The Political Report – July 14, 2023

A new Echelon Insights poll finds President Biden beating both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in head-to-head match ups by 2 and 4 percentage points, respectively.

But if Joe Manchin were to run as a third party candidate — even though he would get no more than 9% support — he takes away enough votes from Biden to tip the race in favor of Trump.

Interestingly, Biden still beats DeSantis by 4 points even with Manchin running.

President Biden’s public approval rating held steady at 40% in early July, close to the lowest levels of his presidency, as economic worries continued to trouble Americans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

A new Economist/YouGov poll finds a generic Democratic candidate for president would be deadlocked with a generic Republican candidate, 41% to 41%.  An additional 14% were not sure and 4% said they would not vote.

New York appellate division court ruled for the Democrats in the state’s closely-watched redistricting lawsuit and ordered the Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw the state’s congressional maps.

However, it’s expected that Republicans will appeal the decision.

“Gov. Brian Kemp tamped down the prospect of launching a late bid for the White House, saying Wednesday that joining an already crowded field of Republican hopefuls would undercut GOP efforts to defeat President Joe Biden,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s team is bucking Democratic Party tradition by selling campaign merchandise not made in America or by union labor,” Axios reports.

“The move is out of step with Kennedy’s stated commitment to labor unions and — along with his anti-vaccination views — could complicate his long-shot primary challenge of President Biden.”

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has a history of repeatedly sharing unfounded conspiracies that man-made chemicals in the environment could be making children gay or transgender and causing the feminization of boys and masculinization of girls,” CNN reports.

“A small but growing number of wealthy campaign donors are supporting both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the leading Democratic challenger to President Biden,” Axios reports.

Rupert Murdoch has privately expressed his hope that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will enter the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, the New York Times reports.


WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. Second quarter campaign finance reports were due Friday, and MetroNews has rounded up the numbers for all the major Republican candidates running to succeed GOP Gov. Jim Justice:

  • Attorney General Patrick Morrisey: $1.3 million raised, additional $60,000 self-funded, $1.1 million cash on hand
  • Businessman Chris Miller: $320,000 raised, $3.5 million cash on hand
  • Del. Moore Capito: $290,000 raised, $950,000 cash on hand
  • Auditor J.B. McCuskey: $120,000 raised, $410,000 cash on hand
  • Secretary of State Mac Warner: $100,000 raised, $190,000 cash on hand

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Two groups — Club for Growth Action and Protect Freedom PAC — have raised more than $13 million for Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) as he looks to take on Gov. Jim Justice (R) in the West Virginia GOP Senate primary, The Hill reports.

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. State Sen. Karla May said over the weekend that she would seek the Democratic nod to take on GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, who appears secure in what’s become a dark red state. May, who would be the first Black woman to represent Missouri in the upper chamber, joins a primary that includes St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, who unsuccessfully sought the nod for the Show Me State’s other seat last year.

MISSOURI GOVERNOR and ATTORNEY GENERAL. State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Sunday became the first notable Democrat to announce a bid to lead Missouri, a state that’s lurched hard to the right over the last decade-and-a-half. Quade, who would be the first woman to serve as governor of the Show Me State, used her announcement video to highlight her family’s financial struggles growing up and to declare she’s “leading the fight to restore our abortion rights.”

Quade’s opening message mentioned just one Republican candidate, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, and a new poll finds he’s still the frontrunner with over a year to go before his party’s primary. The GOP firm Remington Research’s survey for the political tip-sheet Missouri Scout finds Ashcroft beating Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe 34-14, with state Sen. Bill Eigel at 4% and 48% undecided. Remington’s April numbers gave Ashcroft a similar 29-13 advantage over Kehoe.

The firm also takes a look at what’s shaping up to be an expensive GOP primary for attorney general and has appointed incumbent Andrew Bailey leading former federal prosecutor Will Scharf 25-14, though with a hefty 61% undecided.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s newest ad stars a Republican businessman touting the governor’s ability to attract high-quality jobs, telling the audience, “I’m a Republican. I did not support Andy Beshear the first time. He’s got my vote this time around.”

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s backers at Bluegrass Freedom Action are airing an ad that claims Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear orchestrated a partisan takeover of public schools by replacing members of Kentucky’s Board of Education. Beshear, however, was responding to a controversial move by his Republican predecessor, Matt Bevin, who had eliminated and then reconstituted several education-related panels, filling them with supporters of charter schools. Critics, including Beshear (who was state attorney general at the time), attacked Bevin for undermining the independence of the state’s education boards.

