The Political Report – August 6, 2023

A new New York Times/Siena poll finds President Biden and Donald Trump tied at 43% to 43% in a hypothetical rematch in 2024.

Nate Cohn: “Mr. Trump’s resilience is not necessarily an indication of his strength. In most respects, he appears to be a badly wounded general election candidate. Just 41 percent of registered voters say they have a favorable view of him, while a majority believe he committed serious federal crimes and say his conduct after the last election went so far that it threatened American democracy.”

“But Mr. Biden shows little strength of his own. His favorability rating is only two points higher than Mr. Trump’s. And despite an improving economy, his approval rating is only 39 percent.”

There are two things to remember about polls:

  • General election polls this far out from the election are not very predictive.
  • The 14% of voters who currently say they don’t want either man will likely decide this election.

The fundamental thing to remember is that even if Trump’s multiple criminal indictments cause his base to rally around him, he cannot win against a conventional rival like Biden unless he appeals to moderate Republicans and independents. And Trump has shown a complete inability to broaden his appeal — as the election results of 2018, 2020 and 2022 proved.

Add to the mix a fairly strong economy — along with crime and immigration fading as hot button issues — and Trump still looks like a very weak general election candidate.

The FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Donald Trump now leading Ron DeSantis nationally among GOP voters, 55% to 14%.

Harry Enten: “No one in Trump’s current polling position has lost an open presidential primary (i.e., one without an incumbent) in the modern era. He’s pulling in more than 50% of support in the national polls, which is more than all his competitors combined.”

Donald Trump “is dominating his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, leading his nearest challenger, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, by a landslide 37 percentage points nationally among the likely Republican primary electorate,” according to the first New York Times/Siena College poll of the 2024 campaign.

“Mr. Trump held decisive advantages across almost every demographic group and region and in every ideological wing of the party, the survey found, as Republican voters waved away concerns about his escalating legal jeopardy. He led by wide margins among men and women, younger and older voters, moderates and conservatives, those who went to college and those who didn’t, and in cities, suburbs and rural areas.”

Key finding: “Overall, Mr. Trump led Mr. DeSantis 54 percent to 17 percent. No other candidate topped 3 percent support in the poll.”

New York Times/Siena Poll: “Mr. Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is so strong that in a head-to-head contest with Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Trump still received 22 percent among voters who believe he has committed serious federal crimes — a greater share than the 17 percent that Mr. DeSantis earned from the entire G.O.P. electorate.”

BUT… About half of Republicans would not vote for Donald Trump if he were convicted of a felony, a sign of the severe risks his legal problems pose for his 2024 presidential bid, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

“Former President Donald Trump’s pull among likely Republican voters is less dominant in Iowa than it is nationwide, though he still leads his nearest rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, in the key early state by double digits,” according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll.

Nate Cohn: “Most of the Republican electorate either doesn’t strongly support Mr. Trump in the primary or doesn’t support him at all. Most don’t have a ‘very favorable’ view of the former president, either. In theory, it means there’s an opening for another candidate.”

“But with so much of the GOP electorate seemingly devoted to Mr. Trump, the path to defeating him is exceptionally narrow. It requires a candidate to consolidate the preponderance of the rest of the Republican electorate, and the rest of the Republican electorate is not easy to unify.”

TRUMP 2024. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is selling $47 t-shirts commemorating his latest indictment, The Independent reports.

“If you’re up by so much, you would not be worried about anybody else. So the fact that I’m taking the incoming from all of these people, not just him, but a lot of the other candidates, a lot of media — that shows people know that I’m a threat.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis, quoted by Politico, on being insulted by Donald Trump.

“Shortly after learning he was being indicted a third time, former President Donald Trump had a private dinner with the top leadership at Fox News as they lobbied him to attend the first Republican presidential primary debate this month,” the New York Times reports.

“The Fox executives made a soft appeal for Mr. Trump to attend the debate, telling the former president that he excels on the center stage and that it presents an opportunity for him to show off his debate skills.”

“A super PAC with close ties to billionaire Charles Koch raised $78 million in the first half of 2023, money the group is using to try and prevent former President Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee,” Bloomberg reports.

“Americans for Prosperity Action received the bulk of its funding from two $25 million donations.”

Charlie Sykes: “At this point it seems naïve to the point of delusion to imagine that anyone other than Trump will be the 2024 GOP nominee, or that any of the looming indictments will loosen his hold on the GOP base.”

“Former president Donald Trump and some of his legal advisers see an upside to the latest criminal case against him: He can use his upcoming trial to further argue his false claims of a stolen 2020 election,” the Washington Post reports.

“The looming courtroom showdown is poised to push his insistence that election fraud occurred in 2020 toward the center of the 2024 presidential campaign, a dismaying prospect for Republicans and some of Trump’s advisers who have urged him to stop belaboring that subject. Trump’s defense team has signaled that they’ll focus on rebutting prosecutors’ allegations that Trump knew his fraud claims were false.”

“The strategy offers a small consolation for the former president, who spent Thursday suffering once again from the small indignities that face indicted federal defendants.”

 The Guardian: “A whiff of criminality or scandal used to be career ending for politician. President Richard Nixon resigned over Watergate; Vice-President Spiro Agnew quit after being charged with bribery, tax evasion and conspiracy; Gary Hart’s presidential campaign collapsed due to allegations of an extramarital affair; Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress after a series of sexting scandals.”

