The Political Report – April 14, 2023

Under normal circumstances, President Biden should be vulnerable in his anticipated re-election bid. Take your pick of his major weaknesses: inflation, low approval rates, immigration, crime and, of course, his age.

But everywhere Republicans look, they’re boxed in.

Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of three of the biggest issues right now: abortion rights, gun violence and democracy. And they’re almost certainly going to lose the high-profile debt ceiling fight. The GOP’s congressional probes into Biden and his family are laughable at best. Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s recent thrashing of some of his leadership won’t help when the House returns from recess.

Worse, they’re tightly wedded to Donald Trump, who insists on driving the party to further extremes. And they continue to defend him despite multiple, serious criminal probes. Even worse, Trump told Tucker Carlson last night that he would never quit running for president — even if he’s convicted of a crime.  It echoed what he said in 2015. Trump’s recent indictment actually made him stronger in the Republican primary race. And if Republicans think evangelical Christians will come to their senses and drop their support of the morally-challenged ex-president, they’re not paying attention.

But what should really worry Republicans is that Trump won’t concede if he loses the GOP nomination. He’ll declare the primary results “rigged” and run as an independent. That would kill any Republican’s chances in a general election. None of this means Republicans can’t win back the White House in 2024. But it suggests their chances are almost entirely dependent on things they cannot control.

Andrew McCarthy: “Don’t be fooled by snapshot polls showing Trump beating Biden — which Democrats are hyping because, for now, they want us to think he can win. He can’t. Don’t allow the intensity of Trump’s base supporters to mask how deeply unpopular he is with the country writ large. He had consistently low job-approval ratings as president… Trump could never again win a national election after the 2020 coup attempt, the Capitol riot, and his continued delusional insistence that reelection was stolen from him.

“Moreover, the demagogic riffs that make MAGA crowds swoon — and that Trump doubled down on at this week’s Mar-a-Lago rally (because why wouldn’t an arraignment be the occasion for a rally?) — are exactly what most Americans find deeply disturbing about him. If he’s the nominee, the Democrats will retain the White House by ten points or more, with the tide sweeping the Senate and the House their way, too.”

DESANTIS 2024. “As Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida prepares to take a widely anticipated leap into the 2024 presidential campaign, one of his chief strengths is his ability to raise huge sums from deep-pocketed donors,” the New York Times reports.

“But his formidable war chest — at least $110 million in state and federal committees aligned with him — is no guarantee of success on the national stage, and his financial firepower brings with it a series of challenges he must navigate to capture the Republican nomination.”

“Mr. DeSantis’s unsteady debut on the national stage over the past month, including remarks about Ukraine that alarmed many Republicans and hesitant counterpunches against former President Donald J. Trump, has also showcased his aloof and at times strained relationship with donors.”


MT-Sen: Jon Tester (D-inc): $5 million raised

WI-01: Bryan Steil (R-inc): $825,000 raised, $2.2 million cash on hand

WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. First quarter campaign finance reports are in for all the Republicans campaigning to succeed termed-out Gov. Jim Justice, and we’ve rounded them out below:

  • Auto dealer Chris Miller: $432,000 raised, additional $2 million self-funded, $3.3 million cash on hand
  • Del. Moore Capito: $251,000 raised, $705,000 cash on hand
  • Secretary of State Mac Warner: $175,000 raised, $162,000 cash on hand
  • state Auditor JB McCuskey: $154,000 raised, $387,000 cash on hand

A fifth Republican, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, entered the race last week after the start of the new quarter, and the Club for Growth and an allied PAC have pledged to spend a total of $10 million to aid him in the primary.

BIDEN 2024. President Biden’s re-election campaign is now leaning toward Wilmington, Del., as the headquarters for the campaign, with some staffers based in D.C., NBC News reports.

Playbook: “Though Biden is content to let internal GOP squabbles roil the field of challengers for now, aides also acknowledge that fundraising pressures could incentivize an earlier announcement — since he can’t raise money until he declares.”

