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The Political Report – October 28, 2022

“Polling, spending trends and conversations with leading Democratic and Republican strategists suggest it’s now very possible House Republicans win back the majority on Nov. 8 with more than 20 House seats — once the upper range of most analysts’ projections,” Axios reports.

“Two weeks out from the midterms, evidence points to a re-emerging red wave that could sweep in GOP control of both chambers. In the Senate, Republican officials are now bullish they’ll gain at least the one seat necessary to regain the majority.”

“There’s also an outside chance it sweeps in flawed Republican Senate nominees in Georgia and Arizona — despite their underwhelming campaigns against battle-tested Democratic incumbents.”

Nicholas Lehman: “I’ve been spending time lately traveling to closely contested political territories, watching endangered Democrats campaign. If you live in deep-blue America, as I do, this can feel surreal. The issues my neighbors talk about on the street, usually in a tone of crisis-level alarm—the ill health of American democracy, the fragility of the planet, the pervasiveness of social injustice—and the issues the candidates I watched talk about on the campaign trail have only one point of intersection: the threat to abortion rights.”

“The candidates talk less about fighting climate change, more about lowering your federal taxes through solar credits; less about the January 6th insurrection, more about the many reasonable Republicans they enjoy working with; less about the Biden Administration’s passage of historic legislation, more about insulin price caps. And they combine this with a tough, unsentimental way of practicing politics that includes trying like hell to draw far-right opponents.”

Politico: “Black voters form the backbone of the Democratic electorate, voting for Democrats at higher rates than any other racial group. But interviews with more than a dozen elected officials, strategists and activists in key swing states, most of them Black, suggest Democrats are increasingly concerned that Black turnout could sag this November — and with it, Democrats’ electoral chances.”

“If Black turnout were to fall this year, it would seriously complicate — if not eviscerate — Democrats’ path to victory in hotly contested gubernatorial and Senate races across the country, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin.”

However, Georgia Public Broadcasting reports Black turnout in early voting is actually up.

POLLING. “Abortion isn’t the top issue on all voters’ minds heading into the November midterms. But it’s notably more important to voters in 2022 than in years past — and the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June is actively motivating more voters to turn out, a major new survey shows,” The 19th reports.

A new Monmouth poll in Georgia finds just under half of Georgia voters say they will either definitely (39%) or probably (10%) vote for Warnock in November (49%) and a slightly smaller number will either definitely (33%) or probably (11%) vote for Walker (44%). At the other end of the spectrum, 40% say they will definitely not vote for Warnock and 46% say the same for Walker.

A new Monmouth poll in Georgia finds more than half of voters will either definitely (44%) or probably (11%) vote to reelect Gov. Brian Kemp (55%) in November. His definite support number increased by 10 points since September. Meanwhile, just over 4 in 10 voters will definitely (35%) or probably (8%) back Abrams (43%), which is basically unchanged from last month. Key takeaway: Half of the voters polled have definitely ruled out voting for Abrams (50%) compared with only one-third who say the same about Kemp (35%).

Politico: “The president’s approval rating is holding steady in negative territory ahead of Election Day, according to the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll, with 43 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving. A deeper dive into the data shows that Biden approvers plan to vote in near-lockstep for Democrats this fall, while those who “strongly disapprove” of him are almost uniformly lined up with Republicans.”

“But the slice of 15 percent of voters who say they ‘somewhat disapprove’ of Biden are stuck in the middle — and where they break with two weeks left could decide whether Democrats keep the Senate, as well as what happens to a host of other races up and down the ballot.”

FiveThirtyEight finds that voters who backed Donald Trump in 2020 and primarily get their news from social media are the most likely people to not respond to political polls.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference on Wednesday where her client, a woman identified with the pseudonym “Jane Doe,” accused Republican Herschel Walker of urging her to get an abortion in 1993. The woman, who said she was in a longterm relationship with Walker, also declared that he drove her to a clinic after she decided to undergo the procedure.

The allegations come weeks after a different former Walker partner said he paid for her abortion in 2009. The candidate responded to this new story, “I’m done with this foolishness. I’ve already told you this is a lie, and I’m not going to entertain it.”

David Byler: “According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Walker has regained all of the ground he lost mid-scandal, bringing the race with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to a tie. He is now facing a new report from a second accuser that he pressured her into an abortion, too. But the effects of the first scandal have already worn off.”

“The FiveThirtyEight poll average tells an only slightly different story: Warnock’s lead over Walker increased from two to four points after the abortion scandal. Now Walker trails by only three. FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gives Walker a roughly 50 percent chance of winning the race.”

