The Political Report – February 20, 2023

“Forget the Wilmington basement. This time he will have a Rose Garden. And Air Force One and a big white mansion and all the other advantages of incumbency in a year when he is not forced by a pandemic to stick to streaming from downstairs,” the New York Times reports.

“But as President Biden prepares to run for a second term, his team is mapping out a strategy for 2024 that in many other ways resembles that of 2020. Whether he ultimately faces Donald J. Trump again or another Republican trying to be like Mr. Trump, the president plans a campaign message that still boils down to three words: Competent beats crazy.”

“I think he is a much more progressive president than he was a United States senator.”— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), quoted by The Hill, on President Biden.

Former President Donald Trump gave a shout out to the newly-selected head of the Michigan Republican party despite not supporting her bid for the post.

Said Trump: “Congratulations to Kristina Karamo, a powerful and fearless Election Denier, in winning the Chair of the GOP in Michigan. If Republicans (and others!) would speak the truth about the Rigged Presidential Election of 2020, like FoxNews should, but doesn’t, they would be far better off.”

“One of the big questions heading into this Congress was whether House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries would be able to fill Nancy Pelosi’s shoes in the fundraising space. Pelosi, of course, was a legendary fundraiser during her two decades atop the House Democratic Caucus,” Punchbowl News reports.

“We’re beginning to get some answers. The DCCC raised nearly twice as much as the NRCC in January. Democrats raised $8.1 million and Republicans took in $4.5 million.”

“According to internal party data, Jeffries took in $5.2 million of the DCCC’s January total. In other words, Jeffries himself raised more than the entire NRCC. House Democrats raised or gave $1.8 million.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Mitt Romney hasn’t yet made up his mind about whether he’ll seek a second term next year—and apparently hasn’t made up his mind about when he’ll make up his mind either. The Associated Press reported on Friday morning that Romney “doesn’t expect” to make a decision “until the start of summer,” but that very afternoon, CNN said that Romney would decide “by mid-April.” Neither outlet directly quoted the senator in their articles, so perhaps someone out there is just confused about when summer begins. (It’s Wednesday, June 21, in the northern hemisphere, in case you were unsure.)

For what it’s worth, Romney does seem like he’s gearing up for another campaign: “I’m doing what I would do if I’m running with staffing and resources, so it’s not like I have to make a formal announcement,” he told the AP. If he does, though, he’s guaranteed to earn a primary challenge. One new name who confirms he’s thinking about his own bid is former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who resigned from office in 2017 to take a job as a Fox News talking head and had previously been mentioned as a possible candidate. Like Romney, Chaffetz sounds as though he’s in no hurry to make up his mind, telling the AP, “It’s something I don’t think I need to decide right now and consequently I haven’t.”

Last year, another Republican, state Attorney General Sean Reyes, declined to rule out running through a spokesperson. GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has also been named as a potential entrant. No Democrat has won a Senate race in Utah since Frank Moss secured a third term in 1970, though last year, Sen. Mike Lee turned in the weakest performance by a Beehive State Republican in a Senate contest since the 1974 Watergate wave, turning back conservative independent Evan McMullin by a 53-43 margin.

CHICAGO MAYOR. Victory Research, a GOP pollster that Politico says isn’t working for any candidates, has conducted a new survey of Chicago’s Feb. 28 nonpartisan primary. The results are below, with the firm’s late January numbers in parentheses:

  • former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas: 23 (20)
  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot: 17 (19)
  • Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson: 16 (16)
  • Rep. Chuy Garcia: 14 (17)
  • Wealthy perennial candidate Willie Wilson: 12 (12)

None of the other four candidates broke 4%, while 13% of respondents are undecided.

The firm also tests out 10 different hypothetical matchups for the April 4 general election, any of which might be possible given the closeness of the race:

  • Vallas: 44, Garcia: 39
  • Vallas: 46, Johnson: 33
  • Vallas: 49, Lightfoot: 30
  • Vallas: 50, Wilson: 37
  • Garcia: 42, Johnson: 39
  • Garcia: 39, Lightfoot: 34
  • Garcia: 40, Wilson: 29
  • Johnson: 37, Lightfoot: 32
  • Johnson: 35, Wilson: 29
  • Wilson: 40: Lightfoot: 37

While these numbers show Lightfoot faring far worse against Vallas than against anyone else, she’s made it clear she wants him as her general election foe. We got a reminder of why on Thursday when the news broke that Vallas’ allies at the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police plan to host Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at their meeting eight days prior to Election Day. Vallas responded by saying he was “disappointed” the FOP had invited a Republican with a “record of trying to erase the LGBTQ community, banning books on Black history and much more.”

