The Political Report – November 15, 2023

“Suburban America left the GOP in 2016 when they didn’t like Trump’s behavior. They began to come back in 2022 when they rejected Joe Biden’s economic policies, but they will leave again if the conversation is about abortion and social policy.”— GOP pollster Frank Luntz, quoted by the New York Times.

Bloomberg: “With a year to go until Election Day, a record share of Americans hold unfavorable opinions of both major parties and take a dim view of the front-runners. Most voters say they don’t want Joe Biden to be president. Or Donald Trump.”

“But anyone hoping for a better option is likely to wind up disappointed. Although voters and party leaders have doubts about both men, the same polls show Biden and Trump poised to coast to their party’s nominations once the primaries begin in January. The last time an incumbent president lost, ran against the same opponent four years later and returned to the White House was in 1892, when Grover Cleveland faced off against Benjamin Harrison.”

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR and 7TH DISTRICT. As expected, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) announced in a video that she is running for governor of Virginia in 2025. She also “will not seek reelection in Virginia’s 7th District next year so she can run for Virginia governor in 2025,” the Washington Post reports.

Spanberger’s move likely sets up a primary showdown with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who reportedly plans to launch his own campaign for governor by the end of the year. Republicans, who are still smarting after last week’s defeats in Virginia’s legislative elections, have yet to land a candidate, though Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares have both been mentioned as possible contenders.

Democrats are especially eager to retake the governorship after losing it two years ago to Republican Glenn Youngkin, who had enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his tenure but is now bearing the brunt of intra-party criticism following the GOP’s loss of the state House and failure to flip the state Senate. Youngkin, however, won’t be on the ballot in 2025, since Virginia is the only state in the nation where the governor cannot run for a second consecutive term.

While Spanberger’s decision not to run for a fourth term in Congress could make it more difficult for Democrats to hold her competitive 7th District in 2024, her choice might be preferable to the alternative. Were she to instead win another term in the House and then win the governor’s race the following year, Democrats would be looking at a mid-winter special election in early 2026. This way, they have the chance to defend her seat in a high-turnout presidential year, when Joe Biden is more likely than not to carry the 7th again. (Under the current boundaries, Biden would have won the district 53-46 in 2020.)

Spanberger, a former CIA officer, first won office in 2018, when she defeated GOP Rep. Dave Brat to flip the prior version of the 7th. That iteration of the district, which was anchored in the Richmond suburbs, looked very different from its present incarnation, which is based in the southern exurbs of Washington, D.C. It was also considerably more conservative, voting for Biden by just a 50-49 margin in 2020 and 50-44 for Donald Trump in 2016.

But despite a smear campaign by the Congressional Leadership Fund, which used an improperly obtained security application to run TV ads attacking Spanberger for working as a substitute teacher at an Islamic high school years earlier, she beat Brat 50-48.

A cycle later, she survived a similarly close battle with state Rep. Nick Freitas, holding him off 51-49. After a court redrew Virginia’s map following the 2020 census, however, Spanberger’s district became friendlier for Democrats, which likely helped her turn back Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega by a more comfortable 52-46 margin. In Congress, Spanberger cultivated a reputation as a moderate, making waves after Democrats lost seats in the House in 2020 when she blamed colleagues who embraced the “socialist” label or calls to “defund the police” for opening up the whole party to attack.

She’s also proven to be a heavyweight fundraiser, with $1.4 million in her House campaign account at the end of September. According to Ballotpedia, Virginia does not prohibit candidates from transferring federal funds to state campaigns. Those sums would give her a head start on Stoney, who controls a PAC that had $340,000 banked as of last month.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. OH-Sen: The liberal firm Data for Progress tests Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown against four Republican foes:

  • 46-46 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 47-46 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 47-44 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno
  • 48-43 vs. Some Dude Joel Mutchler

Wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno’s new TV ad spends nearly a full 30 seconds doing everything it can to tie the candidate to Donald Trump, even twice playing the same clip of a low-energy Trump saying, “We love Ohio and we love Bernie Moreno.” The only time the spot deviates from this message is when it touts an endorsement from “Ohio’s America first senator, J.D. Vance” while showing footage of Vance shaking hands with … Donald Trump. Per’s Andrew Tobias, Moreno’s campaign says it’s spending $2 million to air the ad.

WISCONSIN U.S. SENATOR. NRSC chair Steve Daines told Punchbowl News that rich guy Eric Hovde is his top choice to oppose Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin. No major candidates have launched bids here yet, and that may not change for a while: Unnamed sources predicted that Hovde would launch sometime next year.

VIRGINIA GOVERNOR. Politico’s Zach Montellaro reports that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney intends to launch a campaign for the 2025 governor’s race “by the end of the year,” per an unnamed source. The only other notable Democrat reportedly planning a bid to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who in August promised to answer questions about her future after Virginia’s Nov. 7 elections.

