The Political Report – 3/12/22

A new Emerson College poll in New York finds that 63% of New York voters think former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) should not re-enter public office, while 24% think he should and 14% are unsure.

However, if Cuomo does challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in the Democratic primary, a hypothetical ballot test shows him trailing Hochul just by four points, 37% to 33%, with 9% undecided and a combined 21% voting for other candidates.

A new Wall Street Journal poll finds President Biden’s approval rate unchanged at 42% to 57%.

In the generic congressional ballot, 46% of voters said they would back a Republican candidate for Congress if the election were today, compared with 41% who favored a Democrat.

Fox News has released new polls of Republican primaries in three states that are hosting races for both Senate and governor this year: Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All the data, which was collected by the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company, is below:

  • GA-Sen: Herschel Walker: 66, Gary Black: 8
  • GA-Gov: Brian Kemp (inc.): 50, David Perdue: 39
  • OH-Sen: Mike Gibbons: 22, Josh Mandel: 20, J.D. Vance: 11, Jane Timken: 9, Matt Dolan: 7
  • OH-Gov: Mike DeWine (inc.): 50, Joe Blystone: 21, Jim Renacci: 18
  • PA-Sen: David McCormick: 24, Mehmet Oz: 15, Kathy Barnette: 9, Jeff Bartos: 9, Carla Sands: 6, George Bochetto: 1, Everett Stern: 1
  • PA-Gov: Lou Barletta: 19, Doug Mastriano: 18, Dave White: 14, Bill McSwain: 11, Jake Corman: 6, Scott Martin: 3, Nche Zama: 1

All of these numbers are in line with other polling of each of these races, though DeWine’s showing is the best he’s posted to date. This is also the first survey from a reputable source to include Blystone, a farmer and first-time candidate running a chaotic campaign animated by the usual far-right grievances who could actually help DeWine by splitting the anti-incumbent vote with Renacci, a former congressman. It’s also worth noting that this poll did not include former state Rep. Ron Hood as an option, while the Pennsylvania governor survey did not list former Rep. Melissa Hart and a few other minor contenders.

Politico: “Even in an improved position, Biden and his party are in trouble, with Democrats still widely expected to lose the House in November. But with Biden’s poll numbers ticking up in recent days — after his State of the Union and with the country rallying ever so slightly behind his handling of the war in Ukraine — even skeptical Democrats are feeling oddly optimistic that a Biden rebound might last and that the party’s midterm losses might not be so severe.”

“Democrats still have reason to be anxious. But at a critical juncture in the midterm election cycle, the party is in an improved position from just three months ago, when moribund party officials met in South Carolina to close out the last year. At the time, Biden’s approval ratings had cratered. The Omicron variant was surging. Justice Stephen Breyer had yet to announce his retirement, a development that would allow Biden, last month, to make his historic and base-pleasing selection of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.”

“Most importantly, Russia had yet to invade Ukraine, a development that has shifted public attention away from a year of domestic difficulties and recast Biden as a fixture in a war raging nonstop on Americans’ TVs. In recent days, multiple polls have registered a moderate improvement in Biden’s still-weak public approval ratings.”

New York Times: “One year to the day after the enactment of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, a law that remains broadly popular even if the president, at the moment, is not, Democrats are toiling to retool their message and refocus their agenda. They are worried that the accomplishments they helped deliver to Mr. Biden are being drowned out by concern over the rising price of gas and a focus on their legislative failures.”

“And they are looking to Mr. Biden, who is to address them at the retreat on Friday, to help them reframe the conversation.”

MAINE GOVERNOR. The RGA has given $3.87 million to the Maine Republican Party, which has reserved that same amount for fall TV time.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. A new survey from Democratic pollster Blueprint Polling finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock 49-45, which is the largest advantage for Walker anyone has found to date.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s allies at Protect Missouri Values are airing two new 15-second ads (here and here) for the August GOP primary praising him as an ardent conservative.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto has launched her first TV ads (here and here), and AdImpact reports that she’s spending at least $224,000 on this opening buy. Both spots star people in the hospitality industry praising the senator for securing pandemic relief money at a time when few people were traveling to the state.

MARYLAND GOVERNOR. Maryland Matters says that former nonprofit head Wes Moore is spending six figures on the first TV buy from anyone running in the June Democratic primary. The 30-second ad features the candidate telling the audience about his tough upbringing, saying, “When I was three, I watched my father die. I got handcuffs to my wrists by the time I was 11.” He continues by talking about how he later became a Rhodes Scholar, an “Army captain in Afghanistan,” and head of an influential anti-poverty group.

The 60-second spot has Moore discussing how much education mattered to his life and declaring, “Maryland has some of the nation’s best public schools, but also some of its most neglected. We can’t settle for that.”  

“Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R) has been indicted by a grand jury on a mix of felony and misdemeanor charges, including allegations of attempting to influence a public servant and criminal impersonation,” the Colorado Sun reports.

“Peters is running this year to unseat Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D). If Peters is successful, she would be the state’s top elections official.”

