The Political Report – 7/28/22

The FiveThirtyEight forecast shows Democrats for the first time with a 51% chance to win control of the U.S. Senate, while the Decision Desk forecast shows Republicans with a 51% chance to win control.

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds 62% of voters — including 52% of Republicans — would support a new law that clarifies that the Vice President cannot reject state-certified electoral votes.

The survey finds President Biden’s approval rate at a dismal 37%, but nonetheless finds Democrats leading the generic congressional ballot by four points, 45% to 41%.

A new CNN poll finds a public consensus has emerged that former President Donald Trump acted at least unethically in trying to hold on to his office after the 2020 election.

Key findings: 79% feel he acted either unethically or illegally, including 45% who believe his actions were illegal, 61% say he encouraged political violence in his public statements ahead of January 6, and 77% said he could have done more to stop the attack once it had begun.

All told, the poll finds that 69% of Americans consider the January 6 attack to be a crisis or major problem for American democracy.

A new University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics poll finds that more than one in four Americans are so alienated from their government that they believe it may “soon be necessary to take up arms” against it.

“That startling finding, which comes in the midst of congressional hearings into the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, was just one of several reflections of the dangerous level of estrangement many Americans feel from each other and our democratic institutions.”

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. “National and state Republicans have spent a year hoping someone — anyone — would prevent disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens from becoming the Republican Senate nominee in Missouri,” Politico reports.

“In just the nick of time, it appears their wish is coming true, as the former governor has dropped to third place in new polls amid a flurry of TV ads featuring allegations of domestic abuse. The primary will be held Aug. 2.”

The political tipsheet MO Scout has released a new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group that shows Attorney General Eric Schmitt leading Rep. Vicky Hartzler 32-25 in next week’s Republican primary, with disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens at 18%. Last month Remington had Schmitt outpacing Greitens 25-20, while it was Hartzler who took third with 19%.

The new survey comes at a time when Greitens is getting utterly blasted on the airwaves. NBC reports that Show Me Values PAC, a group set up to stop the former governor, has spent $6.2 million on ads over the last few weeks. Missouri First Action PAC has been defending the governor, but it’s so far deployed a far-smaller $900,000 on TV. A different pro-Greitens group, Team PAC, currently isn’t running ads.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, citing his lack of money, announced Monday that he was leaving the Aug. 9 Democratic primary and endorsing Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

“Although Nelson was running fourth in the polls, the move could provide a significant boost for Barnes, who is locked in a tight race with Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, with state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski further behind.”

“The primary winner will meet Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in November.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution/University of Georgia poll finds Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) just ahead of challenger Herschel Walker (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 46% to 43%.

In the race for governor, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) leads challenger Stacey Abrams (D), 48% to 43%.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) put out a new ad urging challenger Herschel Walker (R) to commit to debates in their Senate race.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: “The time and place have been named… Walker, however, still hasn’t confirmed any dates, and some GOP political observers don’t think he will. Instead, he has made a sport of moving the goalposts for the events, drawing attention away from other issues that have dogged his Senate bid.”

Politico: “The Warnock-Walker matchup in Georgia isn’t the only midterm race where the Senate GOP is starting to worry about blowing it in a tough environment for Democrats. From Pennsylvania to Ohio to Georgia to Arizona, Republicans are being outraised and not yet running away with must-win races that they need to flip the Senate in November.”

Said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT): “Let’s just say Herschel Walker, I think, is having a hard time getting his running legs back.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Arizona Republicans have splintered multiple ways as the party tries to unseat Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ),” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“With the Senate GOP primary looming Aug. 2, polls have shown Blake Masters taking a lead after drawing the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and millions of dollars in campaign help from his mentor and former boss, venture capitalist Peter Thiel. While the field is crowded, Mr. Masters’s top competitors are seen as businessman Jim Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich.”

The Republican pollster Battleground Connect’s newest look at next week’s GOP primary finds wealthy businessman Jim Lamon edging out former Thiel Capital chief operating officer Blake Masters 33-28, while Attorney General Mark Brnovich lagged in third with 16%. The firm’s last poll from earlier this month showed Lamon ahead 29-27, but every other survey we’ve seen since early June has put Masters in the lead. Battleground Connect did not mention a client in either poll.

