The Political Report – 10/21/21

A new Grinnell College/Selzer national poll finds President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen to 37% to 50%.

The poll also shows Biden’s support among independent voters has collapsed, and he would be tied with former President Trump if the 2024 election were held today.

Said pollster Ann Selzer: “In 2020 exit polling, President Biden won independent voters by a 54% to 41% margin. If the election were held today, our poll shows former President Trump winning that group 45% to 28%. It is a massive shift in a demographic that helped carry Biden to victory less than two years ago.”

A new Quinnipiac poll finds President Biden’s approval rate at a dismal 37% to 52% among likely voters.

Josh Marshall:  “The story here is not complicated, at least in broad strokes. Mid-summer Delta, economic knock-on effects of Delta and finally Afghanistan started sapping Biden’s popularity. Manchin saw that ebbing power and started pumping the brakes on the President’s agenda. This was of a piece with DC insider culture, which Manchin is the ultimate creature of, turning hard on the President. The big reporters changing their view of him and the lobbies sensing weakness.  All political power is unitary and it’s played out over the last two or three months in a very damaging way.”

A new Quinnipiac poll finds a majority of Americans say they do not want to see Donald Trump run for president in 2024, 58% to 35%.  However, a big majority of Republicans do want to see Trump run for president in 2024, 78% to 16%.  Also interesting: 51% of Americans say Trump has had a mainly negative impact on American politics, while 41% say he has had a mainly positive impact.

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds 62% of American voters say the Biden administration’s policies are either somewhat or very responsible for increasing inflation, including 41% of Democrats, 61% of independent voters and 85% of Republicans.

A new Gallup poll finds that across 46 countries and territories, median approval of U.S. leadership stood at 49% under President Biden.  This rating is up from the 30% median approval at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and matches the rating during former President Barack Obama’s first year in office in 2009.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. A new Siena poll in New York finds Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) leads her closest possible Democratic primary opponent by between 14 and 19 points in three possible scenarios.

Siena College finds Gov. Kathy Hochul leading Attorney General Tish James 39-20 in a hypothetical Democratic primary, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 10% and 8%, respectively. So far only Hochul has announced a bid, though Williams formed an exploratory committee last month.

The school also tested a five-way contest involving disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is still the subject of plenty of chatter despite his team’s August declaration that he “has no interest in running for office again,” but it finds him well behind. Siena shows Hochul beating her old boss 31-17, with James in third with 14%.

Meanwhile on the Republican side, it appears that former state housing commissioner Joe Holland has taken his name out of contention for governor, as he’s instead filed paperwork for a potential run for attorney general.

And this is interesting: “Former President Donald Trump has long been the pol with the lowest favorability rating among New York voters. No more. Trump has a 37-59 percent favorability rating, net 22 points negative. Andrew Cuomo is 33-60 percent, net 27 points negative. And Bill de Blasio is 25-56 percent, net 31 points negative.”

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is out with a direct-to-camera spot pushing back on Republican attacks over schools. McAuliffe tells the audience that he very much supports parents being involved in their children’s education and declares, “Glenn Youngkin’s taking my words out of context. I’ve always valued the concerns of parents.” He continues, “That’s why as governor we scaled back standardized testing, expanded pre-k, and invested a billion dollars in public schools.”

McAuliffe also uses a minute-long commercial to argue that Donald Trump’s actions after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville led directly to the Jan. 6 attack, before featuring a clip of Youngkin saying, “I was honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement.” It then goes to footage of McAuliffe, who was governor in 2017, proclaiming, “I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”

The ad continues by playing video of Trump spreading lies about his 2020 defeat that leads into Youngkin saying, “So let’s just audit the voting machines.” The narrator ends by framing the race as a choice about “what kind of commonwealth our kids will inherit.”

Rudy Giuliani put out an attack video against Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) featuring himself disguised as Abraham Lincoln using an augmented reality filter.

“The political network backed by billionaire Charles Koch spent a record amount of money directly lobbying Congress, with a focus on opposing crucial elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda while supporting some bills backed by Democratic lawmakers,” CNBC reports.  “One of the network’s lobbying targets this year has been moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

NEVADA GOVERNOR. Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, a far-right Republican who is reportedly under FBI investigation for alleged campaign finance violations, announced Tuesday that she was entering the primary to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Fiore previously served in the Assembly, where she stood out for her desire to castrate pimps, belief that cancer victims could “flush” tumors out of their bodies with the magic of baking soda, and obsession with guns. She also attracted national attention in 2014 when she took to TV to defend the anti-government militant Cliven Bundy during his confrontation with the federal government. (His son Ammon Bundy is currently running for governor of Idaho.) Fiore briefly became majority leader after that year’s red wave gave GOP control for the first time in decades, but she was soon removed by Speaker John Hambrick for insubordination.

