The Political Report – 3/25/22

As President Biden meets with key allies in Brussels to coordinate a stronger response to Russia’s monthlong assault on Ukraine, a new AP-NORC poll shows Americans have yet to rally around his leadership.

Just 43% of Americans approve of Biden and a similar percentage approve of his handling of the relationship with Russia.

Key finding: A majority of Americans — 56% — think Biden hasn’t been tough enough on Russia.

Selzer & Company poll finds President Biden’s approval ratings have dropped from 37% to 34% over the last month.

President Biden’s public approval rating fell to a new low of 40% this week, a clear warning sign for his Democratic Party as it seeks to retain control of Congress in the Nov. 8 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

A new Fox News poll finds that by a 63-32% margin, voters think the U.S. should be doing more for Ukrainians in their fight against Russia.

With President Biden flying to Brussels Wednesday for a NATO summit, his diplomacy in his first year produced big gains in overseas approval of U.S. leadership, Gallup reports.

A new Echelon Insights poll finds 58% of American voters think the U.S. should respond militarily to an attack on Poland or Lithuania, without mentioning these are members of the NATO alliance, to 23% who think the U.S. should not respond.

Support rises slightly to 60% to 21% in a split test where their NATO membership is mentioned.

Support rises to 66% to 21% when the provisions of NATO’s Article 5 are outlined.

“The online world of adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory sprang into action almost as soon as Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted his alarm: that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Biden administration’s Supreme Court nominee, had handed down sentences below the minimum recommended in federal guidelines for possessing images of child sexual abuse,” the New York Times reports.

“The line of attack has set off a new debate over the Republican Party’s stance toward QAnon.”

David Leonhardt: “Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has turned into a case study of how disconnected from reality large parts of the Republican ecosystem have become.”

The Supreme Court has rejected a redistricting plan that a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted for drawing state assembly and senate districts.

Rick Hasen: “The way this case was handled is quite bizarre and is another signal of a conservative supermajority of the Supreme Court showing increasing hostility to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “The concept of strength is the axis on which Republican politics has long rotated. Every Republican political campaign is about portraying the GOPer as strong and the Democrat as weak. This is why so much hay was made of Michael Dukakis’s tank photo op. Republicans worked hard to undermine John Kerry’s military service, and pushed false narratives about the health and cognitive abilities of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.”

“The type of strength and how it is used is irrelevant. When strength at all costs is emphasized at the expense of empathy, compassion, and morals, Putin can become the ideal leader for a morally bankrupt political party.”

Jason Zengerle: “It makes sense that Masters and Vance would subscribe to national conservatism. Their former boss and patron, Thiel — who has donated millions to super PACs supporting each candidacy — is a NatCon, giving the keynote address at last year’s conference. And they come by the ideology honestly. They are products of elite institutions — Vance graduated from Yale Law School, Masters from Stanford Law — and claim to have been radicalized by the experience. Their populism is a form of contrarianism and rebellion.”

“The challenge is turning that choice into votes. Trump created a constituency on instinct, but thus far there has been no way for politicians to signal affinity with it apart from pledging personal allegiance to Trump. Now that NatCons are trying to solidify that constituency ideologically, it seems freshly possible to align instead with Carlson, whose lead Masters and Vance have followed on everything from opposing vaccine mandates to sympathizing with Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical worldview.”

NEVADA SECRETARY OF STATE. Both parties will be fighting hard to win the race to succeed termed-out Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who was the only Nevada Republican to prevail statewide during the 2018 Democratic wave, and with the close of candidate filing on Friday, we now know who all the contenders are. However, while former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar faces no opposition in the June 14 Democratic primary, Republicans have a seven-way contest that includes a well-connected election denier.

That conspiracy theorist is former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who challenged Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford last cycle in the 4th District and lost by a 51-46 margin. Marchant, though, responded to that incontrovertible defeat by baselessly claiming he was the “victim of election fraud” and unsuccessfully suing to overturn the results. The ex-lawmaker, who has repeatedly addressed QAnon gatherings, has also said that he would not have certified Joe Biden’s victory in the state had he been secretary of state at the time. And as for the endless string of courtroom losses Trump allies were dealt when they sought to undo the 2020 election, Marchant has an explanation for that, too: “A lot of judges were bought off too—they are part of this cabal.”

