The Political Report – August 26, 2022

A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that President Biden’s job-approval rating has shot up 5 percentage points since early August — its largest and most sudden change to date.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds President Biden’s job approval rating rose this week to its highest level since early June — from 36% to 41% — following a series of legislative wins for his Democratic Party.

A new Pew Research poll finds 55% of registered voters say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43% in March.  “Virtually all of the increase has come among Democrats: 71% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters rate abortion as very important; fewer than half (46%) said this in March. By contrast, views among Republicans and GOP leaners have shown almost no change since then (41% now, 40% then).”

A new Pew Research poll finds the two political parties are essentially tied on midterm voting intentions: 44% say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their district or lean toward the Democrat, while 42% would vote for the Republican or lean Republican.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR. “Clearly, what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was going for was a comparison to Tom Cruise,” the Washington Post reports.

“Hence the ‘Top Gov’ label at the beginning of his latest political ad, which resembles that of Cruise’s Top Gun movies, and the slo-mo shots of the Republican governor zipping up a flight suit over an energetic guitar music track. DeSantis ‘briefs’ an out-of-view team — presumably Florida voters — about the ‘rules of engagement’ for ‘dogfighting’ with the ‘corporate media.’ At one point, he sits in the cockpit of what appears to be a fighter jet, flight helmet on, and says, ‘Alright, ladies and gentlemen.’”

“What are DeSantis and his team getting instead? Comparisons to Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor who made one of the most-mocked campaign photo ops in modern political history while running for president in 1988.”

“Last Friday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis made a bold pitch for re-election to the voters of Pennsylvania. A couple hours later, he took the same stump to Ohio. Two days after that, on Sunday, he flew back to his home state – the only one in which he is currently running for election – to barnstorm for a slate of 30 different school board officials,” Rolling Stone reports.

“With Donald Trump just as likely to entertain a grand jury as a rally crowd, Republican interest groups are starting to entertain a new avatar for conservative might in the Florida governor. DeSantis’ tour ahead of the 2022 midterms indicates he’s more than happy to step up, raising his profile for a bid at, well, something big in 2024.”

DeSantis “took unprecedented steps to influence Florida’s nonpartisan school board races this year and largely was successful, with 25 of his 30 endorsed candidates winning or advancing to a runoff,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

“That’s an 83% success rate for DeSantis, a sign that the governor’s education message is resonating with many voters.”

DeSantis “is heavily favored to cruise to a second term in the November general election, but anything less than a convincing win over Democrat Charlie Crist could spell doom for any 2024 presidential aspirations,” Bloomberg reports.

“DeSantis, 43, hasn’t said he plans to run in 2024, but he will be seeking a dominant performance to maintain his status in polls as GOP voters’ preferred standard-bearer should former President Donald Trump decide against making a third White House bid. The election is also an opportunity for DeSantis to ward off other potential challengers.”

ALASKA AT LARGE CD. Mary Peltola (D) has slightly increased her lead in Alaska’s special U.S. House race, Alaska Public Media reports. “The Division of Election released an update Tuesday in the three-way contest to see who will serve the remainder of the late Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) term. With an additional 25,000 votes counted, Peltola gained over rivals Sarah Palin (R) and Nick Begich (R).”

“Peltola is now 7.5 percentage points ahead of Palin. She was 6 points ahead last week.”

With 175,000 votes in, which the Associated Press estimates represents 90% of the total vote, former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola leads with 39% as two Republicans, former reality TV show star Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich III, are at 31% and 28%, respectively. Peltola’s total stood at 38% before this latest batch, while Palin and Begich were at 32% and 29%.

Alaska allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they’re received through the end of the month: State election officials say they plan to have more updated results on Friday, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher’s votes to the two remaining candidates.

All three candidates will face off again in the November race for a full term, but they won’t be joined by former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney after all. While the Republican appears to have done well enough in last week’s top-four primary to advance, she said Tuesday evening she was dropping out after taking a mere 4% of the vote. Because Sweeney’s departure is taking place more than 64 days ahead of the general election her spot will instead go to the fifth-place candidate: Right now that’s Libertarian Chris Bye, who currently has all of 0.6%.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Emails show that Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, “was in touch with the senior-most levels of the Trump White House in March 2020 promoting hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for Covid,” Politico reports.

“Two weeks before he would become one of the year’s most famous and polarizing Republican nominees for office, Mehmet Oz was approved for a large tax exemption on a house he owns in a community close to his heart,” the Miami Herald reports.

“The tax break wasn’t for Oz’s newly purchased home in Pennsylvania, the state he is trying to represent in the U.S. Senate. And it wasn’t for any of his properties in New Jersey, which critics argue is Oz’s true home state.”

“It was for a house in Palm Beach, Florida, a playground for the wealthy that Oz has described as ‘heaven.’”

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. State Senate President Chuck Morse has earned the backing of the NRA ahead of the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan. The organization, as we’ve written before, has dramatically diminished in recent years and it rarely spends much in primaries, but its stamp of approval can still give Republican office seekers a boost with conservatives.

Tim Miller: “Governor Sununu took a pass on the race, not being particularly keen on jobs where rioters target his office if he doesn’t submit to a game show host’s autocratic delusions, leaving the Republican primary wide open.”

“The man who has filled that vacuum is emblematic of the ‘candidate quality’ issues that sad turtle Mitch recently alluded to.”

“The frontrunner is Brigadier General Don Bolduc. He is not, like Sununu, a popular mainstream R with a track record of success; he’s an absolute loon who lost a Senate primary in 2020 and is a favorite in Bannon’s War Room where he is referred to only as ‘The General,’ as if he were some kind of exiled Kazak communist who Bannon is demanding be released from prison.”

