“In a focus group last week, eight men of color who voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 were asked to describe their feelings about the economy,” Politico reports.
“The answers were bleak.”
“The signs of dissatisfaction with Democrats didn’t end there. Respondents were also asked about the rise in crime and border issues. Democrats got zeros across the board. Perhaps most troubling of all, some respondents indicated that they preferred the economy under former President Donald Trump.”
A new Quinnipiac poll finds Ron DeSantis continues to lose ground in the GOP primary race, receiving 18% support among Republican and Republican leaning voters, putting him 39 points behind Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP primary race with 57% support.
TRUMP 2024. “Donald Trump has the option of timing his booking in Georgia to coincide with next Wednesday’s first Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, which could suck the oxygen out of a televised event he’s been advised to avoid anyway,” NBC News reports.
“Put another way, it’s not at all hard to imagine Trump turning his jailhouse arrival into an O.J.-Simpson-in-the-Bronco-level spectacle at the same time Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is telling the debate audience about how he lowered the state’s pension assumptions.”
“And, as Trump’s legal troubles and poll numbers have risen in tandem over the last several months, diverting attention from the debate to his latest indictment makes all the sense in the world, Republican operatives say.”
Jonathan Last: “It would not surprise me—at all—if Trump chooses to surrender himself on August 23. He’d then take over the entire news cycle that day with its wall-to-wall coverage of the fingerprinting and mugshot.”
“And then Trump goes straight from the jail to a giant Trump rally that runs—and here I’m just spitballing—from 8-11 p.m. EDT.”
“Fox will carry the debate and all of the other networks will carry his rally and you tell me which would get the bigger ratings numbers?”
“The entire Republican debate would be swamped. The candidates on the stage would have extra pressure to light themselves on fire in order to break through. And the second-day stories would be about how Trump schlonged Fox and the rest of the field.”
“Trump isn’t smart, but he is cunning and he understands both power and weakness. And he sees the same things we’re all seeing.”
“Georgia Republicans say they know a winning message for 2024: Under President Biden, voters are struggling with inflation, gas prices are on the rise and undocumented migrants are streaming across the southern border,” the New York Times reports.
“But they fear Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, won’t be able to stay on message.”
“Mr. Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election, now heightened by two criminal cases over his efforts to steal it, threatens to reopen wounds in the state’s G.O.P. that have bedeviled it in the two and a half years since he pushed to overturn Mr. Biden’s narrow victory there.“
Politico: The state that’s given Trump the most fits threatens to bite him all over again.
“The current thinking among Donald Trump’s campaign advisers and those close to the former president is that he is not planning on participating in next week’s Republican presidential primary debate and has been proposing counterprogramming to the event,” CNN reports.
“The sources say that Trump has not done any prep for the debate, which is being hosted in Milwaukee by Fox News. However, one adviser argued he doesn’t need debate prep, and said there’s always a chance he may ultimately decide to participate at the 11th hour.”
“Trump, meanwhile, has been throwing out different ideas for his own counterprogramming during the debate, including sitting down with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and calling into the different cable news shows.”
DESANTIS 2024. “The apparent attempt by a super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to float potential debate talking points to the Republican’s presidential campaign has stirred confusion and anger from fundraisers and donors,” CNN reports.
“A quarter of all independent expenditures in the 2024 election cycle, $20.2 million, has targeted Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), more than has been spent in either positive or negative independent expenditures for former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden combined,” the Washington Examiner reports.
“Ron DeSantis leads Donald Trump with a better than 6-to-1 advantage in campaign donations from lawyers, who appear eager to deny the former president a third Republican nomination,” Bloomberg reports.
“DeSantis raked in more than $1.3 million in individual lawyer contributions through the end of June compared with just under $200,000 for Trump, according to federal campaign filings. DeSantis’s roots include a Harvard Law School education and time as US Navy lawyer, whereas Trump is known for publicly criticizing attorneys, ignoring their advice, not paying their bills and suing them.”
