The Political Report – April 22, 2023

“When Republican donors arrived at the Four Seasons in Nashville last weekend, they were handed a polling memo written by former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway with a startling statistic: Eighty percent of voters disagreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson last year overturning Roe v. Wade,” the Washington Post reports.

“Among Republican strategists and candidates looking to the 2024 presidential primary, abortion has become the trickiest political issue and a divisive one internally for the party…”

“Donald Trump has barely spoken about the issue, telling advisers that he believes it is a difficult one for Republicans and not something he should focus his time on.”

“Republican presidential contenders are struggling with the abortion issue early in the campaign, as they walk a tightrope between a party base that favors outlawing the procedure and a majority of the U.S. that wants it to remain legal in most cases,” NBC News reports.

“The issue has become more challenging for the GOP to navigate after an intense backlash to the overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer, which has hurt Republicans in numerous elections since, and the more recent lawsuits challenging access to the abortion pill mifepristone. The latest difficulties for Republican 2024 hopefuls reveal a party still trying to figure out how to use its newfound legal power granted by the Supreme Court to restrict abortion nationally.”

The House Republicans who were the most vocal in opposing Kevin McCarthy’s bid for Speaker — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) — reaped substantial financial rewards for it, new campaign finance filings show, Politico reports.

“Small donors have largely abandoned Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin as they have strayed from the Democratic Party, although they are attracting larger donors with ties to a centrist organization,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Ms. Sinema of Arizona and Mr. Manchin of West Virginia each raised less than 1% of their campaign money between Jan. 1 and March 31 from donors who gave $200 or less. Those are among the lowest percentages in the Senate—and well below their previous grassroots fundraising levels, Federal Election Commission filings show.”

TRUMP 2024. Rolling Stone: “Team Trump’s rollout of Florida endorsements on Tuesday was part of a plan to subvert DeSantis in his own state that the former president’s staff has been working on for more than a month, sources say. Trump’s aggressive, weeks-long outreach to secure Florida Republican endorsers this early in the game (when DeSantis hasn’t even officially declared a 2024 presidential run) has been spearheaded by top aides like Brian Jack and Susie Wiles, with the ex-president at times getting personally involved as well, the sources say.”

“By this past weekend, Trump’s inner circle was convinced they had a number of new Florida lawmakers ready to announce their support. Previously, the idea was to release the endorsements at once, likely Thursday or Friday of this week. However, by the weekend, plans had changed: It was decided that the Trump campaign would drip them out at different points in the coming days — including on Tuesday when DeSantis would be on the ground in Washington, D.C., trying to lock down his own endorsements from the Florida delegation. The ploy was part of a deliberate effort to, in the words of one of the sources familiar with the matter, ’embarrass and mindfuck DeSantis’ as much as possible, via a steady drip.”

“At least for this week, it seems to have worked.”

DESANTIS 2024. Washington Post: “Donors, activists and other supporters are increasingly voicing worries that DeSantis has made unforced errors or embraced extreme positions that could hurt him in a general election, including the abortion ban he signed last week. He’s had to clarify comments on Ukraine that prompted some criticism in the party. He has struck some Republicans as distant in personal interactions. And Trump has relentlessly attacked DeSantis and expanded his lead over the governor in national polls, while accruing a string of influential endorsements in Florida and beyond.”

“But even as he faces head winds, DeSantis remains in a clear second place to Trump, with a cluster of other current and prospective candidates mired in single digits and showing no signs of gaining traction — and the only candidate that Trump and his team regularly focus on.”

New York Times: “Electability has emerged as one of the early pressure points in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.”

“That amorphous, ill-defined, eye-of-the-beholder intangible — the sense of whether voters believe a politician can actually win — was supposed to be one of Mr. DeSantis’s strengths, tapping into the genuine Republican frustration with years of ballot box disappointments to urge a new face for the party in 2024. Republicans lost with Mr. Trump, the argument goes, but can win with Mr. DeSantis.”

“But there are growing questions about Mr. DeSantis’s own ability to win over the independent and suburban voters who delivered the White House to President Biden, and whether the hard-line stances the governor has taken, including on abortion, will repel the very voters he promises to win back. His feuding with Disney — including an offhand remark this week suggesting he would put a state prison next to Disney World — has raised alarms, even among would-be allies.”

