The Political Report – November 11, 2023

A new Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows that when presented with a list of desired qualities for candidates, 74% of likely caucusgoers say the ability to “beat Joe Biden” is “extremely important,” with an additional 16% saying it is “important.” 

The findings come as Donald Trump demonstrates a commanding lead among a field of nine Republican candidates. 

David Frum: “When wise people explain Biden’s bad poll numbers, they cite objective facts in the real world: inflation, crime, etc. Yet Obama had almost an opposite set of facts (no inflation in 2011!) — and got almost exactly the same poll numbers.”

“My hypothesis: Obama/Biden poll numbers in 2011 and 2023 tell us less about the world – more about the inherent problems of managing the Democratic coalition, which is always more fractious and fissile than the (smaller) Republican coalition.”

Flashback to Nate Silver: Is Obama toast? Handicapping the 2012 election.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) will not seek reelection.

In a four-minute video, Manchin said he will be traveling “the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”

This means his Senate seat will likely go to a Republican in 2024.

And it will raise questions about whether Manchin will run for president as an independent.

Hoppy Kercheval: “Manchin kept saying he would announce his political plans early next year, but there was increasing pressure for him to decide. Manchin was struggling mightily with the decision, flipping back and forth between running for re-election or trying a third-party run for president.”

“So, will he run for president? That depends. As he said, he will travel around the country and see if there is interest in a third way. The polls clearly show a large swath of voters who are dissatisfied with both Biden and Trump and are interested in another option. However, are there enough voters who want a middle way? Manchin must think so.”

New York Times: “What Mr. Manchin actually plans to do remains a mystery. His closest aides and advisers insist they don’t know. A conservative Democrat who has served as one of his party’s key votes in the Senate, he has long kept his own counsel on his biggest decisions and made up his mind at the last minute.”

Punchbowl News: “Manchin’s exit from the Senate will accelerate the continued erosion of the chamber’s middle. Already, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has announced he won’t run for reelection, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) is a distant third in her state’s contest, according to recent polls.”

“Consider the trend here: Over the last few cycles, the Senate GOP Conference has lost Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN).”

FLORIDA STATE HOUSE. Both parties chose their nominees Tuesday for the Jan. 16 special election for a swingy GOP-held seat in the Florida House that Democrats are working to flip.

Democratic primary voters picked businessman Tom Keen 36-33 over Rishi Bagga, who narrowly beat him last year before losing to GOP incumbent Fred Hawkins. Republicans, meanwhile, opted for Osceola County School Board member Erika Booth, who beat nonprofit consultant Scotty Moore 49-34. (Moore was the GOP’s 2022 nominee against Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.)

Joe Biden carried the 35th District 52-47 in 2020, though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won the same district by an imposing 56-43 spread last year, according to one analysis. Democrats, however, are hoping that victory in this suburban Orlando district would give them another chance to show they’re on the rebound heading into next year’s elections.

Hawkins decisively won his second term last year by beating Bagga 55-45, but he wasn’t content to serve much longer in the 120-member lower chamber. DeSantis, a close ally, tapped Hawkins to serve as president of South Florida State College in June, even though, as many reports noted, Hawkins had no background in higher education.

(The relationship between the two, incidentally, seems to have experienced quite a turnaround from just a few years ago, when DeSantis suspended Hawkins from his post on the Osceola County Commission after he tried to enter a private meeting by pretending to be a sheriff and flashing an honorary “special deputy” badge.”)

DeSantis tarried in scheduling a special election to fill Hawkins’ seat, acting only after the ACLU sued him for failing to call a different special election in a dark-red district in the Miami area. Republicans currently hold an 83-35 supermajority in the House with only those two seats vacant, but both sides will contest the Keen-Booth showdown, though it won’t threaten the GOP’s iron grip on the gerrymandered legislature.

Democrats, in particular, are eager to turn the page on a dispiriting decade in this longtime swing state, an era that hit a nadir last year as DeSantis and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio both pulled off landslide victories. But Democrats finally enjoyed some long-awaited good news in May when Donna Deegan pulled off a 52-48 upset in the race for mayor of Jacksonville, which is Florida’s largest city and had voted 55-44 for DeSantis just six months earlier. If Keen can manage a similar swing, Florida Democrats would be able to argue that Deegan’s win was no fluke.

National Democrats looking to hold the White House and the Senate will also be keeping an eye on this special as they mull whether to invest massive sums in Florida or send those resources elsewhere.

One person who may be watching particularly closely is former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is the Democratic frontrunner to take on GOP Sen. Rick Scott. Mucarsel-Powell outraised Scott during her opening fundraising quarter but ended September with $1 million banked versus $3 million for her wealthy opponent. A win for Keen could help her convince donors and outside groups that Democrats are once again a rising force in the state.

CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATOR. The super PAC She Speaks for Me has launched what the San Francisco Chronicle says is an opening $1 million buy to support Rep. Barbara Lee, who has trailed fellow Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter in fundraising and polling.

