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The Political Report – October 20, 2022

“The GOP is tantalizingly close to its goal of taking the House majority in three weeks, after an at-times-uneven, two-year campaign to flip the chamber,” Politico reports.

“Politico’s Election Forecast still rates the race to control the House as ‘Likely Republican’ — but of the dozen newest updates, 10 individual contests moved in Republicans’ direction.”

Henry Olson: “Republicans currently hold 14 seats in districts that Biden won. Winning back some of these is crucial to Democratic hopes, as they hold nine districts that Trump won and are fighting uphill battles to keep them. GOP mapmakers also drew five Democrats into heavily GOP seats, depriving them of any realistic chance of reelection. (Democrats, by contrast, are only likely to pick up one GOP seat through similar gerrymandering shenanigans.) Pelosi’s party thus needs to win at least as many Biden-GOP seats back as it loses in Trump-Democrat areas to have a prayer of holding its slim five-seat majority.”

“Yet, Democrats have already effectively conceded nearly half their potential targets to Republicans. The Democrats’ House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aren’t even airing TV ads in six of those seats. Some of those should be great chances for Democratic wins, such as California’s 27th District (formerly the 25th District), which Biden won by nearly 13 points. The fact that Democrats have essentially abandoned them speaks volumes.”

The Hill: Democrats ready for midterm blame game.

William Galston: “In the closing weeks of the 2022 midterm cycle, survey research suggests the trends of recent years are likely to continue. In 2018, Republicans won only 25% of the Hispanic vote. This year, the four most recent national surveys of likely voters place the Republican share of Hispanic voters between 34% and 38%.”

“Unless Democrats can increase their appeal among Hispanic voters in these states, it’s difficult to see how they’ll be able to win statewide elections ever again. This means setting aside longstanding myths and focusing honestly on what really moves this part of the electorate.”

Politico: “Ever since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it seemed possible that Democrats could avoid a midterm disaster. But if the post-Roe summer belonged to Democrats, by mid-October, even they can see the momentum they had is fading.”

“A recent CBS News/YouGov survey has Democrats running 2 percentage points behind Republicans in the generic congressional ballot — a measure closely tied to a party’s performance in the midterms. A New York Times/Siena College poll released on Monday showed likely voters inclined to vote Republican by a 49 percent to 45 percent margin. Independent women — a critical constituency for Democrats in swing states and districts — had swung sharply toward Republicans in the span of a month.”

The Hill: “Democrats have cause for concern that they’re fading at a bad time ahead of the midterm elections after a summer surge fostered optimism that the party could buck historical trends and retain control of Congress.”

POLLING. “Many Americans remain pessimistic about the state of U.S. democracy and the way elected officials are chosen — nearly two years after a divisive presidential election spurred false claims of widespread fraud and a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol,” the AP-NORC poll finds.

“Only about half of Americans have high confidence that votes in the upcoming midterm elections will be counted accurately.”

Politico: “Some Democrats have now seized on GOP polling and previously unreported voter research that suggests the conservative rush to attack history lessons and library books is failing to connect with a majority of likely general election voters — and may even be alienating some persuadable moderates and independents.”

FUNDRAISING AND SPENDING. “With the battle for state legislatures taking on an elevated importance during this midterm cycle, a Democratic super PAC is investing more than $20 million in state legislative races, with about 70 percent of the funds going to support candidates in 25 districts across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona,” the New York Times reports.

“The investment is from Forward Majority, the super PAC, as Democrats across the country are pouring significant resources into state legislative races.”

“Top Democratic donor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire former candidate for president, plans to spend more than $60 million on this year’s elections, according to his advisers, opting for a lower public profile than he has taken in recent years,” the Washington Post reports.

“Much of his spending, including about $11 million in donations to House Majority PAC, the primary outside group supporting Democrats in the battle for control of the House, has not yet been publicly disclosed, while more than $15 million has been pushed through Democratic-aligned groups such as Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters.”

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Democratic rival Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) debated for the first and only time in the hotly contested race for Rubio’s seat last night, when the issues of abortion and gun control took center stage.

Tallahassee Democrat: “Rubio, Demings differ on inflation, abortion, guns – even post offices”

Tampa Bay Times: “5 takeaways from contentious US Senate debate between Val Demings and Marco Rubio”

Politico: “Rubio and Demings clash over abortion in lone Florida Senate debate”

Washington Post: “At fiery debate, Rubio opposes gun measure he championed after Parkland”

Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a former police chief who is running for Senate in Florida, took a moment to troll Herschel Walker (R).