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s opening spot touts him as a conservative “fighter” and ends with an old clip of Donald Trump (from his infamous 2020 Tulsa rally no less) exclaiming that “you don’t want to fight with him.” Surprisingly, the ad doesn’t actually touch on the congressman’s time as a MMA fighter, though viewers will probably learn all about that before the June primary is over.

A prominent Oklahoma lawyer has filed a lawsuit before the state Supreme Court seeking to block the November special election to replace Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, saying that Gov. Kevin Stitt cannot call an election until the incumbent actually vacates his seat. Inhofe sent a letter to Secretary of State Brian Bingman last month saying he’d resign as of Jan. 3, but attorney Stephen Jones, who once represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, argues in his complaint that the 17th Amendment prohibits holding an election for a vacancy that is merely prospective.

Jones further notes that Inhofe could backtrack on his pledge and choose to remain in office (his term doesn’t end until 2027), despite the senator’s claim that his promise to resign is “irrevocable,” since there’d be no way to enforce such a promise. It would therefore be “absurd and wholly unreasonable,” says Jones, to hold a special election for a seat that may never become vacant.

Despite Jones’ arguments, Oklahoma has permitted this practice for quite some time: In early 2014, then-Sen. Tom Coburn announced he’d resign at the end of that year, two years before his term was to expire, prompting a special election that fall. Likewise, Inhofe’s predecessor, Democrat David Boren, said in the spring of 1994 that he’d leave office later that year—again, with two more years to go—in order to accept the presidency of the University of Oklahoma, which also triggered a special election that November. But Jones’ biggest difficulty may be proving that he has legal standing to bring the case, which would require showing he’ll suffer a concrete injury if this year’s special is allowed to proceed.

For now, though, the special is on, and former Trump White House staffer Alex Gray announced Tuesday that he was entering the June Republican primary. Gray, who was chief of staff for the National Security Council, joins a field that includes Rep. Markwayne Mullin, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, and Luke Holland, who resigned as Inhofe’s chief of staff to run with his boss’ endorsement. However, both Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and former Rep. J.C. Watts made it known this week that they’d skip this race.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. Donald Trump is reportedly unhappy with a high-profile Senate candidate he’s endorsed—in this case, North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd, who continues to trail in polls of the GOP primary despite almost $4 million in outside spending on his behalf from the Club for Growth. Politico reports that those close to Trump speculate he’s “grown to regret his early endorsement” and relays new audio of Trump asking state GOP chair Michael Whatley about the health of Budd’s campaign—from the stage, in the midst of a delirious 84-minute speech at a recent RNC fundraiser in New Orleans.

“How’s Ted Budd doing? OK?” Trump queried, before demanding, “All right, we gotta get Walker out of that race. Get him out of the race, Michael, right?” There’s no word on whether Whatley shouted back from his spot in the audience, but Walker would be former Rep. Mark Walker, who’s been floundering in third place, behind both Budd and the frontrunner, former Gov. Pat McCrory. Trump previously tried to lure Walker away from the Senate race with a reported offer to endorse him if he instead made a comeback bid for the House, but Walker didn’t bite, and that ship has since sailed, as North Carolina’s filing deadline closed last week.

Despite the former congressman’s struggles, though, there’s still (rather amazingly) a pro-Walker PAC called Awake Carolina that recently produced a poll of the race, which in turn fell into Politico’s hands. The new numbers, from Ingress Research, show McCrory taking 29% of the vote to 18 for Budd and 11 for Walker, which is more or less where other surveys have shown the race.

Given the Club’s massive spending—Politico says the group is increasing its pledge from $10 million to $14 million—it seems unlikely that Walker could catch Budd and become McCrory’s main threat. That’s doubly so given Walker’s own poor fundraising and Trump’s apparent antipathy for him. But if Trump grows as disillusioned with Budd as he has with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, he could always switch horses.

The one trotter we can be pretty certain he’ll never back, though, is McCrory, who just dropped a new ad that bashes Budd for praising Vladimir Putin—a man Trump continues to worship. This is both McCrory’s first television spot of the race and one of the first we’ve seen raising the issue of GOP slavishness toward the Russian dictator: In the spot, McCrory charges, “As Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer,” as footage of Russian destruction rolls.

Interspersed are clips of Budd calling Putin “a very intelligent actor” in a recent TV interview and saying, “There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank—we understand that.” McCrory then attacks Budd for voting against sanctions on Russia and adds, “I don’t compliment our enemies.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is up with his first TV ad airing on broadcast TV, which Ad Impact says is part of the $1.48 million buy he has running through the May Democratic primary. After the narrator highlights how Fetterman successfully ran for mayor of Braddock “to stop the violence and help people,” a local social worker praises him for having “brought out the best in people in Braddock, he gave people hope.”

The latest commercial in the Republican primary ad war between TV personality Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick comes from Oz, who tells a crowd that his rival is “part of the swamp that labeled President Trump as ‘Hollywood.'” As footage plays of Oz welcoming Trump to his program, the candidate says that, while he’s the victim of the same sort of attack, “I used my show to tell people the truth.”

