The Political Report – August 13, 2022

A new Fox News poll shows the generic congressional ballot tied with 41% backing the Democratic candidate in their House district and 41% the Republican.

The GOP had a 3-point edge in July and June, and a 7-point advantage in May.

Key finding: The shift in vote preference mainly comes from women. They preferred the GOP candidate by 1 point in May and now go for the Democrat by 6.

On this day before the Republican wave in the 2010 midterm elections, RealClearPolitics showed Republicans ahead in the generic ballot by six percentage points. Today, it’s basically tied.

Rasmussen Reports, the favorite pollster of Republicans, has President Biden’s approval rate rising to 45%.

The voters to watch are the 18% who disapprove of Biden but still plan to vote for Democrats in House and Senate races.

Politico: “Democrats recently inched ahead of Republicans on the generic ballot, a leading indicator of midterm performance. Kansas demonstrated the salience of Roe v. Wade. And on Tuesday night, a Minnesota special election became the second consecutive contest to suggest Democratic candidates may be better positioned to compete in November than once expected.”

Josh Kraushaar: “The results suggest Republicans are still well on track to win the House majority in 2022, but not by the historic margins that once looked possible. They also indicate that Republicans can’t rely on a big red wave to sweep in their flawed Senate nominees in battleground states.”

Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board is warning the midterms could go sideways for Republicans.

WYOMING AT LARGE CD. A new University of Wyoming poll of Republican primary voters finds Harriet Hageman (R) leading Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) by nearly 30 points in the primary race, 57% to 28%, which is even larger than the 52-30 Hageman lead Mason-Dixon found a month ago.

Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) closing ad in her Republican primary is all about her work on the January 6 committee investigating Donald Trump and his attempts to subvert the 2020 election.

Ruy Teixeira: “Democrats are having a great deal of trouble holding on to Hispanic voters. In 2020, running against Donald Trump for a second time, in the midst of a COVID/economic crisis and after  the George Floyd summer of “racial reckoning”, Democrat Joe Biden actually did quite a bit worse among Hispanic voters than Hillary Clinton did in 2016.”

“According to authoritative estimates from Democratic big data firm Catalist, the Democratic advantage among Hispanic voters slipped by a remarkable 16 points (two party vote) between the two elections. That doesn’t mean the Democrats lost the Hispanic vote. Far from it—they still got a solid majority of that group’s vote. But the size of their majority was whittled down considerably and appears to be falling further.”

“The seriousness of this problem tends to be underestimated in Democratic circles for a couple of reasons: (1) they don’t realize how big the shift has been; and (2) they don’t realize how thoroughly it undermines the most influential Democratic theory of the case for building their coalition.”

HAWAII GOVENROR, 1ST and 2ND CD. The Aloha State holds its primaries on Saturday (Louisiana is the only other place that regularly hosts statewide contests on this day of the week, though municipal and special elections sometimes happen on Saturdays in other states as well), and there are a few big contests to watch. Polls close at 7 PM local time, which is a 1 AM Sunday EST.

The most prominent race on the ballot in this 64-34 Biden state is the Democratic primary for governor to succeed termed-out incumbent David Ige, but it doesn’t look very competitive. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a physician who had a large media presence throughout the worst months of the pandemic, has been the frontrunner from the beginning. Green has continued to enjoy a huge fundraising lead over the rest of the field, and he’s also earned endorsements from several prominent unions.

Green faces two notable intra-party rivals. One is self-funding businesswoman Vicky Cayetano, who served as first lady when her husband, Ben Cayetano, was governor two decades ago. The other is freshman Rep. Kai Kahele, who entered the race in May with the intention of obtaining public financing; however, state officials soon said he couldn’t qualify for matching funds because he failed to file an affidavit committing to following the program’s spending limits, and he had little cash to fall back on. The last poll we saw was a mid-July Mason-Dixon survey that showed Green crushing Cayetano 55-19, with Kahele at 16%.

