By nearly every historical marker, the upcoming midterm elections should be very rough for Democrats. But there are at least two polling anomalies worth watching:
First, there’s a growing divergence between Joe Biden’s approval rating and the generic congressional ballot. Throughout modern polling history the president’s approval has been a key indicator for his party’s success in the midterms. But there’s a significant gap between Biden’s net approval and the generic ballot for congressional races. For instance, in the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll, Biden has a net negative 12-point approval, while Democrats have a positive 5-point lead on the generic ballot.
Second, Donald Trump’s unfavorability may be just as important as Biden’s approval. The key swing vote in this year’s midterm elections could be those who dislike both Trump and Biden. That’s not an insignificant number and a huge opportunity for the party that can capture their votes. In the end, the midterm elections will likely be decided by the party that can keep the focus on the issues where they have advantages — while neutralizing the other party’s strength on other issues.
For instance, Republicans seemingly have an advantage on economic issues — particularly inflation — and with immigration. Meanwhile, Democrats are seen as the top party on abortion rights, voting rights and protecting the rights of citizens based on gender or race.
Matthew Dowd argues that “the GOP is spending way too much time delving into cultural issues that Democrats lead on.”
“Meanwhile, Democrats are spending too much time worrying and talking about inflation and the economy and not enough time raising the stakes of this election and making a broader argument based on fundamental rights and American democracy.”
The party that can keep the focus on “their issues” will likely do better than expected.
A new Monmouth poll finds Americans’ views of abortion access have remained stable: 64% support keeping the procedure legal – either always legal (33%) or with some limitations (31%). Another 26% say it should be illegal except for rape, incest or to save the mother’s life and 8% say it should always be illegal.
Abortion (25%) is now tied with the economy (26%) as the most important issue in the midterms.
GEORGIA GOVERNOR. “Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is headed to Georgia this weekend for a spate of campaign stops with Gov. Brian Kemp. Two other well-known state executives are right behind him,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
“Ducey will join Kemp at five stops around metro Atlanta on Saturday. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are also expected to rally for Kemp in the final weeks before the May 24 primary.”
After a livid Trump accused Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) of being “RINOs” for supporting Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Christie posted a snide tweet jabbing at the “insightful commentary” from “a former President who lost to Joe Biden” about three governors who served more than one term in office.
“Maybe the ‘R’ in RINO really stands for re-elected,” Christie wrote.
The ex-New Jersey governor might still have some hard feelings about Trump infecting him with COVID-19 in 2020, which landed Christie in a hospital intensive care unit.
David Perdue once again waited until after his main rivals released their fundraising numbers to share his, and once again he trails both of them badly. From February through April, the former senator brought in just $1.7 million from donors and supplemented that with $500,000 in self-funding, leaving him with only $900,000 for the stretch run to the do-or-die May 24 GOP primary. His opponent for the Republican nomination, Gov. Brian Kemp, reported having $10.7 million in cash-on-hand last week, while Democrat Stacey Abrams said she had $8 million in her war chest. Recent polls have consistently shown Kemp beating Perdue and avoiding a runoff.
PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. A new Fox News poll in Pennsylvania finds Mehmet Oz (R) leading the GOP Senate race with 22%, followed by David McCormick (R) at 20% and Kathy Barnette (R) at 19%.
The race remains wide open as the top three candidates are within the survey’s margin of sampling error, and 18% are undecided on who they will back in the May 17 primary.
“Senate Republicans are dismissing attacks on Mehmet Oz’s Turkish citizenship by his GOP rivals, boosting the campaign of the Donald Trump-endorsed TV star ahead of next week’s primary,” Politico reports. “In interviews, Republicans gave Oz what amounts to a leg up in his nasty primary by saying that they have no concerns about his loyalty and no problems with him receiving classified briefings should he become a U.S. senator.”
“After months of a bruising television ad war between Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick and their allies, the relatively shoestring campaign of Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator showing surprising strength in the polls, will receive a late boost in the Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania,” the New York Times reports.
