The Political Report – December 13, 2022

A new CNBC All-America Economic Survey shows that only 37% of Republicans say they don’t want Donald Trump to run in 2024, while 57% of Democrats say they don’t want Joe Biden to run.

Harry Enten: “Sinema is not popular at all. The CES poll had her approval rating below her disapproval rating with Democrats, independents and Republicans in Arizona. Sinema’s overall approval stood at 25% to a disapproval rating of 58%. Other polling isn’t nearly as dire for Sinema, but the average of it all has her firmly being more unpopular than popular.”

“Put another way, Sinema’s current numbers are probably not going to scare off many challengers from either the Democratic or Republican side. Additionally, there’s zero reason for Democrats to cede the ground to Sinema because it would keep a Republican from winning. It isn’t clear at all that Sinema can win as an independent.”

“What Sinema’s move did accomplish is that it made the electoral math a lot more complicated in Arizona and therefore nationally. Having two people in the race who are going to caucus with the Democratic Party likely makes it more difficult for the Democrats to win.”

Arizona U.S. Senator: Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego had been eyeing a primary challenge to Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema before she bolted the party Friday morning, and he’s made it clear he’s interested in taking on the newly minted independent now.

Gallego responded to Sinema’s announcement hours later with a statement declaring, “Whether in the Marine Corps or in Congress, I have never backed down from fighting for Arizonans. And at a time when our nation needs leadership most, Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of a struggle.” The congressman also told Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman that he was organizing a campaign team, and while he said he was still making up his mind, Sherman tweeted, “He certainly sounds like a candidate.”

Politico also writes that Sinema’s party switch meant that the congressman’s launch was “essentially kicked into overdrive,” though Gallego himself reiterated that “this is a 2023 decision.” One person whose support he can count on if he seeks a promotion is Rep. Raul Grijalva, who tells Politico he’s already told Gallego he’s in his corner.

Gallego may not have the nomination contest to himself, though, as NBC reports that fellow Rep. Greg Stanton is considering. Stanton, a former Phoenix mayor who was elected in 2018 to replace Sinema herself in the House, has not directly confirmed his interest in a statewide bid. However, he did reveal Friday that he’d commissioned a statewide poll that showed him easily beating her in a primary.

On the Republican side, a spokesperson for Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb tells NBC that his boss is looking at it and will be “making a decision in early 2023.” An unnamed ally of Kari Lake, who is continuing to spread lies about her loss last month to Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, says she’s encouraging Lamb to run but doesn’t want to do it herself. “Kari is getting lots of calls but she’s pretty disillusioned right now and she likes the sheriff and told him she wants to see him run for Senate,” this source told NBC, predicting, “Lamb is beloved by the base and could really clear a primary field.” Lamb, like Lake, is one of the far-right’s more prominent figures in the state.

Politico, meanwhile, relays that some Republicans want outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey to campaign for the Senate. Ducey, though, turned down Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s overtures to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly back in March after spending over a year on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s abuse, and he didn’t sound remotely interested in a future campaign for the upper chamber. “If you’re going to run for public office, you have to really want the job,” the governor told his donors as he explained why he did not want Kelly’s job.

Party operatives also name-dropped two congressmen, Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert, for Politico, though they both have huge liabilities. Biggs is the type of far-right extremist who did poorly statewide last month, and his decision to challenge Kevin McCarthy for the speakership shows he’s not interested in making nice with party leaders. Biggs, whom Sinema has identified as a friend, himself said Friday that being an independent could be “a better home for her.” Schweikert, for his part, only won re-election 50.4-49.6 after Democrat Jevin Hodge and his allies highlighted his ethics violations.

Finally, there’s the question of what Sinema, who did not commit to running for re-election, will do in 2024. The senator’s decision to go solo means that she no longer needs to worry about a primary challenge from Gallego or anyone else, but she would have a different issue to fret over if she wanted to make it to the general election ballot.

