Delaware

The Political Report – 7/30/22

Three new congressional generic polls have come out over the last week, two of which give the Democrats a six point advantage and one of which gives a 4 point margin. One of those 6 point margins is actually a Republican party poll.

Various other midterm metrics continue to move slowly but perceptibly in Democrats direction. It is definitely possible that Democrats can hold the House and gain several seats in the Senate.

One additional data point is this write up of one of those new congressional generic ballot polls, the one from Morning Consult/Politico. It notes the continuing disconnect between the popularity of President Biden and the popularity of members of his party serving in Congress. That persistent disjuncture is one factor that has led to a growing reevaluation of the dynamics of this election. Polling density has increased enough over the last few months that observers have decided that the disjuncture isn’t a fluke or an artifact of limited polling. They’re not moving in unison. And that’s definitely not the norm. The new Morning Consult poll suggests that the January 6th hearings are seriously souring independents on Donald Trump. And that shift is, in turn, showing up in the generic ballots numbers.

At least according to this one poll, the weight of the January 6th hearings is pushing voters to see the midterms more as a choice between Republicans and Democrats than a referendum on the President or the state of the country generally.

Over the last six weeks the 538 average of the congressional generic ballot has move from a 2.6 point GOP advantage to a .5 point GOP advantage. That is a small movement. But across dozens of polls and probably tens of thousands of voters we can be fairly confident that this is a real movement rather than statistical noise. Two points still is relatively small. But remember, we’re talking about a spectrum in which the distance between Democrats holding the House and getting blown out in a wave is measured in perhaps 6 or at most 7 points. So in that context it’s a big move.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. The Kansas City Star has a must-read article about how Eric Greitens (R) “went dark” before announcing his U.S. Senate bid.

“For the next year, eight months and 13 days, Greitens would not post on social media. He isolated himself from long-time friends and Missouri politicos. He separated from his wife. He appeared aimless, bumping from one former occupation to another, talking of writing a book, of being shipped to the Middle East with the Navy, of doing something in the media. He surrounded himself with people who, like him, believed he’d been the victim of a dirty political trick, one that had torn everything out from under him because he was fighting for the people of Missouri.”

“For the longest time, Greitens had the veneer of a man incapable of failure. People told stories about his perfectionism and his high expectations. But underneath the success was a powerful man with a seeming unwillingness to respect boundaries — the boundaries of campaign law, the boundaries of the woman with whom he had an affair. The veneer had slipped off.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. In an unexpected development two weeks ahead of Wisconsin’s primary, former Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry abandoned his bid for Senate and endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, saying “it was clear there was no path forward for us to be able to win.” The move came two days after Outagamie Executive Tom Nelson did the same thing, making Barnes the undisputed frontrunner for the nomination.

One other notable Democrat, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, remains in the race, and she insisted on Wednesday that would not quit. But Barnes also released a poll from Impact Research taken before both Nelson and Lasry dropped out showing him with a 39-25 lead on Lasry, with Godlewski far back at 12 and Nelson at 5. Every other public poll of the race has likewise found Barnes in front while Godlewski has never rated higher than third place.

Disney confirmed to Axios that it “would allow political issue ads — in addition to candidate ads — on Hulu’s streaming service, effective immediately, bringing Hulu’s ad policies to parity with Disney’s cable networks.”

“The change comes amid a controversy over Hulu’s decision to reject political issue ads around guns and abortions from Democratic groups.”

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. While the Club for Growth has not endorsed anyone in the Aug. 9 Republican primary, NBC reports that the anti-tax group has dropped $1.1 million into a TV and radio campaign to defeat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The TV spot argues that in office, Kleefisch “used taxpayer resources, traveling across the globe on junkets hosted by foreign interests,” a statement that’s accompanied by a huge flag of China.

MAINE GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills continues to maintain a large financial edge ahead of her general election battle with her predecessor, Paul LePage. Mills outraised the Republican $600,000 to $310,000 during the period covering June 1 to July 19, and she finished with a $2.7 million to $1.1 million cash-on-hand lead.