NEW YORK REDISTRICTING. “New York Attorney General Tish James and Gov. Kathy Hochul submitted a court brief Friday in support of having new district lines drawn for the U.S. House after the current ones crafted by a judge last year fueled Republican gains,” Politico reports.

“The move by the two statewide Democratic leaders helps to reignite the fight over whether the current map that benefited Republicans on Long Island and the Hudson Valley should be redrawn by the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission ahead of the 2024 elections.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) announced Wednesday that she will run for reelection in 2024.

Playbook: “The campaign could be one of the country’s most pivotal swing Senate races, though Baldwin is a strong fundraiser and she romped by 11 points in her last go-around in 2018.”

“Baldwin plans to run on Democrats’ recent legislative record, from the Inflation Reduction Act to help for veterans’ toxic burn pit exposure… She’s also expected to focus heavily on abortion rights, especially in the wake of a liberal state Supreme Court candidate’s big victory last week.”

Baldwin, who remains the only lesbian to ever serve in the Senate, currently faces no serious Republican opposition, though the GOP very much wants to change that.

Two wealthy businessmen, Eric Hovde and Scott Mayer, have expressed interest in running, with the former saying he plans to decide in the fall. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who was a far-right favorite early in the Trump era, also very much didn’t dismiss the idea last month, while Reps. Mike GallagherBryan Steil, and Tom Tiffany each haven’t said no either. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported a few weeks ago that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch hasn’t dismissed the idea either, though she’s yet to say anything publicly.

CNN reports that GOP leaders are urging Rep. Mike Gallagher to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and he’s characteristically not quite ruling it out. “I’m not thinking about it at present,” the congressman said, which is similar to the response he’s given for months. He added of his time in office, “I’d never conceived of this as a long-term thing; I don’t think Congress should be a career … I’m going to weigh all those factors and see where I can make the best impact.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. The local CBS affiliate 8 News Now relays that unnamed sources say that Army veteran Sam Brown and attorney April Becker, who each waged unsuccessful campaigns in 2022will seek the Republican nod to take on Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen, though there’s no other information.

Brown mounted an unexpectedly well-funded bid for Nevada’s other Senate seat and lost the primary to frontrunner Adam Laxalt 56-34; Laxalt went on to narrowly lose to Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Becker, for her part, failed to unseat 3rd District Rep. Susie Lee 52-48 after one of the most expensive House general elections in the nation.

LOUISIANA SECRETARY OF STATE and GOVERNOR. Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin unexpectedly revealed Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in this October’s all-party primary, declaring, “I hope that Louisianans of all political persuasions will stand against the pervasive lies that have eroded trust in our elections by using conspiracies so far-fetched that they belong in a work of fiction.”

The GOP side already included Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis, a self-funder who launched his bid last month, as well as an underfunded Big Lie spreader, grocery store owner Brandon Trosclair. Others may also get in ahead of the August filing deadline.

State House Speaker Clay Schexnayder announced Wednesday that he’d campaign in this year’s all-party primary to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, rather than run for governor. While the termed-out Schexnayder didn’t seem especially interested in seeking the top job (LaPolitics wrote last month that “there are a handful of folks close to the speaker who feel like he’s having fun with reporters on the way out the door”), he was the last notable politician who seemed to be at least thinking about it.

Louisiana’s candidate filing deadline isn’t until August so it’s possible a new name will emerge in the next few months, but right now the field to replace Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards appears to have firmed up. Far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry has been the frontrunner since the start, while four other Republicans are trying to challenge him for that title: Treasurer John Schroder; state Sen. Sharon Hewitt; state Rep. Richard Nelson; and Stephen Waguespack, the former head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson is the only serious Democrat in the all-party primary, while wealthy independent Hunter Lundy is also running.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “built his reputation as a conservative flamethrower after leading the government shutdown over Obamacare funding in 2013, cultivating that brand during his presidential campaign and beyond over the last decade,” NBC News reports.

“Now, the Texas Republican is seeking to show some bipartisan credentials as he runs for re-election in a state that is becoming more competitive and gave him a scare in his last race.”

