The Political Report – June 2, 2023

A new Navigator Research poll finds that 65% of Americans now believe Donald Trump has committed a crime — including 68% of independents.

Asian American voters tend to lean away from the Democratic Party as their roots in the U.S. deepen, according to data from a Pew Research Center study.

A new Gallup poll finds just 18% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S., staying below 20% as it has since March.

“Some presidential candidates struggle to nail their message. Ron DeSantis is struggling to nail his name. In the early days of his campaign, DeSantis has gone back and forth between pronouncing his name Dee-Santis and Deh-Santis,” Axios reports.

“DeSantis’ dissonance on how to say his name — for years an issue of confusion for his campaign teams — is a curiosity as many GOP leaders and donors wonder whether the Florida governor is ready for the scrutiny of a presidential campaign.”

“Asked the proper way to pronounce his name, DeSantis’ campaign did not answer.”

Politico: “Long viewed by critics as aloof, he was attempting to soften the edges. The DeSantises, he suggested in story after story Wednesday, are young, they are energetic and they are just like you. For DeSantis, it marked a significant effort to come across as relatable in a state whose caucus politics demand it.”

Des Moines Register: “Presidential candidates are quick to find their ‘Iowa connection’ — a distant relative or long-past family vacation that links them to the caucusgoers they’re courting. The Iowa connection for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis? A slate of significant laws that was passed by Republican legislative majorities in both states.”

“A ruthless war between the Trump and DeSantis campaigns is unfolding in increasingly personal terms, sucking in top surrogates and raising new skepticism about the likelihood of post-primary reconciliation,” Axios reports.

“Former President Trump doesn’t just want to defeat Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — he’s out to destroy DeSantis’ political career and that of anyone who has expressed even a hint of support for his candidacy.”

“For Trump, loyalty is paramount — and a one-way street. The fact that so many former Trump administration officials and supporters have defected to team DeSantis has made the feud intensely personal for the ex-president.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) claimed that Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to back primary challenges to certain members of Congress if they endorsed Donald Trump for president over him, Yahoo News reports.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to announce his 2024 Republican candidacy for president next Tuesday in New Hampshire, Axios reports.

“ABC News has suspended its relationship with contributor Chris Christie ahead of the former New Jersey governor’s expected entrance into the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination,” The Hill reports.

Former Vice President Mike Pence will publicly launch his presidential campaign June 7 with a rally in Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reports.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was a senior advisor to a firm helping advise on investments for a business that is part of a sprawling corruption investigation into Venezuela’s national oil company, Semafor reports.

The Free Press asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr. how he thinks his father or uncle would have responded to the challenges facing Democrats today.

Said Kennedy: “You know, I have conversations with my father and my uncle about what I’m doing. I do meditations every day, and that’s kind of the nature of my meditations. I have a lot of conversations with dead people.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis is attacking Donald Trump for “turning the country over to Dr. Fauci in March 2020” but DeSantis was praising the chief public health official at the same time in previously unreported quotes, saying Fauci was “really, really good and really, really helpful” and “really doing a good job,” CNN reports.

New York Times: “A tricky balancing act lies ahead for Mr. DeSantis. All of those comments came not onstage in his first campaign speech before hundreds of Republicans at an evangelical church, but during a 15-minute news conference with reporters afterward. He did not mention Mr. Trump by name when he spoke directly to voters in each of his first four Iowa stops, though he has drawn implicit contrasts.”

“The two-pronged approach reflects the remarkable degree to which his pathway to the nomination depends on his ability to win over — and not alienate — the significant bloc of Republican voters who still like Mr. Trump even if they are willing to consider an alternative.”

Nate Cohn: “This shift toward the right among the young voters who propelled Mr. Obama to victory 15 years ago is part of a larger pattern: Over the last decade, almost every cohort of voters under 50 has shifted toward the right, based on an analysis of thousands of survey interviews archived at the Roper Center.”

“It’s not necessarily a stunning finding. Political folklore has long held that voters become more conservative as they get older. But it is nonetheless at odds with a wave of recent reports or studies suggesting otherwise.”

NBC News: “The large-scale voter contact effort that conservatives have put at the center of their political operations in recent years is plagued with issues, according to more than a dozen people who’ve worked in GOP-aligned field operations and internal data obtained by NBC News. Those issues include fraudulent and untrustworthy data entries, akin to what occurred in Nevada, as well as allegations of lax hiring practices and a lack of accountability.”

“Issues with canvassing arose in two of the closest losses of the 2022 election, four people familiar with those operations said. They were Nevada, where Laxalt’s narrow loss allowed Democrats to keep control of the Senate, and Georgia, where the GOP nominee for Senate, Herschel Walker, was ultimately defeated in a runoff election.”

