A new Emerson College poll finds Donald Trump with a 26-point advantage over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, 55% to 29%.
The January poll also found a majority of Republican voters (55%) expect Trump to be the nominee, regardless of whom they support, while 35% expect DeSantis to be the nominee.
A new CNN poll finds just 27% of adults say they think Republican leaders in the House have had the right priorities so far, while 73% say they haven’t paid enough attention to the country’s most important problems.
Charles C.W. Cooke: “Let’s check in on the shadow primary for the 2024 Republican nomination. Nikki Haley is putting together a finance committee, and suggested last week that she’s ‘leaning in’ to a run. Mike Pompeo has just published a book called Never Give an Inch, and told CBS yesterday that he’ll decide whether to enter the fray over the ‘next handful of months.’ Governor Ron DeSantis has continued to pick winning fights in Florida since being reelected in a November landslide, and has stayed assiduously quiet about his future.”
“And then there’s Donald Trump, who, despite being the only candidate who has officially announced his bid, is . . . well, ranting like a deranged hobo in a dilapidated public park. No, don’t look at him — he might come over here with his sign.”
“There was a point in time at which Trump’s unusual verbal affect and singular nose for underutilized wedge issues gave him a competitive edge. Now? Now, he’s morphing into one of the three witches from Macbeth. To peruse Trump’s account on Truth Social is to meet a cast of characters about whom nobody who lives beyond the Trump Extended Universe could possibly care one whit.”
FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) told NBC News that he’s running for re-election.
“Scott also promised to push a controversial conservative plan that brought bipartisan condemnation last year. Scott released his plan, nicknamed ‘Rescue America,’ when he led the National Republican Senatorial Committee and packed it with red-meat conservative proposals on welfare, immigration, gender, crime and education.”
INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. Mitch Daniels (R) “embarked on a tour of Capitol Hill Wednesday to figure out whether running for his state’s open Senate seat makes sense,” Politico reports.
Said Daniels: “I’m not the least bit worried, honestly, about losing an election. I’m worried about winning it and regretting it for six years.”
He added: “I say this with great respect for those who do it. But you know, that doesn’t mean it fits me or fits me at this time of my life. So that’s what this field trip’s about.”
NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Cook Political Report: “The political incentives at play here are pretty clear: not only did McCarthy desperately need Santos’s vote for speaker; he can’t afford to cut the GOP’s lease on the seat short. A Santos resignation or expulsion would set up a special election in a Long Island district that would have voted for President Biden 53%-45% in 2020 — giving Democrats a phenomenal opportunity to narrow Republicans’ already-tenuous 222-213 majority.”
“At the same time, it’s great politics for other New York GOP freshmen, including Reps. Nick LaLota (NY-01), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Marc Molinaro (NY-19) and Brandon Williams (NY-22) to demand Santos’s resignation. All five are up for reelection in Biden-won seats in 2024 and would vote to declare the radioactive Santos a federal Superfund site if it bolstered their standing with independent voters…”
“If Santos were to somehow make it to the November 2024 ballot, the seat would be a slam dunk for Democrats. The far more likely scenario is that he’s demolished in a primary if he runs at all, making the fall race a Toss Up. We don’t feel that Santos belongs in the same category as other vulnerable Republicans, so New York’s 3rd CD will start in the Lean Democrat column in our initial ratings.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that the House would expel his scandal-a-minute colleague, Rep. George Santos, if the House Ethics Committee determines “he has broken the law.” The Hill notes that it remains to be seen if the Ethics Committee is probing the freshman Republican, though we know that he’s under investigation at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
Santos himself made news once again Tuesday when the Daily Beast reported he’d updated his FEC reports to say that he hadn’t actually used personal funds to finance $500,000 that he’d loaned his campaign, though he didn’t say where the money had come from. Elections lawyer Brett Kappel told the New York Times that, if the money didn’t come from Santos himself, “The only other permissible source would be a bank, and they would require collateral for a loan of this size. If a bank wasn’t the source of the funds, then the only alternatives are illegal sources.”
CHICAGO MAYOR. Rep. Chuy Garcia, who has spent weeks on the receiving end of negative ads from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, debuted his first TV commercial Tuesday, while the incumbent is continuing to try to knock her fellow Democrat out of the Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary. Lightfoot herself recently made it clear she wants to face former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in an April runoff, and she’s betting she can get this matchup with another spot tying Garcia to two scandal-ridden men, former crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried and former Illinois state House Speaker Michael Madigan.
We’ll start with Garcia’s opening ad which, like the messaging coming from Lightfoot and the other major candidates, focuses on crime. The congressman tells the audience, “It’s time to get back to a safer Chicago now by getting more cops on our streets and illegal guns off of them,” before he calls for “[e]xpanding community-based violence prevention programs and tackling the root causes of crime by investing in left behind neighborhoods.” Politico says that Garcia, who had to briefly take down and edit the commercial because it initially featured him speaking to uniformed police officers, is spending $167,000 this week on commercials.