But Trump has shattered the laws of the political physics. He has made the state and federal charges – now a combined 78 across three jurisdictions – against him a central plank of his campaign platform, casting himself as a martyr. At his rallies he portrays the cases as not just an attack on him but his supporters. He told a crowd last week in Erie, Pennsylvania: ‘They’re not indicting me, they’re indicting you.’”

“A few dissenting voices apart, Republicans have echoed and amplified these talking points with characteristic fervour.”

Donald Trump’s campaign is airing a new ad which accuses President Biden of being “weak,” getting “caught in a bribery scandal” and acting like a “third-world dictator.”

“Donald Trump’s legal troubles have created windfalls for his political fundraising in the past. And his team has not been shy about using various investigations, indictments and court appearances to turbocharge his donor base,” Politico reports.

“But new data filed with the Federal Election Commission by WinRed, the premiere GOP donation processor used by Trump and most other Republican candidates, shows that trend may be ebbing.”

“The former president’s fundraising did not spike as high after his second indictment in June compared to his first one in the spring.”

The leadership political action committee founded by Donald Trump paid $108,000 to Melania Trump’s stylist in the first six months of 2023 for “strategy consulting,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Donald Trump’s political action committee, which began last year with $105 million, now has less than $4 million left in its account after paying tens of millions of dollars in legal fees for Mr. Trump and his associates,” the New York Times reports.

Politico: Trump has spent millions more than he’s raised.

“Former President Donald Trump has won the support of the entire Republican Alabama U.S. House delegation as well as five statewide elected officials, extending his commanding lead over his primary rivals in endorsements,” Politico reports.

“At a moment of growing legal peril, Donald Trump ramped up his calls for his GOP rivals to drop out of the 2024 presidential race as he threatened to primary Republican members of Congress who fail to focus on investigating Democratic President Joe Biden and urged them to halt Ukrainian military aid until the White House cooperates with their investigations into Biden and his family,” the AP reports.

Said Trump: “Every dollar spent attacking me by Republicans is a dollar given straight to the Biden campaign.”

He added that it was time for Gov. Ron DeSantis and others he dismissed as “clowns” to clear the field, accusing them of “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that Republicans should be using to build a massive vote-gathering operation” to take on Biden in November.

NBC News “reached out to 44 of the dozens of people who served in Trump’s Cabinet over his term in office. Most declined to comment or ignored the requests. A total of four have said publicly they support his run for re-election.”

“Several have been coy about where they stand, stopping short of endorsing Trump with the GOP primary race underway. Then there are those who outright oppose his bid for the GOP nomination or are adamant that they don’t want him back in power.”

DESANTIS 2024. Bloomberg: “Some donors who have supported the Florida Republican’s campaigns for governor and who had planned to donate to his presidential run are holding off until they see his poll numbers and operation improve. Others who had donated to DeSantis are regretful and aren’t planning to contribute more to groups supporting him.”

“The pullback in support comes at a critical time for DeSantis, whose campaign has blown through its cash and needs to drum up enthusiasm among GOP voters who overwhelmingly support the thrice-indicted Donald Trump. Failing to reverse course in the coming months could spell the end of the DeSantis campaign.”

Politico: “After two days in which Trump roasted DeSantis and his lagging poll numbers from stages in Iowa and Pennsylvania, the Florida governor kicked off his campaign reboot in New Hampshire by trotting out well-worn rebuttals of the former president’s rhetoric.”

Said DeSantis: “When he hits me with the juvenile insults, I think that helps me. I don’t think voters like that. I actually don’t mind it at all. I think it’s just a reminder why there’s so many millions of voters who will never vote for him going forward.”

“Ron DeSantis promised a reset of his presidential campaign. Many of his campaign staffers are still waiting,” Bloomberg reports. “Several aides believe the Republican candidate’s bid lacks a coherent strategy and message, according to people familiar with the campaign. The operation is disorganized, with different teams pursuing their own agendas, and little communication between groups, said the people familiar, who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign’s inner workings.”

“If it hadn’t been for a fender bender on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tuesday morning, most folks wouldn’t know that Gov. Ron DeSantis was using state government vehicles for his 2024 run for president,” the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

“Tuesday’s four-vehicle collision on the way to a campaign fundraiser draws a curtain back on the campaign’s use of state resources. But finding out who’s paying for it is nearly impossible thanks to a new law passed by the Legislature to protect the governor’s travel records from public view.”

“The bitter fight between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Byron Donalds over a line about slavery in the state’s revised African American history standards is infuriating several prominent Black conservatives,” Politico reports.

“Several told Politico they fear the issue will play into Democrats’ characterization of Republicans as favoring a whitewashing of American history. Most saw it as an unforced error at the time when Black Republicans feel they’ve been making significant strides within the party.”

Tara Palmeri: “It’s been a long, harrowing fortnight for Ron DeSantis, the former putative political wunderkind who I’ve been reporting for months was more of a Republican donor’s fantasy of a candidate than an actual voter’s. But after watching DeSantis shed 38 staffers, and after assessing days of leaked memos and background quotes promising a great reset, those heavily invested in the DeSantasy are now wondering if it’s time to jump ship, and to whom.”

