The Political Report – June 8, 2023

A new Yahoo News-YouGov poll found that 62% of Americans believe that Donald Trump should not be allowed to serve as president again if he is convicted of a “serious” crime.  A slightly smaller majority — 52% — said they believe that Trump has committed a serious crime.

FiveThirtyEight finds six candidates at 1 percent or higher in their national polling average: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott.

“Though the polls taken up until this point won’t count toward debate qualification, these candidates seemingly have good shots at being at 1 percent in July and August surveys. And they can probably attract or already have sufficient donors, as even the lesser-known Ramaswamy recently announced he had met the donor threshold.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Wednesday filed paperwork to run for president, CNN reports.

“Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday filed paperwork to run for president as he looks to take on former President Trump a second time in 2024,” The Hill reports.

New York Times: “Mr. Christie, who is set to announce his run at a town-hall-style event in New Hampshire Tuesday evening, has already begun laying out an aggressive case against Mr. Trump based on the former president’s policies — namely, that he made a number of promises that he never delivered. That case is one that other hopefuls have generally sidestepped, instead largely avoiding saying Mr. Trump’s name. By contrast, Mr. Christie has gone directly at him.”

“He has mocked Mr. Trump’s dwindling crowd sizes, called him a loser and said that he crossed a line with his actions that led a pro-Trump mob to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”

Chris Christie warned his audience in New Hampshire to “beware of the leader” who won’t admit to having any faults and criticized “pretenders” afraid to admonish such a leader, instead treating them like Voldemort or “he who shall not be named,” the Daily Beast reports.

Said Christie: “Well let me be clear in case I have not been already. The person I am talking about who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault, and who always finds someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong—but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right—is Donald Trump.”

The AP reports Christie called Trump a ‘lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog’ and arguing that he’s the only one who can stop him.”

“I am going to be very clear — I’m going out there to take out Donald Trump. But here’s why: I want to win, and I don’t want him to win. There is one lane to the Republican nomination and he’s in front of it. And if you want to win, you better go right through him.”— Chris Christie, quoted by Politico.

“Christie’s biggest challenge is that the more pro-Trump people don’t trust him — because he turned his back on the guy — and the folks who are never-Trump, or Trump skeptics, remember that he was one of his most ardent supporters and defenders… It’s just hard to see who’s the Christie constituency in today’s Republican Party.”— GOP strategist Kevin Madden, quoted by the Washington Post.

“Mike Pence has a reputation for being about as exciting as a mayonnaise sandwich on toast.”— A Wall Street Journal editorial, welcoming the former vice president to the 2024 presidential race.

Playbook is not impressed with Mike Pence’s presidential campaign launch video — just out today.

“But what is really striking to us about his launch ad, and the reason we pulled apart this one section in such detail, is how precarious Pence’s case against Biden is on a number of fronts. His campaign had to cherry-pick articles about the economy that don’t quite support his picture of economic calamity. The southern border, to everyone’s surprise, has experienced a precipitous drop in crossings since the end of Title 42. Pence uses a pre-war opinion piece about Biden not standing up to Putin, when the big news this week is how House Republicans are threatening to block a substantial aid package to assist Ukraine.”

“That points to a general problem that any GOP nominee will face: Despite Biden’s poor poll numbers, he is not yet presiding over the kind of economic or foreign policy disaster that historically creates a one-term president — which might be one reason that the video also leans heavily on culture war grievances that target groups with little to do with the economy and foreign policy: BLM, trans rights activists, drag show performers.”

“Mike Pence is the most conservative candidate competing for the presidency. The former vice president wants abortion banned from the point of conception. He’s the only major candidate calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. And he has the most hawkish foreign policy, especially on confronting Russia,” the New York Times reports.

“Being the most conservative used to matter in Republican presidential primaries. Not anymore.”

“The president Mr. Pence served under, Donald J. Trump, transformed the GOP electorate, making the path to a Pence presidency visible only to the truest of true believers. Mr. Pence has not really changed all that much since he was governor of Indiana less than a decade ago, but his party has. It’s the same Mike Pence but a different GOP, and it’s a different GOP because of his former boss.”

“Ron DeSantis promised to drain the swamp in Tallahassee. Instead, over more than four years as governor, he has reconfigured the swamp to suit his political needs and shielded it from Florida’s famous sunshine,” NBC News reports.