Lamon, for his part, is continuing to air ads portraying the Trump-backed Masters as too weird to represent Arizona. His latest piece opens with 2008 footage of Masters, who will turn 36 just after the primary, donned in what’s supposed to represent Native American war paint and rapping, “I keep on rapping but you know how it goes/  Those guys get gunned down and they get no hoes.” The commercial then plays a 2022 clip of the candidate calling Ted Kaczynski a “subversive thinker that’s underrated” before acknowledging that it’s “probably not great to be talking about the Unabomber while campaigning.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Mitchell Research’s newest survey for the political tip-sheet MIRS finds conservative radio host Tudor Dixon maintaining her frontrunner status ahead of next week’s chaotic Republican primary even as wealthy businessman Kevin Rinke gains ground. The results of its July 17-18 poll are below, with the numbers from its July 7-8 survey in parentheses:

  • Conservative radio host Tudor Dixon: 28 (26)
  • Businessman Kevin Rinke: 20 (13)
  • Real estate agent Ryan Kelley: 15 (15)
  • Chiropractor Garrett Soldano: 10 (13)
  • Pastor Ralph Rebandt: 1 (1)
  • Undecided: 26 (33)

The only survey that we’ve seen in the interim was from The Glengariff Group for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV, and it found things even more unsettled in the race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: Dixon edged out Rinke 19-15, while Kelley and Soldano were just behind with 13% each. The results could be even more muddled still, as neither Mitchell nor Glengariff appears to have offered respondents the opportunity to volunteer the name of James Craig, the former Detroit Police chief who is running a write-in campaign after getting booted off the ballot in late May.

Campaign fundraising reports were also due Friday, covering the period spanning Jan. 1 to July 17, and they confirm that the self-funding Rinke goes into the final days with a huge financial edge over his intra-party rivals:

  • Craig: $1.3 million raised, $2 million spent, $88,000 cash-on-hand
  • Dixon: $1.2 million raised, $731,000 spent, $538,000 cash-on-hand
  • Soldano: $736,000 raised, $719,000 spent, $332,000 cash-on-hand
  • Rinke: $400,000 raised, additional $8 million self-funded, $5.7 million spent, $4.2 million cash-on-hand
  • Kelley: $208,000 raised, $203,000 spent, $38,000 cash-on-hand
  • Rebandt: $163,000 raised, $164,000 spent, $6,000 cash-on-hand

While Craig nominally raised more from donors during the first half of the year, all but $50,000 of that came before May 26, the day that the Board of State Canvassers kept him off the ballot over forged petition signatures. The reports also reveal that Craig paid at least $218,000 to the firm at the center of the signature scandal.

Kelley, meanwhile, raised more than half of this haul on or after June 9, the day the FBI arrested him on misdemeanor charges related to his role in the Jan. 6 riot. But Kelley’s increased notoriety wasn’t enough to power him past most of his rivals in the money race, and he now has little left for the final days.

Dixon, for her part, deployed a miniscule $20,000 on TV and social media this year through July 17—less than the $22,000 she spent to stage a February fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago that gave her the chance to suck up to Trump (and line his pockets).

However, she’s been getting some major help on the airwaves: Michigan Families United, a super PAC partially funded by the DeVos family, has dropped $2 million to support her. Rinke has tried to turn Dixon’s support from Betsy DeVos, who resigned as Trump’s secretary of education one day after the Jan. 6 attack, into a liability, and he’s aired ads declaring she’s “taken millions from the same billionaires who tried to illegally remove Trump from office.”

Dixon has responded with a commercial featuring old footage of Trump praising her, though that’s by no means the only way she’s trying to appeal to hardcore conservatives. The candidate has adamantly argued that abortion should only be allowed to protect the “life of the mother” and that there should be no exceptions for rape or incest. Podcaster Charlie LeDuff asked Dixon last week, “The question would be like, a 14-year-old who, let’s say, is a victim of abuse by an uncle, you’re saying carry that?” Dixon responded, “Yeah, perfect example … okay … because I know people who are the product — a life is a life for me.”