“But just based on his four-day schedule in New Hampshire this weekend, I don’t see a great pivot and neither do the party leaders and activists that I’ve spoken to recently. Without being offered a schedule, the rabid D.C. press corps has flown up just to observe this alleged reset of a semi-cash-starved candidate. From the invites I’ve cobbled together, DeSantis does not seem to be taking the advice of John McCain’s old hands, who advocated in 2007 for the former war hero to essentially set up camp in the state—a strategy which resulted in his nomination the following year.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told CBS News it’s up to voters to decide whether Donald Trump’s legal woes are disqualifying, as Trump faces the possibility of a third criminal indictment. 

“An independent group funding much of Ron DeSantis’s presidential effort has become a joint investor with his campaign in a private transportation management company that provides lower-cost airplane leases for the Florida governor,” the Washington Post reports.

“The unusual agreement — which allows both the DeSantis campaign and the Never Back Down super PAC to lease planes in a larger volume at lower market rates — is yet another way that DeSantis and his allies have found to use unlimited donations to help cover the cost of activities historically borne directly by official campaigns.”

PENCE 2024. Mike Pence told Semafor that his presidential campaign would not resort to fundraising tricks to make the debate state.

Said Pence: “Yeah, we’re not doing kickbacks. We’re not doing gift cards. We’re not even giving out soccer tickets. We’re just asking people for support, and it’s rolling in.”

He added: “I will tell you, we’ve averaged, over the last week, over 1,000 contributions a day from all across the country. I’m confident that we’ll meet the qualifications. With the pace we’re going I actually think we may meet the threshold to qualify for the second debate before we arrive at the first one.”

“Mike Pence sought to assure major campaign donors on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon that he will qualify for the Republican National Committee debate stage in three weeks, as he struggles to reach the donation threshold,” CBS News reports.

Said Pence: “We’re not there yet. Even $1 from friends or adult family members will help us reach that goal just a little bit quicker.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who hasn’t even qualified for the Republican primary debate this month, may become the most important candidate in the GOP presidential race not named Donald Trump.

Pence dramatically shifted his tone on Trump’s cascading legal troubles yesterday. When talking to reporters yesterday, and later on Fox News, Pence said he always “knew that it was false” to suggest he had the power to overturn the election.

He added: “I dismissed it out of hand. Sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear.” Pence did express regret that Trump was indicted, saying he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

But he also embraced his role in the drama in a way that could force the other candidates to directly confront Trump’s actions — such as whether would have done the same thing if they were in Pence’s shoes on January 6. It’s an interesting question — especially since some of them may simply be auditioning to be Trump’s replacement for Pence on the GOP ticket.

John Dickerson: “At the first Republican debate, Mike Pence‘s competitors should be asked if they believe what he did on January 6th was heroic. Then, having recorded everyone’s answer, ask if they would’ve done the same thing.”

Mike Pence is selling “Too Honest” merchandise from his campaign store after Donald Trump was quoted saying that about him in this week’s federal indictment.

Since each purchase is considered a campaign contribution, it might help him get the number of donors he needs to make the GOP debate stage.

New York Times: “As the former lieutenant to the Republican front-runner and a critical witness to that front-runner’s alleged crimes against democracy, Mr. Pence is campaigning now as many things: anti-abortion warrior, unbending conservative, believer in ‘heavy doses of civility.’”

“Yet he is running most viscerally, whether he intends to or not, as a cautionary tale — a picture of what can happen when anyone, even someone as loyal as he was, defies Mr. Trump.”

Wall Street Journal: “Neither wing of the GOP has backed a man who spent decades courting conservatives and would have been viewed as a top Republican contender in a pre-Trump world. Reporters often ask Pence more about Trump and related legal matters than his policy proposals.”

BIDEN 2024. Joe Biden is playing up the “Dark Brandon” meme on Instagram.

“President Joe Biden is beefing up his fundraising team, bringing on three top aides to help rake in the historic funds some Democrats think he and outside groups will need for his reelection bid in 2024,” Politico reports.

“President Joe Biden’s path to victory in Georgia, a key battleground in his reelection bid, is imperiled by lukewarm support from Black voters — the bloc that was crucial to his narrow triumph in the state in 2020m” Bloomberg reports.

“In the Atlanta metro area — home to the second-largest Black population in the US – Black residents said the pain of inflation and setbacks on policies such as student loan forgiveness have left them with misgivings about Biden’s candidacy.”

“The tepid sentiment is a vulnerability for the president in an election that will likely hinge on voter turnout in a handful of swing states. It highlights the risk that uninspired Black voters stay home or look to third-party alternatives.”

“Democrats are worried about a potential drop next year in turnout among Black voters, the party’s most loyal constituency, who played a consequential role in delivering the White House to President Biden in 2020 and will be crucial in his bid for reelection,” the Washington Post reports.

“Their concern stems from a 10 percentage-point decline in Black voter turnout in last year’s midterms compared with 2018, a bigger drop than among any other racial or ethnic group, according to a Washington Post analysis of the Census Bureau’s turnout survey. Such warning signals were initially papered over by other Democratic successes in 2022: The party picked up a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock won reelection in Georgia and anticipated losses in the House were minimal.”

“But in key states like Georgia, the center of Democrats’ plans to mobilize Black voters in large margins for Biden in 2024, turnout in last year’s midterms was much lower among younger and male Black voters, according to internal party analysis.”

“President Biden’s team recently split with the Democratic Party’s longtime lawyer, Marc Elias, because of disagreements with Elias’ legal strategies and strained personal relationships,” Axios reports.

“The divorce has created a divide in the party’s legal apparatus going into the 2024 election — with Elias representing Democrats’ committees for House, Senate and state legislative races, while Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee mostly get legal help elsewhere.”

