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The Political Report – October 15, 2022

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved a couple of House races to the Toss-up column — there are now 26. Splitting them down the middle would still result in a 227 to 208 Republican House, or a net gain of 14 for Republicans.

David Wasserman: “We’ve spent a lot of time this cycle talking about why Republicans’ modest gains from redistricting are a valuable ‘insurance policy’ in the fluid 2022 House race. But an arguably bigger GOP advantage in the homestretch is the high number of vulnerable Democratic open seats — a legacy of the bleak outlook in late 2021 that prompted many Democrats in swing seats to head for the exits.”

“It’s almost always easier to pick up an open seat than defeat an incumbent — not just because incumbents have more well-established personal brands, but because open seats usually feature a more level financial playing field.”

James Carville told Vanity Fair that given the current political environment, Democrats wouldn’t ordinarily stand a chance in 2022.

Said Carville: “You have an election with ‘wrong track’ for the country at 65%, presidential approval at 41% — all that is a guaranteed landslide for Republicans. Why has this electorate been resisting this and resisting it hard? That’s the question that we should be asking ourselves.”

Ron Brownstein: “American politics today may be both more rigid and more unstable than at any other time since at least the Civil War. A politics that is rigid and unstable sounds like a contradiction in terms. But the system’s instability is a direct result of its rigidity. Because so many voters—and so many states—are reliably locked down for one side or the other, even the slightest shifts among the few voters and few states that are truly up for grabs can tilt the balance of power. The consequence is a politics in which neither party can sustain a durable advantage over the other, and political direction for a country of 330 million people is decided by a tiny sliver of voters in about half a dozen states—maybe a few hundred thousand people in all.”

“These twin forces largely explain why so many Americans now find politics so stressful. People across the country nervously parse the choices of distant voters in a handful of states to see which party will control the federal government. The balance always remains so wobbly that a momentary mood swing in just a few subdivisions outside Atlanta, Phoenix, or Philadelphia can determine whether Democrats are empowered to pass a new law codifying a national right to abortion, or Republicans are positioned to impose a national ban. Everything is always at stake—and nothing seems to break the deadlock.”

POLLING.

  • AZ-Sen: InsiderAdvantage (R) for KSAZ-TV: Mark Kelly (D-inc): 46, Blake Masters (R): 42, Marc Victor (L): 5 (Sept.: 45-39 Kelly)
  • AZ-Gov: InsiderAdvantage (R) for KSAZ-TV: Kari Lake (R): 49, Katie Hobbs (D): 46 (Sept.: 44-43 Hobbs)
  • GA-Sen: Civiqs (D): Raphael Warnock (D-inc): 49, Herschel Walker (R): 46
  • GA-Gov: Civiqs (D): Brian Kemp (R-inc): 51, Stacey Abrams (D): 46
  • IA-Sen: Change Research (D) for Mike Franken: Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 49, Mike Franken (D): 44 (Sept.: 48-44 Grassley)
  • MI-Gov: EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press: Gretchen Whitmer (D-inc): 49, Tudor Dixon (R): 38
  • NY-Gov: Marist College: Kathy Hochul (D-inc): 51, Lee Zeldin (R): 41
  • TX-Gov: Civiqs (D): Greg Abbott (R-inc): 52, Beto O’Rourke (D): 44
  • UT-Sen: Hill Research Consultants (R) for Put Utah First (pro-McMullin): Evan McMullin (I): 49, Mike Lee (R-inc): 43, John Arthur Hansen (L): 4

A new Gallup poll finds large majorities of Americans favor three measures meant to make voting easier: early voting (78% in favor), automatic voter registration (65%) and sending absentee ballots to all eligible voters (60%).

“Hispanic voters favor Democrats in November’s congressional elections, but by a smaller margin than four years ago, with inflation concerns and President Biden’s middling approval helping Republicans hold onto gains made in 2020,” a Washington Post-Ipsos poll finds.

“Overall, the Post-Ipsos poll finds 63 percent of Hispanic registered voters would support Democrats for Congress if the election were held today, while 36 percent support Republicans. Democrats’ 27-point advantage is similar to Biden’s support in 2020 but smaller than Democrats’ roughly 40-point advantages in 2018 and 2016 in exit polls and validated voter surveys.”

