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The Political Report – 3/6/22

A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll finds President Biden’s overall approval rate jumped to 47%, up 8 points from last month.

“Presidents don’t generally see much, if any bounce, out of a State of the Union address. Since 1978, there had only been six times when a president saw an approval rating improve 4 points or more following State of the Union addresses, according to the pollsters. Three of those bounces were for former President Bill Clinton.”

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “This is an unusual bounce. It gets him back to where he was pre-Afghanistan.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) escalates his public battle with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) by writing a defiant Wall Street Journal op-ed defending his decision to put out a Republican agenda for the midterm elections:

“We are losing this country. The militant left has seized control of the federal government, the news media, big tech, academia, Hollywood, the Democratic Party, most corporate boardrooms and even some of our top military leaders. The elites atop our nation’s institutions are working hard to redefine America and silence their opponents. They want to end the American experiment and replace it with a woke socialist utopia, and we are sitting around watching it happen.”

George Will: “Floundering in his attempts to wield political power while lacking a political office, Donald Trump looks increasingly like a stray orange hair to be flicked off the nation’s sleeve.”

“His residual power, which he must use or lose, is to influence his party’s selection of candidates for state and federal offices. This is, however, perilous because he has the power of influence only if he is perceived to have it. That perception will dissipate if his interventions in Republican primaries continue to be unimpressive.”

Texas Tribune: “The runoff election is May 24. Until then, Bush is poised to continue his monthslong assault on Paxton’s integrity, centered around his six-year-old securities fraud indictment and a more recent investigation by the FBI into allegations that he abused his office. (He denies wrongdoing in both.)”

“While Paxton seems to believe Bush’s famous family is a liability for the candidate, Bush’s campaign says he brings broader appeal than his last name suggests.”

“But Bush is the underdog in the race. He had fewer votes than Paxton in the primary, and Paxton carries the coveted endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Bush said Wednesday morning in a radio interview that he will ask Trump to reconsider his Paxton endorsement, which Paxton later dismissed as a ‘made-up fantasy.’”

Just 17% of registered voters in Texas cast a ballot in the 2022 primaries this week, the Texas Tribune reports.

ARKANSAS U.S. SENATOR. Candidate filing closed Tuesday for Arkansas’ May 24 primary, and Arkansas Online has a list of contenders. A runoff would take place June 21 for any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.

Republican incumbent John Boozman, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, faces three intra-party opponents. The only high-profile challenger is Army veteran Jake Bequette, a former football player who had a successful stint as a defensive end with the University of Arkansas in the 2011 season but didn’t do nearly so well in a brief career with the New England Patriots. Boozman has enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage, but Arkansas Patriots Fund, a super PAC that received $1 million from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, has been running commercials promoting Bequette. The winner should have no trouble in the general election in this very red state.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Gov. Doug Ducey once again said Thursday that he would not enter the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, but this time, everyone seems to be accepting his latest “no” as final. The governor made his declaration in a letter to donors, which is about the last group any politician would want to play games with. Arizona’s April 4 filing deadline is also rapidly approaching, so this declaration carries more weight than those in the past.

crowded field took shape after Ducey first said no all the way back in January of last year, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and NRSC chair Rick Scott refused to give up trying to get him to change his mind because of what the Arizona Republic characterized as “the perceived weakness of the existing GOP field.” They had some big-named backup, as the New York Times now reports that George W. Bush, among others, tried to appeal to the governor. An about-face would have put Ducey on the receiving end of more abuse from Donald Trump, who has never forgiven him for accepting Joe Biden’s victory, but the paper writes that recruiters tried to woo him with polling that found Trump’s “declining influence in primaries.”

The story says that anti-Trump Republicans hoped that a Ducey nomination “would also send a message about what they believe is Mr. Trump’s diminishing clout.” McConnell, the Times said last month, wanted to land Ducey for non-electoral reasons as well in order to stop the GOP caucus from filling up with even more Trump minions. The minority leader had unsuccessfully tried to convince two other governors, Maryland’s Larry Hogan and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu, to run for the Senate, but he still hoped to get his man in Arizona.

That didn’t happen. Ducey, in his letter to his donors, wrote, “If you’re going to run for public office, you have to really want the job,” adding that “by nature and by training I’m an executive.” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who flirted with leaving the upper chamber earlier this year, responded to the governor’s refusal to join him there by telling NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell, “That’s a sad story.” When she followed up by asking if Ducey’s refusal was a sign that the GOP had had a tough time recruiting electable candidates, Thune responded, “That is the existential question.” It’s also a question that McConnell and his allies will have plenty of time to mull over as the August primary draws ever closer.

NEW MEXICO U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján returned to the Senate on Thursday, one month after he suffered a stroke. In a statement, Lujan did not comment directly on his health but said, “I am back in the Senate and eager to get the job done for New Mexicans.”

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has booked $4.2 million in TV time from March 30 until the May 24 Republican primary. That reservation is more than four times the amount that his intra-party foe, former Sen. David Perdue, had on hand at the end of January.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. State Sen. Darren Bailey, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, earned an endorsement this week from former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a far-right politician who almost wrested the Republican nomination from then-Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago. Politico says of this news, “Ives’ support in the governor’s race gives Bailey an edge that could only be upped if Donald Trump were to endorse.”

COLORADO GOVERNOR. The Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group’s newest general election numbers for ProgressNow Colorado show Democratic incumbent Jared Polis beating University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl 53-37, which is similar to his 52-35 advantage in October.

