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The Political Report – 4/29/22

A new YouGov poll finds that 27% of Americans – including 37% of adults under 30 – say that they believe in astrology, or that the position of the stars and planets influences people’s lives.  About half of Americans (51%) say they don’t believe in astrology and 22% are unsure. 

A new Marquette University Law School Poll in Wisconsin finds Mandela Barnes (D) leading the Democratic U.S. Senate primary with 19%, followed by Alex Lasry (D) at 16%, Sarah Godlewski (D) at 7% and Tom Nelson (D) at 5%.  Said pollster Charles Franklin: “And 48% still don’t know who they’ll vote for. That’s unchanged.”

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 73% of Americans support U.S. efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons, the highest level of support since Russia invaded its neighbor in February.  Some 46% of Americans — including 70% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans — approve of President Biden’s performance in handling the Ukraine crisis.

New York’s highest court has thrown out the state’s new congressional and legislative district maps, potentially pushing the 2022 primaries into late summer.  A special master — not the Democratic-controlled legislature — will now draw a new House map.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Donald Trump attacked Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Matt Dolan (R) for his family’s ownership of Cleveland’s baseball team: “Anybody who changes the name of the ‘storied’ Cleveland Indians (from 1916), an original baseball franchise, to the Cleveland Guardians, is not fit to serve in the United States Senate.”

Democratic firm Blueprint Polling has released a poll finding that the May 3 GOP primary is still up in the air with 33% undecided and no candidate topping 20%. The pollster shows state Sen. Matt Dolan with a slim 18-17 lead over venture capitalist J.D. Vance, while businessman Mike Gibbons earns 13%, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel takes 12%, and former state party chair Jane Timken wins just 7%.

This is the first survey from any outfit this cycle showing Dolan in first, but with all three other polls disclosed this month from reputable firms each finding three different leaders and many voters still undecided, it’s another sign of just how uncertain the outcome of next week’s vote is.

Fox News has released a new survey of Tuesday’s Republican primary from the Democratic firm Beacon Research and the Republican pollster Shaw & Company Research that finds Trump’s endorsed candidate, venture capitalist J.D. Vance, taking a 23-18 lead over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, with wealthy businessman Mike Gibbons at 13%; a 25% plurality remain undecided in this crowded contest. This is a notable shift from Fox’s March poll when Gibbons enjoyed a 22-20 edge over Mandel as Vance languished in third with 11%.

Mandel’s well-funded allies at the Club for Growth are still hoping that Vance’s past attacks on Trump will still drag him down, and the group is out with a commercial that actually questions the GOP master’s choice. After old footage plays of Vance labeling himself “a Never-Trump guy,” the audience is treated to a 2018 clip announcing that Trump had endorsed Mitt Romney’s Senate campaign in Utah. “How’d that turn out?” asks one of the spot’s stars before another explains, “Look, I love Trump, but he’s getting it wrong with J.D. Vance, too.” The GOP firm Medium Buying says that the Club is putting at least $1.7 million into ads for the final week of the primary.

The Club itself also intensely opposed Trump in the 2016 primaries, though unlike Vance, it never considered supporting Hillary Clinton in the general election. The organization, like Vance and other one-time Trump critics, spent the last several years reinventing itself as all-in for MAGA, and until this month, its rehabilitation seemed to be mostly complete. As recently as April 9, Trump used a rally in North Carolina for Rep. Ted Budd, a Senate candidate both he and the Club back, to say of organization president David McIntosh, “We are undefeated when we work together.” Nevertheless, writes CNN’s Gabby Orr, there was still friction between Trump and McIntosh: In one incident, McIntosh reportedly peeved Trump by bringing along Mandel as an uninvited guest to their meeting.

But whatever detente existed collapsed just days after that North Carolina event when the Club responded to Trump’s embrace of Vance by re-airing a different ad that showcased the candidate’s past attacks on him. Trump, reported the New York Times, had an aide text McIntosh, “Go f*^% yourself” (which presumably wasn’t censored), and Orr reports the two have not communicated since then. Donald Trump Jr. has gone even further, tweeting this week, “The same pro-China group funding career politician @JoshMandelOhio spent $10 million to stop Trump in 2016 & are spending millions today to stop @JDVance1.”

