The Political Report – November 10, 2023

Tuesday was obviously an extraordinary election night for Democrats. It suggests a much better political climate for the party than you’d expect based on President Biden’s approval rating or polling on the economy. Here are some quick observations:

  • The continuing Democratic overperformance in midterm, off-year, and special elections is stunning.
  • Gov. Andy Beshear should be in every conversation about who the Democrats might nominate for president in 2028.
  • You cannot overestimate how important Beshear’s abortion ad was in winning his race. Democrats should replicate it everywhere in 2024.
  • Despite repeated attempts over the last 30 years to make abortion a voting issue for Democrats, it didn’t become a true motivator until the right was actually taken away.
  • Republican extremism on abortion is probably a better motivator than the actual Democratic position.
  • Biden’s campaign message should be: “Re-elect me with a Democratic Congress and I’ll sign a bill to codify abortion rights into national law.”
  • Everyone loves to argue that polling is broken, but there were really no major surprises in yesterday’s races.
  • The GOP’s repeated attempts to demonize transgender people isn’t working as a wedge issue.

“The stage was more intimate. The voices were less restrained. And the candidates wound up again sniping more with each other than making the case against the front-runner who still wasn’t there,” ABC News reports.

“The third Republican primary debate, on Wednesday night in Miami, was as muddled as the race for president that it’s supposed to be seeking to clarify, with nearly half a dozen candidates running against a rival so popular he felt no reason to show up.”

“Donald Trump took a bit more incoming fire, but few of those attacks seemed to stick in the moment, much less in the broader context of the campaign.”

Washington Post: There are two dueling GOP primaries. One barely matters.

Politico: “Trump’s absence from the debates have given them a second-billing feel. And at times Wednesday night, Trump himself seemed to have his eye on a larger contest as well.”

Donald Trump told a radio show that he is open to considering Tucker Carlson as his potential vice president.

“Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is set to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential bid on Wednesday,” NBC News reports. “Sanders will make her announcement at Trump’s rally near Miami. Trump is skipping the debate that night and holding a counterprogramming event, as he did with the first two debates.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is breaking his rule of not endorsing in a Florida primary and plans to back former President Donald Trump over their home state governor, Ron DeSantis, The Messenger reports.

“Seven more Republican Florida legislators are endorsing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – including five defections from Ron DeSantis – underscoring the former president’s momentum and the subtle erosion of the governor’s influence in their home state,” The Messenger reports.

“We’ve become a party of losers.”— Vivek Ramaswamy, at the Republican presidential debate.

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley told entrepreneur and fellow Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy to keep her daughter “out of your voice” during a contentious moment on the debate stage in Miami on Wednesday night, the Washington Post reports.

Said Haley: “Leave my daughter out of your voice. You’re just scum.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) was smiling for photos with a mystery woman on the Republican presidential debate stage tonight and appeared to grab her hand minutes later, the Daily Beast reports.

Scott later confirmed that the woman posing besides him was indeed his girlfriend — who has been the subject of much speculation — but he stopped short of giving reporters her name.

Axios later reported her name is Mindy Noce.

“Looks like I was wrong. It’s still a long way off, but today it looks like he’s going to be the nominee.”— Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), quoted by Politico, on Donald Trump’s lead for the GOP presidential nomination.

“It feels like in July I’ll be wearing a fucking MAGA hat. It seems inevitable.”— A supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis, quoted by NBC News, on the growing fatalism around the Florida governor’s presidential campaign.

Nate Cohn: “There’s no contradiction between the polling and Tuesday’s election results. There’s not even a contradiction between the polling and the last year of special elections. Put simply: Tuesday’s results don’t change the picture for President Biden heading into 2024.”

“The surveys show millions of voters who dislike Mr. Biden but remain receptive to other Democrats and support liberal causes. The polls also show Democrats with particular strength among the most highly engaged voters, who dominate low-turnout elections like Tuesday’s, while Mr. Trump shows his greatest strength among the less engaged voters who turn out only in presidential races.”

Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik has a very smart presentation on the political landscape heading into 2024.

Here’s two slides that explains a lot:

The full slide deck is definitely worth reading.

