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The Political Report – October 1, 2022

Cook Political Report: “As the post-Dobbs surge in Democratic voter enthusiasm and flawed nominees like Majewski and Gibbs have put more GOP ‘reach’ targets out of reach, Republican groups are increasingly hyper-focusing their resources on the several dozen races that hold the most promise to get them to a bare majority of 218, rather than the next 20 to 30 races that would get them to the larger ‘governing majority’ Kevin McCarthy has hoped for.”

Charlie Cook: “In trying to figure out who is likely to win an election, it’s important to remember that one is trying to predict human behavior about something that is certain to be affected by events that have yet to occur. At least in the old days, it was easier for pollsters to be confident that they had reached a reasonably fair cross section of the electorate; now that is not so clear either, despite plenty of methodological tweaking. It is with this in mind that I marvel at those who seem to be supremely confident that they know what will happen on Nov. 8, or Dec. 6 if a runoff is needed in Georgia’s Senate race…”

“The unprecedented situation of this midterm election and the volatility we have seen over the last few months demand a bit of humility employed in this year’s prognostication. It isn’t a bad thing any year, but this year in particular.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) predicted a 51-49 Democratic majority in the Senate next year, Politico reports. Said Manchin: “I think we pick up one. If not Pennsylvania, I really think Ohio. I’m rating Ohio better than Pennsylvania.”

POLLING.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D-NH) campaign manager “is warning donors and supporters that it may be in more trouble than polling suggests, disputing the idea GOP challenger Don Bolduc can easily be defeated, according to a copy of an email sent to donors,” Axios reports.

Key takeaway from the memo: “Our own internal polling shows that Don Bolduc is quickly consolidating the Republican base and is rapidly making up ground.”

Playbook: “It’s an example of how some Democrats are wary of overconfidence against flawed GOP competition. It may also represent one campaign’s effort to keep spending from being diverted to other races.”

Senate Majority PAC’s opening general election ad, which is part of a $3.7 million buy, uses audio of Republican Don Bolduc proclaiming his opposition to abortion rights, including a recording of him saying, “Get over it.” That last bit comes from a recent WMUR interview where Bolduc dismissed Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan’s focus on abortion by saying:

“She just wants to hang on with dear life. Well, guess what? Your views are not consistent with the average Granite Stater, number one. Number two, get over it. This is about the economy, fiscal responsibility and the safety and security of this nation, which you cannot defend.”  

It’s Bolduc, though, who hasn’t been defending himself on the airwaves, as the GOP firm Medium Buying relays that he’s one of two prominent Republican Senate candidates who isn’t running any TV ads for the general election. (The other is Arizona’s Blake Masters.) National Republicans are spending millions to attack Hassan, but so far, they don’t seem interested in promoting a positive message about Bolduc.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. “Republican senators are growing concerned by colleague Mitt Romney’s refusal to help fellow Utah Republican Mike Lee decisively win his re-election campaign — a posture that could potentially keep their party from gaining a majority in the November elections,” The Federalist reports.

“Unlike every other Republican senator, the 2012 failed Republican presidential candidate is declining to express a preference in Republican Lee’s re-election effort against Democrat-endorsed Evan McMullin.”

Nate Cohn: “You might assume that the House map is heavily gerrymandered toward Republicans, especially after Republicans enacted aggressive gerrymanders in critical states like Texas and Florida. Many of you might even presume that this gerrymandering means that the House isn’t merely likely to go to the Republicans, but that it’s also out of reach for Democrats under any realistic circumstances.”

“In reality, Republicans do have a structural edge in the House, but it isn’t anything near insurmountable for the Democrats. By some measures, this is the fairest House map of the last 40 years.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. While political observers have spent weeks speculating that the GOP’s massive assault on Fetterman’s support for criminal justice reform has made the race closer, these are some of the first pollsters to actually go back into the field and find Oz making up ground since their last surveys. No one has released any numbers yet, though, showing anything but a Fetterman lead.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) is desperately sticking to the GOP’s extremely weird new line of attack claiming that Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Fetterman has gang ties, though Gingrich has an added a special twist: Heroin.

Gingrich zeroed in on Fetterman’s “I Will Make You Hurt” tattoo on Fox last night, which the Republican claimed was “either a reference to a song in favor of heroin use” or “was a tribute to the Crips, which was a Los Angeles-based, very violent gang.”

“These people verge on being sick,” said Gingrich, who divorced his first wife as she was being treated for cancer.

Reality alert: Fetterman’s tattoo is a reference to “Hurt,” a well-known song by Nine Inch Nails that has literally nothing to do with the Crips.

TEXAS GOVERNOR. NBC reports that the Democratic group Coulda Been Worse has now spent or reserved $13 million to attack Gov. Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans. Its newest spot faults Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton over last year’s devastating blackout, arguing they ignored “years of warnings about the Texas Power Grid” and “warnings of a massive winter storm.”

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR. Ashley Kalus is borrowing a tactic that a few other Republicans have tried this year by airing an ad insisting that her election wouldn’t impact abortion rights in her state. “Abortion was codified into our state law in 2019,” says Kalus, who doesn’t say how she feels about the legislation. Instead, she insists that Democratic Gov. Dan McKee is “lying” because he’s “afraid of losing.”

