The Political Report – 5/7/22

A new University of Texas at Austin poll finds 78% of Texas voters think abortion should be allowed in some form, while just 15% said access to the procedure should be completely outlawed.

A new ARW Strategies poll in Georgia finds Gov. Brian Kemp (R) way ahead of challenger David Perdue (R) in the GOP gubernatorial primary, 59% to 22%.  How long before Donald Trump tries to un-endorse Perdue?

A new University of Texas at Austin poll finds Gov. Greg Abbott (R) crushing challenger Beto O’Rourke (D) in the governor’s race, 48% to 37%.

A new Franklin & Marshall poll in Pennsylvania finds John Fetterman (D) crushing Conor Lamb (D) in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, 53% to 14%.

On the Republican side, Mehmet Oz (R), David McCormick (R) and Kathy Barnette (R) are locked in a very tight race with no candidate getting more than 18%. Oz has 18%, with McCormick with 16% and Kathy Barnette with 12%. 39% of Republicans remain undecided. Oz lead 16-15 last month.

A new Trafalgar Group poll in North Carolina finds Ted Budd (R), who was endorsed by Donald Trump, leading the GOP Senate primary field with 51%, followed by Pat McCrory (R) at 29% and Mark Walker (R) at 8%.

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, which doesn’t appear to have taken sides in the May 17 Republican primary, has publicized a survey from Atlantic Polling Strategies showing Rep. Ted Budd beating former Gov. Pat McCrory 45-21.

Meredith College has released a late-April poll of the May 17 GOP primary, and it finds Rep. Ted Budd holding a 33-26 lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory, with a 34% plurality of voters still undecided. Budd has led in every poll since mid-March, and he would only need to win with a plurality above 30% in order to avoid a potential July runoff.

“A draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has jolted the battle for control of state legislatures, where the next stage of the struggle over abortion rights is likely to play out,” the New York Times reports.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The potential demise of Roe vs. Wade could both help Democrats generate higher turnout and appeal better to persuadable, Republican-leaning swing voters in the 2022 election who generally have a concern about women losing access to safe and legal abortion services.”

But a big caveat: “It’s unclear whether abortion opinions would outweigh the public’s opinions about other issues where Democrats are vulnerable.”

The Democratic Governors Association has booked a total of $75 million in fall TV time to defend Democratic incumbents in seven states:

  • Colorado: $5 million
  • Maine: $5 million
  • Michigan: $23 million
  • Minnesota: $4.5 million
  • Nevada: $10 million
  • New Mexico: $2.5 million
  • Wisconsin: $21 million

OHIO GOVERNOR. Gov. Mike DeWine defeated former Rep. Jim Renacci 48-28 in Tuesday’s Republican primary, with another 22% going to farmer Joe Blystone. While the incumbent, whose 2020 pandemic measures infuriated ultra conservatives, failed to take a majority of the vote, Renacci and Blystone each proved to be weak contenders: Renacci, just like in his failed 2018 bid against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, poured millions into his campaign but didn’t spend much of it on ads, while The Columbus Dispatch says Blystone ran an operation that was “messy with high turnover among volunteer staff and incomplete campaign finance reports.”

On the Democratic side, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley decisively defeated John Cranley, her counterpart from Cincinnati, 65-35. Whaley will be in for a very tough battle against DeWine in a state that swung hard to the right during the Trump era.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. The Club for Growth hasn’t made an endorsement ahead of the busy May 17 Republican primary, but it’s very much decided it wants wealthy businessman Dave White stopped. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the group is spending about $1 million in the Pittsburgh media market on a commercial accusing White of “defending a massive tax hike” when he served on the Delaware County Council “even though taxes had already gone up by more than 12%.”

Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro has launched a commercial designed to help state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a QAnon ally whom many Republicans fret would be a toxic nominee in this swing state, prevail in his packed May 17 primary. The narrator ostensibly attacks the legislator’s opposition to vote by mail and calls to audit Biden’s victory before saying, “​​If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for. Is that what we want in Pennsylvania?” Shapiro, who has no intra-party opposition of his own, is very much counting on Republicans watching at home to respond in the affirmative even though Trump has yet to endorse anyone.

The ad came the same day that Franklin & Marshall College released a survey giving Mastriano a 20-12 advantage over former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, whom Trump has explicitly come out against, in the primary, with former Rep. Lou Barletta and wealthy businessman Dave White at 11% and 8%, respectively. That’s anything but a secure lead, though, especially since a 34% plurality of respondents are undecided. The Philadelphia Inquirer also notes that Mastriano has spent a mere ​​$187,000 on TV ads in this large and expensive state while McSwain and White have each deployed millions, which gives Shapiro even more incentive to try to boost his preferred opponent.

Mastriano, meanwhile, seems intent on proving that Shapiro’s right about him being the easiest Republican to beat in the fall. The state senator recently spoke to a conference called “Patriots Arise for God and Country” that was filled with QAnon disciples. Indeed, organizers made it very clear exactly what they believed during the gathering by showing a video that, among other things, called the 9/11 attacks “​​false flags,” labeled vaccines “genocide therapy,” and declared that JFK was assassinated because of his “high risk of cabal exposure.”

A spokesman for Mastriano previously said his boss “strongly condemns the ‘Q anon’ conspiracy theory” and “never committed to speak at this event but sadly was used to help promote it with his picture on the invite,” though the candidate himself seemed anything but sad about being used to promote the event he ended up attending. Instead, he wrote on Facebook, “Painting print of President Trump done by Jeff Preston auctioned at event and sold for $4,000. All proceeds go to Mastriano campaign.”

The Delaware Valley Journal then used an interview for its podcast this week to ask Mastriano about the gathering, to which he barked, “I want you to call out Josh Shapiro and scrutinize who’s in his audience or which groups he’s speaking with, or do you give him a free pass? That’s what I always see on the left.” One of his hosts continued by asking about crime, but Mastriano himself chose to bring the topic back to the Patriots Arise gathering by exclaiming, “How dare you castigate me for gathering with people?”

Things continued in that vein, with the candidate going on, “’Oh, you have conspiracy theorists there.’ Oh, Ok. Maybe. So what does that matter? Do you try and discredit me?” Mastriano hung up when the discussion turned to how he’d handle attacks in the general election over his attempt to overturn Biden’s 2020 win: The site wrote, “Delaware Valley Journal has interviewed many of the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates from both sides of the aisle and hosted a debate among Republicans in the Senate race. No other candidate has walked out on an interview or debate.”

COLORADO GOVERNOR. Colorado gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez (R) was asked how he reconciles opposing abortion under all circumstance with being arrested in 1993 for assaulting his pregnant wife.   Lopez responded by noting he isn’t Jesus, “the one perfect man that’s ever walked this Earth.”

MAINE GOVERNOR. New campaign finance reports show that Democratic incumbent Janet Mills outraised her Republican rival, former Gov. Paul LePage, $1.1 million to $455,000 from Jan. 1 through April 26, and she holds a $2 million to $855,000 cash-on-hand lead.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. St. Pete Polls’ newest survey for Florida Politics shows Rep. Charlie Crist beating Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried 52-19 in the August Democratic primary to go up against GOP incumbent Ron DeSantis.  

OREGON GOVERNOR. Nelson Research has conducted what it says is an “independently conducted poll” of the May 17 Republican primary, and it finds that no one has established a firm lead with less than two weeks to go. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan outpaces former state Rep. Bob Tiernan 19-14, with 2016 nominee Bud Pierce at 10%; a 27% plurality of respondents are undecided. Back in mid-April, the firm showed Pierce edging out Drazan 11-8, with Tiernan locked in a three-way tie for third with just 5%.