Fiore left the chamber in 2016 to run for the open 3rd Congressional District, a move that came just after she unveiled a “pin-up” wall calendar that featured a dozen photos of her posing with assault weapons. She struggled to gain traction, though, and ended up taking third place in the primary with 18%, well behind perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian’s 32%. Fiore wasn’t out of elected office for long, however, as she narrowly won a race for the Las Vegas City Council the following year.​​

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has a new positive commercial that features various people seated behind his desk as a narrator asks, “What would you do if you were governor? Okay… after you met Springsteen.” The cast talks about their desire to pass progressive policies that include making college more affordable, protecting a woman’s right to choose, and implementing paid family leave, which Murphy then reveals he’s done “so far.” One guy, though, argues with the narrator’s choice of Jersey music hero, saying, “Springsteen? Frank Sinatra!” (Sorry, Bon Jovi fans.)

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. While Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t look vulnerable heading into 2022, the self-funding incumbent is spending huge amounts of money on commercials over a year ahead of the general election, a strategy he successfully employed four years ago. Campaign finance records show that Pritzker deployed $8.2 million during the third quarter, with about $7 million of that going to ads. Pritzker had $24.7 million on-hand at the end of September, and the billionaire is more than capable of throwing down far more.

On the GOP side, the best-financed candidate by far is venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, who kicked off his campaign in early September with $10.8 million in contributions that mostly came from four California tech titans. Sullivan, who barely took in any more contributions after that launch, spent $800,000 and had $10 million on-hand.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, meanwhile, raised $895,000 for the quarter and had $1 million available. Businessman Gary Rabine was behind with $445,000 raised and had $415,000 to spend, while former state Sen. Paul Schimpf barely registered with a haul of just $60,000 and $75,000 in the bank.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs earned the backing of EMILY’s List on Tuesday for next year’s Democratic primary.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR. Fundraising numbers are in for the third quarter of the year, and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has widened what was already a massive edge over her main Republican primary rival, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Sanders outraised Rutledge $2 million to $130,000 in money that can be used to win the nomination, and she ended September with a $5.5 million to $635,000 cash-on-hand lead.

On the Democratic side, physicist Chris Jones, who entered the primary in June with an announcement video that quickly went viral, continues to be the only candidate who has raised a notable amount. Jones took in $370,000 for the primary and had $450,000 on-hand.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Army veteran Mike Durant, who was held as a prisoner of war in Somalia for 11 days in 1993 after his helicopter was shot out of the sky in the incident later depicted in the book and film “Blackhawk Down,” announced Tuesday that he would compete in the open seat Republican primary. Durant, who went on to write his own memoir of his experience, currently leads an aerospace engineering firm in Huntsville and is making his first run for office.

Meanwhile, the anti-tax Club for Growth has released a primary survey from WPA Intelligence that shows its endorsed candidate, Trump-backed Rep. Mo Brooks, with a huge 55-12 lead over former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt; the poll did not test Durant.

VIRGINIA REDISTRICTING. The heavily criticized congressional map Virginia’s new bipartisan redistricting commission advanced last week came under even hotter fire on Monday after one commissioner, Democratic Del. Marcus Simon, divulged that a similar map proposed to the panel had been drawn by the national GOP’s official redistricting arm.

That submission, which was put forth under the name of former Republican Rep. Tom Davis, a one-time chair of the NRCC, was in fact the work of conservative attorney Jason Torchinsky, the general counsel for the National Republican Redistricting Trust. Torchinsky’s map bore striking similarities to the map recently adopted by the commission and in some cases featured virtually identical districts, as you can see in this side-by-side comparison.

That resemblance was first flagged by analyst Sam Shirazi, who brought the matter to Simon’s attention. Simon in turn asked the commission’s staff to investigate the origins of the “Davis” map and learned its true provenance—facts Davis himself failed to disclose when submitting his plan.

As for how the commission’s map wound up looking so much like Torchinsky’s, the board’s Republican attorney acknowledged his staff had reviewed it but insisted they hadn’t colluded with the NRRT. But whether true or not, their end product was so closely related that Simon correctly called it a “Republican dream map.”

