The Political Report – August 8, 2023

Faced with the realization that near-total state abortion bans are deeply unpopular, most of the Republican presidential candidates have settled on supporting a 15-week national abortion ban. But there’s new evidence that suggests it’s not going to work.

The latest New York Times/Siena poll shows that that state abortion bans at six weeks are opposed by voters by a whopping 57% to 36% margin.  But a national law to ban abortions at supposedly more reasonable 15-weeks is opposed by voters by a similar 53% to 38% margin. The poll did not even get into the language around exceptions for rape and incest and the health of the mother. The bottom line is that abortion bans are not popular.

NO LABELS 2024. “The centrist group No Labels has targeted Republican donors disaffected with Donald Trump, pitching its unity ticket as a way to beat the former president without funding an entity assisting President Joe Biden,” Politico reports.

“Such a strategy was confirmed by three people who have either heard the pitch or are familiar with it and were granted anonymity to speak candidly about private fundraising conversations. It could have profound political ripple effects, complicating both the current Republican primary and future general election by siphoning funds away from candidates and entities challenging Trump to a ticket that does not yet exist.”

Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) “is joining No Labels ‘ increasingly contentious effort to lay the groundwork for a moderate third-party presidential ticket in the 2024 election,” the AP reports.

“He gives the embattled organization another prominent ally amid escalating concerns from Democratic officials that the No Labels campaign could unintentionally help Republican Donald Trump return to the White House.”

“If you go through with this profoundly misguided vanity project you will go down as one of history’s most venal rubes, but hey man you do you.”— Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) chief of staff Adam Jentleson, quoted by Politico, to No Labels national director Joe Cunningham.

DESANTIS 2024.  “Senior aides to Ron DeSantis oversaw the campaign’s high-risk strategy of laundering incendiary videos produced by their staff through allied anonymous Twitter accounts,” Semafor reports.

“The videos include two that have created recurring distractions for his campaign in recent weeks: an anti-Trump video that featured a fascist symbol, and another that attacked Donald Trump for past comments supportive of LGBT rights.”

“The chat in Signal, an encrypted messaging app, offers the first clear look into the ‘war room‘ that has defined the Florida governor’s candidacy, and is presided over by his high-profile and confrontational director of rapid response, Christina Pushaw. The correspondence obtained by Semafor also offers a glimpse of a strategy that mixes digital aggression and (unsuccessful) attempts to keep the campaign’s own activities secret. The messages were set to disappear after one week.”

“Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial office recently hired three people who’d been laid off by the campaign,” Axios reports.

“The Florida governor is leaning on his taxpayer-funded office to keep select aides in his orbit as the campaign goes through a cash shortfall that led it to dump one-third of its staff in July.”

NBC News: “For a campaign that promised allies a new approach while shedding staff amid a cash crunch and declining poll numbers, the meet-and-greet with homebuilders was just one of a string of events in Iowa and New Hampshire in recent days that were distinctive less for any change in DeSantis’ tack than for the appearance of waning interest in his candidacy.”

“At least at the outset, DeSantis has reset in name only.”

“He has a hard time working with people. He will have absolutely nothing to do with anyone associated with a hard-fought, successful race in 2018, not the pollster, not the media consultant, not the general consultant, not the campaign manager, and not the financial consultant. That’s a little unusual… when you have a candidate winning and will have nothing to do with any of the people helping.” — GOP pollster Whit Ayres, talking about Gov. Ron DeSantis on PBS Newshour.

Throughout his trip to New Hampshire, Gov. Ron DeSantis “appeared bent on demonstrating that no candidate talks tougher,” NHPR reports. He promised that, under his presidency, Mexican drug cartels would be “shot stone cold dead,” and vowed that when it comes to federal bureaucrats, “we are going to start slitting throats on Day One.”

“Ron DeSantis is weeks away from what could be the pivotal moment of his White House bid,” NBC News reports.

“Allies, donors and voters alike are looking at Aug. 23, the night of the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, as the event that could re-establish the Florida governor as a strong alternative to former President Donald Trump — or, if things go poorly, deliver a death blow to an already ailing campaign.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis “said that claims about the 2020 election being stolen were false, directly contradicting a central argument of former President Donald Trump and his supporters,” the New York Times reports.

“The comments went further than Mr. DeSantis typically goes when asked about Mr. Trump’s defeat. The governor has often tried to hedge, refusing to acknowledge that the election was fairly conducted. In his response on Friday, Mr. DeSantis did not mention Mr. Trump by name — saying merely that such theories were ‘unsubstantiated.’ But the implication was clear.”

Said DeSantis: “All those theories that were put out did not prove to be true.”

Washington Post: “DeSantis has a long record of dodging questions about Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, as a violent pro-Trump mob sought to halt certification of the vote.”

“No, of course he lost. Joe Biden’s the president.”— Gov. Ron DeSantis, in an interview with NBC News, on whether Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

“Hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, the biggest individual donor to a group supporting Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid, said he will not donate more money unless the Florida governor attracts new major donors and adopts a more moderate approach,” Reuters reports.

