The Political Report – 5/1/21

Nathaniel Rakich: “Any way you slice it, all of Biden’s economic proposals — and his mechanisms for paying for them — are popular.”

Biden’s own-party job approval of 96% in Gallup’s polling is the highest of any president ever. As Bruce Mehlman notes in his latest slide deck, that’s even higher than Dwight D. Eisenhower who defeated Hitler.

Philip Bump looks at a new CNN poll: “About 3-in-10 Americans think that Biden didn’t legitimately win, despite the utter lack of evidence to bolster that claim. More alarmingly, 1-in-5 believe there’s actually solid evidence Biden didn’t win, which there is not. And more alarming still, that position — that there’s this solid evidence the election was stolen — is held by half of Republicans.”

This is not the first poll that suggests half of Republicans are willing to believe something without any evidence.

“I don’t know, but I’m sure it was going on.” — Florida state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R), quoted by the New York Times, when asked if he could identify any real-world instances of illegal ballot collection in Florida.

Former President Donald Trump has become “fixated” on the work of the Cyber Ninjas, the little-known firm that has undertaken an audit of the 2020 election in Arizona, the Washington Post reports. Said one aide: “He talks about it constantly.” The aide noted that Trump asks for updates multiple times a day and at one point carried on for 45 minutes on the subject.

FLORIDA 20TH CD — State Rep. Omari Hardy, a first-term lawmaker with a reputation as an outspoken progressive, entered the special election for Florida’s vacant 20th Congressional District on Wednesday.

Last year, Hardy won a seat in the legislature by unseating state Rep. Al Jacquet in the Democratic primary 43-26, after an ugly campaign in which Jacquet slurred Hardy with an anti-gay epithet. (Hardy is not gay but said the insult was “personal for me” because he was raised by two mothers.) During that campaign, Hardy shot to prominence when, while serving on the City Commission in Lake Worth Beach, footage of him lambasting Republican Mayor Pam Triolo over the issue of cutting off utilities at the start of the coronavirus pandemic went viral.

Hardy is at least the fifth notable Democrat to join the race to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died earlier this month. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to set a date for the special election to fill Hastings’ seat.

OHIO 15TH CD — Fairfield County Commissioner Jeff Fix is the latest Republican to join the special election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, which is set to become vacant next month when GOP Rep. Steve Stivers’ resignation takes effect. In describing his interest in pursuing the post, Fix struck the sort of note that’s been greeted with disdain by Republicans for many years, saying, “There are too many people that are more interested in headlines than in getting the job done on both sides of the aisle.”

WYOMING AT LARGE CD — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) says it’s “wishful thinking” by former President Donald Trump that she won’t run for re-election, the AP reports.  Said Cheney: “I am absolutely dedicated and committed to winning my primary and earning the votes of the people of Wyoming.”

ILLINOIS 17TH CD — After 10 years in Congress, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL)  announced Friday that she will not run for reelection in 2022, the HuffPost  reports. Illinois’ 17th congressional district “leans Democratic,” according to the Cook Political Report, and Bustos comfortably won all of her reelections, though her closest race came in 2020.

Politico: “The reality TV star and transgender activist hasn’t made a single TV appearance. She hasn’t held a press conference or social media event. No rollout of key Republican endorsements. She doesn’t have an issues page on her website, but offers ways to ‘donate’ and buy ‘Caitlyn for California’ merchandise.”

Said GOP consultant Rob Stutzman: “If she doesn’t come out and say something within the next several days, I think everyone moves on and says this is just some type of crank candidacy.”

TEXAS 6TH CD SPECIAL ELECTION TODAY. Politico: “The first competitive special election of the new election cycle has quickly turned into a 2020 redux: It’s the Donald Trump show all over again.”

“Trump made a late foray in the 23-candidate scramble for a vacant congressional seat in North Texas, transforming a once-quiet race into a major test of his post-presidency king-making power. After endorsing Susan Wright, a Republican activist and widow of the late incumbent, Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX), Trump joined her and the anti-tax Club for Growth at a tele-town hall on Thursday night to rail against his rival, President Joe Biden, and remind listeners of the stakes.”

