The Political Report – 5/14/22

A new Pew Research poll finds the public views inflation as the top problem facing the United States – and no other concern comes close.

Key takeaway: 70% of Americans view inflation as a very big problem for the country, followed by the affordability of health care (55%) and violent crime (54%).

Georgia swing voters in the latest Axios Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups strongly support abortion rights — but say the issue alone likely won’t decide who they support in November midterm elections.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL and SECRETARY OF STATE. Minnesota Republicans convene Friday and Saturday for their biennial party convention, and while the GOP won’t formally choose nominees for any offices, the gathering could dramatically winnow the fields for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state auditor—posts that are all currently held by Democrats.

That’s because many contenders have pledged, in local parlance, to “abide” by the GOP’s endorsement process, meaning they intend to drop out of the August primary if delegates award the party’s backing to someone else. This is a long-running tradition for both parties in Minnesota, though candidates often do forge ahead to the primary even if they miss out on their party’s endorsement and typically state their intention to do so ahead of time.

Candidates need to win the support of at least 60% of the 2,200 delegates expected to attend in order to snag the endorsement in a process that usually requires multiple rounds of voting. Trailing candidates are gradually eliminated as they fail to reach thresholds set by the party for each round, but that doesn’t mean there will be one person left standing at the very end.

Republicans could very well be in for a late-night because of a dispute on how exactly to count ballots. State party chair David Hann is pushing to use electronic voting, arguing that it’s safe and fast. Some conspiracy-minded delegates, however, are pushing to use paper ballots instead, even though it could take hours to tabulate them across multiple rounds.

But the GOP endorsement is a precious prize worth staying up past bedtime to snag. That’s because, in the last 30 years, only once has a candidate for statewide office lost the endorsement but won their primary, and the circumstances were extremely unusual: Arne Carlson was the incumbent governor in 1994, but delegates viewed him as too liberal and backed conservative former state Rep. Allen Quist instead. Carlson nevertheless handily won the primary and general election as well, but don’t expect many Republicans to follow his lead: He’s become a total apostate in GOP circles, having regularly endorsed Democrats like Barack Obama and Joe Biden over the years.

The biggest race this year is the battle to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, and six Republicans are facing off at the convention in a vote currently set for Saturday: state Sen. Paul Gazelka; former state Sen. Scott Jensen; Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy; healthcare executive Kendall Qualls; dermatologist Neil Shah; and former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

Jensen, who has made a name for himself by spreading lies about COVID and the 2020 election, began campaigning for the endorsement far earlier than his opponents, and he was rewarded in early February when he took first at the party’s precinct-level caucuses. Many politicos saw that vote as an early preview of this week’s convention, though it’s no certainty that Jensen remains the frontrunner three-and-a-half months later.

All six have publicly pledged to abide by the endorsement, though the Star Tribune writes that some “have softened their comments on the topic as the convention approaches.” However, Hann, the GOP chair, insists that they’ll each stick to their promise, saying, “Every governor candidate has met me one-on-one and told me that same thing: They will abide by the endorsement.” He’d very much like that to be the case, of course, because then his candidates can immediately start focusing on the general election, though he may not get his wish.

The contest to face Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, meanwhile, is another multi-way race, though one of the candidates is skipping the convention altogether. That contender is former state Rep. Dennis Smith, who argued, “It has become clear that the endorsing convention is a game for insiders.” The field also includes 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow; former judge Tad Jude; and attorneys Jim Schultz and Lynne Torgerson.

Further down the ballot, attorney Kim Crockett and businesswoman Kelly Jahner-Byrne are squaring off for the endorsement to take on Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon, while the only notable Republican running to face Democratic state Auditor Julie Blaha is businessman Ryan Wilson.

The state Democratic Party, known as the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, holds its convention May 20-22, though none of the party’s four statewide incumbents face any serious intra-party opposition. Minnesota Democrats also tend to prioritize the endorsement process less than their GOP counterparts: Walz, notably, won his 2018 primary over a DFL-endorsed opponent eight years after Dayton secured the nomination the same way.

A Florida district court has ruled that Florida’s newly-drawn congressional districts drawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) violate the state constitution, the AP reports.

CNN: “Judge J. Layne Smith, a DeSantis appointee to the 2nd Circuit Court of Florida, said during a hearing that he intended to issue an order granting an injunction that would prevent the map from going into effect. Smith said the map violates the state constitution ‘because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect the representative of their choice.’”

“Former Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on the eve of his GOP primary — Pence’s most aggressive political move yet in defiance of his former patron and ticket-mate, former President Donald Trump,” Politico reports.

“The former president has made Kemp one of his top Republican targets of the midterm election, attacking him mercilessly ever since Kemp refused to intervene and overturn Georgia’s vote count during the 2020 election, when the state went narrowly for President Joe Biden.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Republicans are having an expected, albeit belatedfreakout about the election denier Kathy Barnette’s prospects in a general election, and even Donald Trump is taking action to stop her from winning Tuesday’s primary.

“Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats,” said Trump in a not-tweet. He continued with a line that begins with what could be interpreted as ironic self-awareness had it came from any other GOP politician, writing, “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.” Trump concluded with an obligatory call for GOP voters to instead support his choice, TV personality Mehmet Oz.

Oz’s allies at the super PAC American Leadership Action, meanwhile, are running a last-minute ad against Barnette, whom they’ve ignored until now. After the narrator dubs her “Crazy Kathy Barnette,” the commercial shows a clip of Barnette, who is Black, ostensibly explaining Black Lives Matter by saying, “The reason for so much unrest in the Black community is because of white racism.” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski tweets that the group “took a clip of her saying ‘in 1960 the Kerner Commission said the reason for so much unrest in the black community is because of white racism,’ and cut it off to make it look [like] she was talking about today.”

Surging Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette (R) has a history of anti-Muslim and anti-gay statements, CNN reports.  In many tweets, Barnette also spread the false conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The Philadelphia Inquirer announced the newspaper won’t make endorsements of any candidates in the Republican primaries.  “How do you find points of agreement when you can’t reach common ground on facts so basic that they could be used in a field sobriety test?”

New York Times: “Two distinct forces appear to have worked against Mr. Lamb: his campaign’s strategic missteps and his misfortune to be running at a time when Democrats, much like Republicans, are rejecting their party’s centrists.”

“The seeming meltdown for Mr. Lamb — whose initial victories in Western Pennsylvania had been a model for President Biden’s 2020 race — reflects a frustration among Democrats nationally with politicians who promise bipartisan accord, including Mr. Biden, and who have yielded meager results in Washington. It comes as the left sees a rising Republican extremism on voting rights and abortion. Some Democrats appear more eager to elect fighters than candidates who might be tempted, like party moderates, to block their priorities.”

For months, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick barely laid a glove on Kathy Barnette. There was no point,” Politico reports.

“They’d made the calculation that Pennsylvania’s closely watched GOP Senate primary was a two-man race. After all, they had the most money, the highest name ID, and a dominant position in the polls.”

“But in the last 48 hours, the Oz and McCormick campaigns and their allies have been suddenly forced to recalibrate as Barnette has surged to the front of the pack. In a sign of how seriously they take her rise, both men have gone on the attack against Barnette on conservative media outlets, while their allies have scrambled to disseminate opposition research and prepare anti-Barnette ads.”

The NRSC has reserved $53 million for TV ads this fall across the seven Senate races it likely views as the top battlegrounds:

  • Arizona: $8 million
  • Georgia: $9.5 million
  • Nevada: $3 million
  • New Hampshire: $9 million
  • North Carolina: $6.5 million
  • Pennsylvania: $8 million
  • Wisconsin: $9 million (the NRSC will also spend an additional $2.6 million for hybrid ads here jointly funded by GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign)

The NRSC’s foray makes it the last of the big four party-aligned campaign groups that compete in Senate races to reveal its fall ad reservations this year; we previously covered the ad purchases from the other three groups, which are the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC on the GOP side, plus the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC for Democrats.

The four groups’ reservations confirm that Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are the GOP’s top offensive targets this cycle, while the NRSC and DSCC were the only two of the group that included a fourth Democratic-held seat, New Hampshire, in their reservation list. For Republican-held seats that Democrats are targeting, all four party groups purchased time in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but notably neither of the two Democratic organizations reserved ad time in North Carolina while both GOP groups did. SLF was the lone group to reserve time in Alaska, but that move appears intended to stave off an intra-party challenge to GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

Importantly, these ad reservation amounts are by no means final, since the campaign groups can and almost certainly will modify them as conditions on the ground change. However, they give us as good an indication as anything about which races the parties view as the most competitive and which races they may by omission view as longer shots.

David Weigel: “A tidal wave of PAC money is transforming Democratic primaries, blindsiding left-wing candidates who went into the cycle targeting a handful of safe seats. Last year’s U.S. House special election in Cleveland, where last-minute money helped beat former Sanders presidential campaign co-chair Nina Turner, left a playbook behind — one that some pro-business and pro-Israel groups hope they can use to defend like-minded candidates against liberal challenges.”

President Biden has taken in $7.8 million for Democrats by attending five in-person fundraisers since March, the AP reports.  “The DNC released information about the amounts raised and number of attendees for each event after inquires from the AP about why such figures hadn’t been previously disclosed to pools of journalists traveling to fundraisers with the president — as prior administrations have typically done.”

“In what may prove to be Florida’s last stand as a battleground state, Democrats are launching a $15 million voter organizing effort ahead of this year’s elections,” Politico reports.  “Democratic candidates up and down the ballot — even those running in contested primaries — have agreed to pour in money that will be used to hire at least 200 organizers and open as many as 80 offices as part of a coordinated effort to pump up turnout across the state.”