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: “Even before its official launch, the campaign and its allies were conducting polls and focus groups to test various anti-Trump messages. Across several months, the source familiar with the campaign said that it consistently struggled to find a message critical of Trump that resonated with rank-and-file Republican voters.”
“Even attaching Trump’s name to an otherwise effective message had a tendency to invert the results, this source said. If a moderator said that the Covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, seventy per cent of the Republicans surveyed would agree. But, if the moderator said that Trump’s Covid lockdowns destroyed small businesses and facilitated the largest upward wealth transfer in modern American history, the source said, seventy per cent would disagree.”
New York Times: “A firm associated with the super PAC that has effectively taken over Mr. DeSantis’s presidential campaign posted online hundreds of pages of blunt advice, research memos and internal polling in early nominating states to guide the Florida governor ahead of the high-stakes Republican presidential debate next Wednesday in Milwaukee.”
“The trove of documents provides an extraordinary glimpse into the thinking of the DeSantis operation about a debate the candidate’s advisers see as crucial.”
Among the most interesting advice: “Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response” and “Defend Donald Trump in absentia in response to a Chris Christie attack.”
Defend the guy you’re trying to beat is a puzzling strategy.
“Donald Trump still hasn’t said whether he will show up for the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee next week, but Democrats plan to be there and talk about the former president either way,” NBC News reports.
“President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign will have a significant presence on the ground and on the airwaves… The Democrats’ message will be simple: Regardless of whether Trump participates, the rest of the GOP field has already embraced his worldview.”
SUAREZ 2024. “We have been very lean and mean… we certainly don’t want to peak too soon.”— Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, on NBC News, on his apparent lack of any presidential campaign staff as reported on latest FEC filings.
SCOTT 2024. “The presidential campaign for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is launching an $8 million advertisement buy, marking a second major investment by the campaign since Scott announced his presidential run three months ago,” the Washington Post reports.
CNN: Tim Scott’s likability is fueling his rise. But how high can he climb?
PENCE 2024. “I’ve debated Donald Trump a thousand times. Just not in front of the cameras.”— Mike Pence, quoted by Politico.
MICHIGAN GOP. “When a fight broke out at a closed-door meeting of the Michigan GOP state committee, a kick to the groin and broken dentures interrupted discussion of the dismal finances of the state Republicans’ party,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The altercation last month at the Doherty Hotel in Clare, Mich., made clear that the Michigan Republican Party—now dominated by its right flank staunchly aligned with former President Donald Trump—has descended into chaos. It can barely fundraise and has all but gone broke.”
GEORGIA STATE SENATE. One of the co-conspirators indicted alongside Donald Trump by Georgia prosecutors on Monday is Shawn Still, a fake elector who managed to win a freshly gerrymandered seat in the state Senate last year. That makes Still the first sitting elected official to be formally charged in Trump’s plot to steal the 2020 election—and his fast-changing district tells the story of Georgia Republicans’ desperate bid to cling to power. In a new piece, David Nir explores Still’s path to the legislature and explains why, even if he isn’t on the ballot next year, shifting demographics and GOP malfeasance will make his district competitive.
SOUTH DAKOTA REFERENDUMS. A trio of proposed constitutional amendments could bring historic changes to South Dakota in 2024, including one that would end the state’s near-total ban on abortion. Another amendment would introduce the top-two primary to this dark red state, while a third would prevent the legislature from amending or repealing voter-approved ballot measures for seven years after passage.
The abortion proposal would partially invalidate a 2005 bill that made it a felony to seek or perform the procedure for any reason other than to save the life of the mother, a law that automatically went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. This amendment would specifically bar the state from imposing regulations on abortion access during the first trimester of pregnancy.
It also establishes that during the second trimester, “the State may regulate the pregnant woman’s abortion decision and its effectuation only in ways that are reasonably related to the physical health of the pregnant woman.” For the final trimester, the state would be permitted to retain the status quo. We haven’t seen any polling asking voters specifically about this proposal, but backers may face headwinds: Civiqs finds that 55% of the state’s voters believe that abortion should be illegal all or most of the time, while 41% say the opposite.