Meanwhile, “Texas Republican congressional candidate Susan Wright (R) is seeking help from federal law enforcement the day before her special election, after supporters reported receiving robocalls that accused her of being responsible for the death of her late husband,” Politico reports.

“Wright’s campaign reached out to the FBI and the Department of Justice on Friday after discovering robocalls baselessly alleging that she had ‘murdered’ her husband, the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX).”

We’ll almost certainly have to wait until an as-yet-unscheduled runoff before we know the winner. That’s because, under state law, all candidates from all parties are running together on a single ballot. In the event that no one captures a majority—which is all but certain, given the enormous 23-person field—the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to a second round.

Exactly who that lucky twosome might be is difficult to say, given the paucity of recent polling and, in any event, the difficulty of accurately surveying the electorate in a special election like this one. The few polls we have seen have all found the same two contenders at the top of the heap: Republican Susan Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright (whose death in February triggered this election), and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, the party’s 2018 nominee who lost to the former congressman by a closer-than-expected 53-45 margin.

The numbers have all been extremely tight, however, and “undecided” has always remained the most popular choice, while several other candidates have trailed closely behind the frontrunners. On the Republican side, the more notable names include state Rep. Jake Ellzey, former Trump administration official Brian Harrison, and former WWE wrestler Dan Rodimer (who lost a bid for Congress in Nevada last year). For Democrats, also in the mix are educator Shawn Lassiter and businesswoman Lydia Bean, who unsuccessfully ran for a nearby state House district in 2020.

Wright’s top Republican rivals, led by Ellzey, have all outraised her. The top outside spender in the race, the Club for Growth, also seems to view Ellzey as a threat, since it’s put at least $260,000 into TV ads attacking him. Two other super PACs, meanwhile, have spent $350,000 to boost Ellzey.

There’s been less third-party activity on the Democratic side, with two groups spending about $100,000 on behalf of Sanchez, who raised $299,000 in the first quarter, compared to $322,000 for Lassiter and $214,000 for Bean. The biggest concern for Democrats right now may be making the runoff altogether, since there’s a chance two Republicans could advance. It’s theoretically possible the reverse could happen, but overall, Republicans have dominated in fundraising, collectively taking in $1.7 million to just $915,000 for Democrats.

That disparity may reflect the traditionally conservative lean of the 6th District, which covers much of the city of Arlington but juts out to take in rural areas south of Dallas. The area has always voted Republican, though in 2020, Trump’s 51-48 win was by far the closest result the district has produced in a presidential race in many years. Ron Wright, however, ran well ahead of the top of the ticket, defeating Democrat Stephen Daniel 53-44.

To have a chance at flipping this seat, Democrats will need the district’s overall trend to the left to continue, though first, of course, they’ll need to make sure one of their candidates gets to the runoff. Exactly when that second round might happen is unknown, though, because Texas law only permits runoffs to be scheduled after an initial election takes place.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR / U.S. SENATORPlaybook: “It’s sounding increasingly likely that Rep. Val Demings wants to run against Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, according to two sources who have spoken with her about it and two more who have been briefed on her conversations with donors and top Democrats.”

Said one source: “At this point, it’s more likely than not that she does run. And if she does, it’s almost definitely running for governor.”

“That puts Demings on a collision course with former governor and fellow Rep. Charlie Crist, who is expected to announce his own gubernatorial campaign as early as Tuesday.”

MARYLAND GOVERNOR — Nonprofit head Wes Moore, who said in February that he was considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, has filed paperwork with state election officials to create a fundraising committee. Maryland Matters reports that Moore is likely to make an announcement “within the next few weeks.”

