The Political Report – June 28, 2023

NBC News: “A new NBC News poll released Sunday showed Biden with a relatively narrow 49% to 45% lead over Trump — which falls within the survey’s margin of error and is far lower than the 10 percentage point edge Biden held in NBC’s last poll before the 2020 election. The new survey shows DeSantis, who is less known than Trump, tied with Biden at 47% each.”

“Despite an air of confidence from Biden and his team, some Democrats say they believe Trump has a very serious shot at winning back the Oval Office.”

Said former Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH): “If you think otherwise, you have literally had your head buried in the sand. You’re living in a world of delusion. And it’s dangerous.”

Gallup: “Two months after receiving the lowest approval rating of his presidency, President Joe Biden has seen his job rating rebound four percentage points in the past month to 43%, the highest point since last August.”

“Fifty-four percent of U.S. adults disapprove of his job performance.”

DELAWARE AT LARGE DISTRICT. “Sarah McBride, a Democratic state senator in Delaware, announced Monday that she is running for the state’s sole U.S. House seat, a bid that, if successful next year, would make her the first transgender person to serve in Congress,” the Washington Post reports.

“McBride, who is considered a rising star in Delaware politics, is seeking the seat being vacated by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), who announced last week that she is running to succeed the retiring Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE).”

Walter Shapiro: “Even as he spies secret machinations everywhere, Kennedy is somehow missing the unalterable truth about his bizarro candidacy: He is being used.”

“Kennedy is an environmental lawyer with the most famous name in Democratic politics. He is also a patsy. His candidacy is being promoted by right-wing forces with the single-minded objective of embarrassing Joe Biden in the New Hampshire primary and other early contests.”

The Atlantic: “Though he’s been a member of the premier American political dynasty his whole life and a noted environmentalist for decades, most people are just now discovering the breadth and depth of Kennedy’s belief system. He has promoted a theory that Wi-Fi radiation causes cancer and ‘leaky brain,’ saying it ‘opens your blood-brain barrier.’ He has suggested that antidepressants might have contributed to the rise in mass shootings. He told me he believes that Ukraine is engaged in a “proxy” war and that Russia’s invasion, although ‘illegal,’ would not have taken place if the United States ‘didn’t want it to.’”

Vanity Fair: “With eight weeks until Fox News hosts the first Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, executives at the Rupert Murdoch–owned network are scrambling to convince front-runner Donald Trump to reverse his threat to boycott the event.”

Said one top GOP operative: “Fox is trying to get Trump to say yes. They’re offering him the world to show they can be trusted.”

“So far, though, Trump seems to be sticking to his suggestion that he will skip the debate.”

Mediaite: Trump whines about Fox’s coverage of DeSantis, ludicrously (and falsely) accuses network of icing him out.

“The Supreme Court said Monday that Louisiana’s congressional map must be redrawn to add a second majority-Black district,” CNN reports.

“The justices reversed plans to hear the case themselves and lifted a hold they placed on a lower court’s order for a reworked redistricting regime. There were no noted dissents.”

This decision comes just a few weeks after justices ruled that Alabama must redraw its congressional map.

In another surprising defense of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court lifted its hold on a lower-court ruling ordering a new congressional map in Louisiana. This follows the court’s ruling in an Alabama case earlier this month, when the justices paved the way for another majority-Black district to be added in that state. Both states were allowed to use maps in the 2022 midterms that have now been deemed likely unlawful.

Democrats have long accused Republicans of exploiting state legislature majorities to draw electoral maps that dilute the clout of Black voters. As a result, it’s highly-likely these two rulings will allow Democrats to pick up a pair of additional seats in the House of Representatives.

It’s possible both states will try to run out the clock despite the court’s order that things be resolved in advance of 2024.  But these rulings could also force redrawing of districts in Georgia, Texas, Florida and other states where redistricting has limited the power of minority voters.

With Republicans holding a five-seat majority heading into the 2024 election cycle, the Supreme Court has possibly put the House of the edge of flipping back to Democratic control.

UTAH 2ND DISTRICT. The number of Republicans campaigning to succeed outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart in the gerrymandered 2nd District dramatically shrank from 13 to just five Saturday after the congressman’s former chief legal counsel and chosen successor, Celeste Maloy, turned in an unexpected victory at that day’s party convention. Utah allows candidates to reach the primary ballot either by competing at party gatherings or turning in signatures, and Maloy earned her spot in the Sept. 5 special primary by beating the apparent frontrunner, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, in the fifth and final round of voting.

