The Political Report – October 22, 2023

President Biden’s approval rating fell to just 37%, according to a CNBC Survey. It’s the second lowest approval rating of Biden’s presidency.

A new AP-NORC poll finds two-thirds of Americans say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting; 65% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans agree on that evaluation.

Gallup: “The 32% of Americans who say they trust the mass media ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ to report the news in a full, fair and accurate way ties Gallup’s lowest historical reading, previously recorded in 2016.”

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. While state Sen. Shevrin Jones expressed interest in challenging GOP incumbent Rick Scott back in May, he declared this week that he was instead backing former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the Democratic primary.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Donald Trump on Wednesday night endorsed Gov. Jim Justice, who already enjoyed a huge financial and polling lead over Rep. Alex Mooney in the GOP primary. The party’s master has supported both men in the past: Justice infamously used a 2017 Trump rally to announce he was leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican again, while Trump’s support for Mooney helped the congressman win his 2022 primary against fellow incumbent David McKinley.

HOUSTON MAYOR. Hillary Clinton on Wednesday endorsed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee ahead of the Nov. 7 nonpartisan primary.

NORTH CAROLINA REDISTRICTING. North Carolina Republicans unveiled new congressional and legislative maps on Wednesday that would rank as some of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country. The new proposals would cost three to four House Democrats their seats in Congress and lock in GOP majorities in the legislature in this longtime swing state. And in the near term, there’s little Democrats can do to stop them.

Republicans put forth a pair of congressional maps that would both upend the state’s House delegation, which currently includes seven Democrats and seven Republicans thanks to a court-drawn plan. Instead, if these new maps go into effect, North Carolina would almost certainly send 10 or 11 Republicans to Washington and just three or four Democrats.

The GOP’s legislative maps, meanwhile, would turbocharge their existing gerrymanders and make it effectively impossible for Democrats to secure majorities, even though they’re routinely capable of winning statewide elections. (The current governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat, as is Attorney General Josh Stein, who is running to succeed Cooper next year.)

Even worse, the new proposals would likely ensure that, in all but the most Democratic of election years, Republicans would maintain the three-fifths supermajorities they’d need to override gubernatorial vetoes and to place constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The GOP’s two different congressional maps aim to elect 10, if not 11, Republicans. The maps would do this by packing Democrats into three overwhelmingly blue districts while meticulously spreading out Republican voters to ensure their own seats are just red enough to be safe without wasting GOP votes. The maps’ approaches differ somewhat, even though their end goal is the same: One of the maps features 11 safely Republican seats, while the other would have 10 solidly red seats and one GOP-trending swing district.

Both maps would make it all but impossible for Democratic Reps. Jeff Jackson, Kathy Manning, and Wiley Nickel to win reelection by giving them districts that Donald Trump would have carried by double-digit margins in 2020. The maps also target 1st District Rep. Don Davis but in different ways. The first map would draw him and fellow Democratic Rep. Valerie Foushee into the same heavily blue district, guaranteeing the state would lose one of its three Black members. And the second map would place Davis in a district that would have voted just 50-49 for Joe Biden in 2020 and 52-46 for Republican Sen. Ted Budd in 2022.

Republicans held committee hearings on their new maps on Thursday and have previously said they could pass them into law as early as next week. While none of the targeted Democrats have announced what they’ll do in response to the new maps, Jackson strongly implied he wouldn’t seek reelection. Should either map pass, he said in his newsletter Thursday, “I’m completely toast,” calling both plans “absolutely brutal gerrymanders.”

Before the new maps were released, Jackson had refused to rule out running for state attorney general to succeed Stein, so the GOP’s decision to target him could come back to haunt Republicans as they seek to win the post at the ballot box for the first time since 1896.

Nickel also blasted the maps, saying they would allow Republicans “to hand-pick their voters and predetermine the outcome of elections before they ever happen,” though he didn’t address his own future. Davis was noncommittal, saying only that he was “reviewing both maps.” Manning, meanwhile, had said last week that she would run for a third term, though she doesn’t appear to have said anything about the new proposals yet.

While many Republicans could run for these new, gerrymandered districts, one is of particular note. Tim Moore, the powerful speaker of the state House, has long been rumored to be interested in running for Congress. He refused to rule out the prospect when he announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. Very conveniently for Moore, both proposed maps would dismantle Jackson’s solidly blue 14th District and create a new district west of Charlotte that would be safely Republican and include Moore’s home base—but no GOP incumbent.

North Carolina is in this situation due to critical elections for the state Supreme Court that Republicans won by modest margins last fall and in 2020. Those victories allowed them to turn what had been a 4-3 majority for Democrats last year into a 5-2 GOP advantage that Republicans swiftly used to reverse a series of major rulings in favor of voting rights.

One of those decisions by the previous Democratic majority had struck down the GOP’s maps for both Congress and the state Senate, ruling that partisan gerrymandering violated the state constitution. However, the new GOP-run court took the unprecedented step of rehearing the case months later and overturned the court’s prior ruling. That immediately paved the way for a new round of Republican gerrymandering.

That decision echoed a similar one issued by the U.S. Supreme Court a few years earlier when it prohibited voters from challenging gerrymanders in federal court. That leaves North Carolina Democrats with only one realistic path to undo this state of affairs: retaking the state Supreme Court. However, the earliest that would be possible, barring unexpected vacancies, would be five years from now. To prevail, Democrats would have to win four of the next five court elections between 2024 and 2028. Democrats are defending one seat each in 2024 and 2026, while three Republican seats will be up in 2028.

