The Political Report – June 17, 2023

A new Gallup poll finds a record-high 69% of Americans say abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy. 

NBC News: “There is significantly less support for abortion access later in a pregnancy — 37% of adults support second-trimester abortion access ‘generally’ and 22% say the same about third-trimester abortion access. But support for both have ticked up 9 percentage points since 2018 and now also sit at all-time highs for Gallup’s polling.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) launched his presidential campaign last month with a lot of anticipation — and a lot of money — but it seems to have fallen flat.

A new Navigator Research poll found that nearly half of voters who heard about the announcement — 48% — also heard it did not go well.

As a result, views of DeSantis have declined substantially since November. He is now 16 points underwater with Americans overall — down from net +2 favorable in November of last year.

DeSantis has also seen double-digit declines in favorability across party lines. He’s down a net 17 points among Democrats, 18 points among independents, and 19 points among Republicans.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. Lexi Reese (D), a San Francisco Bay Area tech executive and investor, “is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in California, potentially scrambling a crowded field of established Democrats,” Politico reports.  Reese “is preparing to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to formally explore a Senate run Thursday.”

Reese, whose team tells Politico’s Christopher Cadelago she’d use a “significant” amount of her own money should she run, added, “I’m going to take the next couple of weeks to make a decision.”

Reese’s name hadn’t previously surfaced in a top-two primary contest between Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff, though she appears to have spent a significant amount of time quietly preparing a campaign. Puck News reports that she “has been actively exploring a Senate run over the last few months,” while Cadelago relays that she’s already put a team together.

Reese’s entrance could make it easier for a Republican to advance to the general election in a dark blue state that’s hosted several fall contests between two Democrats. The San Mateo County resident would also end Lee’s status as the only serious Democratic candidate who hails from the Bay Area instead of from Southern California, though unlike the longtime East Bay congresswoman, Reese has never run for office before. That last bit may be a tough hurdle to overcome because, despite the massive cost of running for office in America’s most populous state, California has rejected several wealthy first-time candidates who wanted the governorship or a Senate seat.

Back in 1998, when the Golden State still held partisan primaries, former Northwest Airlines co-chair Al Checchi broke state records by dropping $40 million of his own money (about $75 million in 2023 dollars) to try and win the Democratic primary for governor. His investment helped him build an early lead in the polls, but Checchi soon found himself trading negative ads against Rep. Jane Harman, who was also deploying some of her fortune.

It also didn’t help Checchi that, as CNN wrote over a month before the primary, voters were comparing him to Michael Huffington, a one-term Republican congressman who narrowly lost the 1994 Senate race to Feinstein after doing his own extensive self-funding. Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who had languished in third place for most of the primary, promised “experience money can’t buy” and beat Checchi in a 57-20 landslide, a win that set Davis on the path to becoming California’s first Democratic governor in 16 years.

Davis’ tenure ended in a 2003 recall where he was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in a campaign where the superstar spent $10.6 million (nearly $20 million in 2023 dollars). That win made Schwarzenegger the last person to win either of the state’s top posts after doing a serious amount of self-funding, though unlike other wealthy contenders, the soon-to-be “Governator” began his race as a household name.

Checchi in 2010 would acknowledge the limits of his own strategy by griping to the San Francisco Chronicle, “What could you say in a 30-second commercial?” but Republican Meg Whitman that year would air many 30-second ads in her bid to lead the state. The former eBay CEO gave her campaign $144 million ($200 million today), which at the time made her the biggest self-funder in American electoral history. That same cycle saw former HP CEO Carly Fiorina challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, though Fiorina deployed “just” $7 million as she relied more on donors.

But while Republicans were on the offensive that year nationally, the termed-out Schwarzenegger’s terrible approval ratings were too much of an anvil for California Republicans to overcome. Former Gov. Jerry Brown regained his old office by beating Whitman 54-41 the same night that Boxer scored a similar victory against Fiorina.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told the Washington Post that Donald Trump’s indictment could hurt candidate recruitment.

Said Thune: “As you try and recruit candidates, they’re going to be looking at that political environment and saying, ‘Am I going to be running, you know, against the tide or with the tide,’ and there’s a big difference based on who you nominate at the top of the ticket.”