Several past Maine statewide contests, including LePage’s 2010 and 2014 victories, featured at least one prominent independent or third-party candidate, but that won’t be the case this time. The only other contender on the ballot is independent Sam Hunkler, who had just over $600 to spend.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR. Suffolk University’s newest survey for the Boston Globe shows Attorney General Maura Healey, who has the Democratic primary to herself, posting huge leads over both of her prospective Republican foes. Healey beats out former state Rep. Geoff Diehl 54-23, while she enjoys a nearly-identical 54-22 advantage over self-funding businessman Chris Doughty.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Politico reports that conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, who helped bankroll far-right state Sen. Darren Bailey’s June victory in the Republican primary, has contributed another $5 million to the candidate this month. Uihlein has also made a larger $15 million donation to Bailey’s allied PAC, People Who Play By The Rules.

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. Former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn is airing her first TV ad of the race, and despite running in dark-red Oklahoma, she makes abortion the centerpiece. She says that the state “now has the most extreme abortion ban in the country, which puts all of us at risk” and warns that the likely GOP nominee, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, “promises to make this ban federal law.” Horn also notes that Oklahoma “has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate,” making it one of 17 states in this ignominious club. Mullin still faces a runoff with former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon on Aug. 23, but he’s the heavy favorite after leading the first round by a 44-18 margin last month.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. With less than a week to go before the primary, a DGA-backed group is spending a reported $2 million to attack Republican Tudor Dixon, but the effort doesn’t appear to be the sort of now-common Democratic meddling in GOP nominating contests for a few reasons.

For starters, the ads that Put Michigan First is running are legit attacks—they hammer Dixon for a plan to cut the state’s income tax that would mean “less cops on the street”—not the “Joe Schmendrick is too conservative!” subterfuge you typically see. There’s also nothing to suggest that Dixon’s chief rival, businessman Kevin Rinke, is more problematic and less electable. In fact, he’s the only Republican candidate who hasn’t fully embraced the Big Lie, and an independent survey earlier this month showed Rinke and Dixon turning in virtually identical—and equally poor—performances against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Put Michigan First has also hit Dixon before, as part of an ad savaging every candidate in the field, Rinke included: Dixon was dinged as “an actress in low-budget horror movies”—one film “featured two people having sex in a bathroom stall and a zombie biting a man’s genitals”—while Rinke was branded “a car salesman sued for harassment”; more on that here.

The DGA ran a similar campaign in Nevada tagging frontrunner Joe Lombardo as weak on crime before his primary, a move that was widely interpreted at the time as Democrats once again trying to pick their opponent. But as in Michigan, the DGA didn’t try to elevate a specific alternative. One unnamed insider said of Lombardo, “If he doesn’t make it through the primary, then we’ve knocked out what is seen as the front-runner,” suggesting that there was still a benefit to the gambit even if Lombardo prevailed—by weakening the ultimate nominee with an attack that would speak to a broad range of the political spectrum.

So too with Dixon, who’s the closest thing Michigan Republicans have to a frontrunner of their own after an extremely messy race that saw multiple major contenders booted off the ballot for petition fraud. Recent polls have given Dixon a small lead over Rinke, including a brand new one from Republican pollster Mitchell Research for MIRS News that has her up 28-22, and the powerful DeVos family is in her corner. Donald Trump has also praised her in the past, and the Detroit News recently reported that she’s “viewed as the top contender for Trump’s possible endorsement,” though he hasn’t backed her yet.

Democrats may therefore be seeking to bang up Dixon chiefly to wound her if she does win the primary, but if they cause her to stumble and hand the nomination to Rinke or another wannabe, so much the better.

OHIO 7TH CD. Max Miller (R), the Donald Trump-backed candidate to unseat a GOP congressman in Ohio, has a history of aggressive behavior, Politico reports.

“Miller can be a cocky bully with a quick-trigger temper. He has a record of speeding, underage drinking and disorderly conduct—documented charges from multiple jurisdictions that include a previously unreported charge in 2011 for driving under the influence that he subsequently pleaded down to a more minor offense.”

“And barely more than a year ago, according to three people familiar with the incident, Miller’s romantic relationship with former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ended when he pushed her against a wall and slapped her in the face in his Washington apartment after she accused him of cheating on her.”