The Republican primary has attracted considerably less attention, and there’s no indication yet that the national party will make a serious effort to flip the governor’s office. The most prominent candidate is former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who was the 2010 and 2014 Republican nominee for governor of Hawaii (he lost the latter race to Ige 49-37). Aiona, though, only entered the race just before filing closed in early June and raised little in the first weeks of his third gubernatorial run. The field also includes former contractor Gary Cordery; Ultimate Fighting Championship champion B.J. Penn; and Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.

Things are far more expensive in the Democratic contest to replace Kahele in the safely blue 2nd District, which includes northern Oahu and all of the state’s other islands. A late June MRG Research survey showed former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who lost the tight 2018 nomination contest for lieutenant governor to Green, beating state Rep. Patrick Branco 31-6. However, that poll was taken before outside groups dropped $1.2 million to promote Blanco or attack Tokuda, which is about how much went into the ultra-close 2014 special primary between Sen. Brian Schatz and then-Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Two of the state representative’s main allies are VoteVets and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which are aligned behind the state representative for different reasons: Blanco is a former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat who served in Colombia and Pakistan, and he would also be the state’s first Latino member of Congress. The other organizations in his corner are the crypto-aligned Web3 Forward and Mainstream Democrats PAC, a new group with the stated purpose of thwarting “far-left organizations” it fears want to take over the Democratic Party. Tokuda has received only about $180,000 in help from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, though she’s maintained a large fundraising edge.

Finally in the 1st District, which includes most of Honolulu, Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Ed Case faces a challenge from the left from attorney Sergio Alcubilla. Alcubilla has the backing of a few big unions, but he’s raised little himself and hasn’t benefited from any serious outside spending. The June poll from MRG Research had Case dispatching Alcubilla 65-8, though we also don’t have any fresh numbers for this contest. Biden would have won 64-34 here, which is identical to both his showing in the 2nd and his statewide performance.

MINNESOTA 5TH CD. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 50-48 primary victory over former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels in Tuesday’s Democratic primary was not only shockingly tight, the University of Minnesota’s Eric Ostermeier reports that it was also historically close.

Ostermeier takes a look at the state’s primary results beginning in 1944, when the state’s Democratic Party and the Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party merged to form the modern Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, best known as the DFL. Omar’s 2-point margin of victory was, it turns out, the smallest of any Democratic House incumbent during this eight-decade stretch. The only member, in fact, who lost renomination since World War II was a Republican, Herman Carl Andersen, who was defeated in 1962 after his constituency was dramatically redrawn. So, why did Omar experience such a scare?

Two years earlier, in her first re-election bid, Omar likewise dealt with a well-funded primary challenge, but it wasn’t nearly as close: In 2020, attorney Antone Melton-Meaux benefited from $2.4 million in outside support from a group unhappy with Omar’s criticism of Israel but still lost 58-39.

Nevertheless, the result indicated that a significant number of primary voters were unhappy with Omar, but she didn’t seem to think she was in much trouble this year against Samuels. Most notably, the congresswoman didn’t air a single TV ad during her contest: The HuffPost’s Daniel Marans wrote that she made this decision because of a belief that her base was made up of “young voters” who presumably wouldn’t be motivated by messages on television. Omar also campaigned outside of Minnesota for other candidates while early voting was underway.

Samuels, meanwhile, spent much of his campaign faulting Omar for supporting an unsuccessful local ballot measure last year that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety. He also tried to use Omar’s high-profile status against her, insisting, “She’s making points, gaining notoriety, and we are left unrepresented and unaccounted for.”

The challenger earned endorsements from several unions, and he picked up Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s support during the final days of the race. Additionally, a newly formed PAC spent $625,000 for Samuels during the final days, an effort that included a TV ad praising him for opposing efforts to “defund the police.”

All of this, however, wasn’t quite enough to bring down Omar, who retains a loyal base of support in this Minneapolis-based seat. Samuels, who took a distant third in the 2013 race for mayor, also had his own liabilities. Notably, the former councilman attracted renewed scrutiny over a 2020 incident during which a 6-year-old drowned on an outing that was chaperoned by Samuels and his wife. In March, when a critic tweeted about the boy’s death, the candidate blithely responded, “Can’t swim but can govern.”