While candidates have the option to try both routes, Maloy and Hughes were both depending on the 740 delegates gathered in a Delta High School to keep their campaigns going. Maloy’s 52-48 upset victory means that Hughes’ campaign is over, and it also marked the end of the line for state party activist Kathleen Anderson; businessman Quin Denning; academic Henry Eyring; state party official Jordan Hess; Leeds Mayor Bill Hoster; and perennial candidate Ty Jensen. Another contender, former congressional staffer Scott Reber, had previously planned to collect petitions in case he lost the convention, but he instead dropped out Saturday and endorsed Maloy.

It still remains to be seen if Maloy will have any intra-party opposition for a 57-40 Trump seat in southwestern Utah that also includes central and western Salt Lake City. The candidates who are trying to collect 7,000 petitions ahead of the July 5 deadline are former state Rep. Becky Edwards; Navy veteran Scott Hatfield; RNC member Bruce Hough; and Some Dude Remy Bubba Kush. (All of them competed at the convention as well aside from Kush, whom party leaders say they disqualified for failing to submit necessary forms and not responding when they tried to get in touch.) The rest of the field, aside from Reber, previously turned in paperwork saying they’d only try to reach the ballot by competing at the convention, so it’s too late for them to switch course and collect signatures.

The petition process can cause headaches even for well-funded candidates, and the tight time frame poses more logistical challenges for this quartet. Edwards, who lost last year’s primary to Sen. Mike Lee 62-30, may again be a tough sell for the base should she qualify, as she was part of a group encouraging fellow Mormon women to vote for Joe Biden in 2020. The former state representative said at a recent debate, “I have been extremely disappointed with the Biden administration and regret that.”

Until voting began Saturday, it looked like Hughes was the candidate best-positioned to replace Stewart. The former speaker, who was an early Trump supporter in 2016, took a strong second with convention delegates when he ran for governor in 2020, which was enough to get him on that year’s primary ballot. (The state normally allows a maximum of two candidates to advance out of the convention, but special election law only lets one person do this.) Hughes ended up finishing a distant third against now-Gov. Spencer Cox, but he still appeared to be the best-known candidate running to succeed Stewart.

The congressman, though, had other ideas. Stewart, who will “irrevocably resign” effective the evening of Sept. 15 because of his wife’s health, endorsed Maloy Tuesday. The development helped her stand out ahead of the crowded convention, while Maloy herself also emphasized that she’d be the first member of Congress from southern Utah. Hughes, by contrast, lives outside this constituency, something Maloy unsubtly highlighted at a debate when she declared, “Surely there’s enough homegrown talent that we don’t have to look outside the district to find somebody to represent us.”

Stewart himself had won the GOP nod at a chaotic 2012 convention where, after one little-known contender accused the other candidates of being part of an “Anybody-But-Chris” group determined to make sure he was defeated, Stewart’s supporters shouted, “The prophecy has been fulfilled! The prophecy has been fulfilled!” Saturday’s gathering was a far more staid affair, though. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Bryan Schott writes that there was a small issue over the fact that Stewart’s booth would be located behind the stage, which Maloy’s opponents argued could boost her, but critics were appeased after organizers agreed to place a curtain to block his signs.

Hughes began with a 29-24 edge over Maloy as Hess took third with 20%, but one of the frontrunner’s allies confessed to Schott that “[i]t wasn’t near what he needed.” The former speaker still maintained his lead for the following three ballots as trailing candidates were disqualified: Round four concluded with him outpacing Maloy 41-33, with Hess and Eyring getting eliminated after respectively taking 21% and 5%. Hess used his departure speech to endorse Maloy, proclaiming he “supports someone who lives in CD2” and “[m]ore importantly it’s time for southern Utah to have someone in Congress.” His decision may have made all the difference, as Maloy soon beat Hughes by 21 votes.

Democrats will hold their own convention Wednesday, and none of the three candidates―state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, businessman Guy Warner, and perennial candidate Archie Williams―are gathering signatures in case they come up short. The general election will take place Nov. 21.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat who is well into the perennial candidate stage of his career, filed FEC paperwork Thursday for a potential bid against Republican Sen. Rick Scott. Grayson last cycle campaigned for the open 10th Congressional District, but the man who was once one of the most well-known members of the lower chamber struggled to get attention in a primary dominated by gun safety activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost and state Sen. Randolph Bracy. Frost went on to beat Bracy 35-25, with Grayson a distant third with 15%.

