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The Political Report – 4/2/22

First Read: “For all of Joe Biden’s problems in this week’s NBC News poll, he has one important thing going for him. He’s not Donald Trump.”

“It doesn’t appear that Americans have buyer’s remorse after 2020. Whether Biden’s election was fueled more by voters who supported him, or those who wanted to cast a ballot against Trump, is debatable. But these numbers certainly suggest many were voting against Trump.”

“Trump’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the poll (36% positive, 50% negative) is slightly worse than Biden’s (37% positive, 46% negative).”

“The poll also shows more voters say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump (47% say this) than a candidate endorsed by Biden (42%).”

A new Pew Research poll finds Russian President Vladimir Putin receives dismal ratings, with only 6% of American adults expressing confidence in him following his decision to invade Ukraine – an all-time low in surveys going back nearly two decades.

It seems that Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson praising the Russian leader might not be good politics.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) issued a direct attack, not yet seen in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, on frontrunner Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) of dodging scrutiny on a controversial incident from his past, that he said could “single-handedly” cost Democrats a Senate seat, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Said Lamb: “We all know why John Fetterman isn’t coming to the debate on Sunday. He doesn’t want to talk about the fact that he chased down an unarmed Black man and held him at gunpoint. That’s the elephant in the room. And we have to talk about it.”

A new Emerson College/The Hill poll in Pennsylvania finds the Republican U.S. Senate primary wide open: 51% of voters are undecided and David McCormick (R) and Mehmet Oz (R) receive 14% respectively. No other candidate reaches double digits.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) leads with 33%, followed by Rep. Conor Lamb (D) with 10%. No other candidate reaches double digits and 37% are undecided. 

“A federal judge ruled that multiple parts of a voting law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year are unconstitutional, striking down various provisions and prohibiting the Legislature from passing future forms of voter laws without first getting approval from a court,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“In a sweeping 288-page order declaring the right to vote ‘under siege’ based on the Legislature’s record on voting laws, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Thursday forbade lawmakers from passing future laws involving drop boxes, third-party voter registration or efforts to limit ‘line warming’ activities at polling sites without the court’s approval for the next 10 years.”

In a blistering opinion that pulled no punches, the judge ruled that the law intentionally targeted Black voters to hurt voter turnout for Democrats. The judge threw out several portions of the law, including its limit on drop boxes for mail-in ballots, ban on giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote and new requirements for third party voter registration groups.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) accused the judge of “performative partisanship.” DeSantis had signed the legislation into law during a Fox News appearance. The ruling’s likelihood of surviving appeal appears slim, however. The conservative-leaning Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court will likely overturn the district judge’s decision, as the New York Times points out.

More from the Election Law Blog.

“A New York judge on Thursday struck down the state’s new congressional and legislative maps as defying a voter-backed constitutional amendment that aimed to end partisan gerrymandering, dealing a blow to Democrats hoping to hold onto their fragile majority in the House this November,” the Washington Post reports.

“New York Democrats drew a new congressional map with boundaries that could gain their party as many as three new seats, a crucial advantage at a time when the House majority will come down to just a handful of wins.”

The lower court state judge ruled that the Democratic-run legislature lacked the power to take over the mapmaking process even though the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission failed to reach an agreement on new districts. Steuben County Surrogate Court Judge Patrick McAllister, a Republican, ordered lawmakers to produce new maps by April 11 and, in a very unusual move, decreed that any such maps pass with “a reasonable amount of bipartisan support,” though he did not specify what such a threshold might look like. Legislative Democrats immediately announced they would appeal the decision.

David Wasserman has the early read on a New York judge throwing out the new redistricting maps: “The ruling likely to be stayed on appeal, so Democrats believe map will remain in place, at least for 2022. Huge stakes here, as a ‘neutral’ map could cost Dems 3 to 4 seats and erase their nationwide remap gains.”

“Key point here: for the New York lines to change for this fall, less GOP-friendly higher courts would not only need to agree with plaintiffs on the merits, but potentially alter the election calendar. Just like Ohio Republicans, New York Democrats could be saved by the bell.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. Millionaire cryptocurrency enthusiast Bruce Fenton announced Wednesday that he was joining the September Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. Fenton previously told Politico that he’d self-fund $5 million.

OHIO GOVERNOR. Rep. Marcy Kaptur has endorsed former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley in the Democratic primary.

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. Amber Integrated (R): Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 44, Joy Hofmeister (D): 30 (Dec.: 47-32 Stitt).