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. NBC relays that Senate Majority PAC has booked another $5 million to aid Democrat John Fetterman.

John Fetterman’s (D) primary care physician said he continues to recover well from his stroke after an examination Friday, saying the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“Clifford Chen, a doctor at UPMC in Duquesne released a detailed medical report based on his examination… The report, the latest information from someone who has examined Fetterman since the campaign released a note from his cardiologist in June, confirms the campaign’s ongoing assertions that Fetterman is in good health.”

“As a celebrity TV doctor, Mehmet Oz used his platform to spread awareness of how climate change is harming public health by fueling extreme heat, wildfires, floods and infectious-disease outbreaks,” the Washington Post reports.

“But as a Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, a key battleground in the fight for control of Congress, Oz is now denying the scientific consensus on climate change and downplaying the dangers of Earth’s rapid warming.”

“After a rough few weeks of headlines about his health and tightening poll numbers, the John Fetterman campaign would like to have some fun again,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“The Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and Democratic candidate for US Senate on Wednesday launched a new website, Fettermemes.com, that opens to the public a small library of multimedia featuring his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, with the express hope that people will create new memes.”

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR. We have two different polls from GOP firms that show Oklahoma Democrat Joy Hofmeister leading Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, though they disagree by how much. Ascend Action, a group that doesn’t appear to have ever released horserace numbers anywhere, puts Hofmeister up 49-42. The local GOP pollster Amber Integrated, meanwhile, has the Democrat edging out Stitt 46-45, with another 3% going to the independent campaign of former GOP state Sen. Ervin Yen; last month, Amber showed Stitt ahead 47-44.

These numbers came about a week after a media poll from SoonerPoll showed Hofmeister up 47-43. Stitt, for his part, tried to pre-empt these surveys with his own late September internal showing him well ahead 48-33, though he’s loudly griped that outside groups are massively outspending him.

One of those organizations, Imagine This Oklahoma, is also out with a new ad pushing back on Stitt’s attempts to link Hofmeister to national Democrats. “Kevin Stitt attacked our teachers,” says one member of the commercial’s cast, before others jump in, “He attacked healthcare professionals. He attacked Native American tribes.” The spot continues, “Now Kevin Stitt and his cronies are attacking Joy Hofmeister. This is not about D.C. politics. This is about Oklahoma—our roads, our schools, our families.”

The RGA is spending $430,000 on a week-long buy starting Thursday, a development that comes as multiple polls show Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt in a shockingly competitive race against Democrat Joy Hofmeister. The RGA, which also got involved in the 2014 and 2018 races, says it will spend “seven figures” in a contest where outside groups have been massively outspending Stitt.

The RGA’s opening ad comes a week after Stitt aired his first negative spot against Hofmeister, and like the governor, it declares that Hofmeister and Biden are jeopardizing Oklahoma jobs by pushing for tax increases on the oil and gas industry. As we’ve noted before, Republicans successfully linked Team Blue’s last two nominees for governor to national Democrats, who have long been unpopular in the Sooner State.

Hofmeister, who left the GOP last year, very much wants to avoid becoming the next victim of this strategy, and she used a recent forum hosted by the Petroleum Alliance to push back on Stitt’s attempts to link her to the Biden administration. She told her audience, “We know that this industry, the energy sector, has been under attack and I empathize. You are key in keeping our state economy moving forward and you cannot be villainized or demonized.” She also argued that both Biden and Stitt “have not done enough” to help America achieve energy independence, citing the “hundreds of wells that are not online.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. “Democrats in Nevada hold both U.S. Senate seats, the governor’s mansion and three of its four U.S. House seats. The state hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since 2004,” the AP reports.

“But as this year’s midterm elections approach, the party’s grip on power is under threat. Catherine Cortez Masto has been called the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate. Gov. Steve Sisolak is facing a spirited reelection challenge from Republican Joe Lombardo. And the GOP could pick up two House seats in Nevada, which would put the party well on its way to regaining the majority in Washington.”

“The dynamics pose a severe test for the sophisticated organization that the late Sen. Harry Reid spent years building to give Democrats an edge in the swing state.”

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR. While Politico writes that national Republican operatives believe Joe O’Dea “is the best Republican candidate running for Senate this year,” Donald Trump seems to be doing what he can to sink his party’s standard bearer’s chances against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.

On Monday, one day after O’Dea said he would “actively campaign against Donald Trump” in 2024 to try to get a different Republican presidential nominee, Trump took to Truth Social to blast him as a “RINO” who “is having a good old time saying that he wants to ‘distance’ himself from President Trump, and other slightly nasty things.” Trump concluded, “MAGA doesn’t Vote for stupid people with big mouths. Good luck Joe!”