ARIZONA 8TH DISTRICT. State Sen. Shawnna Bolick says she will not enter the primary to succeed her fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko. Bolick, who championed a bill that would have allowed the state legislature to decertify the state’s presidential results at any point before Inauguration Day, holds a legislative seat that Donald Trump carried only 50-48, and she could be a Democratic target next year.

IOWA 2ND DISTRICT. Disability rights activist Sarah Corkery on Wednesday became the first Democrat to announce a campaign for what will be a tough race against Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson. This northeastern Iowa seat favored Donald Trump by a small 51-47 in 2020, but Hinson turned back a challenge from Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis 54-46 two years later. The incumbent finished September with $1.3 million in the bank.

MONTANA 2ND DISTRICT. Former state Sen. Ed Walker announced Wednesday that he would run for this safely red seat in eastern Montana, and the National Journal notes that he did not address what he’d do if his fellow Republican, incumbent Matt Rosendale, decides to seek reelection rather than run for the Senate.

Walker won his only term in the legislature in 2010 and served as one of the directors of a dark money organization that was involved in a 2012 state Supreme Court contest. Walker retired from office in 2014 but later tried to get to Congress by competing in the 2017 special election for what was at the time Montana’s only House seat; party delegates, though, opted instead to nominate now-Gov. Greg Gianforte. Walker later signed on as the state chair for U.S. Term Limits.

ALABAMA 1ST DISTRICT. While Rep. Barry Moore initially said in late September that he’d decide whether or not to go up against fellow Republican incumbent Jerry Carl “once we get a map,” Moore told conservative radio host Jeff Poor on Wednesday that he still remains undecided. “[L]isten, you know, my priority right now is to get Jim Jordan as speaker,” he declared, “We’ve got some time to qualify and decide what we’re going to do.” The filing deadline is Nov. 10.

If Moore does go up against Carl for the GOP nod in this dark red seat, he’d face both a financial and geographic disadvantage. Carl finished September with a $870,000 to $650,000 cash on hand lead, and he also represents 59% of the redrawn seat to Moore’s 41%. It’s possible, though, that the Club for Growth could come to Moore’s aid: The hardline group spent over $700,000 on ads to help him win his 2020 primary, while it deployed $1.4 million that cycle in an unsuccessful drive to help one of Carl’s intra-party foes.

ALABAMA 2ND DISTRICT. State Sen. Merika Coleman has filed FEC paperwork, which makes her the first notable Democrat to take such a step in this revamped district.

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson, meanwhile, appeared to be the first serious Democrat to announce earlier this month, but she’s now saying she’s still deciding. While Tyson previously told, “I have been drafted [to run] by votes and elected officials since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s congressional maps had to be redrawn to include a second Black opportunity district,” she informed the Alabama Reflector this week she was just “strongly” considering.

MINNESOTA 2ND DISTRICT. Former federal prosecutor Joe Teirab declared Wednesday that he was joining the GOP race to take on Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, and he may finally give national Republicans a well-connected contender for this competitive seat. Teirab’s general consultant, as we’ve noted before, is a longtime ally of 6th District Rep. Tom Emmer, who is both the majority whip and a two-time NRCC chair.

Teirab, who describes himself as “the son of a Sudanese immigrant,” launched his campaign by touting his time as a Marine veteran and prosecutor, but multiple media outlets immediately began inquiring into his ties to this suburban Twin Cities seat. The new candidate grew up in Windom, which is located to the west in GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach’s 7th District, before going out of state for college and joining the military. Teirab has since returned to Minnesota, but his property records say he paid homestead taxes this year in Minnetonka over in Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips’ 3rd District.

Teirab, however, tells Axios he recently relocated to Burnsville, which is in the constituency he wants to represent. He also divulged that he’d seek the party endorsement and drop out if someone else won it: Winning the party convention isn’t the same thing as winning the primary, but many candidates decide not to continue on if delegates reject them.

Joe Biden carried this constituency 53-45, and it’s hosted several competitive races down the ballot over the last several years. The congresswoman fended off Marine veteran Tyler Kistner 51-46 last year in a rematch from their 2020 contest, but his team indicated this week that he wouldn’t try again in 2024. Kistner recently deployed abroad as a Marine reservist, and his advisor tells Axios the former candidate “has no plans to run for office this cycle.”

Attorney Tayler Rahm has been running for months, but he only had $60,000 banked at the end of September after another underwhelming fundraising quarter. Former Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, meanwhile, appears to have stopped trying altogether, and his campaign was essentially bankrupt at the end of last month. Craig, by contrast, ended the third quarter with $1.5 million on hand.

INDIANA 5TH DISTRICT. Max Engling, who worked as an aide to Kevin McCarthy from 2019 until this year, announced Wednesday that he was joining the GOP primary to replace retiring (at least right now) Rep. Victoria Spartz. Howey Politics reported in August that Engling, an Indiana native whom The Hill named to its 2012 “50 Most Beautiful list,” had a going away party in D.C. just before he moved back to the Hoosier State.

Engling, whose service with McCarthy was probably a lot more valuable two months ago, enters a contest that includes two self-funders, state Rep. Chuck Goodrich and businessman Siddharth Mahant. Another candidate, businessman Raju Chinthala, announced he was running for this gerrymandered seat in mid-September but has not reported any fundraising.

FLORIDA 5TH DISTRICT. Duval County School Board member April Carney on Monday responded to Rep. John Rutherford’s first vote against making Jim Jordan speaker by telling Florida Politics that an unnamed “major bundler” has contacted her about waging a GOP primary challenge. Carney herself didn’t rule out the idea, insisting she was “so busy with school board” that she “honestly [has] no idea” if she was interested.

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

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