Added a GOP donor: “There’s not a person who is running for any office who is not worried about the oxygen suck and the drama that could be next year. Instead of talking about jobs, inflation and the debt, candidates are going to be drawn in and forced to be in that vortex that is Donald Trump.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll finds Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) approval rating among Utah voters dropped to 41%, down 11 points from March.

“An overwhelming share of Black Americans think the U.S. economic system is stacked against them and a slim majority believe the problem of racism will worsen during their lives,” according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

“Nonetheless, nearly half of Black Americans say it’s also a ‘good time’ to be a Black person in the country, up from 30 percent in 2020 when the U.S. was gripped by political divisions during Donald Trump’s presidency and from 34 percent last spring after a white supremacist killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo grocery store.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) team is gauging interest among Black female politicians about a possible appointment should Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) Senate seat open up, Vanity Fair reports.

Several have rejected the offer, as to not get ahead of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is running for the seat in 2024.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. New campaign finance reports show that Republican incumbent Tate Reeves outraised Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who has no Democratic primary opposition$660,000 to $355,000 during May and finished the month with a $9.4 million to $1.7 million cash on hand edge.

INDIANA U.S. SENATOR and GOVERNOR. Termed-out Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed Thursday that he would stay out of the GOP primary for the Senate, a declaration that comes months after almost everyone stopped seriously wondering if he’d run. (Holcomb himself only made this announcement in the seventh paragraph of an op-ed for the Indianapolis Star bemoaning the state of the federal government.) Far-right Rep. Jim Banks remains the only serious contender for this seat, and there’s no indication that will change.

While plenty of Hoosier State Democrats hoped that Ambassador to the Holy See Joe Donnelly would come home and seek statewide office, former campaign manager Peter Hanscom tells Politico that the onetime senator “will not be a candidate for Governor in 2024.” Hanscom, in the words of reporter Adam Wren, also says that his old boss “would also not pursue a Senate run.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. Donald Trump over the weekend backed Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the far-right frontrunner in next year’s Republican primary. The indicted Trump used the occasion to laud Robinson, who has his own litany of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and transphobic screeds, as “one of the great stars of the party, one of the great stars in politics.”

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy businessman Scott Mayer tells The Messenger he’ll decide after Labor Day if he’ll enter the GOP primary to challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin, though he acknowledges he’s not his own first choice to run. Mayer reveals he wanted “someone like” Rep. Mike Gallagher to get in, but he says that “there is really no… awesome people stepping forward” now that the congressman has decided not to go for it. Mayer also reiterated that, while he’d “have to put some of my own money in,” he doesn’t have enough to get by only on self-funding.

NORTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR. While Republican Gov. Doug Burgum doesn’t appear to have said anything about running for a third term at home in the likely event that his White House hopes go nowhere, a pair of party strategists tell Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin they anticipate the incumbent will be seeking reelection.

There is no shortage of Republicans who could run if this becomes an open seat race, but one of Rubashkin’s sources tells him that “nobody is going to do anything until they see if Burgum catches any fire in the presidential race.” North Dakota’s candidate filing deadline takes place in April, well after most states hold their presidential primaries.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Democratic primary frontrunner Elissa Slotkin earned an endorsement Wednesday from fellow Rep. Haley Stevens, who is the first member of the state’s delegation to take sides in this contest. Also in Slotkin’s corner is Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, who leads the second-most populous county in the state.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR and PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. The National Journal writes that two wealthy businessmen whom the NRSC is trying to recruit, Montana’s Tim Sheehy and Pennsylvania’s David McCormick, are “expected to jump in around the second quarter FEC filing deadline on July 15.”

MONTANA GOVERNOR. Freshman state Rep. Tanner Smith declared Tuesday that he’d challenge Gov. Greg Gianforte in next year’s GOP primary, though he didn’t reveal why he thinks conservatives should dump the incumbent. Gianforte has not yet announced if he’ll seek a second term, though there’s no indication that the governor is looking to call it quits.

Smith, who owns a construction company, won his seat in the northwestern part of the state after voicing his anger over local recreational marijuana dispensaries and pledging to place more regulations on the burgeoning industry. However, he failed to pass any of his four bills during the recent legislative session, including a proposal to double the required distance between new dispensaries and buildings like schools and churches.

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

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