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The Political Report – October 6, 2022

Both the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund announced Tuesday that they would continue to support Herschel Walker a day after the Daily Beast reported that the anti-abortion Republican had paid for his then-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009.

Donald Trump and other allies like the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America echoed Walker’s denials, though they didn’t mention his son Christian Walker’s Monday tweet saying of the candidate, “You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.”

Herschel Walker responded with a tweet that merely said, “I LOVE my son no matter what.” That didn’t at all appease the younger Walker, who had publicly backed the campaign until this week: The next morning, he put out a video saying, “Don’t lie on the lives you’ve destroyed and act like you’re some moral family man. Y’all should care about that, conservatives.” An unnamed Walker ally responded by telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Christian Walker is “solely to blame if Herschel loses the race.”

The Republicans Herschel Walker will be sharing a ballot with responded to this fallout by distancing themselves from him, though none of them would issue a denouncement. Gov. Brian Kemp, who has consistently run ahead of Walker in the polls, put out a statement that didn’t mention the Senate nominee but instead said the governor “is laser-focused on sharing his record of results and vision for his second term with hardworking Georgians.” Attorney General Chris Carr, meanwhile, refused to say if he was still backing Walker, and instead used the occasion to attack Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic rival.

CNN also reports that Walker’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise, admitted Tuesday afternoon that the Daily Beast story was, in the words of reporter Gabby Orr, a “setback,” though he also compared what happened to Trump’s “Access Hollywood” debacle six years ago by arguing, “Trump still made it to the White House.” (He also doesn’t appear to have mentioned Christian Walker’s allegations.)

Paradise said that their fundraising had received a big boost, and the conservative Washington Examiner reported later in the day that Walker had hauled in a “record-breaking” $182,000 since the story broke. Inside Elections was quick to note that Walker’s opponent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, had brought in an average of $292,000 each day from July through September.

Other conservatives weren’t so optimistic as Paradise, with conservative commentator Erick Erickson tweeting Monday that all of this was “probably a KO” for Walker’s prospects against Warnock. He continued, “One notable thing here — it wasn’t the Daily Beast story that has gotten GA-GOP types into despair mode. It’s Herschel Walker’s son’s Twitter thread that served as the admission against interest for Walker and it’s all down hill from there.”

Other political observers, though, were far more hesitant about predicting that this would damage Walker much more than any other story has done so far. As the AJC writes, “He remains neck-and-neck with Warnock despite a string of damaging reports about his violent history, lies about his law enforcement experienceacademic record and business background, and confusing statements on the campaign trail.” Warnock himself responded to the Daily Beast story, which broke while he was at an event, by responding, “I’ll let the pundits decide how they think it will impact the race.”

Henry Olsen: “The report that Republican nominee Herschel Walker allegedly paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion in 2009 has thrown Georgia’s ultra-competitive Senate race for a loop. No one knows how this will turn out or how the story will unfold. But one thing is clear from decades of political experience: It won’t faze Republicans.”

“This conclusion might strike readers as incredible. How can ardent pro-lifers vote for a man who allegedly paid to kill his own unborn child? But this phrasing misstates the question they will likely ask themselves. Here’s a more accurate inquiry: Does this allegation of a long-ago abortion matter more than the fact that Democratic Sen. Raphael G. Warnock is ardently pro-abortion rights?”

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Christian leaders rally around embattled Herschel Walker.

In a normal world, the news that “pro-life without exception” U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) paid for a girlfriend to get an abortion should have seriously damaged his campaign. And if there was any question of the veracity of the story, the fact that Walker’s own son repeatedly called his father a liar should have put that to rest. Said Christian Walker: Family values people: He has four kids, four different women. Wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women… Do you care about family values?

Apparently not. In the hours since the story dropped, Republicans are standing firmly behind Walker. Their position was best articulated by conservative radio host Dana Loesch: “So, does this change anything? Do you want my opinion? You’re listening. Not a damn thing. How many times have I said four very important words. These four words: winning is a virtue. What I’m about to say is in no means a contradiction or a compromise of a principle. And, please keep in mind that I am concerned about one thing, and one thing only at this point. So, I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

Loesch added that she just doesn’t care that Walker paid “some skank” to get an abortion: “I don’t know if he did it or not. I don’t even care.”

