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The Political Report – 4/15/22

A new Quinnipiac poll finds just 33% of Americans approve of the way President Biden is handling his job, while 54% disapprove and 13% have no opinion. That ties the low that Biden received in the January poll.

Gallup: “Joe Biden’s recent job approval ratings, which are averaging 14 points lower than those early in his presidency, have declined far more among younger than older generations of Americans.”

“In fact, Biden’s job approval has changed relatively little among baby boomers and not at all among traditionalists. As a result, older Americans are now more likely to approve of the president than younger Americans are.”

Philip Bump: Why has Biden’s approval plunged with young people?

A new UC Berkeley/Los Angeles Times poll in California finds voters in the state “had mixed reviews of President Biden, with displeasure over his economic performance cutting against a more positive assessment of his record on the international stage.”

“Still, with 50% of respondents signaling approval, Biden notched higher ratings than his vice president, Kamala Harris, or the two congressional leaders from California, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.”

“The poll captures an electorate deeply pessimistic about the future. Two-thirds of registered voters believe the country is on the wrong track, while just 26% think it is heading in the right direction. Republicans are nearly unanimously bleak, with 92% having a negative outlook on the nation’s trajectory. A substantial majority — 65% — of voters not affiliated with a political party agree, as do 51% of Democrats.”

“Mark Meadows has been removed from North Carolina’s voter rolls, a move made as the State Bureau of Investigation continues a probe into allegations the former White House Chief of Staff committed election fraud,” the Asheville Citizen Times reports.

“Two residents from The Villages confessed to voter fraud charges after filing two ballots in the 2020 Presidential election,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

1Q FUNDRAISING

  • MN-Gov: Tim Walz (D-inc): $1 million raised, $4.1 million cash-on-hand
  • AZ-04: Greg Stanton (D-inc): $980,000 raised, $2.4 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-03: Kevin Kiley (R): $1.1 million raised, $814,000 cash-on-hand
  • CO-07: Tim Reichert (R): $339,000 raised, additional $500,000 self-funded, $712,000 cash-on-hand
  • IN-09: Erin Houchin (R): $375,000 raised
  • MI-07: Elissa Slotkin (D-inc): $1.3 million raised, $5.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Barrett (R): $458,000 raised
  • NH-01: Chris Pappas (D-inc): $500,000 raised, $2 million cash-on-hand
  • NV-04: Steven Horsford (D-inc): $500,000 raised, $1.94 million cash-on-hand
  • NY-16: Vedat Gashi (D): $470,000 raised (in one month)
  • AZ-Sen: Mark Brnovich (R): $765,000 raised  
  • OH-Sen: Tim Ryan (D): $4.1 million raised, $6.4 million cash-on-hand
  • UT-Sen: Mike Lee (R-inc): $1.35 million raised, $2.42 million cash-on-hand
  • WI-Sen: Mandela Barnes (D): $1.7 million raised
  • NE-Gov: Jim Pillen (R): $2.3 million raised (through April 5), $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-27: Quaye Quartey (D): $320,000 raised  
  • IA-02: Liz Mathis (D): $715,000 raised, $1.3 million cash-on-hand
  • NJ-07: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): $1.06 million raised, $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Tom Kean Jr. (R): $840,000 raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NV-01: Carolina Serrano (R): $275,000 raised, $250,000 cash-on-hand
  • OR-06: Andrea Salinas (D): $340,000 raised  
  • PA-12: Steve Irwin (D): $600,000 raised  
  • PA-17: Jeremy Shaffer (R): $670,000 raised, $615,000 cash-on-hand
  • SC-01: Katie Arrington (R): $307,000 raised (in 52 days), additional $500,000 self-funded, $750,000 cash-on-hand

NEBRASKA GOVERNOR. The Nebraska Examiner has collected fundraising numbers from the first quarter for all the GOP candidates competing in the May 10 primary:

  • University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen: $2.4 million raised, $2.9 million cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Brett Lindstrom: $420,000 raised, $580,000 cash-on-hand
  • Former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau: $159,000 raised, additional $10,000 self-funded, $62,000
  • Agribusinessman Charles Herbster: $113,000 raised, additional $4.2 million self-funded, $543,000 cash-on-hand
  • State Sen. Carol Blood, who has no serious opposition for the Democratic nod, took in $50,000 during this time and had $36,000 on hand.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. Fundraising reports are in covering the period spanning Oct. 5 to April 4, and they give us our first look at the financial strength for the entire GOP primary field:

  • 2020 Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti: $2.1 million raised, $1.56 million cash-on-hand
  • State Rep. Rebecca Dow: $711,000 raised, additional $40,000 self-funded, $684,000 cash-on-hand
  • Retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti: $169,000 raised, $172,000 cash-on-hand
  • Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block: $119,000 raised, $20,000 cash-on-hand
  • Anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg: $13,000 raised, $800 cash-on-hand
  • The winner of the June nomination fight will take on Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, who raised $2.67 million and had $3.78 million on-hand.

“The super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky raised $27 million in the first quarter and entered this month with a $72.3 million war chest to spend on the midterm elections,” the Washington Examiner reports.

“The 2022 cycle is shaping up as a possible Republican wave. But many of the incumbent Senate Democrats in the GOP’s crosshairs are outraising potential Republican challengers — and by significant amounts… That is where the Senate Leadership Fund believes it can be most effective.”

“The Democratic National Committee is opening the door to significant changes to how the party picks presidential candidates in the future,” NPR reports.

“Members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which governs the nominating process, are meeting this week to consider a proposal that would overhaul the party’s traditional calendar, in which Iowa’s caucuses go first, followed by primaries in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.”

“Instead, committee members are discussing a proposal that would require states or territories to apply if they want to hold a nominating contest before Super Tuesday in early March, and up to five early contests would be allowed.”

“Iowa Democrats are no longer guaranteed a place at the front of the presidential nominating calendar after a panel of Democratic National Committee members voted Wednesday to effectively strip them of their coveted first-in-the-nation status,” the Des Moines Register reports.

“Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina currently have waivers from the national party to hold their nominating contests before the rest of the country. The plan removes all four states from that early voting window and requires them — along with any others that want to hold early contests — to apply for a new waiver.”

New York Times: Democrats weigh shake up to primary calendar.

“Mark Zuckerberg, who donated nearly half a billion dollars to election offices across the nation in 2020 and drew criticism from conservatives suspicious of his influence on the presidential election, won’t be making additional grants this year,” the New York Times reports.

“Across the country, Democratic candidates are sprinting to claim the tough-on-crime mantle,” Politico reports.

“The signs of the Democratic Party’s evolution on crime are everywhere — and go beyond defeats suffered by the ‘defund the police’ movement in Minneapolis and elsewhere last year. As the midterm elections pick up, Democrats are calling for more police funding and attempting to co-opt traditionally Republican talking points on crime.”

“If 2020 was the year progressives reordered the traditional politics of crime and policing, 2022 looks like the year centrists are regaining their footing and nullifying those gains.”

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. Anne Garland Young, who is the widow of Rep. Don Young, has endorsed state Sen. Josh Revak in the special June top-four primary to succeed the longtime congressman.

Meanwhile, the ANCSA Regional Association, which the Anchorage Daily News’ Nathaniel Herz says is made up of the leaders of the “state’s 12 regional Native corporations,” has formed a super PAC called Alaskans for TARA to support another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney. (Sweeney, who is Iñupiaq, would be the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress.) ANCSA’s members, writes Herz, represent six of the state’s eight largest companies by revenue.

A new Must Read Alaska poll put Sarah Palin (R) on top of a crowded field of candidates running in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Palin led in the poll with 31%, followed by Al Gross (I) at 26% and Nick Begich (R) at 21%. All other candidates were in the single digits.

Though Palin once enjoyed sky-high public approval ratings in Alaska, her reputation deteriorated after she resigned as governor more than 10 years ago. It was a self-inflicted wound from which she has not recovered.

A poll from Alaska Survey Research last October found Palin with a very paltry favorability rating of just 31%. The new poll has her only slightly higher at 37%.

As pollster Ivan Moore told Politico: “Let’s face it, she has been substantively underwater for many, many years now, and it really dates back to when she quit. Alaskans weren’t very impressed with that.”