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ iron-clad grip on the Republican-controlled Legislature may be slipping amid growing frustration among GOP legislators,” Politico  reports.   “Republican lawmakers are stalling a handful of his key remaining legislative priorities with just weeks left in the annual session. And what started out as whispers in private about unhappiness over the governor are starting to become louder…”

“DeSantis’ announcement this week that he wanted legislators to take aim again at Disney has irritated conservative Republicans loathe to target private businesses.” Said one GOP legislator privately: “We’re not the party of cancel culture. We can’t keep doing this tit for tat.”

CHRISTIE 2024. Politico: “It became perfectly clear over the course of a nearly hour-long interview that Christie is itching to launch a campaign — not only is he gleefully throwing haymakers to reporters, he’s already hosted one New Hampshire town hall this year and will host another Thursday. But as he mulls whether to make it official in the coming weeks, he says his decision comes down to: Can I actually win?”

“It’s an odd question to dwell on, first, because there’s an obvious answer: His 2016 campaign made more stops in the Granite State than any other campaign, and he still managed only sixth place in the first-in-the-nation primary, ending his bid. This time around, with an even more MAGA-fied electorate, no national poll of Republican voters has found him with more than 3 percent support.”

Playbook: “Christie is exasperated by Trump’s top-tier challengers skirting direct confrontation with the former president, including their unwillingness to even name-check him.”

“I’m not a paid assassin. When you’re waking up for your 45th morning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, you better think you can win, because that walk from the bed to the shower, if you don’t think you can win, it’s hard.”

— Former Gov. Chris Christie (R), quoted by Politico, on the idea of running for president just to take out Donald Trump.

Politico: “The Club is positioning itself against the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the three states that are most key to retaking the majority: West Virginia, Montana and Ohio.”

“The fear is that, at best, the group is creating unnecessarily messy primaries. At worst it is blowing another shot at retaking the majority.”

Some have argued that partisan cable news channels make only a marginal difference in election outcomes in the United States. That’s because the audience is relatively small.

For example, in February, Fox News averaged just 2.26 million total viewers in primetime, MSNBC averaged 1.17 million viewers and CNN averaged 587,000.

But new academic research suggests this view is wrong. Ratings for individual shows don’t capture overall network audience. Approximately 1 in 7 Americans consume more than 8 hours per month of partisan television. That’s about the same size as the entire Black population in the U.S.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the majority of viewers are not already aligned partisans and can therefore be persuaded by what they watch. Very few news viewers watch multiple television channels, meaning they don’t get “both sides” of a story. Instead, they spend most of their time in partisan echo chambers.

All of this suggests that the partisan media’s potential to further polarize Americans — and influence voting behavior — is significant.

ILLINOIS 7TH DISTRICT. Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin said Tuesday she was forming an exploratory committee, though it’s not clear if she’s willing to challenge longtime Rep. Danny Davis in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat.

Conyears-Ervin’s own statement indicated she’s waiting for the 81-year-old incumbent to retire, writing, “Congressman Danny Davis has ably served the people of the Seventh District for many years. Whenever he should choose to retire, I will be running to succeed him and continue his legacy of service.” An unnamed Conyears-Ervin aide, though, said she was planning a bid even if Davis seeks a 15th term.

Davis, who is 81, raised a mere $10,000 during the first quarter of the year following his underwhelming 52-46 primary win last summer, but his team says he has three fundraisers scheduled. “When he is ready to speak up on what his plans are—announce anything he needs to announce—he knows how to do that,” declared his chief of staff, adding, “He’s not shy.” Former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who is a former Davis aide, went further, saying the congressman “is going to run. I talked to him last week. He’s already filed the necessary paperwork.”

MICHIGAN 10TH DISTRICT. Gun safety activist Emily Busch announced Monday that she’d seek the Democratic nod to take on Republican Rep. John James with a kickoff video detailing how her teenage son “was forced to run for his life” during the 2021 Oxford High School shooting where four students were murdered. “I’ll never forget how my son tried to keep me from worrying when he was the one in danger,” Busch tells the audience, “Our kids are not supposed to protect us, we’re supposed to protect them.”  

