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The Political Report – 4/9/22

Politico/Morning Consult poll earlier this week found that 46% of voters who received the now expired child tax credit say they’ll back a Republican House candidate in the midterm elections. It’s not surprising these people would be upset since the expiration of the benefit took real money away from their families. The child tax credit was, as Jonathan Last pointed out, the “ultimate kitchen-table issue.”

But it was Republicans who killed it.

So if this poll is right, the same voters who benefited from this popular program are apparently rewarding the party that killed it with their votes.

Perhaps this is just another major messaging fail by Democrats. But with Republicans around the country pursuing a far-right agenda — including outlawing abortion, restricting gay rights and making voting harder — there seems to be little connection between what voters want and what Republicans do.

And they’re not being punished for it — at least not yet. As Last notes: “Maybe—and I’m just thinking out loud here—Republicans could run a bunch of crazy, violent extremists whose platforms are entirely backward-looking and still do very well in the midterms. Maybe Democrats could do everything perfecto—could run the administration of Mitt Romney’s moderate, working-class dreams—and still lose both the House and Senate.”

If the polls are to be believed, that’s a very real scenario. It suggests something is seriously broken in American politics.

1Q FUNDRAISING

  • AZ-Sen: Mark Kelly (D-inc): $11.3 million raised, $23.2 million cash-on-hand
  • NC-Sen: Cheri Beasley (D): $3.6 million raised, $5.1 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Donald Bolduc (R): $100,000 raised
  • NV-Sen: Catherine Cortez Masto (D-inc): $4.4 million raised, $11 million cash-on-hand
  • WA-Sen: Tiffany Smiley (R): $1.65 million raised, $2.65 million cash-on-hand
  • IA-02: Ashley Hinson (R-inc): $950,000 raised, $1.8 million cash-on-hand
  • NC-04: Clay Aiken (D): $440,000 raised
  • WV-02: David McKinley (R-inc): $466,000 raised, $1 million cash-on-hand

Greg Sargent: “The Democratic Governors Association, which oversees Democratic gubernatorial campaigns, is set to announce that it raised over $23 million in the first quarter of 2022, a record, people with knowledge of the numbers tell us. Over 30 percent of the donors were new givers.”

“Several people who raise money for DGA told us GOP attacks on democracy on the state level, and the idea that Democratic governors might represent a firewall against them, has made it easier to haul in funds for Democratic gubernatorial candidates.”

IOWA U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Abby Finkenauer is out with a poll from GBAO that gives her a wide 64-15 lead over retired Navy Vice Adm. Mike Franken in the June Democratic primary to take on Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

HAWAII GOVERNOR. Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele says he’s still considering whether to join the open race for governor but did not provide a timeline for when he’d reach his decision, merely telling Civil Beat’s Chad Blair that he’d let him know “if I do decide to run.” Blair, though, writes, “Word on the street is that that announcement will come in early May shortly after the Legislature adjourns.” Hawaii’s filing deadline is two months away.

OHIO GOVERNOR. Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s new spot for the May 3 primary stars Ohio’s most prominent Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown. “As the mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley put workers first, focusing on manufacturing, attracting investment and jobs with decent wages,” says Brown. “Nan led her city through crisis after crisis, bringing people together, never dividing them.”

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Ted Budd’s allies at the Club for Growth have dropped a survey from WPA Intelligence that finds him outpacing former Gov. Pat McCrory 44-31 in the May 17 Republican primary, which is also well over the 30% Budd would need to avoid a runoff. That’s very different from the 31-25 McCrory lead that Budd’s own pollster, Meeting Street Research, found about a month ago. During the intervening time, however, an unaffiliated group called North Carolina Values Coalition released its own survey from Vitale and Associates that did have Budd ahead by a small 32-29.

Meanwhile, a Club affiliate called School Freedom Fund is spending at least $1.25 million on an ad campaign that portrays McCrory as a liberal enabler. The narrator proclaims that as governor, McCrory “put liberals in charge of the state textbook commission, appointing a Democrat [sic] majority.” The voiceover continues in histrionic terms, “His commission mandated textbooks written by radical woke professors pushing critical race theory, teaching our kids to hate America.” The spot doesn’t actually object to anything in those textbooks but instead uses a brief clip of a history professor the narrator says was a member of the commission explaining, “The Constitution is soaked in slavery.”

