The Political Report – May 8, 2023

A new Washington Post-ABC News survey finds President Biden’s overall approval ratings have slipped to a new low, more Americans than not doubt his mental acuity, and his support against leading Republican challengers is far shakier than at this point four years ago.

Meanwhile, a majority say Donald Trump should face criminal charges in cases involving efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, events leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and his handling of classified documents.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Donald Trump leads President Biden by 7 points in a 2024 general election match up, 49% to 42%.

Biden’s approval rating also hit a new low at just 36%.

And one more takeaway: “Just 32% overall think Biden has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president, down steeply from 51% when he was running for president three years ago.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence vowed to stand behind Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Saturday, as the justice faces criticism cent reports about his close relationship with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, The Hill reports.

Said Pence: “Ever since his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1991 Justice Thomas has been maliciously attacked by the Left, including by then Sen. Joe Biden. The attacks on his character are continuing today, and it’s appalling to see.” 

“Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is expanding his political travel as his poll numbers slip ahead of an expected presidential campaign, visiting rural north-central Wisconsin on Saturday in a sign of his intent to compete for voters beyond early nominating states like Iowa,” the New York Times reports.

“Declared candidates, including former President Donald Trump, have largely focused on making appearances in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, three of the first states on the Republican nominating calendar next year.”

DeSantis is moving more aggressively toward making his 2024 presidential campaign official, with sources telling ABC News the governor’s team is leaning toward skipping the launch of an exploratory committee altogether and is instead expected to launch a full presidential campaign next month.

“I have to figure out how to do this. Obviously there is, because I mean I voted contrary to him in the Congress. I have to frame it in a way that’s not going to piss off all his voters.” — Then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), on audio obtained by ABC News, when asked during debate preparation in 2018 if there were any issues on which he disagreed with Donald Trump.

Ross Douthat: “I will admit, watching DeSantis sag in the primary polls — and watching the Republican and media reaction to that sag — has triggered flashbacks to the 2016 race. Seven years later, it’s clear that many of the underlying dynamics that made Trump the nominee are still in play.”

“Ron DeSantis is dining with dozens of wealthy fundraisers at the Florida governor’s mansion in Tallahassee this week and next, people familiar with the meetings said. The visits are giving top supporters more face time with the Republican governor as he prepares to launch his presidential campaign following criticism that he’s neglected the personal side of politics,” the Washington Post reports.

“Small groups of ‘bundlers’ — who raise money from their own larger networks of donors — are getting briefings from the governor’s advisers and having dinner with DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis… The gatherings are a chance for DeSantis to build relationships and introduce his likely campaign staff, one of the people said, while another said they help address a ‘supply and demand’ challenge of DeSantis’s national tour the past few months — too little time to sit down with everyone interested.”

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy suggested he would name Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Democratic vaccine skeptic challenging President Biden, as his running mate, the New York Times reports.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s first appearance as a presidential candidate will be at a cryptocurrency conference in Miami this month as the iconoclastic Democrat embraces a controversial industry that environmentalists say is a major contributor to climate change,” NBC News reports.

“Kennedy, the vaccine-skeptic environmental lawyer whose uncle was President John Kennedy, has not held any public campaign events since he launched his Democratic primary bid against President Joe Biden last month in Boston, the homeland of his famous family.”

“When Former President Donald Trump quietly huddled last month with a group of Louisiana Republican Party leaders at his Mar-a-Lago estate, it was part of a broader effort to cultivate the support of the powerful officials who will decide the party’s 2024 nominee,” Politico reports.

“It was also an attempt to not repeat the early mistakes that plagued Trump’s first presidential campaign — mistakes that have stuck with the former president some seven years later.”

“Trump has told advisers he remembers well what happened in Louisiana during the 2016 race. After winning the primary, he was outmaneuvered by his chief rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who understood that it was the state’s delegates that mattered at the Republican National Convention.”