The Club, though, may already have more to worry about than a few mean texts and tweets. Orr writes that the organization “is grappling with frustrated board members and donors, who worry its influence will plunge if it doesn’t quickly patch things up with Trump.” But the Club’s decision to run this new anti-Vance ad indicates its leaders aren’t in any hurry for another reconciliation.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is unopposed in the May 17 Democratic primary, has laid out $950,000 of the $16 million his campaign recently had on hand to air his first two ads. The first commercial is a minute-long spot that devotes its first half to Shapiro’s biography, referencing his Pennsylvania roots, family values, and the importance of his Jewish faith, while the second part highlights his record of keeping taxes low when serving in local office and how he has “taken on powerful institutions” as attorney general.

The second spot expands on the latter theme, featuring a nurse praising Shapiro’s work going after predatory student loan companies like the one that she says tried to rip her off.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Wealthy businessman Tim Michels, who announced a sizable ad buy when he joined the GOP primary over the weekend, will spend $980,000 on his initial ads, though no copy of a spot is available yet.

Marquette University Law School is out with new numbers from the GOP race to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch leads businessman Kevin Nicholson 32-10, compared to 30-8 two months ago, while state Rep. Tim Ramthun lags with 4% of the vote. Another contender, wealthy businessman Tim Michels, announced his own bid Monday after the poll was already in the field and was thus not included.

MCHIGAN GOVERNOR. Republican Rep. Jack Bergman, whose 1st District covers the Upper Peninsula and northernmost portion of the Lower Peninsula, has switched his endorsement in the August GOP primary from former Detroit Police Chief James Craig to self-funding businessman Perry Johnson. In doing so, Bergman complained that Craig ignored “campaigning in Northern Michigan and the U.P. in favor of a self proclaimed Detroit-centric approach.”

NEBRASKA GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Data Targeting has conducted a survey of the May 10 GOP primary for Neilan Strategy Group, which says it’s not working on behalf of any candidate or allied group, that shows state Sen. Brett Lindstrom taking a narrow lead for the first time in a very expensive and ugly race where he’d largely been overshadowed.

The firm shows Lindstrom edging out Trump-backed agribusinessman Charles Herbster 28-26, with University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, who is termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts’ endorsed candidate, just behind with 24%; former state Sen. Theresa Thibodeau lags far behind in fourth with 6%. Back in mid-February, the firm showed Herbster edging out Pillen 27-26, with Lindstrom taking third with 21%.

This new poll is the first we’ve seen conducted since the Nebraska Examiner published an April 14 story where Republican state Sen. Julie Slama and seven other women accused Herbster of groping and other forms of sexual assault; Herbster denied the allegations and soon went up with a commercial claiming “the establishment” was lying about him just like they supposedly did with Trump. Unsurprisingly, Trump himself has stuck behind his man, and he’s scheduled to hold a rally with him on Friday.

While no other polls have found Lindstrom in first place, there were previously signs that his detractors were treating him as a serious threat even though he lacked the money and big-named endorsements that Pillen and Herbster have available. (Lindstrom’s most prominent supporter is arguably Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.) A group called Restore the Good Life began running ads against the state senator weeks ago that portrayed him as wrong on taxes, while another outfit called Say No to RINOs launched its own spots in mid-April saying, “Liberal Brett Lindstrom is no conservative, he just plays one on TV.”

But perhaps most tellingly, Conservative Nebraska, a super PAC funded in part by Ricketts, recently began running its own spots using similar arguments against Lindstrom after it previously focused on attacking Herbster only. The termed-out governor himself joined in the pile-on, characterizing Lindstrom as “a liberal (who) does not have a conservative voting record in the Legislature.” The state senator, for his part, said last week that he wouldn’t be running negative ads against Pillen and Hebster.

The Republican firm Medium Buying caused a brief stir on Wednesday morning when it tweeted that wealthy businessman Charles Herbster had stopped airing ads with less than two weeks to go before the GOP primary, but his campaign quickly told the National Journal’s Mary Frances McGowan that it very much was still running spots. The problem, tweets McGowan, was that “there was an issue with the wiring of the buy” that has since been fixed.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Former Donald Trump operative Roger Stone, whom Trump pardoned in December 2020 after he was convicted on several felony charges of obstructing Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said he isn’t ruling out a primary bid against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio over the latter’s vote against overturning the 2020 election outcome. Stone, however, hardly looks like a serious candidate: even he conceded that he wasn’t the ideal challenger and implored someone else to run. Stone had also mulled running for governor as an independent to stymie Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis before acknowledging he was barred from doing so by state law preventing recent party switchers from running for office.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Alabama Patriots PAC, which is backing Army veteran Mike Durant in the May 24 GOP primary, has reported spending more than $3 million on his behalf thus far.