With 51 candidates running in the special election, Palin’s support might be enough in a traditional election. But in Alaska’s ranked-choice election which forces candidates to win support from a majority of voters by appealing as a strong second choice, Palin will likely struggle.

COLORADO 7TH CD. At least three Republicans will be on the June primary ballot to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter following the results of the recent party convention, while two more are in limbo. (We explain Colorado’s ballot access rules here.) Former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland took first place with 63% of the vote while Laurel Imer, who badly lost a 2020 race for state House, also advanced by taking 34%.

Wealthy businessman Tim Reichert successfully collected enough signatures, so he was able to skip the event. Construction company owner Carl Andersen and attorney Brad Dempsey, though, are still waiting to see if they turned in enough valid petitions. Whoever wins the GOP nod will go up against state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, who faces no Democratic primary opposition, for a suburban Denver seat that Biden would have carried 56-42.

NEW YORK 4TH CD. Former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen has publicized an Impact Research internal that gives her a 40-11 lead over Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages in the June Democratic primary. This is the first poll we’ve seen of the contest to replace retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice, who supports Gillen.

OHIO 11TH CD. The crypto industry-aligned Protect Our Future PAC is spending at least $1 million to aid Rep. Shontel Brown in her May 3 Democratic primary rematch against former state Sen. Nina Turner.

TEXAS 28TH CD. An attorney for Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, in new comments provided exclusively to Fox News, says the congressman “is not a target” of a federal investigation that saw law enforcement officials raid Cuellar’s home and campaign headquarters in January. There’s no corroboration of this claim, however, as Fox says the FBI and Department of Justice “declined to comment” on the matter.

WEST VIRGINIA 2ND CD. The Club for Growth and its affiliate School Freedom Fund have announced a new $1.1 million TV, digital, and radio buy aiding Rep. Alex Mooney in his May 10 Republican primary fight against fellow incumbent David McKinley.

Both TV ads (here and here) make sure the audience knows that Mooney is Trump’s man while McKinley supported the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill. The first one is a version of the generic spot that the Club has been running in other races, while the other opens with sirens blaring as the narrator informs the audience, “Stand by for a Trump alert: Trump has endorsed Alex Mooney for Congress.” That endorsement happened in November, so clearly the Club’s early warning system is badly in need of a refit.

Also, Mooney has released a new internal from Public Opinion Strategies that gives him a 42-31 lead over fellow incumbent David McKinley ahead of the May 10 GOP primary. The last survey we saw was a March poll for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that put McKinley ahead 38-33; the organization had not yet endorsed anyone when that poll was released, but it and the West Virginia Manufacturing Association both backed McKinley this week.

OREGON 5TH CD. Attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s opening ad for the May 17 Democratic primary begins with the candidate, who is shown working at a farm, asking what the difference is between her and moderate incumbent Kurt Schrader and answering, “He takes millions in corporate PAC money. I won’t take a dime.” McLeod-Skinner continues, “Oil and gas companies are bankrolling Kurt. I’m running for Congress to tackle climate change,” a statement that is accompanied by her shoveling manure into a wheelbarrow that contains a check from “Big Oil & Gas.”

After faulting Schrader for having “sold out to Big Pharma,” the challenger shreds a huge check with her vehicle as she exclaims, “Big Pharma can’t buy my vote!” Finally, McLeod-Skinner tosses a folder labeled “Congressional Stock Portfolio” into a flaming barrel before feeding a “Corporate PACs” check to a goat. 

OREGON 6TH CD. In an unprecedented move that was greeted with instant fury by local and national Democrats alike, the House Majority PAC began spending at least $1 million this week on TV ads promoting the campaign of Carrick Flynn, one of seven Democrats seeking to represent Oregon’s brand-new 6th Congressional District.

The other six candidates released an unusual joint statement condemning the move on Monday, calling out the fact that four of the contenders are women, including three women of color. (Flynn is a white man.) “This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon,” read the press release, “and is especially concerning in a year when all resources must go to protecting the Democratic majority.”