Former state elections director Eric Spencer tells KTAR News that he estimates that independent Senate candidates would need about 45,000 signatures to advance, compared to the 7,000-8,000 required to make it to a party primary. Sinema could collect these from Democrats, Republicans, or fellow independents, though Spencer says that, because every voter can only sign one petition, “She’d be well advised to start hitting the streets immediately.”

Sinema may also need the head start because there may not be that many voters who want her to continue to represent them. The Democratic firm Civiqs released numbers Friday giving her a truly awful 18-61 favorable rating days before she became an independent. And while some Democrats like Grijalva have fretted that a Sinema campaign would “dilute” the blue vote in a general election, Civiqs found that Democrats already gave her a horrific 5-82 score even before she jumped ship. Republicans and independents, by contrast, gave her 25-45 and 25-56 ratings.

Sinema, though, will at least keep her Democratic committee assignments, including her chairmanship of two subcommittees, in the 118th Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his announcement that this will allow Democrats to “​​maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes.”

The senator herself spent Friday morning refusing to say whether she’d actually continue to caucus with her former party, though she was clearer about refusing to join a GOP coalition. However, Schumer almost certainly wouldn’t allow her to keep her panel assignments if he felt she wouldn’t at least be a nominal member of his caucus.

The defeated GOP nominee for governor of Arizona has filed suit contesting the 2022 election – and then some.

New York Times: “”The 70-page filing relies on a hodgepodge of allegations, ranging from voter and poll worker accounts to poll numbers claiming that voters agreed with Ms. Lake on the election’s mismanagement. Some of what is cited comes not from last month’s election but from the 2020 contest. Other allegations accuse officials of wrongdoing for taking part in efforts to try to tamp down election misinformation.”

NBC News: “In Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, Latinos have stuck with Democrats, and that has helped power the party’s gains across a region where Latino population growth has exploded. It belies a conventional narrative that Democrats were universally ceding Latino voters to the Republican Party, a storyline repeated throughout the run-up to the Nov. 8 midterms. Instead, indicators show the GOP in danger of losing Latino voters in this region, a prospect that could mean being boxed out of the Southwest for the long term.”

“Young voters who have been critical to Democratic successes in recent elections showed signs in November’s midterms that their enthusiasm may be waning, a potential warning sign for a party that will need their strong backing heading into the 2024 presidential race,” the AP reports.

“Voters under 30 went 53% for Democratic House candidates compared with only 41% for Republican candidates nationwide, according to AP VoteCast, a sweeping national survey of the electorate. But that level of support for Democrats was down compared with 2020, when such voters supported President Joe Biden over his predecessor, Donald Trump, 61% to 36%. And in 2018, when Democrats used a midterm surge to retake control of the House, voters 18 to 29 went 64% for the party compared with 34% for the GOP.”

Politico: “[South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim] Scott’s not personally chatty about the prospect of a 2024 presidential run, declining to talk and directing questions to his staff. But his Republican colleagues are buzzing about his massive reelection victory this year, rising national profile, substantial fundraising hauls and cross-country travels for other candidates. And they’re happy to talk him up.”

“The South Carolinian carved out a unique lane in the GOP, well-liked by mainstream leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell but never publicly at odds with Trump world, even when he’s offered halted criticism of the former president. And as the only Black Republican senator, he’d offer his party a compelling chance to build on its long-running effort to boost diverse candidate recruitment by further appealing to Democratic-leaning constituencies.”

Washington Monthly: “If the point of Republican restrictive voting laws in Georgia and elsewhere was to suppress the vote to such an extent that Democrats couldn’t win, the plan failed.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) sounded on Meet the press like a candidate for re-election in 2024. Said Tester: “If I decide to run in this thing — and it’ll be a discussion that I have with my family over the holidays, because it is a big undertaking — I feel good about my chances.”

 “A new analysis of the midterms by centrist Democratic think tank Third Way finds that most Democratic candidates improved on President Biden’s 2020 performance in rural America — with some notable exceptions,” Axios reports.

