzy of his declarations, he is trying not only to not fade like any other former leader of the free world but to stoke his considerable remaining political sway—his first 100 days out of office a brazen continuation of his lack of a concession in the wake of his defeat.”

Former President Donald Trump told Fox Business that he would “certainly” consider Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as a potential running mate if he runs for president again in 2024. Said Trump: “He’s a friend of mine. I endorsed Ron, and after I endorsed him, he took off like a rocket ship.” He added: “A lot of people like that — you know, I’m just saying what I read and what you read — they love that ticket. But certainly, Ron would be considered. He’s a great guy.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence will give his first major speech in front of hundreds of South Carolina conservatives in Columbia next month in what could be his first potential 2024 Republican presidential primary test, the Columbia State reports.

WEST VIRGINIA IST AND 2ND CDS — How the upcoming round of redistricting will play out across the country is in most cases an unknowable mystery at this early date, and since there are more ways to draw new lines in a given state than there are atoms in the known universe, we’ll avoid most of the speculation about “what if” until we have actual maps in hand. But one state where the future is less murky is West Virginia, which the Census Bureau confirmed earlier this week would drop from three seats to two.

Given the state’s small size, that shrinkage will inevitably lead to a confrontation between two of the three Republicans who currently represent West Virginia in the House: David McKinley in the 1st District, Alex Mooney in the 2nd, and Carol Miller in the 3rd. Since the 2nd District slices neatly along the state’s mid-section, from the eastern panhandle in the D.C. suburbs to the capital of Charleston and thence to the Ohio border in the west, that likely means Mooney will eventually be pitted against one of his colleagues to the north or south.

If, that is, everyone tries to run again. In recent remarks to Politico, Mooney was adamant that he’d seek another term, even if that meant an incumbent-vs.-incumbent battle, uttering the word “definitely” three times. McKinley, however, was far less committal, saying only, “We’ll take a look at the numbers, see what they look like” and declining to say whether he might retire.

Simple geography makes it more likely that McKinley and Mooney will wind up double-bunked. McKinley, 74, hails from Wheeling in the skinny northern panhandle that’s sandwiched between Pennsylvania and Ohio, while Mooney, 49, lives in the tiny city of Charles Town on the state’s easternmost tip. A two-district map is more apt to consolidate the two panhandles than to combine either with the southern opposite end of the state, which would leave Miller, who’s from the state’s southwestern reaches, with a district of her own.

Mooney has far more cash in the bank: almost $2.4 million, compared to just $400,000 for McKinley. But McKinley, at least, has far deeper ties to the state. Prior to running for Congress in the 2nd District in 2014, Mooney spent a dozen years serving as a state senator in next-door Maryland, until he managed to get ousted by a Democrat in 2010 despite the GOP wave.

After his loss, he served as state GOP chair, then moved across the state line in 2013 when Republican Shelley Moore Capito vacated her seat in the House to run for Senate. Despite his baggage, Mooney prevailed in a seven-way Republican primary the next year with 36% of the vote. His district-shopping, however, seemed to haunt him in the general election, which he won just 47-44—again, in spite of the red wave, and in spite of the district’s deeply conservative lean. Ever since, in fact, he’s always managed to underperform the top of the ticket, though he finally erased most of his deficit last year.

McKinley, meanwhile, has been in the House since winning his first election in 2010 after longtime Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan lost a primary challenge from his right to state Sen. Mike Oliverio (hey, it’s West Virginia). McKinley took 35% in the GOP primary to defeat five rivals, then defeated Oliverio by less than a point in November. Unlike Mooney, though, McKinley never struggled to win re-election following that initial race.

No matter what the cartographers decide, both of West Virginia’s new districts will remain heavily Republican, seeing as Donald Trump’s 69-30 win last year made the state his second-best, trailing only Wyoming. But how exactly the Mountain State gets split in two could nevertheless make a big difference, depending how much of Mooney’s and McKinley’s current turf winds up in their new district, versus how much gets siphoned off to Miller’s. While it’s by no means destiny, every politician in a situation like this would prefer that as many voters as possible in their new district already be familiar with them.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR — Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who has been considering a bid against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, said on Tuesday that she’s “getting close” to announcing a decision, though she didn’t offer a specific timetable.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR / ATTORNEY GENERAL — In a piece analyzing why Republicans have yet to land a “superstar” eager to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein reports that one more big name will apparently stay out: Attorney General Chris Carr, he says, is “gearing up to run for reelection” rather than launch a bid for the Senate. Two notable Democrats are vying for the right to face Carr next year: 2018 nominee Charlie Bailey and state Sen. Jen Jordan.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD — Republican Rep. Don Young, whose 48 years in the House make him the chamber’s longest-tenured member, says he will seek a 26th term next year. Young, 87, faced well-funded challenges from Democratic-aligned independent Alyse Galvin the last two cycles but turned them both back, the most recent by a 54-45 margin.

TEXAS 6TH CD — The extremist anti-tax group Club for Growth has endorsed conservative activist Susan Wright in the May 1 special election for Texas’ vacant 6th Congressional District, which was held by Wright’s husband, Ron Wright, until his death earlier this year. The Club has already spent at least $260,000 on ads attacking Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey but hadn’t previously issued a formal endorsement of a particular candidate.

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