“The simplest explanation for Walker’s rebound: Voters already knew he had baggage.”

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Warnock shifts strategy as second woman accuses Walker.

“It’s become a predictable cycle in Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign: A scandalous allegation explodes in the headlines. Walker denies it or brushes it aside. National Republicans rally around him,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “John Fetterman’s debate performance has intensified the focus on his recovery from a stroke, leading some supporters to worry that his current post-stroke limitations could affect his narrow lead in the critical Pennsylvania Senate race against  Mehmet Oz,” CNN reports.

“If Fetterman’s showing changes the trajectory of the race, the debate could have nationwide ramifications, with Pennsylvania representing the best chance for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat in the evenly divided chamber.”

The Hill: Democrats in second-guessing mode after Fetterman-Oz Pennsylvania debate.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: “I don’t want to understate how significant a problem Fetterman’s condition was for his ability to debate effectively. The cognitive gaps were evident nearly every time he spoke, and shaped many of the exchanges. Often, Fetterman would begin an answer with a clear sentence, only to follow it with several confusing ones. At other times, he would hit upon a phrase of choice (a favorite was ‘the Oz Rule,’ the ‘rule’ being that Oz lies every time he’s on television) and continue to circle back to it, like a life raft.”

“When Fetterman’s answers triggered some basic political follow-ups from the hosts, he could not find the words to talk his way out of them, as politicians ordinarily do…”

“It seems a little strange to think about exactly how this debate will affect the rest of the race, though I’m inclined to assume that it was much worse for Fetterman than for Oz. Even so, there was a rare poignancy to Fetterman’s position last night, both in what he was so obviously struggling through and in how much pressure was on him. The Democrats are in a perilous political situation at the moment—they are almost sure to lose control of the House of Representatives, President Biden is unpopular, and the economy is teetering. What they have been depending upon this year is that a few exceptional candidates in key states (Mark Kelly, in Arizona; Raphael Warnock, in Georgia; Catherine Cortez Masto, in Nevada; and Fetterman, in Pennsylvania) will pull in enough swing voters to keep control of the Senate and keep the politics of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis at bay. So much depends upon a handful of individuals—upon their vigor on the trail, upon the precision of their arguments, upon their health. Maybe too much.”

Democrat John Fetterman quickly produced a commercial using footage from Tuesday night’s debate where Republican Mehmet Oz declared he wants abortion to be decided by “women, doctors, [and] local political leaders.” The spot goes on to tie Oz to governor nominee Doug Mastriano, who has performed badly in most polls, with the narrator arguing that Oz would allow Mastriano “to ban abortion without exceptions.”  Fetterman’s camp says the spot will air on TV in “key markets.”

Politico reports that two affiliates of the Senate Leadership Fund are booking $6.2 million total to attack Democrat John Fetterman using much of the money that SLF withdrew from New Hampshire last week.

About $3.2 million of this will come from Faith and Power PAC, which SLF set up in 2020 in an unsuccessful attempt to meddle in the Democratic Senate primary and hasn’t been seen since, while American Crossroads will make up the balance. It’s not clear exactly why SLF is bothering to resurrect Faith and Power especially since its opening ad, which stars Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran trashing Fetterman on crime, is very similar to the commercials the GOP has been running for months.

John Hendrickson: “Tonight’s hour-long exchange was, in some ways, a Rorschach test of comfort with disability. Viewers from outside Pennsylvania tuned in to the broadcast from a local TV studio in Harrisburg to hear the candidates discuss the defining issues of this election cycle—abortion, inflation, gun laws, illegal immigration, energy—but many people queued up the livestream to gawk at one of the candidates.”

“Unfortunately, no disability accommodations—not even 70-inch television monitors for real-time captioning—can change how our society stigmatizes verbal disfluency. We are a culture of sound bites, mic drops, and clapbacks. To speak in any way that deviates from the norm is to summon ridicule and judgment. That’s already happening to Fetterman, and his campaign now faces an extraordinarily difficult situation.”

“He should not have debated. Anyone on his team who agreed to a debate should be fired, or never work again, because that debate may have tanked his campaign. This race was trending toward victory. Now, it’s anyone’s guess what happens.” — Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, quoted by NBC News, on John Fetterman’s debate last night in Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart announced Tuesday that she was resigning in order to enter next May’s all-important Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Mayor Jim Kenney. The field already includes three former City Council members, Cherelle Parker, Derek Green, and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, and it will likely expand further in the coming months. Rhynhart, Parker, and Quiñones-Sánchez would each be the first woman to lead the city.