Samuels’ allies may have also gotten involved a little too late to pull him across the finish line. Early voting began all the way back in late June, but both the Frey endorsement and the super PAC’s spending only occurred in the final week of the campaign. And while Samuels raised a credible $1 million through July 20, his haul was only about a quarter of what Melton-Meaux had brought in at that same point in his 2020 race.

Omar’s primary win, as tight as it was, all but guarantees her a third term in a constituency Biden would have carried 80-17. The congresswoman responded to her victory by proclaiming, “Tonight’s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for and how much they’re willing to do to help us overcome defeat.”

MINNESOTA 1ST CD. Republicans prevailed in a special election to fill a vacant Minnesota House seat on Tuesday night, but their margin of victory was far smaller than what it should have been—providing another data point suggesting that the political landscape has shifted since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade at the end of June.

Minnesota’s 1st District is conservative turf that runs along the state’s entire southern border, taking in the city of Rochester (home of the famous Mayo Clinic) and many smaller towns and rural areas. It’s also moved sharply away from Democrats over the last decade: While Barack Obama carried the district by a 50-48 margin in 2012, Hillary Clinton lost it by a wide 53-38 margin, and Joe Biden didn’t do much better, losing 54-44.

It was therefore something of a surprise to see Republican Brad Finstad, a former official with the Department of Agriculture, hold off Democrat Jeff Ettinger, who used to be CEO of the food-processing giant Hormel, just 51-47. The outcome was not, however, entirely out of character: The district saw close House races in the last three regularly scheduled elections even as it’s drifted rightward at the presidential level.

But it’s still hard to square this result with a political environment that’s as harsh for Democrats as typical midterm patterns—buffeted by high inflation and low presidential approval ratings—would suggest. In a vacuum, of course, we’d never want to draw conclusions about a single special election in the dead of summer. But this race does not stand alone.

In late June, just four days after the Dobbs ruling, the GOP similarly underperformed in another red district, Nebraska’s 1st. There, Republican Mike Flood beat Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks 53-47, and just like in Minnesota, that was 6 points worse than Trump’s 2020 margin. And just last week, an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution went down to a brutal 59-41 defeat in conservative Kansas, a state that Trump carried 56-41.

We can’t say for certain that either of the House races represent a response to the Supreme Court, but there are reasons to think they might. As analyst J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball points out, Finstad performed identically to Trump in the district’s reddest counties, but in the purple and blue counties, he ran 7 to 8 points behind. That pattern suggests a one-sided backlash that’s motivating Democratic-leaning voters and not Republicans.

This sample size is still quite small and may yet prove an aberration, but fortunately, we’re about to get several more pieces of data. As Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux notes, there will be three more special elections over the next two weeks—the first time in more than 60 years we’ve had three consecutive weeks with House specials.

The most telling of these will be the race for New York’s 19th District, where Democrat Pat Ryan has put abortion front and center and called his race a “referendum” on the issue. The DCCC just got involved in the contest, jointly airing a new ad with Ryan to attack his GOP opponent, saying Marc Molinaro “oppose[s] a woman’s right to choose” and warning that Republicans in Congress “will vote for a nationwide abortion ban.”

So far, Republicans have put far more muscle into the effort, though, with about $715,000 in outside spending, most of that from the NRCC. Democrats have yet to engage similarly (coordinated expenditures like the DCCC’s are limited to just $55,000). But unlike the 1st Districts in Nebraska and Minnesota, New York’s 19th is a Democratic-held seat that narrowly voted for Biden by half a point. If Democrats can move the needle here the way they have elsewhere, they’d be able to hang on to this seat and deny Republicans a pickup opportunity. And if nothing else, we should learn a great deal more about what Dobbs might mean for November.

INDIANA 2ND CD. State Rep. Curt Nisly on Wednesday night became the first Republican to announce a bid to succeed the late Rep. Jackie Walorski, a declaration that came one day before the congresswoman’s funeral. Local Republican precinct committeemen will hold a pair of caucuses on Aug. 20 to pick their nominees for the Nov. 8 special election and for the full two-year term. Nisly, though, will be a former state representative soon even if party leaders pick someone else because he lost his May primary to colleague Craig Snow in a 73-27 landslide.  

