The Political Report – 10/25/21

A new Data for Progress poll in Virginia finds Terry McAuliffe (D) leading Glenn Youngkin (R) in the race for governor, 50% to 45%.

A new Cygnal poll in Virginia finds Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin deadlocked in the race for governor, 48% to 48% among likely voters.

For comparison, the FiveThirtyEight polling average shows McAuliffe just ahead, 47.9% to 45.6%.

CNN: “The level Democratic campaigns in Virginia have focused on Trump over the last few months has turned the off-year elections into the biggest test yet for whether the former President, who motivated historic Democratic turnout for the years he was either on the ballot or in power, still motivates the party’s base to vote in extraordinary numbers.”

“This lesson, determined by how the tight Virginia’s races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general end up on November 2, will reverberate within the Democratic Party for years, as both official party committees and outside organizations try to understand how to motivate voters after four years of Trump in the White House.”

Dan Balz: “No single election ever answers all the questions of the moment in politics, but fairly or not, the Nov. 2 Virginia contest has taken on outsized importance, particularly to nervous Democrats who are justifiably fearful about losing their congressional majorities in the 2022 midterms. It’s as if the future of the party and of President Biden’s second two years in office are suddenly wrapped up how well McAuliffe does in his bid to regain the governor’s mansion.”

“One thing to remember is that McAuliffe’s victory in 2013, while it beat the historical pattern of Virginians electing a governor from the party that does not hold the White House, did not foreshadow the 2014 midterms, which were won by the Republicans. No matter what happens in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Democrats will be on the defensive in 2022. The question is: by how much?”

Harry Enten: “You can see how closely feelings toward Trump and vote choice align by looking at the crosstabs of the Fox News poll. On a scale of -1 to +1, the correlation across demographic groups between Trump’s unfavorable rating and McAuliffe’s standing in the horse race was over +0.98. You rarely get that type of correlation between the popularity of an out-of-office politician and vote choice. It’s nearly the same as Biden’s popularity and vote choice (over +0.99 correlation).”

“Indeed, a CBS News/YouGov poll from Virginia shows just how motivating a factor Trump is in whether voters cast a ballot. A majority of likely voters (51%) said feelings about Trump were very motivating. That’s basically the same as the 48% who said the same thing about their feelings toward Biden.”

“Separate polling from a Monmouth University poll in August showed that about the same share of Virginia voters indicated that Trump was a major factor in their 2021 vote as they did in 2017.”

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (R) “is facing allegations of antisemitism after accusing allies of Jewish philanthropist George Soros of a shadowy campaign to place secret political operatives onto Virginia school boards,” the Washington Post reports. Said Youngkin: “The present chaos in our schools lays squarely at the feet of 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe. It just does. But also at George Soros-backed allies, these allies that are in the left, liberal progressive movement. They’ve inserted political operatives into our school system disguised as school boards.”

The conservative Free to Learn Coalition says it is spending $1 million on an ad campaign attacking Democrat Terry McAuliffe over schools and linking him to what the narrator calls a “divisive activist curriculum.”

Youngkin is out with a commercial that cites a conservative think tank’s questionable study of McAuliffe’s tax plan. The ad shows a tax collector going door to door to gather money from people for McAuliffe’s purported rates increases.

Joe Biden will campaign with McAuliffe on Tuesday in Arlington, a week before election day. Some prominent organizations are also giving McAuliffe some last-minute support on the airwaves. VoteVets is spending $180,000 on what the organization calls a “closing spot” that shows a formerly homeless Navy veteran speaking favorably of McAuliffe. Science-minded group 314 Action is also out with an ad that focuses on right-wing violence against school board members.

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday joined a roster of high-profile Democrats campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, a candidate for Virginia governor in a race seen as a barometer of the country’s political direction, Reuters reports.

Obama delivered a fiery address campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, urging Democrats to flock to the polls and taking a number of swings at Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin, The Hill reports. Said Obama: “Go out there and fight and work because you’re going to decide this election and the direction of Virginia and this country for generations to come. Don’t sit this one out.”

He added: “We ain’t got time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort.”

Gallup: “President Joe Biden’s job approval rating is holding steady at 42% after a sharp decline in September. His public support has fallen 14 percentage points since June, including a six-point drop last month.”

Harry Enten: “While the causes of Biden’s decline are numerous (e.g. declining trust of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan), perhaps the biggest one is that Americans believe there are big economic problems and that Biden isn’t focused nearly enough on them. These negative perceptions of Democrats on the economy are impacting the marquee Virginia gubernatorial election, too.”

