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The Political Report – October 30, 2022

A new Democracy Corps (D) poll finds that Democrats “have lost ground in this survey from +3 overall margin to even in this survey — and to -2 in the likely electorate.”

“That is driven by Democrats not addressing the top issue, cost of living, where they lost 3 points to be 3 points down and Republicans driving up fears on crime and borders.  Democrats are being hurt by the persistence of the economy and crime issue and late hits by the Republicans on on the border and immigration– and that is driving the current slippage. Current Republican strategies on this issue are working. But it is the cost of living – the top worry — that is still potentially contested.”

The key takeaway: “Fear of Democratic governance generates much greater fear than what happens with Republican control.”

USA Today/Suffolk University Poll: “On a generic ballot, one naming parties but not individual candidates, those surveyed now support the Republican congressional candidate over the Democratic one by 49%-45%, a turnaround since the USA Today poll taken in July, when Democrats led 44%-40%. The findings stoke GOP hopes of gaining control of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 elections, and with that, new powers to confront the Democratic White House.”

“Democratic congressional candidates have held their support since the summer, ticking up 1 percentage point, but most of the 16% of voters who were undecided then have now made up their minds and moved to the GOP.”

A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll shows voter turnout among 18-to-29-year-olds is expected to match or surpass that of previous high mark among the demographic from the 2018 midterms.

“Forty percent of young Americans report that they will ‘definitely’ vote in the upcoming midterms, matching the proportion of young Americans who said the same in the IOP’s fall 2018 survey. The number of young Americans likely to vote has increased four percentage points since spring 2022 Harvard IOP polling — and is 14 points higher than 2014 and 13 points higher than 2010 fall benchmarks.”

The Economist: “Whether Democrats are favored to win a majority of seats in the Senate depends on whether you trust the polls. The Economist’s aggregate of publicly available pre-election surveys puts the party ahead in 14 of the 35 Senate seats up for re-election this year. That would give the Democrats 50 senators, including the 36 seats that are not being contested this time. Among the ten most-competitive states, our poll-of-polls suggests Republicans are favored to gain a Senate seat in Nevada, but lose one in Pennsylvania.”

“But recent history suggests Democrats will underperform those numbers. In 2016-20 our aggregate of polls overestimated the share of the vote that Democratic candidates for senator and president ultimately won by an average of 2.2 percentage points across every state polled (see chart). Although pollsters updated their methods to try to iron out such errors, in 2020 the bias grew to 2.5 points. Even in 2018, when the pollsters did well on the whole, they undercounted Republican support in key states such as Ohio and Michigan.”

“The numbers now look rosiest for Democrats in the states where polls have recently been least reliable.”

“Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, the path to Senate control appears uncertain and volatile, as polls show Democrats and Republicans running neck and neck in several battleground states that hold the key to the majority,” the Washington Post reports.

“Republicans this week have touted their momentum, as Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, recovering from a stroke, struggled in a high-profile debate performance in Pennsylvania, and as the Cook Political Report moved the race in Arizona between Sen. Mark Kelly (D) and Republican Blake Masters from leaning Democratic to a toss-up.”

“But Democrats have shown surprising strength in other races, including in red-trending Ohio. And new allegations against the Republican nominee in Georgia, Herschel Walker, could further boost Sen. Raphael Warnock (D). In total, polling averages show at least seven Senate races within the margin of error, making the battle for the Senate a true toss-up.”

Washington Post: “Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, Democrats have moved into a defensive crouch, scrambling to shore up the party’s candidates as Republicans charge deeper into their terrain. The scope of their challenge has come into sharper focus in the past 48 hours, when much of the attention in the party has been on protecting swaths of the country where Democrats have long enjoyed more support.”

“Late-summer Democratic talk of going on offense by running on abortion rights while Biden’s approval rating ticked up has run headlong into the harsh reality that Republicans are well-positioned to make potentially large gains on Nov. 8, some Democratic strategists said, by hammering them over crime and inflation — and seizing on fatigue over Democratic leadership in government.”

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. “You don’t need to consult the most recent polls to realize that the race for New York governor between Gov. Kathy Hochul and Representative Lee Zeldin appears to be tightening — just follow the string of Democrats’ calls to action this week,” the New York Times reports.

“With just 12 days until Election Day, Democrats and their allies are mounting a frenzied push to keep Ms. Hochul in office, pouring millions of dollars into last-minute ads and staging a whirlwind of campaign rallies to energize their base amid concerns that their typically reliable bedrock of Black and Latino voters might not turn out.”

“Labor unions have gone into overdrive, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television and radio ads to cajole those voters to turn up for Ms. Hochul. On the ground, Ms. Hochul is expected to campaign with Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a party power broker whose Brooklyn district provides crucial votes for the Democratic base, as well as in southeast Queens with Mayor Eric Adams over the weekend.”