Washington Post: “If a GOP primary were to be held today, multiple polls show DeSantis would resoundingly lose to former president Donald Trump in the state both men call home.”

“A March survey of nearly 1,500 voters living in the state by the University of North Florida found Republicans favored DeSantis over Trump by more than 30 points. DeSantis had the support of 59 percent of those questioned, compared with 28 percent for Trump. But more recent polling has consistently shown him trailing behind the former president.”

“The most recent poll by Florida Atlantic University found that of more than 900 Republican voters questioned, 54 percent would vote for Trump if a primary were held immediately, compared with 37 percent for the governor in a one-on-one matchup.”

“Political analysts say Florida offers a litmus test for how well DeSantis can appeal to a larger audience beyond early primary states. In attempting to win over conservative voters outside the state, some supporters now fear he may have turned away those who propelled him to success in Florida.”

“Gov. Ron DeSantis said the 2024 elections need to be a referendum on President Joe Biden and not focus on former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles as another potential indictment looms over the former president,” ABC News reports.  Said DeSantis: “If the election becomes a referendum on what document was left by the toilet at Mar-a-Lago, we are not going to win.”

DeSantis to NBC News: “With me as the nominee, we’re gonna focus on Biden‘s failures and our vision for the future. That’s what the election will be about if Donald Trump is the nominee: it’s going to be about all those other issues.”

Politico: “Historically, there have been a few times when presidential hopefuls come out of nowhere and snatch their party’s nomination. This happened with Jimmy Carter in 1976. Bill Clinton managed to pull off a similar feat in 1992, when the then-Arkansas governor used a second-place finish in New Hampshire to turn the page after allegations that he’d had an affair with a former local TV reporter and brand himself ‘The Comeback Kid.’”

“Lately, though, voters have been sticking with the frontrunners. That’s bad news for DeSantis and the other Republicans seeking to dethrone Donald Trump.”

“Only once has the Republican polling leader in midsummer of the year before the election gone on to lose the party’s nomination: Rudy Giuliani in 2008, when John McCain surged to capture the GOP nod.”

“During a ‘reboot’ that Ron DeSantis’ allies had hoped would prove his terminally online campaign could change its ways, the governor has pivoted to more of the same — and key allies and donors are threatening to jump ship,” Rolling Stone reports.

“Various big DeSantis donors have been furious that the campaign seemed to take its cues from internet culture wars over niche issues. But despite a large-scale shedding of staff, some of the most online staffers remain on board. Indeed, some have grown more vocal: The early days of the reboot have featured a DeSantis staffer publicly feuding on social media with a Black Republican lawmaker. And despite pleas from allies to refocus away from the culture war, DeSantis has picked one fight with Bud Light and another over the teaching of Black history.”

“The ‘out-with-the-old, back-in-with-old’ nature of the reboot has some donors asking if the problem isn’t the campaign, but the candidate.”

“The nation’s leading anti-abortion group on Monday called Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failure to support federal abortion restrictions ‘unacceptable’ — a blow for the Florida Republican, who has passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country,” Politico reports.

“Never Back Down, the outside group spending heavily to make Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis president, has raked in donations of $1 million or more from at least seven wealthy Republican benefactors or their companies, according to internal documents from the group, and had nearly $97 million in cash-on-hand at the end of June,” the Washington Post reports.

TRUMP 2024.  “In a move backed by former President Trump’s campaign, the California Republican Party on Saturday changed its rules for allocating delegates in the state’s presidential primary — a shake-up that could discourage other GOP candidates from campaigning here and make the state less competitive in next year’s nominating contest,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

FWIW: “In 2016, Donald Trump’s Facebook-focused campaign propelled him into the presidency, and in 2020, the reality star-turned-President again relied on mainstream social media platforms to reach his core audiences.”

“This time around, however, the Trump campaign is shunning mainstream social media altogether and bizarrely choosing not to communicate with its tens of millions of followers on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”

Philip Bump: “By aggregating the contributions for each identified job, we get an interesting picture of how Trump’s early financial support has changed over the past eight years. In the first two quarters of his 2016 bid, nearly 75 percent of what Trump raised was contributed by Trump himself. In the first three quarters of his current bid, he has raised more than five times as much, without a dime coming directly from his own bank account.”

“Instead, more than half of the $23 million-plus he’s raised has come from people who identify their occupation as ‘retired.’”

“It didn’t matter to the Republicans gathered in the convention center ballroom Friday that he’d hurled insults at their wildly popular governor, or that he is facing a cascade of federal charges,” Politico reports.

“When Donald Trump strode on stage here for a major gathering of GOP presidential candidates in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, the entire room of party faithful rose to their feet and roared. In an apparently accidental twist, even the walkout music that played hinted at his situation — ‘One could end up going to prison; one just might be president,’ went the Brooks & Dunn song, bits of which played for every candidate that spoke here.”

“But once again, the former president demonstrated he was still the most dominant force in the room — a hall that had just featured a dozen Republicans also running for the nomination.”

