Amy Walter: “In order to succeed in a midterm election, one that historically benefits the party out of power, the White House party needs to be able to do two things:
- Energize their base
- Convince independent/swing voters that supporting the change candidate is a bigger risk than sticking with the status quo.
“Thanks to SCOTUS overturning of Roe v. Wade, the flurry of legislative success, and the continued presence of the polarizing former president in the news, the Democratic base has been awakened. It remains to be seen if independent voters, who polls show are down on Biden, but more supportive of Democratic senate candidates, will stick with the in-party this fall.”
Charlie Cook: “Don’t be surprised between now and the midterm elections to see most independent political prognosticators being unusually cautious in their pronouncements (those in the partisan cheerleading roles will exhibit their predictable responses). After all, the trajectory of this campaign has already departed that of any midterm election in modern times.”
“A key component in election analysis is studying past elections, in this case midterm elections under somewhat similar circumstances. But this year is akin to driving cross country with no map or GPS.”
The Economist: “Our scenario may help prepare readers for what has become all too common: a broad misfire by the pollsters. If we repeat our simulations nationwide, the Democrats’ expected number of Senate seats, based on the polls alone, would drop from 52 to 50. The party’s probability of holding the majority would plummet from four-in-five to one-in-two.”
“In other words, if you believe the pollsters have fixed their problems from the last election, or that bias is specific to Mr Trump running for office, you should expect a Democratic Senate come 2023. If not, the race is a toss-up.”
Nate Silver: “My contention is that while the polls could have another bad year, it’s hard to know right now whether that bias will benefit Democrats or Republicans. People’s guesses about this are often wrong.”
- NC-Sen: East Carolina University: Ted Budd (R): 49, Cheri Beasley (D): 46 (May: 49-42 Budd)
- WI-Sen: Marquette University Law School: Ron Johnson (R-inc): 49, Mandela Barnes (D): 48 (Aug.: 51-44 Barnes)
- NM-Gov: SurveyUSA for KOB-TV: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-inc): 48, Mark Ronchetti (R): 36, Karen Bedonie (L): 5 (May: 47-43 Lujan Grisham)
- OK-Gov: SoonerPoll for KWTV-DT and KOTV-DT: Kevin Stitt (R-inc): 44, Joy Hofmeister (D): 43, Ervin Yen (I): 4, Natalie Bruno (L): 3
- WI-Gov: Marquette University Law School: Tony Evers (D-inc): 47, Tim Michels (R): 44, Joan Beglinger (I): 5 (Aug.: 45-43 Evers)
NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. New campaign finance reports are in covering the time from July 3 to Sept. 5, and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham narrowly outraised Republican Mark Ronchetti $2.6 million to $2.4 million and finished with a wider $3 million to $2.4 million cash-on-hand edge. The Albuquerque Journal also writes that Lujan Grisham’s allies at the DGA have outspent their RGA counterparts $2.2 million to $1.4 million so far.
ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Buzz Kelley, a true Some Dude who advanced to the general election by taking 2% of the vote in last month’s top-four primary, announced Monday that he was dropping out and endorsing his fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. Kelley will still be on the November instant-runoff ballot because the deadline to withdraw passed last week, though he insists he quit now to make sure that he wouldn’t be replaced by the fifth-place finisher, Republican Pat Nolin.
Meanwhile, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union is spending $1.55 million on ads to tout Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who led Tshibaka 45-39 last month. (Another 7% went to Democrat Pat Chesbro, who took third place.) The union usually backs Democrats, though it ran spots in the June GOP primary for Illinois’ 15th District in an unsuccessful effort to help Rep. Rodney Davis against his fellow incumbent, far-right freshman Mary Miller.
ALASKA U.S. SENATOR, GOVERNOR, and AT LARGE CD. The AARP is out with our first fresh numbers from Alaska’s instant-runoff general elections from the GOP pollster Fabrizio Ward and the Democratic firm Impact Research, and it finds a very tight Senate race even as Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola holds her new seat in a rematch against Republican Sarah Palin. The bipartisan team of pollsters see a far less eventful race for governor, though, as they show Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy decisively winning a second term.