Trump’s offensive came a week after far-right state Rep. Ron Hanks, whom O’Dea beat 54-46 in the June primary, endorsed Libertarian Brian Peotter as “the only conservative on the ballot.” Trump did not mention Peotter in his missive but another Republican who lost over the summer, state Rep. Dave Williams, very much did in his response. “Ouch,” tweeted Williams, who failed to deny renomination to 5th District Rep. Doug Lamborn, adding, “Maybe Joe’s campaign shouldn’t alienate the base 3 weeks before an election.”

Said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND): “It certainly is not helpful. I would hate to see O’Dea lose to Sen. Bennet by a few votes just because Donald Trump urged Republicans not to vote and we came up short of the majority by one senator.”

COLORADO U.S. SENATOR, GOVERNOR and the STATE SENATE. The League of Conservation Voters has deployed an additional $1.7 million to aid Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, while the American Policy Fund is spending $1.5 million against him. According to analyst Rob Pyers, Bennet’s outside group allies have outspent Republican Joe O’Dea’s backers $12 million to $6 million through Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Everytown for Gun Safety has announced that it will spend a total of $2.7 million on TV and digital spots in the Denver media market on three separate races. The group is dropping $1 million to help Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan defend the open 27th state Senate District, which would have supported Biden 56-42, against Republican Tom Kim in suburban Arapahoe County. The remainder is split between commercials tying O’Dea to “MAGA Republicans” and aiding Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR. “The crowning chapter of Doug Mastriano’s military career — a stint on the faculty of the U.S. Army War College — has flared up in his campaign for Pennsylvania governor,” the New York Times reports.

“Two former professors at the War College publicly declared Mastriano unfit for public office. A photograph surfaced of Mastriano posing in a Confederate uniform with other faculty. And Mastriano’s Ph.D. dissertation has been criticized as deeply flawed, with a former academic adviser saying his doctorate rests ‘on very shaky grounds.’”

Mastriano’s research “focused on a World War I hero, Alvin York, who credited his exploits killing and capturing German soldiers to divine intervention and who inspired the 1941 Gary Cooper movie Sergeant York.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) “is signaling that he’s ready to ditch his typically restrained persona in favor of more direct attacks on his Republican opponent Herschel Walker as the Georgia Senate race enters its final stretch,” The Hill reports.

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR. Tim Michels (R), who is locked in a tight race with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), suggested that he did not support enforcing the swing state’s near-total ban on abortions, saying “I will never arrest a doctor” before his campaign walked back his comment, the AP reports.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. The Bulwark: “It’s working. Once ahead in the polls, Democrat Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, is now trailing Republican incumbent Ron Johnson in the state’s race for U.S. Senate, a shift also seen recently in other important races. One factor is an onslaught of negative messaging that seeks to paint Barnes as a crime-loving radical. A key word here is ‘paint.’”

“One of the ads, from the National Republican Senate Committee, ends with a shot that brands Barnes, who is black, as “different” and “dangerous” as it pictures him alongside three congresswomen of color who are members of “The Squad,” none of whom has campaigned with him. For good measure, the state Republican party sent out a mailer in which the color of Barnes’s skin has clearly been darkened.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) “recently made two payments to a law firm led by a Wisconsin attorney embroiled in the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe, tapping the firm in part to assist in a possible recount,” NBC News reports.

“Johnson made the payments to the law firm led by James Troupis, who allegedly played a role in a plan to reverse the 2020 election results through the use of ‘fake electors’ that’s now under scrutiny by the federal government. Troupis, a lawyer for Donald Trump’s campaign, led Trump’s unsuccessful recount efforts in Wisconsin.”

Johnson’s denials of involvement in the scheme are getting less believable by the day.

Johnson has admitted to texting with Troupis on Jan. 6 before and after the GOP senator’s office tried to deliver the fake Trump elector slate to then-Vice President Mike Pence’s office that day. The Wisconsin senator insists he was involved in the sham elector plot for only a “couple of seconds.”

NBC’s takeaway: “Johnson’s payment for legal consulting on a possible recount to an outside law firm could be a sign that he expects the kind of dead-heat contest the battleground state is known for.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. “At a Utah debate on Monday night, independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin forcefully criticized Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Lee for Lee’s efforts, prior to January 6, 2021, to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory,” CNN reports.

“Lee’s response was to rewrite history.”

“Lee tried, as he did earlier this year, to downplay his actions. But his own text messages contradict his debate narrative – providing clear evidence that he did far more to try to reverse Biden’s win than he now claims.”