Scott, for his part, was the subject of a Thursday New York Times report saying he was interested in running for president after all, though the senator quickly responded by telling NBC, “No, I’m running for the Senate.” Scott’s fellow Republicans were quick to express skepticism that he was serious about a White House bid, and Politico relayed rumors this was simply “a subtle dig” aimed at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prospects. If Scott did defy his doubters and tried to become commander in chief, though, he’d still have the option to do what colleague Marco Rubio did in 2016 and file for reelection after the conclusion of the presidential primaries.

Grayson on Friday confirmed to the Florida Phoenix he’s thinking about seeking the Democratic nod to take on Republican Sen. Rick Scott in an interview that took place a day after the congressman-turned-perennial candidate filed FEC paperwork. Grayson, who indicated he wasn’t in a hurry to make up his mind, said that if he ran, “The first $20 million I raise is going to be earmarked for voter registration and turnout.” The Democrat raised less than half of that for his 2016 primary bid for Florida’s other Senate seat, and he took in under $1 million last cycle when he unsuccessfully tried to return to the House.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, reports Politico, is telling his colleagues he plans to seek a rematch with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, something he very much did not deny when the site asked him. The 2018 nominee instead touted a recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that showed him beating the man the NRSC actually wants to be its standard bearer, wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, 64-10 in a hypothetical primary.

Rosendale argued this contest will be determined “by the people across Montana, not Mitch McConnell,” adding, “This week, PPP released a poll that reflects Montanans took a major step towards that decision.” However, Politico notes that it still remains to be seen when that decision would be made. Sheehy, for his part, also hasn’t publicly committed to running, though the National Journal recently reported that he is “expected to jump in around the second quarter FEC filing deadline on July 15.”

“Senate Republican leadership is taking an early stand in the Montana primary to try to help the party win back the majority in 2024 after a dispiriting result last year,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Steve Daines (R-MT), the head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, threw his support behind military veteran and businessman Tim Sheehy, who announced Tuesday that he would run for Senate in the state. His entrance could put the party on course for a contentious primary fight.”

“Sheehy’s entrance into the Montana race could pit him against Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), who has privately been testing the waters for a race.”

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson over the weekend earned the endorsement of the state Democratic Party for the October all-party primary, a development that comes months after termed-out Gov. John Bel Edwards backed him. Wilson is the only serious Democrat in the race, though Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams unexpectedly expressed interest in launching his own campaign about four weeks ago. We’ve yet to hear anything new from Williams since then, though there’s still a while to go before the Aug. 10 filing deadline.

MONTANA GOVERNOR. Ryan Busse, a former executive at the firearms manufacturing company Kimber America who is now a prominent gun safety advocate, tells the Montana Free Press that he’s considering seeking the Democratic nod to take on Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. No other notable Democrats have publicly expressed interest in running to lead this conservative state.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) spoke to Hugh Hewitt about his presidential campaign:

HEWITT: Penultimate question, Mayor. Will you be talking about the Uyghurs in your campaign?

SUAREZ: The what?

HEWITT: The Uyghurs.

SUAREZ: What’s a Uyghur?

HEWITT: Okay, we’ll come back to that. Let me, you won’t be, you’ve got to get smart on that.


NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. “Jeffrey Ross Gunter’s year-and-a-half tenure as U.S. ambassador to Iceland under Donald Trump was, by many accounts, a chaotic mess,” the Daily Beast reports.

‘The wealthy dermatologist and GOP donor—who’d never been to Iceland before being confirmed to the post—churned through staff, lashed out at employees, demanded a gun and armed security guards in the world’s safest country, and tried to do the job remotely in California during the pandemic, according to a bombshell CBS News report.”

“A subsequent report on Gunter by the State Department’s Inspector General found that he threatened to sue embassy employees he perceived as enemies, and alleged that Washington was so disturbed over the situation that it instructed U.S. diplomats in Europe to work directly with Icelandic officials, bypassing Gunter.”

“Now, Gunter wants to add an even bigger job to his résumé: U.S. senator.”

MARYLAND 5TH DISTRICT. Longtime Rep. Steny Hoyer has kept everyone guessing about his reelection plans ever since he stepped down as the number-two Democrat in the House following the 2022 elections, but the 84-year-old incumbent indicated Thursday that he wants to stick around a bit longer. “Don’t write any obituaries,” he told fellow Democrats who gathered for an event honoring him. Hoyer went on to joke, “I was listening to this program going on and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame Steny died?'”

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

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