Playbook: “The short history of post-Dobbs electoral politics is pretty clear. Since the Supreme Court handed down its opinion last June, Democrats have gained control of four state legislative chambers while losing none of the ones they’d already controlled, added a seat to its majority in the U.S. Senate and kept losses in the House well below the historic norm.”
Said pollster Celina Lake: “I don’t think Democrats have fully processed that this country is now 10 to 15 percent more pro-choice than it was before Dobbs in state after state and national data.”
Wall Street Journal editorial: “Republicans had better get their abortion position straight, and more in line with where voters are or they will face another disappointment in 2024. A total ban is a loser in swing states. Republicans who insist on that position could soon find that electoral defeats will lead to even more liberal state abortion laws than under Roe. That’s where Michigan is now after last year’s rout.”
MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Republicans in the Montana state Senate on Tuesday evening passed a bill to change the rules for the 2024 U.S. Senate election―and only the 2024 U.S. Senate election―in a move Democrats blasted as a “partisan power grab” aimed at weakening Democratic incumbent Jon Tester in a tough state. The proposed legislation would do away with partisan primaries and instead require all the candidates to compete on one ballot. The top-two vote-getters would be advancing to next year’s general election, and there’s little question that neither of them would be an independent or belong to a third party.
State Sen. Greg Hertz, a Republican who sponsored the legislation, insisted he was trying to put this top-two primary system, which is already in use in California and Washington state, in place because “[w]e want to make sure that the winning U.S. senator has more than 50% of the supporting people in Montana.” He also defended the decision to put this in place for just one race in just one year, saying that he was picking the U.S. Senate race for a top-two “test run” because of the power of the office and its six-year term.
Critics argued this was no more than a scheme to weaken Tester, and Tester only, in a state where Republicans frequently complain that Libertarian Party candidates cost them vital support. The senator himself won his 2006 contest by unseating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns with a 49-48 plurality, and he defended his seat six years later by pulling off a 49-45 victory in another race where a Libertarian claimed the balance. Tester won reelection in 2018 with a 50-47 majority against Republican Matt Rosendale, who may challenge him again this cycle, with the rest once again going to the Libertarians.
The top-two bill passed the state Senate Tuesday in a 27-23 vote, with all 16 Democrats and seven Republicans in the negative. (The chamber the same night also voted to ban instant-runoff voting, which is not in use in Montana.) The legislation must still be approved by the state House, where the GOP enjoys a 68-32 edge, before it could go to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. It’s possible that there would be a legal challenge should this become law, and election law professor Quinn Yeargain thinks there may be an argument that the proposal is unconstitutional.
FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Inside Elections’ Erin Covey reports that former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is “actively considering a campaign” for the Democratic nod to take on Republican Sen. Rick Scott, though Mucarsel-Powell has not said anything publicly. Mucarsel-Powell won her only term in Congress in 2018 when she won a tough race to unseat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in a Miami-area constituency that was then numbered the 26th District, but she lost to Carlos Giménez 52-48 as her seat was swinging hard from 57-41 Clinton to 53-47 Trump.
Several other Democrats have been talked about as possible contenders to face Scott, but no one has stepped up yet in an expensive state that’s lurched aggressively to the right. Covey lists Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer as a possibility, but there’s no indication he’s looking to leave the job he’s held since 2003. She also relays that former Rep. Gwen Graham, who now serves in the U.S. Department of Education, “has also been mentioned as a potentially formidable candidate, though Democratic strategists who spoke with Inside Elections had not heard that she was actively considering a campaign.”
KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Kelly Craft uses her latest commercial for the May 16 GOP primary to declare that she helped “rip up NAFTA” when she was Trump’s ambassador to Canada―a job she was absent from for a significant amount of time. Craft and her allies have enjoyed a huge spending edge, though Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s supporters are working to get his name out: The Lexington Herald-Leader’s Austin Horn says that Bluegrass Freedom Action has now deployed $500,000, which is well above the $200,000 reported days ago.
NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR and NORTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR. Both North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu this week addressed the possibility that they’d try to hold their current offices in 2024 even as they each also eye longshot Republican presidential bids, though Sununu sounds the more likely of the two to depart. “I am not saying I am not running [for governor] again, but I’ve got to get a real job,” New Hampshire’s chief executive joked Wednesday about the post he’s held since 2017, adding, “My wife is very excited when I say that.”
Sununu added that he’d decide by early August if he’d seek the White House, though he doesn’t appear to have laid out a timeline for when he’d make up his mind if he’d campaign for what would be a historic fifth two-year term running this swing state. As we’ve written before, Sununu wouldn’t necessarily need to decide between the two campaigns because the Granite State has one of the latest candidate filing deadlines in America for non-presidential offices.
Burgum, while evading questions about any commander-in-chief dreams, meanwhile said of a potential re-election campaign, “I haven’t made any official announcement on that in the past, but I love having the opportunity to serve and I have a ton of energy for this job. But that decision about a third term is a long ways off.”
WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR and U.S. SENATOR. The radical anti-tax Club for Growth on Wednesday not only endorsed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s day-old campaign for governor, but it also said that it and its allies at Black Bear PAC plan to spend a combined $10 million to help him win the GOP nod. (Both organizations are heavily funded by megadonor Dick Uihlein.)
The Club also said it would commit $10 million to aid Rep. Alex Mooney in the Republican primary for Senate, a contest where Gov. Jim Justice keeps promising to announce “very soon” if he’ll seek the GOP nod. (Justice said just before Thanksgiving we’d “know real soon” if he’d go up against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, so maybe former billionaires have a different definition of “soon” than the rest of the world?)
CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. “Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) surpassed his top California Senate rivals on the fundraising circuit during the first quarter,“ the Washington Examiner reports.
“Schiff’s campaign touted a $6.5 million haul on Thursday, bringing his war chest up to $24.5 million in financial firepower on hand. Meanwhile, Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-CA) campaign announced a $4.5 million windfall, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) touted a $1.4 million campaign intake.”
- CA-Sen: Barbara Lee (D): $1.4 million raised
- CA-47: Joanna Weiss (D): $420,000 raised (in seven weeks)
- CA-Sen: Adam Schiff (D): $6.5 million raised, $24.5 million cash-on-hand
- CA-27: George Whitesides (D): $500,000 raised (in six weeks), additional $500,000 self-funded
- CO-03: Adam Frisch (D): $1.7 million raised (in 46 days)
PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. “Senate Democrats are staring down a brutal electoral map in 2024 that puts them on defense in 23 states. But it appears virtually certain that at least one battle-tested senator is getting back in the saddle in a critical swing state: Bob Casey,” Politico reports.
“The Pennsylvania lawmaker has not yet announced whether he will seek a fourth term, but he has done everything short of that. Casey is quietly putting together a fully operating campaign-in-waiting.”
Politico’s Holly Otterbein describes him as “all but guaranteed to run” for a fourth term. The senator, Otterbein says, among other things has scheduled fundraisers and has decided who he wants to be his campaign manager.
MISSOURI GOVERNOR. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is the son of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, on Thursday launched his long anticipated 2024 campaign for governor by declaring that his fellow Republicans have “failed to deliver” the ultra-conservative agenda he craves. Ashcroft, as we’ll discuss, has made a name for himself by winking at the Big Lie and threatening to block funding from libraries that stock what he calls “inappropriate materials in any form that appeal to the prurient interest of a minor.”
Ashcroft will compete in the primary against Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who launched his bid to succeed termed-out Gov. Mike Parson all the way back in March of 2021, while state Sen. Bill Eigel also formed an exploratory committee last year. A February poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group for the political tip-sheet Missouri Scout showed Ashcroft beating Kehoe 28-9 as Eigel languished at 4%, though we haven’t seen any numbers since then. No notable Democrats have entered the race to lead a state that’s shifted hard to the right in the last decade-and-a-half, though state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said Thursday she was “absolutely” considering.
Ashcroft, whom Quade labeled “an extremist who thinks he’s entitled to the People’s Mansion because of his last name,” is seeking a post that his father held from 1985-1993 before his one term in the Senate and time as head of George W. Bush’s justice department. The younger Ashcroft claimed the secretary of state’s office in 2016, but it was just after he easily won his second term four years later that he truly made a name for himself as a right-wing zealot.
The secretary of state addressed a 2020 pro-Trump “stop the steal rally” days after it became clear that Joe Biden had claimed the presidency where he bashed mail-in voting, telling the crowd, “I am continuing to push in Missouri for it to be safe to have people vote in person.” While Ashcroft said the following year, “Under our Constitution, Joe Biden was duly elected by our presidential electors. End of story,” that was far from the end of the story.
Ashcroft instead went on to meet with Mike Lindell, the far-right pillow salesman who has been one of the most vocal Big Lie spreaders in the nation, this January. Ashcroft the following month spoke at a “secretaries of state conference” organized by far-right organizations pushing “election integrity,” though his presence was only revealed in a story in The Guardian published the day before his launch. In March, the Republican also withdrew the Show Me State from the bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center, a multi-state group to maintain voter lists that has recently been at the center of numerous far-right conspiracy theories.
Ashcroft last year also proposed a rule to prevent libraries from getting state funding if they offered material he believed were “age-inappropriate materials” to minors and to allow anyone to file a challenge against books, a move that went down poorly with the people who run Missouri’s libraries. The president of the Missouri Library Association said Ashcroft didn’t discuss the proposal with them while the head of the St. Charles City-County Library District, who said that a mere six of its 1.1 million patrons complained about book content last year, declared, “This is a far cry from the picture being painted in the media and by politicians and in no way justifies this overreaching action.”
The secretary of state, though, was hardly deterred. He alluded to this plan during his kickoff when he listed one of his goals as “keeping obscene material out of our public libraries;” that same video, while not mentioning any of his rivals, showed a picture of Kehoe as Ashcroft talked about how “politicians and lobbyists in Jefferson City slap each other on the back while they give our tax dollars to global corporations, sell out farmland to China and raise gas taxes on hardworking Missourians.”
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