We’ll start with the Senate numbers, where former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka begins with a 43-35 lead over her fellow Republican, incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Democrat Pat Chesbro takes another 13%, with 1% going to Buzz Kelly, a Republican who dropped out to endorse Tshibaka but remains on the ballot. The pollsters go on to simulate the instant runoff process by asking respondents who they’d rank second and third and reallocating the results accordingly, and they end up with a 50-50 tie between the senator and Tshibaka in the final round of tabulations. (Three more respondents picked Murkowski over her challenger.)
The poll comes about a month after Murkowski led Tshibaka 45-39 in the top-four primary, with Chesbro clocking in at just 7%. Murkowski’s allies were at least outright happy with that showing, as the Senate Leadership Fund soon announced that, because she “is in a very strong position,” it was canceling $1.7 million in ad reservations. However, we don’t have any other recent numbers to indicate if they’re right or if this contest is truly the cliffhanger these two firms see.
Turning to the House race, the AARP survey finds Peltola taking 45% as Palin leads her fellow Republican, Nick Begich III, 30-20 for second; another 2% goes to the final candidate on the ballot, Libertarian Chris Bye. The new congresswoman ends up defeating Palin 53-47 after tabulations are finished, which is considerably larger than her 51-49 victory in last month’s special election.
Many angry Republicans responded to that contest by blaming Palin for their loss in this red state, especially after the state Division of Elections released data showing that Begich would have beaten Peltola by 5 points if he’d been her final opponent. Still, according to this poll, not enough Republican voters are flocking to Begich to give him the chance to overtake Palin.
Finally, Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research give Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy a 45% plurality, with former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara outpacing Dunleavy’s predecessor, independent Bill Walker, 24-17. Another 6% goes to Republican Charlie Pierce, who said earlier this month he was quitting as Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor to focus on his campaign. However, Borough Assembly members later revealed that they’d asked Pierce to resign because an investigation found that harassment allegations leveled against him by a Borough employee were “credible.”
The poll, after reallocating Pierce’s few supporters, shows Dunleavy clinching the majority he needs with 54% as Gara and Walker lag with 26% and 20%, respectively. When just the top two vote-getters are included, Dunleavy leads 59-41.
LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, a four-term Republican who is sometimes mentioned for higher office, tells LAPolitics that he’ll seek re-election next year even though “I have been encouraged to run for governor.” Strain actually did announce in 2012 that he’d enter the 2015 campaign to lead the state, but he bowed out the next year.
LA-Gov: While state Treasurer John Schroder texted supporters in January that he “will be entering the governor’s race,” he now tells the Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn that he is still “giving this very strong consideration.” It’s unclear if the Republican, who took all of 1% in a March poll of the 2023 all-party primary, just wants to make sure he can generate some more attention with a formal kick off, or if he’s really having second thoughts.
Hilburn, meanwhile, relays that another Republican, West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard, has expressed interest in campaigning to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, though there’s no quote from the would-be candidate. Havard generated national coverage in 2016 when, as a member of the state House, he introduced a bill requiring exotic dancers to be 28 or younger and to weigh no more no more than 160 pounds, saying he wanted to “trim the fat.” Havard later withdrew the legislation and claimed it was a joke, but he refused to apologize.
On the Democratic side, Hilburn writes that activist Gary Chambers, who is waging a long-shot bid to unseat Republican Sen. John Kennedy this fall, “is expected to run for governor if he can’t upset Kennedy.” He also name-drops state Rep. Robby Carter, who both preceded and succeeded Edwards as the representative for the governor’s hometown of Amite, as a possibility.
