The Political Report – 9/3/21

“Americans overwhelmingly support President Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan, but by a 2-to-1 margin they disapprove of how he handled the chaotic and ultimately deadly withdrawal that included the evacuation of several thousand U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghans,”according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“The Afghanistan withdrawal has contributed to a drop in Biden’s overall approval rating, which for the first time in his presidency is net negative. The poll finds 44% saying they approve of how he is handling his job, while 51% disapprove.”

A new NBC News/Generation Lab poll of incoming college students across the country finds 92% of the freshmen — attending either two-year or four-year institutions — say they’re optimistic about their personal lives, including 28% who are “super” optimistic.

Jeff Greenfield: “If the behavior of Trump in the White House over four years was not enough to drive significant numbers of Republicans from the party’s ranks, it’s hard to imagine that an issue like abortion rights will.”

WASHINGTON 3RD CD — Former President Donald Trump endorsed Joe Kent (R) in his primary challenge against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, The Hill reports. Kent, it will not surprise you to learn, has falsely claimed Trump won the 2020 election and already had the support of some of the most prominent far-right figures in the House, Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Florida’s Matt Gaetz.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR — Former President Donald Trump on Thursday gave Republican former football star Herschel Walker his “Complete and Total Endorsement” in Georgia’s US Senate race, praising him as “a friend, a Patriot and an outstanding American who is going to be a GREAT United States Senator,” CNN  reports.

LOS ANGELES MAYOR — Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) told KPCC that she is “seriously considering” running for Los Angeles mayor.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR — New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D) “has begun calling allies about a prospective run for governor in the wide-open Democratic primary next June,” Politico reports.

In response to a question about discussions about a possible gubernatorial bid, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Tish James did not directly answer, saying only that James is “fully focused on her work.” In our book, we mark that sort of thing down as “not ruling it out.” That may not sound like much, but it’s the first time since Andrew Cuomo’s resignation that James or her team have even hinted that she might challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in next year’s Democratic primary. One unnamed source also told the New York Times that James, in the paper’s wording, “indicated she would like to make a call some time this fall.”

The same article, which canvasses possible Democratic contenders, says that Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi “is also thought to be seriously considering a run” and adds that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has publicly said he’s weighing a bid, “has told at least one person that he has already decided to run.”

FLORIDA GOVERNOR — “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has cemented himself as the face of GOP opposition to anti-Covid-19 mandates — a position that is winning over not only rank-and-file voters ahead of the 2024 presidential primaries but also some of the Republican Party’s wealthiest donors,” NBC News reports.

“How the race shapes up will first and foremost be determined by whether former President Donald Trump decides to run. But many donors are investing early in potential candidates like DeSantis, whom polling shows to be the leading Trump alternative in the prospective presidential field.”

RMG Research’s first poll of next year’s general election gives Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis identical 41-38 leads over his two declared Democratic foes, Rep. Charlie Crist and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

The Democratic primary field may expand before too long, though, as state Sen. Annette Taddeo reiterated her interest this week when she told the Miami Herald she was considering running for something in the fall. Taddeo was Crist’s running mate during his narrow 2014 defeat for this office.

MISSOURI 5TH CD — Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) “keeps hearing Missouri Republicans will try to redraw his Kansas City-area district to get him out of office. He’s starting to believe it,” the Kansas City Star reports.

Said Cleaver: “I hear that literally every day from somebody. So I guess I have to, at this point, assume that it’s going to be a serious effort to alter the present construct of the Fifth District.”

TRUMP 2024 Politico: “Former President Donald Trump plans to hold a rally in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa as he continues to tease a third run for the White House. Details for Trump’s trip are still being worked out.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told The Undercurrent in Iowa that Donald Trump will announce he’s running for President in 2024 “any day now.”

Maggie Haberman reports Trump “could always not pull the trigger but this is what he’s now told several people — sooner rather than later.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Early candidacy announcements are usually a sign of weakness. Longshots announce early, and begin campaigning early, because they need a lot of time to build enough attention and support to persuade party actors and news organizations to take them seriously.”

“But Trump’s situation is different. It’s at least possible that by jumping in definitively at this early stage, he could convince everyone else to stay out. The longer uncertainty persists, the more other politicians will be doing candidate-like things, which in turn could make one or more of them more likely to stay in and run a serious campaign. Even if Trump would be the likely winner, he’d rather have the nomination given to him than to have to fight for it, and an early announcement might do the trick.”

Dallas Morning News: “Two Democratic state senators on Wednesday filed a lawsuit that challenges the plans of Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP legislative leaders to redraw political maps in a special session this year. The senators argued that the Texas Constitution requires that it be done in a regular session that won’t happen until 2023.”

OREGON GOVERNOR — New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof appears to be getting more serious about a possible run for governor of Oregon, approaching “high-level Democrats” about who he could get to work on a campaign, Politico  reports.

State House Speaker Tina Kotek, who’d been eyeing a bid for months, kicked off a campaign for governor on Wednesday, making her by far the most prominent Democrat in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Kate Brown next year.

Kotek first joined the legislature after winning a safely blue seat in Portland in 2006, then became the nation’s first lesbian legislative leader when she was elevated to the speakership just six years later. During her eight years leading the House, Kotek has overseen passage of an array of progressive measures, including a generous family and medical leave program, a minimum wage hike, and an equal pay law.

