The Political Report – August 12, 2022

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds President Biden’s approval rate rose this week to 40% — its highest level since early June following a string of legislative victories.

Key takeaway: 78% of respondents who identified as Democrats approved of Biden, up from 69% a month earlier. Only 12% of Republicans approved of Biden this week, a figure that has remained largely steady in recent weeks.

Democrats are now leading Republicans in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot tracker for the first time since November.

Dan Pfeiffer: “Up until recently, Democrats were stuck in a doom loop. That defeatism threatened to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. What activist, donor, or voter wants to sign up for a suicide mission? And to be honest, it’s been hard to make a reasonable, fact-based case that Democrats could upend the historical trends. However, over the last few weeks, the worm has turned. Democrats now have a legitimate shot to outpace expectations dramatically.”

“I am not devolving into a sunny guy. This is not a prediction. It is not an admonition against bedwetting. I think the odds are still against Democrats. We have an eternity till Election Day. The future looked quite dire three weeks ago, and may look just as dire in three weeks. But as we sit here today, one can make a credible bull case for Democrats.”

TEXAS GOVERNOR. “It may be funny to you motherfucker, but it’s not funny to me.” — Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke (D), when a heckler laughed when he mentioned the school shooting that killed 19 kids in Uvalde.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) told the New York Times that gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake ran a primary campaign that was “mean, untruthful and untethered to public policy.”  Said Brewer: “She went so far to the right that I don’t know if she can recover. And if she can’t, we’ll have a Democratic governor.”

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Just hours after winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Wisconsin, Tim Michels’ (R) campaign removed “Endorsed by President Trump” from his website bio, the New York Times reports.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR, GOVERNOR, LT. GOVERNOR. Charlie Bailey, who is the Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump’s Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.

OKLAHOMA U.S. SENATOR B. The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we’ve seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump’s endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.

Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn’t work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Mike Lee’s team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. Oklahoma’s Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.

The memo, which begins, “As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration,” says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. State Rep. Savannah Maddox earned an endorsement over the weekend from Rep. Thomas Massie, which makes him the first member of the state’s delegation to take sides in the 2023 Republican primary to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Maddox and Massie are close allies, and the duo this year backed three successful primary challenges against Maddox’s colleagues.

Meanwhile, one of Maddox’s prospective intra-party foes sounds more likely to run for lieutenant governor rather than make a bid for the top job. State Sen. Max Wise responded to rumors that he could campaign on former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft’s ticket by saying, “Kelly Craft will be a very credible candidate in an already crowded Republican primary. I am honored to even be mentioned as a running mate with her.” Craft herself has not yet entered the race, but she’s insisted that she’s still very interested even though her former boss, Donald Trump, endorsed Attorney General Daniel Cameron back in June.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. The Democratic group Alliance for a Better Minnesota has launched a spot against former state Sen. Scott Jensen that plays the Republican nominee’s own anti-abortion comments for the audience, a strategy Democrats have employed in other contests this cycle.

The ad opens with an interviewer asking, “If you were governor, would you try to impose new restrictions on abortion or would you try to ban it outright?” to which Jensen responds, “I would try to ban abortion.” The rest of the commercial features several women expressing their anger at Jensen, with one saying, “A woman should not be criminalized for having an abortion.”

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has publicized a survey from Public Policy Polling that shows her trailing Rep. Charlie Crist 42-35 in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary to face GOP incumbent Ron DeSantis. That’s considerably closer than the 56-24 Crist lead that St. Pete Polls found in its recent survey for Florida Politics, though a June Fried internal from a third firm, Global Strategy Group, showed her down only 38-34.

Crist, meanwhile, is airing a commercial that includes 2009 footage of the then-Republican governor hugging President Barack Obama. That embrace became fodder for Crist’s many right-wing critics during his Senate primary campaign that cycle against Marco Rubio (Crist went on to unsuccessfully compete for the seat as an independent before becoming a Democrat in 2012), but this time, the congressman is the one focusing on the hug. Crist this week also earned an endorsement from Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who leads Florida’s most populous county.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. The conservative Senate Leadership Fund has booked an additional $9.5 million in ad time to support Republican Mehmet Oz, which takes its total planned investment to $34 million. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the group will also begin its ad campaign on Aug. 19 instead of the second week of September as originally planned. SLF’s counterparts at Senate Majority PAC have reserved $32 million to help Democrat John Fetterman, and it launched its first commercial this week.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling finds Democrat Cheri Beasley edging out Republican Ted Budd 46-42 in a survey that was not conducted for a client.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Tuesday he is “planning on running” for governor next year, but he stopped short of definitively announcing his long-anticipated campaign. WAFB writes that Nungesser “said he plans to hit the campaign trail in January 2023.”