The GOP spot also hits the governor for ordering the early release of nearly 2,000 people from prison, noting that hundreds were later charged with crimes. However, the spot omits that Beshear commuted these sentences during the height of the pandemic in 2020 to reduce the spread of Covid in crowded prisons. Under Beshear’s order, people convicted of violent or sexual crimes did not qualify, and many of those who were eligible had less than six months left on their sentences to begin with.

Beshear and his allies have noted that many other governors issued similar commutations during the pandemic. They’ve also pointed out that the 20% rate of those who received a commutation being convicted of a subsequent crime after release was in fact lower than the overall rate in 2019, Bevin’s last year as governor.

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Former Attorney General Curtis Hill, a onetime Republican rising star who lost renomination in 2020 after multiple women accused him of sexual assault, announced Monday that he was entering the primary to succeed termed-out GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. Hill joins a nomination contest where Sen. Mike Braun is the frontrunner against Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and self-funder Eric Doden, who is the former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Hill made history in 2016 when he became the first African American Republican to be elected Indiana attorney general (Democrat Pamela Carter’s win back in 1992 made her the first Black woman to be elected attorney general in any state), and he was quickly mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office. Everything changed in July of 2018, though, when four women accused Hill of groping them at a party that had taken place a few months earlier.

Holcomb called for the attorney general to resign, but he refused to go anywhere and even announced his reelection campaign the following year. Hill avoided criminal charges, but he still faced disciplinary proceedings in front of the state Supreme Court. In May of 2020, the justices finally ruled that Hill had “committed the criminal act of battery,” and that they would suspend his law license for a month with an automatic reinstatement afterwards.

Indiana is one of a few states where nominees for attorneys general are chosen through a convention rather than a primary, and Hill returned to office just before ballots were sent out to delegates. Ultimately, though, former Rep. Todd Rokita dispatched the incumbent 52-48, and he went on to prevail in the fall. Hill sought a comeback in 2022 after Rep. Jackie Walorski died during her term in office, but he fell well short. The party precinct committeemen tasked with choosing the new nominee favored businessman Rudolph Yakym, who had an endorsement from the congresswoman’s husband, 57-24.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Former Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell over the weekend reiterated her interest in taking on Republican incumbent Rick Scott, though the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes she didn’t say when she’d be deciding.

State House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell over the weekend once again did not rule out seeking the Democratic nod to face GOP incumbent Rick Scott, and the Miami Herald writes that she’s “said to be considering” the idea. Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, meanwhile, said she’d likely make her own decision “sooner than later.”

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Montana U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy (R) has based his campaign in part on his support for the state’s agricultural sector, Insider reports. But a photo on his campaign website — a sunny, green pasture filled with grazing cattle — was actually taken by a photographer hundreds of miles away, in Kentucky. Another photo — originally used to illustrate his support for border security — was taken in Russia.

The latest unflattering story about Montana Republican Tim Sheehy, the Navy SEAL veteran and aerospace company CEO whom national Republicans recruited to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, is a report from Insider’s Bryan Metzger detailing Sheehy’s newly uncovered racist and misogynist posts he wrote on Facebook from 2006 to 2008.

One included a photo depicting Sheehy costumed in a robe and keffiyeh next to friends who appear to be playing Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il. Another featured a photo of a woman with an exposed nipple; Sheehy, apparently referencing his now-wife, wrote, “I tagged it as carmen and she untagged it…bullshit.”

More pictures uploaded by Sheehy during that period showed the candidate, who was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy at the time, and his friends partying, including a shot of another man appearing to drink from a bottle nestled between a woman’s breasts. Sheehy, who tagged another of his friends in that photo, included a comment saying that “I don’t think her boobs are that big….”

Sheehy’s campaign responded to Metzger by dismissing the posts as “photos of teenagers goofing around.” It also deployed some whataboutism by highlighting how Washington Post reporter Ben Terris recounted that, when he was visiting Tester’s farm for a profile, the senator “suddenly started relieving himself in an organic pea field next to his tractor without covering himself up.” Sheehy’s spokesperson argued, “Neither he nor his staff have yet to explain why a grown man at 66 years old would find that behavior appropriate,” adding, “So, spare us your hypocrisy and harassment of a war hero over some goofing around as a kid.”

Sheehy, though, is just the latest in a long string of Republican candidates in recent years who’ve drawn the wrong kind of attention for sexist social media posts, including some from well before they ran for office. Democrats last year were quick to act after CNN reported that John Gibbs, who was the GOP’s nominee for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, had loudly argued as a college student in the early 2000s that women don’t “posess [sic] the characteristics necessary to govern.” Gibbs had also linked to and praised an anti-feminist website arguing that women’s suffrage had turned America into a “totalitarian state.”