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR — Though New Jersey’s primary is not until June, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli is acting as though he already has the nomination in the bag, judging by his TV ads attacking Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. His latest slams Murphy for ordering a shutdown of businesses at the start of the coronavirus pandemic—without actually mentioning the pandemic, making it sound like Murphy just arbitrarily forced pizza places to close their doors. Perhaps this kind of messaging will work as the worst of the pandemic begins to fade, but voters are apt to recall just how terrifying the virus’ devastation was.

One person trying to remind voters of precisely this is none other than … Jack Ciattarelli. In an ad he released last month, he berated Murphy for nursing home deaths that happened on his watch, saying that 8,000 seniors and veterans died “scared and alone.”

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR — Former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy’s campaign has announced that it’s spending $450,000 on a new TV buy in the Washington, D.C. media market, which is home to a little more than a third of the state’s residents, ahead of the June 8 Democratic primary.

Carroll Foy also has a new spot where she talks about how, after her grandmother had a stroke, “we were forced to choose between her mortgage and medicine.” She continues, “So when my babies were born early, I was grateful to have healthcare that saved their lives and mine.” Carroll Foy concludes, “I’ve been a foster mom, public defender, and delegate who expanded Medicaid. Now, I’m running for governor to bring affordable healthcare to all of us.”

Meanwhile, “as Republicans across the country insist more laws are needed to protect election integrity, Virginia Republicans have found themselves in a bit of a voter ID quagmire,” NBC News reports. “At issue is a decision to quietly allow voters to participate in their complicated primary process even if they left blank parts of the application, including required fields that asked for their state-issued voter ID number and a signature.”

“Under party rules, the final decision should be made with input from the state party’s general counsel, but he had to recuse himself because he works for one of the campaigns.”

MONTANA 2ND CD — Former Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke has filed paperwork with the FEC to create a campaign committee that would allow him to run in Montana’s as-yet-undrawn—and entirely new—2nd Congressional District. Zinke previously served as the state’s lone member of the House after winning an open-seat race in 2014 but resigned not long after securing a second term to serve as Donald Trump’s interior secretary.

It was a promotion that worked out very poorly. Like many Trump officials, Zinke was beset by corruption allegations, including charges that he’d spent tens of thousands in taxpayer funds on personal travel and used public resources to advance a private land deal with the chair of the oil services company Halliburton.

In all, he was the subject of at least 15 investigations, but what appears to have finally done him in was Democrats’ victory in the 2018 midterms, which would have exposed him to congressional subpoenas. The White House, the Washington Post reported, told Zinke “he had until the end of the year to leave or be fired.” He resigned in mid-December.

Zinke’s old seat is now occupied by Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, who won his first term last year after Zinke’s successor, Greg Gianforte, decided to run for governor. Fortunately for Zinke, he and Rosendale are from opposite ends of the state: Rosendale lives in the small town of Glendive, not far from the North Dakota border, while Zinke’s from Whitefish, another small town located in Montana’s northwestern corner. It’s impossible to say, of course, when the next map will look like, but these two burghs almost certainly won’t wind up in the same district.

We also don’t know if Zinke will in fact seek a comeback, since he hasn’t yet spoken publicly about his intentions (and as we like to remind folks, it’s easy to file some forms with the FEC—it’s a lot harder to actually run a campaign). But whether or not he does, it’s very likely that other ambitious Montana pols will also want to kick the tires on this brand-new district.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) are “going on tour” to call out RINOs and the “radical left,” Politico reports.

“Rocked by a steady stream of leaks about a federal investigation into alleged sex crimes, the Florida congressman is planning to take his case on the road by holding rallies across the nation with Greene, another lightning rod member of Congress.”

“Together, they plan to attack Democrats and call out Republicans they deem as insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, such as the 10 GOP House members who voted for his second impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.”

“Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill on Thursday that is set to usher in a host of voting restrictions in one of the most critical battleground states in the country,” the New York Times reports.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR — “Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) has begun telling some donors and supporters in recent days that he is likely to enter the Pennsylvania Senate race,” Politico reports. “Lamb has urged some donors to contribute quickly as he ramps up his fundraising operation ahead of a formal launch.”

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

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