The Political Report – May 26, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign launch on Twitter had multiple technical difficulties with the Twitter app repeatedly crashing and numerous audio problems for those who were able to get in.

Said Elon Musk: “Servers are straining somewhat.” When the servers finally stabilized, the audience was reported to be only a little more than 200,000 listening.

It was a total and complete disaster.

Politico: “The risk for DeSantis is the prospect of the botched rollout forming a narrative and cutting against the very argument he is making to Republican primary voters — that he is a competent alternative to the chaotic presidency of former President Donald Trump.”

“The governor has been portraying himself in public speeches and private donor meetings as a controlled, low-drama politician who embraces many of Trump’s policy positions without the trademark unpredictability. But on Wednesday, DeSantis — who fiercely values control — was the picture of disorder.”

“No one liked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch more than former President Donald Trump,” NBC News reports.

Wrote Trump: “Wow. The DeSanctus TWITTER launch is a DISASTER! His whole campaign will be a disaster. WATCH!”

“As hundreds of thousands of listeners logged off, Trump allies shared images to represent their excitement: a glass of wine and a laughing-to-tears emoji among them. Trump quickly posted a video to Truth Social that showed contrasting images of his boisterous campaign announcement last year and a Twitter screen showing the DeSantis discussion ‘Preparing to launch.’”

Gov. Ron DeSantis could not have had a worse campaign launch.

It would have been like Donald Trump tripping and falling down the gold escalator when he kicked off his presidential campaign in 2016.

But perhaps just as bad, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “the malfunction is likely to be remembered more than anything DeSantis said.”

Here’s how the New York Times described it: “The DeSantis-Musk discussion on Twitter meandered at times into a cul-de-sac of the hyper-online right… Mr. DeSantis repeatedly highlighted his blue-collar roots. But it has long been apparent that Mr. DeSantis polls far better with college-educated Republicans than he does among those without college degrees, who heavily favor Mr. Trump and form the increasingly rural base of the Republican Party. And his campaign introduction night showed why that’s the case.

The conversation detoured into complaints about the horrors of The Atlantic and Vanity Fair magazines and into discussions of cryptocurrencies and the “de-banking” of “politically incorrect businesses.”

In the end, the event had all of the appeal of a glitchy conference call.

And it had a tiny audience, as Ben Jacobs notes: “It attracted a cumulative audience that was smaller than he would have gotten on any single cable network, let alone a rollout that would have been covered live by all three and potential network television stations.

But worse than all of that, the format forfeited the chance for DeSantis to showcase his wife and kids. He lost a chance to show voters he is a warm and affable person.”

Instead, it turns out DeSantis is exactly the same unlikable guy you’ve read about. It’s too early to say DeSantis destroyed his chances to win the GOP nomination. But it’s clear he completely blew his best chance to generate broader interest in his campaign. It’s a moment he won’t get back.

“This link works.”— Joe Biden, providing a link to his donation page when no one could listen to Ron DeSantis’s campaign kick off on Twitter.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday and plans to formally announce his presidential campaign on Twitter in a 6 p.m. virtual conversation with Elon Musk, before joining Fox News for an interview, the Washington Post reports.

DeSantis is already facing attacks from Donald Trump over his past support for proposals to raise the retirement age, cut entitlement spending, and institute a national sales tax,” Semafor reports.

“These policies all have one thing in common: Trump also publicly backed them… Trump is notorious both for changing positions with the wind and criticizing opponents over behavior he’s engaged in himself.”

“The question for DeSantis: Can he make Republican voters care?”

Politico: “No Florida politician has ever been elected president. A half-dozen have run in the last 50 years — essentially the period in which the state evolved from political backwater to electoral powerhouse — but all have ended up in the same place, dead in the water long before the nominating convention.”

The Washington Post reviews Sen. Josh Hawley’s Manhood.

“If Hawley were as glib in his book about manhood as he was on the Hill last year when he was asked about womanhood, his book could have fit on less than a page: It doesn’t seem that complicated.”

“Instead he takes a more expansive tack, suggesting that manhood has a lot to do with what a person does. And so now Hawley has a new problem, which is that this book is not actually about men. As written, it’s a book about how people can live a worthy life of Christian virtue. Any people, really.”

Politico: “As Republicans start to assemble a crop of contenders that can retake the Senate and grow their excruciatingly thin majority in the House, they are running into a persistent complication. The current GOP presidential primary, and Trump’s early dominance, has spooked some potential down-ballot candidates.”

“Many of their prospective recruits are wary of running alongside Trump, who dominates the spotlight, repels crucial independent voters and forces his fellow Republicans to answer for his unpredictable statements. It’s a dynamic that candidates don’t relish, and it has only come into sharper focus since Trump’s CNN town hall, when he spent 70 minutes on primetime television this month unleashing a torrent of incendiary remarks.”

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee has released an internal of next year’s top-two primary from a trio of firms―FM3, EVITARUS, and HIT Strategies―that shows her deep in fourth place before respondents learn more about her:

  • 2022 attorney general candidate Eric Early (R): 27
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D): 24
  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D): 21
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D): 11

The memo argues that Lee’s deficit comes from her relatively low name recognition, and it shows her doing better once positive bios are read about all three Democrats. (The text of those statements is included.)