The firm also tested real estate broker Danielle Neuschwanger for the first time and found her trailing Polis 51-40, which, surprisingly, is better than Ganahl’s performance. Neuschwanger, a far-right activist who has been running a longshot bid for the Republican nod, made news in December when, among many other things, she absurdly accused the governor of being “not gay” and being in “a sham” marriage after previously being “married to a woman, who he used to abuse the heck out of.” As Advocate put it of these looney tunes claims, “There is absolutely no evidence that Polis was ever married to a woman or that he ever sexually assaulted anyone.”

NEBRASKA GOVERNOR. Tuesday was also the second and final filing deadline for Nebraska candidates looking to compete in the May 10 primary (any sitting office holders had to turn in their paperwork two weeks earlier on Feb. 15, regardless of whether they were seeking re-election or another office), and the state has a list of contenders here.

Nine Republicans are competing to succeed termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts, though only three of them appear to be running serious campaigns. Donald Trump is supporting agribusinessman Charles Herbster, a self-funder who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the candidate claims he left before insurrectionists began their violent assault. Ricketts, however, has long had an ugly relationship with Herbster, and the outgoing governor is backing one of his rivals, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who has parted with conservative orthodoxy at times, has also brought in a credible amount of money, but he doesn’t have much big-name support so far. The field also includes former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau, who was briefly Herbster’s candidate for lieutenant governor, but she hasn’t raised much. The only notable candidate on the Democratic side is state Sen. Carol Blood, who is trying to win an office the GOP has held since the 1998 elections.

ARKANSAS GOVERNOR. While state politicos originally expected a very competitive Republican primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders essentially cleared the field last year and now faces just one unheralded opponent. Five Democrats are campaigning in this conservative state, including physicist Chris Jones, who generated national attention over the summer with an announcement video that went viral. A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research finds Sanders leading Jones 58-28 in a hypothetical general election.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Michigan gubernatorial candidate James Craig (R) said he suspects his former campaign manager used his electronic signature to sign his name, without his knowledge, to a campaign fundraising letter that criticized the Michigan State Police, the Detroit Free Press reports.  Craig also hinted the letter may have been an act of campaign sabotage

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. NBC’s Henry Gomez reports that former state party chair Jane Timken, who has mostly directed her TV ads at Fox News until now, is spending six figures on her first broadcast spot for the May Republican primary. The ad dubs Timken “the real Trump conservative” running against the “pretenders” and shows a long clip of Trump praising her. As Gomez notes, “If you didn’t know any better, you might think Trump has endorsed her.”

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. A former campaign manager for former Rep. J.C. Watts tells Read Oklahoma that his old boss is considering entering the June Republican primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe. Watts, a one-time University of Oklahoma football star who was one of the most prominent African American Republicans in the nation during his eight years in Congress, retired in 2003, but he’s remained an active media presence. That’s not necessarily an asset, though, as Politico’s Burgess Everett notes that Watts was a vocal Trump critic well into his administration.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights finds Republican Sen. Mike Lee leading independent Evan McMullin by double digits in a pair of hypothetical three-way general election matchups.

Lee bests McMullin 34-24, with Democrat Kael Weston taking 12%. When former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt is substituted in as Team Blue’s candidate, Lee’s edge over McMullin grows to 36-23, with 11% going to the Democrat. Weston, who was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District last cycle, is running, while Schmidt, who left the GOP during the Trump era, hasn’t shown any obvious interest in getting in since November of 2020. OH Predictive Insights also takes a look at the June GOP primary and shows Lee beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards in a 51-5 landslide.

McMullin, for his part, is going up with what appears to be the first campaign ad anywhere based around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “As the world rallies around Ukraine, Mike Lee was only one of two senators to oppose sanctions on Putin,” says the candidate, “then he flew to the Kremlin and discussed dropping sanctions.” He continues, “Lee even opposed arming Ukrainians fighting for their lives.” McMullin concludes by talking about his “decade protecting America from dictators and terrorists.” Lee ended 2021 with a $2.17 million to $703,000 cash-on-hand lead over McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as an anti-Trump conservative.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. Former TV and radio host Cory Hepola announced Tuesday that he would run for governor under the banner of the newly established Forward Party. Hepola avoided saying much about his actual political beliefs other than that he’s pro-choice, though he volunteered that in 2018 he voted for the man he’s now trying to unseat, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, as well as for Joe Biden two years later.

Democrats seem to think Hepola is more of a threat to Walz than to the eventual Republican nominee, as state party chair Ken Martin warned, “A vote for Cory Hepola is a vote to help the GOP cut taxes for the rich, defund public schools, and force their anti-choice agenda on Minnesotans.” Republican operatives, by contrast, took to social media to celebrate his entrance.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. Rep. Lee Zeldin earned the support of 85% of delegates at the state GOP convention on Tuesday, making him the only candidate to secure an automatic spot on the June 28 primary ballot. Because the other Republican hopefuls failed to win at least 25% of the vote, they’ll all have to collect 15,000 signatures statewide in order to run in the primary. All of them, including businessman Harry Wilson, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and former Trump White House staffer Andrew Giuliani, have said they’ll do so.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Marquette University has released the first independent poll of either the August Democratic primary to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson or the GOP contest to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. In the Senate contest, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes outpaces Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry 23-13, with Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson at 5%; a recent Lasry internal from Normington Petts found him trailing Barnes 35-27.

Over in the GOP gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads businessman Kevin Nicholson 30-8, while state Rep. Timothy Ramthun grabs 5%. A January Kleefisch poll from the Tarrance Group, which was taken before either of her intra-party foes announced, showed her defeating Nicholson 61-8, while Ramthun was not tested.

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

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