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The Political Report – November 1, 2022

“Democrats and Republicans raced [this weekend] into the final stretch of more than a dozen competitive races for governor, as the G.O.P. moves within striking distance of flipping the top office in a series of blue and battleground states and Democrats show surprising strength in several other contests,” the New York Times reports.

Walter Shapiro: “In North Carolina, a perennial swing state with a tight Senate race this year, 135,400 people cast early ballots last Thursday. Statistics like this, which are released by many states, would seem to offer early insights into turnout patterns. But, in truth, interpreting early voting is about as difficult as solving Fermat’s Last Theorem in your head while using half-remembered high school algebra.”

“The problem with the avalanche of data is that most states have repeatedly changed their rules on early voting—especially in the past two years after the onset of the pandemic—making year-to-year comparisons virtually impossible. Also, parties have either encouraged early voting (the Democrats in 2018 and 2020) or developed conspiracy theories around it (Donald Trump in 2020).”

Said election analyst Sean Trende: “Because we don’t have a lengthy history of good research giving our brains guidance for how to interpret early returns, it’s very easy to see what you want to see.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “A lot of election commentary this week has centered around the notion that Democrats are suddenly struggling. It looks like Democrats will have a tough Election Day. But that’s something we have known was likely since Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Political scientists find that midterms are mainly driven by the president’s popularity — which in turn tends to be a function of the economy. With a Democrat in the White House and with perceptions of the economy so negative, the chances for an overall winning year for Democrats have always been slim.”

“Indeed, as political scientist John Sides points out, analysis that just takes into account those fundamentals — presidential popularity and  economic sentiment — estimates that Republicans, all else being equal, would gain between 40 and 45 seats in the House and between one and three seats in the Senate. Some models are even more optimistic about Republican gains. As Sides says, ‘basic indicators suggest that 2022 should be bad for Democrats and you should calibrate your expectations to that.’”

POLLING.New York Times/Siena poll finds that control of the Senate “rests on a knife’s edge, with Republican challengers in Nevada and Georgia neck-and-neck with Democratic incumbents, and the Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania clinging to what appears to be a tenuous advantage.”

“The bright spot for Democrats in the four key states polled was in Arizona, where Senator Mark Kelly is holding a small but steady lead over his Republican challenger, Blake Masters.”

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New York Times: “For Democrats, much of their success will depend on whether their Senate candidates can continue to rise above President Biden’s low approval ratings and the national environment. Mr. Biden’s standing is at or below his national average in the four states, with the president at 36 percent in Arizona, 38 percent in Nevada, 39 percent in Georgia and 42 percent in Pennsylvania.”

“In all the races surveyed, the candidates outpace the president, with Mr. Kelly beating Mr. Biden’s approval rating by 15 points and winning nearly one-quarter of the people who disapprove of Mr. Biden’s job performance in the state. Mr. Fetterman is the closest to the president, but still ahead of him by eight points.”

GEORGIA GOVERNOR. Georgia had its second and final debate last night in the gubernatorial race between incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and his old 2018 rival, voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams (D).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “In final debate, Kemp won’t say whether he’d sign new abortion limits”

CNN: “Five takeaways from the second Georgia gubernatorial debate”

USA Today: “In second debate, Georgia candidates Kemp and Abrams argue over abortion, gun control”

The New York Times: “4 Takeaways From the Last Kemp-Abrams Debate Before Election Day”

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR. Politico: “Newsom’s chances of winning reelection against a massively underfunded Republican are so assured, he’s barely bothered to mention it.”

“Instead, he’s been focused on abortion rights, boosting fellow Democratic candidates, and combating what he sees as the rising tide of Republican extremism on the national stage.”

“Sliding into a second term might be good for Newsom, but it could be bad for the party. The lack of a competitive race at the top of the ticket could mean low turnout — an unwelcome prospect for Democrats running in critical, closely-contested congressional races in Orange County and the Central Valley.”

GEORGIA U.S. SENATOR. “Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) isn’t on the ballot this year. But he’s leaping into Georgia’s midterm campaigns, restarting the organizing machine that helped turn the state blue as Democrats scramble for every tool to prevent Georgia — and the Senate — from flipping back,” Politico reports.

“Ossoff, who was elected alongside fellow Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Jan. 2021 runoffs, is revving up a field organization that tested innovative ways to get unlikely-to-vote citizens to turn out two years ago. The methods helped mobilize Democratic voters in enough numbers to flip the Senate.”