KENTUCKY ABORTION REFERENDUM. Newly released campaign finance reports reveal that opponents of Amendment 2, a referendum that would amend Kentucky’s constitution to say that the state’s governing document does not “secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion,” hold a huge financial advantage heading into the November vote. Protect Kentucky Access, which is urging a “no” vote, hauled in $1.5 million during the first nine months of 2022, compared to only $350,000 for their rivals at Yes For Life.
PKA received a little less than half of its funding from Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, while the American Civil Liberties Union also was a major donor; YFL, by contrast, was largely funded by the conservative groups Right to Life and Family Foundation, as well as the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. The pro-choice side also went into September with a $1.2 million to $390,000 cash-on-hand lead.
The Bluegrass State’s GOP-dominated legislature has passed several anti-abortion bills over the last few years, including a “trigger law” to outlaw nearly all abortions once Roe v. Wade was overturned. The state Supreme Court last month allowed that ban to remain in force until it determines whether the law violates the state constitution. A hearing in the case is set for Nov. 15, but a win for Amendment 2 the week before would take the decision out of the justices’ hands. (Should the amendment fail, however, the court could still rule in favor of the ban.)
Pro-choice activists got some positive news last month when voters in Kansas rejected a similar constitutional amendment in a 59-41 landslide. PKA responded soon afterwards by hiring Rachel Sweet, who was the campaign manager for the “no” side in Kansas, to lead the efforts to defeat Amendment 2.
This time, however, the stakes are different, as the Kansas Supreme Court had, in 2019, ruled that the constitution in that state affirmatively protects the right to an abortion. The high court in Kentucky has never issued a similar finding (and as noted above, it’s still debating the question), so should the amendment pass, the current state of abortion access would not change.
And while both Kansas and Kentucky are conservative states, the latter is considerably more so: Donald Trump carried Kansas by 15 points in 2020 but won Kentucky by 26. And on abortion in particular, data from Civiqs shows that 52% of Kentucky voters agree that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while only 43% say it should usually or always be legal. By contrast, a 50-46 majority of Kansans want the procedure to be legal in most situations.
Still, these numbers can’t predict how voters will feel about Amendment 2 specifically, especially after the 18-point win for abortion rights supporters in Kansas. We also have yet to see any polls in Kentucky on this referendum, which makes its fate especially uncertain.
OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Washington Post: “After winning the Republican nomination in May, Vance spent months running what many in the party say they saw as an ineffective campaign that lacked urgency and has forced him and outside allies to scramble, in a state that former president Donald Trump carried twice and has trended red in recent years. Trump will campaign with Vance on Saturday night in Youngstown, as Vance seeks to jump-start a candidacy that polls show has left him in a competitive race.”
“Nonpartisan analysts still give Vance an edge, and Republican strategists voiced confidence that the state’s shift to the right will help Vance prevail in November. But some say they fear Vance wasted precious time, putting himself in an unnecessarily precarious position — one requiring a financial bailout that ate into resources that could have gone to GOP candidates in other states that will help determine control of the Senate next year.”
It’s almost October. It’s too late to ramp up a campaign.
“Former President Donald Trump is preparing to swoop into Ohio on Saturday to rally Republicans behind J.D. Vance in a key Senate race. Two weeks earlier, he did the same for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania,” the New York Times reports.
“Neither candidate invited him.”
“Instead, aides to the former president simply informed the Senate campaigns that he was coming. Never mind that Mr. Trump, while viewed heroically by many Republicans, remains widely disliked among crucial swing voters.”
Aaron Blake: “As their party confronts the vexing political fallout of the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade, some Republicans — especially those in tough 2022 races — are taking things a step further in trying to rid themselves of the issue: Embracing the idea that voters themselves should decide it.”
“The party as a whole, of course, probably won’t like what those voters decide, as Kansas recently showed. And we should hardly expect this approach to catch on very widely. Indeed, getting such measures on the ballot looks to be one of the next big battlegrounds in the fight over abortion, with Republicans as a whole preparing to fight against it.”
