The Political Report – September 10, 2022

The Economist: “In early September, our model expects Republicans to win 224 House seats, a gain of 11 seats from 2020. They achieve a majority of at least 218 seats in 74% of simulations. If the Democrats lose control of Congress, Joe Biden will no longer be able to pass laws along party lines. Gridlock will mark the rest of his presidential term.”

“But Republicans’ strong chance of flipping the House is the only good news that our forecast offers them. The model assigns a 78% probability to the Democrats’ retaining control of the Senate. Only a few months ago, any Democrat would have been thrilled with a one-in-four chance of holding the House.”

The Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine a right to abortion and other reproductive health services for the November ballot; the justices also issued the same directive in a separate case concerning a voting rights expansion amendment. The decisions came one day ahead of the deadline to finalize the fall ballot.

Last week, the two Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers both voted against their Democratic counterparts to deny certification of both amendments, which created a deadlock that kept the initiatives off the ballot until the court intervened. GOP canvassers justified their decision to block approval of the abortion measure by claiming that missing spaces on some of the lines of the amendment text presented to those voters rendered it invalid. They also said the voting rights initiative couldn’t advance on the grounds that it failed to tell petition signers what sections of the constitution it would amend.

All four Democratic members of the seven-member Supreme Court, as well as Republican Elizabeth Clement, very much disagreed, though. Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said of the abortion rights amendment, “The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal.” A recent poll from EPIC-MRA found that Michigan voters favored this amendment by a gigantic 67-24 margin, but Michigan Right to Life has reserved $16 million in TV ad time to try to defeat it.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. “A week before Jan. 6, on a Zoom call organized by far-right Christian Nationalists seeking to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House, a man with a booming baritone voice bowed his bald head and began to pray,” Rolling Stone reports.

Said the man: “We remember the promises of old… We know we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and not loving our lives unto death.”

He added: “God I ask you that you help us roll in these dark times, that we fear not the darkness, that we will seize our Esther and Gideon moments. We’re surrounded by wickedness and fear, and dithering, and inaction. But that’s not our problem. Our problem is following Your lead…. I pray that… we’ll seize the power that we had given to us by the Constitution, and as well by You, providentially. I pray for the leaders also in the federal government, God, on the Sixth of January that they will rise up with boldness.”

“The man was state senator Doug Mastriano, now the Republican nominee to be the next governor of Pennsylvania.”

The video is really something else.

Philadelphia Inquirer: “As he tours the Commonwealth, Mastriano has essentially walled himself off from the general public, traveling within a bubble of security guards and jittery aides who aim to not only keep him safe, but ensure he only comes into contact with true believers.”

“Doug Mastriano has spent much of the summer ignoring mainstream press, setting a new unorthodox precedent for a major gubernatorial campaign,” McClatchy reports.

“Now the Republican nominee in Pennsylvania is entering the homestretch of the race without another staple resource: Television ads. Mastriano has not aired a single commercial since May 16, the day before the primary.”

“And according to advertising tracking firms, to date, he’s reserved no air time for the final 60 days of the general election, when TV wars between candidates traditionally reach their peak.”

“Some GOP candidates are softening their rhetoric and scrubbing their campaign websites of hardline positions as the midterms get closer. But Doug Mastriano is running a much different playbook in the Pennsylvania governor’s race, one of the most important contests in the nation,” Axios reports.

“He has doubled down on false claims about the 2020 election. He’s ghosting the mainstream media and spending nothing on TV advertising, relying instead on Facebook livestreams and far-right media.”

“He has a small staff largely unknown to Pennsylvania politicos. And he may tap a woman who has described QAnon as ‘a very valuable resource’ to be the state’s top election official.”

“It’s already the consensus that abortion is going to be a good issue for Democrats in November,” Politico reports.

“What’s only now becoming clear — as Republicans scrub their campaign websites of prior positions on abortion and labor to turn the focus of the midterms back to President Joe Biden and the economy — is just how much the issue is altering the GOP’s standard playbook.”

“For the first time in years, Republican and Democratic political professionals are preparing for a general election campaign in which Democrats — not Republicans — may be winning the culture wars, a wholesale reversal of the traditional political landscape that is poised to reshape the midterms and the run-up to 2024.”

ABC, NBC, and CBS are all covering King Charles’s first speech. None of them carried President Biden’s primetime speech about the ongoing threats to American democracy.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC on Thursday began what’s now a $5.9 million ad buy attacking state Senate President Chuck Morse, a campaign that began the day after a newly-established GOP group launched its own expensive ad campaign promoting Morse in the Sept. 13 Republican primary. The buy came around the same time that the conservative Senate Leadership Fund, which up till now had bypassed this contest, announced that it was reserving $23 million in general election ads against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan.

SMP’s commercial does not mention retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, a far-right conspiracy theorist that plenty of vocal Republicans fear would be a terrible nominee. The spot instead opens, “Mitch McConnell’s Washington establishment is going all-in for Chuck Morse,” with the narrator continuing, “Lobbyists are even running his campaign.” He goes on, “One lobbyist worked for a Chinese company owned by a Communist Party official. And Morse hired another who lobbied for a mail order pharmacy that flooded New England with opioids.”

