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The Political Report – 4/27/22

A new Morning Consult survey finds more voters now disapprove than approve of Biden’s job performance in 40 states, following double-digit declines in his net approval rating — the share of voters who approve minus the share who disapprove — since he took office in January 2021.

A new Siena poll in New York finds Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) overall job performance rating is negative 36% to 57%.  Said pollster Steven Greenberg: “Hochul’s overall job performance rating, the worst it’s ever been, is 21 points under water, after being 11 points under water last month and just two points under water at the start of the year.”

A new Morning Consult poll finds 57% of West Virginia voters approve of Sen. Joe Manchin’s job performance, up from 40% during the first quarter of 2021.  Over the past year, Manchin has even doubled his approval rating among West Virginia Republicans, to 69%.

In Vermont, a University of New Hampshire poll of the U.S. Senate race finds Congressman Peter Welch (D) leading Republican Christina Nolan 62% to 27%.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill to create a new security office “to investigate claims of voter fraud while increased penalties could be imposed on those violating state elections laws,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

“Voters in Pennsylvania knew almost nothing about David McCormick and Mehmet Oz as political figures when the men started running for the Republican nomination to the Senate a few months ago. Since then, more than $37 million in largely negative advertising from the two candidates and their allies has gone a long way to filling the gaps,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“As a result, the contest features two front-runners with highly successful professional résumés but political profiles speckled with ad-driven doubts that have prevented either one from taking command of the race, polling and interviews with voters show.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. “Evan McMullin’s U.S. Senate campaign spokesperson on Monday reiterated that if he were to become elected the independent candidate vying for incumbent Mike Lee’s seat would not caucus with the Republican or Democratic parties,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

In a surprising move, delegates to Utah’s state Democratic convention voted on Saturday to back conservative independent Evan McMullin’s campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Mike Lee rather than put forward their own nominee. The decision, which ended the campaign of Democrat Kael Weston, gives McMullin a better chance to put together a winning general election coalition in this very red state, though he’ll still be in for a very tough contest.

Prominent Democrats, including former Rep. Ben McAdams and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, had previously endorsed McMullin, with Wilson explicitly urging Democrats against fielding a candidate of its own in order to avoid splitting the anti-Lee vote. But Weston, who was the 2020 nominee against 2nd District Rep. Chris Stewart last cycle, still went forward with his bid, and because he was the only Democratic candidate to file, it looked like he’d be on the November ballot.

However, the Beehive State’s unusual ballot access laws gave McMullin’s Democratic allies a chance to block Weston on Saturday. In Utah, as we’ve previously explained, candidates either needed to have turned in the requisite number of signatures or win enough support at their state party convention, and while contenders can simultaneously try both options, Weston only went with the convention route. That meant that, when delegates voted 57-43 not to nominate anyone, he had no fallback option. Weston, whose supporters booed McMullin when he addressed the gathering, did not explicitly endorse him afterwards, though he put a statement declaring, “Let’s all help defeat Mike Lee — the sooner the better.”

McMullin, who took 21% in the state in the 2016 presidential race as an anti-Trump conservative, has used his new campaign to argue that Utah needs to replace the extremist Lee. The independent also focused on recent revelations that Lee worked to overturn Trump’s 2020 defeat in his brief speech to convention delegates Saturday, saying, “We will show the rest of the country how we beat people like Mike Lee who try to overturn our democracy in the shadows.” McMullin, unlike most nonaligned candidates, will have the money to make his case, though Lee still ended March with a wide $2.4 million to $847,000 cash-on-hand lead.

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in Georgia finds Gov. Brian Kemp (R) with a big lead over his Donald Trump-backed challenger, David Perdue (R), in the Republican primary, 53% to 27%. That would put the governor above the majority-vote threshold needed to avoid a June runoff. Other challengers were in the single digits; an additional 15% were undecided.

The NRA has endorsed Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of the May 24 Republican primary.