It’s discouraging to those of us who live in a normal world, but the story has eerie parallels to another October surprise story nearly six years ago. That’s when the infamous Access Hollywood tape was supposed to end Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Keep in mind that Walker is running dead even in the Senate race despite his ex-wife saying he threatened to killer her by pointing a gun at her temple. And Walker’s own son confirmed it. We’re still waiting for new polls in Georgia, but don’t be surprised if they show the story doesn’t matter that much. Six years into the Trump era, all that really matters to today’s Republicans is power.

POLLING.

  • AZ-Sen: CBS News: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 51, Blake Masters (R) 48
  • CA-Gov: UC Berkeley for the Los Angeles Times: Gavin Newsom (D-inc): 53, Brian Dahle (R): 32
  • CO-03: Keating Research (D) for Adam Frisch: Lauren Boebert (R-inc): 47, Adam Frisch (D): 45
  • FL-Sen: Clarity Campaign Labs (D) for Florida Watch and Progress Florida: Val Demings (D): 46, Marco Rubio (R-inc): 46
  • FL-Sen: Mason-Dixon: Rubio (R-inc): 47, Demings (D): 41
  • FL-Gov: Clarity Campaign Labs (D) for Florida Watch and Progress Florida: Ron DeSantis (R-inc): 47, Charlie Crist (D): 46
  • FL-Gov: Mason-Dixon: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) 52, Charlie Crist (D) 41. Said pollster Brad Coker: “DeSantis is going to be Governor Hurricane for the next couple weeks. The disadvantage Crist has is two-fold: he’s completely out of the news and he never managed a hurricane so he can’t stand up and point to what he did. So Crist is totally, totally defanged.” WPEC: Florida gubernatorial debate postponed due to Hurricane Ian.
  • GA-Sen: Insider Advantage: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) 47, Herschel Walker (R) 45. Said pollster Matt Towrey: “We were polling this race before news broke late Monday of allegations against Herschel Walker and the social media posts by his son. We scrapped that poll and surveyed last evening after newspapers, television news, and social media bombarded voters with the various stories. In our Monday, October 3 poll, and prior to these news events, Walker trailed Warnock by one point.” He adds: “The good news for Warnock is that following these newest events, he leads by three points. The good news for Walker is that the difference between the two polls is well within the survey’s margin of error.”
  • GA-Gov: Insider Advantage: Gov. Brian Kemp (R) 50, Stacey Abrams (D) 45
  • MI-Gov: Glengariff Group for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV: Gretchen Whitmer (D-inc): 50, Tudor Dixon (R): 32
  • NC-Sen: SurveyUSA for WRAL: Ted Budd (R): 43, Cheri Beasley (D): 42, Shannon Bray (L): 2, Matthew Hoh (G): 1
  • NH-Sen: Data for Progress (D): Maggie Hassan (D-inc): 50, Don Bolduc (R): 43
  • NH-Sen: St. Anslem College: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) 49, Don Bolduc (R) 43
  • NH-Sen: Trafalgar: Hassan 48, Bolduc 45
  • NH-Gov: Data for Progress (D): Chris Sununu (R-inc): 52, Tom Sherman (D): 39
  • NJ-07: GQR (D) for Tom Malinowski: Tom Malinowski (D-inc): 48, Tom Kean Jr. (R): 48
  • NM-02: Global Strategy Group (D) for Gabe Vasquez: Gabe Vasquez (D): 45, Yvette Herrell (R-inc): 43
  • NY-22: Siena College for Spectrum News: Brandon Williams (R): 45, Francis Conole (D): 40
  • PA-Sen: Suffolk University for USA Today: John Fetterman (D): 46, Mehmet Oz (R): 40
  • PA-Sen: Monmouth: John Fetterman (D) 48, Mehmet Oz (R) 43. Said pollster Patrick Murray: “Fetterman maintains an edge as his support is starting to solidify. Oz’s higher negatives are driven in large part by the sense that that he is out of touch with most Pennsylvanians.”
  • PA-Gov: Suffolk University for USA Today: Josh Shapiro (D): 48, Doug Mastriano (R): 37
  • WA-Sen: Emerson College: Sen. Patty Murray (D) 51, Tiffany Smiley (R) 42

FUNDRAISING.