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who hasn’t backed anyone in the race, piled on as well, calling HMP’s actions “flat-out wrong”. Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s BOLD PAC, which has endorsed state Rep. Andrea Salinas, also excoriated HMP, arguing that “Democrats should be doubling-down on their investments to empower Latino and Latina candidates” and pointing out that no Hispanic person has ever represented Oregon in Congress. (One unnamed operative wondered aloud to The Hill’s Rafael Bernal whether HMP’s decision might “affect[] the relationship where Bold PAC is no longer a large donor to HMP like they’ve been in the past.” The CHC has given more than $6 million to HMP since 2012.)

In response, a spokesperson for HMP offered a spectacularly unconvincing explanation for the group’s new spending. “House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal,” said communications director CJ Warnke in a statement. “Flynn is a strong, forward-looking son of Oregon who is dedicated to delivering for families in the 6th District.”

There’s nothing so special about Flynn that he’s a must-have nominee—and if there were, he wouldn’t need all this help. As Merkley says, Democrats “have multiple strong candidates” who could all win the 6th District, a newly created seat in the Portland suburbs that Joe Biden would have carried by a 55-42 margin.

But what really makes HMP’s claim impossible to believe is that the PAC, in its decade-long existence, has never before involved itself in a primary like this. Virtually all of the organization’s spending since inception has been devoted to winning general elections. Just twice has HMP reported spending anything to support Democratic candidates in primaries, and in both cases, they were seeking open seats in California where Democrats were worried about getting locked out of the November election due to the state’s top-two primary rules: Julia Brownley in the old 26th District in 2012 and then Salud Carbajal in the old 24th in 2016—ironically, a joint effort with the CHC. The PAC has never simply taken sides in a traditional partisan primary.

So why now? Flynn has already been the beneficiary of a $5 million TV and radio ad campaign by another super PAC called Protect Our Future, which is funded by a free-spending 30-year-old billionaire named Sam Bankman-Fried, who made his fortune in cryptocurrency and has lately been seeking to influence policy-making on that front in D.C. (Forbes says he’s worth $24 billion. Incidentally, the CEO of the crypto exchange Bankman-Fried founded, Ryan Salame, just this week announced the formation of a similar super PAC aimed at Republicans.)

Bankman-Fried’s interest in Flynn is unclear—the candidate claims he has “never met or talked to” his benefactor, and any coordination between the two would be illegal—but Protect Our Future’s involvement in the race has prompted a great deal of speculation. As the campaign manager for engineer Matt West, one of the other Democratic hopefuls, put it to OPB’s Dirk VanderHart, “Do I know exactly what was exchanged by [Bankman-Fried’s] people and [House Majority PAC’s] people? No, but I can speculate, as can everyone, that promises have been made.”

In other words, goes this line of thinking, HMP is breaking with 10 years of tradition to help Flynn in the expectation that Bankman-Fried will come through with a presumably larger donation to the PAC, which in 2020 eclipsed the DCCC as the largest outside spender on House races on the Democratic side. But if this theory is true, what makes things even more bizarre is that Bankman-Fried could easily dump as much money as he’d like to boost Flynn through his own super PAC. Why go through HMP, then, unless this is a play for winning influence within a major arm of the Democratic Party?

It’ll likely be a while before we find out the full story, though. HMP files financial reports with the FEC every month, but the report detailing any transactions in the month of April won’t be available until May 20—three days after the Oregon primary.

As for the ad itself, it’s narrated by small businessman Quandray “Q” Robertson, who says, “As an owner of a boxing gym, I know a fighter when I see one.” Though Robertson is shown prepping and later sparring with a boxer, he means it metaphorically, as the athlete on-screen is not actually Flynn. Instead, says Robertson, Flynn will “stand up to the Trump Republicans” while tackling climate change and prescription drug costs.

Meanwhile, Salinas has also released her first TV ad of the race, which she narrates herself. She says her father “started working the fields” but found a “path to citizenship, and a better life” thanks to his military service in Vietnam. With his experience as inspiration, she says she “passed the country’s strongest reproductive rights law,” fought for lower drug prices, and “took on polluters to combat climate change.”