Whoever emerges from next week’s scrum will be in for a very expensive fight against Whitmer. The governor, who has no primary opposition, hauled in $9.5 million during the first six-and-a-half months of the year, and she finished with a huge $14.7 million war chest.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. Associated Press: “When he crushed a nine-person field to win the GOP nomination for Pennsylvania governor in May, some in the party warned that Mastriano’s far-right views on everything from abortion to the 2020 presidential election would squander an otherwise attainable seat in a critical battleground state.”

“But now, as the general election season intensifies, the GOP machinery is cranking up to back Mastriano’s campaign and attack his Democratic rival, Josh Shapiro.”

While Democrat Josh Shapiro enjoys a massive financial edge over Republican Doug Mastriano, a prominent conservative megadonor is now putting aside his earlier animosity for Mastriano and taking action to flip the governor’s office. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin reports that Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a group funded by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass, has launched an $8.5 million ad buy tying Shapiro to Joe Biden, which makes this the first time the attorney general has been on the receiving end of a TV attack ad during this campaign.

Yass, a financier with a reportedly long record of avoiding taxes, was no fan of Mastriano, a QAnon ally who tried to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory, during this spring’s primaries. He even tried to convince former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, a rival candidate who Yass spent millions to promote, to drop out in order to stop Mastriano; Yass relayed to the New York Times that he told McSwain, “This is about the cause, not about you,” and that his departure would give the party a better chance to stop “wealthy Democrats like Josh Shapiro.” McSwain stuck around, though, and took a distant third in May against Mastriano.

Yass has now gone further than other old Mastriano skeptics to try to stop Shapiro, but as the Associated Press’ Marc Levy reports, he’s far from the only one who’s now falling into line. Just before the primary, two unnamed sources told the National Journal that the RGA was “unlikely” to spend on Mastriano in a general election. But the group’s co-chair, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, this month very much didn’t rule out coming to his aid, while Mastriano himself spoke at an RGA donor event last week.

Still, Levy writes that plenty of members of “the party’s traditional donor community” are holding off on helping Mastriano at a time when he badly needs the cash. NBC reports that Shapiro has spent $8.5 million on ads since the primary ended, while Mastriano has deployed a mere $40,000 on digital spots.

By contrast, Media Matters highlights that Mastriano spent $5,000 in April on “campaign consulting” from Gab, a website that has become a haven for neo-Nazis and other openly extreme-right groups, and that new accounts automatically follow him. Gab founder Andrew Torba, who regularly traffics in antisemitic conspiracy theories, proudly said of the Mastriano campaign, “This isn’t a big tent. This is a Christian movement. Full stop.”

Shapiro is also now running a new spot reminding viewers how Mastriano in 2020 sponsored a bill in the state Senate “to overturn the election results and declare Trump the winner.” The narrator continues by warning, “Mastriano doesn’t care about your vote. He wants to pick the winner, a frightening preview of how he’d run Pennsylvania as governor.” That statement is accompanied by a clip of the Republican nominee bragging, “As governor, I get to decertify any or all machines in the state.”

ILLINOIS U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. The Republican firm Victory Research is out with the first general election poll we’ve seen since the GOP primary concluded last month, and it finds Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker defeating far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey 49-39. The same sample favors Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth 43-34 over Republican Kathy Salvi, an attorney who has generated little attention.

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR. Gov. Dan McKee earned endorsements Monday from two powerful labor organizations that twice tried to defeat him, the state AFL-CIO and National Education Association Rhode Island, ahead of the September Democratic primary.

McKee as mayor of Cumberland earned a reputation as an ardent supporter of charter schools, and both groups waged an unsuccessful effort to deny him renomination in 2008. Six years later, after McKee claimed the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, the AFL-CIO and state NEA even took the rare step of endorsing his Republican foe.

The NEA acknowledged its turbulent history with McKee in its endorsement message but said that he’d proven himself an ally of teachers as governor. The AFL-CIO also praised his record in office and commended its former adversary for signing into law “several pieces of legislation important to union members.”

Vanity Fair: “GOP politicians are increasingly shirking sit-down interviews, barring journalists from 2022 events, and skipping debates—an aversion to media scrutiny that could upend how the next presidential election cycle is covered.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) “is experiencing a rarity at home compared to most other senators: an improved job approval rating,” Morning Consult reports. Murkowski “has seen her popularity improve more than almost any other senator throughout Joe Biden’s presidency.”