Marchant continued to embrace the far-right last week by letting loose an antisemitic rant against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We need to support the people in Ukraine that are not the Biden, the Clintons, the cabal,” said Marchant, continuing, “They have patriots like us … that have been oppressed by the cabal, the central bankers for centuries. And that’s who we need to support people that were oppressed by the Soros cabal.” Yet Marchant is anything but a pariah in today’s GOP, as he has the backing of former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is the frontrunner to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Republicans have several other contenders, with the most formidable looking like Reno-area developer Jesse Haw. The Nevada Independent reported in January that Haw, who was appointed to fill a vacant state Senate seat for a few months in 2016, was “expected to bring at least half a million of dollars in campaign cash in the bank.” The GOP field also includes Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, former TV anchor Gerard Ramalh, and former District Court Judge Richard Scotti.

Further below we’ll be taking a look at Nevada’s other competitive races now that filing has closed. Candidates running statewide or in constituencies containing multiple counties were required to file with the secretary of state, while candidates running for single-county seats, such as the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts in Clark County, had to instead file with their local election officials.

IOWA SECRETARY OF STATE. Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate has no primary opposition in his bid for a third term, while the Democratic contest is a duel between Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker and Linn County Auditor Joel Miller.

NEVADA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Democrat Aaron Ford made history in 2018 when he became the first Black person elected to statewide office in Nevada, and two Republicans are now campaigning to unseat the attorney general. Until last month the only contender was Sigal Chattah, an attorney who has sued to try to undermine the state’s pandemic response measures and who has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations. February, though, saw the entrance of Tisha Black, who lost a 2018 race for Clark County Commission and whom the Nevada Independent identified as a former head of a cannabis industry trade group.

IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat who is already the longest-serving state attorney general in American history, is seeking an 11th term this year. (Miller was elected in 1978, left in 1994 to unsuccessfully run for governor, and regained the post in 1998.) The one Republican taking him on is Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird, who previously worked as chief counsel to then-Gov. Terry Branstad.

IDAHO ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Club for Growth has dropped a survey from WPA Intelligence that shows former Rep. Raúl Labrador, who was one of the far-right’s most prominent members during the tea party era, lapping five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden 35-14 in the May Republican primary. The Club hasn’t made an endorsement, though it supported Labrador in his unsuccessful 2018 bid for governor.

GEORGIA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Donald Trump has endorsed Big Lie proponent John Gordon, who renewed his law license last year to try to help Trump overturn his Georgia defeat, against Attorney General Chris Carr in the May Republican primary. Carr warned his counterparts in other states against joining Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit to throw out the results in Georgia and other states Biden won, and Trump lashed out Tuesday by saying the incumbent did “absolutely nothing” to aid him.

Gordon, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “has little statewide profile,” though he does have a close connection to another Trump ally. The paper reports that former Sen. David Perdue, who is trying to deny renomination to Gov. Brian Kemp, lives on property owned by Gordon because his own place is undergoing construction, though Perdue denied he had anything to do with this endorsement.

Carr and Gordon are the only Republican candidates, so this contest will be decided without a runoff. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Jen Jordan is the undisputed frontrunner against attorney Christian Wise Smith.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who serves as Alaska’s top election official, announced Tuesday that the special primary to succeed the late Rep. Don Young as the state’s lone House member will take place on June 11. The contest, which will be conducted entirely by mail, will be the first election in American history to use the state’s new top-four primary rules. Under this system, the four candidates who take the most votes in June, regardless of party, will face off in an instant-runoff general election on Aug. 16. The filing deadline is April 1, so Young’s many would-be successors have just a short amount of time to decide whether to run.

To complicate matters, Aug. 16 is the same day as the regularly scheduled statewide primary election, which, until Young’s death, was to have been the first time that Alaska employed a top-four primary. (Unlike in the special primary, voters will be able to vote in person that day.) Another instant-runoff race will take place in November, this time for a full two-year term in the next Congress. The filing deadline for the regular election is June 1, so anyone who wants to replace Young for longer than just a few months would need to file before they learn how they did in the first round of the special election.  