MINNESOTA 1ST CD. Former Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad has earned endorsements from Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, who represent the 7th and 8th Districts in the northern part of the state, ahead of the May 24 special Republican primary.

MONTANA 1ST CD. In her opening ad for the June Democratic primary, public health expert Cora Neumann stands in front of her modest childhood home in Bozeman and tells the audience, “But now, houses like this are surrounded by mansions like this. And everyone is paying more.” She continues, “In Congress, I’ll go after rich outsiders driving up costs, take on price gougers, and fight for housing we can actually afford.”

NORTH CAROLINA 13TH CD. Former state Sen. Sam Searcy says in his inaugural spot for next month’s Democratic primary that his family’s job and housing struggles motivated him “to help folks.” Searcy continues by saying that in the legislature he “fought like hell to expand Medicaid, and stood with Gov. Cooper to stop Republicans from restricting voting rights and a woman’s right to choose.”

PENNSYLVANIA 12TH CD. EMILY’s List, which is supporting state Rep. Summer Lee in next month’s Democratic primary, is out with a poll from GQR that shows her outpacing attorney Steve Irwin 38-13. This is the first survey we’ve seen of the contest for this open seat.

SOUTH DAKOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL. South Dakota’s Republican-run state House voted to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg by a 36-31 margin on Tuesday, a move that temporarily suspends Ravnsborg from his job while he awaits trial in the state Senate.

Last year, Ravnsborg, a Republican, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for striking and killing a man with his car in September of 2020 but avoided jail time. A special investigative committee recommended against impeaching Ravnsborg last month, saying he had not committed a “crime or other wrongful act involving moral turpitude by virtue or authority of his office” because he wasn’t on duty as attorney general at the time of the accident.

However, a majority of lawmakers disagreed with that interpretation, noting among other things that Ravnsborg had identified himself as attorney general in a call to 911 the night of the crash. All eight Democrats were joined by 28 Republicans in favor of impeachment, while 31 Republicans voted against. Ravnsborg would be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate, which can commence a trial no sooner than May 2, votes to convict him.

NEW YORK LT. GOVERNOR. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday afternoon hours after he was indicted on federal bribery charges, but because it’s notoriously difficult to get off the ballot in New York, he will likely still be listed as a nominal candidate in the June Democratic primary. All of this presents a major complication for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appointed Benjamin to succeed her as lieutenant governor last year and now faces the prospect of winding up with a running mate she’s at odds with.

That’s because candidates for governor and lieutenant governor compete in separate nomination contests before running as a ticket in the general election, though Hochul and Benjamin had been running together and urging voters to select them both. The remaining candidates for lieutenant governor have likewise each linked themselves with one of the governor’s primary foes: former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna is allied with Rep. Tom Suozzi, while activist Ana María Archila is running alongside New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The candidate filing deadline passed last week, so it’s too late for Hochul to recruit a new number two. It’s possible that Hochul could decide to support one of the two remaining candidates for lieutenant governor, though Archila responded to Benjamin’s arrest by saying, “The governor announced that she would bring a new day, and I’m not sure that’s the case.” Hochul to date has been the frontrunner in her own race from day one, as every poll has found her far ahead of Williams and Suozzi, though both of her rivals are hoping that Benjamin’s downfall will change the calculus.

Benjamin, for his part, has far more than electoral chemistry to worry about. Federal prosecutors allege that, in his previous position as a state senator, he steered taxpayer money to real estate investor Gerald Migdol in exchange for political contributions. The authorities say that Migdol faked the origins of dozens of donations to Benjamin’s 2021 bid for New York City comptroller so that Benjamin could more easily qualify for public financing.

Benjamin badly lost that primary, but his career was temporarily revived months later when Hochul, who had ascended to the governorship after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, picked him as the new lieutenant governor. Hochul, a white Democrat from upstate New York, sought proverbial “balance” on her ticket by tapping a Black politico from New York City, though questions had been swirling about Benjamin’s campaign finances well before he was selected.

P.S. Hochul will once again be able to fill the now-vacant lieutenant governorship, just as she did when she herself ascended to the top job after Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace. Notably, she can do so unilaterally, with no confirmation vote from the legislature required.

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

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