The Republican firm Cygnal, which did not identify a client, has a new general election survey that finds GOP Rep. Ted Budd leading Democrat Cheri Beasley 45-43 as former Gov. Pat McCrory ties her 41-41.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed into law a new congressional map drawn by Democrats, a little more than a week after a judge called their previous effort an “extreme gerrymander” and threw it out, the New York Times reports. The new map will most likely result in a congressional delegation that will look a lot like the current one.

A New York appellate judge on Monday paused a lower court’s order to toss out New York Democrats’ congressional and legislative district maps.  That means the new district lines, drawn to heavily favor Democrats, will remain in place for the time being, and that New York’s June primary will move forward as planned.

The judge stated that he anticipated making a final decision on the maps within three weeks, if not sooner. He ordered the Democrats and Republicans in the case to attend a hearing this Thursday.

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. A new super PAC called Okieway is spending at least $475,000 on an ad campaign starring outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe urging viewers to back his former chief of staff, Luke Holland, in the June Republican primary.

The senator spends the first third of the spot recounting his career before telling the audience, “Luke started in our mailroom and quickly rose to be chief of staff.” Holland is then shown sitting with Inhofe and asking his former boss, “We got to conserve the things that are best about America, wouldn’t you agree?” Inhofe unsurprisingly does, though he responds in the negative when Holland inquires, “You think I should pick up flying?” Inhofe concludes by imploring the audience, “This last time, I’d sure appreciate your vote … for Luke Holland.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Honor Pennsylvania, which AdImpact says has already spent $9.8 million for rich guy David McCormick ahead of the May 17 GOP primary, is running a new commercial touting him as someone who will “stand up to Joe Biden.”

TV personality Mehmet Oz has publicized a survey from Basswood Research that shows him edging out McCormick 25-22 in the May 17 GOP primary, with former Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands at 13%. Oz released the poll on Trump’s disastrous Truth Social platform, which may make him its most prolific user by default.

Separately, a new poll of the GOP primary from Public Opinion Strategies for Honor Pennsylvania finds hedge funder David McCormick (whom the group is backing) leading TV personality Mehmet Oz 22-16. In a previously unreleased POS poll from January, Oz enjoyed a 31-13 advantage, but both sides—and other candidates as well—have unleashed millions in attack ads since then.

Oz and his wife “have assets worth between at least $104 million and $422 million, and possibly more, the report shows, enough to make him one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, if he’s elected,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Oz has boasted about taking on the Big Tech “cartel,” but he’s got millions invested in Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Joshua Green: “So far, David McCormick is succeeding in what’s shaping up to be one of the strangest and most expensive Senate primaries in U.S. history. His chief competitors thus far are cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz and Carla Sands, a wealthy widow who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark. All are jockeying for Trump’s favor and pushing what McCormick for his part calls an ‘America First agenda.’ With the primary slated for May 17, a recent Fox News poll found McCormick beating Oz 24% to 15%, with Sands and two other candidates in single digits.”

“Whether or not McCormick’s success persists, it has already revealed something important about Republican politics, and about the business world’s relationship to Trump. Ever since the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, a group of Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has pushed the idea that Trump’s influence has diminished and that the GOP is moving in a new direction. Pennsylvania’s primary proves otherwise: Everyone’s clamoring for the former president’s seal of approval.”

Allies of Rep. Conor Lamb at a super PAC called Penn Progress just dropped the first negative TV ad of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, but there’s a huge problem with the spot.

The narrator begins by asking, “Who can Democrats trust in the race for Senate?” and contrasts Lamb—”a former prosecutor and Marine”—with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, “a self-described democratic socialist.” The ad cites an NPR segment from 2020 for that claim about Fetterman, but at the bottom of the piece are not one but two correction notices that both read, “This story wrongly states that Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a ‘self-described democratic socialist.’ He is not.” Citing those corrections, attorneys for Fetterman’s campaign sent a letter to TV stations demanding they take down the spot, calling it “false and defamatory.”

Penn Progress responded by pointing to other news articles that have also called Fetterman a “self-described democratic socialist,” but no one seems to have found a quote from Fetterman actually referring to himself this way. That’s because, according to his campaign, no such quote exists. In their letter, Fetterman’s lawyers say the candidate “has never described himself as a ‘democratic socialist'” and link to a 2016 interview in which Fetterman says, “No, I don’t label myself a democratic socialist.”

