The Political Report – September 19, 2023

“As President Biden shifts his re-election campaign into higher gear, the strength of his candidacy is being tested by a striking divide between Democratic leaders, who are overwhelmingly unified behind his bid, and rank-and-file voters in the party who harbor persistent doubts about whether he is their best option,” the New York Times reports.

“From the highest levels of the party on down, Democratic politicians and party officials have long dismissed the idea that Mr. Biden should have any credible primary challenger. Yet despite their efforts — and the president’s lack of a serious opponent within his party — they have been unable to dispel Democratic concerns about him that center largely on his age and vitality.”

“The discord between the party’s elite and its voters leaves Democrats confronting a level of disunity over a president running for re-election not seen for decades.”

A new CBS News poll finds 64% of voters believe a likely Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 means the political system is broken.

Only 34% of registered U.S. voters think President Biden would complete a second term if re-elected, 44% believe he’d leave before it ended and 22% are unsure, according to a new CBS News/YouGov poll.

That compares with 55% who think Donald Trump would finish a full term if elected in 2024.

“Republican presidential candidates spent the weekend wooing social conservatives, most of them staking out positions to Donald Trump’s right — as Trump continued to warn activists that they could lose if they overemphasized abortion bans,” Semafor reports.

Said Trump: “I said to politicians, they just don’t know how to talk about the issue. It’s a complex issue, but they don’t know how to talk about it. And if they don’t speak about it correctly, they’re not going to win.”

Jonathan Chait: “Trump thinks the primary is over. The Republican Party has a clear anti-abortion majority, and Trump is handing DeSantis an opportunity to wedge him away from the party’s base — especially in Iowa with its overconcentration of social conservatives. Trump would do this only if he believed the primary was effectively over and he could focus on the general election.”

Rolling Stone: “Fully one-third of U.S. states have election deniers in some of the highest positions overseeing elections. That’s according to a new report from States United Democracy Center highlighted by Mother Jones.”

“Although many election deniers lost their races in the 2022 midterms, States United, a non-partisan organization, found that a total of 23 election deniers now hold statewide office positions that give them influential oversight over elections in 17 different states. This includes seven governors, five secretaries of state, and 11 attorneys general.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told Iowa voters that he does indeed have a girlfriend, calling her “a lovely Christian girl,” Politico reports.

Donald Trump told NBC News that he likes “the concept” of having a female running mate, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R). Said Trump: “She’s been a great governor. She gave me a very full-throated endorsement, a beautiful endorsement actually. And, you know, it’s been a very good state for me. And certainly she’d be one of the people I’d consider, or for something else maybe. But we have a lot of people. We have a lot of great people in the Republican Party.”

 “Vivek Ramaswamy has vowed to ‘gut’ the system for H-1B temporary worker visas if he wins the White House,” Politico reports. “It’s the very system he’s used in the past to hire high-skilled foreign workers for the pharma company that built much of his wealth.”

“The Iowa Democratic Party voted Saturday to hold the in-person portion of its 2024 presidential caucuses on Jan. 15 — the same day Iowa Republicans plan to caucus,” the Des Moines Register reports. “But the bigger question, still left unresolved, is how Democrats will handle the mail-in portion of their caucuses, which they will use to cast their presidential preferences.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) refused to tell CNN if she felt Vice President Kamala Harris was the best fit as Joe Biden’s running mate in his re-election bid. Said: “Biden thinks so, and that’s what matters.”  When Anderson Cooper followed up, she said: “She’s the vice president of the United States. People say to me, ‘Why isn’t she doing this or that?’ Because she’s the vice president. That’s the job description. You don’t do that much.”

Politico: “Examining the voters assembled behind Trump — and the minority who are backing other candidates — is essential to understanding how he came to dominate the fight for the GOP nomination. It also underscores the uphill climb Trump’s opponents have to unseating the former president as the leader of a Republican Party he’s reshaped in his own image. Call it a pre-mortem autopsy for the primary, which feels close to being over despite Trump’s well-documented judicial headaches.”

“What was once an emerging two-man race between Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instead now looks like a runaway train.”