NEW JERSEY U.S. SENATOR. “In a closed-door lunch with current and future Democratic legislators, county chairs, and party insiders from South Jersey on Wednesday, Democratic powerbroker George E. Norcross II indicated that he is likely to support First Lady Tammy Murphy for U.S. Senate,” the New Jersey Globe reports.

“Norcross implied that he expects Murphy to have organization lines in South Jersey in her bid for Bob Menendez’s seat, but that she will need to go through the process in some counties with open conventions, including Atlantic and Cape May.”

Just a day after saying that “few expect” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to run for another term, the New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein published a very different piece arguing that the indicted incumbent is “[i]ncreasingly looking like he plans to seek re-election.” New Jersey’s primary is on June 4, with the candidate filing deadline likely to be in early April.

MICHIGAN U.S. SENATOR. Rep. Elissa Slotkin has publicized a Democratic primary endorsement from colleague Hillary Scholten, who represents the Grand Rapids area.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. GOP Rep. John Curtis told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was once again considering running for the Senate. His new deliberations come the same week that an unknown group called Conservative Values for Utah began spending $89,000 on a TV ad campaign calling for him to enter the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.

While Curtis announced last month that he’d remain in the House, he now says, “The drumbeat from Utahns around the state asking me to reconsider my decision last month to stay out of the Senate race has been constant and consistent. These voices, getting louder and more organized, are increasingly difficult to ignore.”

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. “Democratic donors have fled Sen. Kyrsten Sinema since she left the party — and she hasn’t made up the loss with Republicans or independents,” Politico reports.

“That dynamic encapsulates the challenge the Arizona independent faces as she weighs whether to seek reelection: Sinema quit a party with which she was often at odds, and now she will have to build a base using only her personal brand.”

“The campaign finance data indicate it will be a daunting task.”

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR. A new poll from Meredith College of North Carolina’s gubernatorial primaries finds state Attorney General Josh Stein leading former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan 38-11 for the Democratic nod, a slightly larger margin for Stein than the 33-11 advantage Meredith gave him in September. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson continues to far outpace the field, taking 41% of the vote, with his nearest opponent, attorney Bill Graham, nabbing just 5%. A general election matchup shows lots of voters are undecided, with Stein holding a skinny 38-36 lead over Robinson. The same poll shows Joe Biden edging out Donald Trump 40-39.

FLORIDA U.S. SENATOR. Wealthy former healthcare executive Stanley Campbell, a former Navy pilot and rocket scientist, has confirmed that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Sen. Rick Scott next year. Campbell, who had reportedly been considering a bid, is also the brother of 2 Live Crew rapper Luther Campbell and is one of just a handful of Black Americans who owns a golf course. Campbell, however, would first have to get past former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who launched a campaign over the summer and has already earned a number of endorsements from prominent Democrats.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR.  A late October poll commissioned by a pro-Tim Sheehy super PAC finds Sheehy edging past Rep. Matt Rosendale in a hypothetical Republican primary by a 48-35 margin. The survey, from Fabrizio Lee, contrasts sharply with the other polls we’ve seen, all of which have shown Rosendale (who has yet to enter the race) with wide leads. It’s not clear why this poll is at odds with other data, though the PAC behind it, called More Jobs, Less Government, has already spent more than $500,000 on various forms of voter outreach on behalf of Sheehy.

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Republican Sen. Mike Braun has other members of the GOP field on the airwaves with a new TV ad touting his credentials as a businessman and his conservative values. The spot also features on-screen text noting that he has Donald Trump’s backing, but interestingly, it doesn’t include any Trump imagery or even audio touting the endorsement. According to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, the Braun campaign says it’s putting $1.5 million behind the buy. Indiana’s primary is on May 7.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. “As Sen. Joe Manchin struggled for several months over the next step he would take politically, President Joe Biden’s top advisers privately tried to persuade him to run for another term in the Senate,” Politico reports.

“Multiple West Wing aides, including senior counselor Steve Ricchetti, and some outside Biden allies talked with the West Virginia Democrat… Their pitch to Manchin was that, while a reelection bid in a deep-red state would be difficult, he had a path to victory.”

NEW JERSEY GOVENROR. Republican state Sen. Jon Bramnick, who just won reelection by a 55-45 margin on Tuesday, tells Politico’s Matt Friedman that he’s “very likely” to run for governor in 2025, when Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy will be term-limited.

Bramnick also used the interview to take some shots at another potential candidate, far-right radio host Bill Spadea. “Most New Jerseyans don’t want hateful rhetoric from a know-it-all radio talking head who has never had to make a decision as an elected official,” said Bramnick, following a rough night for Jersey Republicans that saw them make no headway in the state Senate and lose five seats in the Assembly, despite talk that they might actually flip one chamber if not both.

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

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