History, however, also offers them some hope. Proponents argue that South Dakotans deserve a say in the state’s abortion policies, which is exactly what happened in 2006 after the legislature passed a different law to immediately outlaw abortion in almost all situations. That bill, which the New York Times called “the nation’s most sweeping state abortion ban,” was an attempt to get the nation’s highest court to reconsider Roe, but it never went into effect. Pro-choice advocates instead collected enough signatures to allow voters to approve or reject the law; they chose the latter option by a 56-44 margin. A similar measure also went down in defeat two years later by a comparable spread.
However, not all abortion rights groups are behind the new effort. The Mitchell Republic reported in May that the amendment did “not yet have the institutional backing of Planned Parenthood,” while a recent Times article said the local Planned Parenthood affiliate “doesn’t support the measure, believing it does not go far enough.” Organizers have until May of next year to turn in just over 35,000 signatures, which represents 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, to qualify for the general election ballot. Any amendment that makes it before voters would need to win a simple majority to pass.
An unrelated measure, meanwhile, would change the way elections are held in the state by replacing partisan primaries with the top-two system that’s in place in California and Washington. All candidates would run on one ballot and the two contenders with the most votes, regardless of party, would advance to the general election. The proposal would impact future races for governor, Congress, state legislature, and county-level posts.
The campaign to promote that amendment, South Dakota Open Primaries, argues that the top-two system would help elect more moderate options in a place where Republicans have won every statewide race since 2010. Tom Heinz, who serves on the campaign’s board of directors, also told KELO in April that the current setup, where Republicans only allow people registered with their party to vote in their primaries, hurts independents like himself. (Democrats let unaffiliated voters cast a ballot in their nomination contests.) The head of the state GOP, meanwhile, declared to South Dakota Searchlight, “We are 110% opposed to the idea.”
Finally, a third amendment would prevent the legislature from altering or repealing ballot measures that do not amend the constitution and are instead statutory in nature until they’ve been in force for at least seven years.
Legislators currently have the power to override statutory ballot measures as soon as voters approve them—and in fact they did just that in 2017, when they repealed an expansive voter-approved ethics reform law. And unlike in 2006, voters didn’t get to have a say on what happened next because that repeal bill also declared a “state of emergency,” which allowed the rollback to take effect immediately and made it immune to a veto referendum.
South Dakota’s amendment and ballot measure process gives progressives a chance to pass favorable policies in a state where Republicans have held a lock on the governorship since the 1978 elections―the longest-running gubernatorial winning streak for either party―and enjoy massive supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.
Notably, progressives passed an amendment to expand eligibility to Medicaid 56-44. That win came months after voters overwhelmingly rejected a GOP-crafted amendment that would have required many future constitutional amendments to earn at least 60% of the vote in order to become law. A 2018 amendment to make it harder to pass ballot measures related to taxes and spending also went down in defeat, though as we saw this month in Ohio, red state Republicans remain adamant about convincing voters to give up their own power.
WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos warned in a new interview with WSAU on Friday that Wisconsin’s Republican-run legislature might impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz, the newest member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, if she does not recuse herself from cases where “she has prejudged” the dispute.
Vos specifically objected to Protasiewicz’s condemnation of the state’s GOP-drawn legislative district as “rigged” on the campaign trail earlier this year. Those districts are now the subject of a new lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates. But lawmakers, Vos said, might seek to remove Protasiewicz from office because “she bought into the argument” that Republicans have been successful at the ballot box due to gerrymandering, “not the quality of our candidates,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck.
Republicans can easily make good on these threats, at least in terms of raw numbers. It only takes a simple majority in the Assembly to impeach, and thanks to those gerrymandered maps, Republicans have the necessary two-thirds supermajority to secure Protasiewicz’s removal in the state Senate. The greater worry, though, is that Republicans simply stall.
If Protasiewicz were to actually be removed from her post, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would be able to appoint a replacement. However, the act of impeaching a state official strips them of their powers until a trial can be held. Republicans could therefore try to indefinitely delay a trial, to keep the court divided between three conservatives and the remaining three liberals.
