The Political Report – July 12, 2023

Associated Press: “Americans are segregating by their politics at a rapid clip, helping fuel the greatest divide between the states in modern history.”

“One party controls the entire legislature in all but two states. In 28 states, the party in control has a supermajority in at least one legislative chamber — which means the majority party has so many lawmakers that they can override a governor’s veto. Not that that would be necessary in most cases, as only 10 states have governors of different parties than the one that controls the legislature.”

“The split has sent states careening to the political left or right, adopting diametrically opposed laws on some of the hottest issues of the day.”

Boston Globe: “Four decades ago, Reagan went on to win a second term by running on a theme of economic renewal that his campaign famously branded as ’Morning in America.’”

“Now, noting the similarities to President Biden’s situation, some political experts said Reagan’s legendary turnaround offers a potential template for victory for the Democrat in 2024.”

Associated Press: “As Biden heads into the 2024 election, he is running not only against the Republicans who control one-half of Congress but also against the conservative bloc that dominates the nation’s highest court. It’s a subtle but significant shift in approach toward the Supreme Court, treating it more like a political entity even as Biden stops short of calling for an overhaul.”

“Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley have reached a critical fundraising threshold to qualify for GOP presidential primary debates well into the fall,” Axios reports.

“For candidates who are not former President Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the debates are a crucial marker and opportunity to propel themselves further along in the race and expand their fundraising.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) said that he would not conduct business with Donald Trump, his fellow GOP primary opponent for the 2024 presidential election, The Hill reports.Said Bergum: “I just think that it’s important that you’re judged by the company you keep.”

“It now pays to be a supporter of Vivek Ramaswamy’s presidential bid — at least for those who can convince their friends to click a link and donate,” Politico reports.

“The 37-year-old Republican is launching the ‘Vivek Kitchen Cabinet,’ a scheme that promises to pay participants 10 percent of any money they raise for his campaign. It’s the latest attention-grabbing initiative by the longshot candidate, highlighting the frantic race underway by 2024 GOP presidential contenders to build up their grassroots donor base to qualify for upcoming debates.”

FiveThirtyEight: How Ramaswamy becamse a major presidential candidate.

New York Times: “Ramaswamy himself owns valuable investments in many companies that have embraced environmental, social and governance principles, known as E.S.G. — the kinds of ‘woke’ corporate practices he decries — according to a financial disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission that was released on Friday.

Daily Beast: “Some of the party’s requirements clearly function to establish viability. For instance, candidates must register support of at least 1 percent in select national and early primary state polls, and they must count at least 40,000 unique campaign donors in at least 20 U.S. states and territories.”

“But other rules are less about interest among the voting public and more about partisan discipline: Candidates will be barred from the stage unless they sign two pledges, one to support whomever the GOP eventually nominates for president, and the other to refuse to participate in any general election debate organized by the Commission for Presidential Debates…”

“These demands—as well as the party’s indication that it may select smaller, more right-wing outlets like Newsmax to host, rather than major networks like NBC—may seem like they create a level playing field for candidates. After all, they’ll all face the same moderators, whichever outlets host. And they’ll all have to meet the same numeric baselines and sign the same pledges.”

“But in practice, across the board, these conditions will be uniquely favorable for one contender: Trump.”

David Remnick interviewed Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

“Kennedy’s habits of mind are MAGA-adjacent, but his manner differs from that of his Republican doppelgänger. Donald Trump is a bully—rude, swaggering, out to flatten his questioner under an avalanche of lies and volume. Kennedy is not rude. Rather, he is serenely convinced of his virtue and his interlocutor’s pitiful susceptibility to conventional wisdom.”

“The experience of interviewing him and listening to his previous interviews, I found, was like settling in for a long train ride with a seemingly amiable stranger in the next seat. You ask a straightforward question and, an hour later, as you race by Thirtieth Street Station, in Philadelphia, he is still going on about the fraud of COVID vaccines and how he was unfairly ‘deplatformed’ for spouting conspiracy theories.”