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Matt Rosendale doesn’t seem to be in the least bit of a hurry to reveal if he’ll seek a rematch with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, telling CNN, “We’re just taking a nice slow time to let the people in Montana decide who they want to replace him with.”

Daily Beast: “The GOP-controlled state legislature is considering a radical change in election law—a change that is nakedly targeted at taking down Tester and could, in effect, flip one of the most vulnerable Senate seats well before November 2024.”

“Montana Republicans are trying to take a page out of California’s playbook and switch their primary election to the controversial top-two primary system, otherwise known as a ‘jungle primary.’”

“But it’s only for next year, when Tester, Montana’s last statewide Democrat, is up for re-election. After that, the change would expire, supposedly so lawmakers could assess how things went.”

MISSISSIPPI U.S. SENATOR. Far-right state Rep. Dan Eubanks has filed FEC paperwork for a potential Republican primary bid against Sen. Roger Wicker, who doesn’t appear to have made many intra-party enemies. Eubanks, who said in 2020 his family would not be getting vaccinated for COVID, introduced a pair of bills the next year to criminalize abortion and to prevent employers from requiring COVID vaccines.

CONNECTICUT U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Sunday underwent what he said was a “completely successful” surgery for a broken leg after someone accidently tripped and collided with him at the previous day’s victory parade for the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team. Homestate colleague Chris Murphy tweeted, “FYI after he broke his femur he got back up, dusted himself off, and FINISHED THE PARADE,” adding, “Most Dick Blumenthal thing ever.”

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop on Tuesday announced that he’d enter the 2025 primary to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Gov. Phil Murphy, in a race that plenty of others are eyeing. While Fulop’s kickoff may seem early, though, Murphy himself began airing TV ads in September of 2015 almost two years before his own nomination contest, a strategy that helped deter Fulop and other prominent Democrats from running in the first place.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. AdImpact and Medium Buying together report that Attorney General Daniel Cameron has booked at least $234,000 for an opening TV buy set to begin Wednesday, a launch that comes at a time when former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and her super PAC allies continue to lob attacks on him ahead of the May 16 GOP primary. The newest offering from Commonwealth PAC links Cameron to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whom NBC notes happens to also be Black.

The PAC makes its case by utilizing a clip of Cameron saying, “We want to move to a no-money bail system,” before it flashes to footage of Bragg calling for the elimination of cash bail. That’s enough for the narrator to insist, “Cameron agrees with the George Soros-backed D.A. who prosecuted Trump,” before he picks up where a previous ad left off and compares the attorney general to a “soft on crime teddy bear.”

The offensive comes even as Cameron’s supporters at Bluegrass Freedom Action have aired their own ads proudly linking their candidate to the indicted Trump, who endorsed him last year. While Bluegrass Freedom has spent about $500,000 here, though, that’s far behind the $5.2 million that Craft and her backers have deployed altogether so far.  

While Attorney General Daniel Cameron has debuted his opening ad for the May 16 GOP primary, his main intra-party foe, former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft, is hoping to upstage him with her own spot depicting “woke bureaucrats” literally parachuting into schools. Craft’s offering goes on to show children being instructed in critical race theory, which is not taught in Kentucky schools, before it veers into transphobia.

A young student gives her name before a teacher, who sports purple hair and a fake nose ring, disapprovingly grunts; the pupil nervously responds, “I’m a she/her?” Craft is not happy with this scenario her ad makers have crafted and pledges to “dismantle the Department of Education and start fresh,” a power the governor doesn’t have. Craft resists any urge to mention that her running mate, state Sen. Max Wise, was the sponsor of the infamous bill that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people, legislation that passed over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto.

Cameron, by contrast, delivers his ultra-conservative message in a more low-key way in his debut spot, which AdImpact says is running for $431,000. The attorney general declares that the governor “ignored the Constitution and shut churches down,” though of course Cameron doesn’t mention that these were part of the public health measures Beshear took early in the pandemic. The Republican continues by calling for a governor who recognizes that “only liberty creates prosperity, and only faith can keep us strong.”

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

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