“In anticipation of his 2024 presidential bid, he pushed the Legislature to change Florida’s resign-to-run law. He revised state policy so he could transfer $80 million in campaign cash to a federal political committee. And just after his official announcement last month, his administration pressured state legislators and lobbyists to aid his presidential campaign while they awaited his decisions on pet projects in the budget.”

“His use of state power to aid his presidential ambitions hasn’t come as a surprise to Florida political insiders who have watched him use the tools of governance to advance his agenda and ideology.”

Molly Jong-Fast: “This year is starting to feel a lot like 2016, a primary field that contains Trump and all the other not-Trump candidates. The only difference between this contest and 2016 is that other candidates then ran (ostensibly, at least) as their own selves and not just lesser versions of the OG.”

“Perhaps this is because the current crop of candidates have seen polling which shows the GOP base continues to struggle with a pronounced case of brain worms. They dismiss Trump’s critics out of hand and election denial runs deep, with 75% in one poll saying that Trump actually won the 2020 election.”

“It’s possible that these 2024 candidates can’t figure out how to recon with a GOP base existing in a post-truth bubble, and are just trying to keep up with an electorate that’s completely lost its mind.”

John Ellis: “And, like DeSantis, the others will spend most of the next 7 months flying in and out of Iowa, campaigning there one or two or three days a week, depending. That’s how George H.W. Bush won the Iowa caucuses in 1980. He lived there. That’s what the others will have to do as well, if they hope to become the challenger.”

“This becomes a real problem for DeSantis for mathematical reasons. If you take the other ten candidates and you average out their support at, say, 3.5% (which seems reasonable), then 35% of the Iowa caucus-attenders are spoken for.”

“How might that look? It might look like this: 15% for Pence, 7% for Scott, 5% for Christie, 3% here, 3 percent there and so on down to 1% each. Suddenly, 35% of the vote is spoken for. Ninety percent of that 35% can be fairly described as ‘not Trump’ Republicans. Which leaves De Santis competing with Trump on Trump’s turf.”

“Winning on that turf requires an argument a lot more compelling than ‘I’m more anti-woke than Trump.’ Its impossible to imagine anyone less woke than Trump.”

Miami Herald: “In an effort that began years ago and accelerated as he prepared to run for president, DeSantis has forged personal relationships with Evangelical leaders and begun layering his speeches with Biblical allusions. He even held his first in-person campaign event last Tuesday at a conservative church near Des Moines, where he spoke from a stage where a pastor normally spreads the Gospel every week.” “All of it represents a multi-pronged campaign to win over Evangelical voters, who make up the largest and most influential group of voters in the GOP Iowa caucuses and traditionally make or break campaigns in the GOP primary’s first nominating caucus.”

DENVER MAYOR. “Former Colorado state senator Mike Johnston claimed victory as opponent Kelly Brough conceded Tuesday night in a runoff election to become Denver’s next mayor,” the AP reports.

MARYLAND 6TH DISTRICT. Former Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, writes Maryland Matters, is reportedly considering entering the Democratic primary, though there’s no word from her. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin noted in mid-May that Gardner is a proven vote-getter in a community that’s home to about 35% of the 6th District’s denizens, which could make her a formidable contender in a race where most of the other candidates are likely to hail from Montgomery County. “[T]he uncertainty around Jan Gardner isn’t her potential strength in the primary,” one party strategist told Rubashkin, “it’s does she want to run?”

UTAH 2ND DISTRICT. Local political experts contacted by Axios have mentioned some more Republicans as potential candidates in the upcoming special election for this dark red seat: Washington County Commission chair Victor Iverson; former St. George Mayor Jon Pike; and Corey Norman, who serves as chief of staff to 3rd District Rep. John Curtis. There is no word on their potential interest in campaigning to succeed departing Rep. Chris Stewart in this 57-40 Trump constituency.

Former state Rep. Becky Edwards this week filed FEC paperwork for a campaign to succeed her fellow Republican, outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart, though it remains to be seen when the special will take place.