“By the time you’ve pulled into Wilmington, he might be talking about how drugs known as poppers helped cause the AIDS epidemic, or how ‘toxic chemicals’ might contribute to ‘sexual dysphoria’ in children. As you head south, he is talking about being ‘censored’ by Instagram, the F.B.I., and the Biden White House. New technologies like 5G towers and digital currencies are totalitarian instruments that could ‘control our behavior.’ Wi-Fi causes ‘leaky brain.’ After a while, you begin to wonder why you bought a ticket. But it’s too late. You’re pinned into the window seat.”

Geoffrey Skelley: “It’s too early to evaluate whether No Labels’s candidate could be a spoiler for the Democratic nominee, but the group’s belief that it could mount a victorious campaign rests on several misconceptions about contemporary politics. First and foremost, the share of the electorate made up by independent moderates isn’t large enough to win a presidential election. Secondly, despite distaste for Biden and Trump, each remains well-liked by his party, reducing the potential draw of a No Labels candidate. Meanwhile, the group’s aim of markedly increasing turnout over 2020’s record-high mark will require the difficult task of getting even more low-propensity voters to turn out.”

“Lastly, finding a candidate who could maximize No Labels’s appeal won’t be easy because there’s nobody named ‘moderate independent’ who embodies the varied preferences held by voters disenchanted by the idea of another Biden-Trump matchup.”

Politico: Dems’ mission to stop a third-party presidential bid hits the Hill.

Yair Rosenberg: “On paper, DeSantis’s campaign is in dire straits: He’s trailing the front-runner, Trump, by a two-to-one margin in national polls. But there is no national primary, only individual state contests—and the first of these will take place in Iowa in early 2024. The outcome of that showdown has the potential to shape the entire primary to follow, and by pivoting hard to the right on social issues including abortion and gender, DeSantis has been methodically positioning himself to win it…”

“Of course, there’s a cost to running a campaign designed to appeal to your party’s most fervent partisans. By staking out unpopular positions to win the primary, a candidate puts himself at a disadvantage in the general election, where independent voters tend to punish perceived extremism.”

NEVADA, TEXAS, MICHIGAN U.S. SENATORS. Monday saw three prominent Senate candidates launch their bids in a trio of closely-watched contests. Army veteran Sam Brown gave the NRSC some welcome news when the Republican declared he’d challenge Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in Nevada, while actor Hill Harper, who is best known for his role on “The Good Doctor,” announced that he’d seek the Democratic nomination for Michigan’s open seat. Finally, Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez joined the Democratic primary to go up against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that Gutierrez’s party is hoping to put in play.

We’ll start in Nevada where Brown’s declaration was greeted with an enthusiastic statement from NRSC chair Steve Daines, who said he was “very pleased that Sam is stepping up to run for the U.S. Senate.” Brown made his declaration about two months after Jim Marchant, the Big Lie spreader who narrowly lost last year’s race for Nevada secretary of state, kicked off his own bid. Dermatologist Jeffrey Ross Gunter, who had a turbulent tenure as Trump’s ambassador to Iceland from 2019 to 2021, is also reportedly interested in running.

While the NRSC has reportedly spent months trying to recruit Brown for this campaign, he very much wasn’t the choice of powerful Republicans when he ran last cycle for the Silver State’s other Senate seat. Donald Trump and the hardline anti-tax Club for Growth backed former Attorney General Adam Laxalt as their choice to take on Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and the Army veteran initially didn’t appear to pose much of a threat to the frontrunner.

But Brown, whose face was badly burned by an explosion in Afghanistan, raised a credible amount of money (his great uncle is Cincinnati Bengals’ owner Mike Brown), and he soon drew more attention. He also tried to out-Big Lie Laxalt by accusing him of waiting too long to file litigation trying to overturn Joe Biden’s win in 2020.