AK State House: Thursday’s recount in Alaska’s 15th House District reaffirmed Republican incumbent Tom McKay’s tiny edge over Democrat Denny Wells, though control of the chamber still remains in doubt more than a month after Election Day.

McKay’s lead ticked up from seven votes to nine as a result of the recount, though Wells has five days to appeal the outcome (he has not yet said if he will). A McKay win would leave Republicans with 21 members in this 40-person body, theoretically enough for a bare majority; Democrats won 13 constituencies, while independents took the other six.

One of those Republicans, though, is House Speaker Louise Stutes, a member of the shifting cross-party coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents known as the Majority Caucus that has run the chamber since 2017. (The other Republican, Kelly Merrick, successfully sought a promotion to the state Senate, which recently formed its own bipartisan majority coalition.)

Stutes sounds as though she’d like to keep the status quo intact in the lower chamber: She recently put out a joint statement with two fellow members of the Majority Caucus, independent Bryce Edgmon and Democrat Neal Foster, praising the group’s efforts and adding, “Alaskans expect us to be ready to work in January and to get the job done on time.”

However, the outcome of a trial concerning a very different Republican, far-right state Rep. David Eastman, could indirectly end up determining whether or not the Majority Caucus continues. There’s no question that the obstructionist Eastman beat Wasilla City Councilman Stu Graham, who has a far better relationship with the GOP leadership, by a 52-28 margin in their November intra-party contest. One of Eastman’s constituents, though, is suing over whether he can actually serve because of his membership in the Oath Keepers, an extreme right group that was involved in the Jan. 6 attack.

A judicial order has prevented election authorities from certifying Eastman as the winner, and if he’s ultimately disqualified, the seat would go to Graham as the second-place finisher. That outcome could be very good for Republicans who want to control the chamber on their own: One state representative said of Eastman, “He’s voted with us. He’s voted against us. I can’t say any more than that, other than he’s got some issues.”

The suit argues that, because the state constitution prevents anyone from holding office who “advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or association which advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the United States,” an Oath Keeper like Eastman cannot serve in the state House.

Eastman attorney Joe Miller (yes, that Joe Miller) has pushed back, insisting that none of the federal charges say that “alleged Oath Keepers in any way attempted [to] overthrow the government.” The trial is set to start Monday, and multiple people told reporter Nathaniel Herz that it’s unlikely anyone will form a majority before the verdict is in. (The founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted of seditious conspiracy last month by a jury in Washington, D.C., for his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 attacks.)

Eastman isn’t the only problem for anyone looking to cobble together a 21-person majority, though. Herz writes in the Northern Journal that two independent members of the Majority Caucus, state Reps. Dan Ortiz and Josiah Patkotak, haven’t closed the door on siding with most of the GOP.

Patkotak, who also kept everyone guessing about his plans two years ago, appears to be the more unpredictable of the two, saying, “All options are on the table.” Patkotak won re-election without opposition, and represents a seat in the North Slope in the far northern corner of Alaska that, while Democratic-leaning, is in a major oil-producing region, which Herz says could make him an appealing ally for Republicans who favor the resource-extraction industry.

Ortiz, who won a close race against a Republican foe, also hedged, saying, “There’s not much I can say other than time will work it out.” However, a Democratic colleague, state Rep. Andy Josephsen, told Herz he wasn’t concerned that Ortiz might side with the GOP.

It’s also possible that the Majority Caucus could win over some additional GOP recruits, though two Republicans elected last month sounded unlikely to go for it. “I just don’t think that an organization of 19 Democrats and independents, Stutes, and me is going to be in the best interests of the state,” Jesse Sumner said to Herz, predicting, “They’d run circles around me.” Will Stapp in turn said of partnering with the coalition, “I haven’t seen or heard anything that would make me think that it’s in the best interests of the Interior, or my town or community.”

Whatever happens, we could be in for a long wait: Following both the 2018 and 2020 elections, alliances in the House weren’t finalized until February, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar delay this time.

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

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