“I’m not concerned about his age. And even if I was, who cares? There’s nothing you can do about his age. I’ve spent enough time around him. He’s sharp, he’s aware, he is absolutely up to the task. I’ll be doing whatever his campaign asks of me. I know Pennsylvania, I’ve won Pennsylvania. I’ll be helping with whatever he asks.” — Sen John Fetterman (D-PA), talking to the New York Times about President Biden’s age.

“Former president Barack Obama, at a private lunch with President Biden earlier this summer, voiced concern about Donald Trump’s political strengths — including an intensely loyal following, a Trump-friendly conservative media ecosystem and a polarized country — underlining his worry that Trump could be a more formidable candidate than many Democrats realize,” the Washington Post reports.

“At the lunch, held in late June in the White House residence, Obama promised to do all he could to help the president get reelected.”

“That commitment was a welcome gesture for the White House at a time when Biden is eager to lock down promises of help from top Democrats, among whom Obama is easily the biggest star, for what is likely to be a hard-fought reelection race.”

Politico: “Democrats both inside and on the outskirts of the Biden world increasingly believe Trump will be the 2024 GOP nominee. Not only have Democrats taken note of a more organized Trump team, but a number of factors point to the growing reality that it would likely be a challenging, tight rematch for Biden.”

“Despite the mounting legal troubles facing the former president, Democrats have noticed that Trump’s campaign, led by longtime GOP operatives Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, is more organized and disciplined than ever. Among the examples Democratic operatives and strategists point to are Trump’s visit to union-friendly East Palestine earlier this year, his attempts to reel in an endorsement from United Auto Workers and efforts to support early voting that Republicans — including Trump — once decried.”

A new CNN poll finds that 69% of Republicans and Republican-leaners say Joe Biden’s win in 2020 was not legitimate, up from 63% earlier this year and through last fall, even as there is no evidence of election fraud that would have altered the outcome of the contest.

Wall Street Journal: “Many Republicans refuse to acknowledge Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, saying they have lost faith in the electoral system. They also have doubts that 2024 will deliver a legitimate winner, while Democrats worry that Republicans will contest an outcome that doesn’t go their way.”

Incredible takeaway: “Close to 70% of Republicans believe that President Biden didn’t legitimately win the election, several polls show, despite multiple federal and state investigations, as well as court decisions, finding no evidence of fraud extensive enough to have changed the result.”

HALEY 2024. Nikki Haley confirmed to CBS News that she still wants to pardon former President Donald Trump despite a new obstruction of justice charge. Said Haley: “I want all of this to go away.” She added: “We can’t keep living with indictments and court cases and vengeance of the past. We’ve got to start going forward.”

Haley told CBS News that if the new accusations made against Donald Trump are true, “it’s incredibly dangerous to our national security.” Said Haley: “It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat. You shouldn’t be erasing anything unless you have something to hide.”

CHRISTIE 2024. “The super PAC supporting Chris Christie’s presidential campaign raised $5.9 million since the former New Jersey governor launched his bid in June,” Politico reports.

Chris Christie on Tuesday railed against Donald Trump “for using donations to his political operation to help pay his myriad legal bills,” CNBC reports. Said Christie: “Most of the money that middle-class Americans have given to him, he’s spent on his own legal fees.”

Christie likened former President Donald Trump and his allies to the fictional Corleone crime family from “The Godfather” series, USA Today reports. Said Christie: “It’s pretty brazen. These guys were acting like the Corleones with no experience.”

“I think that some of them are unwilling to do it because they don’t think it’s politically smart, some of them are auditioning for a potential Trump administration, and I think some of them just aren’t able to do it: they just physically aren’t equipped to be able to be in that combat.”— Chris Christie, talking to Kara Swisher on why other GOP candidates won’t call out Donald Trump.

“I get it. Politically, they’re all fucked. It’s a catch 22 — and by the way, their own cowardice has put them in this position. If any of these candidates publicly oppose Trump, they’re done. Chris Christie knows that. Will Hurd, these guys have no shot.”— Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), talking to Politico about the Republican presidential field.

SCOTT 2024. “Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is seeing a wave of wealthy donor interest as he runs for president, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis struggles in the polls and hunts for donors in the ritzy Hamptons on Long Island,” CNBC reports.

“A super PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) on Monday disclosed major donations from some of the nation’s wealthiest business leaders,” CNBC reports.

“The backing underscores the outsized support that Scott enjoys from Wall Street donors, even as polls gauge his support among likely primary voters at under 5 percent.”

New York Times: “Mr. Scott entered the 2024 race with a war chest of $22 million, and his campaign raised $5.8 million from April through June. In that same time, he laid out about $6.6 million, a significant clip — but most of it cannot be traced to an actual vendor.”

“Instead, roughly $5.3 million went to two shadowy entities: newly formed limited liability companies with no online presence and no record of other federal election work, whose addresses are Staples stores in suburban strip malls. Their minimal business records show they were set up by the same person in the months before Mr. Scott entered the race.”

“Govs. Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom have tentatively agreed to debate — one hosted by Fox News,” Politico reports.

“A showdown between the two seemed unlikely as DeSantis ramped up his presidential campaign. But Newsom still has spent months trying to entice his counterpart into joining him on a stage.”

Said DeSantis to Sean Hannity, who will moderate: “Absolutely, I’m game. Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where.”

