The Political Report – March 12, 2023

A new University of North Florida poll finds Gov. Ron DeSantis way ahead of Donald Trump in Florida, 59% to 28%.

Many Iowa Republicans remain committed to Donald Trump, but the former president is seeing his support erode as campaigning begins to heat up ahead of Iowa’s 2024 presidential caucuses, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.

Said pollster Ann Selzer: “Iowa is where the competition starts. And someone who has already held the office and who won the state twice would be presumed to be the front-runner, and I don’t know that we can say that at this point. There’s nothing locked in about Iowa for Donald Trump.”

FiveThirtyEight is out with updated pollster ratings after the 2022 midterms and finds Suffolk University and Siena College/New York Times Upshot were the most accurate pollsters, while several GOP-affiliated firms were the least accurate.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “insists he’ll win if he runs for reelection,” Bloomberg reports. “That ‘if’ is one of the biggest uncertainties in U.S. politics, one that could determine Senate control and the role of centrists in an increasingly polarized country.”

“While other Democratic incumbents in Trump-friendly states — Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana — have announced reelection campaigns, Manchin is in no hurry. He had $9.5 million in his campaign account at the end of 2022, but says he won’t make any announcements until the end of the year, and laments a perennial focus on politics.”

Politico: “He’ll keep exerting his political leverage, at least until he runs and Republicans start to limit his opportunities or a retirement announcement saps his Senate sway. And the West Virginian is well aware of that limited window to maximize his current role as the GOP’s best bipartisan dealmaking partner and the Senate Energy Committee chair.”

“Going forward, each and every proposed nominee I will review will be judged through one prism: Are they political partisans first or Americans first?” — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), writing in the Houston Chronicle. It’s an odd choice of publications, but perhaps a sign he’s courting donors in the energy industry ahead of a 2024 campaign.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. “Senate Republicans are close to recruiting Tim Sheehy, a decorated military veteran and successful businessman with the resources to self-finance a campaign, to run against Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2024,” Axios reports

“Sheehy, whom Republicans view as straight out of central casting, is being encouraged to run by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-MT).”

The GOP firm OnMessage Inc. has released a survey showing Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale beating Democratic incumbent Jon Tester 46-41 in a hypothetical general election; OnMessage has worked for Rosendale in the past, but there’s no word on a client for this poll.

The poll also finds Rosendale beating fellow Rep. Ryan Zinke 36-26 in a primary where no major contenders have announced yet. It also shows Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, whose name recently surfaced as a possibility, barely registering at 2%. Sheehy, though, reportedly has the resources to self-fund, which could help him get his name out should he run.

KENTUCKY U.S. SENATOR. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was hospitalized Wednesday evening after falling, and his office said the following day that he was being treated for a concussion and expects to remain in the hospital “for a few days.”

If McConnell, who is 81, left office before his term expires in 2027, he would be replaced by a fellow Republican thanks to a state law he supported two years ago. The GOP-dominated legislature back then overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto to pass a bill that will require the governor to fill future U.S. Senate vacancies with an appointee from the same party as the departing senator: The party committee of the departing lawmaker would send a list of three names to the governor, who would then be required to pick a replacement from that list.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Republican Stephen Waguespack on Thursday entered this October’s all-party primary to succeed termed-out Democrat John Bel Edwards as governor of Louisiana, a move he made as he announced he was also stepping down as head of the powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. While Waguespack before this week hadn’t even been seriously mentioned as a possible contender, his kickoff comes at a time when several influential GOP donors badly want someone to stop the frontrunner, far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry.

This “Anybody but Jeff” crowd, as the Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue recently explained, view the attorney general as a bully who is also “too focused on divisive social issues – such as what books are available in libraries.” It’s not clear how large this anti-Landry faction is, though, in part because O’Donoghue says they “will only air their feelings behind closed doors” out of fear.

Rolfe McCollister explained why last month in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report when he wrote that Landry has sent “various warnings and threats he’s sending to potential opposing candidates and their supporters, boasting ‘I will be governor and I won’t forget.'” McCollister continued, “He’s also tossing out threats such as ‘you won’t work in this state.’ High-ranking elected officials say Landry has made subtle threats to them as well.” McCollister went on:

“Do you want our state run by an individual who currently is responsible for upholding the laws of this state but seems to care little about ethics regulations—using campaign funds to help buy himself a pickup truck and later failing to disclose more than $4,000 in travel reimbursement. Is our future brighter in a political world where the governor uses fishy arrangements to enrich himself and close allies? Do you want a leader of the state using his power to intimidate or punish those who disagree with him or his friends—and do you believe that will lead to brighter economic days for our state? I don’t.

Are you good with someone—again, who is supposed to be concerned with the law—taking a rather dismissive view toward sexual harassment allegations in his own office, choosing to attack those who raised the complaints while defending the alleged perpetrator, who happens to be a buddy?

The anti-Landry group, however large it is, has so far been unimpressed by the other three notable Republicans―Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson―and they’ve spent quite some time looking for an alternative. Waguespack was far from their first choice, though, as O’Donoghue writes they unsuccessfully tried to get Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, and Rep. Garret Graves to run and block Landry.

