The Political Report – 12/14/21

“President Joe Biden is facing significant skepticism from the American public, with his job approval rating lagging across a range of major issues, including new lows for his handling of crime, gun violence and the economic recovery,” a new ABC/Ipsos poll finds.

“More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) disapprove of how Biden is handling inflation (only 28% approve) while more than half (57%) disapprove of his handling of the economic recovery.”

“Well, not anymore. I paid attention when they were in the mid-60s. Now it’s in the mid-40s; I don’t pay attention anymore.”  — President Biden, when asked by Jimmy Fallon if he pays attention to his approval ratings.

A new New Hampshire Journal poll in New Hampshire finds 70% of registered voters believe the country is on the wrong track.  That may explain why President Biden underwater with Granite Staters by 14 points, with a 43% favorable/57% unfavorable number.

New York Times: “With Mr. Biden facing plunging poll numbers and turning 82 the month he’d be on the ballot, and Vice President Kamala Harris plagued by flagging poll numbers of her own, conversations about possible alternatives are beginning far earlier than is customary for a president still in the first year of his first term.”

“None of the prospects would dare openly indicate interest, for fear of offending both a president who, White House officials say, has made it clear to them that he plans to run for re-election and a history-making vice president who could be his heir apparent. No president since Lyndon Johnson in 1968 has opted not to run for re-election.”

“Still, a nexus of anxious currents in the Democratic Party has stoked speculation about a possible contested primary in two years. On top of concerns about Mr. Biden’s age and present unpopularity, there is an overarching fear among Democrats of the possibility of a Trump comeback — and a determination that the party must run a strong candidate to head it off.”

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stay until at least after the midterm elections, extending her nearly 20-year run as the House’s top Democrat after she turns 82 and, perhaps, beyond,” CNN reports.

“She is planning to file and run for reelection in her San Francisco district next year — at least for now — in keeping with her pattern of deciding about staying in Congress after the elections, when she likely will have won an 18th full term.”

“And sources familiar with Pelosi’s thinking say she isn’t ruling out the possibility of trying to stay in leadership after 2022, despite her original vow to leave as the top House Democrat.”

“Despite a Saturday evening statement promising ‘big crowds,’ the first date of ex-president Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly’s joint speaking tour seemingly failed to draw any such thing,” the Daily Beast reports.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Many seats remained empty in the cavernous arena. The top-level was closed, and ticket buyers were ‘upgraded’ to the lower bowl.”

Jonathan Last: “Both parties participate in gerrymandering. But not equally. And one party has been making a good faith effort to try to roll gerrymandering back, while the other party has been leaning into it.”

“Look, I don’t want to get out over my skis here—and again, Democrats have not been total angels—but election reform should not be a suicide pact.”

David Wasserman: “By our estimate, neutral/commission maps in the blue states of California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington — 93 seats total — will end up costing Democrats 10 to 15 House seats they could have seized by gerrymandering, making Republicans even stronger favorites for House control.”

The Wall Street Journal finds just 12 politically competitive districts in the 22 states that have completed their House redistricting maps so far, down from 25 such districts currently.

New York Times: “Legislatures from Nevada to Georgia are drafting new House district lines under the required reapportionment that occurs every 10 years. Most of them are seeking to protect incumbency and maintain a partisan edge by eliminating competitive seats, a process that Republicans in particular have exploited to gain a heavy early advantage in their push to wrest control of the House next year.”

“But in California, the map will stand in stark contrast to most of the country, scrambling the fortunes of lawmakers in both parties and creating the broadest — perhaps the only — true battlefield for 2022. Lawmakers should see the full plan by Friday, and the commission will send it to the secretary of state by Dec. 27.”

CALIFORNIA TWENTY-SECOND CD. Jonathan Bernstein: “Nunes probably had a route to re-election, and if he returned in 2023 with a Republican majority, he was in line to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over large portions of domestic policy. In the past, chairing that committee would’ve been worth sticking around for years, even decades; in some ways, it was a more important position than speaker of the House. But committees have declined in importance as the chamber has become more centralized.”

“What’s more, the relatively frequent turnover of party majorities means we’re unlikely to see a stretch such as that from 1957 through 1994, in which the committee had only three chairmen over an almost 40-year period. The prize is worth a lot less if it can’t be retained for long — and on the Republican side, committee term limits mean that six years is the current maximum anyway.”

Roll Call: Contenders vie for top Ways and Means GOP slot after Nunes exit.

Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez’s spokesperson tells GV Wire’s David Taub that the Democrat is thinking about running to succeed outgoing Republican Rep. Devin Nunes in this still-unfinalized Central Valley constituency.

Taub also relays that the DCCC has met with 2018 nominee Andrew Janz, who lost to Nunes 53-47, but that he has yet to comment on his own plans. Janz last year ran for mayor of Fresno but lost the officially nonpartisan race 52-40 to Republican Jerry Dyer; Janz back in January endorsed 2020 nominee Phil Arballo’s second campaign against Nunes, though his calculations appear to have changed now that the incumbent is resigning. Arballo, for his part, has confirmed that he’ll be competing in the upcoming special election to succeed Nunes in addition to the race for the regular two-year term.

