The Political Report – July 27, 2023

A new Fox Business poll of South Carolina Republicans finds that the most important factor in a presidential nominee is the ability to beat President Biden in a general election.

One would think this would be a problem for Donald Trump, who not only lost to Biden in 2020, but is likely to be distracted by multiple criminal trials and a defamation suit during the actual campaign.

Trump is a very flawed candidate by any reasonable standard.

But that’s not how Republican voters see him — 51% believe he is the candidate most likely to beat Biden. No one else comes close. 

That same Fox News poll in South Carolina shows Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 48%, followed by Nikki Haley at 14%, Ron DeSantis at 13%, Tim Scott at 10% and Mike Pence at 4%.

A new Fox News poll in Iowa finds Donald Trump way ahead among likely GOP caucus-goers with 46% support, followed by Ron DeSantis at 16% and Tim Scott at 11%.

From there, it’s Vivek Ramaswamy at 6%, Nikki Haley at 5%, Mike Pence at 4%, and Chris Christie and Doug Burgum at 3% each.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. The Republican State Leadership Committee has released a poll conducted this month by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies that shows Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear ahead just 49-45 against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, which appeared to be in response to the release of a late-June survey by the same pollster days earlier that showed Beshear up by a wider 52-42.

The Courier Journal’s Joe Sonka on Tuesday had first reported the results of the June poll, which was taken for the education group Prichard Committee. Sonka described the sponsor as a “nonpartisan nonprofit,” and most of the survey’s questions concerned education and childcare issues, but the group said they didn’t intend to release the results publicly.

One factor that may have contributed to the different results is that the June survey was of registered voters, whereas the July poll commissioned by Republicans looked at likely voters.

A new Morning Consult poll finds Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear — a Democrat running for re-election this year in a deep-red state — with a 64% to 32% approval rating. “His approval rating among GOP voters is stronger than any other Democratic governor, resisting drag from President Joe Biden’s poor standing in the Bluegrass State and setting up a formidable challenge for Republicans hoping to unseat him.”

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking to rebut Republican attacks with a new TV ad in which he says, “I’ve never supported gender reassignment surgery for kids, and those procedures don’t happen here in Kentucky.” Earlier this year, the state’s Republican-run legislature overrode a Beshear veto of a sweeping anti-trans bill that, among many other things, bans such surgeries. However, Beshear has steadfastly opposed these surgeries, and according to a recent fact-check of GOP ads by the Louisville Courier Journal’s Joe Sonka, LGBTQ organizations in the state do so as well. Sonka also reported that “there is no record” of gender reassignment surgeries for children “ever happening in Kentucky.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR. Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte launched her expected bid for New Hampshire’s open governorship on Monday, warning that the state is “one election away from becoming Massachusetts.” (The Bay State outranks its neighbor to the north in median incomeeducational attainmenthealth care, and, as Massholes will gleefully point out, professional sports championships.) She joins a Republican primary that already includes former state Senate President Chuck Morse and is likely to grow further.

Ayotte’s political career began in earnest in 2004 when Republican Gov. Craig Benson appointed her state attorney general, a post she retained for years even after Democrat John Lynch defeated Benson that fall. She then ran to succeed Sen. Judd Gregg in 2010, defeating tea partier Ovide Lamontagne by a narrow 38-37 margin in the GOP primary but then crushing Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes 60-37 in the general election.

However, six years later, Ayotte lost an exceptionally close battle against Lynch’s successor as governor, Maggie Hassan, who prevailed by just 1,017 votes, or 0.14%. (That slender victory is the third-smallest among sitting U.S. senators, behind just Democrat Maria Cantwell’s 2000 win in Washington and Republican Rick Scott’s 2018 win in Florida, though Hassan won reelection last year in a 53-44 blowout.) Since then, Ayotte had been repeatedly mentioned as a possible candidate for both Senate and governor, though she waited until this cycle to go for it.

Two prominent Democrats are also in the race, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington. Most others, though, have taken themselves out of the running.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) “hasn’t decided whether or not she’ll run for reelection next year, but money could become a problem for her campaign if she decides to wage what would likely be a three-way race between Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and a Republican candidate,” The Messenger reports.

“To be sure, Sinema has a cash-on-hand advantage over Gallego. She reported having over $10.7 million cash on hand, the second highest of any incumbent Senator.”

“But an analysis of campaign finance data by The Messenger shows that Sinema has suffered a steep drop in unitemized contributors, better known as donations under $200.” Further, she doesn’t really have $10.7 million. $3 million of that is “double-max” money. That includes donors who made $3,300 contributions to both the primary campaign and to the general election.

The problem for Sinema is that if she runs as an independent, there is only one election, not two.  She could “reallocate” the money designated for the primary election to the single general election, but she will have to give back the approximately $3 million in funds now allocated to the general, because they would put the donor over the $3,300 limit for a single election.

Making Sinema’s problem more acute is that she can’t go back to the primary election donors for more money because, as an independent, she would face only one election.

In short, Sinema’s usable war chest is actually under $7 million and her options for additional fundraising from prior donors are seriously constrained.

OHIO BALLOT REFERENDUMS. An amendment that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the Ohio constitution will go before voters in November after Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that organizers had collected a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. A separate measure that would legalize recreational marijuana, however, fell just short, though advocates will now have the opportunity to make up the gap.

Abortion rights supporters had gathered more than 710,000 voter signatures, of which 496,000 turned out to be valid—well above the 413,000 required to put a constitutional amendment before voters. A recent independent poll showed the amendment with wide support, with 58% in favor, including a third of Republicans, and just 32% opposed. Republicans are trying to thwart the effort by asking voters to support a different amendment known as Issue 1 on Aug. 8 that would require future amendments to garner 60% support instead of the current simple majority, but the same poll showed that measure failing by a 59-26 margin.