KENNEDY 2024. New York Times: “Bobby, as the 69-year-old candidate is called, has become a source of deep anguish among his many siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, one that is testing the bonds of what was once known as the royal family of American politics. His relatives by and large do not want him to run, do not support his campaign, disdain his conspiratorial musings and almost universally admire Mr. Biden, a longtime friend of the family who keeps a bust of Robert F. Kennedy Sr. in the Oval Office.”

“Yet even as some members of the candidate’s family feel compelled to speak out against his campaign, others find themselves profoundly pained by the airing of domestic discord. They do not share Bobby’s views on many issues, particularly his strident anti-vaccine stances, these Kennedys say, but they care for him, do not want to see him hurt and do not think it helps to publicly criticize him.”

“A super PAC supporting the presidential ambitions of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. raised $6.47 million in July from a mix of major donors from both parties,” Politico reports.

“About $5 million of that haul came during his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.”

EVERYONE ELSE 2024. ABC News: “A few Republican presidential candidates polling near the middle and back of the primary field say they have found a fundraising sweet spot: Cash flows in when they jab at front-runner Donald Trump, even if their voter support doesn’t jump the same way.”

Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) said last night in Des Moines at one of the biggest “cattle call” events so far: “Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison,” Axios reports.  “Boos erupted from the 1,200+ diehards at the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner.

Billionaire Republican megadonor Thomas Peterffy wired $1 million to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “Spirit of Virginia” PAC Thursday, his second million-dollar donation to the PAC supporting the governor’s political goals, NBC News reports.

Jonathan Chait: “A fact that has somehow become even more obvious over the last few months is that Republican voters truly adore Donald Trump. At the beginning of the year, there appeared to be a strong chance the party’s voting base could be weaned off its cult-worship relationship with the 45th president and reattached to a more reliable, coherent, and less criminally implicated presidential nominee like Ron DeSantis. As that prospect has waned, despair has set in especially deep for a specific cohort: the anti-anti-Trumpers — conservative Republicans who desperately wish Trump were not their party’s leader, but if he is, will ultimately devote most of their energy to attacking his critics.”

“The anti-anti-Trumpers dreamed that their yearslong humiliation of having to run interference for a man they loathed was about to end. Now they must face up to the likelihood of devoting at least the next 15 months, and possibly more than five years, to insisting Trump’s multitudinous crimes are no worse than things done by Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and so on.”

“Who would force them once again into such a mortifying position? Many of the anti-anti-Trumpers have identified the culprit for Trump’s hammerlock on the primary. It is the Democrats.”

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Vox: “Mississippi is a lighter shade of red than outsiders might think. It’s been consistently easy in recent years for Democrats to get up to 45 percent of the vote here, but nearly impossible for them to top 50.”

“In 2023, their hope is that Brandon Presley, a longtime elected public service commissioner from the northeast corner of the state with a fondness for Diet Mountain Dew and folksy aphorisms, can somehow break their streak and win the state’s odd-year gubernatorial election.”

Republican incumbent Tate Reeves seems to agree with Democrats that the state’s $77 million welfare funds scandal could hurt him even in this red state because he’s already up with a response spot two days after Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley launched his first commercial on the topic. The challenger may not mind too much, though, because Reeves’ ad makers adopt the dubious strategy of repeating some of the very attacks Presley is leveling against him.

“Have you seen this ad attacking our governor, Tate Reeves?” asks the narrator as footage fills the screen of Presley’s earlier piece, complete with on-screen text reading, “REEVES … PLAGUED BY WELFARE FRAUD SCANDAL.” Reeves’ narrator isn’t happy, saying, “Tate Reeves had nothing to do with the scandal … it all happened before he was governor.” It’s rarely a good move to put your candidate’s name in the same sentence as “scandal,” but Presley’s team is also disputing the idea that Reeves isn’t to blame for something that occurred while he occupied the powerful lieutenant governor’s office.

“[T]he reality is Tate Reeves used to brag about his watchdog responsibilities and overseeing the state budget,” the campaign said in a statement, which included a quote from a 2019 ad where Reeves proclaimed he was “managing the government’s money like it’s your money―because it is.”

Presley is using his first negative TV ad to tie Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to the $77 million welfare funds scandal involving retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre―a story that the public service commissioner is hoping will give him an opening in November’s race to lead this dark red state.

“Under Tate Reeves, millions were steered from education and job programs to help his rich friends,” intones the narrator. “A horse ranch, a volleyball stadium, even $1 million to his own personal trainer. And when the investigator got too close, Tate Reeves fired him.” Presley, who faces no opposition in next week’s primary, did not say how much he was spending to air this new message, though AdImpact tells NBC his campaign has booked at least $250,000 starting this week.

Reeves has denied he had anything to do with the misuse of millions from the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families that occurred under his immediate predecessor, fellow Republican Phil Bryant. As Mississippi Today first reported, text messages show that Bryant advised the former Green Bay Packers star how to obtain more than $1 million to finance his proposed volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter participated in that sport. (The elder Favre was the school’s quarterback just before his NFL career began in the early 1990s.) But other messages show that Favre spoke to Reeves about getting state money for the project in early 2020 during the new governor’s first weeks in office.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services, which answers to Reeves, initially hired a former Clinton-era U.S. attorney named Brad Pigott to investigate the scandal, but the agency fired him last year shortly after he subpoenaed Southern Mississippi. “All I did, and I believe all that caused me to be terminated from representing the department or having anything to do with the litigation, was to try to get the truth about all of that,” he told Mississippi Today hours after his ouster, unhappily adding, “I am sure they can find a loyal Republican lawyer to do the work.” Reeves, for his part, has claimed he had Pigott terminated because he had “a political agenda.”

