The Political Report – 11/15/2021

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showcases Americans’ current pessimism: Despite a mix of economic signals — falling unemployment and rising prices — 70% rate the economy negatively, including 38% who say it is in “poor” condition.

About half of Americans overall and political independents blame Biden for fast-rising inflation, and more than 6 in 10 Americans say he has not accomplished much after 10 months in office, including 71% of independents.

Jonathan Allen: Inflation threatens Biden agenda and Democratic majorities.

The poll also finds that, if midterm elections were held today, 46% of adults overall would back the Republican candidate for Congress and 43% would support the Democratic candidate. Among registered voters, the GOP advantage goes to 51% vs. 41% for Democrats, a historically strong result for Republicans on this measure.

Washington Post-ABC News Poll: “Americans are roughly divided on Biden’s handling of the pandemic (47% approve, while 49% disapprove). Two months ago, 52% approved of his handling of the pandemic compared with 41% who disapproved. In June and in April, he was in positive territory by a 2-to-1 margin.”

In a hypothetical 2024 rematch, former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden in Iowa by 11 percentage points, 51% to 40%, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.

In 2020, Trump defeated Biden by about 8 percentage points, carrying the state 53% to 45%.

“The national environment could hardly look more favorable to Republicans one year before the midterm elections, with declining approval for President Biden, growing pessimism in the country and spiking prices for essentials like gasoline and milk,” the Washington Post reports.

But Republican struggles to settle on candidates have left some wondering whether the party will blow its big chance to retake the U.S. Senate.”

Politico reports that just three Senate incumbents have not announced their re-election or retirement plans for 2022: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Politico: “Even in gubernatorial races — in which candidates generally do a better job at separating themselves from national party dynamics than in federal races — negative views of the president present a huge problem for a slate of Democratic incumbents up next year. That’s especially true after many tied themselves closely to Biden during his 2020 campaign and the first six months of his presidency.”

“Democrats hold the governorship in eight states up in 2022 that are less or similarly favorable than Virginia — Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — a grouping that has topped Republicans’ target list since the election cycle began. Biden won all those states except for Kansas, and each one of those states has a Democratic incumbent seeking reelection except for Pennsylvania, where the party is lining up behind state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to replace term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf.”

Politico: “Largely overlooked amid the party’s dismal suburban results in Virginia and New Jersey last week, Republicans regained ground in the vote-rich Philly suburbs after years of losses under Trump. The GOP flipped multiple row offices in populous Bucks County, carried a state Supreme Court race there, and even came close to winning seats on the county council in Delaware County, where Biden romped by nearly 30 points in 2020.”

“Pennsylvania will be home to highly competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial races in next year’s midterm elections — and the GOP’s local comeback here shows that Democrats’ newfound shakiness among suburban voters reaches far deeper than one or two states.”

FLORIDA TWENTIETH CD. “By the narrowest of margins — just five votes — businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick appears to have won a South Florida Democratic primary to replace the late US Rep. Alcee Hastings in Washington,” CNN reports.

“The outcome in the November 2 election had been up in the air until Friday evening, when the Broward County canvassing board reviewed more than a dozen overseas ballots that were postmarked on Election Day and arrived within the 10-day window to be legally counted.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Establishment Republicans in Utah are frustrated with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and quietly plotting to oust him, The Atlantic reports.

“First elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, Lee has long rankled the local establishment in Utah, where he is viewed by many as a showboating obstructionist whose penchant for provocation routinely embarrasses his home state and its predominant religion. Lee’s MAGA makeover during the Trump presidency served only to exacerbate that perception. Now, as he prepares to run for reelection next year, Lee is bracing for a concerted, multifront campaign to unseat him. He seems to know that a third term isn’t guaranteed.”

IOWA GOVERNOR / THIRD CD. “Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) will seek reelection in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, she announced Friday, officially closing the door on a possible run for governor in 2022,” the Des Moines Register reports.

NORTH CAROLINA THIRTEENTH and FOURTEENTH CD. Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn announced Thursday evening that he would run for the new 13th District, which includes part of the Charlotte area and counties to the west, instead of the 14th District, which occupies the state’s western reaches and is home both to the far-right congressman and the vast majority of his current constituents. Around that same time, the News & Observer reported that state House Speaker Tim Moore would campaign to keep his current post rather than launch his own anticipated run for the 13th District, news he quickly confirmed.