Fetterman’s team is seeking to have this advertisement bumped from the airwaves because TV and radio stations can be held liable for defamatory content in third-party ads. (Because they’re obligated under federal law to run candidate ads so long as they’re paid for, broadcasters aren’t liable for the content of such spots.) On Tuesday evening, the Fetterman campaign said that one station, WPVI in Philadelphia, had complied with its request.

Aside from the factual blunder, Lamb’s supporters may be making a political mistake as well: Attacking a rival as too liberal in a Democratic primary is rarely a winning move. If Penn Progress’ ad gets bounced, it may actually be a blessing in disguise for the super PAC.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Fight for Wisconsin, which supports businessman Kevin Nicholson, has publicized a poll from Remington Research Group that shows him trailing former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 42-29 in the August GOP primary. The memo did not include numbers testing state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, an election denier who entered the race in February; instead it released a matchup that includes businessman Eric Hovde, who has not announced a bid, and showed him in third with 4%.

The PAC argues that this poll shows the primary has “has significantly tightened just within the last two months,” but it didn’t release any earlier numbers from Remington to make that case. Instead, the group referred to a January survey from WPA Intelligence that had Kleefisch up 59-8 to make its case for “a dramatic 38-point swing towards Nicholson,” a statement that violates a cardinal rule of polling analysis: Never directly compare polls taken by separate pollsters to find a trendline because every firm uses a different methodology.

Fight for Wisconsin also says this new survey was conducted following a “nearly $1 million ad buy” for Nicholson. That ad argues that, while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Kleefisch just talk and do nothing, Nicholson is a man of action. The only thing the narrator actually points to Nicholson doing, though, is “organiz[ing] thousands of Wisconsinites to support our police, get kids back in school, and stop crazy teaching.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Banking executive Latham Saddler is using his opening spot to contrast his service in the military with GOP primary frontrunner Herschel Walker’s time as a football star. Saddler begins by acknowledging, “Herschel Walker was my childhood sports hero,” before continuing, “I also wore a uniform: I ran on the battlefield as a Navy SEAL.” He concludes that he’s in the race “so that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity.”

With near-universal name recognition in football-mad Georgia and sizable leads in the polls, Herschel Walker (R) has ignored his Republican opponents, avoided many media interviews and stuck to a regimen of mostly closed-door fundraisers and private gatherings, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. The first half of Army veteran Mike Durant’s ad details his near-death experience during the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia, with the narrator declaring, “Mike Durant was saved by his brothers. His life spared by the grace of God.” The spot then abruptly changes tone as the voice says the GOP primary candidate “believes the unborn deserve the same.”

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. “When Democrat Stacey Abrams first ran for Georgia governor in 2018, her lackluster personal finances and a hefty bill from the IRS gave Republicans fodder to question how she could manage a state budget when she struggled with her own debts,” the AP reports.  “As she launches a second bid this year, that’s no longer an issue.”

“Abrams now says she’s worth $3.17 million, according to state disclosures filed in March. That’s compared with a net worth of $109,000 when she first ran four years ago.”

Amanda Carpenter: “The thing about sacrificial lambs is that they can only be sacrificed once. What makes David Perdue’s political career unique is that, in honor of Donald Trump’s 2020 election grievances, Perdue is killing it twice.”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Venture capitalist J.D. Vance’s allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have released a new poll from Fabrizio Lee & Associates that shows an 18-18-18 deadlock between Vance, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, and businessman Mike Gibbons in the May 3 GOP primary, with former state party chair Jane Timken at 9%. The firm warned back in January that Vance’s numbers were in a “precipitous decline,” but they’re now crediting the PAC’s ad campaign with propelling him forward.

Timken, for her part, has dropped a Moore Information survey that finds Gibbons leading Mandel 20-16, with her just behind at 15%; state Sen. Matt Dolan takes 13%, while Vance brings up the rear with 10%.  

Donald Trump Jr. was a surprise guest at Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance’s (R) fundraiser in Palm Beach.

Vance and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel are each running commercials for the May 3 Republican primary espousing ultra-conservative ideas as they attack the very idea that their beliefs could be racist.

