Politico: “With poll after brutal poll showing the president in danger of losing a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump, his campaign is getting an unusual boost from a super PAC spending millions of dollars to resuscitate public opinion of him in major battlegrounds.”
“The ads are striking for both their timing and their content.”
“The election is still 423 days away, and Biden and an affiliate of his chief super PAC are already running TV ads in nearly every major battleground state — far earlier than normal for a presidential election. And instead of going on the attack, as super PACs usually do, the ads are trying to boost Biden’s image.”
Bill Scher: “Without question, we have several historically unusual factors. Biden is our first octogenarian president… Biden also has to perform in a 24-7 media culture, so visible aspects of aging, such as his more prevalent stammer, can’t be hidden. Age will be an X-factor of unknown relevance until the votes are tallied.”
“But it is also true that almost every time there is an age gap between the candidates, the younger candidate’s campaign tries to exploit it. And in each of those instances, age was not the factor that determined the outcome.
“Even today, we don’t have any firm evidence that concerns about Biden’s age are turning Democratic voters into Republican voters. Any softness in Biden’s level of support is more easily attributable to the lingering effects of high, albeit cooling, inflation, though it is difficult to separate the impact of age and inflation on Biden’s numbers.”
Ross Douthat: “Biden got elected, in part, by casting himself as a transitional figure, a bridge to a more youthful and optimistic future. Now he needs some general belief in that brighter future to help carry him to re-election.”
“But wherever Americans might find such optimism, we are probably well past the point that a decrepit-seeming president can hope to generate it himself.”
“Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy says that as president, he would deport American-born children of undocumented immigrants,” NBC News reports. “These children, however, are U.S. citizens, regardless of their parents’ immigration status.”
New York Times: “Mr. Trump’s grip on the party’s voters is as powerful as ever, with polls in Iowa and New Hampshire last month putting him at least 25 percentage points above his nearest rivals.”
“That has left major Republican donors — whose desires have increasingly diverged from those of conservative voters — grappling with the reality that the tens of millions of dollars they have spent to try to stop the former president, fearing he poses a mortal threat to their party and the country, may already be a sunk cost.”
Ron DeSantis’ team says it would be satisfied with a “strong second-place showing” in Iowa, as the Florida governor intensifies his campaign in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, Politico reports.
Said a DeSantis campaign official: “We believe it’s already a two-person race. But the reality is, on the ballot there are other choices, and our goal is to get this down to a two-person race on the ballot, especially as we head into South Carolina and beyond into March.”
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has privately complained about a powerful operative at the center of his 2024 presidential effort, a sign of the internal drama that has complicated his struggling White House bid,” the Washington Post reports.
“DeSantis has expressed regrets over Jeff Roe’s hiring as a lead strategist at the super PAC Never Back Down, an outside group that has assumed many responsibilities in the race traditionally handled by campaigns.”
ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Former President Donald Trump on Sunday called Blake Masters, the failed Arizona Senate candidate considering a second run next year, and told him he didn’t think Mr. Masters could win a primary race against Kari Lake, the former news anchor who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Trump’s delivery of this blunt political assessment — which could indicate that Mr. Trump may endorse Ms. Lake if she has a relatively open path to the nomination — is at odds with Mr. Trump’s posture so far this political cycle, in which he has shown more restraint in endorsing candidates than he had in the 2022 midterms.”
WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. Research America said this week that it incorrectly reported Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s percentage of the vote in its new GOP primary poll for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, MetroNews West Virginia, and The Health Group. The survey really found Del. Moore Capito beating Morrisey 32-27, while Capito’s lead was originally listed as 32-23; businessman Chris Miller remained a distant third with 9%. The new release also corrected two other numbers: Secretary of State Mac Warner took 6%, compared to the 7% Research America originally placed him at, while the proportion of undecideds was 26% instead of 29%.
“We discovered a programming error late yesterday that was missed during our team’s quality control process last week, which I am ultimately responsible for,” Research America head Rex Repass said. He added, “No other question was affected.”
MONTANA ATTORNEY GENERAL. The board responsible for policing attorney ethics in Montana filed a complaint on Tuesday accusing Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen of committing 41 counts of professional misconduct. Timothy Strauch, an appointee of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, also requested that a review panel hear the matter and recommend any disciplinary action to the Montana Supreme Court. Knudsen, who won 59-41 in 2020, is up for reelection next year, and his team dismissed the complaint as politically motivated.