FUNDRAISING.

  • OH-Sen: J.D. Vance (R): $6.9 million raised, $3.3 million cash-on-hand
  • CA-41: Will Rollins (D): $1.43 million raised
  • KS-03: Sharice Davids (D-inc): $2.15 million raised, $1.5 million cash-on-hand
  • MT-01: Ryan Zinke (R): $1.72 million raised, $525,000 cash-on-hand
  • NV-03: Susie Lee (D-inc): $1.2 million raised, $1.2 million cash-on-hand

New York Times: “Republican super PACs are paying a steep premium to compete on the airwaves with Democratic candidates, a trend that is playing out nationwide with cascading financial consequences for the House and Senate battlefield. Hour after hour in state after state, Republicans are paying double, triple, quadruple and sometimes even 10 times more than Democrats for ads on the exact same programs.”

“One reason is legal and beyond Republicans’ control. But the other is linked to the weak fund-raising of Republican candidates this year and the party’s heavy dependence on billionaire-funded super PACs.”

The Cook Political Report notes that $128.5 million has been spent so far in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia — “a number that could rise exponentially given the increasing likelihood this race might go into overtime with a December 6 runoff.”

“Tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s political operation have been in a standoff over how to fund a key Senate race — and a late proposal to collaborate stalled out this week, less than a month before Election Day,” Politico reports.

Nate Silver: “For the past few weeks, we’ve been trying to figure out to what extent, if any, Republicans have regained ground in the race for control of Congress. And the answer is… probably some, but not necessarily as much as the conventional wisdom holds.”

“In FiveThirtyEight’s Deluxe forecast, the GOP now has a 34 percent chance of recapturing the Senate. That’s up from a low of 29 percent in mid-September.”

“In betting markets, there’s been a much sharper shift. In fact, the markets have the race at nearly even, with Republicans having a 49 percent chance of Senate control. That’s up from a low of 33 percent in late August. The markets were in pretty good alignment with FiveThirtyEight’s forecast for most of the cycle; now they’re not.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. The Daily Beast obtained Herschel Walker’s (R) child support agreement for his youngest son, which shows that he pays $3,500 a month — he claims a net worth between $29 million and $62 million — and has no visitation rights.

“We shared the details with five experienced New York family lawyers. Their verdict was unanimous: The mother got a raw deal.”

Nate Cohn: “In today’s highly polarized political climate, it takes a lot for a scandal to make a big difference in a high-stakes election.”

“But if the latest polls are any indication, the recent allegations against Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate candidate in Georgia, might be big enough not only to decide his race but also control of the Senate.”

“Compared with previous polling, the latest surveys show him slipping by an average of about 2.5 percentage points since an ex-girlfriend said he paid her for an abortion she had in 2009. Mr. Walker has made opposition to abortion a cornerstone of his campaign and has denied the woman’s account.”

Philip Bump: “When the Daily Beast first reported that Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker had paid a girlfriend for an abortion in 2009 — a claim Walker has both denied and denied remembering — it seemed like the sort of revelation that might upend the close race. After all, here was a story centered on one of the most polarizing issues of the 2022 midterms, abortion, with a fervently Republican antiabortion candidate apparently exposed as hypocritical.”

“Walker’s son Christian quickly and loudly turned on his father. Other Republicans seemed worried, with some expressing concern that they were stuck with Walker as their party’s nominee.”

“Polling has come trickling in since the Oct. 4 report. But, so far, those concerns appear to have been unnecessary. Views of Walker are just about the same as they were before the news broke, as is the state of the race.”

“One is a seasoned public speaker, accustomed to delivering sermons nearly every Sunday from the pulpit of the famed Atlanta church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. The other is a political novice whose meandering, often nonsensical oratory on the stump tends to inspire as much mockery as it does applause,” the New York Times reports.

“The stark stylistic differences between the polished Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his less politically refined Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football great, add unpredictability and intrigue to their highly anticipated debate on Friday night.”