Politico notes that, even if these spots aren’t enough to keep Morse from winning next week, they could still damage his image ahead of a general election against Hassan.

The week-old White Mountain PAC, which has spent over $4.6 million to aid state Senate President Chuck Morse ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary, is now attacking retired Army Brig. General Donald Bolduc as a surefire general election loser with “crazy ideas.” The narrator also makes sure to remind viewers that “Bolduc even accused Gov. [Chris] Sununu of being a Chinese communist sympathizer and a supporter of terrorism.”

MASSACHUSETTS SECRETARY OF STATE. Seven-term Secretary of State Bill Galvin turned back Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 62-38 in the Democratic primary, and he should have no trouble winning re-election once again in this dark blue state.  

TEXAS GOVERNOR. A new University of Houston/Texas Southern University poll finds Gov. Greg Abbott (R) leading challenger Beto O’Rourke (D), 49% to 42%.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. A new Triton Polling and Research poll in West Virginia finds Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is vulnerable after his support for the Inflation Reduction Act with 66% having an unfavorable impression of Manchin and just 26% having a favorable impression.

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), a wealthy hotel heir, has become an unlikely hero on the left, Vanity Fair reports. He’s built a progressive record and is willing to throw barbs. Said Pritzker: “Let me analogize this to the early days of the end of the Weimar Republic.”

Pritzker goes after Republican Darren Bailey for saying that abortion is worse than the Holocaust with an ad starring a Holocaust survivor named Sam Harris. Harris tells the audience that of his “big, big family,” just “two sisters and I were saved.” He goes on to say of Bailey, “I think that, someone who makes a statement like this, if he only knew what I went through in the Holocaust. And he’s comparing anything to the Holocaust just disturbed me immensely.” Harris concludes, “I think he is very, very dangerous for our state.”

Bailey’s comments come from 2017 when he declared, “The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion.” The nominee has refused to apologize and insisted last month, “The Jewish community themselves have told me that I’m right.” The Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest chapter very much did not agree, saying, “The (comments) are deeply offensive, and do an incredible disservice to the millions of Jews and other victims killed by the Nazis.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Chris Galdieri: “Oz is not the first person to relocate to run for office. Hillary Clinton moved to New York to run for the Senate in 2000, and Mitt Romney won his Senate race in Utah after serving as governor of Massachusetts and running for president in 2012.”

“But carpetbagger candidates often struggle to establish themselves in their new states. They lack the ingrained, long-term knowledge that comes from living full-time in a state for years, leaving them open to charges that they are running to serve their own ambition, not the residents of their new state. Every candidate for office is ambitious, of course, but carpetbagging foregrounds ambition in a way that’s tough to ignore and provides easy fodder for opponents.”

“The key dynamic to understand is that not all carpetbaggers are created equal. Success — or at least viability — has long hinged on whether a carpetbagger brings with them the credibility to counter critiques about running in a new state. Candidates such as Clinton and Romney were able to convince voters that they were in a new state to continue their long careers in public service.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL and SECRETARY OF STATE. The Glengariff Group, once again surveying for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV, gives Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a 48-35 advantage over Republican Tudor Dixon, which is an improvement from Whitmer’s already strong 51-40 edge in July.

Whitmer has also led in every survey we’ve seen in the intervening time, though reliable firms disagree on how far ahead she is. A mid-August poll for AARP from the GOP firm Fabrizio Ward and the Democratic group Impact Research showed things the closest, though the pair still had Whitmer up 51-46; numbers from later in the month from the Democratic company Blueprint Polling and the nonpartisan firm EPIC-MRA showed the governor winning 51-39 and 50-39, respectively.

Glengariff also finds two other statewide Democratic incumbents, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, ahead of their far-right Republican rivals, though by notably different margins. Nessel outpaces Matt DePerno 40-34, while Benson fends off Kristina Karamo 43-32.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. SurveyUSA’s new poll for KSTP-TV shows Democratic Gov. Tim Walz posting a huge 51-33 advantage over Republican Scott Jensen in a race that has seen little attention from other pollsters.

Back in May, just before Jensen won the all-important party endorsement, this firm showed Walz leading by a considerably smaller 44-39. We’ve seen just two surveys since then: The Democratic group Change Research had the governor up only 42-40 in its early June poll for the MinnPost, while a mid-July Jensen internal from Cygnal showed Walz ahead 50-46.

While we’ll need to wait and see if other pollsters confirm SurveyUSA’s read on the race, there’s no question that the incumbent is far ahead in the money contest. Walz had close to $5 million on-hand in late July compared to only about $500,000 for Jensen, and while the RGA has so far avoided airing ads here, Minnesota Morning Take says that Walz’s allies at Alliance for a Better Minnesota have spent $800,000 here per week. The Democratic ads have largely gone after Jensen’s opposition to abortion rights, including a spot using footage of him saying, “I would try to ban abortion.”