This is the very first poll we’ve seen testing a field that includes Early, who grabs one of the two general election spots here. However, Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin notes that Early almost certainly won’t be the only Republican on next year’s ballot (ten Republicans ran in last year’s top-two for California’s other Senate seat) and thus won’t be able to monopolize the GOP vote the way he does here.  

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. While Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke still hasn’t quite closed the door on running against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, he sounded unlikely to go for it in a recent interview with the Flathead Beacon. The congressman instead talked up retired Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, whom NRSC chair Steve Daines is trying to land.

“We’re looking at the [potential] field,” Zinke added, “but honest to God I am also concentrated on Appropriations, because I was elected to this job and [it] needs full attention.” After citing his other committee assignments, he also declared that “as far as Montana goes I’m in a good position to make sure our interests in the state are well served.”

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. UT Tyler finds Republican incumbent Ted Cruz leading Democratic Rep. Colin Allred 42-37 in the very first poll we’ve seen testing this matchup. Allred is currently the only serious Democrat running, though state Sen. Roland Gutierrez reportedly is preparing to jump in after the legislative session ends May 29.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. “Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has drawn a Republican primary challenger who launched his campaign by criticizing the first-term senator for having supported bipartisan spending deals, voting to convict President Donald Trump in his two impeachment trials and voting to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, Utah, a municipality of about 45,000 people near Salt Lake City, kicked off his bid Tuesday with a video in which he also highlighted Romney’s former residency in Massachusetts — where he served as governor from 2003 to 2007 — and accused Romney of breaking promises made in his 2018 Senate campaign.”

Romney, for his part, is still keeping everyone guessing if he’ll actually seek a second term, and his team reiterated this week he will reach a “final decision in the coming months.”

Staggs was elected in 2017 to lead Riverton, and he made news early in the pandemic by telling police officers not to enforce Salt Lake County’s orders to limit public gatherings. He then sought to lead the county later in 2020 when he challenged appointed incumbent Jenny Wilson, who herself was Romney’s most recent Democratic opponent, but he lost 52-45. (Salt Lake County, which is a rare source of Democratic strength in this dark red state, favored Joe Biden 53-42.)

The only other serious Republican who has started raising money for a bid for Romney’s seat is state House Speaker Brad Wilson, who formed an exploratory committee last month and says he’ll make up his mind sometime in the fall. But several other Beehive State politicians haven’t closed the door on running including Attorney General Sean Reyes, Rep. Chris Stewart, and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

A crowded primary could make it difficult for anyone to win the plurality they’d need to beat Romney in the event he sought reelection, though Utah’s unusual ballot access laws may limit the number of people who actually appear on the ballot. The state allows candidates for Congress or governor to qualify either by turning in the requisite number of signatures or by competing at their party convention, though they’re free to try both.

Both methods carry risk. If one convention contender ends up taking more than 60% of the delegate vote, they would be the only candidate to reach the primary ballot. If, however, no one hits this threshold, then the two competitors left standing will advance to the primary. Convention participants have long tended to be much further to the right than overall primary voters, and Staggs says he’s a “big believer” in this system and will pursue this route.

Signature gathering, however, is also an onerous and unpredictable task even for well-funded candidates. Romney needed 28,000 petitions in 2018 and turned in 80,000, but even his team reportedly wasn’t sure that would be enough. “When we turned those 80,000 signatures in, I thought there was a chance we didn’t make it,” an unnamed source told Utah Policy two years later, “We were praying we would get 30% validated.” Those prayers were more than answered, though, as Romney ultimately got about 60% of his petitions accepted.

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Former Rep. Mark Walker announced Saturday that he would seek the GOP nod in order to give the party an alternative to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the far-right frontrunner whom Walker warned could wreck the party “up and down the ballot.” The former congressman campaigned for the Senate last year, but all he had to show for his effort was a paltry 9% of the vote and national scrutiny about his Waffle House order.

Walker, who called for his supporters to help him raise $1 million by June 30, joins a nomination contest that includes Treasurer Dale Folwell, who has also been touting himself as an electable conservative. A recent SurveyUSA poll for the conservative John Locke Foundation showed Robinson clobbering Walker 43-9 as Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who isn’t currently running, and Folwell respectively grabbed 8% and 4%.

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. GOP Gov. Chris Sununu tells The Dispatch he’ll decide whether to run for president by the end of next month, though he didn’t mention anything about a prospective reelection campaign. The governor has loudly hinted he will not seek what would be a historic fifth term, though New Hampshire’s late downballot filing deadline gives him the option to run again at home should his White House hopes crash and burn.

WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. MetroNews reports that 2020 Democratic nominee Ben Salango is considering running to succeed termed-out Gov. Jim Justice, the Republican who defeated him 63-30.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. New Southern Majority, which is an affiliate of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is running a $250,000 ad campaign against Republican incumbent Tate Reeves accusing him of taking part in a “coverup” over the widespread misuse of state welfare funds.

Meanwhile, Reeves’ team tells Politico they’re launching a $1.3 million opening ad campaign that will start next month and continue into July. The first ad is narrated by First Lady Elee Reeves, who tells the audience that the state “reopened fast” during the pandemic thanks to the governor.

Reeves’ Democratic opponent, Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, quickly pointed out that the commercial featured footage from a now-closed private school founded by Nancy New, who pleaded guilty to her role in the state’s $77 million welfare funds scandal.

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

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