“New York’s top elections watchdog is investigating whether the campaign of Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, violated state law by coordinating with a pair of super PACs supporting his candidacy,” the New York Times reports.

The family of Saheed Vassell, a Brooklyn resident who was fatally shot by the NYPD four years ago after officers said they believed he was holding a firearm, this week reiterated their month-old call for Republican Lee Zeldin to remove footage of Vassell’s final moments from an attack ad he’s been running. Zeldin, though, continued his silence, and the commercial remains unedited.

In September, Zeldin launched his first general election TV ad against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and filled it with clips of what the spot called “actual violent crimes caught on camera in Kathy Hochul’s New York.” One of those scenes was from 2018—three years before Hochul ascended to the governorship—that showed Vassell pointing an object at a pedestrian’s head that police say they mistook for a gun but was actually a pipe from a gas tank.

Police officers minutes later confronted Vassell, who was experiencing a mental health episode, and shot him at least five times. Demonstrators soon protested Vassell’s death, arguing that the police should have known he was unwell and not a danger to the public.

Vassell’s father, Eric Vassell, responded to Zeldin’s commercial last month by declaring, “Mr. Zeldin’s use of Saheed’s image in his ad is like trampling on Saheed’s grave and forces my family to relive the NYPD’s unjustifiable murder of my son.” The Republican, though, did not respond, much less alter or take the spot down.

The Vassell family went on to hire a team of attorneys who said in a Tuesday statement, “Saheed was the victim here, but to Zeldin and his campaign, he was simply a Black man whose image could be manipulated to make people afraid.” However, Zeldin once again did not say or do anything publicly, and as a candidate, TV stations are obligated under federal law to run his ads.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Philadelphia Inquirer: “As fans settle in to watch the Phillies and Astros begin their championship series Friday night, a top Democratic political group will run an ad during Game 1 highlighting Oz’s comments on abortion rights in a closely watched U.S. Senate debate Tuesday.”

“The spot is expected to cost around $100,000 for a single airing on Philly’s Fox29, a huge sum even in a race that has already cost nearly $320 million. (For comparison’s sake, a weekday ad during Fox29′s 6 o’clock news cost the same group $700).”

MICHIGAN GOVERNOR. Michigan gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon (R) “invoked a conspiracy that the Covid-19 pandemic and protests in the summer of 2020 after the killing of George Floyd were part of a decades-long plan by the Democratic Party to ‘topple’ the United States as retaliation for losing the US Civil War, adding that the party wanted to enslave people ‘again,’” CNN reports.

Said Dixon: “Why wouldn’t that come from the party that lost the Civil War? The party that wanted to own people because they viewed them as less than human? Do you think that the Democrats are over losing to the north?” 

Trump’s MAGA Inc. is going after two Democratic incumbents, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, in a $1 million ad campaign that’s almost twice as large as previously reported. The spot, unsurprisingly, attacks the pair over crime.

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. Jill Filipovic: “It’s possible that Herschel Walker is the worst candidate the modern Republican party has ever run for national office, and in an era of conspiracy theorists, Christian nationalists and Donald Trump, that’s saying a lot.”

“Walker embodies everything the Republican party has claimed to oppose: violent crime, abortion, homes broken by absentee fathers, race-based affirmative action and straight-up incompetence. And yet no matter what Walker is accused of, up to and including acts many Republicans define as murder, he retains the support of the Republican party, and his race for a Georgia Senate seat remains a tight one.”

AdImpact reports that the conservative Citizens for Sanity, which has run some truly xenophobic ads in an election cycle full of them, is spending $3.5 million more in Georgia.

The group, which is run by former Trump aides, previously ran several ads across the country during Major League Baseball playoffs declaring that Senate Democrats are to blame for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. One spot declared, “This giant flood of illegal immigration is draining your paychecks, wrecking your schools, ruining your hospitals, threatening your family … Mixed among the masses are drug dealers, sex traffickers and violent predators.”

“The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is launching a new TV ad in Georgia on Friday ripping into Republican candidate Herschel Walker,” NBC News reports.  “The ad, called Cacophony, relies on news footage to highlight Walker’s tumultuous past, covering allegations of ‘domestic violence’ against him, with a reporter at one point saying: ‘Walker took out his anger by punching a hole in the door.’”

“With somber music playing in the background, it goes on to question Walker’s honesty, with accusations of ‘lies’ including from his son Christian Walker.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. During their debate last night, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) accused GOP rival and election denier Don Bolduc of fueling Trump’s election lies–and it’s unclear why he apparently thought he could avoid that charge after declaring in August that he stood by his claim that Trump won the 2020 election and that the GOP nominee was “not switching horses, baby.”

Bolduc “has traveled around this state for over a year now, stoking the Big Lie that 2020 was stolen,” Hassan said.

The Republican nominee still tried to sow doubt about election integrity via the ironclad “many-people-are-saying” argument during the debate, claiming that Granite Staters he’d met on the campaign trail told him they “can’t trust” the mail-in voting system and believe same-day voter registration “causes fraud” (it doesn’t).