Finally, Taub reports that Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula is also thinking about running. Arambula, a physician and the son of a former local assemblyman, himself considered running against Republican Rep. David Valadao back in 2015 in the neighboring 21st District but decided not to do it. Instead, Arambula won his current post in a low-turnout 2016 special election for a seat around Fresno, and he quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the chamber’s moderate Democratic faction.  

Arambula’s career seemed to be in real danger after he was arrested in late 2018 after one of his daughters accused him of abuse, but a jury found him not guilty months later. (Arambula, who maintained his innocence, argued that conservative prosecutors were targeting him for political reasons.) The incumbent went on to win re-election 62-38 as Joe Biden was taking his 31st Assembly seat by a similar 62-36 spread.

MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL. On Thursday, business attorney Jim Schultz became the fourth Republican to announce a bid against Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose 2018 victory made him the first Muslim elected statewide anywhere in America. Ellison was already facing a rematch against 2018 opponent Doug Wardlow, who lost 49-45 and now serves as general counsel for MyPillow, the company led by election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. Also in the running are former state Rep. Dennis Smith and attorney Lynne Torgerson.

Minnesota is far from a safe state for Democrats, but Republicans haven’t held the attorney general’s post since Douglas Head left office in early 1971. The last time Team Red won any statewide races at all, meanwhile, was 2006, when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty narrowly earned a second term, though they’ve come very close to breaking that streak a few times since then.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “The Dr. Oz Show” — currently in its 13th season — will come to an end in January as the daytime host runs for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, Variety reports.

George Bochetto, a longtime Republican attorney in Philadelphia, said Thursday it was “very likely” he runs for the Senate next year. Bochetto has talked about running for mayor of his heavily Democratic city plenty of times and even waged a brief campaign in 1999, but he ended up dropping out before the primary. (The eventual nominee, Sam Katz, ended up losing the general election 51-49 to Democrat John Street, which is likely to remain Team Red’s high-water mark for decades to come.)

More recently, Bochetto aided Donald Trump’s defense team in his second impeachment trial. In August, he also persuaded a judge to stop Philadelphia’s city government from removing a prominent Christopher Columbus statue.

Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has publicized a poll from Data for Progress that shows him outpacing TV doctor Mehmet Oz 44-42 in a hypothetical general election. The release did not include any other matchups.

WASHINGTON THIRD CD. State Rep. Vicki Kraft has confirmed that she’ll challenge her fellow Republican, incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, in the August top-two primary. Kraft joins a GOP field that includes Army veteran Joe Kent, who is Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, as well as evangelical author Heidi St. John.

Kraft used her kickoff to take Herrera Beutler to task for her “extremely unfortunate” vote to impeach Trump, but she mostly emphasized her own opposition to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s pandemic safety measures. Kraft declared, “Whether it’s fighting for parents’ rights, and against controversial mandates in schools such as comprehensive sex education or COVID-19 masks; or fighting for individuals’ rights, and against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, I will continue fighting for the people and will make sure their voice is heard in Washington, D.C.”

TEXAS TWENTY-SEVENTH CD. Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback announced Friday that he would challenge Rep. Michael Cloud in the March Republican primary for the new and safely red 27th District, a gerrymandered constituency that stretches from Corpus Christi along the Gulf Coast north to the outskirts of the Austin area.

Louderback’s tiny county, with a population of just 15,000 people, is home to just 2% of the district’s residents, so the challenger starts with almost no geographic base of support. Cloud, by contrast, already represents over 85% of the new seat, and he’s done everything he can to ingratiate himself to his party’s ascendant far-right wing.

Back in March, Cloud was even one of just 12 House members to vote against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to members of the U.S. Capitol Police for their work combating the Jan. 6 insurrection. He defended himself with a statement saying he couldn’t support a resolution because it included text that “refers to the Capitol as the temple of democracy – simply put, it’s not a temple and Congress should not refer to it as one.” Cloud added, “The federal government is not a god.”

Louderback himself also doesn’t appear to have laid out an argument for why primary voters should fire Cloud. He instead kicked off his bid by declaring, “This campaign will be based on national security issues, oil and gas issues, Medicare issues and a lot of things that are threats to Texas and the United States.” He continued, “I look forward to a really good race where competitive styles in management can be examined by the public.”

NEW JERSEY FIFTH CD. John Flora, who serves as mayor of the small township of Fredon (pop. 3,200), has joined the Republican primary to take on Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

MARYLAND SIXTH CD. Former Del. Aruna Miller closed the door on another run for Congress on Thursday when she announced that she would run for lieutenant governor on author Wes Moore’s ticket. Miller had filed FEC paperwork back in January for the 6th District in case Rep. David Trone, who defeated her in the 2018 Democratic primary, left to run for governor. Trone ultimately announced that he’d stay put, and while Miller didn’t confirm this meant she wasn’t going to campaign here, she made no obvious moves to prepare for a second bid.

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

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