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. NBC reports that American Crossroads, which was once one of the most prominent super PACs on the right but largely went dormant until last cycle, will spend $4.1 million against Democrat John Fetterman. This appears to be its first independent expenditure of 2022.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. The Washington Post reports that far-right billionaire Peter Thiel is planning to put another $5 million of his money into the race to support Republican Blake Masters, the Thiel protege whom his earlier $15 million in spending helped to win the August primary. The Post says this new money is in the works even after Politico reported that the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund informed Thiel that they somehow couldn’t find the resources to match his investment. Just a day earlier, Axios had reported that Thiel had proposed jumping in on Masters’ behalf to the tune of at least $10 million only if SLF would pony up half the amount.

Republicans are in this predicament thanks to Masters’ weak fundraising and SLF canceling its remaining $9.6 million reservation last month, but even if Thiel does come to the rescue, the delay will cost Republicans a pretty penny because of the premium that super PACs pay for late ad purchases compared to candidates, who are guaranteed the lowest rate by federal law. Indeed, the New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher noted that “another late-reserving GOP super PAC” was paying roughly $1,775 per gross rating point, which is a measure of how many times an ad reaches viewers, while Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was paying a mere $300 per point, roughly just one-sixth as much.

While Thiel has dragged his feet, however, his Saving Arizona PAC has dropped $2 million to fund a very cheap-looking ad that attacks Kelly on immigration, though the PAC told NBC that Thiel didn’t fund this one and the money came from other donors.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR and WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Marquette Law School’s new Wisconsin survey finds Republican Sen. Ron Johnson edging out Democrat Mandela Barnes 49-47 among respondents who are “absolutely certain or very likely to vote,” while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers posts a similar 47-44 advantage over GOP foe Tim Michels. The school, though, promoted some more Republican-friendly numbers as the takeaway toplines from its poll, finding Johnson and Evers ahed 52-46 and 47-46, respectively, with those “absolutely certain to vote only.”

That’s a very narrow way of defining the probable November electorate, though. The vast majority of pollsters prefer to emphasize “likely voter” models, and Marquette’s first set of numbers comes much closer to doing so than its second. Estimating voter turnout is an inherently difficult task, and relying on self-reported propensity isn’t without problems. But only including data from definite voters risks leaving out too many people who are simply less certain about their plans four weeks from now.

Marquette employed these models last month as well, though it didn’t find Republicans more committed to turning out back then. In September, Johnson posted an identical 49-47 edge among “absolutely certain” and “likely” voters, while Evers was ahead 45-44 with this group. The senator, by contrast, had a 1-point edge with definite voters while Evers actually had a larger 3-point advantage with this cohort.

What all the polls agree on, though, is that independent Joan Beglinger’s lingering presence on the ballot could make a difference in the race for governor even though she dropped out a month ago and endorsed Michels. Beglinger’s zombie campaign snags 4% among certain and likely voters, which is down slightly from her 6% showing last month.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial calls Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) “the worst Wisconsin political representative since the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R) and challenger Mandela Barnes (D) had a lively debate last night, “but it’s hard to see it changing the course of the election with less than a month to go,” the New York Times reports.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has five takeaways.

“During Wisconsin’s final Senate debate Thursday night, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made a comment that surprised many in attendance,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Said Johnson: “The FBI set me up with a corrupt briefing and then leaked that to smear me.”

“The remark drew laughs from the crowd as Johnson explained he’s been trying to uncover and expose alleged corruption within the FBI.”

“Wisconsin Democrat Mandela Barnes is looking to turn around his struggling Senate campaign after being battered by two months’ worth of attack ads labeling him soft on crime,” Politico reports.  “His play: make the race a referendum on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s record on abortion policy.”

Politico: “Barnes’ campaign has privately reached out to Barack Obama’s team to get the former president on the trail in the closing days of his challenge to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.”

“Among other proposals, Wisconsin Democrats have discussed bringing in President Joe Biden, two people familiar with the conversations said. They are in various stages of planning with Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).”