Until just one day before, there didn’t seem to be much of a question that Cawthorn, who represents the current 11th District, would run for the new 14th. 93% of the population in the 14th is already represented by Cawthorn, and at 53-45 Trump, it’s likely to easily remain in GOP hands outside of an unusually strong Democratic year. Political observers, meanwhile, have long bet that Moore would run in the 13th District, a 60-39 Trump constituency that Cawthorn represents just 12% of.

All of that conventional wisdom, though, went out the window after a Cawthorn call this week with local party officials, where he told them he was thinking about making his switch. Multiple GOP leaders including Michele Woodhouse, who chairs the party in the current 11th District, said Wednesday evening they were surprised, with her declaring that “there hadn’t really been any kind of Republican buzz or gossip about it at all.”

If Woodhouse was surprised by the development, however, she began thinking ahead even before Cawthorn made his plans clear. On Thursday afternoon, when WLOS reporter Caitlyn Penter asked her if she was considering running for an open 14th District, she notably avoided answering the question even after Penter called her on her dodge.

Cawthorn put out a video hours later where he declared that “the new lines have split my constituents,” though he didn’t note which side of the split most of them fell under. “I have every confidence in the world that, regardless where I run, the 14th Congressional District will send a patriotic fighter to [Washington,] D.C,” he continued, “But knowing the political realities of the 13th District, I’m afraid that another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican will prevail there. I will not let that happen.” Cawthorn did not mention Moore or anyone else by name, but his declaration seems to have had its intended effect.

It’s always possible that Cawthorn actually upended everyone’s plans because he simply wanted to run for a constituency that will almost certainly remain safely red no matter what, rather than risk getting washed away in a future blue wave. However, the National Journal’s Matt Holt may have had it right when he tweeted Thursday morning, “Cawthorn has a safe seat but wants to run in a competitive primary because it seems to him that politics is a bloodsport, not about public service.” 

Cawthorn may indeed relish the opportunity to establish his dominance in state GOP politics now that he’s thwarted Moore’s expected campaign. The N&O’s Brian Murphy, who described the proposed district switch as “a huge power play by Cawthorn,” noted that he could also use the opportunity to “try to be a kingmaker in his old district, too.” Murphy also speculated that the congressman might also want to run in a different part of the state in order to build up his name recognition for a future campaign, though he pointed out that Cawthorn is already pretty well-known.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist has earned an endorsement from the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents close to 300,000 current or retired federal workers in the state.  

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. An unnamed source close to Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts tells Politico that, despite recently stepping down as RNC finance chair, he’s not interested in challenging Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

NEW YORK TENTH CD. “Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a liberal warhorse who has represented Manhattan’s West Side in Congress since 1992, may pack it in at the end of his current term,” the New York Post reports.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. Republicans still don’t have an obvious backup choice to take on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan now that Gov. Chris Sununu has slammed the door on a Senate bid, but two notable names tell WMUR’s John DiStaso that they’re interested in running.

State Senate President Chuck Morse, who acknowledged that he had spent months getting organized for an open seat race for governor that now won’t be happening, said that he was considering. He added that he had been encouraged to take on Hassan by both former Sen. Kelly Ayotte and ex-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

Morse, who has led the upper chamber since 2013, also served as acting governor for two days in January of 2017, which technically made Morse New Hampshire’s first Republican chief executive in 12 years: His brief time in charge came about because then-Gov. Hassan resigned to join the Senate two days before her gubernatorial term ended and Sununu’s began. Morse himself got a security detail during his tenure and participated in some ceremonial events, but nothing remarkable happened during his governorship.

Attorney Phil Taub told DiStaso that he’s looking at a Senate bid. Taub has not been on the ballot before, but DiStaso describes him as “a longtime influential donor and fundraising catalyst” for the state party and GOP candidates.

DiStaso writes that Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith has been encouraged to run by his supporters, though there’s no word on his interest. Smith ran for governor in 2012 but lost the primary 68-30 to Ovide Lamontagne, whom Hassan defeated weeks later.