Jensen is hoping to turn things around with what his campaign says is a “nearly seven-figure advertisement buy for the month of September,” which opens with an ad where he argues he couldn’t try to ban abortion. The former physician is shown holding a baby as he opens, “I’ve delivered over 500 babies in my career. Abortion is divisive, and Tim Walz is weaponizing the issue.” Rather than say what his own position is, though, Jensen argues, “In Minnesota, it’s a protected constitutional right, and no governor can change that. And I’m not running to do that.”

The Minnesota Reformer’s J. Patrick Coolican, however, notes that this very much isn’t true, explaining, “It’s a protected right according to a judicial precedent, Doe v. Gomez. It is not written in the Minnesota Constitution.” He continues, “The Minnesota Supreme Court could overturn the precedent. The governor gets to appoint Supreme Court justices.” Coolican added, “(This is not the main thing: I know he’s a doctor, so he knows what he’s doing, but that’s never how I held our babies.)”

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR. Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes is going up with her inaugural negative TV ad against both Gov. Dan McKee and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who are her two main rivals in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary, while a pro-Gorbea group is launching the first anti-Foulkes spot of the race. The developments come about two weeks after McKee and Gorbea began airing commercials against one another while ignoring Foulkes and the rest of the field.

We’ll start with the Foulkes piece, which echoes Gorbea by saying that McKee is “mired in an FBI investigation of a contract awarded to his cronies.” As we’ve written before, federal authorities are probing McKee’s administration over a since-canceled education consulting contract with a business called the ILO Group; the governor used Tuesday’s debate to deny that he’d been subpoenaed, though he refused to comment if any members of his administration had been.

Foulkes’ ad then moves on to faulting Gorbea and says she “refuses responsibility for a voting fiasco even though she’s the state’s chief election officer. Instead, she blames the vendor, who she hired.” A few days ago, the Rhode Island Board of Elections announced that there were “errors on Spanish language ballots” on voting machines in several communities, where the names of contenders in a number of Democratic primaries “were displayed incorrectly.” The problem affected as many as 55 votes, the Board said, adding that those ballots wouldn’t be counted. Gorbea says her office had supplied the correct names to the vendor, which they’ve used for years.

Gorbea’s allies at the Latino Victory Fund, meanwhile, are spending $120,000 on a buy that opens by asking whether Foulkes or McKee is worse. Foulkes, the narrator declares, “got $29 million as a New York CEO, then laid off over 1,000 workers, calling them ‘low-hanging fruit.'” The commercial also blasts Foulkes for donating to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 before it connects McKee to the FBI investigation. The ad only briefly mentions Gorbea at the end.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft on Wednesday launched her long anticipated 2023 bid against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. The new candidate has never run for office before, but Craft and her husband, coal billionaire Joe Craft, have together been some of the GOP’s most influential donors. The couple, along with another wealthy CEO, last month co-purchased the Kentucky State Fair’s grand prize country ham for a record $5 million, and there’s no question Kelly Craft can self-fund plenty if she chooses to.

Craft joins a May 2023 primary that already includes state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, state Auditor Mike Harmon, state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, and state Rep. Savannah Maddox. Cameron himself greeted Craft’s entry into the race with an opening TV spot that touted his endorsement from Craft’s old boss, Donald Trump.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. We have two new Florida polls, and they each give the state’s top Republican incumbents, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, only small leads over their respective Democratic rivals, Val Demings and Charlie Crist. The bipartisan team of Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research’s survey for the AARP has Rubio up 49-47, while the Republican firm Susquehanna Polling and Research gives him a similar 47-44 edge. The AARP poll, meanwhile, shows DeSantis ahead 50-47, which is also little different from his 47-43 advantage from Susquehanna.

While this pair of polls shows Demings and Crist running close to one another, there’s a huge resource disparity between the two Democrats. Demings, writes NBC, has deployed $25 million on TV, digital, and radio ads, while Rubio and the NRSC have spent a combined $6.4 million. AdImpact relays that Demings has $1.6 million reserved for TV time through Election Day compared to only $484,000 for the senator, though both candidates have access to plenty more money: Rubio held a $15 million to $8.8 million cash-on-hand edge on Aug. 3, which is when the most recent financial reports are from.

We don’t know how much DeSantis and Crist have spent on advertising, but there’s no question that the governor will dwarf his Democratic foe. DeSantis and his allied campaign committee had $129 million available on Aug. 26, while Crist’s side had access to only $3.2 million.

WASHINGTON U.S. SENATOR. The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling finds Democratic Sen. Patty Murray leading Republican Tiffany Smiley 48-39, which is a small drop from her 51-40 edge in early June. Smiley, though, got some dispiriting news in early August when Murray outpaced her 52-34 in Washington’s top-two primary; altogether, the senator and four minor Democrats scored 55% of the vote, while Smiley and four other Republicans grabbed 41%.

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

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