Gibbs’ team, like Sheehy’s campaign this week, also insisted that his rants were simply the product of “a college kid being over the top.” That excuse by no means stopped his Democratic foe, Hillary Scholten, from airing ads attacking him over his remarks, which helped her run up a dominant 55-42 margin and flip the seat.

Another 2022 Republican hopeful, Oregon’s Alek Skarlatos, also faced scrutiny last year over his history of creepy and misogynistic behavior toward women on social media. That included “liking” Instagram photos of underage girls as young as 15 who were wearing revealing clothing and “joking” about women violently dying during sex. As with Gibbs, House Democrats didn’t hesitate to run ads educating voters about Skarlatos’ nature, and he went on to lose the 4th District to Val Hoyle 51-43.

Sometimes, it’s gotten so egregious that national Republicans have outright abandoned their candidates thanks to their offensive online writings, including New Jersey’s Seth Grossman in 2018 and California’s Ted Howze in 2020. The GOP, though, has far more tolerance for candidates who still appear to be viable: While reporters continue to dig up past comments from North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson—including a 2017 Facebook post declaring, “I am so sick of seeing and hearing people STILL talk about Nazis and Hitler and how evil and manipulative they were”—prominent Republicans remain committed to their likely nominee for governor.

Sheehy himself has had to deal with plenty of unwelcome press since news first broke about his Senate dreams, though of a different nature. Last week, Bloomberg published a piece pointing out that his aerospace firm gets most of its funding from the federal government, which would create a potential conflict of interest if he were to make it to the Senate.

Stories from before Sheehy’s late June campaign kickoff also documented how the self-described “cowboy” actually owns two mansions; ardently opposes abortion rights in a state where an anti-abortion measure failed at the ballot box last year; is the defendant in a lawsuit over a plane crash that badly injured a 17-year-old on the ground; only moved to Montana in 2014—he’s originally from Minnesota. (It also didn’t help that Sheehy was just busted for using stock photos on his website supposedly depicting agricultural scenes in the state he’s seeking to represent that were in fact taken in Kentucky and Ukraine.)

Republican leaders, though, are sticking by Sheehy, whom they view as a prize recruit. Indeed, just a day after the Insider story broke, Politico reported that NRSC chair Steve Daines, who is Montana’s junior senator, will host a fundraiser for Sheehy later this month. The only likely alternative to Sheehy, by contrast, is Rep. Matt Rosendale, whose losing 2018 effort against Tester left observers unimpressed. The congressman, who reportedly has been telling people he plans to try again, responded to Sheehy’s launch last month by tweeting, “Now Washington has two candidates – Tim Sheehy and Jon Tester – who will protect the DC cartel.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig declared Tuesday that she’d seek the Democratic nomination for governor of New Hampshire even though Republican incumbent Chris Sununu hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll retire. Sununu, who spent months flirting with a presidential campaign before deciding not to go for it, himself said last month that “I don’t think I’m going to run again,” though he added that he’ll only decide sometime this summer.

But Craig, who leads the state’s largest city, argued to NBC that she wouldn’t let the governor’s deliberations impact her campaign, and she used a separate interview with WMUR to fault his response to the state’s opioid crisis. The mayor joins Cinde Warmington, who is the only Democrat among the five members on the state’s unique Executive Council, in the primary.

Craig won her post in 2017 by unseating Republican Mayor Ted Gatsas 53-47 two years after falling short by 85 votes, a victory that made her the city’s first Democratic leader in over a decade. The mayor of Manchester often gets talked about as a top candidate for higher office, particularly given the dearth of statewide elected positions in New Hampshire (only the governor and its two U.S. senators are elected by the entire state), though Craig didn’t show any obvious interest in seeking a promotion for most of her tenure.

That changed in March, though, when she announced she wouldn’t seek reelection to her current job this fall. The mayor went on to form an exploratory committee in early May to raise money for a campaign for governor, a strong signal that she would, in fact, launch a bid.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Democrat Brandon Presley has unveiled his opening TV ad, which is backed with a $161,000 buy. The minute-long spot highlights his humble upbringing and small town roots, touting how he cut taxes after becoming mayor of that same town. Presley notes how as public service commissioner, his current position, he stopped utility companies “from jacking up rates” and brought high speed internet to “some of the most forgotten parts” of Mississippi. Presley vows he’ll expand Medicaid if elected and take on corrupt politicians, a subtle dig at the administration of GOP Gov. Tate Reeves, who goes unnamed.

Newly available campaign fundraising figures show that Reeves, however, outraised Presley by $1 million to $500,000 last month. The governor also started July with a hefty advantage of $9.6 million in cash on hand to Presley’s $1.85 million.

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

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