The Political Report – 8/5/21

A new Data for Progress poll finds that 71% of likely voters, including a majority of likely Republican voters, support the bipartisan infrastructure framework.

  • The pollsters also asked participants how important it is for lawmakers to make additional investments to combat climate change and transition to clean energy, in addition to what is contained in the bipartisan agreement.
  • This question, which tests the popularity of Democrats’ plan to pass a bigger spending bill through a party-line vote, showed that 75% of voters consider such spending “very important” or “somewhat important,” including 55% of likely Republican voters.
  • Interestingly, while 63% of likely voters said they support a government investment to accelerate the production and adoption of electric vehicles, that goal is not supported by the majority of likely Republican voters.

Peter Nicholas: “Previous presidents quashed shows of independence from their vice presidents, but Biden and his West Wing staff have the power to change that practice. If Biden genuinely believes that the fight against Trumpism is a battle for the soul of America, he will have to find a way to bolster his likeliest successor despite any short-term political cost, granting her the freedom to define her own profile.”

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR — Rep. Billy Long announced Tuesday evening that he was joining the crowded Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. Long noted that he’d previously been elected to succeed Blunt in southwestern Missouri’s 7th Congressional District back in 2010, and Long argued he’d continue the senator’s legacy in the upper chamber. The congressman went a little too far linking himself to the incumbent, though. While his launch event listed both Blunt and fellow Sen. Josh Hawley as his “honorary co-chairmen,” both soon confirmed they weren’t taking sides in the primary.

Long hails from one of the biggest sources of GOP votes in the state, though as we noted before, the former auctioneer may not be able to count on as much local support as he might want. While Long has never faced serious intraparty opposition since he won his first race a decade ago, he’s also never exceeded 66% of the vote in any of his nomination fights. We’re not sure exactly why so many primary voters keep opting for Some Dudes over their incumbent, especially since Long doesn’t seem to have done anything serious to alienate conservatives.

Long may also face fundraising challenges in what will be an expensive race. The congressman raised a mere $200,000 during the second quarter of 2021, though he may be able to ramp it up now that he’s officially running for the Senate and he ended June with $560,000 in the bank.

Two of Long’s primary foes finished the last fundraising period with more than twice as much cash on hand. Fellow Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who represents the west-central portion of Missouri, took in $890,000, and she had $1.5 million available. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, meanwhile, raised a far-stronger $1.3 million during his opening quarter and had $1.1 million to spend.

The field also includes a few other Republicans of note, though they don’t currently have particularly large war chests. Wealthy attorney Mark McCloskey raised $545,000 from donors, but he had only $165,000 on-hand at the end of June. McCloskey was also in the news again Tuesday when GOP Gov. Mike Parson pardoned the candidate along with his wife, weeks after the couple pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault; McCloskey had paid a $750 fine and surrendered the weapon he pointed at protestors last year, though he said immediately after his sentencing that “I’d do it again” and quickly purchased a new rifle that he proudly showed off on social media.

Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, meanwhile, raised $435,000 during the second quarter, and he had a mere $135,000 in the bank. He’ll get some major help, though, as Politico reported last month that billionaire Richard Uihlein, a prominent megadonor, has provided $2.5 million to a new pro-Greitens PAC. Greitens soon responded by putting out a press release proclaiming that $3.1 million had been raised “to support” his campaign, though he naturally avoided trumpeting his actual campaign’s total.  

The GOP field could expand further as Rep. Jason Smith has been talking about running for months, and he’d start out with plenty of cash if he did get in. Smith hauled in $540,000 for the quarter, and he ended June with $1.6 million to spend.

On the Democratic side, the contender with the largest war chest was Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who raised $625,000 and had $325,000 on-hand.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR –– The Club for Growth has released a new GOP primary survey from WPA Intelligence that finds its endorsed candidate, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, leading venture capitalist J.D. Vance 40-12, with the rest of the field even further behind.

Mike Gibbons (R) — a Cleveland investment banker running for the Republican nomination in Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race — is planning to spend $10 million on television and radio advertising over the next nine months, Spectrum News  reports.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR — MIRS News caused quite a stir in mid-July when Kyle Melinn reported that former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hadn’t quite ruled out seeking the GOP nomination for governor, but her inner circle is playing coy about if she’s even remotely interested. DeVos’ own husband, 2006 nominee Dick DeVos, wasn’t helpful when he was asked last month, saying, “The question is if she’s interested in being the governor. That’s a question you’d have to ask her some day.”

Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer fully recognizes that the notorious former secretary makes for an effective foil no matter whether or not she runs, though, and she’s been sending out fundraising appeals warning about her “billionaire-funded campaign.” A Betsy DeVos spokesperson was asked about her interest in the race and responded, “She hasn’t said word one about it, but Whitmer sure seems scared of it,” which isn’t a no.

Still, the Detroit Free Press’ Paul Egan writes that “the story of a possible DeVos run for governor has gained little traction.” He noted that when DeVos appeared on a political radio program last month, she wasn’t even asked if she was thinking about making the race.

NEBRASKA GOVERNOR — State Sen. Carol Blood said Monday that she was considering seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed termed-out Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, and that she planned to decide next month.

This office has been in GOP hands since the 1998 elections, and any Democrat would start out as the clear underdog, but Blood does have experience winning on tough turf. In 2016, she prevailed in a race to represent part of the Omaha suburbs in the officially nonpartisan legislature by unseating a Republican incumbent 52-48 even as Donald Trump was beating Hillary Clinton 56-37 in her constituency, and she held on with 50.4-49.6 last year.