For comparison, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has already raised $113 million this cycle.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman on Thursday dropped out of the May 17 Republican primary for the second and final time and endorsed former Rep. Lou Barletta. Corman’s departure comes as party leaders are increasingly worried that QAnon ally state Sen. Doug Mastriano will win the nomination only to lose to Democrat Josh Shapiro, though neither Corman nor Barletta said why they thought Mastriano would go down to defeat in November. Indeed, Barletta, who has cultivated his own ties to the far-right, acknowledged that he and Mastriano differed little on policy, though he insisted that he was the more electable choice.    

However, while GOP leaders have loudly hoped that other candidates will follow Corman’s lead and quit the race, the other two main contenders made it clear Thursday they weren’t budging. Wealthy businessman Dave White brought up Barletta’s 56-43 loss to Democratic Sen. Bob Casey four years ago, tweeting, “We nominated Lou in 2018. I even worked the polls for him. But he lost by 650,000 votes then and he’d lose to Josh Shapiro now.”

Former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain also used his chance to get digs in at Barletta, saying, “It’s no surprise that career politician Jake Corman, who implemented the highest gas tax in America, has chosen to endorse fellow career politician Lou Barletta, who is also a steadfast supporter of higher gas taxes.”

OREGON GOVERNOR. GOP consultant Bridget Barton has debuted an ad ahead of next Tuesday’s primary that goes hard after former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan by saying that she supports “radical indoctrination” because she voted to “put tampons in elementary boys’ bathrooms.” (The bill in question, which ensures menstrual products will be available in all public school bathrooms, passed the House unanimously.) The ad makes Barton the latest in a long string of Republicans this cycle to use transphobic attacks to try to win a primary. Barton’s spot also calls out Drazan for refusing to take a position on abortion earlier this month.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. SurveyUSA has conducted a poll for KOB-TV that finds Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham leading her potential GOP challengers by varying degrees:

  • 47-43 vs. over former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti
  • 47-37 vs. Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block
  • 48-36 vs state Rep. Rebecca Dow
  • 48-32 vs. anti-abortion activist Ethel Maharg

Ronchetti’s standing may be aided by higher name recognition from his 2020 run as the GOP nominee for Senate that year, though the poll doesn’t include that info.

Polling has been very limited in this year’s race, and the only other survey we have seen here was a Cygnal internal poll back in early January on behalf of another Republican, retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, which showed him trailing the governor by 40-39.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who faces no major opponent in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, has released a poll from Global Strategy Group looking forward to the general election that finds her tied 45-45 with Rep. Ted Budd, who has consistently led in the polls for the Republican nomination. The survey also finds a very similar margin testing Beasley against former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who holds a slim 45-44 lead over Beasley should he pull off an upset over Budd on Tuesday.

“As the 2022 midterm elections approach, some GOP super PACs are spending millions of dollars to oppose primary candidates endorsed by Donald Trump — suggesting a deepening rift within the Republican Party,” ABC News reports.  “In several high-profile primaries, GOP donors — some dissatisfied with the direction of the national party as Trump teases another White House bid in 2024 — have poured large sums into supporting Republicans running against Trump-backed candidates, financial disclosures show.”

Puck: “These days, [Larry] Ellison’s commitments to GOP causes are trending red hot. Last week, he was revealed as the single biggest outside backer of Elon Musk’s officially apolitical, but pointedly conservative-friendly, takeover of Twitter.”

“Ellison, once a registered Democrat, has also donated a staggering $25 million to Republican senator and potential presidential hopeful Tim Scott, placing him alongside Peter Thiel in the upper echelon of conservative Silicon Valley mega-donors.”

Washington Post: “Ties to China — even spurious, misleading or hyperbolic ones — have become an albatross for GOP candidates across the country in 2022 races and an animating presence in campaign stops and advertisements, with much of the Republican Party holding increasingly negative views of China after two years of the coronavirus and Trump’s rhetoric against the country.”

“Campaign strategists and candidates in a number of states said that tying candidates to China has become a prime attack in a GOP primary — with candidates seeking to differentiate themselves as they largely hew to Trump’s political agenda.”

“Democrats are using a new attack against Republican policies, on everything from the economy to abortions rights, deeming the agenda ‘ultra MAGA’ and extreme. But the GOP is leaning into the label,” Politico reports.   Said Rep. Barry Moore (R-LA) on Twitter: “How can our own president think returning this country to greatness is ‘extreme?!’ Being ‘ultra-MAGA’ should be a requirement for every elected official.”

“For the second year in a row, a judge has ruled that GOP Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are barred from overseeing an election — this time, the June primaries and November general election,” the Denver Post reports.  “Peters, an election denier who is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is also facing multiple investigations surrounding allegations of an election equipment security breach and campaign finance violations, including 10 criminal counts from a grand jury indictment.”

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

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