ARIZONA GOVERNOR, U.S. SENATOR, SECRETARY OF STATE. Defeated Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney is starring in a $500,000 ad campaign from her super PAC, Great Task PAC, where she implores viewers to reject election deniers Kari Lake and Mark Finchem. The spot uses footage of the GOP congresswoman’s recent remarks at the McCain Institute where she said, “I don’t know that I have ever voted for a Democrat, but if I lived in Arizona, I absolutely would.”

Cheney goes on to declare that Lake and Finchem “have said that they will only honor the results of an election if they agree with it.” She closes, “If you care about the survival of our republic, we cannot give people power who will not honor elections. We must have elected officials who honor that responsibility.”

The GOP firm Medium Buying says that the conservative Club for Growth has booked $5.6 million in TV and radio time for the rest of the campaign, though it’s not clear if this includes the $2.5 million it reported spending on Tuesday. NBC, meanwhile, says Senate Majority PAC is reserving another $750,000 to help Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly.

NEW HAMPSHIRE U.S. SENATOR. The Heritage Foundation’s ​Sentinel Action Fund has announced that it has reserved $1 million for the final week of the campaign to help Republican Don Bolduc, a move that comes a week after his ostensible allies at the Senate Leadership Fund canceled its entire remaining $5.6 million in bookings. Bolduc over the last few days has gotten a total $1 million in outside support from Our American Century and Restoration PAC, while the NRSC is spending that same amount on a hybrid ad with him.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. The World Series always gives campaigns and their allies the chance to advertise to an unusually large live audience just before Election Day, which is why both parties are paying top dollar to make sure their messages get out to fans of the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of the Keystone State’s Senate race.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that, while the Senate Majority PAC recently paid $700 to air a spot on Philadelphia’s Fox29 during the 6 o’clock news, the same group shelled out $100,000 for just one commercial in Friday’s Game 1 against the Houston Astros. Axios adds that SMP’s Republican rivals at the Senate Leadership Fund, meanwhile, have dropped $700,000 for a seven-game advertising package.

These kinds of prices are prohibitively expensive even for some major candidates, but the deep-pocketed SMP and SLF have good reason to splurge. The World Series not only commands a huge audience, but because viewers are much more likely to watch major sporting events live compared to most other TV programs, they’re less apt to record them and fast-forward through the ads.

And while the games will attract plenty of eyeballs nationally, local interest will be disproportionately high this year in the Philadelphia and Houston areas as the Phillies and Astros go head-to-head for the championship. National groups have largely avoided spending huge amounts in Texas, where GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is the frontrunner against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, but both parties are continuing to pour money into Pennsylvania’s tight Senate battle.

So, what messages can baseball fans in the Philadelphia market, which is home to just over 40% of the commonwealth’s residents, expect to see? SMP is using footage from Tuesday’s candidate debate, during which Republican Mehmet Oz said of abortion, “I want women, doctors, local political leaders letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.” SMP’s narrator ties Oz to the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, Doug Mastriano, who is running well behind Oz in the polls, arguing, “Oz thinks abortion decisions belong to politicians, like Doug Mastriano, who could ban abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.”

SLF, meanwhile, alludes to Democrat John Fetterman’s May stroke without outright mentioning it in a spot ostensibly about fracking. Its ad begins with a 2018 video in which Fetterman declares he’s always opposed fracking before the narrator jumps in, “Now, Fetterman appears confused about his own extreme positions.” The spot then plays a long clip of Fetterman haltingly saying, “I do support fracking … I support fracking, and I stand, and I do support fracking.” The narrator jumps back in by calling Fetterman “extreme, confused” as on-screen text displays a tweet from Time Magazine’s Charlotte Alter calling the Democrat’s debate performance “much much worse than I expected.”

Baseball fans, though, aren’t the only sports enthusiasts who can expect a dose of political messaging. Politico’s Jessica Piper tweeted Wednesday that SMP had paid $100,000 to air a single ad during Sunday’s highly anticipated NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers, a matchup that will attract the attention of western Pennsylvania viewers who may not care much about the Phillies.

Fetterman, who previously served as mayor of Braddock, a community near Pittsburgh, is airing a commercial where Steelers legend Franco Harris tells the audience, “It’s been a while since we had a senator from Western PA, and those years haven’t been great.” That senator, who goes unnamed, was the notorious Rick Santorum, who lost to Scranton’s Bob Casey in 2006 and whom, we are quite certain, absolutely zero Democrats are nostalgic for. (Incidentally, Harris’ former teammate, Lynn Swann, badly lost that year’s race for governor to Democrat Ed Rendell; we have yet to see Swann in any 2022 campaign ads.)