McKee, meanwhile, is running a spot touting his executive order protecting people seeking abortions from out of state before playing footage of Kalus thrice describing herself as “pro-life.” The narrator then says of the Republican nominee, who earlier this year named Florida’s governor as the politician she most admires, “And if she continues to follow the lead of her idols, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, as governor she’d limit abortion access in Rhode Island and oppose a woman’s freedom to choose.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s newest ad makes use of a recent New York Times report detailing how there’s “scant evidence” that Republican Herschel Walker made good on his pledges to donate 15% of his business profits to charity. The narrator intones, “The charities have no record or recollection of any gifts from Herschel Walker’s company in the last decade.”

Meanwhile, Warnock’s allies at Senate Majority PAC are airing another commercial detailing the many threats the Republican has made against his ex-wife and others. The spot also cites a July story from the Daily Beast describing how Walker’s campaign aides “fear his mood swings and instability” to make the case that he hasn’t changed.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. The Meredith College poll appears to have asked many questions before the horserace, including whether they agreed that “Women should worry less about their rights and more about becoming good wives and mothers” (respondents said no by a 18-72 margin) and how they felt about the statement “I often start arguments” (they also disagreed 15-83).

MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA and ARIZONA GOVERNOR RACES. NBC, citing data from AdImpact, reports that Democrats have dwarfed their GOP rivals in Michigan $16.5 million to $924,000 in ad spending for the general election for governor, with Republican nominee Tudor Dixon responsible for just $25,000. A separate study by the Wesleyan Media Project has also found that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her allies ran over 4,600 commercials in the time between Sept. 5 and Sept. 18 while the Republicans aired all of 19 spots.

But Dixon, who has not run a single TV ad since her primary win nearly two months ago, doesn’t see this as a problem at all. “Isn’t that sad that Democrats have to spend so much money?” she asked when a reporter inquired if she was perturbed by the lack of outside support for her campaign.

Dixon, who badly trails Whitmer in most recent polls, may be getting some help down the line because the RGA still has nearly $4 million reserved for her. However, that’s just a fraction of the $24 million that NBC says Whitmer and her backers have booked for the remainder of the campaign. Michigan Families United, which is funded by the DeVos family, could also step in to bail out Dixon, but so far it has just $330,000 reserved.

Dixon, though, isn’t the only GOP nominee for governor in dire straits financially. The GOP firm Medium Buying said on Thursday that three others also haven’t run any TV ads for the general election: Illinois’ Darren Bailey, Maryland’s Dan Cox, and Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano. (All four were endorsed by Trump before their primaries.)

Minnesota Republican Scott Jensen isn’t exactly a member of that sorry clique, but he’s nonetheless facing a massive ad deficit in his battle to take down Democratic Gov. Tim Walz: According to Wesleyan, Democrats were responsible for a whopping 87% of the commercials that aired for this race in the two weeks it studied.

A major reason things are so lopsided is that the DGA affiliate Alliance for a Better Minnesota has spent nearly $9 million here, while Jensen has yet to get any outside help. A conservative group, the Foundation for Minnesota’s Future, announced Monday that it would enter the fray, but so far, we haven’t gotten any information about how much it plans to spend or seen any of its ads.

There is one feeble fundraiser that Republicans are, however, not giving up on: Kari Lake, a Trump-backed election denier who won the early August primary over opposition from termed-out incumbent Doug Ducey, who happens to chair the RGA. Despite his earlier resistance to Lake’s candidacy, Axios reports that Ducey’s organization recently engaged in some creative reshuffling to maximize its investment.

The committee in fact canceled $6.5 million it had reserved to help Lake but then put that money toward a joint ad campaign from Lake and the Yuma County Republican Party. RGA political director J.P. Twist explained to Axios that this coordinated campaign can buy about $1 million worth of ads more than the group’s independent effort because of the more favorable advertising rates available to candidates.

But like many of her compatriots in other states, Lake herself had been off the airwaves since the primary. As a result, Wesleyan says that Democrat Katie Hobbs and her allies had aired 78% of the spots from Sept. 5 to Sept. 18. Lake, though, made use of her cash infusion to go on the air this week with a biographical commercial in which she touted her humble upbringing.

Until that spot went up, all the RGA’s commercials had attacked Hobbs without mentioning Lake, while Democrats have run both positive and negative ads. However, that’s now changed, and Lake and the Yuma County GOP are airing spots contrasting the two on immigration and taxes.

P.S. Axios also looked into why the RGA is partnering with the GOP in Yuma County—a relatively small county in the state’s southwestern corner—instead of the state party. Twist merely told Axios that Yuma was a “better fit,” but he was far more vocal last year when state party chair Kelli Ward won another term after two dysfunctional years in charge. “And with that, the AZGOP will have no significant role in ’22,” he tweeted after he learned the two-time failed Senate candidate had prevailed, adding, “No other option but to work with others. We’ve been here before. No big deal.”