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. The Detroit News reports that wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke has launched a new $500,000 TV, radio, and digital buy ahead of the August Republican primary. Rinke’s spot describes how the candidate “lost his brother in a terrible plane crash, and in a time of sorrow, he led the family business out of crisis.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling, which says it has no client here, shows former Attorney General Adam Laxalt leading Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto 47-40 while his fellow Republican, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, enjoys a smaller 43-40 edge over Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak. The pollster did not test any of the other Republicans competing in either June primary.

The only other survey we’ve seen of the Senate race was a January poll from the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights for the Nevada Independent, and it had Cortez Masto ahead of Laxalt 44-35.

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee has launched his opening spot for the June Republican primary, which his campaign says is “backed by six-figures.” The narrator praises the mayor for having “overhauled North Las Vegas’ finances without raising taxes, saving the city from crippling debt.” He continues, “And to combat inflation, John lowered sewage fees by 30%,” which isn’t a line we think we’ve ever heard in a political commercial before.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and his allies have been running ads portraying businessman Mike Gibbons as demeaning towards the military. The ad begins with footage of Gibbons shouting at Mandel during their infamous GOP primary debate, “Josh doesn’t understand this because he never spent a day in the private sector.” A Marine veteran named Brian Sizer responds by saying of Gibbons, “Disgraceful. He doesn’t appreciate what the military does overseas on deployment because he doesn’t know, he hasn’t done it.”

After another clip plays of Gibbons declaring, “I’m too busy working,” Sizer argues, “For this guy to imply fighting, getting shot at, dying, that it’s not work … that’s more than work.” Sizer concludes that Gibbons “owes Josh Mandel and everyone else that served the United States military a direct apology.” Mandel himself recently went up with his own spot that featured a Gold Star mother criticizing Gibbons in a similar manner.

Gibbons is now up with a response spot as the two compete for the GOP nod. A Marine veteran named Jeremy Gons tells the audience, “Josh Mandel launched attack ads claiming that Mike Gibbons doesn’t respect military service. The very week Mike’s son was deployed overseas.”

Gons continues, “Josh Mandel tells lies because Mike Gibbons told the truth: That Mandel is a 25-year career politician with no business experience. Mandel exploits military service to score dishonest political points.” He concludes, “Josh Mandel: I served our country, not your career.”

Meanwhile, another GOP candidate, state Sen. Matt Dolan, is running a spot in which he pledges he’ll “fight Joe Biden’s energy agenda.” Dolan does not mention any of his intra-party opponents.

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR A and B. The Republican firm Amber Integrated, which does not have a client for this poll, has released the very first survey we’ve seen of the June special GOP primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe. Rep. Markwayne Mullin leads with 39%, which is below the majority he’d need to avoid an August runoff, while former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon edges out state Sen. Nathan Dahm 14-6 for second place. Luke Holland, who is Inhofe’s endorsed candidate and former chief of staff, takes just 2%, while former White House staffer Alex Gray is at 1%.

The concurrent primary contest for the regular six-year term looks far less competitive, as Amber Integrated gives incumbent James Lankford a 63-10 advantage over pastor Jackson Lahmeyer.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Dan Jones & Associates’ new survey for the Deseret News and University of Utah shows Republican incumbent Mike Lee leading conservative independent Evan McMullin 43-19, with Democrat Kael Weston at 11%. One month ago, the GOP firm OH Predictive Insights had Lee beating McMullin by a smaller 34-24 margin, with Weston similarly situated with 12%. Dan Jones also takes a look at the June GOP primary and finds Lee easily defeating former state Rep. Becky Edwards 67-19; OH Predictive Insights previously had him ahead 51-5.

However, there are still 24% of voters undecided.

Said pollster Jason Perry: “The big unknown is what will happen with the independent candidate and where Democrats will fall on their candidate. That is the big question that we’ll be watching.”

CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR. CT Truth PAC, a group that has received at least $500,000 in funding from a GOP donor named David Kelsey, is running a negative TV spot tying Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont to Kosta Diamantis, a former school construction chief whom the governor fired in October. CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas writes that the commercial, which is not online yet, highlights “allegations by local officials in several towns that Diamantis pressured them to hire certain contractors” and insists that Lamont’s team knew about the allegations well before the FBI started its investigation.

Pazniokas reports, however, that while a contractor did complain in 2020 to two administration officials, “There is no evidence that either brought the letter to Lamont’s attention.” Lamont did fire Diamantis last year over questions about how Diamantis’ daughter received a $99,000-a-year job in the chief state’s attorney’s office, and the governor says he wasn’t informed about the earlier complaint until afterwards.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Politico’s Shia Kapos reports that the DGA is spending $728,000 on an ad campaign, which is its first broadcast TV buy anywhere in 2022, designed to weaken Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin well ahead of the June Republican primary.