CNN: Barnes seeks to rebut crime attacks headed into final Senate debate with Johnson in Wisconsin.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) publicly begged Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) for an endorsement. Lee on Tuesday went on Fox News and, in the words of the Deseret News, “pleaded” for homestate colleague Mitt Romney to endorse him and for the Romney family to fund his effort to fend off independent Evan McMullin. “It’s not too late, Mitt. You can join the party,” said Lee, who did not back Romney’s 2018 bid. Romney, for his part, has explained that he’s stayed neutral because both candidates are his friends, which makes him the one Republican senator who hasn’t endorsed Lee.

When Tucker ​​Carlson asked why Lee hadn’t directly asked his fellow for help, he responded, “I’ve asked him … I’m asking him right here again tonight, right now.” The incumbent continued, “Please get on board. Help me win reelection. Help us do that. You can get your entire family to donate to me.”

​​Carlson, for his part, spent most of his time making fun of his party’s 2012 presidential nominee, and Fox’s most prominent viewer followed suit the next day. “McMuffin does not represent the values of Utah,” Donald Trump wrote of Lee’s opponent, continuing, “but neither, as you will see in two years, does Mitt Romney, who refuses to endorse his fellow Republican Senator, Mike Lee.”

Independent Evan McMullin’s new commercial makes use of an infamous moment at a 2020 Trump rally where Republican Sen. Mike Lee pointed at the MAGA leader and told the crowd, “​​To my Mormon friends, my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him as Captain Moroni.” The narrator is not happy, telling the audience, “Mike Lee compared Donald Trump to a hero in the Book of Mormon.”

The ad cuts back to Lee, who paraphrases Mormon texts by saying of Trump, “He seeks not power, but to pull it down. He seeks not the praise of the world or the fake news.” The narrator responds, “It’s wrong to misuse scripture in the pursuit of personal power. Mike Lee’s lost his way.”

Over 60% of Utah’s population, including both major Senate candidates, are Mormons, and Lee’s 2020 comments caused a stir at home. “You don’t take him before the Senate Ethics Committee because he invoked Captain Moroni, right?” one unnamed Utah political consultant sarcastically told Politico earlier this year of Lee, who was part of the failed effort to overturn Trump’s defeat. The source added, “It doesn’t rise to that level of inappropriate. But it just leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth.”

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Republican incumbent Marco Rubio is airing a commercial tying Democrat Val Demings to what he calls the “radical left” that features a shot of a drag queen reading to children, and this unwilling cast member is making it clear just what she thinks of the senator.

Lil Miss Hot Mess, who lives in Arizona, put out a video where she asked, “Why are you so obsessed with me and Drag Story Hour?” After declaring, “We’re simply out here reading books to children, encouraging them to use their imagination to envision a more just and fabulous world,” she added, “You, on the other hand, are out here during a hurricane that is pummeling your state spreading hateful, homophobic, and transphobic bigotry.”

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR and COLORADO GOVERNOR. The Democratic firm Data for Progress finds Sen. Michael Bennet leading Republican Joe O’Dea 50-41 as his fellow Democratic incumbent, Gov. Jared Polis, posts a wider 56-39 edge over Republican Heidi Ganahl.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the Senate Leadership Fund has contributed $1.25 million to the conservative American Policy Fund, which in turn has now spent a similar amount to help O’Dea; the organization is also funded by construction company owners and billionaire Timothy Mellon. Bennet’s allies at the League of Conservation Voters also launched a new $1.3 million buy on Friday: Politico writes that Democrats so far have spent or reserved $18 million here compared to $12 million for the GOP.  

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who announced this week she was leaving the Democratic party, is headed to New Hampshire to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc (R), Politico reports.

On a recording obtained by Vanity Fair, New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc (R), who has claimed he would not vote for a 15-week federal abortion ban, waffled on his position.

He also called the disposal of embryos for in vitro fertilization “a disgusting practice.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. While Donald Trump ranted Monday that “[t]he Old Broken Crow, Mitchell McConnell, is authorizing $9 Million Dollars to be spent in order to beat a great Republican,” Kelly Tshibaka, rather than target Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in Arizona, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund is continuing to air ads in Alaska against Tshibaka. SLF, which is defending Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the instant-runoff general election, uses its latest ad to once again accuse Tshibaka “ripping off Alaska taxpayers,” a theme that it’s relied on in several of its spots.