Rhynhart, who previously served in the administrations of former Mayor Michael Nutter and Kenney, rose to prominence during her first campaign in 2017 when she denied renomination to Alan Butkovitz in a 58-41 shocker that dramatically demonstrated how much the city’s traditional Democratic machine had declined. Rhynhart has since emerged as a vocal critic of Kenney and the local police’s handling of gun violence, and she released a budget audit last week that found numerous problems in the Police Department.

MICHIGAN ABORTION REFERENDUM. SSRS’ new survey for CNN finds Proposal 3, which would enshrine the right to an abortion into the Michigan state constitution, ahead 54-45, which falls right between what two other pollsters have shown this month. A mid-October media survey from EPIC-MRA that put “yes” up 60-33, while more recent numbers from the GOP firm Mitchell Research & Communications for MIRS News had “yes” winning just 50-47.

NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT. The GOP firm Cygnal’s new survey for the conservative John Locke Foundation finds Republicans Trey Allen and Richard Dietz with identical 49-42 leads over their respective Democratic foes, incumbent Sam Ervin and Lucy Inman, in a cycle where Team Red needs to capture just one seat to take control.

NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR. Republican Mark Ronchetti and the RGA have been airing ads insisting that Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is to blame for the early prison release of Christopher Beltran, who went on to kill his ex-girlfriend, while Democrats are pushing back by arguing that Beltran got out because of the failures of a Republican district attorney.

Last week, the state Democratic Party organized a press conference at which a former state district attorney, Diane Martwick, blamed Dianna Luce, who is the top prosecutor in the Roswell area, for dismissing a 2019 firearm possession charge against Beltran.

Martwick, who served a neighboring district, declared that Luce’s decision to dismiss that gun charge allowed Beltran to receive a “lighter sentence” and also enabled him to obtain the firearm he used to murder his former girlfriend, Domonique Gonzales. Luce says she dismissed the weapons charge after Beltran’s attorney argued that evidence was obtained through an illegal police search, though Martwick insists that she should have referred the case to federal prosecutors.

Beltran, as the Albuquerque Journal explained earlier this month, was charged in 2019 with possessing a firearm while on probation for stealing a car. Both that unprosecuted gun charge, though, and failed drug tests were enough to get Beltran’s probation revoked the following January, and he had more than a year added to his prison sentence as a result.

Beltran was scheduled for parole in October of 2020, but he was let out 12 days early because of an executive order from Lujan Grisham designed to reduce the spread of COVID in prisons, though the state Corrections Department now says that Beltran wouldn’t have been eligible if he’d been convicted on firearms possession. Beltran was soon arrested yet again for parole violations, but he was released five months early in July of 2021 for “good behavior.”

Gonzales was found dead six days later, and Beltran, who was quickly arrested once more, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month. A short time afterward, surveillance footage surfaced from before Beltran’s 2021 release in which he called Gonzales and threatened to find her, as well as another call where he talked about getting a gun. Luce has argued these videos should have prevented Beltran from leaving prison, while the Corrections Department says that it was previously unaware of the calls.

In commercials seeking to link Lujan Grisham to Beltran’s crime, Ronchetti featured Gonzales’ grandparents tearfully telling the audience, “The governor absolutely should be held accountable for his early release and feel ashamed.” That spot also utilized the prison audio of Beltran saying, “You don’t want to show me where you’re at … I’ll find you myself. I’ll kick in your [expletive] door by myself.” The RGA has also used Gonzales’ death to go after Lujan Grisham’s COVID prison policies, even though Beltran’s 2021 release wasn’t related to that order.

Lujan Grisham’s allies at the DGA last week ran a responsive ad, though it did not directly mention Beltran. Instead, that spot uses news footage of various media fact-checks on the story to argue that Ronchetti will “say anything to get elected.” The governor herself doesn’t appear to have run any commercials about the Beltran matter yet.

FLORIDA GOVERNOR and FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. “Former President Donald Trump is coming to Miami just two days before Election Day. But one Republican won’t be there — Gov. Ron DeSantis. Not yet anyway,” Politico reports.

“Trump on Wednesday said he’ll hold a rally with Sen. Marco Rubio on Nov. 6. DeSantis was left off the announcement and an adviser to the former president said the Florida governor is not attending.”

Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) “denied a new allegation from a woman Wednesday that the former football star, who is running on an anti-abortion Republican platform, drove her to a clinic to have an abortion while they were engaged in a romantic relationship decades ago,” NBC News reports.