A group called Alabama RINO PAC has spent $714,000 so far in the May 24 GOP primary on an ad calling Army veteran Mike Durant a liberal who wants to confiscate guns, and Durant has gone up with a response ad that highlights his military background and features him firing an assault rifle as he bemoans the “career politicians” funding lies against him.

GEORGIA GOVERNOR, U.S. SENATOR, SECRETARY OF STATE. A new survey from the University of Georgia for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the latest poll to find Gov. Brian Kemp cruising to renomination in the May 24 GOP primary, with Kemp holding a 53-27 lead over Big Lie proponent David Perdue and earning the majority needed to avoid a June primary runoff against the former senator. This latest survey is one of Kemp’s best results so far from any pollster and marks a significant improvement for him from UGA’s last poll taken in late March and early April, which found Kemp ahead 48-37. Still, every other recent poll here has also found Kemp with a sizable lead.

Perdue has failed to gain traction in the polls despite Donald Trump’s endorsement, but that hasn’t stopped his zealotry for spreading Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories from shaping the race. Perdue and his allies have run ad after ad spreading the Big Lie that Trump was cheated in 2020 and chastising Kemp for failing to help Trump steal the contest, and Perdue’s opening statement in Sunday’s debate reiterated his bogus accusation of election theft. Kemp, meanwhile, has focused his campaign message on reminding voters that Perdue’s re-election defeat makes him a proven loser and touting the governor’s record on bread and butter conservative issues such as immigration, crime, and taxes.

In the Senate primary, UGA’s poll does have unambiguously good news for the Trump-backed candidate: Former NFL star Herschel Walker has a 66-7 edge over his closest rival, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, which is little different than his 64-8 lead in their previous poll.

Looking further downballot in the GOP primary for secretary of state, another of Trump’s endorsees running a campaign focused on 2020 election denial has found more success than in the governor’s race, but UGA’s latest poll finds it is no sure thing. Their survey shows incumbent Brad Raffensperger holding a 28-26 lead over Rep. Jody Hice, who has Trump’s backing, which marks an improvement for the incumbent from Hice’s 30-23 advantage in UGA’s prior poll. However, Hice has done significantly better in one of the few other credible polls here from GOP firm Landmark Communications, which had Raffensperger trailing by a wide 35-18 earlier this month.

Trump’s election lies almost certainly aren’t going anywhere as a campaign topic regardless of the outcome of the primaries for secretary of state. One of the leading Democratic contenders, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, has focused her initial ad on her support for protecting voting rights against Trump’s attacks and previews what the general election message may look like.

34N22 PAC, which is supporting former NFL star Herschel Walker, has released a poll conducted by a firm called Grassroots Targeting that shows the Republican with a 51-41 lead over Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. This is the first time this cycle where we’ve seen a survey from Grassroots Targeting in any contest, and this release is by far the best result for Walker from any pollster that has tested this race. Most other outfits that have released surveys this year have found him only narrowly ahead of Warnock.

Walker’s campaign has also begun airing his first TV ad this cycle as part of a $1 million buy. The spot introduces parts of his biography to voters and preemptively offers a rebuttal to some of the attacks on his past behavior by calling him an “advocate for mental health” who “spent more than a decade sharing his story, raising awareness, and offering help to those in need.” The ad emphasizes his endorsement from Trump and hits standard conservative themes on immigration and crime.

However, one of the ad’s claims that Walker “built one of the largest minority-owned food service companies in the country” prompted Georgia Democrats to accuse him of once again blatantly lying about his business record. State Democrats cited a recent Daily Beast article that investigated Walker’s Renaissance Man chicken business and noted that the largest Black-owned food service business in the country, Bridgeman Foods, reported $870 million in annual revenue and 20,000 employees, while even the largest such company in Georgia, TME Enterprises, had $41 million in revenue and 680 employees.

By contrast, Walker has claimed only $70-80 million in annual revenue but told a federal court in 2019 that Renaissance Man and two of his related businesses only had $14 million combined in net earnings between 2009 and 2017, which averages to just $1.5 million a year.

This is far from the first time that Walker has been accused of telling easily disproved lies about his business record and academic achievements, and state Democrats cited a number of other news articles from reputable sources that debunked many of Walker’s claims.