But Favre isn’t the only well-connected athlete who has been implicated. State auditors discovered in 2020 that an organization called Victory Sports Foundation run by Paul Lacoste, a fitness trainer whose clients included Reeves and several state legislators, received $1.3 million in TANF payments through a nonprofit run by private school founder Nancy New. New and her son have both pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government, while Lacoste has denied he had any knowledge of her crimes.

While Lacoste is not the subject of criminal charges, the Department of Human Services is currently suing him for allegedly committing fraud in obtaining TANF funds. Lacoste has countersued, claiming in April that he’s been wrongly “ridiculed throughout the State as someone who knowingly took money from indigent people in Mississippi.”

Presley’s offensive comes at a time when Reeves maintains a huge financial edge, though the Democrat has gotten some help. The Democratic Governors Association donated $750,000 to Presley’s campaign last month, a contribution that was revealed on Tuesday when financial reports for the month of July were made public. Including the big DGA infusion, Presley brought in $1.1 million last month, compared with $309,000 for Reeves. However, Reeves still has a considerable $9.3 million war chest, according to Mississippi Today, while Presley has just $1.5 million to spend.

Reeves himself has not mentioned Presley in any of his ads, and he’s avoided any mention of the welfare scandal. But it still unintentionally wound up in one of his very first spots: In May, Presley was quick to highlight footage in Reeves’ ad that featured a now-shuttered private school founded by none other than New.

The Daily Journal has obtained an early July internal from OnMessage Inc. for Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ campaign that shows him leading Democratic Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley 49-32, which makes this the first poll we’ve seen here since late April. The article notes that this survey was conducted shortly before Presley, who faces no intra-party opposition on Aug. 8, began his TV ad campaign.

OHIO BALLOT REFERENDUMS. “It has been several tough years for Democrats in Ohio, leading the broader party ecosystem to question every investment in the state,” The Messenger reports.

“But back-to-back constitutional amendment votes this year – the first on raising the threshold for approving constitutional amendments and the second on abortion rights – offer Ohio Democrats a chance to show not all is lost in the Buckeye State.”

“Ohio voters will head to the polls on August 8 to decide whether to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the state’s constitution, a question that is a direct response to a November vote that would create a constitutional right to an abortion in the state.”

A GOP consultant tells that groups looking to beat Issue 1, which would make it much harder to amend the state constitution, have added $2.5 million to their media buys for the final days of the Aug. 8 special election. The story says the conservative pro “yes” side enjoys a small $5.9 million to $5.3 million edge in ad spending for the last week of the race: The GOP firm Medium Buying also tweets that the “no” side has outspent its rivals $12.2 million to $9.7 million on TV and radio for the entire campaign.

Supporters of Issue 1, which would make it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution, have repeatedly claimed that they’re opposed by out-of-state interests that want to change the state’s governing document for their own ends, but new fundraising reports show that the amendment’s top financial backer is in fact a native of Illinois.

Conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, a billionaire who founded the shipping supplies company Uline and is an heir to the Schlitz beer fortune, provided $4 million of the $4.9 million that the main group behind Issue 1, Protect Our Constitution, raised this year. Uihlein, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, has a history of showering vast sums on far-right candidates across the country, including election deniers like Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Jim Marchant in Nevada, and Chris McDaniel in Mississippi. He also gave more than $4 million to Tea Party Patriots, one of the groups behind the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Another pro-Issue 1 organization, Protect Women Ohio, also raised most of its funds from outside the Buckeye State. Of the $9.7 million it brought in, $6.1 million came from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which is based in just outside of  Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia. Another $2 million came from a related entity called Protect Women Ohio Action, Inc., but as the Toledo Blade’s Jim Provance notes, it, too, lists an address in Arlington. It’s not clear why there are multiple groups with similar names, but the Action version received $5.2 million from another D.C.-based organization, the Concord Fund, which was previously known as the Judicial Crisis Network and is tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo.

Meanwhile, the lead group opposing Issue 1, called One Person, One Vote, raised more money than both of its chief rivals combined during the same timeframe. Of the $14.8 million it took in, about 16% came from Ohio donors, according to the Ohio Capital Journal. Its largest contributors included teachers’ unions; the Ohio ACLU; the Tides Foundation, a progressive nonprofit; and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Democratic dark money group. Voters will decide the amendment’s fate in just one week.

Ohio Northern’s poll, which the school says was conducted in collaboration with the polling firm Lucid and relied on a panel from the online research company Qualtrics, did not actually ask respondents how they plan to vote on Issue 1 next month. Rather, the questionnaire first tersely summarized the amendment, saying, “Ohio law currently requires a simple majority (50% + 1 person) of voters to approve a change to the state’s constitution.” It then asked, “Do you agree or disagree with the effort to increase the threshold to 60%?” Respondents split nearly evenly with 42% saying they agree and 41% saying they disagree.

Suffolk, by contrast, directly asked voters, “Do you support or oppose State Issue 1?” and found a huge 59-26 majority lined up against it. Just prior to its question, Suffolk laid out the substance of the amendment in much greater detail and included information on two other provisions of Issue 1 that Ohio Northern left out. It’s worth reading Suffolk’s text, which much more closely approximates the language that voters will see on their ballots.