CNN: How Trump’s endorsement of Oz gave Kathy Barnette an unexpected opening in Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump is feeling “nervous about Dr. Oz’s prospects” in Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senate primary as Kathy Barmette (R) has soared in the polls, CNN reports. Said a Trump adviser: “For the past five months, he’s been told the only threat to Oz is named David McCormick. This is a twist no one saw coming.”
Donald Trump issued a statement saying that Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette (R) “will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.” Then he added: “She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted, but if she is able to do so, she will have a wonderful future in the Republican Party — and I will be behind her all the way.” Saying she can’t win — while also saying that she could have a great future in the GOP — pretty much explains everything about this race.
While Kathy Barnette, a major Big Lie spreader who badly lost her only previous run for office, looked like an also-run for most of the Republican primary, a new poll from Fox News shows her within striking distance of victory on Tuesday. The Club for Growth also is rushing in with a $2 million buy for the final days that uses audio of Barnette, who herself had spent a total of merely $160,000 on TV through Wednesday, talking about her humble origins and bashing Democrats.
Pennsylvania Republicans have spent months worried that state Sen. Doug Mastriano will capture the gubernatorial nod and endanger the party’s chances in November, but until recently, they didn’t fret much over Barnette. However, party insiders recently told Politico that they believed the massively expensive and ugly contest between the Trump-endorsed Oz and McCormick has left voters searching for an alternative. Operatives also pointed out that Mastriano, who leads in the polls for his own contest, has been campaigning with Barnette, which could be giving her a lift with people who dislike the two ostensible Senate frontrunners.
While Barnette, who spent the 2010s firing off anti-Muslim tweets, is a relative newcomer to politics, she showed just what kind of candidate she is following her 2020 campaign for the safely blue 4th Congressional District. She challenged Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean for a seat based in Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs and lost 60-40, a wide and predictable defeat she refused to accept. Instead, the Republican declared on election night, “All plans of the enemy will be thwarted.”
Barnette wasn’t only committed to overturning her own loss, though. She took to Fox in the days afterwards to back up Trump’s own election lies, claiming she’d won votes cast on Election Day but lost her lead because of “ridiculous” vote-counting afterwards. She later attended the Trump rally that took place just before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, though her team says she didn’t take part in the riots.
Barnette launched her new Senate campaign last year saying, “We’re told Black lives matter, except of course my Black life, because I’m a Black conservative.” She hasn’t shown any interest in moderating herself over the ensuing year: CNN reports that her Facebook page touts how she’s “HIRING THE UN-VACCINATED” and blasts both parties for having “allowed COVID-19 to trump the Constitution.”
For now, though, Oz is still continuing his months-long attack on McCormick rather than focus on Barnette. A recent commercial makes use of footage of Trump’s weekend rally, including a clip where the MAGA master declares, “David is totally controlled and he is a candidate of special interests and the Washington establishment.”
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. “Top Republicans are mounting a last-ditch, behind-the-scenes effort to stop state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a leading voice in the movement to overturn the 2020 election results, from winning the party nomination for governor in Pennsylvania,” Politico reports.
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Republican leaders are trying to corral Mastriano’s four leading rivals to urge all but one of them to drop out — and endorse the one with the best poll numbers. One version of the proposal calls for rallying behind former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who was well-liked by former President Donald Trump and polling in second place in the latest public survey. It’s a long-shot ploy a week before the primary that many Republicans believe is likely to fail.”
“But it reflects the panic in some quarters over the likelihood Mastriano, a far-right state senator from Franklin County, will lead the GOP ticket this fall.”
Fox News has released a survey of Tuesday’s Republican primary from its usual bipartisan team of Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research, and it shows far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano beating former Rep. Lou Barletta 29-17; former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain takes 13%, while wealthy businessman Dave White and state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman are at 11% and 5%, respectively.
The survey comes at a time when party leaders are hoping to convince some trailing candidates to drop out in order to stop Mastriano, a QAnon ally whom they fear would be an utterly toxic nominee. They may get a little good news on Thursday, as Barletta has announced that Corman will join him for a “major campaign announcement.” The event comes exactly a month after Corman asked election officials to take his name off the ballot only to reverse himself hours later (Corman was told days later that it was already too late for him to remove his name). Corman said “that he was ending his campaign and endorsing rival Lou Barletta (R), a move that comes as GOP leaders warn that leading candidate Doug Mastriano is too far right to win in a general election,” the AP reports.
