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The Political Report – January 21, 2023

President Biden’s public approval rating was close to the lowest level of his presidency this week amid criticism from Republicans over classified documents found in his home in recent months, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

A new Quinnipiac poll found a majority of Americans see Biden’s handling of classified documents as serious and inappropriate.

Karl Rove: “Team Biden is… betting House Republicans will screw up for the next two years, coming across as shrill, angry, negative and nuts; and that the GOP will nominate Mr. Trump, the easiest Republican for the president to beat.”

“Team Biden might win those bets. But they’re risky. Democrats are playing a weak hand and hoping the GOP hand is even weaker.”

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. Democratic state Sen. Dave Min launched his campaign on Wednesday with an endorsement from Rep. Katie Porter, a one-time opponent who is leaving this competitive Orange County district to run for the Senate. Min, who is the only Korean American in the legislature, kicked off his bid to succeed Porter by highlighting that this constituency is home to “one of the highest percentages of Asian and Pacific Islander voters in the country at 19%.”

Min and Porter were the main challengers in the 2018 top-two primary to take on Republican incumbent Mimi Walters in the old 45th District, a contest that took place at a time when the two Democrats were also both UC Irvine law professors. Porter ended up edging out Min 20-18 for the second general election spot, and she went on to unseat Walters that fall.

In 2020, though, Min scored a 51-49 upset over Republican state Sen. John Moorlach in the 37th State Senate District, a historically red legislative seat where Moorlach had easily prevailed four years before. Min’s current constituency is home to close to 85% of the denizens of the 47th Congressional District, which gives him a strong geographic base in the contest to succeed Porter.

Min joins a top-two primary that includes one fellow Democrat, former Rep. Harley Rouda, who won the old 48th District in 2018 but lost it to Republican Michelle Steel in 2020: About 60% of Porter’s current constituents live within the boundaries of Rouda’s old seat. The one major Republican in the running is Scott Baugh, a former county party chair who lost to Porter 52-48 last year.

Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes the longtime GOP bastions of coastal Orange County as well as Irvine, 54-43, but this historically red area contains plenty of voters who are open to backing Republicans who aren’t named Donald Trump. Things could also get complicated if another prominent Republican runs in next year’s top-two primary, a scenario that could leave both parties scrambling to make sure they have a candidate in the general election.

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. Fundraising reports are out covering the second half of 2022, and one of the two progressive candidates, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz, took in more money than the other three contenders combined. Protasiewicz hauled in $756,000 and finished Dec. 31 with $735,000 on-hand. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell, who is the other progressive competing in the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary, raised $116,000 during this period and had $72,000 left.

Among the conservatives, former Justice Dan Kelly outpaced Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow, who announced just after Thanksgiving, by a small $312,000 to $307,000 margin, though it was Dorow who ended the year with a $283,000 to $277,000 cash-on-hand lead.

But Kelly may be getting some major help if Fair Courts America, the group funded by mega donors Dick and Liz Uihlein, makes good on its November pledge to spend millions on his behalf: So far, the Uihleins have donated $20,000 directly to the Kelly campaign. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to the April 4 general election, where control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is on the line.

CHICAGO MAYOR. Freshman Rep. Jonathan Jackson announced Monday that he was supporting Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson at the same Chicago Teachers Union rally where another new member of Congress, Delia Ramirez, also reiterated her December endorsement for the commissioner in the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary.

Jackson and Ramirez, who together represent about 30% of Chicago, chose Johnson even though one of his rivals, Rep. Chuy Garcia, backed each of them in their 2022 primaries. Jackson explained that, while Garcia was “a dear friend,” his colleague’s decision to enter the race after the CTU had already endorsed Johnson played a big factor in his decision.

Jackson had far less generous things to say about another Johnson opponent, Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The new congressman accused her of misleading voters during her successful 2019 campaign, declaring, “Shame on anyone that will copy and paste and take advantage of a movement, only to get elected off that movement and then to renege on everything you promised.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave an interview on Kentucky radio and had some interesting comments on Donald Trump, Punchbowl News reports.

When asked whether he reads what former President Donald Trump says about him: “Most of the time, no… I’ve got better things to do with my time than read the daily tweets and expressions of opinion, and I don’t spend any time thinking about him.”

On Trump’s chances in 2024: “Let me just say this about the ‘24 election, it’s gonna be wide open. There’s gonna be a lot of competition. And I hope we nominate somebody who can win in ‘24. And so the voters in the primaries are going to make that decision without any assistance from me. They don’t need any advice from me about how to vote.”

ALASKA STATE HOUSE. On Wednesday, the Republican leadership got one of its own as speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives for the first time in six years when the chamber voted 26-14 for GOP state Rep. Cathy Tilton on the second day of the session. Hardline Gov. Mike Dunleavy may still struggle to have his way, though, because the state Senate formed a bipartisan majority coalition shortly after Election Day.

Tilton’s win came after more than two months of uncertainty about whether the state House would continue to be controlled by a cross-party coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Republicans last November won 21 seats—theoretically enough for a bare majority. One of those, however, belongs to former House Speaker Louise Stutes, the leader of the last coalition, while another is represented by David Eastman, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers who many fellow Republicans don’t want to associate with. Democrats hold another 13 constituencies, while six independents represent the balance.