  • CO-Sen: Michael Bennet (D-inc): $5 million raised, $4.5 million cash-on-hand
  • NH-Sen: Don Bolduc (R): $1 million raised
  • PA-Sen: Mehmet Oz (R): $10.2 million raised, additional $7 million self-funded
  • KY-Gov: Andy Beshear (D-inc): $1 million raised, $4.15 million cash-on-hand
  • MA-Gov: Maura Healey (D): $470,000 raised (in September), $3.5 million cash-on-hand; Geoff Diehl (R): $191,000 raised (in September), $89,000 cash-on-hand
  • CA-49: Mike Levin (D-inc): $1 million raised, $2 million cash-on-hand; Brian Maryott (R): $1.1 million raised
  • VA-07: Yesli Vega (R): $1.5 million raised

Wisconsin Senate candidate Mandela Barnes (D) “raised more than $20 million in the third quarter of 2022, dwarfing what he raised throughout his entire bid for Senate,” CNN reports.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) “collected nearly $29 million over the latest fundraising period, amassing more campaign cash over a three-month period than he raised during his entire 2018 bid for Georgia’s top office,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Nate Cohn: “Two weeks ago, we noted early signs that Republicans were making gains in the race for the Senate.”

“Now it’s clear the race has shifted toward Republicans in important ways. Democrats might still lead enough races to hold the chamber, but their position is starting to look quite vulnerable. On average, Republicans have gained three points across 19 post-Labor Day polls of the key Senate battleground states, compared with pre-Labor Day polls of the same states by the same pollsters.”

“The shift is similar to what we observed a few weeks ago. What’s changed with more data: We can be sure that the polling shift is real, and we have more clarity about where Republicans are making their biggest gains — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman (D) put out a video comparing opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) to Nick Riviera, the incompetent doctor from The Simpsons.

Cook Political Report: “In conversations with several GOP strategists and lawmakers — who a month and a half ago had begun to put the Keystone State in the loss column — this has emerged as a margin-of-error race that they once again see winnable. Republicans and Democrats alike admit the race has tightened and that Pennsylvania could be the tipping point state for the Senate majority.”

“The super PAC affiliated with the Republican Jewish Coalition is beginning a significant ad buy in Pennsylvania that aims to draw attention to a 2013 incident in which John Fetterman, now the Democratic nominee for Senate, moved to detain an unarmed Black jogger,” the New York Times reports.

“The $1.5 million buy includes two ads on the subject aimed predominantly at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets. They will run on broadcast television and are intended to reach Black voters.”

On Monday, Jezebel reported that Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz was the principal investigator for medical research at Columbia University that entailed numerous studies and experiments involving what the publication called “extensive suffering inflicted on his team’s canine test subjects.” Jezebel reviewed 75 of Oz’s studies that were published in academic journals and concluded that his research had led to the deaths of at least 329 dogs, 31 pigs, and 661 rabbits and rodents.

In the early 2000s, veterinarian Catherine Dell’Orto had blown the whistle by testifying that Oz’s research had repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act, which requires the use of pain medication, anesthesia, and euthanasia to avoid or minimize suffering in research animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and primates.

Dell’Orto contended that one such study overseen by Oz involved killing a litter of puppies by injecting their hearts with expired drugs without sedation and leaving both the dead puppies and their surviving littermates in a garbage bag. She stated that, while Oz hadn’t directly euthanized the dogs, “When your name is on the experiment, and the way the experiment is designed inflicts such cruelty to these animals, by design, there’s a problem.”

In 2004, the USDA ordered Columbia to pay a $2,000 fine for violating the Animal Welfare Act as part of a settlement between the two organizations after Columbia conducted an internal investigation of Oz’s research. Nevertheless, Columbia later that year still came to Oz’s defense, claiming that he abided by “the highest standards of animal care.”