Stephen Collinson: Trump shows in Iowa he still rules the GOP – despite his deepening criminal peril.

New York Times: “In the hours after the new charges became public, Mr. Trump, whose advisers have been blunt that he must win the election to overcome his legal challenges, highlighted the stakes for him of the 2024 election.”

“He suggested in an interview with a right-wing news site that if he is elected, he will use the powers of the presidency to insulate himself from legal accountability on the documents case and the other inquiry being conducted by Mr. Smith into Mr. Trump’s efforts to retain power after his 2020 election loss.”

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register notes former Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) said Trump is running for another term in the White House for one reason: “to stay out of prison.”

New York Times: “The term has become quick a way for candidates to flash their conservative credentials, but battling ‘woke’ may have less political potency than they think. Though conservative voters might be irked at modern liberalism, successive New York Times/Siena College polls of Republican voters nationally and then in Iowa found that candidates were unlikely to win votes by narrowly focusing on rooting out left-wing ideology in schools, media, culture and business.”

“Instead, Republican voters are showing a ‘hand’s off’ libertarian streak in economics, and a clear preference for messages about ‘law and order’ in the nation’s cities and at its borders.”

ABC News: “An analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that in 38 special elections held so far this year, Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean — or the relative liberal or conservative history — of the areas where the races were held by an average of 10%, both romping in parts of the country that typically support the party while cutting down on GOP margins in red cities and counties, too.”

“Donald Trump’s primary rivals have had a hard time convincing GOP voters that they’d be more electable than the indicted former president — but they may, at least in part, have themselves to blame for it,” NBC News reports.

“Most of the 2024 candidate field has spent the past two and half years validating or turning a blind eye to Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election, priming the Republican base to believe that Trump is a proven winner against President Joe Biden. Now they have only a few months to try to undo that perception but appear reluctant to press the case.”

Playbook: “Sinema has the bank account of someone seeking a second term — she has $10.7 million to spend, per this month’s FEC reports. But she’s yet to announce a re-elect amid serious doubts about her path to a second term after leaving the Democratic Party last year. The favorite for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Ruben Gallego, outraised Sinema in Q2, and limited public polling of a hypothetical three-way race shows her in dire straits — and potentially paving the way for a GOP win.”

“Manchin, meanwhile, is amid a Hamlet act — pondering whether to launch an uphill re-elect, launch an even more uphill third-party presidential bid or step back from politics entirely. Another Senate run would likely match him up with Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who has sky-high approval ratings, considerable wealth, a checked business record and a long, testy relationship with Manchin. Democrats’ hopes for keeping the seat rest entirely on whether Manchin can be coaxed into one last showdown with his old rival.”

Semafor: “The campaign for the American presidency is playing out across an unprecedented, fragmented new media landscape and leaving campaigns, voters, and political observers alike struggling to figure out what exactly is going on.”

Politico: “National Democrats had all but written off Florida as a lost cause — a former purple state turned solid red by the MAGA movement and Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

“But key party leaders in the state, desperate to turn things around in 2024, are confident that citizen initiatives dealing with abortion rights and recreational marijuana legalization could fuel turnout and boost the party’s chances.”

RAMASWANY 2024. “Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy would not say if he would have certified the election results like former Vice President Mike Pence did on Jan. 6, 2021, sidestepping repeated questions on Thursday,” Politico reports.

Said Ramaswamy: “I would have never let it get to that point. I would have never put myself — or been part of an administration, if I was in a serious position of leadership — to ever have allowed us to have gotten to that doorstep.”

Vivek Ramaswamy suggested canceling Juneteenth, calling it a “useless” holiday in a conversation with Iowa voters, NBC News reports. Less than two months ago, however, he posted a video on social media celebrating the day. 

WISCONSIN 3RD DISTRICT. “When freshman Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) chewed out a group of high school-aged Senate pages last week in a bizarre and swear-laden tirade, he did more than tarnish the Capitol experience for teenagers excited about Congress and public service,” the Daily Beast reports. “He also gave his Democratic foes political ammunition.”

Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff this week publicly acknowledged his interest in seeking a rematch against freshman Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden, who made national news days before when he reportedly screamed at teenage Senate pages and adopted what a source told NBC was a “physically aggressive” stance. “Obviously in the last few days my phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Pfaff told WIZM (the relevant portion begins around the 4:00 mark), adding that “we will see as we move forward here, but one thing is for sure, we can’t have a member of Congress with that kind of temperament, character, or judgment serving.”

Pfaff lost to Van Orden 52-48 in 2022 in a southwestern Wisconsin seat that Trump took 51-47 two years before, and he argues that things would have gone differently if national Democratic groups

Ron Brownstein: “Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections – something no party has done since the formation of the modern party system in 1828. That suggests the Democratic coalition, on a national basis, is somewhat larger than the GOP’s.”

“But the Democrats’ difficulty competing outside of large metropolitan areas, as well as the small state bias in the Senate and the Electoral College, has allowed the GOP to remain highly competitive in this era. In almost every critical dimension, the political system is now defined by stasis and stand-off.”

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

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