WYOMING AT LARGE CD. Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman’s bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis’ spokesperson said back in September, “While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman.”

John Harris writes a concession speech for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) after her primary next week since “all signs suggest she aims to turn a congressional defeat into a presidential campaign.”

WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL. The Associated Press has called Tuesday’s Republican primary for Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, who defeated former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a 37.5-36.9 squeaker. Toney will now go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.

WASHINGTON SECRETARY OF STATE. The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.

CHICAGO MAYOR. Mayor Lori Lightfoot picked up her latest opponent on Wednesday when Alderman Sophia King announced that she would compete in next year’s contest. However, while the nonpartisan primary doesn’t take place until late February, petitioning to get on the ballot starts Aug. 28 and lasts until Nov. 28. Candidates need to turn in 12,500 valid signatures, though most serious contenders will try to collect at least three times this amount to give themselves a cushion in a city where petition challenges are a way of life.

Lightfoot was elected in a 74-26 landslide in 2019 against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a win that made her both the first Black woman and gay person to serve as mayor. But while Lightfoot, who had never appeared on the ballot before, was able to consolidate diverse groups of voters who were united by their dislike for Preckwinkle, things are very different now that the mayor has spent more than three years in office dealing with the pandemic, the city’s stubborn crime rate, and numerous other issues.

One former ally, Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t support Lightfoot again by declaring, “I have never met anybody who has managed to piss off every single person they come in contact with—police, fire, teachers, aldermen, businesses, manufacturing.”

And Garza is far from alone in her criticism, as the Chicago Tribune’s Laura Washington writes that unreleased polls from “Lightfoot’s opponents and others have pegged her public approval rating at lower than 30%.” Washington adds, “Her showing appears weakest in predominantly white wards on the lakefront and the Northwest and Southwest sides, where many city and public safety workers live. They are incensed about policing, crime and rising taxes.”  

King, who is a friend of Barack Obama, is the sixth notable challenger to announce. The field already includes two fellow aldermen: Roderick Sawyer, whose late father, Eugene Sawyer, was named mayor following Harold Washington’s death in 1987; and Raymond Lopez, who would be both the first Latino and gay man to lead America’s third-largest city. Another elected official in the running is state Rep. Kam Buckner, though he attracted unfavorable attention in April when he pled guilty to a DUI almost a decade after he entered a guilty plea for the same offense.

The other three candidates all are veterans of the 2019 nonpartisan primary. There’s wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, who took fourth with 11% and waged an independent campaign the next year against Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. Another familiar name is former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who snagged ninth with just 5%. They’re joined by activist Ja’Mal Green, who failed to make the ballot after Wilson challenged his petitions.

Plenty of other notable names are also eyeing this race. The most prominent belongs to former Gov. Pat Quinn, who said he’d make up his mind at the end of the summer. Quinn lost a competitive 2014 re-election campaign to Republican Bruce Rauner (Quinn’s running mate that year was Vallas), and he tried to revive his career four years later by campaigning for attorney general. Quinn, though, was defeated in the Democratic primary by then-state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who prevailed 30-27 statewide and took Chicago by a wider 38-23 margin.

The Tribune also lists state Rep. La Shawn Ford; former city commissioner of buildings Judy Frydland; Chicago Teachers Union president Stacy Davis Gates; Alderman Brian Hopkins; and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson in the maybe list, while Politico adds that attorney Gery Chico is thinking about it. Chico ran in the crowded 2019 race and clocked in just ahead of Vallas with 6%, while Ford ended up taking all of 1%.

Lightfoot, for her part, launched her re-election campaign in June with a video where she proclaimed, “The fact is because of you, Chicago is coming back. When we got knocked down by COVID, we came together as a city and we got right back up because that’s who we are and that’s how we’ve been able to make so much progress despite all that’s been thrown at us.” If no one wins a majority of the vote next February, a runoff would take place in April.

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

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