A spokesperson for Oz has thus far denied the allegations in a statement to Newsweek (a formerly mainstream publication that has drifted far to the right in recent years), telling them that “only the idiots at Newsweek believe what they read at Jezebel.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Republican megadonor Peter Thiel is signaling to allies that he is largely done helping Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, and wants his deep-pocketed political network to boost Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters as he trails Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the polls,” CNBC reports.

“Thiel told guests at a recent Masters fundraising event that he believes Vance is on track to win his Senate race against Rep. Tim Ryan.”

Republican Blake Masters has finally launched his first general election ad despite wrapping up his party’s nomination a full two months ago, and it’s a $625,000 buy for a spot that focuses on inflation and immigration. Masters blasts Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly for voting against “hiring 18,000 new Border Patrol agents” and accuses him of instead voting for “87,000 new IRS agents.”

Republicans around the country have repeated that IRS accusation in regard to the new Inflation Reduction Act, but it’s a bogus claim that even the Trump-appointed IRS director has debunked. Indeed, many of the new IRS hires paid for by the new law will simply be replacing the roughly 50,000 of its current employees who could retire over the next five years, while thousands more will be in customer service and information technology, not enforcement agents like these GOP ads claim.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. City & State reports that two Republican groups funded in part by conservative donor Ronald Lauder, Save Our State NY and Safe Together NY, have reserved a total of $4 million in ads against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

KANSAS GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has publicized an endorsement from former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, a prominent moderate Republican who backed her in 2018 and went on to support Democrat Barbara Bollier’s unsuccessful Senate bid two years later. Kelly’s Republican foe, Derek Schmidt, worked as an aide to Kassebaum early in his career, and he praised her as a role model in 2019.

MAINE GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has earned the backing of independent Sen. Angus King, a former governor who caucuses with the Democrats in D.C. but has been reluctant to endorse Team Blue’s candidates for his old job.

King spent most of the 2014 campaign supporting independent Eliot Cutler over Democrat Mike Michaud even as Democrats fretted that Cutler could take enough support to secure a second term for Republican incumbent Paul LePage: The senator switched to Michaud in the final days of the campaign well after early voting was underway, but LePage did indeed go on to win re-election with a plurality over Michaud while Cutler was a distant third.

King refrained from taking sides at all in 2018, saying now that he didn’t know Mills well back then and that he was focused on his own successful re-election campaign. (LePage, who is now trying to regain the governorship, spent much of that cycle flirting with a bid against King, but he opted to instead briefly move to Florida.) King, though, explained last week that he’s now supporting Mills in part because he’s “impressed” with her performance during the worst of the pandemic.

“Republicans’ struggles to find an effective abortion message this campaign season manifested themselves on Tuesday on a debate stage in the Maine governor’s race, as former Gov. Paul LePage (R) repeatedly stumbled over a question about how he would handle the issue if voters returned him to office,” the New York Times reports.

“The issue has been an advantage for Democrats, whose base has been energized after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade while Republicans face a dilemma over how to reassure swing voters without alienating their conservative base. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat seeking a second four-year term, seemed to sense her opportunity while seated a few feet from Mr. LePage, a Republican who left office in 2019 because of Maine’s prohibition on serving a third consecutive term.” 

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. “Senate Democrats are prioritizing a half-dozen states over North Carolina. The state’s House Democrats are openly fretting that the party could come to regret it,” Politico reports.

“As the midterms enter their final stretch, Democratic officials are feeling bullish about Cheri Beasley’s odds of winning, noting that recent public polls have the former chief justice for the North Carolina Supreme Court tied or within striking distance of her Republican opponent Rep. Ted Budd. Democratic lawmakers add that she’s outraised him by a substantial margin and see the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe as a motivating factor, especially among suburban women.”

“But Beasley needs more resources, they say, bringing up a perennial crux for the party: whether to spend their finite war chests in races deemed toss-ups, or to take a chance on those like the one in the Tar Heel State that favor Republicans.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. “Don Bolduc isn’t making a full about-face, but the Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire can’t seem to stop shifting his position about whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate,” the AP reports.

“The retired Army general claimed during his primary campaign that the White House race was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Then, after Bolduc won the Sept. 13 vote, he said it wasn’t. By Monday, at a town hall in Hudson, he said he doesn’t know what happened.”