Harris continues by extolling Fetterman as a western Pennsylvanian who’s “been fighting here for 20 years.” He adds, “Washington sees us as rust, John sees steel. John will fight to make more stuff here, cut taxes for working people, and make sure no one forgets our home.” About 20% of the state’s residents live in the Pittsburgh market, though the campaign may also be airing this spot in nearby smaller markets as well.

Pennsylvania is by no means the only state where both parties will be throwing down serious amounts to attract NFL fans. Brian Bakst of Minnesota Public Radio relays that it’ll cost $60,000 to run a single 30-second ad during the Minnesota Vikings-Washington Commanders contest that will take place two days before Election Day. “Deep-pocketed outside groups are ponying up,” says Bakst, “but most big-name candidates are opting for more affordable pre-and-post-game airings.”

New York Times: “Perhaps no place in the nation offers a more symbolic and consequential test of whether Democrats can win back some of the white working-class vote than Pennsylvania — and particularly the state’s northeastern corner, the birthplace of President Biden, where years of economic decline have scarred the coal-rich landscape. This region is where a pivotal Senate race could be decided, where two seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs and where a crucial governorship hangs in the balance.”

“No single constituency, of course, will determine the outcome of these races in a state as big as Pennsylvania, let alone the 2022 midterms. Turning out Black voters in cities is critical for Democrats. Gaining ground in the swingy suburbs is a must for Republicans. But it is among white working-class voters in rural areas and smaller towns — places like Sugarloaf Township, where Mr. Papp lives — where the Democratic Party has, in some ways, both the furthest to fall and the most to gain.”

NEW YORK GOVERNOR. New York Times: “In a sign of how close the governor’s race has gotten, the Democratic Governors Association filed paperwork in recent days to form a super PAC in New York that will prop up Ms. Hochul on TV and try to stave off losses further down the ballot. After watching from the sidelines for months, the group will now join prominent labor groups in rushing to start spending on behalf of Ms. Hochul in the race’s final days, as concerned Democrats scramble to ensure that their base turns out to vote.”

“The high-profile display of Democratic force amounted to the type of last-minute intervention that traditionally plays out in swing states, not a liberal state like New York, underscoring just how vulnerable Democrats believe they have become in this election cycle.”

Washington Post: “Democratic candidates in closely contested races have been talking more about Social Security and Medicare in the past few weeks… President Biden sharply warned last week that a Republican-controlled Congress would be a threat to Social Security and Medicare.”

“Former president Barack Obama also lingered on Social Security at a rally Saturday for Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, drawing extended applause.”

“With just over a week to go until Election Day, a collection of Democratic candidates and supportive groups are willing to try a strategy that several party strategists acknowledge has not been very successful so far,” CNN reports.

“They’re hoping a late rush of targeted ads and direct door-to-door outreach focused on January 6, 2021, and the threat to democracy can anger and scare enough of their own base and peel off still undecided voters to counter the momentum they sense moving toward the GOP.”

Politico: “If anyone’s looking to be rescued in this final stretch before the midterms, it’s the Democratic Party. And it’s turning, yet again, to the 44th president (Barack Obama) to save them from freefall.”

“With Joe Biden’s poll numbers stuck in the low 40s, the sitting president has largely been absent from the trail in the final weeks of the campaign, opting for a mix of speeches from the Washington area and headlining fundraisers. Into the void stepped his former boss, who reminded crowds over the weekend that he remains — far and away — his party’s most effective surrogate.”

“Republicans are building momentum in their battle to win the House, while an uneven political landscape in the final days before the midterm elections is creating uncertainty about the extent of the party’s gains—and the GOP’s prospects for winning control of the Senate,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Republicans have long been favored to win the House majority, given that the party out of power historically gains seats at the halfway point of a new president’s first term and President Biden’s approval ratings have been stuck below 45% for more than a year amid persistent worries about the economy. This past week, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report increased the number of seats it expects Republicans to gain in the next Congress to between 12 to 25, up from an earlier estimate of 10 to 20 seats.”

“It’s murkier than usual because of the bizarre nature of a number of races. At this point, races are usually baked in.” — GOP consultant Chris Mottola, quoted by Politico, on the closeness of so many Senate races.

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

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