This spot, which is the first pro-Lee TV ad of the March top-two primary, echoes many of the themes from Lee’s launch video. The narrator extols her for successfully ending her segregated school’s “ban on Black cheerleaders” before commending her for “braving death threats to cast the sole ‘no’ vote against forever wars.”

MISSOURI U.S. SENATOR. The Democratic firm Show Me Victories finds Republican Sen. Josh Hawley leading the Democratic frontrunner, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, only 46-42 in this dark red state. SMV, which tells us it has no client for this survey, also tested several general election scenarios for governor, but no candidates secure even 40% of the vote because such a large proportion of respondents are undecided.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. The Messenger has obtained a late October survey from the GOP firm Cygnal conducted for an unnamed conservative group and shown to Republican “Senate chiefs of staff,” and it argues that Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s presence would harm her old party. Cygnal shows Republican conspiracy theorist Kari Lake leading Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego by a tiny 37-36 in a hypothetical three-way matchup, with Sinema taking 15%; when Sinema is excluded, though, Gallego leads 46-43.

Other surveys, however, disagree about Sinema’s potential impact on the race even though they’ve also almost all found her taking third place. An early October Public Policy Polling internal for Gallego showed him beating Lake by the same 5-point margin with or without Sinema. A poll from the GOP firm National Research Inc. conducted around that time, meanwhile, showed Lake beating him by 4 in a three-way race but tied when the senator wasn’t presented as an option.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has launched his opening TV spot almost a year ahead of Election Day, and AdImpact reports that he’s reserved at least $771,000 so far.

The senator touts his deep roots in the small community of Big Sandy and tells the audience, “Some families are being forced to sell their farms they’ve had for generations. We’re losing access to our public lands. Hell, even some of our favorite bars are closing.” He continues, “I’m protecting our freedoms. Because Montanans don’t like to be told how to live by anyone, especially the government.”

NEVADA U.S. SENATOR. Las Vegas Sun: “A recently filed amended financial disclosure report from Sam Brown (R) now includes his involvement with a pro-life nonprofit.”

“But the candidate now finds himself the focus of a complaint over use of funds from a political action committee he formed in 2022.”

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. In his first interview as a U.S. Senate candidate, former Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) said he stands by his vote to impeach Donald Trump for the January 6 insurrection but will support Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2024.

“Former Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer’s announcement that he would make a run for the state’s Senate seat was met with a less than enthusiastic response from the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm,” Politico reports. “Thanks, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said. But no thanks.”

MISSOURI GOVERNOR. Missouri gubernatorial candidate Jay Ashcroft (R) suggested that if voters enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution he’d have to resign as governor rather than violate his oath of office, KMOV reports.

MARYLAND U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger on Monday became the first member of Maryland’s congressional delegation to endorse fellow Rep. David Trone in the May Democratic primary. The Baltimore Sun writes that Ruppersberger, who represents much of suburban Baltimore County, “is the first major Democratic official in the Baltimore area — or across the state — to endorse Trone.” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is backing Trone’s main intraparty rival, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

Ruppersberger’s announcement came days after the Maryland State Education Association, which has long been an important player in state politics, threw its support behind Trone. The 75,000-member MSEA, which is affiliated with the National Education Association, is the largest teachers union in the state.

PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL. The progressive Working Families Party won both of the at-large seats on the Philadelphia City Council that, until recently, had been effectively reserved for Republicans, though one prominent Democratic leader isn’t at all happy about this. Democratic City Committee Chairman Bob Brady, a former congressman who runs what was once a powerful city political machine, said just before the election that he’d expel any committee members who continued to back City Councilmember Kendra Brooks and WFP ticketmate Nicolas O’Rourke.

The 17-member City Council contains seven citywide seats (the other 10 are single-member districts), but each party can nominate only five candidates. This allowed Republicans to control at least two at-large seats in the decades after the city’s Home Rule Charter went into effect in the 1950s even as their influence declined in citywide politics.

However, things began to change in 2019 when Brooks cost Republicans one of those seats, a victory that also came after Brady suggested that any party committee members or ward leaders who supported a non-Democratic contender could be expelled from the committee. The one Republican to win citywide was David Oh, who resigned this year to run for mayor and lost to Democrat Cherelle Parker 75-25.

Brooks and O’Rourke both won Tuesday along with the five Democrats: One of those victorious candidates was Rue Landau, who will be the first open LGBTQ+ member in city history. (Landau used her victory speech to pay tribute to past members who didn’t publicly identify as LGBTQ+ while in office, saying, “They remind us of the progress we’ve made and the work that remains.”) The only Republican member of the next council will be Brian O’Neill, who has represented Northeast Philadelphia for 44 years.

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

1 comment on “The Political Report – November 11, 2023

  1. cassandram

    “However, are there enough voters who want a middle way?”

    What does this “middle way” actually mean? I’m thinking that the media keeps talking about this “middle” as a way to bypass the fact that Biden himself is fairly “middle” but has moved more of his government to “current” problems rather than being a primary handmaiden of business interests. Not to say there still isn’t too much business interest in the mix, but I need journalists using the word “middle” to describe conservative Joe Manchin to reckon with their own really screwed up perceptions of current politics.

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