Bolduc also claimed without evidence that there were “school buses loaded with people” being taken to poll sites, a thing that he knows is happening because “that is what Granite Staters tell me.”

ALASKA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had a debate with MAGA challenger Kelly Tshibaka, who’s been endorsed by the Alaska Republican Party and Trump, and Democrat Pat Chesbro on Thursday night. Check out these highlights:

The Associated Press: “Murkowski faces Tshibaka and Chesbro in Alaska Senate debate”

The Hill: “Five takeaways from the Alaska Senate debate”

ARIZONA GOVERNOR. Republican Kari Lake’s new commercial accuses Democrat Katie Hobbs of firing a Black female legislative staffer named Talonya Adams in 2015 after she complained about being paid less than her male colleagues, a matter that attracted attention during Hobbs’ primary campaign this cycle. Hobbs, who was not a defendant in Adams’ lawsuit against the state Senate, apologized to her last year after the jury sided with Adams.

Hobbs, who was the chamber’s minority leader in 2015, has testified that she had been part of the group that fired Adams after it lost “trust and confidence” in her, but her campaign had defended Hobbs in response to the verdict by pointing out that “the Republican majority chief of staff acted as … the ultimate decision-maker regarding the termination” of Adams’ employment. Adams herself backed Hobbs’ primary foe, Marco Lopez, a month before she won the Democratic nomination for governor in a landslide.

Meanwhile, Hobbs on Thursday got the endorsement of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is anything but a party loyalist. Sinema, notes HuffPost, didn’t support Ann Kirkpatrick’s unsuccessful 2016 bid to unseat Sen. John McCain, nor did she back ticketmate David Garcia two years later against Gov. Doug Ducey.

“Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is not on the ballot this November, but that hasn’t stopped her from playing a central role in Arizona’s marquee Senate and gubernatorial races,” the HuffPost reports.

“Sinema has strongly backed Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s bid for reelection, even as Republicans have repeatedly used her as a foil to challenge Kelly’s qualifications as a moderate and a lawmaker independent of national Democrats. On the other hand, she had stayed relatively silent on state Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ run for governor, even as Hobbs, a Democrat, trails Republican Kari Lake, a far-right former news anchor with a specialty in election denial.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. The hardline Club for Growth is out with an ad where former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who was the favorite of the already-dwindling set of moderate Republicans during his failed 2012 presidential bid, praises far-right Sen. Mike Lee. Huntsman, who doesn’t mention independent Evan McMullin, tells the audience, “You might not always agree with Mike; I don’t. But we can all agree principled leadership and fidelity to the constitution are paramount in difficult times.”

Lee himself supported Huntsman during his 2020 comeback bid, but the former governor still narrowly lost the primary to now-Gov. Spencer Cox.

WASHINGTON U.S. SENATOR. Evergreen Principles PAC, which is funded in part by the Senate Leadership Fund, is spending another $2.1 million against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR. Democratic incumbent Tim Walz on Thursday earned the backing of former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was elected to his only term in 1998 under the banner of the Reform Party. The former wrestler and actor, who praised Walz’s handling of the pandemic and support for abortion rights, rarely endorses anyone, but he declared, “I can’t stand with anyone or any party who cannot condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was caught on a hot mic talking candidly with President Biden about election strategy, Politico reports.

Said Schumer: “It looks like the debate didn’t hurt us too much in Pennsylvania as of today, so that’s good… We’re picking up steam in Nevada… The state where we’re going downhill is Georgia. It’s hard to believe that they will go for Herschel Walker… But our early turnout in Georgia, huge. Huge.” 

Schumer also mentioned Democrats were “in danger” of losing a seat, but its unclear which seat he was referring to.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told Politico that Republicans will achieve the high end of midterm forecasts.

Said McCarthy: “We are in a position to get to the high end of what the prognosticators say, which is 20, 22 seats, get us into the 230s.”  He added: “The map is so small because there’s just no swing seats after redistricting. So getting into the 230s … represents picking off a lot of seats that Biden won by seven, eight, nine points. And I think that that actually is a red wave.”

MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL. While Democrats have vastly outspent the GOP in Minnesota’s race for secretary of state, the attorney general contest is a much more even affair financially. MinnPost reports that Democratic Attorneys General Association has deployed a total of $1.7 million against Republican Jim Schultz, while Minnesota for Freedom, which is an affiliate of the Republican Attorneys General Association, has spent $1.5 million to unseat Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison.

“Add this to the list of Democratic worries ahead of the midterms: Younger voters — a cornerstone of the party’s electoral coalition — make up a smaller share of early and absentee voters so far than they did in 2020,” Politico reports.

“More than 15 million voters have already cast their midterm ballots, according to the United States Elections Project. But young voters have contributed to a smaller fraction of that turnout compared to this time two years ago.”

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

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