The impasse was broken Wednesday when Tilton prevailed with the support of all 21 Republicans as well as two Democrats and a trio of independents, but she says that this vote doesn’t precisely show who will or won’t be part of the new ruling coalition. The speaker declared that, while her group currently does not include either Stutes or Eastman, it contains the two Democrats and two independents from the Bush Caucus who represent the vast rural seats in the Bush regions that are home to large Alaska Native electorates.

Three Bush Caucus members, Democrat Neal Foster and independents Bryce Edgmon and Josiah Patkotak, backed Tilton along with independent Dan Ortiz, while Bush Caucus Democrat C.J. McCormick did not. Another Democrat, Andy Story, did support her, but Tilton said afterwards that McCormick rather than Story would be in the new GOP-led majority. Ortiz also said that, while he was interested in joining Tilton’s coalition, “it remains to be seen” what he’d end up doing. Edgmon also affirmed things were in flux and the new majority group was “a work in progress.”

Members of the Bush Caucus in the past have backed whichever majority existed in large part so they could secure state resources for their constituents. Indeed, Edgmon himself supported the GOP caucus as a Democrat before he himself became speaker of a new crossparty majority following the 2016 elections: Edgmon became an independent two years later as part of the very complex negotiations that secured him another term as speaker, though Stutes was in charge during the coalition’s final two years of existence.

Eastman, who was not invited to join the group, himself was unhappy with how things went down on Wednesday despite his vote for Tilton. The four-term member, who has never been part of a ruling majority, instead wondered, “How would it be a Republican caucus if it’s got Democrats in it?”

PHILADELPHIA MAYOR. Former Mayor Michael Nutter said Tuesday evening that he was “not running for mayor of the city of Philadelphia in 2023 or in any other year into the future.” The only other Democrat who is still reportedly considering whether to join the packed May primary is state Sen. Vincent Hughes, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer writes is expected to make up his mind “within a week.”

“Republican Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, facing a surprisingly aggressive challenge to her leadership, has argued in recent weeks that she is best positioned to prevent former president Donald Trump from forming a third party if he fails to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination next year,” the Washington Post reports.

“She made the comments as she campaigned privately among the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee to win reelection to another two-year term at a party meeting next week in California, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private exchanges. A person close to McDaniel said she has spoken about the need to make sure all the likely candidates for president, including detractors of Trump, support the eventual nominee after the coming election season.”

Nikki Haley told Fox News she’s close on making a decision to run for president in 2024.  Said Haley: “I’ve never lost a race. I said that then I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now.”

“An outside group supporting Ron DeSantis is planning to spend $3.3 million over the next six months to boost his national profile, adding to expectations that the Florida governor will challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024,” the Financial Times reports.

Tara Palmeri: “Politics can be a soulless and gutless bloodsport, and yet it’s rare to see the sort of bizarre choreography that is taking place among the 2024 G.O.P. presidential frontrunners, contenders, and poseurs, alike. There hasn’t quite been a rapturous movement to enlist the various Republicans—Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Mike Pence, Glenn Youngkin or Mike Pompeo—who remain pottering around the sidelines, waiting for Trump’s campaign to implode or die listlessly. But they remain pressed to the glass in the hope that Trump, should he remain viable, and DeSantis bully club each other so ruthlessly that it opens up a lane for a third viable challenger.”

“And then there’s Rick Scott, the multi-millionaire hospital magnate and former Florida governor and current McConnell antagonist in the Senate, who may have other designs. I’ve heard from multiple sources that, like any strategic politician, Scott is still leaving the door open for a presidential run in 2024, despite telling a group in Florida that he will run for re-election for the Senate. Sure, there’s no base of voters clamoring for Scott, either. But unlike the other ’24 hopefuls, save Youngkin, Scott has oodles of his own money. He is worth as much as $500 million and has been willing to dip into his own coffers at any time to burnish his brand.”

New York Times: “The clash highlighted one of the central tensions inside the Republican Party as it lurches toward an uncertain 2024 presidential primary: wavering support for Mr. Trump among the nation’s evangelical leaders, whose congregants have for decades been a key constituency for conservatives and who provided crucial backing to Mr. Trump in his ascent to the White House.”

“If these leaders break with Mr. Trump — and if evangelical voters follow, which is by no means a certainty — the result will be a tectonic shift in Republican politics…”

“Indeed, recent polls point to some Trump fatigue among Republican voters. But it is an open question whether evangelical voters will abandon him if prominent Christian ministers support other candidates. And Mr. Trump has previously had an ability to cleave various types of conservative voters from their longtime leaders, as he did during his unexpected Republican primary victory in 2016.”

CALIFORNIA 30TH DISTRICT. Actor Ben Savage, who is best known as the lead on “Boy Meets World,” filed FEC paperwork this week for a potential campaign to succeed Rep. Adam Schiff, a fellow Democrat who is considering a Senate bid. Savage’s spokesperson said that “he is focused on his upcoming wedding. Ben is still making decisions and always looking for opportunities to give back and serve the community.” Savage ran for the West Hollywood City Council last year in a race where he needed to take one of the top three spots to earn a seat, but he finished seventh.

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

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