Billionaire GOP donor Ken Griffin told CNBC that he is sitting on the sidelines of the GOP presidential primary and not supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who he backed in 2022.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: “Every party, at every time, has some tension between its elites and its base. But it’s hard to think of a more spectacular divide than the one currently defining the GOP”

“Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) promised this spring to persevere as she revealed a Parkinson’s diagnosis that stilted her movements and slurred her speech, hurdles she hoped to overcome while serving a competitive Northern Virginia district,” the Washington Post reports.

“But as Wexton, 55, failed to respond to treatments as hoped, this summer she found herself confronting a more serious diagnosis: progressive supranuclear palsy. Her instinct — the same thing that propelled her from the state Senate to Congress — was to fight.”

“The rare neurological disorder — often mistaken for Parkinson’s because the early symptoms are similar — typically progresses more rapidly, does not respond as well to treatment and has no cure. Faced with the reality that her condition will likely only worsen, Wexton said she will not seek a fourth term next year, choosing instead to spend her remaining years with her family.”

WASHINGTON REDISTRICTING. Democratic legislative leaders have announced that they won’t reconvene Washington’s bipartisan redistricting commission after a federal court ruled last month that one of the legislative districts that commissioners adopted after 2020 violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting Latino voting power. However, the Republicans who were allowed to intervene as co-defendants in the case have announced they will appeal the district judge’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Because Washington’s redistricting commission has two voting members from both parties and no tie-breaking vote, the GOP likely would have blocked a suitable remedy had it been reconvened.

Last month, a district judge struck down the 15th District, which is located in the Yakima Valley in south-central Washington, finding that despite its nominal 51% Latino majority among eligible voters, turnout disparities and white voters’ hostility to Latino-preferred candidates meant that Latino voters could not effectively elect their chosen candidates there. If the court’s ruling survives on appeal and it redraws the 15th to strengthen Latino voting power, it could eventually result in Latino-backed Democrats gaining one seat in the state Senate and two in the state House (Washington uses the same map for both legislative chambers, with each district electing one senator and two representatives.)

GEORGIA 6TH DISTRICT. Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who recently kicked off a bid for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, says she’ll see her campaign through to the end regardless of whether the state’s map gets redrawn.

In 2021, Republicans gerrymandered the Atlanta-area 6th District to an extreme degree: Under its prior boundaries, the district had backed Joe Biden by a 55-44 margin, but after the GOP got done with it, the new version would have supported Donald Trump 57-42. That makes it inhospitable turf for Democrats like Richardson—so much so that the district’s former representative, Lucy McBath, decided to seek reelection last year in the neighboring (and safely blue) 7th instead.

But the Atlanta area could get rejiggered yet again, depending on a lawsuit that says Republicans are obligated by the Voting Rights Act to create an additional district where Black voters can elect their preferred candidates. (The suit relies on the same provision of the VRA at issue in Alabama, where Black voters successfully made a similar argument.) A trial in the case just ended on Thursday, and the judge presiding over the dispute says he plans to rule by Thanksgiving, which this year is Nov. 23.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. The Republican field to replace Sen. Mitt Romney following his recent announcement that he won’t seek reelection next year continues to take shape, and Bloomberg relays a quote from conservative activist Carolyn Phippen saying she’s “exploring” a run, something that state party chair Robert Axson had previously suggested was likely. Meanwhile, KUTV reports that a spokeswoman for Gov. Spencer Cox said her boss was not planning to run, though there’s no direct quote. Cox had previously announced in March that he would seek reelection next year instead, though that of course was before Romney had called it quits.

The Salt Lake Tribune mentioned several Republicans who could run, including Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore, and Burgess Owens; Lt. Gov. Diedre Henderson; real estate executive and former state party chair Thomas Wright; JR Bird, who is the mayor of the small town of Roosevelt; and businessman Brad Bonham, who serves on the Republican National Committee. None of that bunch appears to have said anything about their interest yet except for Curtis and Moore, who both had already refused to rule out the prospect.

Lastly, Politico reports that multiple congressional Republicans are encouraging Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Robert O’Brien to run. O’Brien, who had worked on both of Romney’s presidential campaigns, just last month said he didn’t want to run for office next year, but it’s unclear yet if his interest has changed with Romney out of the picture.

So far the only notable candidate officially running is Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who had been primarying Romney from the right. However, state House Speaker Brad Wilson had also been raising money for a potential bid against Romney for months and had hinted right after the senator’s announcement that he could formally jump into the race soon.

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

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