“Online fund-raising has slowed across much of the Republican Party in recent months, an unusual pullback of small donors that has set off a mad rush among Republican political operatives to understand why — and reverse the sudden decline before it damages the party’s chances this fall,” the New York Times reports.

“Small-dollar donations typically increase as an election nears. But just the opposite has happened in recent months across a wide range of Republican entities, including every major party committee and former President Donald Trump’s political operation.”

“In a sign of growing political activism, more than 300 people have registered to vote in Uvalde since the shooting—more than double the number in the same period during the last midterm election season,” the AP reports.

KANSAS GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly outraised Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who faces only minor opposition in next week’s GOP primary, $1.5 million to $710,000 from Jan. 1 to July 21, though it was Schmidt who finished with a $1.5 million to $1.3 million cash-on-hand lead. State Sen. Dennis Pyle, a former Republican campaigning as a conservative independenthad $35,000 to spend after raising about that same amount; Pyle has until Monday to turn in the 5,000 signatures he needs to make the ballot.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN that he’s been advising Donald Trump to wait until after the midterm election to announce another presidential bid.  He added that he doesn’t know if Trump’s yet made a decision on running again.

“The current front-runners for the Republican presidential nod are both in Florida. Whether Palm Beach or Tallahassee is more likely to produce the eventual winner might depend on if GOP voters here and around the country want an encore from the party’s most dominant voice or prefer to hand the stage to its fast-climbing star,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. New fundraising reports covering the time from June 1 to July 18 show Democratic incumbent Tim Walz outpacing his likely Republican rival, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, $870,000 to $550,000. Jensen essentially secured the GOP nod on the first day of this period when filing closed without any other serious candidates getting in, and his newest haul represents an improvement from the $470,000 he took in during the first five months of the year. Still, Walz maintains an intimidating $5 million to $580,000 cash-on-hand lead.

HAWAII GOVERNOR. Mason-Dixon, polling on behalf of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, shows Lt. Gov. Josh Green with a huge 55-19 lead over businesswoman Vicky Cayetano ahead of the Aug. 13 Democratic primary, with Rep. Kai Kahele at 16%. The only other recent survey we’ve seen was a late-June poll from MRG Research that showed Green defeating Kahele 48-16. Mason-Dixon also took a look at the GOP primary but only sampled 133 respondents, which is far below the 300 minimum we require to report on a poll in the Digest.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. Blueprint Polling, a Democratic firm, shows the party well-situated in both of the commonwealth’s statewide races. The poll, which was not done on behalf of a client involved in the race, finds John Fetterman beating Republican Mehmet Oz 49-40 for Senate, while fellow Democrat Josh Shapiro enjoys a 51-39 advantage over Doug Mastriano.

This is the first poll we’ve seen to find Shapiro doing better than Fetterman, and it also represents Shapiro’s best survey to date. Blueprint is also the first firm to release numbers in over a month: The last poll was from the GOP firm Cygnal in mid-June, and it showed Fetterman and Shapiro ahead only 44-40 and 48-45, respectively.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. We have radically different takes on next week’s Republican primary for Arizona’s open governorship from two different GOP pollsters, though neither is exactly an impartial observer.

First up is Data Orbital’s survey showing Trump’s candidate, former TV anchor Kari Lake, with a wide 43-32 lead over Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, a considerable surge from her 39-35 edge in previously unreleased numbers from the same firm gathered earlier this month.

Data Orbital did not mention a client or any link to any of the candidates, but the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts noted that the company’s head, George Khalaf, is the son of Lake’s campaign treasurer in a column that dubbed the firm “Lake’s unofficial pollster.”

Robson, who is backed by termed-out Gov. Doug Ducey, responded to the Data Orbital poll by releasing an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that found her deadlocked with Lake 43-43. This is the best showing we’ve seen for Robson since late June, when former Rep. Matt Salmon publicized a Moore Information poll conducted just before he dropped out that had her up 38-37; Salmon has since endorsed Robson, though his name remains on the ballot.

Robson, who is mostly self-funding her campaign, has enjoyed a massive spending advantage, and she outpaced Lake $1.9 million to $420,000 during the first 16 days of the month. Lake, however, has received $2 million in outside support from a PAC called Put Arizona First ostensibly funded entirely by a California medical supply business called SPH Medical.

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

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