Kapos writes that the commercial, which is not online yet, focuses on Irvin’s past career as a defense attorney whose clients included “violent criminals,” which is the type of attack that Republicans more commonly use against Democrats—and which Kapos says represents a Democratic attempt to meddle in the GOP nominating contest. The narrator continues, “Tell Mayor Richard Irvin: Stop pretending to be tough on crime. Start supporting policies that keep people safe.” The DGA’s buy is a mere fraction of the nearly $19 million AdImpact reports that wealthy incumbent J.B. Pritzker has already spent, though the Democratic governor hasn’t targeted any of his many Republican foes yet.

Irvin, who has far outspent his intra-party opponents by already spending $7.2 million thanks to the $20 million he’s already received from billionaire Ken Griffin, is also out with a new commercial. The mayor tells the audience that he won his first campaign despite opposition from the Illinois GOP’s favorite foil, former state House Speaker Mike Madigan, adding, “Now Gov. Pritzker is afraid that I’ll beat him too.” Irvin, who is Black, continues, “There’s nothing the left fears more than Republicans who look like me and think like us. That all lives matter, that cops should be defended not defunded, that handouts keep people down.”

Another Republican, venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, is likewise running a new spot of his own starring six sheriffs from rural Illinois praising him as tough on crime. State Sen. Darren Bailey, for his part, is also running his first ad, which the Chicago Tribune says is airing downstate rather than in the far more populous and expensive Chicago media market. The commercial touts the state senator’s farming background and fights against Madigan and Pritzker before the narrator declares he’s running with a “plan to cut taxes, increase police funding, and prevent voter fraud.”

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. In her first ad for the June Republican primary, state Rep. Rebecca Dow tours a section of the border on horseback with a group of sheriffs and tells the audience, “I’m not here to put on a show. I’m here to fight radical socialists, defend our constitutional rights, and finish President Trump’s wall.” The ad doesn’t directly mention any of her opponents, though several of the many televisions that are for some reason strewn about the desert display footage of Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham and 2020 GOP Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti as the narrator declares, “Politicians and TV blowhards talk a lot about the border but out here show ponies spook pretty easily.”

“Republican candidates this year are increasingly ducking out of primary debates or demanding greater control over the terms than ever before, raising questions about the future of an institution that has long been a central part of American campaigns,” Politico reports.

SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Candidate filing closed Wednesday for South Carolina’s June 14 primaries, and the state has a list of contenders here. A June 28 runoff will take place in any contests where no one earns a majority of the vote.

While some notable Republicans previously expressed interest in challenging Gov. Henry McMaster for renomination in this red state, only two unheralded contenders ended up filing. (One of them is the awesomely named, but little-known, Harrison Musselwhite.) Five Democrats are also in, with the two most prominent being former Rep. Joe Cunningham, who lost a tight race for a second term last cycle in the 1st District, and state Sen. Mia McLeod.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. A new Emerson College/The Hill poll in Alabama finds Mike Durant (R) leading the Republican U.S. Senate primary with 33%, followed by Katie Britt (R) with 23%, and Mo Brooks (R) with 12%.

No other candidate reaches double digits and 26% are still undecided. 

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. A group called WinMo supporting Rep. Billy Long is airing a TV spot for the August Republican primary that tries to take advantage of a supportive not-tweet from Trump last week that was still “not an Endorsement.” As pictures of the two Republicans flash by, the narrator proclaims, “President Trump wants to know if you’ve considered Billy Long for Senate? Trump called Bill Long ‘a warrior,’ one of the first to have his back.” The ad concludes by encouraging the viewer to “join President Trump in taking a looong look at Billy Long for Senate.” There is no word on the size of the buy.

A new Trafalgar Group poll in Missouri finds the Republican U.S. Senate primary deadlocked with Vicki Hartzler (R) and Eric Greitens (R) essentially tied at 24%, followed by Eric Smidtt (R) at 22%, Billy Long (R) at 8%, Dave Schatz (R) at 2%, Mark McCloskey (R) at 2% and another 16% undecided.

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. Incumbent Brian Kemp is once again running a TV ad against his Trump-endorsed Republican primary foe, former Sen. David Perdue, by using footage of Trump attacking Americans who send jobs to China. The spot makes the case that Perdue is one of those people, including with a clip of the former senator saying, “I lived over there, I’ve been dealing with China for 30 years.”

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

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