Interestingly, both pollsters found much more similar results regarding the abortion rights amendment that Republicans are trying to thwart via Issue 1 despite once again taking divergent approaches. Suffolk found voters backing the amendment, which will appear on the Nov. 7  ballot, by a 58-32 margin, while 54% of Ohio Northern’s respondents said they agree with the measure versus just 30% who said they disagree. Either figure would be enough to ensure passage under Ohio’s current laws but not if Issue 1 were to pass.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has released his first two negative TV ads of the race, and they both attack Republican Daniel Cameron’s positions on education. The governor uses one commercial to say that, while he wants to increase teacher pay, his opponent “supports voucher programs that sent tax dollars to private schools. And he wanted to cut pensions promised to Kentucky teachers.” The other spot stars a teacher making the same arguments before concluding, “Andy Beshear supports teachers and students. Daniel Cameron doesn’t. There’s no comparison.”

While Beshear himself only ran positive ads before now, his allies at the DGA have been airing spots tying Cameron to Matt Bevin, the unpopular Republican whom Beshear unseated four years ago. GOP outside groups have also been attacking the incumbent, while Cameron himself has been off the air since he won the primary back in May.

The conservative Bluegrass Freedom Action’s newest ad once again goes after Beshear for ordering the early release of about 1,700 people from prison during the early months of the pandemic; we previously fact-checked a similar ad here.

The Club for Growth’s School Freedom Fund affiliate is deploying what it tells Politico is an opening $2.9 million TV buy attacking Beshear for ordering the early release of about 1,700 people from prison, declaring that hundreds were later charged with crimes. Another group backing Republican Daniel Cameron, Bluegrass Freedom Action, launched a similar spot weeks ago, and both commercials omit that Beshear commuted these sentences during the height of the pandemic in 2020 to reduce the spread of COVID in crowded prisons.

As we wrote in mid-July, Beshear’s order did not allow people convicted of violent or sexual crimes to qualify, and many of those who were eligible had less than six months left on their sentences to begin with. The governor and his allies have also 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, which was GOP predecessor Matt Bevin’s last year in office.

The RGA is continuing to air transphobic ads against Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, and it’s once again attacking him for vetoing a bill in March that bans gender-affirming care for young trans people. (The GOP legislature quickly overrode that veto.)

Beshear recently launched his own commercial pushing back on these attacks, saying, “I’ve never supported gender reassignment surgery for kids, and those procedures don’t happen here in Kentucky,” and the Louisville Courier Journal recently reported that LGBTQ+ groups in the state share the governor’s stance. But while the paper also noted “there is no record” of gender reassignment surgeries for children “ever happening in Kentucky,” that hasn’t stopped the RGA from claiming, “Child sex changes with permanent consequences. That’s Andy Beshear’s Kentucky.”

RHODE ISLAND 1ST DISTRICT. Businessman Don Carlson has launched his first TV ad from what WPRI said last week was a $240,000 month-long reservation ahead of the special Sept. 6 Democratic primary. Carlson touts his local roots before describing himself as “an education and clean energy innovator, and a volunteer EMT in Jamestown.”

State Sen. Sandra Cano has launched her first TV ad ahead of the busy Sept. 6 special Democratic primary, and WPRI’s Ted Nesi says she has a total of $85,000 booked for the campaign. The narrator tells the audience, “Sandra Cano is an immigrant, a public school kid, the daughter of a gun violence survivor, [and] a mom who’s faced reproductive health issues.” The ad goes on to say her progressive views “are not talking points: They’re her story.”

Democrats Serve, a group that seeks to elect party members “with backgrounds serving their communities in government,” has launched its opening TV spot in support of former Biden administration official Gabe Amo in the packed Sept. 6 special primary. The narrator praises Amo’s prior service working for then-Gov. Gina Raimondo and in the Obama and Biden administrations, “[w]here he fought to protect social security and Medicare and tackled gun violence.” Democrats Serve says this is part of a “planned six-figure” independent expenditure effort that includes “direct mail, cable TV, and digital advertising.”

WPRI’s Ted Nesi reports that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC has booked $300,000 in TV ads to help Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who would be the first Dominican American woman to serve in Congress, in the Sept. 6 special Democratic primary. This buy, which is set to last from Aug. 4 to Aug. 14, would be the first major independent expenditure of the contest.

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR and 7TH DISTRICT. Politico unexpectedly reported on Friday that Rep. Abigail Spanberger has been telling fellow Democrats that, not only will she run to succeed Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor of Virginia in 2025, but that she also won’t seek reelection to her competitive House seat next year so she can prepare for a statewide bid. Multiple publications have relayed Spanberger’s interest in the governorship over the last several months, but there was no indication until now that she might retire from Congress.

Spanberger’s team did not confirm or deny Politico’s reporting, saying instead that she’s “squarely focused” on this November’s battle for control of Virginia’s state Senate and House of Delegates. The story adds that Spanberger, who would be the first woman to lead the Old Dominion, likely won’t reveal anything about her future plans until those contests take place. Spanberger would be free to seek a fourth term in the House in 2024 and even remain in Congress if she were to lose the governor’s race, but some Democrats argue she’d actually be helping her party by leaving in a presidential year.