Howey Politics also mentions several other Republicans who could run here, though none of them appear to have said anything publicly. The most prominent name belongs to former Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who earned the 2010 GOP nod for the neighboring 3rd District through a similar process after incumbent Mark Souder resigned over an affair with a staffer. Stutzman, who made a name for himself as a tea party favorite, left to run for the Senate in 2016, but he lost the primary to fellow Rep. Todd Young 67-33.

Publisher Brian Howey also name-drops the former congressman’s wife, former state Rep. Christy Stutzman, as another possibility. Stutzman was elected to the legislature in 2018 but announced she was resigning shortly after the 2020 election to focus on managing a local tourist attraction the couple purchased called Amish Acres. (She used her departure to torch GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb’s pandemic safety measures.) Stutzman’s 49th House district is located entirely in the old 3rd Congressional District, though the family’s business, which has been renamed The Barns, is in both incarnations of the 2nd.

Howey also mentions former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo as a potential candidate, though her latest campaign went poorly. Milo originally looked like the favorite to take on 1st District Rep. Frank Mrvan, but she lost the May GOP primary to Air Force veteran Jennifer-Ruth Green 47-22. Also on Howey’s list are state Reps. Jake Teshka and Timothy Wesco.  

GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday scheduled the special election to succeed Walorski to coincide with the regularly-scheduled Nov. 8 general election.

Democrats will only need to choose a special election nominee because high school teacher Paul Steury won the May primary for a full term. Steury ended June with only a little more than $20,000 on-hand.  

This is a remarkable chart from Nate Cohn. It’s a little confusing at first, but the y-axis shows how a county voted on an abortion referendum. The x-axis represents the share of the two-party vote that Democrats received in that county in the 2020 presidential election. 

The red dots show how counties in four states — Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia — voted on abortion ballot measures as compared to how that county voted for president in 2020. These measures were all voted on before Roe v. Wade was repealed by the Supreme Court. The blue dots show how counties voted on the abortion ballot measure in Kansas last week.

While the fitted slope of each series is roughly the same, the blue dots show that, regardless of how Democratic any particular county was, the side that favored abortion rights consistently outperformed. This confirms what the polls have always shown: that a majority of voters favor the right to an abortion. But it is also solid evidence that Democrats must actively campaign on abortion rights this fall.

As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweets: “I am begging pollsters and strategists to understand that passion is on the pro choice side, and that one of the jobs of your candidate is to make abortion an issue.”

Abortion rights may be the one issue where Democrats have the biggest trust advantage with voters. That’s because the vast majority of Republican candidates today support banning it.

FLORIDA 13TH CD. 2020 Republican nominee Anna Paulina Luna has earned the support of 19th District Rep. Byron Donalds, whose constituency lies a few seats to the south, ahead of the Aug. 23 primary.

FLORIDA 15TH CD. The GOP primary for this new constituency in Tampa’s northeastern suburbs has gotten nasty, with a super PAC called Conservative Warriors PAC launching what Politico reports is a $270,000 TV buy attacking Laurel Lee’s performance as secretary of state during the 2020 election. The PAC is entirely funded by a group associated with state Sen. Kelli Stargel, whom the commercial also praises.

The narrator lays into Lee for not doing a “forensic audit of the 2020 election even after reports that felons and sexual predators voted.” Politico, though, notes that her boss, Gov. Ron DeSantis, also didn’t believe any statewide audit was needed after Donald Trump won the state, something that goes unmentioned in this commercial.

Conservative Warriors PAC has deployed $720,000 here total, though it’s not quite the largest outside spender. That honor goes to Lee’s allies at Conservative Action Fund, which has deployed $790,000; this PAC has received $1 million from a PAC allied with her husband, former state Sen. Tom Lee. The GOP field also includes state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Navy veteran Demetrius Grimes, and retired Navy Capt. Mac McGovern.

