The Political Report – August 31, 2023

It seems highly likely that Joe Biden and Donald Trump will face off for the presidency again in 2024. But what’s amazing is that the latest AP-NORC poll finds that seven in 10 Americans don’t want to see either man run again.

Here’s why:

  • For Biden, a stunning 77% of Americans — including 69% of Democrats — believe he is too old to effectively serve another four-year term.
  • For Trump, a clear majority of Americans — 53% — approve of Trump being indicted for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Of course, those are hardly equivalent negatives for each candidate. Undermining the country’s democracy is a much bigger fault than being perceived as too old. So it makes sense that Trump fares worse overall than Biden does in this poll.

Fifty-two percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Biden, compared to 62% who have a unfavorable view of Trump.

Furthermore, 54% say they “definitely” or “probably” won’t support Biden if he’s the Democratic nominee, while 63% say the same of Trump if he’s the GOP nominee.

Still, it’s extraordinary that a big majority of Americans want different choices.

FiveThirtyEight: “As of writing, this model gives Trump around a 78 percent chance of winning the nomination (sound familiar?) based on the polls.”

“But there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding how much we can trust surveys to produce a reliable signal in this primary — the biggest problem being that, historically, only a handful of candidates were polling around 50 percent nationally at this point in the cycle. Thanks to that small sample size, Trump’s ‘true’ win probability could be as low as 54 percent.”

“Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio is telling Republican donors that Nikki Haley ‘has surged’ in Iowa since last week’s GOP presidential debate — and that she and Vivek Ramaswamy are essentially tied with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire,” Axios reports.

Gallup: “Labor unions continue to enjoy high support in the U.S., with 67% of Americans approving of them, similar to the elevated level seen in recent years after more than a decade of rising support.”

“Mirroring this trend, Americans have gradually become more likely than a decade ago to want unions’ influence to strengthen and to believe unions benefit various aspects of business and the economy.”

SUAREZ 2024. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) announced on Tuesday that he’s suspending his campaign for the White House, The Hill reports.

“The day before he announced the end of his short-lived presidential campaign, Francis Suarez filed a financial disclosure statement with the Federal Elections Commission revealing more than a dozen previously undisclosed lucrative side gigs held by the Miami mayor since the beginning of 2022,” the Miami Herald reports.

“In his federal financial disclosure, dated Aug. 28 and released publicly on Tuesday, Suarez listed income ranges for 15 consulting arrangements or jobs, including his mayoral compensation, and five investment properties — putting his total income for the past 20 months somewhere between $2.1 and $12.9 million.”

“This is the first time that Suarez — a part-time mayor with annual compensation of around $130,000 from the role — has reported income earned from outside work, which is not required for state and local disclosures.”

RAMASWAMY 2024. “He’s a very, very, very intelligent person. He’s got good energy, and he could be some form of something. I tell you, I think he’d be very good.”— Donald Trump, talking to Glenn Beck about possibly picking Vivek Ramaswamy as his running mate.

New York Times: “There are layers to Mr. Ramaswamy’s distortions: He has spread lies and exaggerations on subjects including the 2020 election results, the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol and climate change. When challenged on those statements, Mr. Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur who is the first millennial Republican to run for president, has in several instances claimed that he had never made them or that he had been taken out of context.”

“But his denials have repeatedly been refuted by recordings and transcripts from Mr. Ramaswamy’s interviews — or, in some cases, excerpts from his own book.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Blake Masters (R), who lost his Arizona Senate bid last year, is set to announce he is running again in 2024, according to people familiar with his plans, injecting additional uncertainty into what is expected to be one of the most chaotic and competitive races in the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The contest for the seat currently held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is seen as a potential Republican pickup as the party tries to win back control of the Senate. Sinema, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, hasn’t said whether she is running for re-election.”

BALTIMORE MAYOR. Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s political career seemed to be over in 2010 when she resigned after she was convicted of stealing gift cards that were supposed to help needy families, but now she’s once again mulling a comeback to reclaim her old office. Should she wage another campaign to lead this loyally blue city, the former mayor would be seeking to oust incumbent Brandon Scott, who beat her 30-27 in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Dixon sounds quite interested in waging such a campaign next year. “I’ve been praying on it,” she told WBFF Fox45 in June. The following month, longtime Baltimore politico Anthony McCarthy, a Dixon ally, told a crowd that included the ex-mayor that she was “getting involved in a campaign,” continuing, “I’m not going to say anymore, but you may be able to vote for her again very soon.”

Around that time, an organization that the Baltimore Banner characterized as a “prominent fundraising group” set up a pro-Dixon super PAC. The former mayor responded by telling the site, “It would definitely inspire me to enter, because I hate fundraising.” Maryland’s filing deadline is Feb. 9, so the Dixon still has a bit of time to decide.

But she may not be the only Democrat who tries to deny renomination to Scott. In particular, Thiru Vignarajah, a former federal and state prosecutor, tells the Baltimore Sun he hasn’t ruled out a bid. “I’m not thinking about the mayor’s race right now,” he insisted when asked whether he was taking a campaign off the table. Tellingly, he added, “If we’re serious about tackling crime and corruption, surely our only options can’t be Brandon and Sheila.”