State law currently requires specials to coincide with regularly scheduled election dates, which would mean a primary on Nov. 7 and a general in March of next year. State House Majority Leader Mike Schultz said over the weekend that state Republicans are talking about holding a special legislative session next week to shorten this timeline or to fund both contests for earlier dates, though he added that they need to learn when Stewart will be resigning. The congressman, for his part, has only says he plans to quit sometime in September.

NEW YORK 22ND DISTRICT. Utica University history professor Clemmie Harris on Friday joined the Democratic primary to face freshman Rep. Brandon Williams in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, an upstate constituency that’s one of the bluest seats in the country held by a Republican. The only other declared candidate is Dewitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood, but Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin reports that state Sen. John Mannion has been assembling a team for his own potential bid.

Harris, a former Army drill sergeant and state trooper, would be the first Black person to represent Syracuse in the House. He served as a top aide to then-Gov. David Patterson before he began his career in academia, but he was linked to a scandal involving a colleague named David Johnson that helped end the already unpopular governor’s hopes of winning a full term in 2010. The previous year, Johnson allegedly tried to choke his then-girlfriend Sherr-Una Booker; after she fled to an unnamed friend’s apartment, he quickly contacted Harris. Harris, according to a subsequent report, tried to get that friend to convince Booker not to press charges in order to avoid embarrassing Patterson.

After reports broke detailing efforts by Paterson and his administration to keep the alleged assault out of the public eye―efforts Booker said included harassment by the State Police―the governor quickly ended his reelection campaign. A state investigation ultimately concluded that Patterson and his team, including Harris, had acted inappropriately but hadn’t broken the law. “Even if Harris believed the incident was not more than a serious argument,” former Chief Judge Judith Kaye wrote, “Harris’s conduct – seeking to steer a domestic violence complainant away from the protections available to her by law – was inappropriate, especially for a public official with a law enforcement background as a former member of the State Police.”

Harris, who is the founding head of Utica University’s Africana Studies program, used his kickoff video to emphasize his work in the Patterson administration during the challenging years of the Great Recession and called himself “one of the nicest former drill sergeants you’ll ever meet.” When asked him last month about the investigation as he was preparing to launch his campaign, he insisted, “I fundamentally believe my actions were not inappropriate.”

Mannion, meanwhile, was elected to the legislature on his second try in 2020, a win that made him the first Democrat to represent this area in the state Senate in 50 years. He faced another tough task during the difficult 2022 cycle but ultimately won reelection by just 10 votes.

It may be some time before Mannion makes up his mind, though, as Inside Elections writes that he likely won’t decide until he knows whether or not the state’s highest court will order a new congressional map, a possibility we discussed previously. (Inside Elections’ report includes a detailed look at dozens of other House races, along with information about many potential candidates. We definitely recommend a read.)

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Sen. Mark Kelly has endorsed former state Sen. Raquel Terán in the Democratic primary for Arizona’s open 3rd Congressional District, a safely blue seat centered on Phoenix. 12News reporter Brahm Resnik notes that Terán chaired the state Democratic Party during Kelly’s successful reelection bid last year, while Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, an Arizona-based reporter for the Washington Post, describes Terán as a “a near-constant presence for Kelly” in the Phoenix area during both of his Senate campaigns. Kelly’s involvement marks the first major endorsement in the race, and given his unusual stature, he could help Terán stand out in what has become a crowded field of hopefuls looking to succeed Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking to join Kelly in the Senate.

COLORADO 8TH DISTRICT. The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul surveys the many Republicans who could take on freshman Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo in this 51-46 Biden constituency, a list that includes two defeated candidates from last cycle.

State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, who lost to Caraveo 48.4-47.7  says she’s interested in another try and plans to decide by July 4. Paul also confirms Politico’s recent report saying that Joe O’Dea, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet last year, is thinking about entering this race, though he writes that O’Dea “hasn’t taken any steps toward launching a campaign.”

Bennet beat O’Dea 50-46 in the 8th, but the Republican didn’t actually get to cast a vote for himself in the district. That’s because the Sun says he lives in Democrat Jason Crow’s 6th District, which doesn’t even border Caraveo’s constituency.

Weld County Commissioner Scott James, meanwhile, acknowledged he was also thinking about entering the GOP primary, a development that came days after Inside Elections first reported that a James adviser said he was thinking about running. Finally, state Rep. Gabe Evans, Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno, and former state Rep. Dan Woog each expressed interest as well.

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

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