“Republican voters in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most hotly contested political battlegrounds, appear to be rallying behind two hard-right candidates for governor and the Senate who are capturing grass-roots anger, railing against the party’s old guard and amplifying Donald Trump’s stolen-election myth,” the New York Times reports.
“With less than a week until the state’s primary election on Tuesday, polls show that State Senator Doug Mastriano — one of the state’s central figures in the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election — has emerged as the clear front-runner in the G.O.P. race for governor. The candidate for Senate, Kathy Barnette, an underfunded conservative commentator who has never held public office, has made a surprise late surge in the contest that had been dominated by two big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.”
Axios: GOP panics over ‘ultra-MAGA’ Pennsylvania Senate wild card.
OHIO U.S. SENATOR. “If you wanted to kill a bunch of MAGA voters in the middle of the heartland, how better than to target them and their kids with this deadly fentanyl?… It does look intentional. It’s like Joe Biden wants to punish the people who didn’t vote for him and opening up the floodgates to the border is one way to do it.” — J.D. Vance (R), in an interview with Gateway Pundit.
Ohio U.S. candidate J.D. Vance (R) once wrote for a website run by David Frum, who now offers a personal reflection on the Vance he knew in The Atlantic.
“Vance wrote for FrumForum under a pseudonym. So, even as my former contributor’s career has lurched in disturbing directions, I’ve felt honor-bound to maintain confidentiality about the pieces.”
NEW YORK GOVERNOR. Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi has publicized an internal from HarrisX that shows him trailing Gov. Kathy Hochul 46-20 in next month’s Democratic primary, with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 12. Whenever a campaign releases numbers that, on their face, look this bad, it’s a safe bet they’re arguing they’re on an upward trajectory, and that’s indeed the case here: A previously unreleased Suozzi poll from February had Hochul leading Williams 55-12, with Suozzi taking just 9%.
NEVADA GOVERNOR. NBC reports that A Stronger NV, a group funded by the DGA, has spent $500,000 on ads bashing Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo ahead of the June 14 Republican primary and has another $111,000 booked through the next month. One spot portrays Lombardo as someone “more worried about his public image than public safety,” arguing that crime rose because of his decisions. An unnamed party insider explained the strategy by saying, “If he doesn’t make it through the primary, then we’ve knocked out what is seen as the front-runner.”
NBC News reports that A Stronger NV, a PAC that is funded by the DGA, has booked an additional $1.7 million for ads this month. The group recently began intervening in the GOP primary to attack Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and had already spent $500,000.
NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. A new SurveyUSA poll for KOB-TV in Albuquerque finds former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti with a wide lead in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Ronchetti (who worked for a different station, KRQE) takes 44% of the vote, with Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block at 12%, retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti at 10%, and state Rep. Rebecca Dow at 9%. Another 23% of voters are undecided. The only other survey of the race, a Ronchetti internal from early February, similarly gave him a huge 60-9 advantage over Dow.
KANSAS GOVERNOR and ATTORNEY GENERAL. After failed campaigns for governor and Senate, former Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is waging yet another comeback bid, this time for state attorney general. To that end, he’s released a new poll from WPA Intelligence showing him with a 44-41 lead on attorney Chris Mann, the likely Democratic nominee. The survey also finds the man Kobach is hoping to succeed, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, edging out Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly 47-43 in the contest for governor. WPA’s offering is the first public poll of the attorney general’s race and the first set of numbers for the governor’s race since September.
NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. With just a week to go before the election, one more pollster finds Rep. Ted Budd swamping former Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina’s GOP primary for Senate. This time it’s the Republican firm co/efficient, which did not identify a client but says Budd enjoys a wide 48-20 advantage over McCrory. The memo also indicates that a previously unreleased poll from late February had McCrory up 29-18. McCrory had in fact led in every public survey taken through that month, but starting at the end of March, Budd overtook him and has never trailed since.