ARIZONA 2ND CD — Juan Ciscomani, who serves as a senior advisor to Gov. Doug Ducey, announced Tuesday that he’d seek the Republican nomination for this open Tucson-based seat. Ciscomani is the first notable Republican to enter the race for a Democratic-held district that, in its current form, has dramatically moved to the left over the last decade.

NEW YORK 11TH CD –– Political observers have been wondering about former Rep. Max Rose’s plans ever since the Democrat stepped down from his position on the Defense Department’s COVID-19 task force a month ago, and he’s not doing anything to tamp down on the speculation. Rose told NY1 last week, “Right now that next chapter is playing with my son, who’s just about a year-and-a-half,” and he added, “There’s plenty of different ways that one can continue to serve. I look forward to exploring those ways.”

While Rose didn’t mention any office he might be interested in, DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney quickly said he’d “100%” like to see his former colleague seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. Malliotakis unseated Rose 53-47 last year as Trump was carrying this Staten Island-based seat by a larger 55-44 spread, though this district could become bluer after redistricting.

HAWAII GOVERNOR — Campaign finance reports are out for the first six months of 2021, and Lt. Gov. Josh Green outraised former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who is the only other notable Democrat who has entered the race, by a dramatic $424,000 to $10,000. Green ended June with a considerably smaller $636,000 to $509,000 advantage, though, thanks to money from Caldwell’s existing campaign account.

FLORIDA 13TH CD — While St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin expressed interest in early June in seeking the Democratic nomination for this open seat, it looks very unlikely she’ll be on the ballot next year. Tomalin announced Tuesday that she’d be taking a leadership post at Eckerd College starting in the new year; Tomalin doesn’t appear to have said anything new about the congressional race, though Florida Politics notes that this career move “dulls speculation” about her running.

IOWA U.S. SENATOR — Retired Vice Adm. Mike Franken said this week that he intended to seek the Democratic nomination for Senate again once he’s done “fixing a last-minute medical issue at Walter Reed,” though he didn’t elaborate. Last year, Franken went up against businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who had the backing of the national Democratic establishment, in a very difficult primary. Greenfield, who decisively outspent Franken and benefited from close to $7 million in outside spending, beat him 48-25 before losing to Republican Sen. Joni Ernst months later.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR AND 2ND CD — Republican Rep. Ann Wagner announced Tuesday that she would seek re-election to the House rather than compete in the crowded primary for Missouri’s open Senate race. The current version of her suburban St. Louis seat voted for Donald Trump just 49.18-49.16, which made it the closest of any of the nation’s 435 congressional districts, but the GOP legislature has the power to gerrymander it all over again.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR — State Sen. Chris Larson said Tuesday that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary and endorsing Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

OHIO 11TH CD — So what happened? Nina Turner, who was a prominent Bernie Sanders surrogate for both of his presidential campaigns, spent the race looking like the frontrunner, and she appeared to be the favorite going into Election Day; even Brown and her allies had released polls in the final weeks that, while showing Brown closing what was once a sizable gap, still had Turner ahead.

Turner campaigned as a conventional Democrat who supported Barack Obama, and she had support from well-known local figures like longtime Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. But Brown’s side, including the well-funded group Democratic Majority for Israel, worked hard to remind voters of Turner’s past criticisms of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. One quote that constantly made the rounds was Turner’s declaration last year that encouraging voters to back Biden in the general election was “like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.'” (Hey Eric Morrison, here is your proof of that quote).

Brown’s side also had plenty of resources to circulate that message. While Turner outspent Brown throughout the race, pro-Brown outside groups deployed $2.6 million compared to $870,000 for Turner’s allies.

Brown, who also serves as chair of the county Democratic Party, also made sure to position herself as a dependable Biden ally. The councilwoman had the backing of both Clinton, who decisively won this seat in the 2016 primary, as well as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who is the most powerful African American member of the chamber. And while Fudge herself remained neutral, the secretary’s mother, Marian Saffold, appeared in ads for Brown.

Turner, who campaigned in a van decked with the slogan “corporate Democrat want a puppet,” fired back by portraying her opponent as someone who was being propped up by special interests. Turner also aired a commercial during the final days that asserted, without evidence, that Brown was “facing investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission” and “could face … jail time,” a risky message that indicated that Turner knew her campaign was in trouble.

However, while observers were quick to frame the primary between the two veteran Cleveland-area politicians as the latest national skirmish between the party establishment and progressive outsiders, there were plenty of local factors that contributed to the result.  

As NBC’s Henry Gomez notes, Turner angered the Cleveland Black political establishment all the way back in 2009 when she backed a successful ballot measure to reform the Cuyahoga County government after several high-profile corruption scandals, and she even waged a 2012 primary campaign against Fudge. Turner, Gomez writes, “dropped the primary challenge idea pretty quickly, as Fudge had the Black establishment firmly in her corner, and that definitely matters in” this seat. Turner, with Fudge’s support, was the party’s 2014 nominee for secretary of state, but any rapprochement with local powerplayers ended the next year when Turner switched from being a Clinton supporter to being a Sanders backer.

Brown, by contrast, won a 2014 race for the county council, an election that took place, as Gomez notes, thanks to the 2009 ballot measure Turner championed. Brown later became chair of the county party with the support of Fudge, and the two remained close allies. “Regardless of whether Nina Turner spent five years as a top Bernie surrogate,” Gomez writes, “the establishment back home in Cleveland was always going to be an obstacle for her. While some have forgiven her for the county reform push, she was not among the party insiders like Brown was.”  

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

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