Strauch’s report focused on a 2021 conflict in which the Republican-dominated legislature passed a law doing away with the Judicial Nomination Commission, an independent body that had been responsible for providing the governor with a list of candidates for appointment to the state’s highest court. The state Supreme Court eventually ruled the law was constitutional, but Strauch says that Knudsen repeatedly violated the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct in his defense of the law.
Strauch argues that the attorney general and his team made “contemptuous, undignified, discourteous, and/or disrespectful” comments about the justices and defied their authority, including waiting at least eight months to follow a court order. “Knudsen and lawyers under his supervision routinely and frequently undermined public confidence in the fairness and impartiality of our system of justice,” Strauch wrote, “by attempting to evade the authority of the Montana Supreme Court and assaulting the integrity of the judiciary and the individual justices who were duly elected by Montana citizens to make decisions.”
If a panel does agree to hear the matter, it could hand down a wide range of sanctions, “from disbarment in the gravest cases to public admonition, with a number of other possibilities in between,” according to the Montana Free Press.
KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has publicized an internal poll from Garin-Hart-Yang that shows him leading Republican Daniel Cameron 51-42, which the memo says is an improvement from his 48-45 edge in an unreleased late July survey. The only other polls we’ve seen in the last two months have also come from partisan groups. Public Opinion Strategies’ July numbers for the Republican State Leadership Committee gave the governor a 49-45 edge, while an internal for Beshear from Public Policy Polling about a month ago put the incumbent ahead 49-41.
UTAH GOVERNOR. State Rep. Phil Lyman announced Tuesday that he was forming an exploratory committee for a potential GOP primary bid against incumbent Spencer Cox, who has remained a Donald Trump critic.
Lyman, by contrast, received a pardon from Trump in 2020 five years after he was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing for leading an all-terrain vehicle group through a canyon the federal government had closed in order to protect Native American cliff dwellings; prosecutors alleged that Lyman, who was a San Juan County commissioner at the time, had recruited people who had recently taken part in Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the federal law enforcement officials. Lyman, who spent 10 days in prison, unsurprisingly declared in July, “I’m all in for Trump 2024!”
OHIO REDISTRICTING. Ohio’s congressional districts will remain unchanged in 2024 after the state Supreme Court granted a request by plaintiffs to dismiss two legal challenges to the map, which the court ruled violated the state constitution as an impermissible partisan gerrymander last year.
Despite that ruling, however, challengers faced steep odds of a favorable outcome after hard-right Republicans won a majority on the court in November. But by abandoning their cases, voting rights advocates will ensure that Republicans cannot draw an even more aggressive gerrymander for 2024, since Ohio’s constitution requires that the current map remain in place through next year’s elections.
Republicans would still get a chance to draw a new map after 2024 under the current law, though, which is why reformers are instead focusing their efforts on qualifying an amendment for next year’s ballot that would establish an independent redistricting commission to draw new maps.
This week, organizers submitted new ballot summary language after Republican Attorney General Dave Yost rejected their first attempt, mostly making technical changes in response to his complaints. Once they get the green light, activists will be able to start collecting the 413,000 signatures they need to put their measure before voters in 2024.
MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Former Rep. Mike Rogers, who moved to Florida sometime after he retired from the House in 2015, on Wednesday became the first serious Republican to enter the race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow back in Michigan. NRSC chair Steve Daines responded with a supportive statement that, while not explicitly endorsing the former congressman, declared he was “pleased to see Mike stepping up to run.”
Rogers, though, may not be the only Republican who steps up to run in a primary where, until now, the only remotely notable candidate has been Nikki Snyder, a state Board of Education member who has raised little money. Former Rep. Peter Meijer, who lost renomination last year after voting to impeach Donald Trump, formed an exploratory committee last week.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was thrown off the 2022 gubernatorial primary ballot over fraudulent signatures, had also pledged to decide by mid-October. New York Stock Exchange executive John Tuttle reportedly is also considering, but while an unnamed source previously told Time he could enter the GOP primary in mid-July, we still haven’t heard from him two months later. On the Democratic side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the frontrunner in a field that includes actor Hill Harper.
