The Political Report – May 7, 2023

Mark Barabak: “Over the last two decades, the West has gone from a Republican stronghold … into a bastion of Democratic support. The transformation has remade the nation’s political map and reshaped the fight for the White House, helping Democrats win three of the last four presidential elections and offsetting the drift of certain states — Florida, Missouri, Iowa among them — toward the GOP.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) attacks on Disney for their “woke” policies never made much sense politically. It’s like attacking apple pie.  A new poll proves that’s correct.  Despite the attacks, nearly two in three Americans currently hold favorable views of Disney – including nearly half of Republicans.

However, DeSantis’ favorability has declined from net -4 favorable to net -11 over the last month.  Obviously, DeSantis has made a number of missteps and has also faced withering attacks by Donald Trump.  But attacking Disney has done nothing for him politically.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. The end of Montana’s legislative session Tuesday night means that the GOP proposal to conduct the 2024 Senate election using top-two rules in order to weaken Democratic incumbent Jon Tester is officially dead. NRSC chair Steve Daines, who is Montana’s junior senator, reportedly pressured Republican lawmakers to support the plan, and it passed the state Senate last month. A state House committee, though, tabled the measure weeks later, and an attempt to resurrect the top-two also failed a short time later.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Secretary of State Frank LaRose tells WLWT he hopes to make up his mind by “mid-to-late” summer whether he’ll seek the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, saying, “It’s not a question of desire … But the question is one of practicality.” LaRose earlier in the year acknowledged that his ability to raise money is “kind of the big question” in a primary that now includes two self-funders, state Sen. Matt Dolan and businessman Bernie Moreno.

“Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a potential candidate in the race to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, recently told a group of Ohio Republicans at a closed-door political event that while Trump’s endorsement ‘matters,’ it doesn’t carry the same weight it used to,” Politico reports.

“He pegged the proportion of Republican voters who would ‘vote for whoever’ Trump endorses at just 20 percent.”

Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is mulling a presidential bid, telling Fox News: “I’m not satisfied with the field as it stands right now. No one is taking on Trump effectively, or presenting a vision for the future.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie (R) told Hugh Hewitt that he would decide on a presidential bid “in the next two weeks.”

“I’m sorry to see that Donald Trump feels like if he gets on the stage, he’s at risk of losing his lead. If, in fact, his ideas are so great, if his leadership is so outstanding, then his lead will only increase if he gets on the stage, not decrease. But obviously, he’s afraid. He’s afraid to get on the stage against people who are serious.” — Former Gov. Chris Christie (R), on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy paid a Wikipedia editor to remove lines about him receiving a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans in 2011. Paul Soros is the older brother of billionaire George Soros, who funds many progressive causes.

Damon Linker: “I almost can’t believe I’m writing this post. I aspire to think deeply about hard questions in our politics, not shoot a rich stock of fish in an undersized barrel. But I just couldn’t resist the temptation.”

“Andrew C. McCarthy has written an utterly unpersuasive essay for National Review that expresses a view that risks becoming the conventional unwisdom of our political moment. One hears it regularly now among (occasionally) anti-Trump conservatives. It’s also repeated among very online progressives and certain Democratic Party strategists and consultants, who are united in considering Florida Governor Ron DeSantis both more dangerous (because more competent), and a more formidable general-election challenger to President Joe Biden, than former President Donald Trump.”

“The view McCarthy articulated is this: ‘Trump can’t win.’ That’s it. That’s the irritable mental gesture in its entirety.”

Philip Bump: “Even if they wanted to, a live broadcast has an unalterable constraint: time… Trump can easily throw out more nonsense than CNN has time to fact-check, even if it intended to.”

“So what’s the value? It’s good to get Trump on-record on issues, particularly from a news outlet such as CNN that is going to be less credulous and obsequious than Trump’s usual interlocutors. But in this format, that seems less likely. Trump is already well into the habit of saying the same things over and over in interviews; given predictable jumping-off points from average people, he’ll have lots of opportunity to continue to do so.”

Charlotte Klein: “The network says it’s treating Trump like any other presidential candidate—but what does that look like for an indicted election truther?”

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Rep. David Trone, the Total Wine & More co-founder who has self-funded more than any House candidate in American history, announced Thursday that he was joining next year’s Democratic primary to succeed Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. While Trone griped during his competitive 2022 battle that members of his party “have absolutely gone too far to the left,” he launched his statewide bid by describing himself as a pragmatic liberal. “All of us Democrats will be running as super progressive,” he told The Washington Post. “The difference is going to be who can get stuff done, and who can keep this seat Democrat?”

Trone, who emphasized the opioid crisis in his launch video, joins a nomination contest in a dark blue state that already includes Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando and will almost certainly grow before long: Time Magazine’s Eric Cortellessa reported Thursday that insiders expect Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks to announce “in the coming days.” Either Jawando and Alsobrooks would be the Old Line State’s first Black senator, while Alsobrooks would additionally be the second woman to hold this position after the trailblazing Barbara Mikulski.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, who recently finished a successful treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma, meanwhile says he’ll spend May considering his plans. Cortellessa adds that Jawando has privately told people that should Raskin seek a promotion, he’d campaign to replace him in the 8th Congressional District rather than compete against him. (Raskin beat both Trone and Jawando in the 2016 primary for the last version of the 8th.) Other Democrats could also run for the Senate, including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who hasn’t said anything yet about a timeline for deciding.