But in recent years, these efforts have been thwarted by repeated Republican walkouts that have killed legislation to combat climate change and increase education funding, among other things. Earlier this year, Kotek caved to another threatened boycott by giving GOP lawmakers veto power over the redistricting process despite their minority status, earning her the fury of prominent democrats like Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader.

Kotek has also often been described—and described herself—as a strong advocate for organized labor, which could prove a boon in next year’s primary. But two years ago, she shepherded a bill that made cuts to pensions for public employees, a move that infuriated unions. The Willamette Week’s Rachel Monahan says that Kotek has nevertheless “stayed a close ally of union leadership,” though just how true that remains once other Democrats join the race will be a key test.

And join they will. Though Kotek’s entry will likely deter some candidates (labor leader Melissa Unger said last week she’s “really unlikely” to run), other major players are still weighing bids. These ranks include state Treasurer Tobias Read, whom Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Dirk VanderHart says “is widely expected to announce a campaign in coming days,” and state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is reportedly considering.

For what it’s worth, there’s also New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who tells VanderHart that he’s “getting close to a decision,” though since he voted in New York last year, he may not be eligible to run (though of course he insists otherwise). The lone notable Democrat already in the race is Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla.

The best-known Republican, meanwhile, is physician Bud Pierce, who lost a 2016 special election to Brown 51-43. He faces a primary that includes businesswoman Jessica Gomez and Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten.

P.S. If Kotek were to succeed Brown, who is bisexual, it would be the first time a governorship has ever passed from one LGBTQ office-holder to another.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR — Saving Arizona PAC, a group funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to support former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, has launched what Politico calls a seven-figure buy well ahead of next year’s GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.

The commercial begins by going after Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is one of Masters’ many intra-party rivals, for recognizing Joe Biden’s victory in the state. The ad then shows footage of Donald Trump, who has made his hatred of Brnovich well known but hasn’t endorsed anyone, praising Masters.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR — State Sen. Michelle Benson announced Wednesday  that she was joining what had been a slowly-developing Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, but one likely rival pre-empted her kickoff with some news of his own.

Fellow state Sen. Paul Gazelka said hours before Benson’s scheduled event that he was stepping down as majority leader and expected to decide on a gubernatorial bid sometime after Labor Day; he also revealed later in the day that he wouldn’t seek re-election to the legislature regardless of whether or not he ran statewide. Gazelka has spent months keeping politicos guessing about his plans and observers speculated just a month ago that he’d sit the contest out, but his decision to give up his powerful job indicates he’s quite serious about running against Walz.

Benson, who would be the first woman to lead Minnesota, has represented a safely red seat in the northern Twin Cities suburbs since 2011, and she currently serves as deputy majority leader. The senator has made a name for herself over the last year as a fierce opponent of Walz’s public health measures, and she used her Wednesday event to argue that people in the more rural parts of the state feel “very differently” about the governor’s pandemic policies than residents of the Twin Cities area.

Benson joins a field that already includes former state Sen. Scott Jensen, a physician who has been banned from TikTok for spreading what the company called “misinformation on COVID-19 guidelines;” dermatologist Neil Shah; and Mike Murphy, the mayor of the small community of Lexington.

The Associated Press notes that Jensen has spent the last several months working to win over the party activists who will determine who earns the party endorsement next year. Winning the party endorsement is not the same thing as winning the nomination, but many politicos in Minnesota take it very seriously, and there’s often pressure on candidates to drop out if they lose it.

As a result, it’s common for candidates in both parties to, in local parlance, “abide” by the party endorsement process and end their campaigns instead of proceeding to the primary if they aren’t chosen. Benson said she would try to win over the delegates, but she declined to say if she’d abide by the endorsement.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR — Donald Trump waded into the crowded open seat GOP primary on Wednesday by endorsing Army veteran Sean Parnell, who lost an unexpectedly tight race last year for the 17th Congressional District.

Trump’s early support for Parnell isn’t a huge surprise, as he was the one who pushed the veteran, who was a frequent Fox News guest, to run for the House before he’d even announced his candidacy in 2019. And in characteristic fashion, Trump lied on Wednesday when he declared that the candidate “got robbed” in his subsequent defeat against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who is also running for the Senate.

Parnell, for his part, never conceded his race and also joined an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to invalidate 2.5 million disproportionately Democratic votes cast by mail in Pennsylvania in the hopes of throwing the state to Trump.

CALIFORNIA GOVERNORA new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, one of the state’s most respected polling outfits, shows the Sept. 14 recall of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom failing by a wide 58-39 margin, but the trendline may be the most interesting detail of all. The last time PPIC tested the race in May, the results were little different, with “no” winning 57-40.

These results suggest that Newsom’s apparent summertime swoon, as depicted by other pollsters, may have been illusory. Of course, it’s possible that, had PPIC gone into the field in the intervening months, it would have found a dip for Newsom—we can never know. But it’s worth bearing in mind the possibility that nothing has really changed over the course of this election. (A great historical example of this, if you’ve never seen it before, is Barack Obama’s internal polling from 2012 versus Gallup’s: The former’s was steady and nailed the final result, while the latter’s gyrated wildly and missed the ultimate outcome by several points.)

Meanwhile, British pollster Redfield & Winton sees the recall losing by a narrower 51-43 spread, though this is their first poll of the race. Redfield doesn’t appear to have asked about replacement candidates, but for what it’s worth, PPIC has conservative radio host Larry Elder taking 27% and everyone else in single digits—pretty much the same as other pollsters.

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

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