Still, all this was far from enough to keep Laxalt from decisively prevailing in the nomination fight. Both the former attorney general and the Club highlighted how Brown had unsuccessfully competed in a 2014 primary for a state House seat in Texas: The Club even ran a TV ad playing audio of Brown saying, “It will literally take an act of God to get me out of Texas … I want Texas to continue to be the greatest place in this country … I’m not going anywhere.” Laxalt won 56-34, but he went on to narrowly lose to Cortez Masto.

Rosen, for her part, has been preparing for a tough race. She announced Monday she’d hauled in $2.7 million for the second quarter of 2023 and finished it with $7.5 million in the bank.

Over in Michigan it’s Harper, a first-time candidate who would be the Wolverine State’s first Black senator, who is competing against a primary foe backed by much of the party establishment. Rep. Elisa Slotkin has spent months as the frontrunner to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow; the field also includes Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, and former state Rep. Leslie Love, who would each be the first Black woman to represent the state in the upper chamber. Republicans have yet to draw a prominent candidate for this longtime swing state, though Time’s Mini Racker recently reported that John Tuttle, an executive with the New York Stock Exchange, “is likely” to announce this month.

Harper, in an interview with Racker, sought to portray himself as an alternative to “career politicians,” arguing, “Michiganders don’t want their next U.S. Senator chosen by the Washington, D.C. establishment.” The new candidate also told the Detroit News, “There’s a high degree of frustration by a lot of Democrats―not just African American Democrats in Michigan―that for the first time in 57 years Michigan does not have a Black Democratic representative in Congress. And that is going backwards.” Harper also sought to contrast himself ideologically with Slotkin, who won three terms in a swing district by campaigning as a moderate, telling the New York Times he would seek to be “the most progressive candidate.”

Harper, an Iowa native who bought his home in Detroit in 2017 and purchased a coffee shop there that same year, also tried to frame his decision to move to the state as a positive, declaring, “We need to have more people choose Michigan, like I chose Michigan.” But that may not deter attempts to portray him as an outsider, with Love alleging to the Toledo Blade in April that her now-rival “has never lived in Michigan and has no experience at all in politics or government.” Racker, though, writes that the actor has been an active voice in Detroit progressive circles, and he also drew attention early in the pandemic by delivering water in Flint.

Harper drew plenty of attention when he launched his campaign Monday, but it remains to be seen if he’ll have access to enough money to overcome Slotkin’s considerable head start in fundraising. The congresswoman on Monday also revealed she’d raised $2.8 million during the second quarter of the year and finished June with $3.6 million; the other Democrats have not disclosed their numbers ahead of Saturday’s deadline. It’s also not clear if Harper will even be stepping aside from his role on “The Good Doctor,” which films in British Columbia, as he instead told Racker he couldn’t answer given the ongoing TV writers’ strike and other potential labor actions.

Gutierrez, finally, launched his campaign about two months after Rep. Colin Allred entered the race to become Texas’ first Democratic U.S. senator since 1993. Allred recently disclosed he’d brought in $6.2 million for his opening quarter, though he hasn’t said yet how much money he has available; Cruz himself has also yet to reveal his most recent fundraising numbers.

Gutierrez, who would be the first Latino Democrat to represent the Lone Star State in the upper chamber, was elected to the state House in 2008 and won a promotion in 2020 by unseating GOP state Sen. Pete Flores 50-47. The Democrat, who represents a San Antonio-based seat that includes Uvalde, became a prominent gun safety advocate after last year’s Robb Elementary massacre, saying in May, “There is a special place in hell for people who have this kind of problem staring them square in the face and have done nothing about it.”

Gutierrez echoed those themes in his kickoff, saying, “I’m a proud gun owner and believer in the Second Amendment, but after 19 children and two teachers died, the Republicans wouldn’t even allow us an opportunity to talk about ways to protect our kids.” He also used his video to knock Cruz’ infamous vacation to Cancun during the 2021 Texas freeze, something Allred highlighted as well in his May launch.