Nearly a month after winning his party’s nomination, Republican Don Bolduc is finally launching his first general election ad with just five weeks until Election Day. Bolduc’s campaign is paying for roughly half of a modest $268,000 ad buy jointly funded by the NRSC for a spot that praises his military record without dishing out any of the far-right red meat that helped him win the GOP primary.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. Although he secured the GOP nomination all the way back in May, Republican Doug Mastriano is only just now airing his first general election ad after months of struggling with fundraising. Mastriano is putting $1 million behind a minute-long commercial that highlights his lengthy military career while steering clear of the far-right and partisan themes that have dominated his campaign thus far.

MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL and SECRETARY OF STATE. The Glengariff Group’s newest survey for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV shows Attorney General Dana Nessel fending off Republican Matt DePerno 43-30 as her fellow Democrat, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, beats Republican Kristina Karamo 47-29. The firm’s early September survey showed Nessel and Benson ahead 40-34 and 43-32, respectively.

ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT. Politico reports that a Democratic group called All for Justice is spending $3 million on an ad campaign attacking two Republican candidates for the state Supreme Court, an offensive that comes as Democrats are trying to maintain their 4-3 majority on the body. A win for the GOP in both races, which are partisan contests because they don’t feature a previously elected incumbent, will almost certainly give them a majority on the bench, which helps explain why the group says it “plans to spend millions more” against both Republicans.

The commercial’s star, a woman identified as Elizabeth, tells the audience, “It’s one seat. Our right to choose, our freedom to make our own medical decisions, comes down to one seat on the Illinois Supreme Court.” She then implores the viewer to vote against a pair of Republican candidates, former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and appointed Justice Michael Burke.

Democrats redrew the map last year to remedy decades of malapportionment, though the two districts All for Justice is advertising in still lean to the right of the state as a whole. Curran, who was the GOP’s 2020 nominee against Sen. Dick Durbin two years after he very narrowly lost re-election at home, will face off against Democrat Lake County Judge Elizabeth Rochford in the 2nd District. This seat, which includes areas to the north and west of Chicago, would have favored Biden 56-42; Curran himself also lost the constituency 53-43 as Durbin was beating him statewide by a wider 55-39.

Burke, meanwhile, is defending District 3, which includes other parts of western and southern Chicagoland as well as some rural counties. Burke will go up against Appellate Court Judge Mary O’Brien in a seat Biden would have won 53-45.

NEVADA TOP FIVE PRIMARY REFERENDUM. The Republican firm OH Predictive Insights’ new survey for the Nevada Independent finds voters narrowly opposing Question 3, a proposed constitutional amendment to institute America’s first-ever top-five primary systemby a 40-38 margin. If Question 3 does win next month, though, top-five advocates would need to prevail at the ballot box again in 2024 in order to implement the system for the 2026 elections.

2024. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will make an appearance at a political event in New Hampshire this week amid speculation that he’s eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, The Hill reports.

“Sen. Tim Scott’s closest adviser is leaving his office to take a broader role in his political operation, a move that comes amid a growing role in the midterm campaign — and speculation that he could run for president in 2024,” Politico reports.

“As he travels the country publicly backing Republican candidates and conservative causes ahead of the midterm elections, former Vice President Mike Pence has also been quietly huddling with donors and building a political operation that could serve as a springboard to a 2024 presidential campaign,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Pence held a retreat with donors and allies at a Utah ski resort over the course of three days late last month that was organized by a nonprofit group he has used to highlight causes animating social conservatives. Those priorities include restricting abortion access, expanding the role of religion in public life, barring transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports and fighting corporate social and environmental initiatives.”

“President Joe Biden told Rev. Al Sharpton that he will seek a second term in a private conversation at the White House last month, the civil rights leader informed his National Action Network staff in Washington later that day,” NBC News reports.

Said Biden: “I’m going to do it again. I’m going.”

“I’m sick and tired of that generation being in power. We’ve got to move on.”— Former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), telling Fox 5 New York that he won’t support Joe Biden if he runs again in 2024.

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

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