“A group allied with Donald Trump’s bid for the 2024 Republican nomination is setting records for outside political spending early in a U.S. presidential campaign as he looks to box out his nearest rival Ron DeSantis before the Florida governor even launches a campaign,” Reuters reports.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has ruled out a run for president, but key Republicans are nudging him to be open to a draft movement, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Following the campaign launch, Mr. Biden’s team declined to release his initial fundraising totals, including the amount raised during the campaign’s first 24 hours—numbers that campaigns often choose to release as a way to show momentum.”

“People familiar with the early fundraising said the president didn’t surpass the amount raised during the first 24 hours of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign, when he brought in $6.3 million from about 97,000 donors, his campaign said at the time.”

Bloomberg: “Many of President Joe Biden’s biggest contributors are heartened by Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner and are hoping for a 2020  rematch. Pitting the current president against his predecessor would create a race that they say advantages Biden politically, policy-wise and from a fundraising perspective.”

“Having Trump on the ticket will motivate the networks of wealthy contributors who can write big checks, according to several Biden donors, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump as the GOP nominee would also allow Biden to tap some financial support from conservatives who would otherwise be open to giving to a business-friendly Republican, one donor said.”

“Going up against his predecessor is also a  motivating factor for Biden, who views stopping Trump as his patriotic duty. Trump’s emergence as the Republican frontrunner raises the stakes of the election — making it fundamentally about safeguarding US democracy — and rendering donations to Biden a no-brainer, according to another large contributor who said he had concerns about the president’s age and had previously hoped for a younger alternative.”

“Donald Trump has all but dropped a key word from his vocabulary: Republican,” NBC News reports.

“Since he hit the campaign trail in early March, according to an NBC review of Trump’s speeches, interviews, video posts and face-to-face interactions with voters, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination has used the name of the party he seeks to represent in sparing fashion — and typically to disparage other party luminaries.”

“In essence, according to advisers and allies, Trump is returning to the anti-establishment themes of his successful 2016 bid for the presidency that rallied voters to slay the favorite totems, orthodoxies and candidates of both parties.”

Tara Palmeri has privately recorded audio from a recent No Labels call in which Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) makes a cameo and sounds very much like a possible third party candidate. 

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Roll Call that the No Labels political operation is not a “secret plot to reelect Donald Trump.”

Said Lieberman: “That’s just ridiculous. I mean, there’s no basis in fact.”

He added that the point of No Labels trying to get ballot access in 2024 in as many states as possible was not only to make a statement about the partisanship of the two-party system, but also “to make sure that Donald Trump is not reelected as president.

“Georgia’s top elections official is expected to schedule the state’s presidential primary for a date in mid-March, dashing hopes from state and national Democrats who wanted Georgia to be one of the first states to vote on the 2024 nominating calendar,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

That “appears to end, for now, the dream from national Democrats who voted earlier this year to make Georgia the fourth state.”

Washington Post: “Even today, more than two years after the election, it is not unusual for election workers to take different routes to their homes and offices to avoid being tailed, train in de-escalation techniques and bolster their home security systems.”

“Conferences for election officials now double as group therapy sessions.”

Daily Beast: “After a winter spent recuperating from his five-point loss to Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA)—and hidden from the internet legions that had gleefully dragged him for months—Oz is slowly re-emerging.”

“Gone is Oz the MAGA-acolyte partisan. Back is the famous, friendly TV doctor—or at least Oz hopes.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. Former state Senate President Chuck Morse told Good Morning NH this week he’d run for governor in the event that his fellow Republican, incumbent Chris Sununu, doesn’t seek re-election next year. (The relevant portion of the interview begins at the 4:08 mark.) Morse campaigned statewide for U.S. Senate last year but lost the expensive primary 37-36 to Big Lie spreader Don Bolduc.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Bluegrass Freedom Action, which backs Attorney General Daniel Cameron in the May 16 GOP primary, has launched an ad declaring that former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft “praised” Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear’s “COVID lockdowns.” The spot goes on to show footage of Cameron and Donald Trump at a rally before playing a clip of Trump on a plane reiterating, “Daniel has my complete and total endorsement.”

The attorney general, whom Craft’s side has labeled a “soft establishment teddy bear,” is airing a commercial touting his conservative credentials that features his son holding … a teddy bear.

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

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