Lightfoot, though, is continuing her pricey campaign against her main opponent with a new offering that shows an animated version of Garcia seated next to Bankman-Fried and Madigan as the narrator proclaims, “Chuy Garcia cozies up to crypto crooks, indicted politicians, and now his name has surfaced in the Madigan ComEd federal corruption investigation. He’d take us back to the bad old days, a rigged system that only works for the connected and corrupt.” The rest of the ad promotes Lightfoot as a reformer who is “delivering so we never go back.”
Madigan, whose nearly four-decade tenure as speaker of the state House came to an involuntary end two years ago, is scheduled to go on trial in March for racketeering and bribery. Among other things, Madigan and one of his associates, Michael McClain, are accused of working to place a Garcia ally named Juan Ochoa on the board of directors for the utility giant Commonwealth Edison, and multiple media outlets reported Friday that Garcia’s name came up in a secretly recorded 2019 call between Madigan and McClain about what prosecutors call an “unrelated matter.” Illinois Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller says the “unrelated subject” was about a PAC that Garcia and Ochoa were forming.
The Chicago Sun-Times writes that Madigan was recorded telling McClain, “Okay, so you see there’s a request from Ochoa, and Ochoa being Ochoa, the message reads, ‘Ochoa and Congressman Garcia.’ So I called Chuy, and Chuy really didn’t know anything about it.” Garcia has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and he quickly denied that he had any knowledge of Madigan’s machinations or had been contacted by investigators. Chicago Business’ Greg Hinz also argued, “I’ve seen no proof Garcia did anything to advance the Ochoa appointment, just as his campaign told the Tribune.” Miller adds that the meeting Madigan tried to set up with Garcia never took place.
Lightfoot sees things differently, however, and her ad features a Chicago Tribune headline reading, “GARCIA REFERENCED IN FEDERAL CONSPIRACY DOCUMENTS.” The mayor was already working to connect Garcia to Madigan even before this story broke by highlighting how they’d supported one another’s political interests for years.
Lightfoot also has gone after the congressman over the $2,900 his House campaign received from Bankman-Fried last June, as well as the $151,000 that Bankman-Fried’s PAC spent on fliers for that uncontested 2022 primary. Garcia’s spokesperson said he donated the $2,900 to charity and argued he “has been a strong advocate for the regulation of speculative industries, including the crypto industry.”
Lightfoot’s offensive comes as AdImpact reports she spent a total of $3.5 million on ads through Tuesday, which was considerably more than the $2.2 million that her nearest opponent, wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson, deployed; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and Vallas have spent $1.6 million and $1.5 million so far, respectively.
But while Lightfoot has outpaced her foes on the airwaves, she didn’t have the largest war chest at the end of 2022. The deep-pocketed Wilson had about $4.1 million available compared to $1.8 million for both Vallas and Johnson; Lightfoot was just behind with $1.5 million as Garcia had $1.3 million available.
Politico, though, says the mayor took in $300,000 this week from a pair of backers after she released an internal from GBAO giving her the lead with 25% as Vallas edged out Garcia 22-18 for second. Lightfoot has made it clear she wants to face Vallas, who accepted an endorsement from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and its Trump-supporting leader, in April, though other polls have shown the incumbent in danger of not even making it to the second round.
CALIFORNIA 45TH DISTRICT. Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Bernice Nguyen on Wednesday became the first notable Democrat to announce a campaign against Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in California’s 45th Congressional District, a western Orange County constituency that Joe Biden carried 52-46 in 2020.
Nguyen, who used her opening video to tell the audience, “My father is a Vietnamese refugee, my mother a Mexican immigrant,” made history in 2016 when she became the first Latino to ever serve on her City Council. Nguyen four years later challenged Republican County Supervisor Andrew Do only to take fourth place in the nonpartisan primary, but she ran for another seat in 2022 when redistricting created the first majority-Latino Board seat in Orange County history.
Nguyen’s opponent this time was a fellow Democrat, Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento, and both contenders had some prominent supporters in their corner. Nguyen’s backers included Rep. Katie Porter, a prominent progressive who was successfully running for the 47th District; the sheriff deputies union; and even her old opponent Do. Sarmiento, meanwhile, sported endorsements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the county Democratic Party, and he ended up beating Nguyen 52-48 in an election that saw their party take its first majority on the Board of Supervisors since 1976.
Steel herself has pulled off two close congressional wins in Orange County, an area where plenty of voters still back Republicans down the ballot even as they’ve become more open to supporting Democrats overall. Steel won a promotion from the Board to the House in 2020 when she unseated Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda 51-49 even as Biden was taking the old 48th District 50-48. (Rouda is now running to succeed Porter, who is campaigning for the Senate.)
