The Political Report – 7/29/21

Jonathan Bernstein: “Now, measuring the effects of endorsements across a full election cycle is difficult, and assessing the effect on a single contest is basically impossible. (That’s true of almost everything, whether it’s endorsements or campaign ads or speeches or debates.) There are too many possible factors, and only one outcome.”

“However, the result in Texas does suggest that some of the more exaggerated expectations about Trump’s endorsement were overstated. If he can’t deliver in a low-interest contest without an incumbent on the ballot — and we can at least say that he failed to generate any kind of turnout surge for Susan Wright, his preferred candidate — then it seems less likely that he can bump off otherwise safe incumbent Republicans in primary elections with little effort.”

“But what matters isn’t how important Trump’s endorsement actually was. It’s how his endorsements are perceived by Republican party actors, especially politicians.”

“Donald Trump’s advisers are angry at David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, for persuading the former president to endorse a losing candidate in the special election for Texas’ 6th District,” Axios reports.

Vox: “Newsmax’s viewership is down more than 50 percent from January (from an average of about 300,000 viewers then to about 114,000 on July 18), and following a significant slump in December and January, Fox News has reestablished itself as not just the most-watched right-wing cable news network but the most-watched cable news network, period.”

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR — Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has not yet committed to seeking the Republican nomination for governor, but the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari reports that some “prominent GOP donors and operatives” are worried that his recent public confrontation with his old boss, former Attorney General Bill Barr, has unmasked him as a weak candidate. McSwain, like so many of his fellow Republicans, can trace his current headache in part to his subservience to Donald Trump and his lies about the 2020 election.

About two weeks ago, Trump released a letter McSwain wrote in June in which the former prosecutor insisted his office had “received various allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities.” He continued, “As part of my responsibilities as U.S. Attorney, I wanted to be transparent with the public and, of course, investigate fully any allegations.” But what received the most attention was McSwain’s incendiary allegation that “Attorney General Barr, however, instructed me not to make any public statements or put out any press releases regarding possible election irregularities.”

Barr did not respond kindly to McSwain’s missive, telling the Inquirer, “The letter is written in a very deceptive way that is intended to convey an impression, it’s a false one, that he was restrained from looking into election fraud.” The ex-attorney general continued, “He wanted to not do the business of the department, which is to investigate cases, but instead go out and flap his gums about what he didn’t like about the election overall.”

Barr also said that he’d spoken to McSwain about his letter before going public, saying, “He told me that he had to do this because he was under pressure from Trump and for him to have a viable candidacy he couldn’t have Trump attacking him.”

All of this, Tamari writes, has convinced unnamed political insiders that McSwain would be a shaky nominee and that they need an alternative. To that end, these operatives have been speaking with another Chester County Republican about running, and it’s a name we haven’t heard from in a long time: former Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Gerlach’s been down this path once before, serving four terms in a suburban Philadelphia swing seat before trying his hand at a campaign for governor in 2010. The congressman, though, dropped out months before the primary after he failed to gain traction against the primary frontrunner and eventual winner, Attorney General Tom Corbett.

Gerlach wound up running for re-election that year and won one final term before retiring in 2014, and he’s since taken over as head of a chamber of commerce-like organization in the Reading area. His departure from Congress, though, was the last occasion we’ve had to write about his political career until now, and he’s still making himself scarce, since he didn’t respond to Tamari’s questions about a possible second gubernatorial run.

Another Republican, Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi, is being a lot more forthcoming about his own interest, though. Ciarrocchi claims he “has heard from several people” about a potential campaign to succeed termed-out Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf and added, “I am listening.” Tamari, though, relays that “many in the party doubt he can muster a serious challenge.”

The GOP field currently consists of Lou Barletta, a former congressman who badly lost a 2018 bid for Senate; Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, who has an awful relationship with the state party; surgeon Nche Zama; and party strategist Charlie Gerow. On Friday, Gerow’s campaign said that he was involved in a crash two days earlier that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist, saying, “He looks forward to the State Police completing their investigations and is confident that the investigation will confirm that he was not the cause of the accident.”

