The Political Report – August 18, 2023

AP-NORC Poll: “Only 36% of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, slightly lower than the 42% who approve of his overall performance, according to the new poll.”

A new poll “finds that Donald Trump’s legal troubles could prove fatal in a general election,” Semafor reports.

“It finds that 24% of Republicans say the charges make them less likely to vote for Trump against President Joe Biden — ‘more than enough to swing a close general election,’ according to a memo accompanying the results.”

“The poll still finds Trump and Biden tied at the moment, at 46% a piece.”

A new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds a majority (63%) of Americans say that the charges approved by a grand jury in Georgia related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state are serious (47%) or somewhat serious (16%).

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Americans think by a 54% to 42% margin that Donald Trump should be prosecuted on criminal charges. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) think the federal criminal charges accusing former President Trump of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election are either very serious (52%) or somewhat serious (12%), while roughly one-third (32%) think they are either not too serious (11%) or not serious at all (21 percent).

Semafor: “Democrats are planning to once again bludgeon Republican candidates over Social Security as they look to navigate a tough round of Senate races in 2024.”

Ron Brownstein: “These strikingly consistent results underline how conflict over abortion is amplifying the interconnected geographic, demographic, and economic realignments reconfiguring American politics. Particularly since Donald Trump emerged as the GOP’s national leader, Republicans have solidified their hold on exurban, small-town, and rural communities, whose populations tend to be predominantly white and Christian and many of whose economies are reliant on the powerhouse industries of the 20th century: manufacturing, energy extraction, and agriculture. Democrats, in turn, are consolidating their advantage inside almost all of the nation’s largest metro areas, which tend to be more racially diverse, more secular, and more integrated into the expanding 21st-century Information Age economy.”

“New data provided exclusively to The Atlantic by Brookings Metro, a nonpartisan think tank, show, in fact, that the counties that voted against the proposed abortion restrictions are the places driving most economic growth in their states.”

“In a show of preemptive counter-programming, President Joe Biden on Tuesday travels to Wisconsin to highlight his economic policies in a state critical to his reelection fortunes, just a week before Republicans descend on Milwaukee for the party’s first presidential debate,” the AP reports.

“His trip comes on the eve of the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, major economic legislation that he signed into law with great ceremony but that polls show most people know little about it or what it does.”

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s unconventional campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has made an unconventional hire in New Hampshire: Aidan Ankarberg, a sitting Republican state representative,” the New Republic reports.

“Ankarberg, a GOP state representative first elected in 2020 to the New Hampshire state legislature, is a recent hire for the Kennedy campaign—though his exact role and title are not clear.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis told Fox News that the “swamp got worse’ when Donald Trump was in the White House.

Said DeSantis: “I give him credit, even though we’re competing, for the great things he did do. But one of the things he did not do was drain the swamp. I mean, the swamp got worse in his four years.”

He added that Trump “had people in power who were not getting the job done.”

Politico: “The vitriolic, chaotic town hall had the feel of a campaign event — and it may well have previewed California’s third attempted recall of a reform-minded prosecutor in less than 18 months, including the successful ouster of District Attorney Chesa Boudin just a dozen miles away in San Francisco.”

“In an illustration of the state’s uneasy embrace of criminal justice reform, voters in Democratic strongholds have repeatedly elected prosecutors vowing to transform the system and then moved to oust those DAs before they finish their first term.”

NASHVILLE MAYOR. Republican Alice Rolli declared Monday evening that she’d “separated ties” with her consulting firm after learning that one of its executives, Woodrow Johnston, had “more than a strong connection to Proud Boys.” But Johnston, who praised the extremist group in 2020 in what he now says was a joke and denies having any ties with them, told both Axios and The Tennessean that he’d communicated all this to Rolli in their first conversation and that she’s “now throwing me under the bus to protect herself.”

Johnston also claimed he’d been the one who’d quit days before, and he showed The Tennessean his resignation email from Saturday where he said he was leaving because he and Rolli were “too far apart on what direction we want to take the campaign.” The candidate later acknowledged that Johnston had indeed quit, but her team claimed Tuesday that she’d parted ways with his firm, McShane, because it was too close to the Proud Boys. Rolli faces Democrat Freddie O’Connell in the Sept. 14 nonpartisan general election to lead this blue city.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News Monday that he’d decide within the following 60 days if he’d seek the GOP nod for Senate. Craig remains as modest as ever a year after the end of his disastrous campaign for governor, saying of potential intra-party foes, “I think they’re watching me. And they should.”

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Republican Daniel Cameron continues to make attacks on transgender people the centerpiece of his campaign in his newest ad, which comes after his allies have spent months slamming Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear for vetoing a bill in March that bans gender-affirming care for young people. (The GOP-run legislature quickly overrode that veto.)