GEORGIA GOVERNOR, U.S. SENATOR and ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Republican firm ARW Strategies has released a poll of the May 24 GOP primary, though there’s no word if these numbers were done on behalf of a client. It finds Gov. Brian Kemp turning back former Sen. David Perdue 59-22, while former football star Herschel Walker outpaces state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black 59-10 in the Senate contest. ARW also has the first survey we’ve seen of the attorney general nomination fight, and it shows incumbent Chris Carr leading his Trump-endorsed foe, Big Lie proponent John Gordon, 25-9, with 66% undecided.

Kemp has posted huge leads in every recent poll even though his party’s leader badly wants him to fall, but the governor enjoys the support of noted Dallas-based painter George W. Bush. Bush will be the “special guest” at a Kemp fundraiser later this month, which seems to be his primary function in today’s Republican Party.

“If Herschel Walker (R) wins Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, he would become the most prominent elected official in the nation who has struggled openly with a mental illness,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. “For some, he would be an important symbol and champion for a type of illness that has long been stigmatized.”

“But Walker’s mental health story is complicated, interlaced with allegations of domestic violence and featuring a controversial therapist who has said a patient’s choice of crayon color can reveal whether he or she is gay or even possessed by demons.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams raised a hefty $11.7 million from Feb. 1 through April 30, and she finished last month with $8 million cash-on-hand. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, meanwhile, was forbidden by state law from raising money for most of this period because the legislature was in session, but he pulled in $2.7 million during the 26 days after it adjourned and ended with $10.7 million in the bank. Former Sen. David Perdue, who has struggled badly in the polls, has yet to reveal his haul.

“Billionaire tech mogul Peter Thiel won big when his longtime friend J.D. Vance succeeded in Tuesday’s Ohio Senate GOP primary, surging to victory in the final days of the race after a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump and a seven-figure boost from Thiel,” CNN reports.

“But as the 2022 midterm cycle heats up, Thiel is winding down.”

Said a person familiar with his plans: “He’s done for the cycle. He’s not putting any more money into any more races or getting involved in new races.”

ARIZONA GOVERNOR and NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. The RGA has unveiled new ads attacking Democrats running for governor in Arizona and New Mexico over immigration.

The Arizona ad is a minute-long spot that claims without evidence that Joe Biden and Democrats favor “open borders” and blames them for a whole host of supposed ills as a result. It then singles out Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic primary frontrunner, over the federal government’s immigration policy known as Title 42. The Trump administration implemented Title 42 in March 2020 to enable immigration officials to quickly deport asylum-seekers, even those with valid asylum claims, to Mexico in the name of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks at border detention centers, though Trump officials had reportedly wanted to implement it even before the pandemic began.

The Biden administration has subsequently moved to revoke the policy later this month now that the pandemic is no longer as dire a threat and once again allow those seeking asylum to remain in the country while officials determine whether they qualify for asylum, which Republicans have fixated on to attack Democrats. Hobbs had initially said in early April that “Title 42 isn’t working,” but she told CNN later last month that Biden should reverse his “rash decision” to lift it because doing so “without a clear plan to secure our border would be a disaster.”

Hobbs’ campaign contends that her statement to CNN was clarifying her earlier position that Title 42 has been ineffective because border crossing attempts increased anyway after Trump implemented it, but the GOP has pounced on it to accuse her of flip-flopping. Local CBS affiliate KPHO reports that Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who is running in the GOP primary, has “spent big money” on ads attacking Hobbs over the issue.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico ad is another minute-long spot where the first part is nearly identical to the Arizona ad. The second half chastises Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for withdrawing National Guard troops from the border shortly after taking office and claims she refuses to oppose Biden’s “open borders” policy, an unnamed reference to Title 42. The RGA’s assertion cites the Albuquerque Journal without noting that the article in question is an opinion piece from … Mark Ronchetti, who is the frontrunner in the GOP primary to take on Lujan Grisham.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Playbook found a Dropbox folder with dozens of campaign strategy documents from a super PAC supporting Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance, including PDFs of two versions of a “JD Vance vulnerability analysis.”