OHIO 11TH CD — Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown is out with a new ad ahead of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary that takes aim at former State Sen. Nina Turner’s past critiques of prominent Democratic politicians. The spot highlights critical comments from Turner about Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the Democratic Party as a whole. The ad ends with a familiar refrain from Brown’s campaign that her goal in Congress is to work with Biden.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland has endorsed Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown ahead of next week’s Democratic primary in the special election for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

FLORIDA 26TH and 27TH CD — Democrats have yet to land any notable candidates in a pair of neighboring South Florida congressional districts they lost last year, though the two women who represented those seats could both make comebacks. Former Rep. Donna Shalala, who said in February that she’s considering a rematch against Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar in the 27th District, now says she “will likely have a decision firmed up in October,” according to Politico‘s Matt Dixon.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell hasn’t ruled out a reprise with Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez in the 26th, says Dixon, though there’s no quote from the congresswoman. In May, however, Florida Politics reported that Mucarsel-Powell was considering a bid in the 27th, though presumably the two one-time colleagues would not run for the same seat.

As always, redistricting is a major reason why the field has been slow to develop, particularly since Republicans are all but certain to gerrymander the Miami area to their advantage. But an additional factor may be trauma from last year’s stunning losses. Says veteran Democratic operative Ben Pollara, “I do think there is to some degree just a hangover after the fucking shellacking we took here in 2020, and all the drama that came after the election.”

New York Times: “Mr. Biden’s name has been as absent from the G.O.P. pleas for cash as Mr. Trump has been pervasive, a warning sign that Republicans are struggling to stir the kind of impassioned opposition to him that they had once generated to former President Barack Obama.”

“Since May 1, the Republicans’ Senate campaign arm has invoked Mr. Biden’s name in the sender line on its emails just four times; Mr. Trump’s name has appeared there 185 times.”

Politico: “The salience of hitting Democrats on the subject of race was discussed privately by GOP strategists on the sidelines of a Republican National Committee dinner in California last week, and again at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association last week in Aspen, Colo., according to multiple people who attended those events.”

Said GOP strategist Curt Anderson: “This is not a close call. This is ‘Defund the Police’ 2.0.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR — Sen: Rep. Gwen Moore, who is one of just three Democrats in Wisconsin’s House delegation and the only Black member, has endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in his bid to replace Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Barnes is seeking to become the first Black person to win a Senate seat in state history. The state’s other two House Democrats, Reps. Mark Pocan and Ron Kind, have yet to take sides in the primary, with Kind supposedly still considering a bid of his own.

ALABAMA GOVERNOR — State Auditor Jim Ziegler, who previously said he’d decide next month on whether to challenge Gov. Kay Ivey in next year’s Republican primary, has now narrowed his timeframe in new remarks, saying he’ll make an announcement by Aug. 21. Ziegler said that Ivey “needs to be primaried” and called her out for recently saying it was “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks” for the rise in coronavirus cases. “I don’t think the people who made a decision to not be vaccinated don’t like to be called irregular,” said Ziegler.

CALIFORNIA GOVERNORUC Berkeley’s new poll of California’s gubernatorial recall election is a perfect opportunity to repeat our most important credo: Never let just one poll determine your outlook on a race. The survey, which shows Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom fending off the Sept. 14 recall by a slim 50-47 margin among likely voters, is sure to fuel angst in Democratic circles, but so far, Berkley is the only reliable pollster to show the race this tight.

A reason for this tightening, says the school, is greater enthusiasm among Republican voters: When looking at all registered voters, the “no” side is ahead by a considerably wider 51-36 margin. That’s similar to what Berkeley found among registered voters in early May, when it had the recall failing 49-36. It’s a bigger change, though, compared to likely voters in that prior poll, when “no” was ahead 50-42.

Determining who constitutes a likely voter is always difficult, and doing so for an oddly timed special election is even more so. Berkeley’s screen also seems to be particularly tight: A memo from polling director Mark DiCamillo describes “those considered most likely to participate,” which is a fairly high bar.

What’s more, narrowing the landscape in this way hasn’t always benefited recall proponents—according to Berkeley’s own polling. In the school’s first survey of the race, taken back in January, the anti-recall position did better among likely voters, with “no” in front 49-36 with this group versus 45-36 among all voters.