“Approval of Biden on the economy has tracked almost perfectly with approval of him overall. Right now, his economic approval is in the low 40s, just as it is overall. In the early summer, it was in the low 50s — as it was overall then, too.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating has dipped to a new low of 43.4% in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.

Nate Cohn: “Many presidents have won re-election after watching their ratings fall to similar depths during their first two years in office. Voters can have a short memory. And while President Biden’s losses have been pronounced among reliable Democratic constituencies, such as young, Latino and even Black voters, those groups can also be relatively easy for Democrats to win back.”

“But as a fleeting snapshot, the polls seem to depict a pessimistic and even hopeless electorate. Not only do Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, they say the country is worse off than it was a year ago, when Mr. Trump was still president.”

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. Politico: “[Republican Eric] Greitens is a formidable presence in the race, armed with a solid base, right-wing media savvy and a billionaire backer. But the scandal-plagued Greitens is also viewed by many Republicans — both nationally and in Missouri — as the candidate most likely to jeopardize a GOP-held Senate seat. With the Senate majority in sight in next year’s midterm elections, the prospect of blowing the opportunity weighs heavily on party minds.”

“Pointing to Greitens’ baggage — he resigned the governorship in 2018, midway through his first term, following allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman — many Missouri Republicans view him as an opportunist who has shamelessly recast himself as a MAGA warrior to revive his political career.”

MO-Sen: Disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens has publicized an internal poll from Fabrizio Lee that shows the Republican leading two prospective Democratic opponents in hypothetical general election scenarios, a release that’s likely aimed at calming national Republicans who are worried how he’d fare in a general election. Greitens outpaces former state Sen. Scott Sifton and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce by margins of 46-40 and 47-40, respectively, which is still well behind Donald Trump’s 57-41 victory in the state. The memo did not mention any of Greitens’ many primary foes.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Politico: “[Republican] Party leaders are now rallying around [Herschel] Walker, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump who is running in a race that could determine which party controls the Senate after 2022. Scrutiny of Walker’s erratic past at first led Senate Republicans to voice concern about whether the former running back can win, but he has made significant inroads since then.”

“In the latest illustration of the shift, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, is set to endorse Walker on Monday.”

“Thune is the first member of Senate GOP leadership to endorse Walker, and his support is the newest evidence the former football star has tacitly won the party hierarchy’s blessing.”

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. “While New York’s political elite awaits some definitive word from Letitia James about whether she intends to run for governor next year, her campaign team is being less guarded,” the New York Times reports.

“In recent weeks, the team has made four significant new hires, most prominently Celinda Lake, the veteran Democratic strategist who served as one of the two lead pollsters for President Biden in the 2020 campaign.”

“The addition of advisers like Ms. Lake, a longtime party pollster who has a background in electing female candidates, would strongly suggest that Ms. James is gearing up for a high-profile, competitive race — rather than focusing on her current run for re-election as state attorney general.”

Charlie Cook: “Midterms are almost inevitably about a party and/or party leader in power. If it became a referendum on the opposing party, it would be the first time since 1934, Roosevelt’s first-term, midterm election. At the time, the focal point was still on Herbert Hoover, the president during the stock-market crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression.”

“Midterms are about the president and party that is in power, not one that is no longer in charge. But these might be the only arrows in the Democratic quiver.”

Washington Post: “During the 2020 presidential campaign, one of Biden’s political superpowers was his sheer inoffensiveness, the way he often managed to embody — even to those who didn’t like him — the innocuous grandfather, the bumbling uncle, the leader who could make America calm, steady, even boring again after four years of Donald Trump.“

“But it’s clear that after nine months in office, Biden — or at least what he represents — is increasingly becoming an object of hatred to many Trump supporters. The vitriol partly reflects Trump’s own repeated baseless claims that Biden is a usurper, depriving him of his rightful claim to the presidency, and partly stems from Biden actions that Republicans deplore, from his spending plans to his immigration policies.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “Despite the pundit-driven talk about the political toxicity of the Affordable Care Act, the biggest reason Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010 was persistent double-digit unemployment from the 2008 financial crisis. Voters were angry about the economy and took their anger out on President Obama and the Democrats. Same thing happened in 1994 when Democrats lost the House for the first time in a half-century. There is a school of thought suggesting Trump’s 2016 victory was driven by a mini-recession in manufacturing as much as it was by James Comey’s poor judgment.”

“With President Biden’s approval ratings hovering at an all-time low and Americans expressing growing concern about the economy, that dynamic is playing out again.”

“Or is it?”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR / U.S. SENATOR. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) told WMUR he will make a final decision on whether he will run for the U.S. Senate in the next few weeks.