On the Democratic side, Conor Lamb has earned an endorsement from fellow Rep. Matt Cartwright.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. A newly created group called Empire Results is spending $567,000 on an ad campaign portraying Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul as soft-on-crime for not fixing New York’s “so-called bail reform” law or standing up to Manhattan’s new reform-minded District Attorney Alvin Bragg. While that sounds like the sort of messaging that Republicans routinely run against Democrats, the Times Union reports that the organization’s media consultant spent 20 years working for Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is one of the governor’s June primary foes. Suozzi has been airing his own spots that also use Bragg as a foil.

Politico reports that the Republican Governors Association has booked a total of $31.4 million in ad time in five states, which makes it the first major outside group we’ve seen reserve general election commercials for any races. The breakdowns are below, along with any information about what day each ad campaign is set to start:

  • Arizona: $10.2 million (Aug. 3)
  • Kansas: $3.5 million
  • Michigan: $3.5 million
  • Nevada: $8 million (Sept. 7)
  • Wisconsin: $6.2 million (Sept. 7)

Republicans are working to hold Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey is termed-out, while Democratic incumbents are running for re-election in the other four states.

We’ll likely see the RGA and its counterparts at the DGA spending money in considerably more states, though that doesn’t necessarily mean either group will be airing commercials in each battleground. That’s because some states, such as Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have no contribution limits, so major outside groups often decide to simply send millions directly to their nominees.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s campaign announced Friday that it had booked $13 million in TV and radio ads for the fall, which makes this the first reservation we’ve seen this cycle from a federal candidate for the November general election. Early as it may seem, though, campaigns and outside groups have an incentive to book well ahead of time so they can lock in cheaper ad rates before high demand brings prices up.

That’s especially true in the Granite State, where about 85% of residents live within the Boston media market. (Another 10% reside in the Burlington market, while the balance are in Portland.) Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts will likely feature multiple expensive races—especially the Bay State’s race for governor—in addition to Hassan’s Senate contest, so candidates and allied organizations in both states will want to reserve ad time well before prices soar. That’s not a luxury everyone has, though: While Hassan doesn’t need to worry about securing renomination, her various Republican foes have to focus on winning their Sept. 13 primary―which is one of the last in the nation―before they can run ads for the general election.

That doesn’t mean Hassan will have the airwaves to herself until then, of course, since GOP super PACs will almost certainly book millions in ad time devoted to attacking the incumbent. But luckily for the senator, super PAC money doesn’t go nearly as far as campaign cash. That’s because FCC regulations give candidates—but not outside groups—discounted rates on TV and radio. That’s something to bear in mind when comparing ad spending in dollar figures. For a true apples-to-apples comparison, media professionals rely on metrics like the total number of ads bought, gross ratings points, and share of voice.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. We still have nearly two months to go before the May 3 Republican primary, though you wouldn’t know that based on the barrage of new ads dropping every week. The latest offering from businessman Mike Gibbons’ $10 million buy castigates former state party chair Jane Timken and venture capitalist J.D. Vance for being insufficiently pro-Trump. The narrator exclaims that Timken “said she didn’t know if she would have voted to impeach Trump,” while the ad uses footage of Vance himself saying, “I’m a Never Trump guy, I never liked him.” The second half of the spot argues, “Trump and Gibbons are businessmen with a backbone.”

Meanwhile, Vance’s allies at Protect Ohio Values, the super PAC funded by Peter Thiel, are running two new commercials focused on immigration (here and here) as part of their ongoing effort to rehabilitate the candidate’s image before it’s too late. Neither spot mentions any of his many intra-party rivals by name, though the second shows pictures of Gibbons, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and the late John McCain as the narrator complains, “Elites and establishment politicians have failed us.”

Finally, Mandel is airing his own piece that … focuses on his record as state treasurer? We can’t believe it either, but Mandel, who famously showed little interest in the job except as a stepping stone for the Senate, tells the audience that he pissed off politicians by pushing for “transparency,” adding, “I’m a United States Marine: Think I cared?”

State Sen. Matt Dolan’s latest commercial for the May GOP primary features Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and a retired police sergeant praising him as a friend of law enforcement.  

Punchbowl News reports that Winning For Women, a conservative organization that has long aspired to be the Mirror Universe version of EMILY’s List, is spending $1.4 million on an ad campaign supporting former state party chair Jane Timken ahead of the May Republican primary. The commercial features Dave Johnson, the head of the Columbia County GOP, praising Timken as “a true Trump conservative, an America first conservative.”

“The good news is we now have a very specific reason for rising gas prices and a specific villain. Before, it was kind of ambiguous: What’s going on? Why are gas prices going up?” — Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, quoted by the Washington Post.

“The Donald Trump-endorsed crossover voting bill died Tuesday in the Wyoming House after it was not considered by a legislative deadline,” the Casper Star Tribune reports.

“Backers wanted to prevent Democrats and independents from changing their registration on election day in order to vote in Republican primaries, a practice commonly known as crossover voting.”

“For Wyoming’s far right, passing a ban on crossover voting took on new importance this year. Opponents of Rep. Liz Cheney worry the practice will benefit her by allowing Trump critics to change their affiliation and vote for her.”

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

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