Rogers, who is an Army veteran and former FBI agent, has experience winning and holding on in competitive territory, though none of it recent. He was first elected to the state Senate in 1994, and he ran in 2000 to succeed none other than Stabenow when she gave up her Lansing-based U.S. House seat to successfully challenge GOP Sen. Spencer Abraham. Rogers ended up beating Democratic colleague Dianne Byrum by 111 votes even as, according to political analyst Kiernan Park-Egan, Al Gore was carrying what was then numbered the 8th District 50-47.
Republican mapmakers soon passed a new gerrymander to make Rogers more secure, and he always won reelection by double digits even in blue wave years like 2008, when Barack Obama won his seat 53-46. The congressman (who became one of two Mike Rogers in the House after the Alabama Republican won in 2002) became a popular presence on national TV news: Rogers during his final years in office even eclipsed John McCain to become the most frequent congressional guest of any on the Sunday talk shows. In 2013 the FBI Agents Association urged Obama to select Rogers, who was chair of the House Intelligence Committee, to lead the bureau, but the president instead made the fateful decision to pick James Comey.
Rogers ended up announcing in 2014 that he’d leave the House anyway to host a nationally syndicated show; Republican Mike Bishop decisively won the race to succeed him, but Slotkin unseated the new congressman in 2018. Rogers, for his part, continued his career in the media, including by hosting three seasons of the CNN show “Declassified,” and also worked in cybersecurity and as a defense lobbyist.
The Republican at some point moved to Fort Myers, Florida and registered to vote in the Sunshine State, and he also mulled a longshot 2024 presidential bid before turning his attention to the Senate. Rogers’ new campaign said Wednesday that he’d moved back to Michigan, though it wouldn’t tell the Detroit Free Press where he’d moved to.
ALASKA REFERENDUM. Alaska voters made history in 2020 when they made their state the first in the nation to adopt a top-four primary with a ranked-choice general election, but conservatives tell the Alaska Beacon’s James Brooks that they’re close to qualifying a measure to repeal the system that would go before voters next year.
The campaign has until the start of the January legislative session to turn in about 27,000 valid signatures, a figure that represents 10% of the total number of votes that were cast in the most recent general election, and it must also hit certain targets in three-quarters of Alaska’s 40 state House districts. One leader says that organizers have already gathered 30,000 petitions so far but will analyze them later to see if more are needed.
Under the current top-four system, all the candidates run on one primary ballot, and the four contenders with the most votes—regardless of party—advance to an instant-runoff general election. This method was first used last year in the special election to succeed the late GOP Rep. Don Young as Alaska’s lone House member, a contest that ultimately saw Democrat Mary Peltola defeat former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin 51-49.
Conservatives both in Alaska and across the country were furious because Palin and another Republican, Nick Begich, outpaced Peltola by a combined 59-40 in the first round of tabulations. They blamed their surprise loss on instant-runoff voting rather than Palin’s many failings or the Democrat’s strengths.
“60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican,” griped Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, “but thanks to a convoluted process and ballot exhaustion—which disenfranchises voters—a Democrat ‘won.'” But even without ranked-choice voting, Peltola still would have come in first, as she beat Palin 40-31. And since Begich took third with 28%, he may well still have lost a traditional primary to Palin had one been used.
Furthermore, a poll conducted right after the special by supporters of ranked-choice voting showed that Alaskans saw their new voting system as anything but “convoluted.” Instead, 85% of respondents found it to be “simple,” while 62% said they supported the new method.
Hard-right groups, though, soon had even more reasons to hate the new status quo. Thanks to the top-four system, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a rare Republican who’s crossed party lines on high-profile votes, would no longer face what would almost certainly have been a tough GOP primary against Donald Trump’s preferred candidate, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka. (Murkowski famously lost her 2010 primary to a far-right foe but won the general through a write-in effort.)
Instead, Murkowski and Tshibaka easily advanced to the general election with Democrat Pat Chesbro and a little-known third Republican. Murkowski led Tshibaka 43.4-42.6 in the first round of general election tabulations, but the 10% of voters who supported Chesbro overwhelmingly broke for the incumbent and helped lift her to a 54-46 victory. Peltola also won her rematch with Palin 55-45 after initially leading her 49-26; unsurprisingly, both Palin and Tshibaka ardently back the effort to end the top-four system.