The Political Report – 5/21/22

Seth Masket: “A few months ago, I did a simple forecast model for the 2022 midterms, suggesting Democrats were in for a rough year. We have some newer economic data since then, and the model looks considerably worse for the Democrats.”

Amy Walter: “Earlier this cycle, we posited that there were a few things that could help boost Democrats’ prospects.”

  • An improving political/economic climate
  • Unexpected gains from redistricting
  • A big event that would shift the focus of the election onto topics more favorable to Democrats.
  • Contentions Republican primaries that produced flawed and bruised nominees

“Already we know that option two is a no-go. Earlier this spring, it looked as if Democrats might come out of the decennial process with a gain of up to 4 seats. That rosy scenario has since been dashed by the courts in states like New York and Kansas. Instead, as my colleague David Wasserman has expertly documented, Republicans are poised to pick up two seats from redistricting.”

“So, what about the other three possibilities? As of now, they aren’t looking all that promising either.”

“Less than 48 hours after his shocking defeat in North Carolina’s primary election, Rep. Madison Cawthorn took to Instagram to post a defiant, vengeful, and typo-riddled message promising a ‘Dark MAGA’ comeback,” the Daily Beast reports.

Said Cawthorn: “I am on a mission now to expose those who say and promise one thing yet legislate and work towards another, self-profiteering, globalist goal. It’s time for the rise of the new right, it’s time for Dark MAGA to truly take command.”

“The group that posted a viral sexually explicit video of a nude Rep. Madison Cawthorn in bed with another man is now focusing on Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado for its next takedown,” Insider reports.

TEXAS GOVERNOR. UT Tyler’s latest poll for the Dallas Morning News finds Republican incumbent Greg Abbott leading Democrat Beto O’Rourke 46-39. The school was last in the field back in February, and there’s a welcome methodology change from that earlier survey: While UT Tyler previously did not identify any candidate’s party affiliation in the general election portion of its poll, this new one includes this important information.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, who is one of the most far-right GOP candidates for governor, won the important state party endorsement by defeating healthcare executive Kendall Qualls 65-33 on the ninth and final ballot at Saturday’s convention. As we recently discussed, only once has a candidate for statewide office over the last 30 years lost the endorsement but won their primary, but it still remains to be seen if Jensen will have any serious opposition in the August contest to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz.

What we do know, though, is that at least two of the five Republicans who were running against Jensen have dropped out. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, who took third before he was eliminated after the sixth ballot, quickly threw his support behind Jensen, a move that likely helped the second-place candidate surge past Qualls. Qualls, for his part, put out a statement the day after his defeat making it clear his campaign was over.

Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek’s camp, though, responded to Saturday’s events by saying, “Rich and his campaign team are evaluating all options for moving forward to beat Walz in November.” Stanek, citing injuries from a car accident last month, didn’t end up attending the convention, and his name was not placed before delegates.

The remaining candidates, state Sen. Paul Gazelka and dermatologist Neil Shah, respectively backed Qualls and Murphy at the convention, and we’re awaiting word what they’ll do now; both men previously pledged to leave the race if someone else won the endorsement. These candidates, as well as anyone who wants to jump in late, have until the May 31 filing deadline to make up their minds.

A SurveyUSA poll released Thursday showed Walz leading Jensen 44-39, which was his smallest advantage against any of the six Republicans who were tested, but Democrats are hoping that the one-time state senator’s fringe views would make him a weak candidate. Jensen, who worked as a family physician, was banned from TikTok last year for spreading lies about the pandemic, offerings that included videos captioned, “Family doctor EXPOSES double masking craziness,” and “You are being played (by the CDC and WHO).”

The candidate last month pandered to Big Lie supporters when he called for jailing Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon, saying, “And Steve Simon, you maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you’ve gotten away with too much, too long under [Minnesota Attorney General Keith] Ellison, and the hammer’s coming down.” Jensen kept at this at Saturday’s convention as well with a video where, after he claimed “dead people voted,” he once again called for imprisoning Simon. Jensen also used that presentation to suggest that COVID death tolls were inflated and to promise to commute the sentence of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer convicted of killing Daunte Wright at a traffic stop.

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Sunday that he’d “experienced a minor stroke in the form of a small venous tear at the back of my head.” He added that he’d been “informed that there are no long-term effects or damage” and would return to the Senate “later this week.”

MARYLAND GOVERNOR. Former nonprofit head Wes Moore has unveiled a Garin-Hart-Yang Research internal of the July Democratic primary that shows the race is still wide open with 42% undecided and Moore trailing state Comptroller Peter Franchot by a modest 19-13 while former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker takes 11% and no other candidate breaks double digits. These results are similar to the few other polls we’ve seen here this year, each of which showed Franchot with a small lead while the biggest chunk of the electorate was still undecided.

KANSAS GOVERNOR. The RGA is spending six figures on an opening buy against Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly, and its first spot argues she’s too liberal for Kansas.

NBC News: “Trump is not planning to make any more personal appearances in Georgia on Perdue’s behalf, having sunk enough of his own political capital in a race that is looking like a lost cause.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. Former TV news anchor Kari Lake has publicized a late-April Cygnal internal that shows the Trump-backed conspiracy theorist beating Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson 47-22 in the August GOP primary. Lake also released numbers for the Senate nomination contest, where Cygnal finds a tight three-way race. Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon takes 20% as former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich grab 19% each.

SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY RECALL. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling has conducted a survey for the campaign opposing the recall effort against District Attorney Chesa Boudin, but it finds a 48-38 plurality in favor of ejecting the incumbent on June 7.

That’s better for Boudin than the 57-22 pro-recall result that Embold Research recently found for The San Francisco Standard, and his allies argued that PPP’s numbers show that “this is a much closer race than has been reported and will come down to turnout and how the late undecided voters break.” SFGate notes, though, that even if PPP has the correct read on the contest, Boudin would still need to win over the undecided by a herculean 93-7 margin in order to remain in office.

LOS ANGELES MAYOR. City Attorney Mike Feuer on Tuesday dropped out of the June 7 nonpartisan primary and endorsed Rep. Karen Bass. Feuer, whose name will remain on the ballot, made his move the week after City Councilman Joe Buscaino departed the race and backed Bass’ most serious rival, billionaire developer Rick Caruso. The race also includes City Councilman Kevin de León and several lesser-known contenders. The top-two vote-getters would advance to a November general election unless someone takes a majority of the vote next month.

MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL. Doug Wardlow, who was the 2018 Republican nominee for attorney general, announced Tuesday that he’d be competing in the August primary despite losing the party endorsement to attorney Jim Schultz at Friday’s convention. However, former state Rep. Dennis Smith announced hours later that he was abandoning his campaign​ to take on Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison and endorsing Schultz​​.

Wardlow currently serves as general counsel for MyPillow, which is run by Big Lie celebrity Mike Lindell, and the candidate threw some evidence-free attacks at his own party by claiming his “opponents brokered a backroom deal to wrest away the endorsement.” The state GOP fired back by blasting Wardlow’s “empty promise” to drop out if he lost the endorsement.

MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL. Rep. Anthony Brown is out with an internal from Garin-Hart-Yang Research that shows him beating former Baltimore Judge Katie Curran O’Malley 44-25 in the July Democratic primary for this open seat. This is the first survey we’ve seen of this contest.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Milwaukee Works, which calls “a 501(c)(4) that periodically polls on local policy issues and candidates,” is out with a survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that gives 2004 Senate nominee Tim Michels a tiny but surprising 27-26 edge over former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch ahead of the August Republican primary; businessman Kevin Nicholson is a distant third with 9%, while state Rep. Timothy Ramthun takes 6%. This is the first poll we’ve seen since Michels unexpectedly entered the race to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last month with a large opening ad buy.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has debuted his first TV ad, which is part of what the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel characterizes as a “multi-million dollar” campaign, months after his rivals began airing their own spots ahead of the August Democratic primary. The commercial features Barnes shopping for groceries as he asserts that most senators “couldn’t tell you the cost of a gallon of milk” or “how much beef has gone up this year,” while Barnes stresses his middle-class background and argues he isn’t like most senators or “any of the other millionaires running for Senate” in a subtle dig against his wealthy primary opponents.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Republican Rep. Garret Graves acknowledged this week that he’s considering running for governor next year, arguing, “It’s amazing how much discontent there is with the current roster.” He implied his decision would come after this fall’s congressional elections, saying that “right now I’m focused 100% on my campaign and my job now in Congress.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Army veteran Sam Brown’s newest ad for the June 14 Republican primary firmly embraces the Big Lie as he attacks frontrunner Adam Laxalt for failing to file the litigation trying to overturn Biden’s win in 2020 until weeks after the deadline. Brown’s spot argues that Laxalt should have known better as the state’s former attorney general and calls him a liar for claiming he “was not in charge of any lawsuits.”

NEVADA GOVERNOR. GOP firm OH Predictive Insights has once more surveyed the June 14 Republican primary on behalf of the nonpartisan Nevada Independent, and their latest poll finds Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo ahead by 35-15 against attorney Joe Gilbert. Former Sen. Dean Heller is mired in third with 11%, though that’s still slightly better than North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee’s 9% showing. The pollster’s previous offering back in January had found Lombardo ahead with a 28-9 edge over Heller.

IOWA U.S. SENATOR. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Michael Franken has publicized a poll of the June 7 Democratic primary from Change Research that finds him surging into a narrow 42-40 lead over former Rep. Abby Finkenauer. Franken’s campaign revealed that a previously unreleased month-old survey from the same firm had Finkenauer holding a large 53-26 edge over Franken, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2020 primary.

If those numbers are accurate, Franken’s advertising advantage may be a big reason why his standing has improved: Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin notes that Franken has spent at least $481,000 on TV ads since mid-April and another $544,000 on Facebook ads over the last three months. By contrast, Finkenauer has spent very little on Facebook and only began airing her first TV spot on Tuesday as part of a $75,000 ad buy for the first week. Her initial TV spot blames GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley for failing to stand up for democracy after Jan. 6 and draws a contrast between his 47 years in Congress and Finkenauer’s support for term limits.

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR. A new Fleming & Associates poll of the September Democratic primary for Roger Williams University and WPRI finds Gov. Dan McKee with just a 25-23 advantage over Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, while former Secretary of State Matt Brown is further behind with 7% and former CVS executive Helena Foulkes takes 6%. The only other numbers we’ve seen this year came from an April Lake Research Partners internal for Gorbea that found her up 30-24 over McKee, who ascended to the governor’s office last year after his predecessor Gina Raimondo joined Biden’s cabinet as commerce secretary.

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

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