Some of these allegations come from a 2011 internal report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where Tshibaka worked at the time. The document said that she put down almost 600 “questionable” work hours, which SLF’s narrator says she instead put to use “to go running.”

Tshibaka’s campaign in turn denounced these as false allegations, arguing, “Kelly Tshibaka’s job was to keep federal employees honest, and some of them filed complaints against her in retaliation.” She’s also echoed Trump in claiming she’s “been exonerated from every federal investigation they’ve ever done,” though the Anchorage Daily News’ Iris Samuels says she’s never presented any documentation to prove this.  

SLF also declares that Tshibaka “charged taxpayers $81,000 to move,” which is how much money the state paid in 2019 for her to return to Alaska to work in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. The candidate has defended herself on that front too, saying the cost was so high because she was required to go with the least-expensive option and “[i]f you use the lowest vendor, you’re likely going to get a fraudulent vendor.” Tshibaka has argued that this resulted in “us losing money as a state” and that she submitted a report to the state attorney general, but Samuels also writes, “No such documentation has been made publicly available.”

SLF initially booked $7 million in ad time to help Murkowski, though it cut $1.7 million in August because the senator “is in a very strong position.” OpenSecrets reports that as of Wednesday, SLF has spent $4.3 million here, while another super PAC called Alaskans for L.I.S.A has dropped $3.3 million. (Its abbreviation nominally stands for “Leadership In a Strong Alaska.”) By contrast, outside groups have spent a mere $140,000 on Tshibaka’s side.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. “The two candidates in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races have no plans to debate before Election Day, making the contest an anomaly among battleground states this year,” NBC News reports.

“With less than four weeks until the Nov. 8 election, neither Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto nor her Republican challenger, Adam Laxalt, have given any sign of breaking a stalemate over whether they would meet face to face on stage.”

Fourteen members of Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt’s (R) family announced that they would collectively endorse his opponent, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), the Nevada Independent reports.

New York Times: “The race is tight, with most of the latest polls showing Mr. Laxalt up by a sliver. Without mentioning him by name, Mr. Laxalt’s family members argued that Ms. Cortez Masto would serve Nevada far better than their relative, who has emerged in recent years as a die-hard Trump loyalist eager to push the former president’s stolen-election lies.”

Senate Majority PAC has reserved another $1.1 million for TV and radio ads supporting Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

NORTH CAROLINA U.S. SENATOR. “Those concerned that national Democrats aren’t doing enough to support Senate candidate Cheri Beasley in North Carolina take note: Her campaign will get another big jolt of dollars from party leaders,” WGHP reports.

“In the same week that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s political action committee launched a $4 million television ad campaign to address Republican Ted Budd’s position on abortion rights, the PAC announced it will spend another $4 million in TV ads during the final two weeks leading up to the Election on Nov. 8.”

WASHINGTON U.S. SENATOR. The Republican-affiliated Evergreen Principle PAC has reserved an additional $1.9 million to boost Republican Tiffany Smiley.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. “Democrats across Ohio are pleading for help in the state’s Senate contest, afraid they may lose a winnable election unless national party leaders make major investments in the coming days,” the AP reports.

“So far, the most powerful groups in Democratic politics have prioritized Senate pickup opportunities in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over Ohio, once a perennial swing state that veered right in the Trump era. But on the eve of the 2022 midterms, some public polls suggest Ohio is as competitive as the other swing states, leaving many Democrats here wondering why their party isn’t backing Senate contender Tim Ryan more forcefully.”

BuzzFeed News: “On Wednesday morning, Sandy Gilson noticed four political signs, including one supporting Senate candidate John Fetterman, missing from her front lawn — the second time in two weeks this had happened. When Gilson, a longtime resident of Tredyffrin Township, an affluent Philadelphia suburb where she serves as a committee member for her precinct, drove around her neighborhood, she noticed more signs — all supporting Democrats ahead of next month’s midterm elections — gone too.”

“But when she decided to file a report with the local police department, the cops already knew where her signs would be — in a large commercial dumpster behind a strip mall in the area. How? Because someone had put an  Apple AirTag  on one of the signs.”

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

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