The Political Report – March 13, 2023

John Ellis: “The irony of all this ceaseless chatter about Trump’s electability is this: 80 percent of adult Americans would prefer that President Biden not seek re-election. Eighty percent. That is a staggering statistic. And there’s more: Roughly 60% of Democrats would prefer the party nominate someone other than Biden next year.”

“If 80% of the nation and 60% of Democrats prefer that Biden not seek re-election, a case could be made that Biden is unelectable.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has apparently launched a website to explore a 2024 presidential bid. LOL. Please. An anti-vaxxer is going nowhere in the Democratic primary.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The calendar year before the presidential primary voting begins is often defined by winnowing, as contenders emerge and then fade.”

“But Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are taking up so much oxygen that we may already have the top contenders, with everyone else who runs essentially an afterthought.”

“DeSantis is polling well for a non-candidate, but we need to see how he actually performs before assuming that his support is solid.”

CHICAGO MAYOR. “A year before he became one of two Democrats left standing in the race for Chicago mayor, Paul Vallas went on a conservative radio show and mocked the last two Democratic presidents,” Politico reports.

“Appearing on Chicago’s Morning Answer program, Vallas rolled his eyes at former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they spoke about their new library in Hyde Park and laughed about them living in Martha’s Vineyard. Vallas, in a separate appearance a few months later, questioned whether President Joe Biden actually was the one running the White House.”

On Wednesday evening, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to redirect its members’ dues to its political committee, a move that allows it to bring in up to $2 million to support Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and its City Council slate in the April 4 general election.

Johnson also recently got $500,000 in direct contributions from another labor ally, SEIU Healthcare. On Thursday he additionally publicized an endorsement from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who backed her colleague, Chuy Garcia, during the first round.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis previewed a likely line of attack against both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Friday, deriding the federal response to Covid-19 here in the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state,” NBC News reports.

Said DeSantis: “We were right, they were wrong. We refused to let our state descend into some sort of Faucian dystopia.”

PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL. The state Senate on Wednesday  unanimously confirmed Michelle Henry to serve as attorney general for the final two years of the term, and she says she doesn’t plan to run when this seat is up in 2024. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro nominated Henry, who spent six years as his top deputy, to take his place after he resigned as attorney general, though she automatically became acting attorney general once he departed.

Henry was a Republican when she first joined Shapiro’s team in 2016; however, the Democratic Attorney Generals Association now identifies her as a Democrat.

TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL. The tentative whistleblower settlement between Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and four of his former aides is in serious danger, as that quartet asked the state Supreme Court this week to once again take up their case. That settlement was always contingent on the state legislature approving $3.3 million in state funds to this group, who say the attorney general retaliated against them for speaking to federal prosecutors investigating their boss for corruption, but state House Speaker Dade Phelan and other lawmakers said they weren’t convinced they should go along.

Lawyers for the whistleblowers said that, while their clients would still accept the agreed-upon settlement if the legislature allows it to go forward, “[W]e cannot and did not agree to give [the Office of the Attorney General] the benefit of a settlement while the whistleblowers wait in perpetuity for legislative approval.” The whistleblowers’ side also claims that Paxton’s office wants to keep the case paused if the legislative session ends on May 29 without the settlement getting approved until a future legislature eventually gives it the green light.

PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT. Tuesday was the deadline in Pennsylvania for candidates to file for this year’s crucial race for a seat on the seven-member state Supreme Court, and we learned this week that each party will have a contested primary on May 16. The Democratic contest is a duel between two members of the Superior Court from opposite sides of the state: Philadelphia’s Daniel McCaffery, who earned the state party endorsement last month, and Beaver County’s Deborah Kunselman. (The Superior Court is one of two intermediate appellate courts in the state and hears most appeals.)

The Republican primary, meanwhile, pits the party-backed candidate, Montgomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio, against Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough of Allegheny County. McCullough, who doesn’t appear to have confirmed she was running before now, sought the GOP nomination in 2021 for a different Supreme Court seat by pitching herself as “the ONLY Judge in America to order the 2020 Presidential Election results not be certified.” However, she went on to lose the primary 52-33 to the eventual winner, Kevin Brobson.

The post everyone wants to win on Nov. 7 became vacant last September when Chief Justice Max Baer died at the age of 74 just months before the Democrat was to retire because of mandatory age limits: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has not yet nominated a successor, and it’s unclear if the GOP-led state Senate would confirm anyone he picked. The body retains a 4-2 Democratic majority, but Baer’s party badly felt his absence last year in an important pre-election case.

That fall one Democratic justice, Kevin Dougherty, sided with his two Republican colleagues against the remaining three Democratic members in a high-profile case over whether to count mail-in ballots that arrived on time but had missing or incorrect dates. This deadlock meant that election authorities were required to “segregate and preserve any ballots contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes,” a decision that Democrats feared could cost them crucial contests.

The party, after scrambling to encourage any impacted voters to cast new votes (one woman even immediately flew home from Colorado at her own expense to make sure she would “not be silenced by voter suppression”), got something of a reprieve when Senate nominee John Fetterman and other Democrats pulled off decisive wins. Still, the ruling was a troubling reminder that, even with a 4-2 Democratic edge on the state’s highest court, Republicans could still have their way on major cases. However, while a win this fall would be a boon to Republicans, the soonest they could actually retake the majority (barring more unexpected vacancies) would be 2025.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told USA Today that Donald Trump should quit the presidential race if he’s indicted.

Said Hutchinson: “I know he’s going to say that they’re politically motivated and all of those things, but the fact is, there’s just a lot of turmoil out there with the number of investigations going on.”

“The Colorado Republican Party on Saturday selected a combative former state representative who promised to be a ‘wartime’ leader as its new chairman, joining several other state GOPs this year that have elected far-right figures and election conspiracy theorists to their top posts,” the Denver Post reports.

“The move in Colorado comes as the party totters on the brink of political irrelevance in a state moving swiftly to the left.”

Peggy Noonan: “I don’t think normal people have more than an impression: a blank face sitting behind a square desk signing bills. Often he is surrounded, sometimes oddly, by grade-school children…”

“He’s tough, unadorned, and carries a vibe, as I’ve said, that he might unplug your life support to re-charge his cellphone. His supporters shrug: ‘He’s not warm and cuddly.’ I don’t think voters are looking for warm and cuddly, but they do want even-keeled—a normal man or woman who’s a leader, who has guts and a vision of where the country needs to go.”

“As I watched the Reagan Library speech I thought: This candidacy is going to have power. He wasn’t inspired or eloquent but plain-spoken and brisk; his address was workmanlike, from notes, but all together it packed a punch.”

“House Democrats on Friday identified 29 members who are most at risk in the 2024 elections,” Roll Call reports.

“It also includes lawmakers who had tougher-than-expected races in 2022 or who hail from battleground states — such as Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania — where presidential and Senate races will dominate the airwaves.”

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

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