Vignarajah, who took fourth place in the 2020 primary, was on the ballot again last year when he challenged another disgraced Baltimore official, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is awaiting trial for mortgage fraud and perjury. However, defense attorney Ivan Bates ended up beating Vignarajah 41-30 in the Democratic primary as the balance went to Mosby; Dixon herself appeared in super PAC ads promoting Bates, commercials the Banner characterized as “ubiquitous.”

Scott became the youngest person ever elected mayor of Charm City when he won at the age of 36, a campaign in which he argued that he’d “change the guard” in a city with a high homicide rate and multiple corruption scandals. Indeed, one of those scandals involved former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who narrowly defeated none other than Dixon 37-35 in the 2016 primary before resigning in disgrace three years later, ultimately pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges related to her self-published children’s books. (Jack Young, the City Council president who succeeded Pugh, ended up taking fifth place in the 2020 primary to remain mayor.)

Scott, writes the Sun’s Emily Opilo, has prioritized public safety, but critics note that homicides stubbornly remain over 300 per year, a trend that goes back to 2015. The mayor’s team, though, has touted a recent decrease to argue that matters are improving under his watch. At least one potential opponent has found Scott’s arguments persuasive: City Comptroller Bill Henry recently opted against a challenge and decided to run for reelection instead. “The fact of the matter is that I like Brandon personally and I do agree with him on so many of the things that he is trying to do,” said Henry.”

Dixon, for her part, has long retained a solid base of support from voters who remember her as the mayor who helped bring down the murder rate. “She got a raw deal,” one backer told Politico in 2020 of the scandal that ended her tenure. “She was actually putting police in the community.” Radio host Kaye Whitehead also recently argued to Opilo, “Baltimore tends to reach for the familiar in times of uncertainty. Sheila Dixon is familiar.”

Dixon, who turns 70 this year, said in June that this would be her final comeback attempt should she run. “This is the time to do it if I’m going to do it,” she told Fox45. “I’m beyond waiting another cycle.”

OREGON STATE SENATE.: Five Republican state senators filed a lawsuit in state court Friday against Democratic Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade weeks after she announced that a 2022 referendum would prevent them from seeking reelection because they participated in a legislative boycott this year.

Voters last year approved Measure 113, which says that any legislator who incurs 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session can’t seek another term in the subsequent election and that these legislators would only regain the ability to run again after sitting out their next term. Measure 113, which passed 68-32, came after Republicans spent years boycotting the legislature in order to deny Democrats the two-thirds supermajorities needed for a quorum, tactics that let the GOP minority block bills on topics such as climate change and gun safety.

The passage of Measure 113, though, didn’t prevent Republicans from doing the very same thing this year, and Griffin-Valade declared earlier this month that she’d enforce it to keep any boycotters from running for reelection in 2024. The plaintiffs, however, argue that the wording of Measure 113 means they can seek another term.

The text says that these legislators can’t run “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” Because these terms don’t actually end until two months after Election Day, Republicans insist that this prohibition wouldn’t take effect until their following election. State senators in Oregon serve staggered four-year terms, and the Republicans who want to run next year argue that the soonest they could be penalized for their actions in 2023 is 2028.

Griffin-Valade, though, addressed this very argument earlier this month in her announcement. She wrote that the courts “have emphasized that the text of adopted ballot measures must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the voters’ intent. And voters universally understood Measure 113 would prohibit legislators who accumulate 10 or more unexcused absences during a legislative session from holding office in the immediate next term.”

Griffin-Valade noted that the explanatory text in the 2022 voter pamphlet said the act would prevent impacted legislators “from holding term of office after the legislator’s current term ends.” She added that there was no indication that anyone was confused during or immediately after the election about what Measure 113 would do.

TEXAS 23RD DISTRICT. Terrell County Sheriff Thaddeus Cleveland said Friday that he wouldn’t challenge GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales for renomination, a declaration that came four months after he announced that he was forming an exploratory committee. Gonzales already faces three intra-party opponents, and an old foe also hasn’t dismissed talk that he could also take on the congressman: The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek writes that businessman Raul Reyes “declined to comment” after a Gonzales detractor tagged him in a social media post along with two of the incumbent’s declared foes.

Reyes in 2020 unexpectedly lost the GOP runoff for what was an open seat to Gonzales by only 45 votes, and he initially expressed interest in trying again the following cycle. Reyes, though, decided to run for the state Senate instead only to lose the 2022 Republican runoff to once-and-future state Sen. Peter Flores 59-41.

OHIO REFERENDUMS. Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom announced Monday that it would sue the GOP-led state Ballot Board days after it voted along party lines to adopt Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s summary of the Nov. 7 proposed abortion rights amendment, text that, among other things, substitutes the words “unborn child” in place of “fetus.” The matter will go before the state Supreme Court, where the GOP has a 4-3 majority.