NEW YORK 12TH CD. Attorney Suraj Patel’s allies at the Indian American Impact Fund have dropped a Slingshot Strategies poll giving Rep. Jerry Nadler a 29-27 edge over fellow incumbent Carolyn Maloney in the Aug. 23 Democratic primary, with Patel in third with 20%. Another 5% goes to Some Dude Ashmi Sheth, while 19% are undecided.

NEW YORK 17TH CD. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has picked up a Democratic primary endorsement from former President Bill Clinton, whose Chappaqua home is located in this constituency. Hillary Clinton has not publicly taken sides, though she did march with the DCCC chair at the local Memorial Day parade.

NEW YORK 24TH CD. Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.

The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, “has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report.”

NEBRASKA 2ND CD. Democrat Tony Vargas’s allies at 314 Action are out with an internal from Impact Research that shows Republican incumbent Don Bacon ahead by a tiny 47-46 margin. A late June poll for Vargas from GBAO gave the Democrat a 48-47 advantage, while earlier surveys from 314 found things similarly close. The one poll showing Bacon well ahead was a May survey for U.S. Term Limits from RMG Research that put the congressman, who has signed the group’s pledgeup 52-37.

COLORADO 8TH CD. Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo has publicized an internal from Global Strategy Group that finds Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer ahead 44-42 in a newly-created constituency in the northern Denver suburbs and Greeley area that Biden would have carried 51-46. The Colorado Sun writes that a mid-June GSG poll that “was accidentally made public” had Kirkmeyer up by a larger 44-36 spread.

CONNECTICUT 5TH CD. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund has released a late July internal from The Tarrance Group that shows former state Sen. George Logan, who won Tuesday’s Republican primary without any opposition, deadlocked 45-45 with Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes. Logan himself recently publicized his own survey from one month prior that had Hayes outpacing him 46-41.

Democrats haven’t released any numbers from this northwestern Connecticut constituency, which Biden would have carried 55-44. However, House Majority PAC recently booked $910,000 in TV time in Hartford, a reservation that’s almost certainly meant to aid Hayes. CLF, for its part, reserved $1.75 million in that market back in April.

FLORIDA 14TH CD. A state appellate court has stayed a decision that booted wealthy businessman Jerry Torres from the Aug. 23 Republican primary ballot, but a hearing is scheduled for next week to determine his eligibility. Torres was tossed late last month because he was in Africa when a Mississippi notary claimed he’d been physically present when signing a candidate oath required to file for office. Torres has pledged to spend as much as $15 million of his own money in an uphill effort to unseat Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in a 59-40 Biden constituency based in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

PENNSYLVANIA 10TH CD. Republican Rep. Scott Perry said Tuesday that the FBI “seized my cellphone” earlier in the day hours after agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago lair. An unnamed source told the Washington Post afterwards that the congressman’s device was taken “as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the use of fake electors to try to overturn President Biden’s victory.”

Perry this fall is defending a district in the Harrisburg and York areas that would have favored Trump 51-47. His Democratic opponent is Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniels, who had less than $60,000 on-hand at the end of June.

WASHINGTON 3RD CD. On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump’s candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s allies at Protect Freedom PAC have launched what Inside Elections says is a $235,000 TV buy for Sarah Palin, which makes it the only outside group to take to the airwaves ahead of Tuesday’s instant runoff special election. The commercial, though, is quite generic, which is something very few people have said about anything associated with Palin: The narrator touts her as “the only candidate endorsed by Donald Trump and conservative Rand Paul” and pledges she’ll “stand firm to lower inflation, unlock America’s energy potential, and safeguard our values.”

Palin’s many supporters and detractors, though, may need to wait a while to learn if she’s completed her comeback campaign. Alaska Public Radio writes that mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be counted if they’re received through Aug. 31: Election officials will then use the ranked-choice process to reallocate the third-place finisher’s votes to the two remaining candidates. Palin is going up against her fellow Republican, businessman Nick Begich III, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola for the final months of the late GOP Rep. Don Young’s term.

Tuesday is also the date of Alaska’s regularly-scheduled top-four primary, though it would be a huge shock if each member of this trio didn’t make it to the November general election for a full term. The fourth spot is more uncertain, though another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, fell just short of advancing during the special May primary.  

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

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