Lightfoot, meanwhile, is doing what she can to stop Johnson with a new ad utilizing footage of Johnson talking about “our effort and our move to redirect and defund the amount of money that is spent in policing.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Actor Hill Harper, best known for his work on the TV show “The Good Doctor,” has been reaching out to Michigan Democrats about a possible bid for the state’s open Senate seat, according to CNN. Harper was buddies with Barack Obama when the two attended Harvard Law School and has said that he and the former president are still close.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Adam Schiff continues to scoop up endorsements from fellow members of California’s congressional delegation, making him the only House Democrat running for Senate to earn support from his in-state colleagues so far. The latest to join Schiff’s team are Rep. Doris Matsui, who represents part of the Sacramento suburbs, and Rep. Mark Takano, whose district is based around the Southern California city of Riverside. Schiff previously earned the backing of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and 14 other California members of Congress. Rep. Katie Porter is also running for this seat, while Rep. Barbara Lee is likely to join the race soon.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is inching closer to deciding to run for Senate, and her expected candidacy has frozen the Republican field in the state as other Senate hopefuls wait for her decision,” the Washington Post reports.

“Lake, a former local television anchor who falsely claims that she won her 2022 race for Arizona governor, is considered the most formidable opponent in a Republican primary, and at least three Republican candidates also sizing up the race are waiting for her to make a decision before they decide to run.”

“There is deep concern about Lake’s viability in a general election, national Republican operatives said.”

HOGAN 2024. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that he would consider not running in 2024 if his bid would increase former President Donald Trump’s chances of winning reelection, NBC News reports.

Said Hogan: “I’m a lifelong Republican who wants to support the nominee of the party, whoever that is. However, you know, I’ve said before, I didn’t support Trump, I wouldn’t support Trump.”

WASHINGTON 8TH DISTRICT. Banker Carmen Goers, whose bid for the legislature last year crashed and burned despite extensive support from GOP heavyweights, just launched a campaign against Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier for Washington’s competitive 8th Congressional District. Goers had the backing of state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox and other party leaders when she ran for an open seat in the state House in 2022, but she finished dead last in the top-two primary with just 14% of the vote—and to add insult to injury, Republicans were locked out of the general election because a pair of Democrats emerged as the lead vote-getters.

Schrier herself fended off a challenge from Republican Matt Larkin, winning a second term 53-46 in race that saw heavy outside spending on both sides. Joe Biden would have carried this district, which includes the eastern Seattle suburbs and part of central Washington, by a relatively close 52-45 margin, so it’ll likely remain a GOP target.

Politico: “At one point, Judge Everett Mitchell was a functionally illiterate teen running from trouble at home. Now he’s running for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in one of the nation’s most consequential elections — with major implications for 2024.”

Wall Street Journal: “Trump is scheduled to appear Thursday at a fundraiser for the super political-action committee supporting his White House bid, MAGA Inc. The location: the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.”

“The following day, Mr. DeSantis, Florida’s governor, will kick off a three-day retreat with donors and other supporters. The location: Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, an eight-minute drive from Mar-a-Lago.”

“The timing is coincidental, people familiar with the events say… Mr. DeSantis’s allies concede the location of his event is likely to irk Mr. Trump.”

HALEY 2024. Jonathan Bernstein: “Nikki Haley says she is running for president, but a few political observers including a potential opponent have suggested that she might actually be angling for the vice presidential spot on the GOP ticket. There could be more than a tinge of sexism in the speculation about Haley, though it’s something commonly said of longshot presidential candidates. It’s also nonsense.”

“While we can’t know what’s in the mind of candidates, it’s safe to assume that people who are willing to put themselves through the ordeal of a presidential campaign aspire to the top job. And as they probably know, running for vice president by running for president is a foolish exercise.”

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