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The Political Report – 1/21/22

A new AP-NORC poll finds President Biden’s approval rate has sunk to 43% to 56% — a new low for his presidency. For comparison, the FiveThirtyEight polling average of Biden’s approval rate has also bottomed to 41.9% to 52.5%.

First Read: “Biden’s decline has been across the board, but what stands out are the drops from the middle of the electorate and among key parts of the Democratic base.”

A new Gallup poll finds that 20% of Americans think the pandemic is improving, while 22% think it’s staying same and 58% say it’s getting worse.

This is a remarkable finding from the new AP-NORC poll: When asked if they would like to see President Biden run for re-election, just 28% said yes, while 70% said no. That 70% is likely a combination of people who think he’s done a bad job and those who think he’s too old.

First Read: “Over the last 30 years, the NBC News poll has given us a good idea if the president’s party is headed for an exceptionally good midterm election, a shellacking or somewhere in-between.”

“And right now, the arrows are pretty much pointing in the ‘shellacking’ territory for President Biden and the Democrats as we debut our Midterm Meter, which will use our poll to gauge the overall political environment for the president’s party.”

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue (R) “called for the creation of an election police unit in Georgia, echoing a proposal by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and continuing Perdue’s focus on election falsehoods,” CNN reports.

A FBI spokesperson confirmed law enforcement’s presence in the area but did not clarify what authorities were investigating.

Texas Tribune: “Cuellar is a favorite Democrat among his Texas Republican colleagues, and his moderate voting record has earned the ire of the left. He will face what is expected to be a fierce rematch in his party’s March 1 primary against attorney Jessica Cisneros.”

The FBI took a computer and boxes of other items in their “court-authorized” search at the home of Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) Wednesday evening, CNN reports.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) is telling fellow Democrats she is running for governor, the Boston Globe reports.

An unnamed “confidant” of Attorney General Maura Healey tells Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh that “[s]he has made up her mind” to seek the Democratic nomination for governor, adding, “Now it’s just a matter of hitting the launch button.” Lehigh himself adds that Healey’s kickoff could come “as soon as this week.”

“Should she formally announce a bid, Healey, 50, would become the only statewide official running and the presumptive front-runner. She boasts high name recognition, a national fund-raising network, and a campaign war chest of nearly $3.7 million — advantages that would make her a formidable opponent in the primary election.”

WBUR’s Anthony Brooks reports that moderate Republicans unhappy with the prospect of having the Trump-backed former state Rep. Geoff Diehl as their nominee have talked about fielding businessman Chris Doughty, who is an investor and partner at a company that makes precision metal parts. Doughty didn’t respond for Brooks’ article, though Politico’s Lisa Kashinsky relays that he has been making calls about a possible bid.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. The Club for Growth is plowing a reported $2.3 million into TV ads and mailers aimed at boosting Rep. Mo Brooks in the GOP primary for Alabama’s open Senate seat and kneecapping Katie Boyd Britt, the former head of the Business Council of Alabama. One of their spots tries to portray Britt as an anti-Trumper in the mold of Liz Cheney, but as the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel notes, “The evidence that Britt will become a Trump critic … is that Donald Trump Jr. said so in a tweet.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Senate Majority PAC is spending $1 million on the first of what will be many, many, many ad campaigns targeting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. The commercial excoriates the incumbent for breaking his pledge to serve just two terms by arguing he’s become a part of the “Washington swamp.” The narrator goes on to declare that Johnson’s net worth has doubled during his time in office and charges that he’s benefited from a tax break he pushed for.

Another Democratic-aligned group, Opportunity Wisconsin, is also airing ads as part of what the National Journal says is a six-figure buy. The group’s new spot asserts that the senator is “putting pharmaceutical companies before Wisconsin families who are struggling to afford prescriptions.”

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry has launched what his campaign says is a seven-figure ad buy well ahead of the August Democratic primary, which makes these his first commercials in more than two months. The spots (herehere, and here) promote Lasry as a progressive businessman and highlight his ties to the Bucks.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. Florida’s monthly campaign finance reports are in, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign and allied PAC raised a total of $4.4 million for the month and went into the new year with a gargantuan $72 million on-hand. On the Democratic side, Rep. Charlie Crist and his PAC outraised state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s side $671,000 to $327,000, with state Sen. Annette Taddeo far back at just $60,000. Crist’s forces ended December with a $3.9 million to $3.4 million cash-on-hand edge over Fried, compared to $600,000 for Taddeo.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Republican state Sen. Matt Dolan is airing his first set of TV and digital ads, backed by a reported $1.7 million buy, in which he declares we’re in a “cold war” with China.

It seems to be internal polling release season for Ohio’s Republican Senate candidates, as businessman Bernie Moreno has dropped new numbers from Chip Englander and Kellyanne Conway (yes, that Kellyanne Conway) to argue that his $4 million ad campaign has helped him gain ground ahead of the May primary.

The survey gives former state Treasurer Josh Mandel a 20-18 lead over former state party chair Jane Timken, with Moreno, fellow self-funder Mike Gibbons, and venture capitalist J.D. Vance all tied for third with 10% each. The memo also references an unreleased month-old poll that had Moreno in sixth, attributing his gains to his commercials making him better known.

Moreno dropped these numbers a little more than a week after Timken publicized a Moore Information poll showing Mandel edging her out just 18-16, with Gibbons and Moreno at 14% and 9%, respectively. Mandel’s allies at the Club for Growth quickly fired back with a WPA Intelligence internal showing him beating Timken 26-15, though even these figures still represented a big decline for Mandel from an earlier Club poll in September.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who hails from western Pennsylvania, continues to rack up support in the voter-rich eastern part of the state, this week earning an endorsement from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. Earlier this month, some major building trade unions from the Philly area also got in Lamb’s corner.