But as state law expert Quinn Yeargain explains in a detailed post at Guaranteed Republics, the state legislature might not actually have the power to impeach a Supreme Court justice. He also points out that any attempt to slow-walk an impeachment trial could run afoul of the state constitution, saying that in such a scenario, Protasiewicz could sue to demand that the Senate take action.
NORTHAMPTON COUNTY (PA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Incumbent Terry Houck announced Monday that he was ending his general election campaign, a move that leaves the man who beat him in the May Democratic primary, former local Judge Stephen Baratta, as the only candidate on the Nov. 7 ballot. Houck won the GOP nod through a write-in effort even as he was losing to Baratta 54-46, but the head of the local Republican Party quickly made it clear that his organization wouldn’t do anything to help the registered Democrat hold his post.
Houck himself admitted Monday how difficult it would be to prevail in this Lehigh Valley county by saying, “I’m a candidate without a party, right?” Baratta, for his part, acknowledged that Republicans could still field their own write-in candidate against him in this 50-49 Biden county, saying, “I respect the people in charge of the Republican Party, and they have the ability, if they want, to attempt to fill that spot.” He added, “We still may have to run a campaign, so we don’t want to rest on our laurels or act smug about this. We want to be prepared.”
NEW JERSEY STATE SENATE. A long chapter in New Jersey politics is coming to a close following Monday’s retirement announcement from Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, whose record 50 years in the legislature includes the 14 months he spent as acting governor from 2004 to 2006.
Popular, but not where it counted. Codey became acting governor in 2004 after incumbent Jim McGreevey announced he would resign over an affair with an aide. But while Codey’s high approval numbers would have made him the favorite to win a full term the next year in almost any other state, powerful party leaders mobilized behind wealthy Sen. Jon Corzine.
From governor to backbencher. Codey had the honor of being designated the state’s full governor at the end of his tenure, but entrenched powerbrokers like George Norcross spent 2009 preparing a successful coup to give the state Senate’s top job to Steve Sweeney.
Not one to “back off from a fight.” Codey nonetheless remained in the state Senate for 14 years, and he got to witness almost all of his major intra-party foes, including Corzine and Norcross, lose elections and influence. Codey himself won his final contest months ago by beating a colleague for renomination.
OHIO REFERENDUMS. The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday unanimously rejected a lawsuit that sought to prevent voters from having the chance to approve a constitutional amendment on Nov. 7 to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s governing document. The conservative plaintiffs insisted that the petitions to place the amendment on the ballot failed to specify which state laws would be repealed, but the GOP-controlled body rejected this argument. The decision instead declared, “The fair and natural reading of (Ohio law) does not require a petition proposing a constitutional amendment to include the text of an existing statute.”
Activists in Ohio have begun collecting signatures to place an amendment on next year’s ballot that would establish an independent commission to draw election maps in place of the state’s current GOP-dominated redistricting board, WOSU’s George Shillcock reports. Organizers must first gather 1,000 voter signatures and submit their petition to state officials for their approval before they can amass the 413,487 total signatures they need to put their measure before voters in 2024.
The proposal would create a 15-member panel made up of five Democrats, five Republicans, and five independents, with a ban on politicians or lobbyists serving. The commission would be prohibited from taking incumbents’ residency into account and would be required to draw congressional and legislative maps that closely reflect the statewide partisan preferences of Ohio voters. (In light of a similar provision in Ohio’s current constitution, the parties in redistricting litigation last year agreed that Republican candidates had, on average, won 54% of the two-party vote in statewide elections over the previous decade while Democrats had won 46%.)
Ohio election authorities confirmed Wednesday that the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana had turned in enough signatures to place a statutory initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot. Organizers last month initially fell 679 petitions short of hitting the 124,046 minimum, but state law gave them a 10-day period to turn in more.
“[T]his is going to be easy,” said a spokesperson in a statement, and they soon proved that by submitting just over 4,400 additional valid signatures. Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe “the use of cannabis should be legal,” but opponents, including the state branches of the Association of Chiefs of Police and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, are determined to beat the measure.