“Despite calling for a ban on foreign lobbying, in which Americans lobby lawmakers and the public for foreign interests, Republican 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has raised tens of thousands of dollars in political donations from foreign lobbyists,” ABC News reports.

 “Vivek Ramaswamy has fired one of the firms consulting for his presidential campaign after it was revealed that the firm had simultaneously been doing public relations work for a major Saudi-backed entity,” Politico reports.

“Two top Vivek Ramaswamy advisers were simultaneously earning money through the Saudi government’s public investment fund while working on the entrepreneur’s 2024 presidential campaign,” Politico reports.

“Gitcho Goodwin, the firm led by longtime political operatives Gail Gitcho and Henry Goodwin, registered retroactively over the weekend as foreign agents for the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league.”

Politico: “The Florida governor didn’t actually mention his chief rival by name. But he didn’t have to. The contrasts were big and small, and mainly implicit. He talked about closing the border, spoke about how he would have fired Anthony Fauci during the Covid pandemic, and made note — in his speech’s crescendo — that no conservative wish could come true if their candidate doesn’t actually win.”

Said DeSantis: “Leadership is not about entertainment. It’s not about building a brand. It’s not about virtue signaling. It is about results.”

 “Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida kicked off his presidential campaign in Iowa on Tuesday with a sweeping denunciation of the ‘elites’ that he said dominated American institutions, pitching himself as an unrepentant fighter who could reverse a tide of progressivism in boardrooms, the government and the military,” the New York Times reports.

“In a strident speech, he painted a dark picture of America, saying he would be a salve to a ‘malignant ideology’ that was taking hold across the nation. He described children facing ‘indoctrination.’ He mocked transgender athletes, denounced the ‘woke Olympics’ of diversity programs and reveled in his battle with Disney.”

UTAH 2ND DISTRICT. Republican Rep. Chris Stewart confirmed earlier reports on Wednesday that he would resign because of his wife’s health, though he didn’t specify a timeline, only saying he’d leave office “after an orderly transition can be ensured.”

There’s little question that whoever wins the GOP primary will prevail in the forthcoming special election: Republicans carefully gerrymandered Utah’s congressional map, allowing Donald Trump to score a 57-40 victory in 2020 in the 2nd District, which includes the southwestern part of the state as well as a slice of Salt Lake City. Stewart’s seat, though, could remain vacant until next year unless the legislature holds a special session specifically to appropriate funds to hold the special earlier.

That’s because, under state law, special elections must coincide with regularly scheduled election dates. That means the earliest the primary could take place is Nov. 7, when several municipalities go to the polls. A general election, meanwhile, would not be possible until March of 2024, when Utah holds its presidential primaries. Without action by lawmakers, then, Stewart’s constituents could go unrepresented for close to a year.

Stewart’s eventual successor will succeed a hardliner who effectively won his seat in 2012 at a bitter party convention. Prior to seeking office, the future congressman made a name for himself in the Air Force by setting the record for the fastest uninterrupted flight across the world (36 hours and 13 minutes) and as the head of a consulting firm. He went on to co-write the memoir of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, though his main claim to fame in conservative circles came from his authorship of a six-part series of apocalyptic novels infused with Mormon theology. One prominent fan was Glenn Beck who, at the height of his influence, both touted Stewart’s work on Fox and reissued revised versions of his books to make them palatable to what he called a “mainstream” Christian audience.

Stewart got his chance to run for Congress two years after the 2010 census awarded the Beehive State a new House seat. At the time, candidates could only make the primary ballot by taking at least 40% at their party convention (a 2014 law eventually allowed them to gather signatures), and Stewart’s main foe in the 11-person field was former state House Speaker David Clark.

An anonymous mailer, as Mother Jones would recount later that year, made several attacks on Stewart, but it attracted little notice until the day of the convention when a little-known contender named Milt Hanks held it up as evidence that there was an “Anybody-But-Chris” group determined to make sure the author was defeated. Several other hopefuls did indeed endorse Clark, which led Stewart’s backers to shout, “The prophecy has been fulfilled! The prophecy has been fulfilled!”

Fueled by this supposed conspiracy, more than 60% of convention delegates gave their backing to Stewart, allowing him to avoid a primary altogether since no other candidate could hit the necessary 40% threshold. But the gathering sparked plenty of angry feelings. Several defeated foes claimed that Stewart’s team had produced the offending mailer precisely to cultivate a backlash, an allegation Stewart denied. But the ill will did nothing to stop him from easily prevailing in the general election, and he never struggled to hold his seat in ensuing years.

Soon enough, the congressman, whom one former GOP politician labeled “​​a certified nutcase” before he was even elected, made a name for himself as an ardent conservative. He became a Trump ally despite deriding him as “our Mussolini” during the 2016 primaries, prompting the new administration to consider him for secretary of the Air Force after the elections.

