The Political Report – February 20, 2023

Gallup: “Americans are more dissatisfied with U.S. abortion policies now than they have been at any point in Gallup’s 23-year trend, and those who are dissatisfied are three times as likely to prefer less strict rather than more strict abortion laws.”

“The record-high 69% of U.S. adults dissatisfied with abortion laws includes 46% who prefer that these laws be made less strict, marking a 16-percentage-point jump in this sentiment since January 2022.”

Associated Press: “Half of Americans in a recent survey indicated they believe national news organizations intend to mislead, misinform or persuade the public to adopt a particular point of view through their reporting.”

“The survey, released Wednesday by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, goes beyond others that have shown a low level of trust in the media to the startling point where many believe there is an intent to deceive.”

“Ron DeSantis’s 2024 campaign team is quickly taking shape with the Florida governor lining up trusted aides to helm an expected presidential bid,” Bloomberg reports.

“DeSantis is expected to appoint Generra Peck as campaign manager and director, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Peck earned the trust of both DeSantis and his wife, Casey, who remains his most influential political adviser, by running his successful gubernatorial campaign last year. DeSantis cruised to a landslide 19-percentage point victory over Democrat Charlie Crist.”

Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) told NBC News the dynamics for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) heading into 2024 are “probably better” than they were for him in the 2016 race.

Said Walker: “I wouldn’t write him off, but he’s not the new, completely different outsider that he was in 2016 that all of us were not able to overcome.”

“When President Joe Biden sets out for his annual physical at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Thursday morning, he’ll be setting a new record – as he does every morning – as the oldest US president ever,” CNN reports.

“Biden’s age is ‘omnipresent’ in nearly every conversation, at a time when he’s preparing for a reelection announcement that would try to extend his time in the Oval Office until he is 86 years old.”

“Biden hasn’t officially decided to run again, though he’s said he intends to and his campaign infrastructure is largely in place. Even though aides say the president has told them that his age will not be the determining factor in his final decision about running for reelection, conversations about it are shaping everything from planning anticipated campaign schedule logistics to calibrating Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as his running mate.”

Jonathan Martin: “High-level Democrats are rallying to President Biden’s reelection, not because they think it’s in the best interest of the country to have an 82-year-old start a second term but because they fear the potential alternative: the nomination of Kamala Harris and election of Donald Trump.”

“Not that many of them will say it publicly, at least not that directly.”

Said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN): “Nobody wants to be the one to do something that would undermine the chances of a Democratic victory in 2024. Yet in quiet rooms the conversation is just the opposite — we could be at a higher risk if this path is cleared.”

Washington Post: “These actions and others reflect a growing effort among state election officials, lawmakers and private-sector advocates — most of them Democrats — to push back against the wave of misinformation and mistrust of elections that sprang from former president Donald Trump’s false claim that his 2020 defeat was rigged.”

“Since that vote more than two years ago, election administrators have regularly found themselves fending off false accusations, baseless lawsuits and violent threats. They have fielded demands that go beyond their official powers — to stop using electronic voting equipment, to hand-count all ballots, to end mail voting or to refuse to certify results. Hundreds have resigned or retired as a result of the pressure and abuse, with some states, including Colorado, reporting that a majority of their county election clerks have turned over since 2018.”

“Election administrators and their advocates say they are motivated to take action because election denialism does not appear to be going away, even as the evidence has grown — in public polling as well as in the midterm election results — that most Americans have grown tired of it.”

Tara Palmeri: “Once upon a time, declaring late, in the third wave, was considered a mistake, or the vanity of the uber-wealthy. Trump’s golden elevator descent, in June 2015, was considered late at the time. Mike Bloomberg was humbled after he entered the Democratic primary, in late November 2019, thinking that he could blow past Iowa and New Hampshire and focus on delegates in California and on Super Tuesday contests.”

“This cycle, however, that philosophy may be reversing itself. Conventional wisdom suggests that Trump and DeSantis may bludgeon each other significantly enough to open a new lane that won’t be filled by any of the milquetoast Haley-Pompeo-Pence also-rans, who are barely able to make a noise amid the clatter.”

“And all of this might clear the way for a late entrant dark horse. I’m told from people close to Chris Christie and Rick Scott that they could see late openings for themselves, for different reasons. Glenn Youngkin, with his deep pockets and ability to self-fund, is also being advised to make a later entry. Those advising Youngkin could see him entering the race around the first debate, which could be late July or early August, per smoke signals from the R.N.C., or he could skip the first debate altogether and jump in for the second.”

“Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, openly eyeing a pathbreaking run for the Republican presidential nomination, came home Thursday night to the city that started the Civil War to test out themes of unity and forgiveness aimed at the current war in his party — and the divisions roiling the nation at large,” the New York Times reports.

“The ultimate question is whether Republican voters who embraced Donald J. Trump’s brand of us-versus-them divisiveness are ready for the themes that Mr. Scott is selling.”

Marianne Williamson (D), the self-help author who went viral during the 2020 Democratic primary for her debate moments before dropping out ahead of the Iowa caucuses, appears on the verge of announcing she’s running again, Politico reports.

Finding a campaign manager for President Joe Biden’s re-election remains a problem for his top aides, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, underscoring the difficulty of finding someone who can run the operations while the decision-making power remains in the White House,” NBC News reports.

“The campaign manager and other top staff are likely to function more as implementers than deciders, a reality that has been a tough sell for some seasoned political professionals.”

“Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is so concerned that party disunity will sink GOP hopes in the 2024 presidential election that she plans to require all candidates on the official primary debate stages to first pledge their support to the party’s eventual nominee,” the Washington Post reports.

“But many of the likely contenders are pushing back.”