Politico: “Less than two weeks before the election, Democrats are signaling that key races are slipping away from them. They point to ominous signs and missed opportunities, including the party’s message on abortion rights and gun control that isn’t resonating and a lack of coordination between the campaigns of Rep. Val Demings, who is vying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio, and Charlie Crist, who is challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

A Republican canvasser in Florida didn’t originally tell police that a brutal beating he suffered was politically motivated, but after a tweet from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the victim told police it happened because he was a Republican, the Miami Herald reports.

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. The GOP firm Data Orbital has publicized a survey showing Republican Kari Lake edging out Democrat Katie Hobbs 47-44, but just like in the primary, the pollster did not disclose its connection to Lake’s campaign.

Back in late July, the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts responded to a Data Orbital survey showing Lake beating intra-party foe Karrin Taylor Robson 43-32 by noting that the company’s head, George Khalaf, is the son of Lake’s campaign treasurer in a column that dubbed the firm “Lake’s unofficial pollster.” Lake won two weeks after that survey was finished, though by a considerably smaller 48-43 spread.

“The Phoenix campaign headquarters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs was burglarized earlier this week,” the Arizona Republic reports.

FUNDRAISING. “President Joe Biden has directed the Democratic National Committee to immediately transfer an additional $10 million to the House and Senate Democratic campaign arms and offered an additional $8 million for the two groups through fundraising in the lead up to Election Day,” CNN reports.

“The new infusion of DNC funds brings the total transferred to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to $27 million, a record for the party and nearly double the $13.9 million made in 2010, the previous high-water mark.”

“House Democrats scrambling to keep pace with the onslaught of late-arriving Republican super PAC dollars are again turning to billionaire Mike Bloomberg for help in the closing days of the midterms,” Politico reports.

“Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is sending another $10 million to the House Majority PAC.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Blake Masters can claim little credit for Republicans’ Arizona comeback — but he is reaping the benefits, propelling him back into contention for a key Senate seat some in the GOP once wrote off,” Politico reports.

“Voters’ dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden’s job performance and a strong campaign from gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake have helped Masters close most of the gap with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. What we once described as a ‘Lean Democratic’ race in Politico’s Election Forecast is now a ‘Toss Up,’ meaning neither Kelly nor Masters has a significant advantage in the contest.”

The Cook Political Report also moved the race to Toss Up.

Arizona Republic: Blake Masters getting late boost from $3.7 million super PAC ad buy.

IOWA GOVERNOR and U.S. SENATOR. “Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to return to Iowa ahead of the Nov. 8 midterms, to headline a rally for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Chuck Grassley,” the AP reports.

“Returning to Iowa, where the 2024 Republican presidential caucuses are scheduled to launch the GOP nominating sequence, would likely further stoke speculation of Trump’s future.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) “has turned down an opportunity to participate in a nationally televised, Fox News-hosted debate with independent challenger Evan McMullin,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“While Lee has made several individual Fox News appearances over the past several weeks to drum up support for his unexpectedly close reelection bid and to attack his opponent, the senator declined the opportunity to appear on the national program alongside his competition.”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Republican Tudor Dixon is finally going up with her first general election TV spot almost three months after winning the primary with what AdImpact reports is an $800,000 buy attacking Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Dixon uses her opening spot to label the incumbent “the most radical governor in America” and touts herself as an alternative.

AdImpact also relays that Donald Trump’s MAGA Inc. is set to spend at least $550,000 on an ad campaign starting Thursday. Dixon could use the help, as the Wesleyan Media Project says that Whitmer and her allies aired 90% of the commercials that ran from Oct. 3-16.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. MN-Gov: The RGA has booked $750,000 in TV time through its new Heal Minnesota affiliate in its first ad campaign against Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. That’s a modest amount for this point in the race, though Republican Scott Jensen will take any help he can get: The Wesleyan Media Project relays that Democrats ran an enormous 92% of all the commercials that aired Oct. 3 through the 16th.

Dan McGraw: “Of the nearly 130 ballot measures in states this November, there are four that stand out as having importance on which direction the country is heading.”

“In no particular order, they are an abortion vote in Kentucky, ranked-choice voting change in Nevada, stricter voter ID regs in Arizona, and marijuana legalization in Arkansas.”

“All four have national importance for both parties.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) “is expanding his national political tour ahead of the midterm elections — this time to bolster two red-state Republicans facing unexpectedly tough reelection bids,” Politico reports.

“Youngkin has been called in to campaign for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, both of whom are looking to fend off Democratic challengers in races that were once regarded as shoo-ins for the Republicans.”

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

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