A few other Republicans seem unlikely to campaign for Senate, though they don’t appear to have dismissed the idea. While DiStaso says that state and national Republicans have encouraged 2020 House nominee Matt Mowers to drop his second bid for the 1st Congressional District in order to take on Hassan, he adds that Mowers remains “focused” on taking on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas. It’s the same story with brewery owner Jeff Cozzens, who is taking on Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in the 2nd District.

The candidate in the race, Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, called Gov. Chris Sununu (R) a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism,” and claimed he drove the governor from the U.S. Senate race, New Hampshire Journal reports.

Said Bolduc: “I derailed Gov. Sununu from running for Senate. Let’s face it — the most powerful political family in New Hampshire made a decision not to run against a political outsider for the United States Senate.”

He added: “We ran a Sun Tzu-like campaign that brought to the forefront all of his flaws for serving at the national level as a U.S. Senator. And he surprised all of his supporters because in the 11th hour, he looked at the polls and there was no guarantee could beat Bolduc. And he can’t afford a loss based on his future ambitions in the political arena.”

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. The Federal Election Commission has accused Republican Sen. Mike Braun of taking $8.5 million in “apparent prohibited loans and lines of credit” to benefit his successful 2018 election campaign, according to a newly released memorandum and draft audit report. The problematic loans include $7 million from banks that were obtained without collateral, indicating that they “did not appear to be made in the ordinary course of business,” and $1.5 million from Meyer Distributing, an auto parts company that Braun founded in the 1980s. Corporations have long been prohibited from donating or loaning money to candidates.

Braun denied any wrongdoing and claims that he was able to obtain unsecured bank loans due to his personal wealth: At the time of his campaign, the financial disclosures required of all federal candidates indicated he was worth anywhere from $35 million to $96 million, making him one of the richest members of Congress. As for the funds from Meyer Distributing, Braun says the money was owed to him as compensation under his employment agreement with the firm.

But the FEC’s report disputes both claims, saying that Braun’s campaign failed to provide relevant documentation, including full copies of loan agreements from the banks. The Commission’s auditors also say that Braun’s team provided conflicting answers about the $1.5 million payment from Meyer, at one point characterizing it as a stock sale rather than as compensation, and likewise failing to produce a relevant stock purchase agreement.

Braun’s camp sought to place blame on the campaign’s former treasurer, Travis Kabrick, whom it claims “began making mistakes and failing to perform his services” and then “vanished,” leaving the campaign unable to locate him since the end of 2018. But not so, reports the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, who says he found the ex-treasurer “within minutes” and “confirmed Kabrick’s current job in a phone call with his employer, as well as his location, contact information, and three social media accounts.” Kabrick did not respond to any requests for comment, however, and disabled his social media accounts after the Daily Beast’s piece appeared.

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. “Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial and has repeatedly bumped heads with the former president, announced Friday that she will run for reelection,” the AP reports.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. “A Republican Senate candidate in Ohio is doubling down on a controversial campaign ad, insisting voters need to be aware of an important fact: that the frontrunner in the primary is Jewish,” Politico reports.

“Mark Pukita, an IT entrepreneur in the crowded GOP race, during a Thursday night candidate forum defended a campaign ad that questioned the faith of opponent Josh Mandel.”

From Pukita’s new radio ad: “Are we seriously supposed to believe the most Christian-values Senate candidate is Jewish? I am so sick of these phony caricatures.”

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Unnamed sources close to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby tell the Washington Post’s Michael Scherer that the incumbent plans to use $5 million in his campaign account to fund a super PAC that will aid his one-time chief of staff, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt, in next year’s Republican primary to succeed him. Shelby’s office didn’t deny anything in a statement that said, “The Senator’s support for Katie is well known. He will continue to back her as the race develops in whatever ways are most appropriate, as he believes she is the best candidate to serve the people of Alabama.”

Britt ended September with a $3.3 million to $1.9 million cash-on-hand advantage over her main intra-party foe, Trump-endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks, but the congressman also has the deep-pocketed Club for Growth in his corner. The primary will take place in late May, and if no one wins a majority of the vote, a runoff would occur a month later.

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

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