Proponents of the marijuana initiative had a lower threshold to hit, since their proposal would not amend the constitution but instead is statutory in nature. Of the 222,000 signatures they submitted, 123,367 passed muster—just 679 fewer than they needed. Under Ohio law, organizers now have 10 extra days to find the additional signatures they need. “[T]his is going to be easy,” said a spokesperson in a statement, “because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult use marijuana.” Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe “the use of cannabis should be legal.” If supporters are successful in making up their shortfall, the measure would also appear on the November ballot, though it would be unaffected by Issue 1 either way.

A newly released poll from Suffolk University, conducted for USA Today, shows wide support for a ballot measure that would amend the Ohio constitution to broadly guarantee reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion, with 58% of respondents saying they’d favor such an amendment while just 32% are opposed. Like other abortion-related measures, the amendment garners considerable backing from Republicans, 32% of whom support it.

The amendment that would make it harder to amend the Constitution, is faring poorly: A portion of the same Suffolk poll released late last week showed it failing by a 59-26 margin. Backers have not yet released any contrary data.

Mitt Romney: “Despite Donald Trump’s apparent inevitability, a baker’s dozen Republicans are hoping to become the party’s 2024 nominee for president. That is possible for any of them if the field narrows to a two-person race before Mr. Trump has the nomination sewn up.”

“For that to happen, Republican megadonors and influencers—large and small—are going to have to do something they didn’t do in 2016: get candidates they support to agree to withdraw if and when their paths to the nomination are effectively closed. That decision day should be no later than, say, Feb. 26, the Monday following the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.”

Jonathan Last lists the reasons on why DeSantis is floundering:

  • He’s spending a large percentage of his total resources on goods that do not produce votes or impact polling.
  • He’s not on the air in Iowa where he must win in order to have any viability.
  • Donors won’t throw good money after bad when they see that he’s been spending their money not to beat Trump, but to live a lifestyle approximating their own.
  • On-the-make politicians who work hard to avoid regular people tend not to be good at winning elections.

He adds: “Anyway, the first red flag for donors on DeSantis should have been his physical and vocal presentation. The second should have been his desire to avoid people.”

“Nelson Peltz, a billionaire hedge fund manager from Palm Beach, reportedly is rethinking his support for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ bid for the Republican presidential nomination,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “plans to shake up his 2024 campaign leadership, amid pressure from donors and supporters to salvage his struggling presidential bid,” Bloomberg reports.

“DeSantis is elevating digital director Ethan Eilon to deputy campaign manager… Eilon is seen internally as adept at keeping a close eye on the operation’s spending.”

“The campaign is under intense pressure from a handful of donors and allies to replace manager Generra Peck after filings showed a bloated payroll, with not enough donations to sustain the head count or travel. Peck did not respond to a request for comment.”

Kellyanne Conway suggested on Fox News that Donald Trump may participate in the Republican debate after all: “I think President Trump will keep everybody in suspense. If I were you, I’d keep that center podium warm.”

“Nikki Haley said she would support former President Trump if he becomes the Republican nominee for president in 2024,” The Hill reports.  “But she also said she doesn’t believe the former president can win a general election.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president in 2024 on Monday, The Hill reports.

“Democrats are no longer trying to ignore Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and have taken to calling him out in public after a week of controversies,” The Hill reports.

“It’s a notable change from their previous approach, in which Democratic leaders and party officials hoped Kennedy would simply fade away on his own. It also serves a purpose for President Biden, who has so far been cautious about addressing his primary rival directly.”

“Makes my life even better, because then I won’t have to talk over him. He loves to interrupt everybody. I’m going to talk about Trump and his record whether he’s on the stage or not.”— Chris Christie, when asked by Fox News about Donald Trump possibly skipping the Republican debate.

Politico: “The former New Jersey governor is unleashing on Scott over the South Carolina senator’s refusal to blame Donald Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.”

“Campaigning in New Hampshire, Christie accused Scott of ‘pandering’ to Trump supporters who may look elsewhere if indictments continue to pile up against the former president.”

Meanwhile, Puck reports Christie will be a guest this week on the Democratic podcast, Pod Save America.

“A Republican group that opposes Donald Trump is unveiling an advertising campaign featuring voters who supported him in the past two presidential elections but have now turned against him, in an effort to put questions of electability at the center of the GOP primary race,” the New York Times reports.

“The group, the Republican Accountability Project, is spending $1.5 million on ads in Iowa to try to persuade likely Trump voters that the former president would struggle to win the 2024 general election. The organization’s goal is to help lift another contender to the Republican nomination — anyone but Mr. Trump.”

OHIO 13TH DISTRICT. Republican Chris Banweg, a councilman in the small suburban city of Hudson, has filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes in Ohio’s swingy 13th Congressional District. Banweg does not yet appear to have said anything publicly, however, and his campaign website only mentions his current post. Attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who lost to Sykes in an open-seat race last year, is running again but has raised just $81,000 so far for her second campaign despite hauling in more than $2 million last time.

Another 2022 candidate, attorney Greg Wheeler, is also trying once more. Despite being badly outspent in 2022, Wheeler lost the GOP primary to Gesiotto Gilbert by a relatively close 29-23 margin, with the balance going to five other candidates. Wheeler’s fundraising this year has remained anemic but he’s actually raised more than Gesiotto Gilbert, bringing in $122,000 to date.

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

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