The Political Report – February 3, 2023

“Slightly more Americans think the Biden administration is handling the classified documents investigation well than badly, with most saying President Biden has tried to cooperate with it,” according to a new CBS News poll.

“The situation is not impacting Mr. Biden’s broader ratings. His job approval rating remains unchanged in recent weeks. And he’s still about as well-liked personally by a majority, compared to a year ago. ”

“Context matters too, as big numbers of people think it might even be commonplace for former high-ranking officials to have classified materials at home. More than eight in 10 suspect this generally happens at least ‘sometimes’ or even ‘a lot.’”

Gallup: “Americans’ assessment of the state of the nation remains in the pandemic-era slump seen since 2021, marked by subdued satisfaction with 30 different aspects of the country. These include the public’s reaction to several aspects of U.S. society generally, as well as to numerous specific issues facing the country.”

“The Senate GOP campaign arm’s endorsement of Rep. Jim Banks in the Indiana Senate Republican primary on Tuesday marks an official departure from the committee’s policy in the 2022 cycle and makes clear it will play in primary contests in an attempt to win back the upper chamber,” The Hill reports.

“After a midterm cycle that saw candidates backed by former President Trump sail through primaries before suffering stinging general election defeats, Tuesday’s announcement was music to the ears of many Republicans.”

Washington Post: “After GOP underperformance in November’s midterm elections, the Republican National Committee is doubling down on its anti-abortion stance, formally urging GOP lawmakers and campaigns to ‘go on offense in the 2024 election cycle’ and to pass the strictest anti-abortion legislation possible.”

Charlie Cook: “The concept of ‘off years’ once meant relative political tranquility, save the occasional special congressional election and the regular off-year state elections in Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia.”

“The new reality is that for the two major parties, odd-numbered years are about candidates, while even-numbered years are about campaigns. The year before an election, there is no greater task than convincing incumbents, at least those who are not extremely old or scandal-damaged, to seek reelection, while simultaneously encouraging the best possible candidates run in open and toss-up races and keeping the weakest candidates out.”

“Anyone who believes that national party leaders and operatives should take a hands-off approach to who runs where obviously does not appreciate what happened to Republicans in 2022.”

“Steve Bannon took election denialism to an unhinged level on his podcast this week, when he didn’t just indulge in the baseless claims of election fraud favored by former President Donald Trump, but went so far as to tell Kari Lake ‘you’re the frickin’ governor of Arizona,’” Mediaite reports.

For those grounded in reality, Lake is not the governor of Arizona.

“Arizona’s top election official has asked the attorney general to investigate Kari Lake, the Republican candidate who lost her bid for governor in 2022, over potential campaign violations involving the disclosure of voter signatures,” the Washington Post reports.

“The complaint could set up a legal showdown in the battleground state between a prominent conservative election denier backed by Donald Trump and two newly elected Democrats who campaigned with messages of strengthening public trust in elections.”

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. Manlius Town Councilor Katelyn Kriesel, a Democrat who serves on the local government of this community of 34,000, has filed paperwork with the FEC for a potential bid against freshman Republican Rep. Brandon Williams. Williams won this constituency in the Syracuse area by a 50-49 margin two years after Biden prevailed 53-45 here.

CALIFORNIA 30TH DISTRICT. State Sen. Anthony Portantino announced Monday that he was joining what’s already a busy top-two primary to succeed his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Adam Schiff, a declaration that came a day after former Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer set up his own campaign committee with the FEC.

Portantino, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2006, launched a campaign for Congress back in 2011 against Republican incumbent David Dreier, but neither man ended up running for office the next year after redistricting completely scrambled the map. Portantino, who still has $180,000 on-hand from that effort, went on to win a state Senate seat in 2016 that’s home to about half the residents of the 30th Congressional District.  

Nick Melvoin, who is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board, on Tuesday became the latest Democrat to launch a bid to succeed Senate candidate Adam Schiff in this safely blue seat. Melvoin won his current post in 2017 after charter school supporters, including a trio of Wal-Mart heirs, spent an astounding $6.6 million to help him unseat an incumbent, a win that helped put a pro-charter majority in charge of America’s second-largest school system.