A group called Take Back Georgia with ties to pro-Trump state Sen. Brandon Beach has unveiled a $2 million ad buy for a spot that goes all-in on 2020 election denial to highlight Trump’s endorsement of former Sen. David Perdue ahead of the May 24 GOP primary against Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue has only been running a modestly sized ad buy recently after struggling to keep up in fundraising with Kemp, whose allies at the RGA have also spent millions airing their first-ever ads backing an incumbent against a primary challenger.

It’s unclear whether Trump himself, whose super PAC recently reported it had over $120 million on hand, will increase its support for Perdue beyond the meager $500,000 it allocated a few weeks ago toward backing his endorsee. However, with the polls showing Kemp in striking distance of the outright majority needed to avoid a June runoff, time is quickly running short for Perdue.

NEVADA GOVERNOR. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo uses his very first ad for the June Republican primary to go negative on his intra-party foes, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and former Sen. Dean Heller, as well as Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, by labeling them “a bunch of keyboard cowboys” who “talk tough about immigration.” Lombardo continues by saying that unlike his rivals, “I’ve deported thousands.”

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Tim Michels has announced he is joining the Republican primary for governor this August, and the Wisconsin State Journal reports that he’s poised to go up with a “high-dollar” TV ad buy soon. Michels co-owns a construction company and previously ran for office a couple of times in previous decades, but his last attempt way back in 2004 saw him decisively lose that year’s Senate contest as the GOP nominee against former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, who prevailed 55-44.

Following the news of Michels’ entry into the race, GOP Rep. Tom Tiffany has reiterated his support for former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has held large leads in the few polls taken to date, though with many voters still undecided. Also in the running for Republicans are 2018 Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun.

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy construction company owner Joe O’Dea has announced he’s spending $250,000 over three weeks to air an ad that touts his business record and portrays him as a conservative outsider. O’Dea faces state Rep. Ron Hanks in the June Republican primary.

ALABAMA GOVERNOR. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has commissioned a poll from the Tarrance Group that shows her holding a dominant 57-14 lead over former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard ahead of the May 24 Republican primary, with businessman Tim James taking just 12%. There have only been a few polls here from reliable firms, but every one of them this year has found Ivey far ahead of her rivals and in good shape to surpass the simple-majority threshold needed to avoid a June runoff.

ARKANSAS U.S. SENATOR. We have yet to see any polls indicating whether former NFL player Jake Bequette poses a serious threat to Sen. John Boozman in the May 24 Republican primary, but the incumbent did recently air an ad taking a swipe at his foe. Most of Boozman’s spot, which praises him as a “workhorse, not a show pony” is positive, though it employs a photo of Bequette as the narrator hits those last words.

Bequette’s allies at Arkansas Patriots Fund, meanwhile, have been going directly at Boozman with a commercial faulting him for having “voted to confirm six in 10 Biden cabinet picks” in the first 40 days of the administration. The ad goes on to accuse the senator of backing “amnesty for illegals, tax dollars for abortions, bailouts for Wall Street, even allowed the feds to confiscate your firearm records.” The super PAC received $1 million from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein last year, which Politico’s Alex Isenstadt says makes up most of its budget.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. Former Gov. Pat McCrory has debuted a new commercial ahead of the May 17 GOP primary where he calls Rep. Ted Budd weak on Vladimir Putin before claiming that Budd is backed by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros is a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor whom the far-right both here and abroad has frequently used as a target of and a stand-in for age-old conspiracy theories about wealthy Jews using their power to exert a nefarious influence over the world.

However, McCrory’s accusation that Soros, who is well known for openly funding progressive causes, would secretly support Budd, who has compiled a hard-right voting record in his three terms in office, relies on very dubious facts. The Charlotte Observer reports that a Soros-affiliated investment firm once owned a 7.6% stake in a company led by Budd’s father that filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and there’s no indication the congressman even had any role in the company’s day-to-day operations, which is a very far cry from Soros actually supporting his contemporary political activities.