The University of New Hampshire once again polls Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan against three possible Republican foes. The new numbers are below, with trendlines from July in parentheses:

  • 42-45 vs. Gov. Chris Sununu (48-49)
  • 44-43 vs. former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (49-45)
  • 47-42 vs. ​​retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc (51-41)

The only one who is currently running is Bolduc, who fared poorly in the 2020 primary and has raised little money for his second try.

MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL / FOURTH CD. “Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) said that he will run for Maryland Attorney General in 2022, the latest Democratic member of Congress to say he will give up his seat for another office,” The Hill reports. Brown lost the 2014 general election for governor to Republican Larry Hogan in an upset, but the Democrats should have little trouble holding onto an office that the GOP last won in 1918 in a state that backed Joe Biden 65-32.

cavalcade of Maryland Democrats are considering running for attorney general next year following two-term incumbent Brian Frosh’s Thursday retirement announcement. Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz speculates that Brown, who would be the state’s first Black attorney general, is the “potential contender who could come close to clearing the field,” though he’s far from the only Old Line State Democrat thinking about running.

Another familiar name Kurtz says is interested is Queen Anne’s County District Court Judge Frank Kratovil, who was elected to the very red 1st Congressional District during the 2008 blue wave by narrowly beating Republican Andy Harris. The new congressman badly lost their rematch two years later, but O’Malley appointed Kratovil to his judgeship in 2011.

A Brown statewide candidacy, meanwhile, would open up his 4th Congressional District, which is dominated by Prince George’s County in the D.C. suburbs. Joe Biden won Brown’s constituency 79-19, and there’s little question it will remain heavily blue turf after the Democratic-controlled legislature completes redistricting.

Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, who lost the 2016 primary for Congress to Brown, quickly filed FEC paperwork for a potential second campaign. Ivey raised the most money in that last open seat race, but the former lieutenant governor prevailed 42-34. It’s very likely that numerous other Democrats would eye this seat should Brown leave.

Former President Donald Trump blasted Fox News, claiming the network “continually allows horrible and untruthful anti-Trump commercials to be run,” Mediaite reports.

Said Trump: “What good is it if FOX News speaks well of me when they continually allow horrible and untruthful anti-Trump commercials to be run—and plenty of them. In the good old days, that would never have happened and today it happens all of the time.”

He added: “With so many forces against us, Big Tech, the Fake News Media, the Radical Left, the RINOs, and more, we are at such a disadvantage, but we will win anyway!”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Protect Ohio Values PAC, the super PAC funded by billionaire Peter Thiel to aid venture capitalist J.D. Vance, has dropped another survey from Fabrizio Lee that shows its candidate closing the gap against former state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the Republican primary. The new poll shows Mandel leading Vance 19-16, with former state party chair Jane Timken in third with 8%; in July, the firm had Mandel ahead 21-12. Mandel last month released a WPA Intelligence poll giving him a considerably stronger 37-13 advantage.

Just as Mandel and Vance fight over who is the “most conservative” in Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate race, along comes Mike Gibbons (R) with this new ad. Two super PACs released an ad campaign criticizing Vance for past comments he made about former President Donald Trump, The Hill reports.

Timken is spending six figures on a new eight-week ad campaign attacking Anthony Fauci, who is one of the extremist right’s favorite targets.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. Republican Mark Ronchetti’s revolving door between the worlds of media and politics has spun once more: Local news channel KRQE announced on Thursday that Ronchetti had resigned as the station’s meteorologist as he weighs a bid for governor, just as he did prior to his unsuccessful 2020 Senate run before getting hired back earlier this year. The same evening, Ronchetti’s website was updated to feature a logo that included the word “governor” just below the would-be candidate’s name, only for the site to get taken down soon thereafter.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. State Sen. Doug Mastriano’s wife, Rebbie Mastriano, not only recently confirmed that he was still considering seeking the Republican nomination, she said the couple has “a monetary fleece out there.” She characterized this as a prayer “that only God” could answer, while the Philadelphia Inquirer succinctly wrote that the legislator was “waiting on a financial sign. From God.” In the recording obtained by the paper, Rebbie Mastriano added that they did this in 2019 when Doug Mastriano was eyeing a run for the state Senate, and that God gave him the thumbs up one day before the filing deadline.

The potential candidate has made a name for himself as an ardent election denier, and he infamously bused people to the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack. Mastriano claimed he left the Capitol before the violence began, but videos released in May appear to show him and his wife passing through breached barricades. The U.S. Senate Judiciary issued a report earlier this month recommending that he be further investigated for his alleged role in the attack.

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

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