But Waguespack ultimately was the one who stepped up, and just like all of those other would-be alternatives to Landry, he’s anything but a moderate. Among other things, Waguespack has successfully opposed Edwards’ attempt to raise the state’s minimum wage from the $7.25 an hour it’s been since 2008, and he’s been an ardent ally of the oil and gas industry. His style, however, is very different from Landry’s, as’s Tyler Bridges writes Waguespack is “well-liked personally by Republicans and Democrats.”

The first-time candidate, who spent the last decade leading Louisiana’s chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now has to prove he’s the contender the Landry’s intra-party enemies can have the courage to support, though that support still may not need to be public: LaPolitics’ Jeremy Alford reports that these donors are considering contributing to a pro-Waguespack PAC so they can avoid revealing their identities.

Perhaps Waguespack’s biggest liability comes from his time as chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Republican rising star who left office in 2016 with disastrous approval numbers after presiding over years of massive budget cuts. The new candidate said Thursday he anticipates opponents will tie him to his old boss, arguing, “The entrenched status quo may try to smear me and distract voters from the true issues that face our families. They will want to focus on Louisiana’s past but I will be laser-focused on Louisiana’s future.”

More recently, Waguespack responded to the Jan. 6 attack by writing two days later that he was upset with “images of our Nation’s Capitol being treated like a frat house on a drunken weekend came across the airwaves.” Waguespack also used that piece to say he accepted Joe Biden’s win and said of Trump, “Our current President, rather than running on a strong economic record of job creation, has relied more on incendiary rhetoric to provoke furor and rage against those who disagree with his positions.” Landry, by contrast, was one of the Republican attorneys general who unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden’s victory, and his campaign has publicly predicted he’s about to get Trump’s endorsement.

The contest to succeed Edwards includes two other notable contenders: former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, a Democrat who has the governor’s endorsement, and independent Hunter Lundy, a self-funding attorney who is a member of the governing board of the Christian Nationalist group National Association of Christian Lawmakers. The field may expand again as Republican state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said last week he’d consider running if Graves didn’t, though it remains to be seen how Waguespack’s candidacy will impact his deliberations.

Louisiana’s candidate filing deadline isn’t until Aug. 10, and politicians sometimes only wait until the last moment to decide what they’ll do―even if they’re outside the country when qualifying ends. Bridges and Alford wrote in their book Long Shot that, while wealthy Democrat John Georges was in France the day of the 2015 deadline, he had filled out candidate paperwork to run before he left.

Georges gave the qualifying papers to a close ally named Jack Capella and instructed him to wait in his car outside the secretary of state’s office in case a candidate unexpectedly entered or left the race. Georges called Capella just before qualifying closed and told him that, since there were no developments, he wouldn’t run. But while Georges’ last-second transcontinental flirtations remind us that anything is possible before the deadline, it’s still rare for major contenders to actually launch a statewide campaign when they’d have so little time to organize.

All the candidates, whoever they may be, will compete in the Oct. 14 all-party primary: In the likely event that no one secures a majority, a runoff would take place on Nov. 18 between the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. Politico writes that a trio of unnamed “high-level Hoosier Democrats” are hoping that former Sen. Joe Donnelly will step down as ambassador to the Vatican to run for Senate or governor this cycle. The story adds that Donnelly, who lost re-election in 2018 to Republican Mike Braun 51-45, is “said to be eyeing an exit from his current post,” though there’s no word if he’s looking at a comeback. One person who firmly turned down Democratic entreaties to run for Senate, though, is former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who responded, “Absolutely not.”

On the GOP side, Rep. Jim Banks now has the public backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the race for the Senate seat that Braun is giving up to run for governor. Banks still has no serious intra-party opposition in sight, while Braun starts as the primary frontrunner against Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and wealthy businessman Eric Doden.  

Barton Gelman: “November’s midterm election was the first in the country’s history to feature hundreds of candidates running explicitly as election rejectionists. Enough of them were defeated to mark a salutary trend: Swing voters did not seem to favor blatant, self-serving lies about election fraud. That was an encouraging result for democracy, and a balm to many Americans eager for a return to something like political normalcy.”

“But it was not the whole story. Election deniers won races for secretary of state—the post that oversees election administration—in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming. They make up most of the Republican freshman class in Congress. Even some of the losers came very close.”

NEVADA 3RD DISTRICT. Former state Sen. Elizabeth Helgelien announced Wednesday that she would seek the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, but her presence in the race did not impress the Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston. “She was a state senator for a cup of coffee,” Ralston tweeted, continuing, “resigned for personal reasons, then moved out of state, then came back to finish last in a state Senate primary in ’18.” Helgelien’s teenage daughter was sentenced to life in prison last year for murdering her father, who was Helgelien’s former husband.

CALIFORNIA 27TH DISTRICT. Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commissioner Franky Carrillo has filed FEC paperwork to raise money for a potential bid against Republican Rep. Mike Garcia. Carrillo, who is a Democrat, was featured in the Netflix series “The Innocence Files” detailing how he spent 22 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. Howey Politics says that former Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman is considering running to succeed his fellow Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz, in a contest that still hasn’t attracted any major candidates in the month since the incumbent unexpectedly announced her retirement.

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

0 comments on “The Political Report – March 12, 2023

Leave a Reply