Ward’s organization denied there was any friction between it and its would-be allies, though it snipped that its donors “value the fact that large percentages of their donor dollars do not go into the pockets of political consultants.” Hobbs, by contrast, has been airing ads in coordination with the Arizona Democratic Party.

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. “Two months ago, former President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment joined forces to elevate Tudor Dixon in Michigan’s messy GOP primary for governor, signaling a united front against Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer,” NBC News reports.

“But since then, national Republicans have largely abandoned Dixon, leaving her to fend for herself in a state that was supposed to be one of the party’s top targets in 2022.”

“Trump may be the exception. He’s scheduled to headline a Saturday rally for Dixon and other GOP candidates in the state. His visit comes at a time when Whitmer and the Democratic groups supporting her re-election are crushing Dixon and the GOP in ad spending, $16.5 million to $924,000 through Wednesday.”

OREGON GOVERNOR. DHM Research is out with the first poll we’ve seen of this expensive three-way race in some time, and it shows Republican Christine Drazan edging out Democrat Tina Kotek 32-31 as independent Betsy Johnson grabs 18%.

This survey, which was conducted on behalf of The Oregonian and OregonLive, was conducted over a month after the GOP firm Clout Research showed Drazan leading Kotek by that same tiny 33-32 spread, with Johnson similarly situated at 21%. A win for Drazan would give Oregon Republicans their first governor here since the late Victor Atiyeh left office in 1987.

DHM also indicates that Johnson, who spent two decades in the legislature as a conservative Democrat before dropping her party affiliation last year, is taking more votes from Kotek than from Drazan: The poll shows that Johnson is winning over 19% of Democrats, compared to only 13% of Republican respondents. DHM finds that just 60% of Democrats currently are backing Kotek while Drazan is scooping up 71% of her base, though ​pollster John Horvick notes this could give Team Blue some room for growth in this blue state.

Another impediment for Kotek is the ugly 31-63 score that respondents give termed-out Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. Willamette Week took a look at the incumbent’s travails last December, writing, “Politicos often referred to Ronald Reagan as the ‘Teflon president’ because nothing bad stuck to him. For Brown it’s the opposite: She’s a blank canvas on which Oregonians sling all their frustrations.” Barbara Roberts, who is the only other woman to hold this post, also argued, “I have never seen a governor who accomplished so much, right from the beginning of her tenure, and who seems to receive so little credit for it.”

The story went on to speculate that Brown was being hurt by anger at the Oregon Employment Department’s performance during the early days of the pandemic, a backlash at Brown’s public health orders, the GOP’s successful obstruction tactics in the legislature, and sexism as well. However, WW added that “many people interviewed for this story say Brown’s poll numbers reflect widespread alarm” at crime and homelessness in Portland.

Drazan and Johnson both have run commercials arguing that Kotek, who stepped down as speaker of the state House early this year, has also done a poor job on public safety and homelessness. The Democrat responded a few weeks ago with her own spot where a health care and housing leader praised her as the candidate “with a plan to help get people off the streets so everyone is safe.”

Kotek’s two opponents, though, have also spent plenty of time trashing one another as well as the former speaker. Drazan has aired ads arguing that both Kotek and Johnson supported Brown’s agenda, while only the Republican can bring about change. Johnson, meanwhile, recently went up with her own spot that, after once again faulting Kotek’s approach to homelessness, declared, “Christine Drazan would be Oregon’s first anti-choice governor.”

Kotek, for her part, debuted a new commercial this week that also went after both her foes. “If you want a right-wing Oregon, you’ve got two options for governor,” the narrator intones as footage plays of the Jan. 6 riot. “There’s Republican Christine Drazan, who wants to ban abortion, taking fundamental rights away from Oregon women,” she continues, “Or machine gun-owning Betsy Johnson. She thinks convicted domestic abusers and other stalkers should be able to buy guns, and even after mass shootings defends military assault weapons.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Blake Masters is getting $1 million in badly needed outside support from Women Speak Out PAC, which is affiliated with the ardently anti-choice Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and funded by conservative mega donor Richard Uihlein’s PAC. The commercial tries to argue that Masters “supports compromise” on abortion because he wants to “reasonably regulate late-term abortion with an exception to protect the mother,” while Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly supports the procedure “right up to the due date for any reason.”

As we’ve written before, these sorts of ads deliberately misled and fearmongered about a vote Kelly cast in favor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would only allow abortions later in pregnancy “when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.” This spot goes a step further by falsely claiming that the WHPA would allow abortions “right up to the due date for any reason,” putting it at risk of getting taken down by TV stations.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. Republican Scott Jensen narrowly outraised Democratic Gov. Tim Walz $1.8 million to $1.7 million from July 19 to Sept. 20 after badly trailing him throughout the campaign, though there’s a catch. MPR’s Brian Bakst notes that Jensen got a $580,000 subsidy from the state “that was boosted when Walz declined to agree to a spending cap.” The governor had good reason not to restrict his spending, as he goes into the final weeks with a $3.2 million to $860,000 cash-on-hand lead.

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

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