This will be the very first congressional race in the state without an incumbent running since Young himself first was elected in a 1973 special election, and it could bring out some notable names. Two were already running: Businessman Nick Begich III, who is the rare Republican member of one of the Last Frontier’s most prominent Democratic families, and Democrat Chris Constant, a member of the Anchorage Assembly, had both entered the race against Young before his death on Friday, and they’ve since confirmed they’ll now campaign in both the special and regular contests.

The Anchorage Daily News also writes that, according to an unnamed source, Al Gross, an independent who was the 2020 Democratic nominee for the Senate, “said he intends to enter the race,” though all Gross himself would say publicly was that he would “be in touch.” Last cycle, Gross lost a very expensive campaign to Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan 54-41 as Trump was taking the state by a slightly smaller 53-43 spread. Last fall, he lost a low-profile bid to serve on the hospital board in his hometown of Petersburg.

During his Senate bid, Gross had planned to be listed on the ballot as both a Democrat and an independent, but the director of the Alaska Division of Elections made a last-minute decision that ensured he’d only be identified as a Democrat. That won’t be an issue under the new top-four rules, though, as candidates have the option to identify themselves with a party label or be listed as “undeclared” or “nonpartisan.” Gross would also begin with a financial head-start, as he still has $200,000 in leftover cash from his Senate war chest that he could use for a House campaign.

As for potential candidates on the Republican side, former Gov. Sarah Palin said Monday of Young, “If I were asked to serve in the House and take his place, I would be humbled and honored and I would in a heartbeat, I would.” Palin, though, has flirted with running for office in Alaska several times since her abrupt resignation in 2009 halfway through her one term as governor, but she has yet to ever go for it.

Most recently, last summer, she said of the prospect of taking on GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, “If God wants me to do it I will,” which was the first and last time we heard about that idea. Around the same time, the ADN sought to figure out what Palin had been up to lately but was rebuffed by the ex-governor and everyone in her circle. The paper described her as “nearly invisible within the state” and “almost entirely absent from Alaska politics” since her failed turn as John McCain’s running mate. (These days, she’s been busy appealing her loss in her defamation lawsuit against the New York Times.)

Two Republicans who had been co-chairing Young’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, aren’t ruling out the idea. Former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, who would be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress, told the ADN, “Any discussions formally about who succeeds Don Young is premature at this point, and opportunistic.” State Sen. Josh Revak likewise said, “This is very new, and my focus is on his wishes and the wishes of his family, in terms of his legacy and in terms of honoring him. We’ll think about other stuff later.” The Anchorage Press also mentions state Sens. Mia Costello and Lora Reinbold, as well as state Rep. Sara Rasmussen, as possibilities, though it notes that “so far, none has uttered a peep publicly.”

Finally, Meda DeWitt, an Alaska Native traditional healer who was one of the leaders in the now-defunct effort to recall Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said a House bid is “not off the table,” adding, “It’s a long time coming, having representation that is equitable.” She did not say what party banner she might run under, if any, though she supported Gross’ bid against Sullivan and has expressed her disgust with Trump.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Cygnal takes a look at the May GOP primaries on behalf of Alabama Daily News and Gray Television, and it gives Rep. Mo Brooks’ struggling Senate campaign some truly dire news. Army veteran Mike Durant takes the lead with 35%, while former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt leads Brooks 28-16 for the second spot in an all-but-assured June runoff; last August, before Durant joined the race, the firm showed Brooks crushing Britt 41-17.

The firm also tested a trio of hypothetical runoff scenarios, which are just as ugly for Brooks even if he should somehow squeeze back into second place in the primary:

  • Durant: 57, Brooks: 23
  • Britt: 51, Brooks: 28
  • Durant: 47, Britt: 35

Over in the GOP contest for governor, Cygnal shows incumbent Kay Ivey at 46%, a few points short of the majority she’d need to win outright, while businessman Tim James edges out former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard 12-10 for second. Ivey’s campaign recently released a pair of surveys that each found her taking about 60% of the vote.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he was “withdrawing my endorsement” of Rep. Mo Brooks ahead of the May Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, a move that came after months of stories detailing the GOP master’s unhappiness with the congressman’ campaign. Trump concluded his not-tweet by saying, “I will be making a new Endorsement in the near future!”

There are two remaining available candidates in the GOP primary that Trump could back: Army veteran Mike Durant and Shelby’s choice, former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt. Trump had disparaged Britt as “not in any way qualified” for the Senate back in July, but he’s warmed up to her in recent months and, per a CNN report last month, even told her that “he would speak positively of her in private and public appearances.”