The 7th Congressional District, which stretches from Northern Virginia’s Prince William County into more rural communities to the south, favored Joe Biden 53-46 in 2020, but Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe 52-47 here the following year. Republicans hoped that Youngkin’s win would set them up to end Spanberger’s career in 2022, but her 52-48 victory over Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega instead was an early sign on election night that the long-hyped red wave wasn’t going to wash up.

While Spanberger’s departure could make it tougher for Democrats to hold this constituency, some party members tell Politico that they’d rather defend an open seat during a presidential election, when they’re hoping for an electorate similar to the one that powered Biden to a 7-point win, than risk an unpredictable special election.

Even one House colleague agreed with that take. “If she asked me, and she hasn’t, I’d say don’t run in ’24,” said Rep. Don Beyer, who represents the neighboring 8th District. Beyer argued that Spanberger would personally benefit by having to focus only on a single campaign for governor over the next two-and-a-half years rather than two back-to-back races but would also be helping her party. “That’s still a very competitive seat and as Democrats, we’re more likely to hold it with a new candidate in a presidential year,” Beyer said.

An open House seat would likely attract plenty of interest from Democrats in Prince William County, and Politico names state Sen. Jeremy McPike as well as former Dels. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala as possible candidates to replace Spanberger. All three competed in competitive primaries last month for the state Senate: McPike fended off Del. Elizabeth Guzmán 50.2-49.8―a margin of 50 votes―while Carroll Foy beat Ayala 63-37 for another safely blue seat. The only notable Republican currently running for the 7th District is self-funder Bill Moher, though others will likely take a look no matter what Spanberger does.

Spanberger would also likely be in for a contested nomination battle if she seeks to replace Youngkin in the one state where governors remain forbidden from seeking a second consecutive term. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who himself cannot run for a third term next year as leader of Virginia’s capital city, confirmed his interest to Jewish Insider in April, saying, “I’m going to seriously consider running for governor in 2025.” Stoney would be the Old Dominion’s second Black governor following Douglas Wilder, whose 1989 win made him the first African American elected to lead any state.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who served as state House speaker for the two years that Democrats held the majority following the 2019 elections, also said earlier this year she’s thinking about a bid for governor. Filler-Corn, who would be both the first woman and Jewish person to hold the state’s top post, briefly served as minority leader after the GOP regained control of the chamber, but her caucus narrowly voted in April of 2022 to oust her. While no lawmakers ever publicly aired their grievances against her, multiple stories reported that their unhappiness was in part due to disappointment with the election that had just taken place. Filler-Corn later decided not to seek reelection to the legislature this year.

Republicans may also have a competitive nomination contest as they try to win their second consecutive gubernatorial race for the first time since 1997, when Jim Gilmore beat Beyer to succeed George Allen. Both Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares were elected statewide along with Youngkin in 2021, and they’ve both been talked about as possible replacements. Sears would be the first Black woman to serve as governor, while Miyares would be Virginia’s first Latino chief executive.

WISCONSIN REDISTRICTING. As promised, voting rights advocates filed a new challenge to Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative districts on Wednesday, just a day after Janet Protasiewicz’s swearing-in gave the state Supreme Court its first liberal majority since 2008.

The petition, which was filed directly with the Supreme Court, alleges that the current maps violate the state constitution as “extreme partisan gerrymanders” and should therefore not be used in any future elections. Challengers further say that many districts in both chambers also run afoul of a constitutional requirement that they be contiguous, pointing to the 47th Assembly District as an example.

In addition, they argue that the court’s previous conservative majority “transgressed separation-of-powers boundaries” by adopting the very same maps that Republican lawmakers had passed but that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had vetoed. That ruling, say petitioners, constituted “judicially overriding that gubernatorial veto.”

In one final request, petitioners ask the court to order new elections for the entire state Senate in 2024, even though normally only half the chamber would be up. They say such a move is necessary because senators elected last year “were elected from unconstitutionally configured Districts” and therefore “lack legal entitlement to their office.” If this remedial measure is granted, all 132 seats in the legislature would go before voters next year.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. Every day seems to bring a new story about how badly D.C. Republicans want rich guy David McCormick to take on Democratic incumbent Bob Casey, but The Dispatch is the first to report that NRSC chair Steve Daines literally, albeit jokingly, told donors to “beg” him to run.

The conservative site relays that Daines in May asked anyone who knows either McCormick or his wife to contact them and “encourage” him to get in the race. “Beg!” someone interrupted, and the Dispatch writes that the NRSC chair laughed before delivering a “tongue-in-cheek response agreeing that the audience members should, in fact, ‘beg’ McCormick to run for Senate this cycle.” These donors may not have begged quite hard enough yet, though: While almost everyone seems convinced McCormick will ultimately get in, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that he hasn’t committed to anything yet.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julia Terruso investigates why rich guy Dave McCormick still hasn’t announced his long-awaited campaign against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, and multiple Republicans tell her that McCormick is being “cautious” about making a decision a year after his tight primary loss to Mehmet Oz for the state’s other seat. “I was told he stuck his toe in the Atlantic Ocean and the temperature’s not where he needs it to be right now,” a Philadelphia party official told her, adding, “I think at some point, we will just go ahead and plunge in, but I dunno when that day will be.”

A party strategist, also speaking on the record, said of McCormick, “He’s staring down the barrel of two guns — trying to beat Bobby Casey is not an easy thing to do, even in a great environment. The other thing is, does he want to be running in a swing state with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket?” Still, unnamed McCormick allies tell Terruso they anticipate he’ll launch sometime in the fall.

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

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