“Which happens to be exactly the profile Republican primary voters are looking for this year.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. “Former Detroit police Chief James Craig (R) says he won’t support Republican nominee Tudor Dixon or Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the November election for Michigan’s top office,” the Detroit News reports.

“It’s possible, the former lawman suggested in an interview Monday, that he could back U.S. Taxpayers Party candidate Donna Brandenburg, who also previously sought the GOP nomination for governor.”

MARYLAND GOVERNOR. “Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox has deleted his account on Gab, a social media platform known as an online hub for hate speech and white nationalists, and his campaign website no longer notes his fight against certifying the 2020 presidential election results,” the Washington Post reports.

“Cox deleted more than 1,000 posts in striking his profile from the site, which welcomes users banned from other platforms.”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Democrat Tim Ryan’s latest commercial against J.D. Vance accuses the Republican of making the state’s opioid crisis worse by using his nonprofit to bring a “big pharma-funded mouth piece to Ohio” who “called Oxy a ‘godsend.'”

The ad cites a recent Associated Press report that detailed how Vance’s now-defunct organization brought on an addiction specialist named Sally Satel: Satel, the story says, has cited studies funded by Purdue Pharma, which is the manufacturer of OxyContin, and also showed its officials advanced drafts of her opinion pieces. Satel said in response that she’d “never consulted with” or ever “took a cent from Purdue.”

Vance’s team also insisted the candidate didn’t know about Satel’s connections to Purdue “but remains proud of her work to treat patients, especially those in an area of Ohio who needed it most.”

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Republican incumbent Marco Rubio has launched a $1.3 million buy for the general election that once again claims Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who is a former Orlando police chief, “praised defunding the police” and “called violent riots ‘beautiful.'”

The first charge twists comments the congresswoman made in 2020 when she didn’t come out for or against the Minneapolis City Council’s proposal to disband its police force: Demings instead said she believed it would come up with a plan “to keep Minneapolis safe but also bring the community and the police together in a much-needed and long overdue way.” Demings herself has used her own commercials to call the idea of defunding the cops “just crazy.”  

Rubio’s other attack goes after comments Demings made in 2017 when she called student protests at UC Berkeley against the Trump administration’s Muslim ban “a beautiful thing.” Fox 13 reported in July that, while there were other protests at the university that turned violent that year, there’s no indication the congresswoman ever said anything favorable about them.

TEXAS GOVERNOR. “With early voting now two months away, the ad competition has begun in the race for Texas governor. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott released a first ad and, on Thursday, Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman and perennial Democratic hopeful, countered with two of his own,” the New York Times reports.

“The O’Rourke campaign, looking for leverage in a tightening but still uphill campaign, focused on abortion, seeking to harness anger among women at the overturning of Roe v. Wade and to direct that anger at Mr. Abbott.”

“Its two ads were released on the day that a so-called trigger law — made possible by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade — went into effect in Texas. The law, signed last year by Mr. Abbott, bans abortion with no exception for rape or incest and with only limited medical exceptions.”

“As Beto O’Rourke wraps up a seven-week trek across Texas early next month, his gubernatorial campaign is planning to kick off another tour of 120 ‘volunteer rallies’ in cities around the state, aimed at boosting the Democratic candidate’s organizing ranks during a critical stretch of the campaign,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. Independent John Wood announced Tuesday he was dropping out of the general election, a move that came after a super PAC affiliated with former GOP Sen. John Danforth spent $3.6 million on his behalf.

Wood sent out an email to his supporters saying he’d decided to run at a time when disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens was a serious contender for the Republican nomination, saying, “That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state, and my Country.” Greitens, though, lost the Aug. 2 GOP primary to Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Wood acknowledged, “It has become evident that there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Adam Laxalt is using his coordinated buy with the NRSC to air his very first TV spot since the mid-June primary, and he’s far from the only Senate Republican candidate to only return to the airwaves months after winning the nomination. Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz began running commercials in late July, while North Carolina’s Ted Budd and Ohio’s J.D. Vance, who also cleared their primaries in May, went up with general election spots this month; all three of these inaugural ads were also joint buys with the NRSC.

This Laxalt spot, reports NBC, has only $95,000 behind it, though that’s still more than than the $65,000 he’d spent through Monday on general election digital and radio ads. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, by contrast, has dropped $6.5 million on advertising, while Democratic outside groups have outspent their GOP counterparts by a smaller $12.1 million to $10.9 million margin here.

Laxalt’s commercial comes days after Cortez Masto portrayed the Republican as a spoiled outsider in a spot of her own that emulated the TV show “Succession.” Laxalt tries to get his own narrative about his life across by telling the audience, “I was raised by a single mom with no college education. And as a kid, I didn’t know who my father was.” (His late father was New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, who was married to another woman when Laxalt was conceived and had little presence in his life.) The candidate’s wife also declares, “Everything he had to overcome helped make him a good man.”  

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR.  UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times: Gavin Newsom (D-inc): 55, Brian Dahle (R): 31

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. SurveyUSA for WNYT: Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 55, Lee Zeldin (R): 31 (June: 52-28 Hochul)

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is one of the most prominent Democrats in this dark red state, didn’t rule anything out when Mississippi Today asked about his interest in challenging Republican Gov. Tate Reeves next year. Presley, who is also up for re-election in 2023, instead talked about his current role, saying, “I am concentrating on trying to get internet to every household in the state, trying to keep utility rates affordable during this time of high inflation.”

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

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