None of this is to dismiss the findings of this latest poll—Newsom could very well be in danger. As DiCamillo notes, expectations that the governor will prevail “may be fostering greater complacency among recall opponents than among supporters.” He also suggests that Republican voters may be more hyped to participate because of interest in the second question on the ballot, which features a host of semi-prominent Republican names eager to replace Newsom but no Democrats of note.

On that question, conservative radio host Larry Elder leads the way with 18%, while businessman John Cox (who was the GOP’s nominee against Newsom in 2018) and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer each take 10% and no other candidates crack double digits among likely voters. However, 40% are undecided, including 66% of Democrats. Many or most, though, may intend to leave the question blank.

If Newsom is in trouble, we’ll know soon, since other polls are sure to follow. But for now, the best thing any analyst can do is wait and see.

MICHIGAN GOVERNORThe leading Republican fundraiser so far in Michigan’s gubernatorial race is someone we hadn’t even mentioned before: Kalamazoo chiropractor Garrett Soldano, who’s best known for his activism against measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic. But the $600,000 he raised in the first half of the year (not including a $25,000 personal loan) was dwarfed by the $8.6 million brought in by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has $10.7 million in the bank to just $376,000 for Soldano—and she doesn’t have to fight for her party’s nomination.

Soldano’s haul actually exceeded the entire rest of the GOP field combined, which, for some perspective, includes one candidate we have mentioned previously, conservative radio host Tudor Dixon, who raised just $133,000 and had $87,000 on hand. However, these reports don’t include numbers from former Detroit police Chief James Craig, who announced a campaign after the end of the reporting period.

The shape of the race could change further still if wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke gets in: A spokesman says Rinke, who used to run car dealerships, is “prepared to initially invest $10 million” on his own behalf. He has not yet offered a timetable for announcing a decision, however.

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR — GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin is out with two new ads. The first spot finds Youngkin laying out his economic agenda and using his oft-repeated line about creating a “rip-roaring” economy in Virginia.

In the second commercial, Youngkin pokes fun at negative advertising, using a concept that Sen. Raphael Warnock employed in an ad during the Georgia runoffs earlier this year. Youngkin claims that “Terry McAuliffe is gonna try to scare you with lies about me because he doesn’t want to talk about his own extreme views.” He follows this up by saying “What’s next? I hate dogs?”—a line that is almost directly cribbed from the now-famous ad Warnock ran.

VIRGINIA 7TH CD — Former Gov. Bob McDonnell has endorsed communications consultant Taylor Keeney, who was his press secretary during his time in office almost a decade ago, in the GOP primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Also running to take on Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is nonprofit head Tina Ramirez, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nod here last year.

A new Gallup poll finds 49% of Americans approve of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing, its first approval rating below the majority level since 2017. A year ago, 58% approved of the court.

However, unlike in 2017, when wide party gaps in ratings of the court drove its approval below 50%, today Republicans and Democrats view it similarly.

Republicans disapproving of a 6-3 conservative court at the same level as Democrats is pretty astounding.

 IOWA 1ST CD — Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis announced a challenge to freshman Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson in Iowa’s competitive 1st District, which has changed hands twice over the past decade. Whether it might do so again, however, depends in part on whether Republicans in the legislature continue the state’s tradition of nonpartisan redistricting or override four decades of precedent to enshrine a gerrymandered map.

Whatever happens, Mathis at least gives Democrats a credible candidate against Hinson, who narrowly unseated first-term Democrat Abby Finkenauer last year by a 51-49 margin. (Finkenauer is now running for Senate.) That result was a bit tighter than at the top of the ticket in this northeastern Iowa district, where Donald Trump prevailed 51-47.

Mathis first won office in a key special election in 2011, after Democrat Swati Dandekar accepted an appointment from Terry Branstad, the Republican governor at the time, that threatened Democrats’ narrow 26-24 majority in the Senate. She’s since won re-election twice, by double digits both times. Prior to entering politics, Mathis worked as a reporter and news anchor at a pair of local TV stations for 27 years. For a time, she was coworkers with Hinson, who was a morning news anchor at KCRG while Mathis hosted the evening news program.

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

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