Melvoin was decisively re-elected last year with financial support from Bill Bloomfield, another wealthy donor who is close to charter supporters. Melvoin kicked off his House campaign by stressing different themes, tweeting, “We need a leader who’ll continue to protect reproductive freedom, fight climate change, & secure resources to address the ongoing homelessness crisis.”

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. State Senate Minority Leader Raquel Terán, who just finished her stint as chair of the state Democratic Party, tweeted Friday that she was considering running to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego in this safely blue seat.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. said Monday that he would not seek a rematch against Gov. Tate Reeves in this year’s Republican primary, a declaration that came just two days before Mississippi’s filing deadline. Waller, who lost an ugly 2019 runoff to Reeves 54-46, declared weeks ago that “corruption is so apparent and out of control, and most Mississippians I know are sick of it.”

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday that he’d stay out of next year’s Republican primary for Indiana’s open Senate seat, a proclamation that came hours before NRSC chair Steve Daines put out an unexpectedly supportive statement for the one declared major candidate, Rep. Jim Banks. “I’m looking forward to working with one of our top recruits this cycle, Jim Banks, to keep Indiana red in 2024,” said Daines, whose committee for over a decade has only intervened in intra-party fights to protect incumbents.

The GOP contest in this conservative state was shaping up to be a far different affair before Tuesday. Banks’ allies at the radical anti-tax Club for Growth―a well-funded group that often finds itself at odds with the Republican leadership―had begun airing ads attacking Daniels as “[a]n old guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad old days.” Donald Trump also had reportedly been trashing the former governor, and Hoosier and national Republicans were preparing for a contest that, in the words of one Daniels advisor, was turning into “ground zero of the Republican Civil War.”

Daniels, though, called off the troops this week while insisting he wasn’t waving the white flag. “I have never imagined that I would be well-suited to legislative office, particularly where seniority remains a significant factor in one’s effectiveness, and I saw nothing in my recent explorations that altered that view,” said Daniels, who also decided not to run for president more than a decade ago.

Banks, a conservative hardliner with a long history of opposing abortion rights and attacking trans people, launched his own campaign two weeks before Daniels made up his mind, and Daines rewarded his head start Tuesday with his laudatory statement. The NRSC has been reluctant to take sides in contested open seat primaries since the 2010 cycle, when it infuriated the emerging tea party with a series of ill-fated endorsements that included, but was not limited to, then-Florida Republican Charlie Crist.

The last NRSC chair, Rick Scott, stubbornly remained neutral last year even as allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent millions to block weak candidates in primaries. Daines, though, has made it clear he’d adopt a different strategy, saying in December, “We want to make sure we have candidates that can win general elections.” It’s not clear, though, why Daines felt he had to deter any opponents for Banks in Indiana, a state Trump took 57-41 in 2020 and where no notable Democrats have expressed interest in running for the Senate.

It also remains to be seen if other would-be GOP candidates take the hint. Rep. Victoria Spartz responded to Daniels’ decision by telling IndyStar, “I am going to fully concentrate this quarter on getting things done in the House and moving the needle on fixing health care, which I ran on … I will have to make my decision on what I am doing next politically later.” Term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb, a former top aide to Daniels who has his own conflicts with the base, also didn’t rule out a Senate run earlier this year, while former Rep. Trey Hollingsworth reportedly has been considering as well.

IN-Sen: Republican Rep. Jim Banks on Wednesday got a still-not-a-tweet endorsement from Donald Trump for next year’s open seat primary. Banks, who was already backed by the Club for Growth, also got a supportive statement the previous day from the NRSC right after former Gov. Mitch Daniels said he’d stay out of the race.

It’s unusual in this day and age for Trump, the NRSC, and the Club for Growth to all be on the same side in a potentially competitive nomination contest, though they’re all hoping no one else ends up taking on Banks. (NRSC chair Steve Daines, unlike Trump, did not explicitly say his group was supporting the congressman, but plenty of observers interpreted his favorable words about Banks as a de facto endorsement.) Indeed, it was mere days ago that Trump, using a word that’s long been an antisemitic dog whistle​, wrote, “The Club For No Growth is a GLOBALIST group that I have been taking to the cleaners for years.”