That still leaves the baffling question of why Democrats on the commission sided with Republicans to advance the proposal, which would create six districts that Donald Trump would have carried in 2016 versus just five for Hillary Clinton, despite the strong leftward trend still underway in Virginia. At the very least, though, Shirazi’s sleuthing and Simon’s revelations ought to help steer Democrats in a different direction.

The commission has not yet adopted a final map, but if it fails to do so—as recently happened with the state’s legislative maps—the task would fall to the state Supreme Court.

NEW MEXICO REDISTRICTING. New Mexico’s new Citizens Redistricting Committee has voted to forward three congressional maps to the legislature for its consideration, though its recommendations are purely advisory in nature and lawmakers are free to disregard them. Local political analyst Joe Monahan recently reported that one of the committee’s three plans was “in the running as a top pick” and on Tuesday re-upped his prediction that “it would be similar to the final plan adopted by the legislature” when it convenes for a special session on redistricting in December.

That map, put forward by a progressive group, features an aggressive gerrymander that would transform the reliably conservative 2nd District, currently held by Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell, into a blue-tilting swing seat that Democrats could recapture next year. (According to Dave’s Redistricting App, this version of the 2nd would have gone for Hillary Clinton 46-43 and almost certainly would have given Joe Biden a wider margin.) The other proposals would make more limited changes to the current districts and leave the 2nd solidly red.

ILLINOIS REDISTRICTING. A three-judge federal court ruled on Tuesday that new legislative maps passed by Illinois’ Democratic-run state legislature and signed into law in June prior to the release of 2020 census data are unconstitutional and said it would take over the redistricting process.

The case is a complicated affair that consolidates two separate lawsuits, one brought by Republicans and another by the Latino voting rights group MALDEF. Democrats approved new maps, which were signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on June 4, in order to beat a June 30 deadline in the state constitution that, in the absence of new districts, would have transferred authority over redistricting to a bipartisan commission. Crucially, the commission’s tiebreaking member is randomly chosen, with an even chance that the tiebreaker will belong to either party (and thus a 50-50 chance of a Republican gerrymander).

Normally, lawmakers would have had firm census figures with which to draw new maps by April. But thanks to delays caused by the pandemic, the Census Bureau announced earlier this year that new data would not be available until August. Rather than risk handing control to Republicans by blowing the end-of-June deadline, Democrats instead relied on population estimates to draw new maps, allowing them to maintain control over redistricting.

When the bureau at last released 2020 data, those earlier estimates turned out to be far off-base in a number of cases, leading to a deviation of as much as 30% between the smallest and largest districts. Democrats anticipated this, however, and passed a new set of maps correcting these variances, which Pritzker signed in September.

The court ruled, though, that the enactment of the September maps did not render the case moot because lawmakers never actually repealed the June maps (because they feared that doing so would mean they had retroactively failed to meet the June 30 deadline to avoid the commission taking over). The judges held, therefore, that the June maps violated the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” and could not be used. But the matter did not end there.

Rather than saying the September maps could simply replace the June maps, as lawmakers intended, the court sided with MALDEF and decreed that it would assume control of the redistricting process. (Republicans had wanted the bipartisan commission to draw a new plan, but the judges rejected that request.) The court said it would consider the September maps “as a starting point” but warned that they may “not pass muster” and specifically chastised the legislature for passing them with little public notice or participation.

Plaintiffs will now have the chance to demonstrate that the September maps also violate the constitution or state law, though they face a much higher hurdle than they did with the June maps because, compared to the ease of identifying malapportionment problems, courts are much less likely to acknowledge other sorts of flaws. It’s possible, therefore, that for all of this, the final result will see the September maps, or plans very similar to them, take effect.

Briefing on the matter will conclude by Nov. 18, with the court, which said it’s mindful of the tight timeframe ahead of next year’s elections, likely to rule soon thereafter.

Former President Donald Trump lobbed insults at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) in an interview for In Trump’s ShadowInsider reports.  Trump said that the Wyoming Republican is “not the brightest person in the world” and that “she’s a psycho.”

“I do think we need to be talking about the future and not the past. I think the American people are focusing on this administration — and what it’s doing to the country. It’s my hope the ’22 election will be a referendum on the performance of the current administration, not a rehash of suggestions about what may have happened in 2020.”  — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), quoted by Politico.

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

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