“The Biden campaign may not be the main draw on Wednesday as Republicans descend on Miami for the third presidential debate and Donald Trump prepares for a rally in nearby Hialeah, but that isn’t stopping them from unveiling two new Spanish-language ads,” The Messenger reports.

“The counter programming comes in the form of digital and TV ads in South Florida focused on the unique diaspora groups that represent its Hispanic community, with Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans in focus respectively in each ad.”

Jonathan Last on why Tuesday’s election results were “good news” for Trump (LOL): “First, he watched another potential Republican challenger implode. Glenn Youngkin was the last, best hope for Republican donors wishing that someone could parachute into the race at double-digits and take on Trump. Floppy-hair Glenn McVest is now cooked. He staked his national viability on Republican control of the Virginia legislature and that bet didn’t come home. His consolation prize will be a 2026 Senate run against Mark Warner.”

“But the bigger win for Trump was the continued salience of abortion as an issue. I think Democrats have a real blind spot here because they see Trump as the guy who overturned Roe with his SCOTUS appointments. But I don’t know that voters are going to see him that way—especially since Trump is the only Republican with the freedom to sound vague on abortion.”

“After months of quietly signaling her support for Ron DeSantis, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will formally endorse the Florida governor for president at a Des Moines rally Monday,” the Des Moines Register reports.  

“The endorsement is an enormous win for DeSantis, who hopes to harness Reynolds’ star power among Iowa Republicans as he looks to jumpstart his stagnant campaign and establish himself as a clear alternative to front-runner Donald Trump in the race’s critical final months.”

“Ron DeSantis has been trying to persuade voters in Iowa and New Hampshire to back his presidential bid, but he has failed to make the case in his own state of Florida,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“From polls to interviews with party activists and elected officials across the state, there are abundant signs Donald Trump would trounce the sitting governor in Florida among Republican voters—if DeSantis even makes it to the March 19 primary.”

“Ron DeSantis’s biggest donor is considering switching his support to Donald Trump, in a sharp rebuke of the Florida governor’s White House aspirations,” the Financial Times reports.

“Robert Bigelow, a Nevada real estate investor who has funded space exploration and research into paranormal activities, gave more than $20mn to the DeSantis campaign earlier this year, the largest donation to any 2024 candidate, according to the latest federal filings.”

“But Bigelow criticized DeSantis for running a weak campaign — and said Hamas’s attack on Israel last month showed the U.S. needed a ‘streetwise’ leader such as Trump.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ senior advisers are outlining a difficult path to the Republican presidential nomination that can succeed only by first denying Donald Trump “a big win” in Iowa, where the DeSantis campaign is promising to leverage the “vast statewide political operation” of his newest major endorser, Gov. Kim Reynolds, the AP reports.

The memo, distributed late Monday to the campaign’s national donor network and to another group of uncommitted billionaires, argues that other Republican candidates, including Nikki Haley, are at best spoilers.

Gov. Ron Desantis released a string of 21 video clips showing that Donald Trump is cognitively impaired and unfit to be president.

Following Tuesday’s big wins across the country for Democrats, “the overwhelming sentiment floating around Biden world overnight was vindication for their keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude,” Politico reports.

Jonathan Last: “There is no magic bullet here, no one who’s a slam dunk to be better than Biden. And because none of them is a known quantity, it’s entirely possible that on the big stage they’d turn out to be worse than Biden.”

“At least with Biden, there’s a track record. With the others, you’re asking voters to take a chance on a fresh face even though the voters are clearly saying that while they don’t like Trump, they’re comfortable with him.”

“Karma is real and we have to remember that.”— Exonerated “Central Park Five” member Yusef Salaam, quoted by the New York Times, after winning a New York City Council race.

Nate Silver: “The argument here is not that Trump is a popular candidate — he is emphatically not popular. Rather, it’s that Republican performance without Trump on the ballot may be even worse. They still suffer from selecting poor candidates — many of them endorsed by Trump — and having unpopular policies on positions like abortion. But they don’t get the enthusiastic turnout that Trump and his celebrity gives them. Instead, they often wind up with weird nominees that repel swing voters and motivate Democratic turnout without exciting their own base.”