ALABAMA U.S. SENATOR. A new survey from Republican pollster Cygnal conducted for the Alabama Daily News and Gray Television finds Katie Britt, the former president of the Business Council of Alabama, in first place in the May 24 GOP primary with 32%, while Rep. Mo Brooks takes 23 and businessman Mike Durant 21, with 16% undecided. The numbers are, just barely, good news for Brooks, who’d been in third—and therefore wouldn’t make the runoff—in a string of polls dating back two months.
KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) filed paperwork to launch a run for governor in 2023, ending weeks of speculation that he would join the field of prospective Republican candidates, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has announced he is running for reelection, already raising more than $2 million for that run. Recent polls have shown his approval rating in Kentucky at nearly 60%.
This is a move that plenty of party insiders have anticipated since he won his current post in 2019. That victory made Cameron, who is a former general counsel for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the state’s first Black attorney general, as well as the first Republican to hold the post since World War II.
Cameron joins a May 2023 nomination contest that already includes two fellow statewide elected officials, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and state Auditor Mike Harmon, while plenty of other Bluegrass State politicos are also thinking about getting in. However, Secretary of State Michael Adams is no longer one of them: While he didn’t quite rule out his own bid for governor last year, he quickly responded to Cameron’s news by tweeting, “I will now consider running for Attorney General, and also consider pursuing reelection.”
ARKANSAS U.S. SENATOR. U.S. Senate candidate Jake Bequette’s (R) first name was misspelled on ballots in two Arkansas counties, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports. Early voting for the state’s May 24 primary election began Monday.
LOS ANGELES MAYOR. Rep. Karen Bass is spending $650,000 on her opening TV buy for the June 7 nonpartisan primary, which comes weeks after billionaire developer Rick Caruso, whom the Los Angeles Times estimates will have dropped $18 million on ads by mid-May, began his saturation campaign. Bass tells the audience, “When I worked in the E.R. during the crack epidemic, there was no time to hesitate; we had to act to save lives.” She goes on to talk about her time as Assembly speaker “making tough decisions to save our state’s economy, and help the people behind the numbers,” and work in Congress during the pandemic.
Caruso’s allies at the Los Angeles Police Protective League, meanwhile, are spending $2 million on commercials arguing that Bass “took $95,000 in free tuition from the same indicted USC dean” who has been linked to a corruption scandal involving Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, and that she “repeatedly voted to give USC millions in taxpayer funds.”
Bass’ attorney, who is attempting to get the ad pulled, responded, “Karen Bass never voted to appropriate taxpayer funds to USC, and none of the bills cited in the ad refer to USC.” The L.A. Times explains that the House Committee on Ethics a decade ago allowed Bass to accept the tuition award from the school; she didn’t disclose its full value until 2019, though, saying the omission was an error.
ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Pat Chesbro (D), a former teacher, “announced that she’s making a late run for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat, complicating a race that so far featured incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski and Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.
Chesbro said “she made up her mind to run Sunday, influenced in part by last week’s draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that would strip the rights to abortion granted by the Roe v. Wade decision.”
GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) “is continuing his breakneck fundraising pace,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. “He’ll report raising nearly $5.6 million between April 1 and May 4 in a special federal filing he’s set to submit on Thursday.”
ALABAMA GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Cygnal’s newest survey for Alabama Daily News and Gray Television shows Gov. Kay Ivey taking only 40% in the May 24 Republican primary, which is below the majority she’d need to avoid a June 21 runoff. The race for second is tight, with businessman Tim James edging out former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard 18-15. Back in mid-March, Cygnal had Ivey in a stronger position with 46% as James and Blanchard took 12% and 10%, respectively; in the time between those two polls, Ivey released a mid-April internal that found her in far better shape with 57%.
MARYLAND GOVERNOR. While former state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz cannot possibly out-MAGA Trump-endorsed Del. Dan Cox ahead of the July GOP primary, her new ad uses the old Republican tactic of attacking a defense attorney for representing a client. “Dan Cox fought to release an accused child rapist from jail in 2021,” intones the narrator, before saying, “Thanks to Cox, this convicted sex offender is out on the street after serving less than a year. Now Cox is attacking the victim, a child, and calls her a liar.”