“But to a few candidates, direct democracy is apparently an attractive off-ramp.”
GEORGIA GOVERNOR. “Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats’ nominee for governor, is launching an intensive effort to get out the vote by urging potential supporters to cast in-person ballots the first week of early voting as she tries to navigate the state’s new election laws,” the AP reports.
“The strategy is a shift from 2018, when she spent generously in her first gubernatorial bid to encourage voters to use mail ballots. It also moves away from Democrats’ pandemic-era emphasis on mail voting, a push that delivered Georgia’s electoral votes to President Joe Biden and helped Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win concurrent U.S. Senate runoffs to give Democrats control of Capitol Hill.”
“President Joe Biden’s top aides have been quietly building a 2024 campaign effort, with increasing discussions about who might manage the operation, potential themes and structure,” NBC News reports.
“The current plan is for a Biden re-election effort to rely heavily on the resources of the Democratic National Committee and only have a small campaign staff, a cost-saving configuration that follows the model of then-President Bill Clinton’s re-election bid and dramatically differs from then-President Barack Obama’s campaign.”
“Biden and his top advisers also are using the homestretch to November’s midterm elections to test possible 2024 themes.”
OHIO SUPREME COURT. Suffolk University has polled the three state Supreme Court elections taking place as partisan races this fall, giving us a rare look at contests that could have major consequences for fair elections and civil rights such as abortion access. In the race for chief justice, Democrat Jennifer Brunner and Republican Sharon Kennedy, both of whom are currently associate justices, are tied 42-42. Meanwhile, Republican Associate Justice Pat Fischer leads Democratic challenger Terri Jameson just 42-41, and fellow GOP Associate Justice Pat DeWine edges out Democratic challenger Marilyn Zayas 43-41.
Republicans currently hold a 4-3 majority on Ohio’s high court, though retiring GOP Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has been a critical swing vote and sided with her three Democratic colleagues to repeatedly strike down the GOP’s congressional and legislative gerrymanders this cycle. Although Republican mapmakers were able to run out the clock and use districts deemed unconstitutional this November, those lawsuits remain ongoing for the 2024 cycle, and a lawsuit over the state’s six-week abortion ban is also ongoing. But with O’Connor reaching mandatory retirement age, Democrats will have to flip a seat to gain a majority inclined to thwart gerrymandering and protect abortion access.
As we have previously noted, the battle for control over the court this cycle is complicated by the fact that Brunner and Kennedy are both seeking a promotion to chief justice. Should either one prevail, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine would be positioned to appoint a Republican replacement as associate justice. Thus, a win or defeat for Brunner will not change the partisan balance of the court this year, meaning Democrats must defeat either Fischer or DeWine to gain a majority (though the chief justice does have broader powers that would make Brunner winning that race nonetheless significant).
Jennifer Rubin: “The mainstream media’s fixation with our supposedly ‘polarized’ politics obscures what has been going on. While Democrats have remained relatively stable in their center-left outlook, the darlings of the MAGA movement endorsed by their cult leader are so extreme that, in the case of Mastriano, he is losing 20 percent of Republicans.”
Robert Burns (R) won his congressional primary in New Hampshire this week saying that while he was opposed to abortion, he would accept an abortion ban after a pregnancy of 15 weeks, the HuffPost reports.
But in 2018, Burns told a television show he was “100% pro-life from conception.”
As for exceptions when the life of the mother was at risk, Burns waffled: “The life of the – well, the problem is, when we start using ‘life of the mother’ ― you know, ‘life of the mother’ absolutely has to mean – and I’ve talked about this before – you need a panel to look at it. Not because like, ‘my life is going to change’ or ‘psychologically, I can’t handle that.’ Because this is what they try to put in there… Absolutely, there’s a few cases where, in fact, it is life or death: a woman comes down with cancer and she can’t get chemotherapy without having an abortion, or what have you. In those cases, I believe we would need a panel in this sort of situation.”