Politico: “The complicated reality is that intervening in primaries can appear heavy-handed and even provide ammo for candidates looking to rail against the D.C. establishment. But the alternative is watching as unpalatable nominees threaten the party’s general election odds — at a moment when thin margins in both the House and Senate mean the majorities could hinge on any seat.”

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Cook Political Report: “When we came out with our 2023 gubernatorial ratings last month, it initially seemed like the Mississippi governor’s race would be the least interesting of the trio of off-year races. But over the past month, there have been some intriguing developments in Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’s reelection bid that have caused us to reevaluate our rating.”

“The best news for Reeves is that he avoided a major primary challenger, with Bill Waller Jr., a former state Supreme Court chief justice, passing on a rematch of their 2019 intraparty battle. That will allow the incumbent to turn his attention to November—which may be needed after Democrats landed a strong recruit in Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.”

“Donald Trump on Saturday said he wouldn’t use the nickname ‘Meatball Ron’ to describe Ron DeSantis, a likely rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024,” Politico reports.

“In a Truth Social post, the former president said it would be ‘inappropriate’ to use the word “meatball as a moniker, which has been described as referring to DeSantis’ appearance and carries connotations to his Italian lineage.”

Walter Shapiro: “It may be moot if Joe Biden runs for the Democratic nomination unopposed, but, at the moment, the 2024 primary schedule is poised to be a complete mess.”

“And if the president decides at the last minute that he is not seeking a second term, the calendar chaos threatens to confuse voters and disadvantage the Democrats at a time when the Republicans are anointing their 2024 nominee.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Nikki Snyder, a Republican who serves on the state Board of Education, on Thursday became the first notable candidate from either party to announce a bid to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but her last effort to reach D.C. went very poorly.

Snyder, who is not related to former Gov. Rick Snyder, challenged Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin in 2020 for what was then the 8th District, but she raised all of $41,000 in an eight month campaign that came to an end when the state Board of Canvassers ruled she didn’t have enough signatures to make the primary ballot. Snyder, though, was still in the middle of the eight-year Board of Education term she’d won in 2016, and she went on to unsuccessfully call for schools to halt COVID testing and oppose other pandemic mitigation measures.

WISCONSIN STATE SENATE. Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, the far-right candidate that Wisconsin Democrats are actively trying to get Republican voters to nominate in next week’s special election primary for a crucial state Senate seat. Trump, characteristically, wrote in his Truth Social post that Brandtjen “provided the platform for the investigation into the Rigged and Stolen 2020 Presidential Election, where she has doggedly pursued the truth when so many RINOS and the Fake News Media have tried to cover up this massive corruption.”

And while Trump didn’t mention either of Brandtjen’s intra-party foes in the 8th District, fellow state Rep. Dan Knodl and Thiensville Village President Van Mobley, by name, he did say, “Her RINO opponents don’t care about the State.” He continued by bringing up three of his least favorite Republicans in the nation, saying, “They are led by Liz Cheney, who lost her race in Wyoming by the biggest margin in History, Cryin’ Adam Kinzinger, and RINO Robin Vos, who barely won re-election against an opponent that no one ever heard of.”

Trump and Brandtjen were on the same side last August when they both supported that “opponent that no one ever heard of,” Adam Steen, when he challenged state Assembly Speaker Vos for renomination. Brandtjen, like Trump, invoked the Big Lie to justify her decision to go after one of Wisconsin’s most prominent Republicans, but it wasn’t enough to stop Vos from prevailing 51-49. (Vos went on to easily turn back Steen’s write-in campaign in the general election.)

Brandtjen’s GOP colleagues responded the week after Election Day by ejecting her from their caucus, with one member saying, “The continual issues from the past have led our caucus to lose trust in you.” Vos went on to remove Brandtjen, whom he called “inept,” as head of the elections committee. This week, when the New York Times asked who he was supporting in the state Senate primary, Vos responded, “Lol. Let me quote Sarah Huckabee Sanders, ‘normal vs crazy.’ I would vote normal.”

Knodl, who signed a letter to Mike Pence asking him not to certify the results of Joe Biden’s victory, hardly qualifies as “normal” under any definition, but the Republicans who prioritize preserving the new supermajority the party acquired in November thanks to gerrymandered maps would vastly prefer him to Brandtjen. That includes the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has spent over $160,000 so far on mail and digital efforts to help Knodl.

But perhaps unfortunately for both Knodl and Mobley, another group that’s involved is Keep Country First, a PAC run by allies of one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, former Illinois Rep. Kinzinger. The organization has spent at least $55,000 on digital ads blasting Brandtjen as “inept, unqualified, ineffective,” though it doesn’t cite Vos as the source for those attacks. The PAC’s presence in the race, as well as its support for Cheney during her unsuccessful renomination contest, was all the prompting Trump needed to argue that these two GOP apostates were supporting Brandtjen’s foes.

Trump’s intervention comes at a time when environmental attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin, who is the only Democrat running in the April 4 general election, has been airing ads to boost Brandtjen ahead of the primary by ostensibly attacking her as “the most conservative you can be when it comes to abortion.” The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has joined in by sending mailers to Republican voters that highlight how an anti-abortion group named her “Pro-life Legislator of the year,” language that’s also meant to make her more appealing to conservatives.

Brandtjen herself wasn’t at all concerned that Democrats were trying to meddle in the primary because they see her as a weak opponent. “It’s clear that many in the establishment of both parties would prefer to distract voters from my true record of accomplishments of fighting for the citizens in this community from tax relief to human trafficking,” she said this week, adding, “I don’t really pay much attention to whatever strategy the Democrats may or may not be utilizing.”

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

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