Protect Freedom PAC, which is run by allies of Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile is trying a different approach with a piece that highlights how numerous students in Louisville’s public schools were picked up or dropped off hours late on the first day of classes earlier this month. The narrator is vague on how Beshear is to blame for any of this, though, claiming only that he “fails to act on numerous solutions before him, including a plan to give parents the right to send their child to their neighborhood school.” The on-screen text accompanying that line cites an Associated Press article that does not even mention Beshear; instead, it says that local lawmakers “signaled that they will push for legislation ensuring that students have the right to attend their neighborhood schools.”

Jason Bailey, who heads the progressive Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, wrote an op-ed in the Courier Journal earlier in the week arguing that the GOP-dominated legislature was largely to blame for what happened. “Paying the full cost of busing kids to and from school is a state responsibility under law,” he wrote, “But it’s a responsibility the legislature chose not to fulfill every year since 2005.”

Beshear himself is also running a commercial that stars two elected officials in dark red territory defending him from earlier GOP attacks. “Beshear followed Trump’s lead for early release of non-violent offenders during COVID,” Lawrenceburg Mayor Troy Young tells the audience. “More state troopers, raises for cops, and anything that we need, Beshear gets it done,” affirms Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt.

TEXAS U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Rep. Colin Allred on Thursday publicized a primary endorsement from colleague Veronica Escobar, who represents the El Paso area. Allred has also publicized an endorsement from fellow Rep. Marc Veasey for next year’s Democratic primary.

Sean Trende: “This may well be another 2018 environment for Cruz. Given the shifts in Texas over the past four years, he seems unlikely to survive such an environment. Regardless, Cruz definitely can win this election.”

“But, unlike most other Texas races, his fate is in many ways out of his hands. There are enough things that could go wrong for him that the race should be considered genuinely competitive at this point.”

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. Stephen Waguespack, a Republican who served as then-Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff before spending a decade heading what reporter Greg Hilburn called “Louisiana’s most powerful business lobby,” is using his new $600,000 ad campaign to promote himself as an “outsider” challenging the power of “the insiders.” Hilburn calls this the “first major TV ad buy” from the Waguespack campaign ahead of the Oct. 14 all-party primary, though the candidate is not exactly a stranger to viewers: His allied super PAC began a $1.75 million ad campaign in May just before Waguespack said he was launching an opening “six-figure ad buy.”

GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry, meanwhile, is looking to maintain his frontrunner status with a new piece where he stands in a classroom and bemoans “woke politics.” A pro-Landry group, Protect Louisiana’s Children, also is running its own commercial touting his battles with the Biden administration.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. The Associated Press’ Brian Slodysko reported Monday that the Senate GOP’s top choice to run in Pennsylvania, former hedge fund manager David McCormick, lives in a $16 million Connecticut mansion that “features a 1,500-bottle wine cellar, an elevator and a ‘private waterfront resort’ overlooking Long Island Sound.”

McCormick listed the rented property in Westport, which is in the heart of the Nutmeg State’s affluent “Gold Coast” region, as his address on both a January document selling his $13.4 million Manhattan condo and a March campaign contribution. Slodysko notes that McCormick’s children also attend private school in Connecticut. The story further observes that McCormick carried out virtual interviews earlier this year from his New England mansion, a fact the reporter was able to ascertain because “[d]istinguishing features in the background match pictures that were posted publicly before the McCormicks moved in.”

That last detail may give the GOP some unwelcome déjà vu after the disastrous candidacy of Mehmet Oz, who lost last year’s race for Pennsylvania’s other Senate seat from his own mansion in New Jersey. Oz, after narrowly defeating none other than McCormick by 950 votes in the GOP primary, even filmed some of ads from his palatial home overlooking the Manhattan skyline—a blunder that Democrat John Fetterman’s campaign discovered and blasted out far and wide.

Fetterman was able to identify the location of his opponent’s shoot because People magazine had helpfully profiled the house a few years earlier, complete with a six-minute video revealing distinctive decorative elements—including a candlestick—similarly found peeking out from behind Oz.

McCormick, unlike Oz, actually grew up in Pennsylvania, but he lived in Connecticut from 2009 until he sold a different mansion there in late 2021 ahead of his first campaign. The candidate, who purchased a home in Pittsburgh, argued at the time he’d never really left behind his native state and pointed to his continued ownership of his family’s Christmas tree farm in Bloomsburg as evidence.

McCormick, whose 2022 primary vote for himself marked the first time in 16 years that he’d cast a ballot in the Keystone State, sought to play up his Pennsylvania roots even after his tight loss to Oz. “We’re not going anywhere,” he insisted. “This is my home.” Political observers immediately began to speculate that he could challenge Sen. Bob Casey in 2024, an idea that delighted the GOP establishment. But McCormick has played coy all year: NRSC chair Steve Daines, according to The Dispatch, joked to a room full of donors this spring that they should “beg” him to run.