However, as is often the case, the diverse labor movement isn’t uniting behind a single candidate in the Democratic primary. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julia Terruso reports that all four Philadelphia-based affiliates of SEIU, which represents healthcare workers and public employees, will endorse state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta on Wednesday.

Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street said Wednesday that he wouldn’t run for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat despite setting up an exploratory committee back in April, but this may not be the last we’ve heard from him. Last month, he proposed a GOP-friendly congressional map with a Republican colleague that would have created a new open seat based in Philadelphia custom-made for Street by weakening Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle. While those boundaries have almost no chance of being implemented, Street this week did not rule out a House bid and made it clear he was keeping his exploratory committee around.

Meanwhile, in the Republican Senate primary, businessman Jeff Bartos’ allies at Jobs for Our Future PAC have launched a commercial declaring that two of his intra-party foes, hedge fund manager David McCormick and TV personality Mehmet Oz, are “[o]ut of state politicians” who want to “buy a U.S. Senate seat.” The narrator goes on to praise Bartos’ local roots, business background, and conservative views.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR and 7TH CD. Several media outlets reported last week that former state House Speaker Mike Turzai would use a state party meeting on Saturday to promote an unannounced bid for governor, but the event passed without any public declaration from him. An unnamed source also told Pittsburgh City Paper that Turzai was also “strongly considering” running for Congress, though there were no other details. Turzai’s former seat is entirely located in the current 17th Congressional District, but Pennsylvania is far from finishing redistricting.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced over the weekend that she was dropping out of the crowded Republican primary for governor and would instead seek re-election. Yee had looked like a frontrunner when she entered the race for Arizona’s top job back in May but raised just over $500,000 for 2021, a sum that put her far behind most of the field.

Another contender, Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, meanwhile has launched her opening spot ahead of the August GOP primary, which features her blaming “the Biden and Harris administration” as she shows what she says are undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin announced Monday that he was joining the June Republican primary to face Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a move that was greeted with satisfaction by Ken Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man. While Griffin did not confirm reports saying that he planned to take advantage of Illinois’ meager campaign finance laws to donate up to $150 million to aid Irvin’s bid, he declared, “Richard Irvin’s life embodies the American Dream and a real commitment to making communities stronger.” Pritzker, for his part, threw down $90 million of his own money just before the mayor made his declaration on top of the $42 million he’d already self-funded.

Irvin, who would be the state’s first Black governor, quickly attracted endorsements from other notable Republicans, including state House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, former Rep. John Shimkus, and wealthy perennial loser Jim Oberweis, but he has some clear potential primary liabilities. As we’ve written before, the mayor voted in the 2014, 2016, and 2020 Democratic primaries, though he did cast a ballot in the 2018 Republican contest.

The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson also said last month that Irvin “supports immigrant rights, and implementing sanctuary city-style policies with law enforcement for immigrants who lack legal status.” Irvin additionally proclaimed a day of honor to acknowledge Ngozi Ezike, the state director of public health who has implemented many of the measures to curb the pandemic that the GOP base utterly despises. Perhaps most notably, Irvin’s associates relayed that he’s told them he’s pro-choice, though his advisor denied this.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, whose name came up as a possible GOP gubernatorial candidate in both 2014 and 2018, is either testing the waters for 2022 or is the target of a recruitment effort, since Morning Take reports that he’s the focus of a new poll pitting him against Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. The newsletter adds that there’s been a “strong” push to woo him into the race but adds that Stanek has so far “resisted.”

Stanek has long touted his bipartisan appeal, which allowed him to win three terms in deep-blue Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis). For that same reason, however, he’d face a difficult time in a GOP primary, which is why Morning Take suggests Stanek could run as an independent. He also hasn’t ruled out seeking his old job, which he lost in a narrow upset in 2018.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel relays that 2018 Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson will announce in the “coming days” that he’ll seek the GOP nomination for governor.

CONNECTITCUT GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski, a Connecticut Republican who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race 49-46 to Democrat Ned Lamont, announced Wednesday that he was launching his long-awaited bid for a rematch and had made an “initial investment of $10 million” into his new campaign. Lamont, for his part, self-funded almost his entire effort last time, and the CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas reports the incumbent “plans to do so again this year.” No Connecticut governor has lost re-election since 1954, when Democrat Abraham Ribicoff narrowly dispatched Republican John Lodge.

Before Stefanowski can focus on taking on Lamont, though, he may need to get past former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides in the August primary. Klarides has yet to officially enter the race, though she’s spent heavily on polling and has been publishing anti-Lamont op-eds; the Hartford Courant adds that some party leaders believe that Klarides could be a “somewhat more moderate candidate appealing to a broader base” than Stefanowski, who is closer to conservatives. The filing deadline is in June.

The only general election numbers we’ve seen so far came from a late October Public Policy Polling survey for the pro-charter schools group Democrats for Education Reform that showed Lamont decisively beating Klarides and Stefanowski 52-32 and 52-36, respectively. Nutmeg State Democrats, though, will want to see much more before they can feel at all comfortable given how difficult it’s been for the party to hold this office. That’s because, while Connecticut has been reliably blue in federal elections for some time, voters here have been far more reticent about electing Democrats to the top state job.

4Q FUNDRAISING

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy raked in $9.5 million at a Wednesday night fundraiser in downtown Washington, a major sum that kicks off his drive to win the speaker’s gavel next year,” Politico reports.  “The figure is a new record for McCarthy: His previous largest haul at a Washington event was $350,000.”

“Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) promised in November that he would run for attorney general if he could raise $1 million in 10 days,” the Texas Tribune reports.  “And while he eventually entered the race, claiming he met his goal, a new campaign finance report shows he did not come close… His report shows he only got roughly $27,000.”

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

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