It is essentially a “how to” guide for attacking Vance.

ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Rep. Mo Brooks’ latest ad ahead of the May 24 primary features audio of the 2017 shooting attack on a GOP congressional baseball practice event, where Brooks was present and Republican Rep. Steve Scalise along with several others were seriously injured in the shooting, to claim he was the top target of the “leftist gunman.” Brooks uses the incident to highlight his recent endorsement from the NRA.

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. Sooner State Leadership Fund, a dark money group that says it’s willing to deploy a total of $10 million to deny renomination to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has launched a new $750,000 buy ahead of the June 28 primary attacking the governor over a scandal that led to the Friday resignation of his state tourism director. The Oklahoma Project, which is funded by a longtime Democratic National Committee member, is also joining in, though there is no word on the size of the buy.

The spots highlight the story of Jerry Winchester, who stepped down as executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department after a legislative report revealed that his agency paid an enormous $13 million to renovate and run locations of restaurateur Brent Swadley’s barbecue chain in several state parks. The department, days before Winchester’s departure, announced it was canceling that contract with Swadley’s company because of “suspected fraudulent activity and questionable business practices,” and multiple state authorities and the legislature are all currently investigating the matter.

Stitt has not been accused of wrongdoing, and he’s denied knowing Swadley or having “involvement in this contract.” SSLF’s commercial, though, portrays the story as “the latest allegation of corruption” that “involves another state official personally hired” by Stitt. It also quotes the governor saying in 2019, “You will know exactly where the buck stops. At my desk.” TOP’s own commercial goes after Stitt on similar lines, saying, “His friends get rich. Oklahomans get burned.”

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. The Republican pollster Cor Strategies has released a survey showing Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin leading state Sen. Darren Bailey 33-21 in the June Republican primary, which is a bit closer than the 30-13 edge it gave Irvin two weeks ago. We haven’t seen any numbers from any other firms here all year.

Cor, which we hadn’t encountered before, says that the earlier poll for an unnamed client was “never intended for public consumption—it was a quick and dirty automated tracking poll testing something else entirely,” and that it was “horrified to have our name tied to those results as an official public tracking poll.” The firm says that, in response, it “commissioned an actual poll that we could release.”

HAWAII GOVERNOR. Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the August Democratic primary, saying, “I’m not sensing the kind of momentum I know I need in the time we have left to continue to be viable.” The two remaining Democrats are Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who has held huge leads in the few polls we’ve seen, and businesswoman Vicky Cayetano, though Rep. Kai Kahele reportedly told House leaders last week he’d also decided to run. Kahele hasn’t confirmed his plans yet, but Civil Beat says he “was expected to make an announcement this weekend.”

ARKANSAS U.S. SENATOR. Hendrix College, polling for Talk Business & Politics, finds Sen. John Boozman taking 45% of the vote―a few points below the majority he’d need to avert a runoff―in the very first survey we’ve seen of the May 24 Republican primary.

Surprisingly, the school also shows former NFL player Jake Bequette edging out gun-range owner Jan Morgan only 19-17 for second place even though there’s a huge resource disparity between the two challengers. Bequette has benefited from close to $1.5 million in spending by a group funded by billionaire megadonor Dick Uihlein while Morgan, who lost the 2018 primary for governor 70-30 to incumbent Asa Hutchinson, has attracted relatively little attention and no major outside support.

With just under three weeks to go until the Republican primary, Sen. John Boozman has launched an ad that criticizes his opponent, former NFL player Jake Bequette, as “fake Jake” and argues Bequette opposes Trump’s agenda without providing any specifics. The rest of Boozman’s spot touts how he has been a steadfast Trump ally who supported Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, backed his border wall, and has Trump’s endorsement.

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

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