The Political Report – March 22, 2023

Josh Marshall: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, under pressure from Trump allies, is taking his first stab at addressing the Trump indictment situation. It shows both his inevitable strategy and the inherent difficulty of the situation. He pleads little knowledge of how it works when you pay “hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just, I can’t speak to that.” But he also insists that Alvin Bragg is a “Soros-funded prosecutor and so he like other Soros funded prosecutors, they weaponize their office to impose a political agenda on society at the expense of the rule of law and public safety.” The approach isn’t surprising: Deep State/Soros yada and also did you hear he paid hush money to a porn star he had sex with?

This is needless to say a hard balance to manage and involves quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. Trump’s supporters clearly think they can grind DeSantis up with this situation even as Trump is clearly hating life. And they may be right.

I think what Trumpers don’t quite grasp in this is that whatever you think of the prosecution or merits of the indictment, at the end of the day it’s about the time Trump had sex with a porn star and then paid hush money to keep her silent. It’s not a good story.”

“Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I can’t speak to that. But what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, that’s an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis, at an event.

NBC News: “The DeSantis family roots here — never before reported in great detail — help fill in the blanks of a politician who rose to national prominence only five years ago. … From his grandfather’s work in local politics to the blossoming romance of his parents on the campus of Youngstown State University, certain moments in time provide texture and points of contrast.”

Washington Post: “Nikki Haley’s pitch is directed at a Republican primary electorate that largely rejects the idea that institutions are plagued by systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, as well as the suggestion that the country ought to reckon more openly with past injustices.”

“Outside of those GOP circles, however, Haley’s words have drawn criticism from those who say she is diminishing the bigotry and other barriers women and minorities — like herself — have experienced, and that she is selectively using her identity in the campaign.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. We don’t think anyone had been hoping that Scott Walker might run for Senate, but the former Wisconsin governor took himself out of the running regardless on Monday, telling the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he plans to continue running the conservative youth organization he’s been heading since 2019. “I would be bored as senator,” the one-time Republican rising star added.

But Walker’s star has dimmed quite a bit in more recent years. He narrowly lost re-election to Democrat Tony Evers in something of an upset in 2018, which followed a 71-day presidential campaign that saw him drop out in the hopes of clearing the field for an alternative to Donald Trump.

Walker had no better success taking on Trump in a proxy fight just last year. Though he cut ads on behalf of his former lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, in her bid to unseat Evers, she lost the GOP primary to a Trump-backed opponent, businessman Tim Michels, who in turn was defeated by Evers. Walker, though, still seems to think he might make a return someday: He recently told the New York Times that he might run for president again in the future, pointing out that he’s “a quarter-century younger than Joe Biden.”

WASHINGTON U.S. SENATOR.  New polling from the Northwest Progressive Institute suggests there’s no reason for a replay of last’s cycle mishugas, when Republicans mistakenly got excited—and Democrats mistakenly got worried—about the prospect of a Senate seat flipping in Washington State. NPI’s survey, conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, finds Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell with a comfortable 50-35 lead over former GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who’s reportedly been considering a bid.

Of course, this is just one poll, but it’s from a firm that never saw a close race in 2022, when Democratic incumbent Patty Murray easily dispatched Republican Tiffany Smiley by a 57-43 margin. A flood of late Republican polls, however, portrayed the contest as neck-and-neck, with one even finding a tie; PPP’s final numbers, by contrast, showed Murray up 10, 52-42. The fears (or hopes) of a close race had real-world consequences, as outside groups for both sides combined to spend more than $20 million, even though the election resulted in a blowout.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. In a roundup of potential Democratic opponents for Sen. Ted Cruz, KXAN’s Will DuPree discusses a variety of contenders we’ve previously discussed (like Rep. Colin Allred) but also tosses in a couple of new names: former state Sen. Wendy Davis and 2020 Senate candidate MJ Hegar. There’s no word, though, whether either woman is interested.

Davis made national news in 2013 with her unsuccessful filibuster of an anti-abortion measure but subsequently lost a bid for governor the following year and then for the House in 2020. Hegar, a helicopter combat pilot in the Air Force, was also on the ballot in 2020, losing to the state’s other Republican senator, John Cornyn; the previous cycle, she had likewise fallen just short in a campaign for the House.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Democrat Pamela Pugh, who just won a second eight-year term on Michigan’s State Board of Education, says that she’s weighing a bid for Senate, which would set up a primary battle with Rep. Elissa Slotkin. Pugh, who is Black, cited the paucity of Black members in the state’s congressional delegation in explaining her interest and noted that there are no Black women in the upper chamber at all. In a statement, she promised to “make a decision in the coming months.”

Pugh first earned a seat on the eight-person education board, whose members are elected statewide every two years in a contest where voters cast two votes and the top-two finishers are elected, by finishing first on the ballot in 2014—a feat she matched again last year. Following her latest victory, Pugh was chosen by her colleagues to serve as the body’s president.

While some powerful Democrats have sought to clear the field for Slotkin in her quest to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow—and even crowed about their seeming success to Politico last week—Pugh’s consideration of the race shows that an uncontested primary isn’t necessarily in the cards. (Actor Hill Harper will also reportedly announce his own entry next month.) Still, Slotkin did pick up a new endorsement on Monday from the campaign finance reform group End Citizens United, which has a history of spending sizable sums on behalf of its preferred candidates.

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who was the lone Republican tested in a recent hypothetical poll of next year’s race for Washington governor, indicated he wasn’t interested in a bid in remarks to the Seattle Times. “I am focused entirely on serving the people of Pierce County and don’t have any plans to run for governor in 2024,” he said. That’s not quite a no, and Dammeier will be termed out of his current post next year, but he’s also tried to portray himself as a moderate and therefore would likely struggle against today’s weapons-grade true believers in the GOP.

By contrast, two of the Democrats tested in that survey have both confirmed their interest, though they’re approaching the biggest question of the race differently. Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he’d only seek the governorship if incumbent Jay Inslee doesn’t run for a fourth term, while Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz suggested to the Times that she could launch a campaign even before Inslee makes up his mind. However, even Franz was complimentary toward the governor, saying he would leave office “with a legacy of success.”

WISCONSON SUPREME COURT. At long last, Dan Kelly’s campaign has finally begun spending on ads of its own, but with just two weeks to go before Wisconsin’s all-important Supreme Court race, the sums still appear to be quite small. According to AdImpact, Kelly had spent just $53,000 on the airwaves and had booked another $104,000 through April 4, as of Monday morning. That’s just a pittance compared to his progressive opponent, Janet Protasiewicz, whose bookings now total $9.8 million. She’s also getting further help from Everytown for Gun Safety, which just reserved $425,000 in TV time, per AdImpact.

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. State Sen. Sandra Cano became the second notable candidate to enter the expected special election for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, joining Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos in the Democratic primary. Like Matos, Cano was born in Latin America and moved to the U.S. with her family at a young age: Cano left Colombia at the age of 16, while Matos, who is a decade older, emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was 20. Cano is engaged to state Treasurer James Diossa, who is also Colombian American.

The timing of the special election is still unknown because Gov. Dan McKee cannot schedule it until Rep. David Cicilline’s planned resignation becomes official, which the congressman previously said will not be until June 1.

MICHIGAN 7TH DISTRICT. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor says he won’t join the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, even though he began soliciting contributions for what her termed an “exploratory committee” just a few weeks ago. It’s another good reminder that even when a candidate takes steps toward a campaign, they aren’t actually running until they’re actually running. So far, in fact, no one in either party has announced a bid, which is open because Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin is running for Senate.

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

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