Vance is pushing that message in what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is his first-ever TV ad, though his allies at Protect Ohio Values PAC have already spent over $6 million promoting him. “Are you a racist?” Vance begins as he points right at the camera, “Do you hate Mexicans? The media calls us racist for wanting to build Trump’s wall.” The Hillbilly Elegy author continues by accusing the media of censorship before proclaiming, “Joe Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans with more illegal drugs and more Democrat voters pouring into this country.” Mandel, meanwhile, exclaims, “There’s nothing racist about stopping critical race theory and loving America.”

On the Democratic side, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official Morgan Harper has launched what her campaign says is a six-figure opening ad buy. Harper describes her local roots and service in the Obama administration before trying to contrast herself with Rep. Tim Ryan, the frontrunner for the nod, by declaring, “I’m the only Democrat for Senate who’s always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who’s always been pro-choice, and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women’s rights.”

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. The very first negative TV ad of next month’s packed GOP primary comes from former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, who manages to fit in attacks on wealthy businessman Dave White, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, and former Rep. Lou Barletta into just 30 seconds. The spot does not mention state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman or any of McSwain’s other four opponents.

The narrator begins by declaring that White, who is a former member of the Delaware County Council, “is a career politician who voted to raise property taxes.” She then goes after Mastriano for supporting what she calls “the unconstitutional mail-in voting law,” which passed in 2019 before Trump and his allies started to wage war on vote-by-mail: The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that a state judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional earlier this year, but that the state Supreme Court has stayed the decision.

Finally, the narrator argues Barletta “supported higher gas taxes and approved Obama’s budgets.” The rest of the commercial touts McSwain as a “Trump-appointed prosecutor” who has “never run for office and will permanently cut the gas tax.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Perry Johnson’s new spot for the August GOP primary blames Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, Joe Biden, and the state’s former governor, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, for high gas prices. The narrator goes after Whitmer for wanting to close Enbridge Line 5, which The Washington Post explains is “a 69-year old petroleum pipeline that runs under the Great Lakes” that is in danger of spillage.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for Arizona’s Aug. 2 primary, and the state has a list of contenders here. We run down all the major contests in their respective sections of the Morning Digest, starting with the Senate race.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly won a tight 2020 election for the final two years of the late John McCain’s term, and he’ll be a top GOP target this fall as he seeks re-election. Five Republicans are running to take him on (though Gov. Doug Ducey, to the frustration of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is not one of them), and polls show that a large plurality of primary voters is undecided.

The most prominent contender may be state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, though he attracted heaps of abuse last year from Trump for not doing enough to advance the Big Lie. The only other current elected official is state Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson, but he’s struggled to attract attention. The field also includes self-funding businessman Jim Lamon; former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters, whose former boss is heavily financing a super PAC to boost him; and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. The NH Journal’s Michael Graham writes that many GOP insiders believe that two-time New York Senate nominee Wendy Long will join the Republican primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, though there’s no word from her. Long earned just over one-quarter of the vote back in the Empire State against Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and she’s since moved to New Hampshire. Those showings didn’t impress many people except perhaps off-and-on Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski, who has claimed with “100%” certainty that an unnamed woman will join the primary to take on Hassan.

Graham adds that Vikram Mansharamani, who is an author and lecturer at Harvard, “has been making media appearances and is reportedly speaking with potential campaign strategists and advisors,” though he also hasn’t said anything about his 2022 plans. The filing deadline isn’t until June 10.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Both sides have competitive primaries to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Doug Ducey in swingy Arizona. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has long looked like the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and she picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the state branch of the American Federation of Teachers. Her two intra-party foes are former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and former Homeland Security official Marco López, who is a one-time mayor of Nogales.

Republicans, meanwhile, have six contenders. Trump has thrown his endorsement behind Kari Lake, a former local TV anchor turned conservative conspiracy theorist. The only current elected official, by contrast, is Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is backed by former Govs. Jan Brewer and Fyfe Simington.

Another name to watch is former Rep. Matt Salmon, who narrowly lost the 2002 general election to Democrat Janet Napolitano; his second bid has the support of the Club for Growth as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. There’s also self-funding businessman Steve Gaynor, who narrowly lost the open-seat race for secretary of state to Hobbs in 2018. Businesswoman Paola Tulliani Zen, who founded a biscotti company, also attracted attention earlier this year when politicos learned she’d self-funded $1.2 million, but she hasn’t otherwise generated much press. Neither has the sixth GOP candidate, Scott Neely.

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

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