The state senator argued that his time in the legislature makes him a better option than Allred, a former NFL player and civil rights attorney who won office for the first time in 2018. “The fact is, I’ve done a heck of a lot more than he has in public service,” Gutierrez told WFAA, predicting, “I’ll outwork Colin Allred and I’ll work harder than Ted Cruz. I’m sure Colin’s a nice guy, but I’m gonna outwork him because that’s the way I was raised.”

INDIANA U.S. SENATORS. Wealthy egg farmer John Rust has announced that he’ll take on Rep. Jim Banks in the GOP primary for this open seat, but it looks like he’ll first need to convince his local party leader to even let him onto the ballot before he can fully focus on beating the frontrunner.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle Leslie Bonilla Muñiz explains that the state only allows candidates to seek the nomination of the party they actually belong to, and while Indiana doesn’t have party registration, there are two ways to meet these criteria. The easiest option is for a candidate to have cast their two most recent primary votes with the party they say they’re affiliated with, but Rust doesn’t meet this requirement: As reporter Adam Wren first highlighted, the last two primaries he participated in were the GOP’s 2016 contest and the 2012 Democratic race.

Rust’s only other option is to convince his local party chair to certify that he’s a Republican, a task that falls to Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery. Lowery was noncommittal when contacted by Muñiz, saying, “Any kind of decision I’m going to make, I’m going to have a conversation with Mr. Rust first.” Banks, who up until now has faced no serious intra-party opposition, isn’t waiting to find out if Rust will even be on the ballot, though, as he’s already blasting him as “a liberal Democrat trying to run in the GOP Primary.”

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Jamie Raskin announced Friday night that he’d stay in the House rather than enter the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin. Raskin, who is one of the most prominent progressives in the lower chamber, was the last well-known potential candidate who was talking about entering the race, though there’s still time for others to join. The nomination contest is currently a battle between Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Rep. ​​David Trone, and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The RGA’s Kentucky Values affiliate is continuing to air ads portraying Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear as an ally of the “radical left,” but Beshear’s side still is running considerably more spots than the opposition. According to the GOP firm Medium Buying, the governor and the DGA have outspent the RGA and conservative Bluegrass Freedom Action $4.6 million to $2.4 million on TV and radio, which comes out to a 2-1 advantage in gross rating points. Republican Daniel Cameron’s own campaign has still not returned to the airwaves since the mid-May primary.


WASHINGTON GOVERNOR. Former Rep. Dave Reichert announced Friday that he was coming out of retirement to run for governor of Washington, a decision that gives Republicans the most prominent candidate they could have landed this cycle for an office they last won in 1980. Reichert, who has famously flirted with running statewide for over a decade but had never done so until now, kicked off his first race since his 2016 reelection by telling KING 5 that he still opposes abortion rights while insisting he wouldn’t try to change the state’s pro-choice policies.

It remains to be seen, though, if Reichert will be the only former GOP congressman competing in the top-two primary to succeed Democrat Jay Inslee, who is retiring after three terms. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who served alongside Reichert for eight years, reportedly has been considering her own campaign for months, though we haven’t heard anything about her deliberations since May.

Reichert did lose one intra-party rival Friday, however, when physician Raul Garcia said he’d switch over to the race to face Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell. Richland school board member Semi Bird is the only other notable Republican still competing in the governor’s race, but he’s yet to attract much attention. The Democratic field includes Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and state Sen. Mark Mullet, while Attorney General Bob Ferguson has an exploratory committee for his own all-but-assured campaign.

Reichert has a long history in Evergreen State politics, including several close wins in a swing seat, though he was last seriously tested at the ballot box in 2010. The Republican, who spent years as a member of the task force working to apprehend the notorious Green River Killer, was appointed sheriff of heavily Democratic King County in 1997, a post that he easily held in that year’s elections and won again without opposition in 2001. He attracted national attention weeks after that uncontested victory when he announced the arrest of Gary Ridgway in connection with the killings; Ridgway would go on to plead guilty to murdering 49 women, though some investigators think he could have been responsible for dozens more.