Anyone who does end up facing Trone will be going up against a congressman who has access to a vast amount of money. The congressman only said he’d deploy “a lot” of his personal wealth when asked, though Cortellessa relays that Trone informed his allies he’d throw down as much as $50 million.

The candidate himself argued that his ability to self-fund should be a plus to voters, saying, “I’ve committed not to take money from PACs, not to take money from lobbyists.” He also declared that his resources would give him the ability to respond in a general election if former Gov. Larry Hogan runs. While the Republican said this week he has “no interest” in being in the Senate, the congressman told the Post he wasn’t convinced Hogan wouldn’t jump in later.

Trone, who co-founded and still co-owns Total Wine & More along with his brother, first sought office in 2016 when he campaigned to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who was waging his own successful bid for Mikulski’s open Senate seat, for the Montgomery County-based 8th District. Trone poured $13.4 million of his own money into that bid, which, even adjusting for inflation, was the most any House candidate had ever self-funded, but it still wasn’t enough. Raskin, a state senator who had extensive labor support and a following with local progressives, was badly outspent but still had enough to get his message out, and he prevailed 34-27.

Trone the following year initially said he was “focused very heavily” on a campaign for county executive, but he unexpectedly got the chance to seek the neighboring 6th District when three-term Rep. John Delaney retired to focus on a presidential bid. Trone in 2018 threw down $11.4 million to secure the Democratic nod in another heavily blue district, and this time that investment resulted in a 40-31 victory over Del. Aruna Miller. (Miller was elected lieutenant governor last year.)

The Democratic nominee, after contributing $4.5 million for the general election, once again set the record for most self-funding ever in a House campaign, and he easily won with 59%. The incumbent also put down $3 million in 2020 and took an identical 59% against state Sen. Neil Parrott. The congressman, however, had a far tougher 2022 rematch with Pattott after the new map dropped Joe Biden’s margin of victory from 61-38 to only 54-44.

Trone this time deployed close to $10 million of his money, which OpenSecrets says once again made him the top House self-funder of the year. That contest hardly stretched his resources, though, as Trone and his brother also sent a total of $10.7 million to promote a ballot initiative in Colorado that would have eventually allowed liquor retailers to operate an unlimited number of locations in the state. Trone ultimately won reelection 55-45 even as voters in the Centennial State overwhelmingly rejected the measure he was funding.  

P.S. While Trone has repeatedly poured in more of his own cash than any other House candidate ever, he has a ways to go before he matches the $64 million that Florida Republican Rick Scott set in his victorious 2018 Senate bid. And even Trone isn’t going to come close to hitting the $1 billion that Michael Bloomberg expended in his failed 2020 presidential race.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Time: “Despite well over a decade of unfulfilled hopes among Democrats that Texas might finally turn blue, no one who spoke to Time for this story was ready to write the state off as a lost cause.”

“Harvey Kronberg, the publisher of Quorum Report, an insider newsletter on Texas politics, thinks that Democrats’ long history of losses could end with a star candidate who knows how to land jabs at an opponent and use radio and TV to their advantage—areas where he thinks O’Rourke fell short.”

Saiad Kronberg: “I actually think we will see us become authentically purple in the next decade. One statewide win will turn us purple.”

“I took off my jacket and got ready to take on anyone who came through that door. Ted Cruz? He cheered on the mob… then hid in the supply closet.”— Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), referencing the Capitol riots in his Senate campaign announcement.

ProPublica: “Facing the possibility of an unsafe district, South Carolina’s most powerful Democrat sent his aide to consult with the GOP on a redistricting plan that diluted Black voting strength and harmed his party’s chances of gaining seats in Congress.”

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Jennifer McCormick, a former Indiana Republican who soured on her party during her tenure as the state’s last elected schools chief, announced Thursday that she’d seek the governorship next year as a Democrat.

McCormick, who would be the first woman to lead the state, currently has no intra-party opposition in sight, but she faces a challenging task prevailing in a state that Donald Trump took 57-41 and where Republicans have had a lock on the governor’s office since the 2004 elections. Republicans, meanwhile, have a three-way primary between Sen. Mike Braun, wealthy businessman Eric Doden, and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who also would be Indiana’s first woman governor. Also in the running is Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who took 11% in the 2020 race after appealing to conservatives furious at Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate.

McCormick was elected state superintendent as a Republican in 2016 by unseating Democrat Glenda Ritz, who was the last Democrat to win a state-level office, but she immediately began feuding with Holcomb and the rest of her party over her desire to increase scrutiny over charter schools. Things only got worse as McCormick’s tenure continued, and she decided in 2018 not to seek re-election two years down the line. (Republicans initially passed a law to make her post an appointed office starting in 2024, but they moved up the timeline after her retirement announcement.)

McCormick burned what few bridges remained with GOP leaders in 2020 when she endorsed several Democratic contenders, including Holcomb foe Woody Myers. Myers even announced that he’d keep her on as superintendent, something McCormick said she’d accept because of her “outrage” over the state’s “woefully underfunded” education system, but Holcomb’s landslide win made the point moot.

McCormick went on to join the Democratic Party the next year, and she formed an exploratory committee last December for a campaign to replace Holcomb. She launched her campaign Thursday with a video blasting Republicans for pushing an ultra-conservative agenda, including a near-total abortion ban, as schools and the economy suffer.

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

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