Budd himself has launched a new ad that features footage of a rally where Trump effusively endorses Budd and McCrory goes unmentioned. While the two Republican front runners dominate the airwaves, the pro-Budd Club for Growth is notably training its focus on former GOP Rep. Mark Walker with an ad that criticizes him for frequently missing votes, including one involving Trump’s impeachment. The polls have shown Walker in a distant third place, but the Club likely views his hard-right support base as overlapping with potential Budd supporters.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Undeterred by Trump’s recent endorsement of venture capitalist J.D. Vance in the May 3 Republican primary, the Club for Growth is once again running an ad that uses Vance’s lengthy past history of anti-Trump statements against him. The ad campaign reportedly angered Trump so greatly that he had an aide text Club president David McIntosh, “Go f*^% yourself” (which presumably wasn’t censored). A spokesperson for the Club, which is supporting former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, tersely responded to the news about Trump’s message by saying, “We are increasing our ad buy.”

Meanwhile, former state GOP chair Jane Timken has been struggling to gain traction in the polls, and she has reportedly been off of broadcast TV in much of the state for weeks and is only continuing to run limited cable ads on Fox News.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Far-right billionaire Dick Uihlein has given another $2.5 million to the June primary campaign of Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey, bringing his total contributions to $3.5 million in addition to another $1 million that Uihlein gave to a third-party group opposing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. In yet another election that has turned into a battle of rival billionaires thanks to Illinois being one of just a few states without any limits on direct contributions to candidates, Uihlein’s involvement so far still trails far behind the $20 million that fellow billionaire Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is Illinois’ wealthiest resident, has given to Irvin’s campaign.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. A total of 10 Republicans are competing to take on Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer, which would make this the largest gubernatorial primary field in state history. The few polls that have been released show former Detroit Police Chief James Craig as Team Red’s frontrunner, but he’s had to deal with several major campaign shakeups: Craig, most notably, parted ways with his first campaign manager in December, and his second left last month.  

The August primary also includes two wealthy businessmen, Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson. Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon doesn’t have the same resources as her intra-party foes, but she sports endorsements from Reps. Bill Huizenga and Lisa McClain. Also in the running are chiropractor Garrett Soldano, Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown, and five others.

OREGON GOVERNOR. The May 17 primary is rapidly approaching, and the Portland Monthly’s Julia Silverman has collected several TV spots from the candidates. On the Democratic side, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek talks about the progressive policies she helped pass, while state Treasurer Tobias Read’s narrator argues that “Oregon has lost its way. It’s time for a new approach.” Silverman notes that this messaging is “all in keeping with Read’s efforts to portray himself as a change agent, though he has been in state government about as long as Kotek.”

For the Republicans, former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan declares that she’s “led the fight against [Democratic Gov.] Kate Brown’s radical agenda.” Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, meanwhile, goes all-in with courting right-wing outrage with spots where he calls for getting “critical race theory out of our schools” and “not allow[ing] transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports.” Former state Rep. Bob Tiernan uses his messaging to attack Brown and Kotek, saying that their approach is “bull****.” (A different Republican, consultant Bridget Barton, also tried to stand out with some censored potty mouth.) Finally, 2016 nominee Bud Pierce alludes to the Big Lie with the mention of “broken elections.”

Associated Press: “As voters ready for hundreds of elections of local and national importance this year, officials and voting rights advocates are bracing for a repeat of the misinformation that overwhelmed the 2020 presidential race and seeded distrust about the legitimacy of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.”

“It culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by angry supporters of then-President Donald Trump who believed his lies that the election was stolen from him.”

Former President Donald Trump again has the Wisconsin’s most powerful Republican in his crosshairs, seeking to intimidate Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) into continuing a taxpayer-funded review of the 2020 election that has not produced evidence to support Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Said Trump: “Anyone calling themselves a Republican in Wisconsin should support the continued investigation in Wisconsin without interference.”

He added: “I understand some RINOs have primary challengers in Wisconsin. I’m sure their primary opponents would get a huge bump in the polls if these RINOs interfere.”

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

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