In 2004, Reichert ran for the open 8th District in the Seattle suburbs, a constituency that had long sent Republicans to the House even as it often supported Democrats further up the ballot, and both parties made the contest a priority. Democrats argued that the sheriff’s opposition to abortion rights and gun safety laws made him too conservative for the district, but Reichert’s fame helped propel him to a 52-47 victory against radio host Dave Ross even as John Kerry was beating George W. Bush here 51-48.

The new congressman faced another tough contest two years later as Bush’s unpopularity dragged down Republicans nationwide, and former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner did all she could to tie Reichert to the administration and Iraq War. Local journalist Michael Hood also questioned Reichert’s efforts to bring the Green River Killer to justice, charging that the incumbent didn’t deserve credit for arresting Ridgway because, among other things, he had waited years to test crucial DNA evidence. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its own story in which two of Reichert’s old supervisors criticized him, with one saying he “actually was more of an impediment to the investigation.”

Reichert, though, continued to highlight his law enforcement history while arguing that Burner, a first-time candidate, had little experience in public life. The congressman also sought to campaign as a moderate even as he accepted fundraising help from Bush, and held on in a close 51-49 race. The two used similar arguments against one another in their 2008 rematch, but Burner and her allies hoped that Barack Obama’s strength at the top of the ticket would be the difference-maker. However, that’s not what happened: While Obama took the 8th in a 57-42 landslide, Reichert actually expanded his margin of victory to 53-47.

Democrats weren’t so optimistic about beating the congressman during the 2010 red wave, though another Microsoft alum, Suzan DelBene, impressed observers by holding him to a 52-48 margin. That would prove to be the last competitive race of Reichert’s congressional career, though. The state’s Redistricting Commission reconfigured the 8th District, replacing several liberal-leaning communities with more conservative rural areas, shrinking Obama’s 2008 margin to just 51-47. Serious Democrats were consequently reluctant to challenge the battle-tested Reichert, who secured his fifth term 60-40 as DelBene was winning the race to replace Inslee in the 1st.

Reichert enjoyed similarly easy campaigns the next two cycles, but Democrats renewed their interest in challenging him in 2017 as Donald Trump threatened to wreck the party’s prospects in longtime GOP suburban strongholds such as this one. Pediatrician Kim Schrier was one of several candidates to launch a bid against him, but Reichert, who’d volunteered that he’d cast a write-in vote for Mike Pence, ended up delighting Democrats when he decided to retire. Schrier ultimately flipped the seat, defeating Republican Dino Rossi 52-48, and still holds it today.

Reichert, who went on to become a lobbyist, has largely stayed out of the news since leaving office, but Democrats are hoping to achieve what they couldn’t during the Bush years and tie him to his party’s leader. “As a congressman Dave Reichert voted in line with Trump 92.5 percent of the time,” Franz tweeted on Friday. “More so, Dave Reichert has repeatedly taken extremist anti-choice positions throughout his long career in politics, including voting to criminalize abortion.”

If Reichert were to prevail next year, he’d find himself in rare company: Only two governors currently represent states won by the opposite party’s presidential nominee by margins wider than Washington’s in 2020, Republican Phil Scott of Vermont and Democrat Andy Beshear of Kentucky. Biden’s 19.2-point victory in the Evergreen State in fact slightly edged out Trump’s 18.6-point win in Louisiana, where Democrat John Bel Edwards serves as governor.

ALASKA AT LARGE DISTRICT. The conservative site Must Read Alaska says that businessman Nick Begich III, a Republican who last year took third place in both last year’s instant-runoff special election and subsequent campaign for a full term, is considering waging another bid against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. So far no serious Republicans have joined the race to take back the reddest seat in the chamber with a Democratic representative.

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

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