Redistricting completely scrambled the map the following cycle and led Steel to campaign for the new 45th District, a constituency that was almost 85% new to her and a bit bluer than her existing seat. Steel responded to the challenge by embracing the old Orange County GOP strategy of accusing her Democratic opponent of being linked to communists, a tactic that local Republicans had long used in areas with large Vietnamese American electorates like western Orange County.
Steel generated national attention late in the campaign when she sent out a mailer declaring that her Democratic opponent, local school board trustee Jay Chen, had “invited China into our children’s classes.” Chen’s campaign responded to the offensive by highlighting the fact that his grandmother fled China after the Communist Party took power and his own service in the U.S. Navy Reserves, though that very much didn’t deter Steel’s allies from airing TV ads accusing him of having “led efforts to bring Chinese communist propaganda to schools.”
The DCCC and House Majority PAC largely focused their resources elsewhere in a pessimistic sign for Chen’s prospects, while their Republican counterparts spent a hefty $5 million. Steel did win, though her 52-48 margin may have been smaller than national Democrats predicted before Election Day; according to Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux, the Republican candidates for governor and Senate each carried the 45th District 51-49 last year as well. Politico wrote in December that some Democrats hoped Chen would run again, though he doesn’t appear to have publicly said anything about his 2024 plans.
New York Times: “In 10 weeks, Wisconsin will hold an election that carries bigger policy stakes than any other contest in America in 2023.”
“The April race, for a seat on the state’s evenly divided Supreme Court, will determine the fate of abortion rights, gerrymandered legislative maps and the Wisconsin governor’s appointment powers — and perhaps even influence the state’s 2024 presidential election…”
“The contest will almost certainly shatter spending records for a judicial election in any state, and could even double the current most expensive race. Wisconsinites are set to be inundated by a barrage of advertising, turning a typically sleepy spring election into the latest marker in the state’s nonstop political season. The seat is nonpartisan in name only, with officials from both parties lining up behind chosen candidates.”
“Indeed, the clash for the court is striking because of how nakedly political it is.”
The son of Wisconsin state Supreme Court candidate Jennifer Dorow is under police investigation for dealing drugs to an 18-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee freshman who died of fentanyl poisoning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
NY Redistricting: On Tuesday, a state appellate court upheld a lower court decision that had ordered New York’s bipartisan redistricting commission to draw a new district map for the Assembly to be used in the 2024 elections. The new map will replace the districts drawn by Democratic lawmakers that had previously been struck down as unconstitutional last year but were temporarily used last fall because it was too close to the elections to implement different districts. The court’s ruling rejected a request by the GOP plaintiffs for a court-appointed special master to draw the new map instead of the commissioners.
Last month, the redistricting commissioners advanced a draft map of the new Assembly districts, and they have until April 28 to approve a new plan and submit it to the Democratic-run legislature for their approval. If lawmakers reject the eventual map or if commissioners fail to approve one at all, a court would likely once again step in to draw one instead.
LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore tells The Advocate that he’ll decide next week if he’ll run for governor while his fellow Democrat, state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, says he’s in the “final leg of due diligence” himself.
Another Democrat, activist Gary Chambers, ruled out a bid in November following his 62-18 loss to GOP Sen. John Kennedy, but he’s reconsidering now that state Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt is starring in TV ads foreshadowing her own potential campaign. “People are calling me because they want a candidate who can run a race and build energy,” he told LaPolitics, adding, “Katie keeps losing and she may be losing her mind if she thinks she will be governor.” However, Chambers used a separate interview to tout Wilson to The Advocate, so it doesn’t sound like he’d take on the transportation secretary in the October all-party primary.
LAPolitics broke the news Friday that a group called Team Louisiana PAC is running a $300,000 TV ad campaign starring state Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt at a time when she’s considering a bid for governor. The minute-long spot touts Bernhardt as “someone who remembers a time when our future was brighter than our past” and “someone with common sense” before it shows her skeet shooting.
The spot doesn’t mention Bernhardt as a prospective candidate for office, though as the Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s Greg Hilburn notes, “the video clearly is intended to introduce her to voters.” Developer AP Marullo, who funded the pro-Bernhardt spot, did nothing to tamp down the chatter himself when he responded, “When something causes a stir, I believe that it leads to the types of real conversations that lay the groundwork for change.” (Marullo himself was briefly talked about as a potential Democratic candidate himself, though there was never any indication he was interested in putting his name on the ballot.)
KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, who continues to have the airwaves to herself, is running a new commercial on fentanyl ahead of the May Republican primary, though her last ad on that subject is getting her some coverage she may not have planned on.
Craft told her audience for that earlier spot that the drug crisis has “stolen our loved ones away” before declaring, “As a mother this is personal to me because I’ve experienced that empty chair at my table.” The candidate didn’t elaborate, which led to days of questions from reporters asking if she’d herself lost a family member to fentanyl: On Sunday she said, “That person has not passed away, we were so fortunate. It was a very difficult chapter in our lives and I thank God every day that we were able to come through this.”
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