Stewart, however, remained in the House, and later joined the majority of his caucus in voting to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 win. He did break from party orthodoxy last year when he backed the Respect for Marriage Act to protect same-sex and interracial marriages, though he otherwise remained a supporter of far-right causes. He even appeared ready to consider a promotion earlier this year: In April, Stewart declined to rule out a primary challenge to Sen. Mitt Romney. His resignation, though, almost certainly ensures that won’t happen.

Anyone hoping to succeed Stewart can try to follow in his footsteps by competing at their party convention for a spot on the primary, though they now also have the option of instead collecting 7,000 valid signatures. Under the state’s special election law, though, only one candidate can advance out of the convention instead of the maximum of two that are normally allowed.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Far-right state Attorney General Jeff Landry is running new ads with a tough-on-crime message that are anything but subtle in their racist appeals. Landry’s ads tout his law enforcement background, and he claims he’ll “hold everyone, and I mean everyone, accountable for violent crime.” Yet somehow that means just focusing on local officials who are Black Democrats, not their white Democratic counterparts and certainly not any Republicans such as the one who has been the state’s top law enforcement officer for the past eight years.

Indeed, Landry’s campaign is running similar versions in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport areas, which are Louisiana’s three biggest cities and each have large Black populations. As Gambit’s Clancy DuBos notes, each version singles out local Black Democrats serving as mayor or district attorney to blame them for crime problems while ignoring white Democrats (let alone Republicans) in similar positions of power there or elsewhere in the state.

Medium Buying relays that Landry has thus far spent or reserved just $376,000 on ads, and it’s notable that he’s resorting to racist messaging right out of the gate in a race for governor where the lone major Democrat, former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, is Black.

Republican infighting has suddenly escalated well ahead of Louisiana’s Oct. 14 all-party primary for governor, as a well-funded super PAC is already airing ads designed to deprive Attorney General Jeff Landry of his frontrunner status. This early offensive to help Stephen Waguespack, who is the former head of the state’s Chamber of Commerce affiliate, comes unusually early, but his allies have the resources to ensure that voters see many more ads over the next four-and-a-half months.

Waguespack’s backers at Reboot Louisiana, which began a $1.75 million TV campaign in early May to boost the first-time candidate’s name recognition, launched a new spot on Wednesday hammering Landry on an issue he’s sought to make his own. “Murder, rape, car jackings. Under Landry’s watch, Louisiana is the most dangerous state in America,” intones a narrator, who goes on to argue that Waguespack “has a plan to take Louisiana back from the criminals.” Landry himself has been emphasizing crime in his advertising, though he’s unsubtly blamed it on Black Democratic mayors and district attorneys.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who has not taken sides in the contest to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, responded to Reboot Louisiana’s commercial by calling for Waguespack to “denounce” the message. “We must learn from the mistakes of the 2015 and 2019 governor’s races, where Republican infighting ultimately squandered our opportunities to win the Governor’s mansion,” Scalise said in a statement referring to Edwards’ two wins in this red state.

Scalise might have also noted that Republicans only began hitting one another on the airwaves much later in those two contests. In 2015, the super PAC supporting frontrunner David Vitter only sprung into action around Labor Day by attacking his two main intra-party rivals, Jay Dardene and Scott Angelle, in a sign that Vitter wasn’t quite as strong as he looked. The scandal-tarred Vitter did indeed make it to the November general election against Edwards, but at great cost: Dardenne crossed party lines to endorse Edwards, who went on to score an upset win the next month, while Angelle remained neutral.

It took a bit longer four years later for the two leading Republicans, Rep. Ralph Abraham and wealthy businessman Eddie Rispone, to start attacking one another on the air, but once again, it hurt the party’s efforts against Edwards. Rispone began targeting his fellow Republican just three weeks before the first round of voting, and while the defeated Abraham did endorse Rispone for the second round, some of the damage was irreparable. Edwards worked hard to fan the flames of intraparty animosity by reminding Abraham’s constituents about the slams Rispone had leveled at their representative, a tactic that helped him perform significantly better in Abraham’s district than Democrats usually do.

The Democrat who wants to benefit from this year’s early GOP clash is former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, who would be the first African American elected statewide since Reconstruction. Three other Republicans running for governor―Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson―are meanwhile hoping that an ugly battle between Landry and Waguespack will give them the chance to establish themselves as an alternative conservative option.

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Nevada Newsmakers has released a survey from Vote TXT, a firm whose work we hadn’t seen before, showing Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen posting a 39-34 lead in a hypothetical general election over Jim Marchant, the election conspiracy theorist who was the 2022 GOP nominee for secretary of state. The survey also finds 2022 Senate nominee Adam Laxalt edging out Rosen 42-41, though Laxalt said all the way back in December that he didn’t “see a scenario where I’m on the ballot in 2024.”

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

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