Busch’s only prior campaign was last year when she sought the 66th State House seat, which Trump had carried 65-34, and lost to Republican Josh Schriver by a similar margin. That constituency, along with Busch’s home community of Oxford, is entirely located in GOP Rep. Lisa McClain’s dark red 9th Congressional District: The 10th, by contrast, backed Trump just 50-49, while James himself won his first term by an unexpectedly narrow 48.8-48.3 margin against former Macomb County Judge Carl Marlinga.

Busch’s only declared intra-party foe so far is financial advisor Diane Young, who announced early this month, though Marlinga reportedly has been talking about waging another campaign. Whoever eventually wins the Democratic nod will be in for an expensive fight against James, who raised $752,000 during the first quarter of the year and finished March with $1.18 million stockpiled.

CALIFORNIA 47TH DISTRICT. Businessman Max Ukropina, who founded a company that markets itself as a “credit app for couples,” said Monday he’d campaign as a Republican in the top-two primary to succeed Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter. The National Journal notes that his connections to the financial services company Acorn and “familiarity with the venture-capital environment thanks to his startup company” could help him raise money in a contest where former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh has been the only serious Republican contender.

CALIFORNIA 12TH DISTRICT. Businessman Tim Sanchez, a Navy veteran who would be the first Latino to represent the Bay Area in the House, announced Wednesday that he would run for the dark blue East Bay seat held by his fellow Democrat, Senate candidate Barbara Lee. The only other notable Democrat in the race so far is BART board member Lateefah Simon, who raised $300,000 in her opening quarter and ended last month with $250,000 banked.  

CALIFORNIA 27TH DISTRICT. Democrat Franky Carrillo, who spent two decades in prison after being falsely convicted for murder and now serves on the Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commission, announced Wednesday that he’d be challenging GOP Rep. Mike Garcia. Carrillo, whose experience was documented in the Netflix series The Innocence Files, joins former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in the top-two primary to take on Garcia in a northern Los Angeles County constituency that Biden carried 55-43.

Carrillo used his kickoff video to tell the audience how he was sentenced to life in prison in the early 1990s at age 16 after he was wrongly accused of taking part in a fatal drive-by shooting, which led to a 20-year quest to clear his name. Carrillo details how, while he eventually succeeded in 2011, he learned, “There are people who abuse their power and benefit from the system. Then there’s the rest of us.” He continues, “We play by the rules and get screwed by the same exact system” as special interests “get exactly what they want.”

Carrillo launched his bid almost two months after Whitesides entered the race, and the fellow Democrat finished March with $980,000 on hand after self-funding a little more than half of his opening haul. Carrillo himself filed FEC paperwork in early March, but Inside Elections says his announcement was delayed after he switched campaign consultants. Garcia, meanwhile, finished last month with $720,000 in the bank―a figure that includes a $2,000 contribution from the infamous Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

NEW MEXICO U.S. SENATOR. While Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich said in October that he was “putting all the pieces together” to seek a third term, Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales writes that it’s still unclear if he’ll run.

It would still be a surprise if the 51-year-old left office, though. Local political observer Joe Monahan has relayed that, while there’s speculation that the senator could retire so he could focus on a 2026 campaign for governor, “No one expected that to happen and now Heinrich appears closer to making official his run for a third six year term.” The incumbent also raised $1.1 million for the first quarter of the year, which doesn’t indicate that he’s looking to depart D.C.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Gilbert Garcia writes in the San Antonio Express-News that, not only is Democratic state Sen. Roland Gutierrez considering a campaign against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, two unnamed people “say he is nearly certain” to run. However, Garcia adds that any kickoff likely wouldn’t take place until after the legislative session ends May 29.

Gutierrez represents a San Antonio-based seat that includes Uvalde, and one of Garcia’s sources says that last year’s school massacre, and the GOP legislature’s subsequent refusal to take up gun safety legislation, has had a huge impact on him. “I think it’s changed his service completely,” this person said, adding, “This has really focused him on those who have been left behind by their government in the most egregious way.”

Most of the talk about this race up until now has revolved around Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, who is also reportedly mulling a campaign against Cruz but hasn’t confirmed his interest. The congressman, who represents a safe seat under the GOP’s new gerrymanderraised $520,000 during the first quarter of 2023, and he ended it with $2.2 million he could use for a Senate bid should he run statewide. Cruz, meanwhile, hauled in $1.3 million and ended last month with $3.3 million.

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

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