“It’s also not as though Republicans have struck out. Trump won in 2016 in a historic repudiation of the established political order. And they have a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade and could persist for decades. Those are some big wins to savor.”

“But it’s been one hell of a devil’s bargain: a choice between mediocre results with Trump on the ballot or outright poor results without him. And without a lot of other models of electoral success — John McCain and Mitt Romney lost; George H.W. Bush was a one-termer, and George W. Bush ended his tenure as an extremely unpopular president — it’s not clear how the GOP breaks out of the trap.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he expects to run for president again in the future, the Texas Tribune reports.

Said Cruz: “I loved running for president in 2016. We came incredibly close. We came within inches of winning. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life and I fully hope and expect to run again at some point.”

Cruz said he ultimately did not run for president this cycle because the timing didn’t feel right.

“Democrats are growing increasingly anxious about the state of President Biden’s reelection campaign, concerned the president and his political team are ignoring warning signs and not taking action to correct course amid increasing indications that Biden is likely to face a tough race against former president Donald Trump,” the Washington Post reports.

“The latest fuel for these worries landed with a thud this weekend when a series of polls showed Trump leading Biden in a potential head-to-head matchup nationally and in several swing states. This story is based on interviews with a dozen Biden aides and allies, many of who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”

NBC News: Democratic frustrations with Biden spill into the open.

“Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) takes aim at Democrats and Republicans in a new ad on foreign policy — a signal that Hogan, a co-chair of the No Labels organization, is moving toward a third-party presidential bid,” Axios reports.

Amanda Carpenter: “It’s not just that a third-party ticket can’t win or that it would be likely to help Donald Trump—although both of those things are true. It’s that even if a third-party ticket succeeds, meaning it wins any states, it could cause an even worse disaster.”

“Why? Because under the Constitution, whoever gets the most votes in the Electoral College is not automatically elected president. If no one wins a majority of electoral votes—at least 270—then the election results are functionally voided and the House of Representatives picks the next president in a ‘contingent election.’ Given how closely divided the country is, it’s possible that we could be in precisely this position if a third party wins even a single state.”

Politico: “All told, Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee spent roughly $7 million on positive TV ads this year…”

“The president’s team made a calculation earlier this year to prioritize bolstering Biden’s image versus attacking Trump’s in paid advertising, according to White House aides, a number of Democratic strategists and a top Biden campaign donor. Among the reasons: They figured the ex-president’s GOP primary rivals would do much of the work of roughing him up for them.”

“That bet has so far not paid off. Trump has largely skated through the primary without being attacked by his opponents. And Biden’s numbers have not budged.”

Daniel McGraw: “To understand how Democrats might attempt to leverage the issue into big advantages nationally and statewide in 2024, it’s important first to remember that women voters outnumber men by lot—a 53-47 percent margin in the 2020 election, meaning that nearly 10 million more women voted for president than men did.”

“Think about how that skew could play out with abortion rights on the table.”

“I really believe it’s down to one issue on the ballot. Not taxes, not even abortion, nothing. The one issue is: Do you believe in democracy, or do you believe in authoritarianism?”— Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), on CNN, explaining why he’s voted for Democrats in the last two elections.

“The main GOP super PAC involved in House races says the party is poised to make gains next year, even after weeks of chaos paralyzed the House while Republicans searched for the next speaker,” NBC News reports.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) accused California Gov. Gavin Newsom of secretly running for president while speaking at an Iowa Democratic Party dinner, NBC News reports.

Chris Christie: “Daniel Cameron was a rising star in the Republican Party until he decided to throw his lot in with Donald Trump. I mean, let’s face it, Donald Trump is political and electoral poison downballot. Downballot, his endorsement has led to Republican defeats in the House — in the Senate, rather, and the House in ’18. In ’20, we lost the United States Senate and the White House. In ’22, we underperformed miserably.”

“And tonight, you’re seeing us lose again. Daniel Cameron made a huge mistake by embracing Donald Trump and selling his soul to him, and that’s what he did, and the voters in Kentucky — very red state, as you noted — gave their verdict on politicians who sell their soul to Donald Trump.”

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

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