Shawn McCreesh: “One night last week, I heard that a right-wing cabal was gathering at the Beach Cafe, the Upper East Side’s Republican Cheers. I decided to drop by, because I’ve been curious how the shadow war between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump is going among GOP thought leaders. Sure enough, the place was crawling with spidery political operatives and staffers from Newsmax, Breitbart, Fox News, and the New York Post as well as a few red-pilled Park Avenue women with strong opinions and stronger drink orders. Turns out there is a vast right-wing conspiracy — and it’s against Trump. Dear liberal reader, this I can assure you: The people who make the conservative-media-world spin are about as fed up with Trump as the rest of us. (Many of them insist they are even more so.)”

“Whether they’ll say it publicly is an entirely different matter: Taking a stand against Trump has consistently proved to be the surest way to get canceled (by the right).”

ARIZONA GOVERNOR and U.S. SENATOR. Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) is out with a new ad that says voters “deserve a gubernatorial debate” and slams Katie Hobbs (D) for being “too timid” to take part in a debate.

The GOP firm HighGround Public Affairs’ new survey for the local TV station Arizona’s Family finds Democrat Katie Hobbs edging out Republican Kari Lake 46-45 for governor as Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly posts a similarly small 42-40 edge over Blake Masters; the Senate survey also shows Libertarian Marc Victor grabbing a potentially crucial 5%. Most other firms have found Lake running well ahead of Masters.

Lake, meanwhile, is airing a new commercial with the Yuma County GOP attacking Hobbs for refusing to debate her, a topic that has generated stories for weeks. Hobbs has continued to defend her decision by pointing to the Republican primary debates where Lake was given a platform to deny the results of the 2020 election. “I have no desire to be a part of the spectacle that she’s looking to create, because that doesn’t do any service to the voters,” the Democrat argued.

IOWA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. Selzer & Company caused a stir over the weekend when its newest poll for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom Iowa showed longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley edging out Democrat Mike Franken just 46-43, a drop from Grassley’s 47-39 edge in July.

The numbers were especially attention grabbing because Selzer, which has long enjoyed a solid reputation in Iowa, correctly found clear leads for Donald Trump and Sen. Joni Ernst in its final 2020 poll at a time when other firms were giving Democrats reasons for optimism in those races. Notably, Selzer’s new poll also shows Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds fending off Democrat Deidre DeJear 52-35, so the narrow Grassley edge doesn’t seem to be the product of an overly liberal sample.  

This poll was even better for Franken than his late September internal from Change Research, which showed him down 49-44. The GOP firm Cygnal also publicized numbers from early October for the conservative Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation that showed Grassley winning by a clear 54-40. National Democrats so far have shown little interest in pouring money into a state that was the source of so much disappointment two years ago.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR and U.S. SENATOR. Quinnipiac University released some startling numbers Tuesday when it found Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul fending off Republican Lee Zeldin just 50-46, which is the closest result that any independent pollster has found in this very blue state. Siena College that same day gave Hochul a stronger 52-41 edge, though that was still a drop from her 54-37 advantage in late September.

It’s possible Quinnipiac just got a disproportionately conservative sample, especially since the school shows Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leading his little-known Republican rival, conservative activist Joe Pinion, only 54-42; Siena, by contrast, had the incumbent ahead 57-37. Schumer turned in a 66-32 performance even amidst the 2010 red wave and won 71-27 six years later, though the senator may have a tougher time now that he’s become the Democratic leader and a favorite target for the GOP base.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Mississippi Today’s Bobby Harrison reports that Secretary of State Michael Watson is considering waging a GOP primary bid against Gov. Tate Reeves next year; Watson himself was recently asked about his plans for next year and said he hadn’t committed to anything. Additionally, Harrison says that State Auditor Shad White and Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson “are also said to have considered a gubernatorial bid as they’ve coursed their political futures,” but there’s no other information about their interest.

CONNECTICUT U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. The CT Examiner released a survey from the Fabrizio, Lee & Associates giving Democratic incumbents mid-single digit leads for Senate and governor, but there’s a few huge caveats in this “nonpartisan poll.” Not only is Fabrizio one of the GOP’s most prominent pollsters, with a client list that includes Trump’s new super PAC, GOP donor David Kelsey funds both the CT Examiner and a super PAC dedicated to ousting Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

As for the numbers, Fabrizio shows Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal fending off Republican Leora Levy 49-44; Lamont, meanwhile, leads Republican Bob Stefanowski 46-40 as third-party candidate Rob Hotaling grabs 5%. September polls from Western New England University and Quinnipiac University had both Democrats ahead by double digits.

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

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