That same story relayed that Trump saw Durant, whom he derided as “a McCain guy” because he functioned as a surrogate for John McCain’s 2008 campaign, as unacceptable. That seems to also be changing, though, as Politico reports that Durant met with Trump on Monday. As for Brooks, who helped foment the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, the Club for Growth responded to Trump’s Wednesday announcement by saying it was still sticking with him.

Trump argued he was abandoning the “woke” Brooks because the candidate told an August rally, “There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you.” However, while CNN said last year that Brooks’ performance at this event, as well as Trump’s brief but friendly conversation with Britt backstage, were what “first sowed frustration” with the congressman inside Trumpworld, few observers believe that those seven-month-old comments from Brooks are the reason Trump is now leaving him for dead.

Instead, almost everyone agreed that Trump decided that Brooks was running a doomed bid and wanted to avoid being embarrassed by his primary defeat. Indeed, CNN reported all the way back in December that Trump, GOP insiders, and even Brooks’ allies were unhappy with his weak fundraising and other aspects of his campaign: The candidate responded that month by “reassessing his campaign strategy” and replacing several members of his team, but CNN said last week that this shakeup only granted him a temporary reprieve from Trump’s gripes. “He feels he has been more than patient and that Mo hasn’t risen to the occasion despite many opportunities to do so,” said one unnamed person close to Trump.  

But things intensified last week when Trump began to publicly discuss yanking his “Complete and Total” endorsement over the August comments. Brooks responded by saying that Trump had been told “that there are mechanisms by which he could have been returned to the White House in 2021 or in 2022, and it’s just not legal.” An unnamed Trump advisor told CNN afterwards that a Republican saying that the 2020 election couldn’t be overturned represented a “cardinal sin,” and that Brooks had just said “the quiet part out loud and it might cost him (Trump’s) support.” Brooks himself last week used his very first ad of the race to proudly showcase the Jan. 6 speech he delivered to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the day’s violence, but that messaging wasn’t enough to keep Trump on his side.

Things got even worse for Brooks on Tuesday when the Republican firm Cygnal released a survey for the Alabama Daily News and Gray Television that showed the former frontrunner in a distant third place. Durant led with 35%, while Britt led Brooks 28-16 for the second spot in an all-but-assured June runoff; last August, before Durant joined the race, the firm showed Brooks crushing Britt 41-17.

There’s no word if those ugly numbers influenced Trump, but he announced just a day later that he was finally done backing Brooks. The congressman himself responded with a statement saying, “President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency.” He continued, “As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit(s) what President Trump asks. Period.” Brooks also declared that Trump has allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to “manipulate” him.

Politico: “More than 100 House Republicans have signed on to host a fundraiser for Harriet Hageman, who is waging a primary challenge to Cheney in Wyoming. The figure amounts to roughly half of the entire House GOP.”

A new Selzer & Co. poll finds nearly two in three voters, including broad majorities across racial, educational and economic lines, believe public schools in the United States are headed off on the wrong track.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R), who frequently rails against abortion rights, paid for a woman to have an abortion after impregnating her in 1989, Axios reports.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she supports embattled Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX) reelection bid in Texas, despite an ongoing FBI investigation and a primary runoff race against a liberal candidate in May, the Washington Post reports.

Top Democratic Party officials are circulating plans for “a 2024 presidential nominating calendar that would select up to five states to hold contests before March based upon a new set of criteria that appears designed to exclude a return of the Iowa caucuses to their first-in-the-nation status,” the Washington Post reports.

“AIPAC, the most influential pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, has defended its endorsing of dozens of Republicans who refused to accept President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, even as its new super PAC declares the group’s support for democracy,” Haaretz reports.

Debra Meadows, the wife of Donald Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, appears to have filed three false voter forms in North Carolina, the Washington Post reports.

Rep. Steven Horsford’s (D-NV) wife took to Twitter to express her displeasure that he’s running for reelection after he admitted in 2020 to a longtime affair with a Senate intern.  Said Sonya Douglas: “This election cycle, I will not be silent.”

One of the Georgians arrested last week on charges of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot is a local Republican Party official, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

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

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