The Political Report – October 31, 2023

A new Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll finds Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential race with 43%, followed by Nikki Haley at 16%, Ron DeSantis at 16%, Tim Scott at 7%, Vivek Ramaswamy at 4%, Chris Christie at 4% and Doug Burgum at 3%.

Wall Street Journal: In first state for GOP presidential voting, the race is on for second place.

The same Iowa poll finds 65% of Republican voters say Donald Trump “can win an election against Joe Biden, regardless of his legal challenges.” Another 32% say his legal challenges “will make it nearly impossible for him to win an election against Joe Biden.”

Politico: “Haley, to be sure, isn’t filling stadiums. Campaigning recently in Iowa, her events look much like they did throughout the spring and summer…”

“But there are signs on the trail that Haley is now a critical factor in the race, evident not only in the supporters who show up for her, but in the opponents who once ignored her.”

“Donald Trump predicted Sunday he would win Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses in January, tossing aside what he called advisers’ caution not to overstate expectations, even as he greeted his audience by naming a city in a neighboring state,” the AP reports.

Associated Press: “More than four-fifths of Mississippi’s legislative candidates will have no major-party opposition in the Nov. 7 general election.”

“And more than half of this year’s winners will have faced no other Republicans or Democrats in either the primary or te general election.”

CNN: “Many of [Florida Governor DeSantis’] top lieutenants in charge of executing his hard-charging agenda — which doubles as a platform for his presidential campaign — earn six-figure incomes.”

“In some cases, their pay far outpaces the salaries for their jobs under past Florida governors.”

“One of Donald Trump’s new comedic bits at his rallies features him impersonating the current commander in chief with an over-the-top caricature mocking President Biden’s age,” the New York Times reports.

“With droopy eyelids and mouth agape, Mr. Trump stammers and mumbles. He squints. His arms flap. He shuffles his feet and wanders laggardly across the stage. A burst of laughter and applause erupts from the crowd as he feigns confusion by turning and pointing to invisible supporters, as if he does not realize his back is to them.”

“But his recent campaign events have also featured less deliberate stumbles. Mr. Trump has had a string of unforced gaffes, garble and general disjointedness that go beyond his usual discursive nature, and that his Republican rivals are pointing to as signs of his declining performance.”

NEW YORK 3RD DISTRICT. Federal Judge Joanna Seybert announced Friday that Republican Rep. George Santos’ fraud trial would begin Sept. 9, which is more than two months after New York holds its June 25 primary. Almost no one, with the possible exception of Santos, thinks he’ll once again be his party’s nominee for the 3rd District, but he faces a far more immediate threat to his political future.

Four fellow members of the Empire State’s GOP House delegation―Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, and Marc Molinaro―announced Thursday that they were introducing a resolution to force the House to decide in the coming week whether to expel Santos; two others, Nick Langworthy and Brandon Williams, also said earlier in the month that they wanted Santos thrown out of the House. Five of these representatives hold a seat that Joe Biden carried in 2020 (only Langworthy’s 23rd is safely red), and they likely have the most to lose the longer Santos’ scandals and antics make news.

Each of these New Yorkers voted with the rest of their GOP colleagues in May to table a similar resolution from California Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia. However, Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin notes that these six Republicans and the 212 Democrats together would have just enough support to prevent the chamber from doing the same thing this time.

It would take a two-thirds vote to make Santos the first member of Congress to be booted by his colleagues since Ohio Democratic Rep. James Traficant in 2002, but other Republicans aren’t so eager to end this dry spell. The 3rd District backed Biden 54-45 in 2020, and Democrats would have a strong chance to flip it in a special election and erode the GOP’s tiny House majority still further. And sure enough, Speaker Mike Johnson declared Thursday that “George Santos is due due process [and] we have to allow due process to play out.”

A special may be on the horizon even if Santos isn’t expelled, though, as he could accept a plea deal with prosecutors that would almost certainly require him to resign. Under state special election law it would be up to party leaders in the district’s two counties, Suffolk and Queens, to pick their respective nominees.