OHIO 9TH DISTRICT. Ohio Republican J.R. Majewski, a QAnon ally who proved to be one of his party’s very worst nominees for any office in 2022, said Monday that he was thinking about seeking a rematch against Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Majewski, whom the NRCC abandoned after the Associated Press reported that he’d lied about serving in Afghanistan, wrote, “As I consider, I want to make it clear: my decision will not be made by the DC Swamp or the political establishment … I’m looking forward to making a decision very soon!”

A Majewski reprise would not be welcome news for national Republicans, who will want to target Kaptur once more after their counterparts in the Buckeye State get the chance to gerrymander the state’s congressional map all over again. Kaptur, who was first elected to represent the Toledo area in 1982, was a top redistricting target last cycle, and Republicans thought they had her on the ropes after they radically transformed her 9th District from a 59-40 Biden constituency to one that Trump would have taken 51-48.

However, everything changed when Majewski, a conservative activist who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, shocked everyone by defeating two state legislators in the May 2022 primary to face the longest-serving congresswoman in American history. Kaptur and her allies recognized the opportunity that Republican voters had handed them, and they went on to air a litany of ads arguing that Majewski’s presence at the riot proved that he was a danger to law enforcement. (Majewski claims he never actually entered the Capitol building.)

Democrats also used footage of the Republican speaking favorably of secession and rapping in a video titled “Let’s Go Brandon Save America” to make their case that he shouldn’t be in Congress. A Kaptur commercial additionally highlighted Majewski’s ties to QAnon, with a narrator saying, “The FBI calls QAnon a domestic terrorist threat … Extremist J. R. Majewski is one of them.” Majewski, who said in 2020 he identified himself as a supporter of the conspiracy cult, said during the campaign, “I denounce QAnon. I do not support Q, and I do not subscribe to their conspiracy theories.”

National Republicans still stuck with Majewski during all this, and Kevin McCarthy even stumped for him in August. However, they had second thoughts the following month after the AP reported that military documents showed that Majewski, who had previously said he “lost my grandmother when I was in Afghanistan,” had never been stationed in the country. Instead, the self-described “combat veteran” spent six months in 2002 loading planes at an Air Force base in Qatar, far from the front lines. That seems to have been it for the NRCC, which yanked its planned spending the next day even as their nominee continued to insist he’d really served in Afghanistan.

Democratic outside groups, though, continued to air ads here even as Majewski found himself on the receiving end of more unflattering stories about his actual military career, including how he’d been unable to enlist in the Air Force after being punished for drunk driving on an air base. (New York Republican George Santos’ serial lies, by contrast, weren’t publicly known until over a month after Election Day.) Kaptur ended up defeating Majewski in a 57-43 landslide, a result that somehow hasn’t deterred him from mulling a rematch.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. While almost no one in California politics seems to think that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who ended 2022 with a paltry $10,000 on-hand, will run for re-election, the incumbent still says her announcement is a while away. Feinstein said Monday she’d reveal her plans “[i]n the spring sometime,” adding, “Not in the winter. I don’t announce in the winter.” The first day of spring is March 20.

Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Thursday threw her support behind Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in what is shaping up as a competitive 2024 Senate race in California if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) chooses not to run, the Washington Post reports.

Said Pelosi: “If Senator Feinstein decides to seek reelection, she has my whole-hearted support. If she decides not to run, I will be supporting House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who knows well the nexus between a strong Democracy and a strong economy.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Mike Rogers, who seems to have quite a high opinion of his political staying power eight years after leaving office, tells NBC that he’s considering seeking the Republican nod either to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow or to run for president. Rogers back in 2000 was elected to succeed Stabenow in the House when she left to successfully campaign for the upper chamber, and while he considered a 2014 run for Michigan’s other Senate seat, he instead ended up retiring that cycle to host a nationally syndicated show.

Another Republican, Rep. Lisa McClain, also tells The Dispatch she’s thinking about a Senate run. McClain, who didn’t rule the idea out last month, says she’s in no hurry to make up her mind.

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

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