NEW YORK 4TH DISTRICT. The New York Times reports that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries tried to convince former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to take on freshman GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito as recently as last month, but she’s decided not to. “Primaries can be bloodying, and they cost a lot of money,” Curran herself told the paper. The Democratic field consists of 2022 nominee Laura Gillen, attorney Sarah Hughes, and state Sen. Kevin Thomas.

LOUISIANA REFERENDUM. Louisiana will become the first state in the nation to let voters weigh in on a proposal to ban private funding for elections this fall, an effort that comes after years of conservative conspiracy theories about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s role in the 2020 presidential election. No one has released any polls of the Oct. 14 contest over Amendment 1, which will take place the same day that the Pelican State holds its all-party primary for governor, but a prominent local voting rights advocate tells Bolts’ Alex Burness he’s pessimistic about opponents’ chances.

Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced in October 2020 that they would donate $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit that provided grants to cash-strapped election officials at a time when the pandemic resulted in a massive increase of mail-in voting; other organizations, including Google and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, also made large contributions. “Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without it,” one local elections administrator in Pennsylvania told NPR. “This grant really was a lifesaver in allowing us to do more, efficiently and expeditiously.”

But while CTCL’s grants, as Burness writes, went to 47 states, Louisiana was not one of them, even though Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin at first encouraged parish clerks to apply. (Parishes are the state’s equivalent of counties.) But Attorney General Jeff Landry, a far-right Republican who is now the frontrunner to succeed termed-out Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, responded by telling clerks that state law forbade them from taking outside money, even though there was no such law on the books. Landry went on to file a lawsuit baselessly alleging that CTCL was trying to send the money to certain areas of the state as part of “an inherently insidious and corrupting effect.”

The head of the state’s association of election clerks, Debbie Hudnall, told the Louisiana Illuminator in response that there was no sign at all that CTCL had any partisan agenda. Hudnall, though, said that Landry’s team said he’d sue any clerk who tried to obtain funding, an account the attorney general’s office denied. Landry nevertheless succeeded: Louisiana, along with Delaware and Wyoming, was one of just three states that did not receive any funds from the nonprofit.

Following Donald Trump’s defeat that fall, Big Lie spreaders responded by throwing out evidence-free accusations that the money from Zuckerberg was used to advance an imagined pro-Joe Biden conspiracy. The Anti-Defamation League warned that such rhetoric was an antisemitic dog whistle insinuating that “rich Jews are controlling levers of power.” (Zuckerberg is Jewish.)

However, Republicans in Louisiana were eager to join in. “The use of private money to finance public elections, or ‘Zuckerbucks,’ is the gravest danger that our nation faces, bar none,” wrote state GOP chair Louis Gurvich last year. “Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-in [sic], and the Ayatollah combined do not threaten our republic as severely as does the loss of confidence in the fairness of our elections.”

Legislatures in 25 states have now passed laws to restrict or ban private money from being used for elections, but Edwards has used his veto pen to prevent Louisiana from becoming the 26th for now. However, while GOP legislators haven’t been able to muster up quite enough support to override the governor, who has blasted their efforts as an “unnecessary political ploy,” they enlisted the help of 10 House Democrats in June to place their new plan on the ballot as Amendment 1. Unlike the bills Edwards blocked, though, the amendment also says it would ban election funding from “foreign government[s],” text critics argue was inserted to raise the specter of another nonexistent threat.

Burness writes that there’s been no well-funded campaign to promote or defeat the proposal, though Peter Robins-Brown of the nonprofit Louisiana Progress believes it’s sure to pass. Burness summarized Robins-Brown’s fears, writing that “without context, many people of varying political stripes will likely be persuaded by the argument that a private or foreign interest shouldn’t be sending Louisiana money to perform basic governmental operations.”

Robins-Brown also said that Amendment 1 wouldn’t fix any actual problems plaguing Louisiana’s under-funded elections. “If you’re going to do this, you also need to make sure that election administration is fully funded, and that’s where I think there’s the element of potential bad faith here,” he told Burness. “You’re going after this one piece of the larger puzzle without addressing the underlying problem, which is underfunding of election administration.”

That problem, though, isn’t being addressed in the state. “The state is scrambling to make sure they have enough machines for everyone, but we can’t get them anymore,” said Bridget Hanna, the Republican clerk of reliably red Ascension Parish, who told Burness her equipment is now nearly two decades old. “We’re just hanging on.”

ARIZONA 3RD DISTRICT. Duane Wooten, a pediatrician who has been quoted by the local news concerning medical issues, has confirmed that he’ll campaign in the Democratic primary for this safely blue seat around Phoenix, though the first-time candidate begins with plenty of insiders skeptical about his prospects. The two main contenders running to succeed Senate candidate Ruben Gallego are Phoenix City Councilmember Yassamin Ansari and former state Sen. Raquel Terán, and Axios’ Jeremy Duda recently wrote that “most observers don’t expect” Wooten or any of the other declared candidates to wage a serious fight against the frontrunners.

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

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