Santos’ Democratic predecessor, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, may have the inside track in such a contest due to his ties to party leaders. Politico reported earlier this month that Suozzi has a stake in four summer camps owned by Jay Jacobs, who chairs both the state and Nassau County party; Suozzi also spent six years serving with 5th District Rep. Greg Meeks, who runs the Queens party, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who would likely have some influence over the nomination process.

Several candidates are challenging Santos for renomination, and it remains to be seen if GOP leaders have a preference for any of them.

WISCONSIN 3RD DISTRICT. State Rep. Katrina Shankland has released an internal poll of the Democratic primary from Blueprint Polling that shows her trailing businesswoman Rebecca Cooke by 21-18, with former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson at 11. The memo argues that Shankland has more room to grow, finding that Cooke, who was the runner-up for the nomination here in 2022, has higher name recognition at 42% compared to just under 30% for the other two Democrats.

This is the first primary poll we’ve seen here since all three women joined the race to take on GOP Rep. Derrick Van Orden.

MARYLAND 3RD DISTRICT. “Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who testified to the Jan. 6 select committee about his experience during the Capitol riot, is considering a run for Congress,” Axios reports. “Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) announced Thursday he will not run for a 10th term, opening up his safely Democratic district in the central Maryland suburbs for the first time in nearly two decades.”

Multiple Democrats say that they’re also interested in running and the Baltimore Banner has put together a list of these potential contenders:

  • Del. Vanessa Atterbeary
  • Howard County Executive Calvin Ball
  • State Sen. Sarah Elfreth
  • State Sen. Dawn Gile
  • Del. Dana Jones

Elfreth said Friday she would “definitely going to take the weekend and determine where I can have the best impact on these issues,” while Ball declared he’d decide by Thanksgiving. Atterbeary, for her part, said, “I am confident that I will be in the race.”

State Sen. Clarence Lam, meanwhile, declined to talk about his plans to the Banner. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, however, took his name out of contention by saying that he’d serve out the new four-year term he won in 2022.

NEW YORK 4TH DISTRICT. 2022 nominee Laura Gillen has publicized an internal poll from Public Policy Polling that shows her with a wide 53-10 lead over state Sen. Kevin Thomas in next year’s Democratic primary. The survey shows Gillen with a 51-8 favorable rating among primary voters, while Thomas is more unknown at 25-9 favorable.

ARIZONA 8TH DISTRICT. State Sen. Anthony Kern, who was part of a slate of fake Trump electors, said Monday he was “about 90% there” on a campaign to succeed his fellow Republican, retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko. Kern, though, may have other things to worry about, as the Washington Post reported days later that Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes’ investigation into the fake electors was “zeroing in on the pressure placed on local officials” by Trump’s forces.

One person who will not be running, though, is Elijah Norton, a wealthy businessman who lost an ugly GOP primary last year to 1st District Rep. David Schweikert. Norton, who is currently the state party’s treasurer, tweeted Thursday, “I am gracious for the encouragement I have received by those asking me to run for CD-8 following @RepDLesko’s retirement (who we thank for her service), but I must humbly decline.”

MINNESOTA 3RD DISTRICT. Rep. Dean Phillips on Thursday launched what could charitably be called a longshot primary challenge to President Joe Biden, but he did not indicate if he was open to running for reelection to the House. Minnesota’s candidate filing deadline is in early June, so we may be waiting a while.

DNC official Ron Harris, though, already announced in mid-October that he’d run for the 3rd District no matter what Phillips did, and he responded to the congressman’s news Friday by tweeting, “Dean Phillips is running for President using Republican talking points—days after Republicans elevated MAGA Mike Johnson to Speaker. I’m running a primary campaign against Dean so MN-03 has a strong Democrat who is focused on the district.” Harris also earned an endorsement from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, though all of Carter’s constituents live in Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s 4th District.

A few other Democrats expressed interest earlier this month in running if Phillips left, and we’re waiting to see if any of them decide to go for it now. The 3rd, which is based in the western Minneapolis suburbs, favored Biden 60-39 in 2020, and Democrats are strongly favored to keep it.

NEW MEXICO REDISTRICTING. The New Mexico Supreme Court has set a Nov. 20 date for oral arguments in the GOP’s appeal of a recent lower court ruling that had upheld the state’s Democratic-drawn congressional map on the basis that it was not egregiously gerrymandered enough to violate the state constitution.

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

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