VERMONT GOVERNOR. Observers widely expect Republican Gov. Phil Scott to seek a fourth two-year term, but the governor still hasn’t formally reached a decision about re-election and indicated via a spokesperson on Monday that he would wait until closer to the end of the legislative session to do so. While no noteworthy Democrat has launched a campaign against Scott so far, VTDigger has assessed the field of potential Democratic challengers and found no one seems too enthusiastic about facing the formidable incumbent

Former Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, who held office from 1997 to 2003, refused to rule out running on Monday but cast doubt on the resources and volunteers needed to run being readily attainable. State Attorney General TJ Donovan, whom VTDigger writes “is widely believed to have his sights on the governor’s office,” wouldn’t say whether he was considering opposing Scott, only promising to make his plans known “in the near future.”

Additionally, former state House Speaker Shap Smith made it clear that he would not challenge Scott if he runs again, and 2016 nominee Sue Minter said she isn’t planning on running for office this cycle and that “if Gov. Scott is running again, that it will be a difficult race to win for anybody.”

OHIO GOVERNOR. Fox’s new poll from the bipartisan team of Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research shows Gov. Mike DeWine well ahead in Tuesday’s GOP primary with just a plurality of the vote because his opponents appear to be splitting the anti-incumbent vote. The governor leads former Rep. Jim Renacci 43-24, with farmer Joe Blystone taking a potentially crucial 19%. Back in early March, Fox’s survey had DeWine beating Blystone 50-21, while Renacci was in third with 18%. We’ve seen no numbers from any reliable pollsters during the intervening time.

Blystone, likely to Renacci’s chagrin, is continuing to do relatively well even though he hasn’t aired any TV or radio ads whatsoever. Renacci, who was the party’s 2018 Senate nominee against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, by contrast has used his personal fortune to finance his campaign, but he’s still lagged far behind DeWine in ad spending. The GOP firm Medium Buying tweeted Tuesday that the governor has swamped Renacci $4.68 million to $1.52 million, while an RGA-funded organization called Free Ohio PAC has deployed another $778,000 to aid DeWine.

Perhaps most ominous for Renacci is Trump’s utter silence about taking down DeWine. Trump went after DeWine in November of 2020 for recognizing Biden’s victory by tweeting, “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” But Trump’s interest in this race seemed to disappear along with his Twitter account, and The Plain Dealer notes that he didn’t even mention DeWine or Renacci at his recent Ohio rally for Senate candidate J.D. Vance. Renacci was at the event but didn’t even get a speaking slot while DeWine, citing a conflicting event honoring the 200th birthday of President Ulysses S. Grant, avoided Trump’s appearance altogether.

“Donald Trump worried that ‘dangerous’ fruits could be flung at him by protesters, according to newly-released excerpts from his sworn deposition for an upcoming trial in New York,” Insider reports.  Said Trump: “It’s very dangerous stuff. You can get killed with those things.”

NEVADA GOVERNOR. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee has launched a commercial arguing that, despite his tough talk, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is anything but the immigration hawk he’s positioning himself as ahead of the June GOP primary. The narrator’s claim that Lombardo “defied President Trump [by] letting Vegas become a sanctuary city, protecting criminal illegal aliens” is accompanied by a photo of Wilber Ernesto Martinez Guzman, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering four people. However, as the Nevada Independent’s Riley Snyder points out, that crime happened in northern Nevada, which is well outside Lombardo’s jurisdiction.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. State Rep. Rebecca Dow has unveiled the first negative ad in the June GOP primary, going up with a spot that attacks former TV news meteorologist Mark Ronchetti as a “Never Trumper.” Dow’s spot plays a video clip of Ronchetti saying, “I used to be a Republican until the orange one,” and it also accuses him of being a “climate change activist” who worked with those funded by Jewish philanthropist George Soros, a common boogeyman for the far-right.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR. SEIU Massachusetts State Council, which represents 115,000 workers across the state, has endorsed state Attorney General Maura Healey ahead of the September Democratic primary, where Healey faces state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. After Democrats at the party’s state convention recently opted to support anti-Trump conservative independent Evan McMullin instead of fielding a Democratic challenger, far-right Republican Sen. Mike Lee is running a new ad claiming that he hasn’t changed since going to D.C. and is still “a conservative’s conservative” as multiple Utah GOP officeholders praise him for his “family values” and “pro-life values.”

IOWA U.S. SENATOR. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken has released a poll from Change Research showing the Democrat down just 45-42 against longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley. No other poll among the handful released by other pollsters this cycle has found Grassley’s lead anywhere near this small, and neither national party is acting like this race is competitive so far. Franken is running in the June primary against former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, whose campaign published a GBAO poll earlier this month showing her with a 64-15 lead over Franken.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Honor Pennsylvania PAC, which is backing former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick in the May 17 Republican primary, has launched an ad that throws the kitchen sink at TV personality Mehmet Oz. The ad notes that Oz, who is a dual citizen, served in the Turkish army despite growing up in America, and it claims Oz admitted that he’s “not socially conservative” before playing clips of Oz appearing to support abortion, gun safety laws, and gender transitioning for children. The spot closes with a video clip of Oz calling Hillary Clinton “one of the smartest people I have ever met” before Clinton is shown on screen laughing.

MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL and SECRETARY OF STATE. Two election conspiracy theorists with Donald Trump’s backing, Matthew DePerno and Kristina Karamo, defeated more traditional choices at the Michigan GOP’s endorsement convention on Saturday, setting them up for general election battles against Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, respectively.

The results, though, left some vocal Republicans fuming that their party had just thrown away the chance to take down two vulnerable Democrats in this important swing state. State Rep. Beau LaFave, who badly lost his bid for the nomination for secretary of state, spoke for many when he said, “I’m disappointed that Jocelyn Benson will be the secretary of state for the next four years.”

Dissenters may get another shot, though: Under state law, both Democrats and Republicans are actually required to pick nominees for these two offices (plus lieutenant governor) at their August conventions; these April gatherings are a recent innovation to allow candidates to get an earlier start on their campaigns, but they don’t have any official imprimatur.

To that end, state Rep. Ryan Berman, who took third place in the race for attorney general, said he’ll continue his campaign in the hopes of achieving a different result at the end of the summer. It would, however, take an affirmative vote of three-fourths of delegates to overturn Saturday’s vote, something one consultant characterized as a “smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency” option.

But Berman argued that Republicans might have to avail themselves of this option: He predicted that “[t]here’s a good chance” that DePerno could lose his law license or be indicted, which Bridge Michigan explains is a reference to a pair of investigations—one by the state’s Attorney Grievance Commission, the other by the state police—into DePerno’s lawsuits aimed at overturning Trump’s loss in Michigan.

DePerno, who recently called for the arrest of Nessel, Benson, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was a minor figure in Michigan politics until just after the 2020 election. But he attracted Trump’s attention when he filed a lawsuit arguing that election fraud had taken place in Antrim County after vote totals initially showed Joe Biden leading Trump in this small conservative community. Those numbers, though, were the result of a clerical error that was quickly corrected to reflect Trump’s actual 61-37 win in the county, and a hand-count audit confirmed that voting machines provided by Dominion Voting Systems had correctly tabulated the results.

None of that, however, stopped the Antrim County results from becoming a prominent feature in the false Trumpian narrative claiming that Dominion had stolen the election, and DePerno has been all too happy to keep the story in the limelight. In the real world, his crusade has been an utter failure: Last week, a state appeals court issued the latest verdict against his evidence-free lawsuit, which DePerno vowed to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. But that setback did not bother his allies in the least, nor did a recent revelation that his former law firm fired him in 2005 after alleging he’d “padded” client bills.

Karamo likewise emerged from obscurity after she insisted she’d seen fraud in 2020 while working as a poll worker in Detroit. She’s since used her newfound far-right fame to appear at a QAnon event in August with extremist secretary of state candidates running in other states, taking the opportunity to call Benson “evil.” She later said (baselessly, of course) that Benson and other Democratic election officials had been “placed in those battleground states strategically to ensure that there was massive cheating and fraud in the election.”

Karamo also previously hosted a podcast, so you know the archives are replete with crazy. On her now-defunct show, among many other things, she announced that Beyoncé was bringing “Black Americans into paganism,” declared that LGBTQ people and anyone who has sex outside of marriage “violate God’s creative design,” called herself an “anti-vaxxer,” and labeled yoga “a satanic ritual.” (Believe it or not, she’s not even the only anti-yoga Republican on the ballot this year.)

On Saturday, she easily won the GOP endorsement outright with 67% of the vote, while DePerno was forced into a runoff after leading 2018 nominee Tom Leonard 49-40. Berman, who took third with 10%, backed Leonard in the second round, where voting was delayed for half an hour because, according to party officials, runoff ballots left out the candidates’ names and video graphics listed them in the wrong order. A party official called the issues the result of “human error,” which Bridge notes “echoed official explanations about 2020 irregularities in Antrim County that have spawned Trump’s false claims of fraud.”

But unlike in 2020, Trump’s people didn’t complain because the convention results went their way, with DePerno beating Leonard 55-45. Trump even celebrated both results before voting had even begun in either race, proclaiming that DePerno and Karamo would “get to the bottom of the 2020 Election Fraud.”

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

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