The once and perhaps future candidate, for his part, declared in March, “People want to know that the person that they’re voting for ‘gets it.’ And part of ‘getting it’ is understanding that you just didn’t come in yesterday.” A spokesperson told Slodysko that McCormick “maintains a residence in Connecticut as his daughters finish high school” but his “home is in Pittsburgh.”

McCormick’s team, however, declined to answer questions about how much of his time he spends in Connecticut. It’s also not clear how long he’s occupied the Westport mansion, though Slodysko writes that it went off the market in January of last year, at about the same time that McCormick was selling his other property in the state.

Both parties have long expected McCormick to take on Casey, though multiple Republicans recently indicated to the Philadelphia Inquirer that they didn’t think he’d made up his mind. “I was told he stuck his toe in the Atlantic Ocean and the temperature’s not where he needs it to be right now,” said one party official, adding, “I think at some point, we will just go ahead and plunge in, but I dunno when that day will be.” (You can’t actually tip your toe into the Atlantic from anywhere in Pennsylvania―but you sure can off the Gold Coast.) If McCormick does surprise everyone and sits out the race, it’s not clear who, if anyone, the NRSC has in mind as a backup option.

P.S. McCormick may have one other argument he can use to defend his Keystone State bona fides that Oz couldn’t use. “There are parts of Northern PA that were claimed by Connecticut at the time of the nation’s founding,” snarked Willamette University history professor Seth Cotlar, “so maybe McCormick is claiming PA residence on originalist grounds?”

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR. The state GOP chose state Rep. Jim Walsh as its new chairman on Saturday, a move that likely means he won’t run for governor next year. Walsh, who had to apologize in 2021 for comparing COVID mitigation policies to the Holocaust, initially expressed interest in seeking the governorship right after Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee announced his retirement in May, but he doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly about running since then. Walsh told the Seattle Times over the weekend that he wasn’t even sure if he’d seek reelection to the state House, though he said he was “inclined to.”

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz tells the National Journal’s Sydney Kashiwagi that he remains interested in running for the Senate seat held by fellow Republican Mitt Romney, and he adds that he’s likely to make up his mind in the fall. Romney himself said last month that he’d also “wait ’til the fall” before deciding whether to seek a second term.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. Politico’s Matt Friedman writes that, despite the ongoing federal investigation into Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, no serious intra-party foes are anywhere in sight. Indeed, Friedman says that the one and only Democrat “who was willing to say anything that Menendez could possibly construe as disloyal” was former Sen. Bob Torricelli, and Torricelli (who himself left office in disgrace two decades ago) has made it clear he’s done running for office.

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. While Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes raised all of $15,000 during the first six months of the year, Maryland Matters writes that the nine-term congressman “says he isn’t going anywhere.”

There’s no direct quote from Sarbanes announcing that he’ll seek reelection in his safely blue seat, though the incumbent said, “I always come off each cycle looking forward to the next campaign.” He added of his meager fundraising, “I typically give my individual supporters a break to catch their breath. I think the constant barrage of fundraising appeals do wear them out.” Sarbanes, who is the son of the late Sen. Paul Sarbanes, also revealed he won’t join the race for Maryland’s open Senate seat or run for the upper chamber at any point in the future. “I decided a few years back that was something that I wasn’t drawn to,” said the congressman.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks unveiled a high-profile endorsement Tuesday from Sen. Chris Van Hollen ahead of next year’s Democratic primary to succeed Maryland’s other senator, retiring incumbent Ben Cardin. Van Hollen joins Reps. Steny Hoyer and Kweisi Mfume in Alsobrooks’ corner even though their colleague, Rep. David Trone, is also competing for the nomination.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Two Republicans, Auditor Troy Downing and Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, announced Monday that they were forming exploratory committees in case Rep. Matt Rosendale decides to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, though both said they have no wish to challenge the incumbent in this dark red seat should he instead seek reelection.

Downing, who took third place against Rosendale in the 2018 Senate primary, praised his former rival to KURL and added, “If Congressman Rosendale decides to pursue the US Senate seat, I will discuss with my family and prayerful consideration running for the second congressional district.” Arntzen, meanwhile, would be the first woman to represent Montana in Congress since the trailblazing  Jeannette Rankin, who was herself the first woman ever elected to Congress in 1916 and voted against involving America in both world wars during her two nonconsecutive terms. She went further than Downing and made it clear she’d endorse a Rosendale reelection bid.

Pluribus News also takes a look at the many other Republicans who are waiting to see whether Rosendale will give up his eastern Montana constituency, though per our usual practice, we’ll wait to see whether he seeks a promotion before running down the potential field to succeed him. But we may be waiting a while longer to see if the congressman will defy Senate GOP leaders, who have consolidated behind wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy. “Montana voters will make their decision over the next few months over who will replace” Tester, a Rosendale spokesperson told KURL, “not Mitch McConnell and the DC cartel.”

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

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