CALIFORNIA 40TH CD. Republican Rep. Young Kim and the NRCC have jointly released a mid-July poll from Public Opinion Strategies that shows the congresswoman beating her Democratic opponent, physician Asif Mahmood, by a 51-35 margin. This is the first poll of the race, but its 16-point spread is similar to the overall margins of June’s top-two primary, when a trio of Republican candidates, including Kim, combined for 59% while Mahmood took 41%. Joe Biden would have carried this redrawn district in eastern Orange County by a 50-48 margin, according to Dave’s Redistricting App.

VERMONT AT LARGE CD. The University of New Hampshire, polling on behalf of WCAX, finds state Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray by a lopsided 63-21 in the first survey we’ve seen of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary since filing closed in the spring. Either candidate would end Vermont’s status as the only state to never elect a woman to Congress, while Balint would also be the first gay person to represent the Green Mountain State in D.C.

Balint, who has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, and Gray have each raised comparable amounts in the contest to succeed Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for Vermont’s other Senate seat. However, a trio of organizations―the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Equality PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC―have spent a total of just under $850,000 to promote Balint, while there have been no independent expenditures for Gray. VTDigger notes that this sort of outside spending is rare in state politics, though not unheard of: In 2016, notably, the RGA spent $3 million on the successful effort to elect Phil Scott governor.

WASHINGTON 3RD and 4TH CDs. Outside groups are continuing to spend serious money ahead of Tuesday’s top-two primary on separate efforts to boost a pair of Republicans who voted for impeachment, 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and 4th District Rep. Dan Newhouse, against their Trump-backed rivals.

In the 3rd in southwest Washington, a group called Conservatives for A Stronger America has deployed close to $400,000 on a TV buy that argues Army veteran Joe Kent wants to defund the police. The commercial features clips of the candidate saying, “Federal law enforcement grants, I would cut that off cold,” and, “Also, cutting off federal law enforcement funding.” Kent himself has made news for his ties to far-right extremists, though the ad unsurprisingly doesn’t mention that.

This PAC made news a little while ago when it dropped another $740,000 into efforts to promote a different Republican, evangelical author Heidi St. John, a move Kent argued was intended to “prop up a spoiler candidate and split the vote so they can re-elect the Establishment’s RINO incumbent, Jaime Herrera Beutler.”

Kent himself, though, has also tried a similar maneuver, though on a much smaller scale. Last week, the Washington Observer’s Paul Queary reported that Kent sent out mailers ostensibly attacking one of the two Democratic candidates, auto repair shop owner Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, for being the one “pro-choice candidate for Congress.”

Queary noted that Kent was trying to influence Democrats to support Perez instead of Herrera Beutler, whose own messaging has been aimed at winning over middle-of-the-road voters, in an attempt to stop the incumbent from advancing to the general election. Trump would have carried this district 51-46, so it’s quite possible Perez will reach the second round instead of Herrera Beutler or Kent. (The other Democrat on the ballot, 2020 candidate Davy Ray, hasn’t reported bringing in any money.)

And while Kent sports Trump’s backing, he’s raised far less cash than Herrera Beutler and doesn’t have any major outside groups spending on his behalf. The congresswoman, by contrast, has benefited from $1 million in support from Winning For Women Action Fund, a super PAC funded in part by the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The dynamics are similar one seat to the east in the 4th, where Defending Main Street has so far deployed $1.2 million to support Newhouse or attack Trump’s choice, 2020 gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp. One of the establishment-aligned PAC’s new spots accuses Culp of being a tax dodger who was “caught enriching himself with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations,” while others praise the congressman for “standing up to China” and fighting to protect the Snake River dams.

Culp has badly struggled with fundraising, and like Kent, he’s also received no serious outside support. Five other Republicans are campaigning here including self-funding businessman Jerrod Sessler and state Rep. Brad Klippert, while businessman Doug White is the one Democrat running for this 57-40 Trump constituency.

WASHINGTON 3RD CD. “A congressional candidate whose compelling personal story of military valor and unfathomable loss helped him win former President Donald Trump’s support has connections to right-wing extremists, including a campaign consultant who was a member of the Proud Boys,” the AP reports.

“Republican Joe Kent, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state in the Aug. 2 primary, has also courted prominent white nationalists and posed recently for a photograph with a media personality who has previously described Adolf Hitler as a ‘complicated historical figure’ who ‘many people misunderstand.’”

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

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