The Trump purity test in the GOP Ohio gubernatorial primary

With the party primaries just a few weeks away (May 8th), the two Republican contenders for the gubernatorial nomination in Ohio are fighting it out over who is the truest, reddest Republican.

Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor are the sole contenders for the Republican nomination to succeed term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R).

The general election tilts in the GOP direction, so the stakes are high for these two.

In this piece attacking Taylor, DeWine says Taylor isn’t a real Republican because she doesn’t love Trump enough. But can anyone really love Trump “enough?”

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The left is always funnier than the right

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) just released a new ad, and it’s pretty funny, which is good because it’s supposed to be.

It was written and directed by Ben Wexler, a former producer of some well-known TV comedies (e.g., Arrested Development, and Community), and is a shot at Trump’s tax reform package as a windfall for the wealthiest Americans.

Very slick.

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The Mississippi special U.S. Senate race is polling closer than you’d think

Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran stepped down effective April 1, 2018 due to health concerns. He would have been up for reelection in 2020. Republican Governor Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill the vacancy in the short term, but she will have to win a special election, to take place on November 6, 2018 (regularly scheduled Election Day), to complete the balance of the term.

That primary is what is now called a nonpartisan “jungle primary” in which candidates from both parties run. If anyone gets more than 50 percent, that person is elected. If no one gets to that mark, the top two candidates participate in a run-off, which in this case would, if needed, take place on November 27, 2018.

In keeping with the current trend in which red states and congressional districts are finding Democrats annoyingly competitive, a new poll* in Mississippi finds the leading Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep Mike Espy, and Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith running tied at 31 percent each in a field that contains two Democrats and two Republicans.

In total, the Democratic vote adds up to 39.3 percent, and the Republican vote to 45.8 percent, with 14.9 percent undecided.

An analysis also provided a glimpse of what a run-off might look like going in with Espy at 35.8 percent, Hyde-Smith at 41.6 percent, and 22.6 percent undecided.

The poll revealed this bit, for what it’s worth:

President Donald Trump’s approval rating was at 46 percent, with 41 percent disapproving and 13 percent undecided. Of those polled, 32 percent said Trump’s support of a candidate in Mississippi would make them more likely to vote for them, 37 percent said less likely and 31 percent said it would make no difference.

A Democrat hasn’t held a senate seat in Mississippi for almost 30 years, and that Democrat, John Stennis, began his tenure in 1947 as a strong supporter of racial segregation (see current state flag above). As a side note, in 1986, Stennis campaigned for Mike Espy during Espy’s successful bid to become the first black Congressman from the state since Reconstruction.

If Democrats start to win senate seats in Mississippi under the current understanding of what it means to be a Democrat in the South, you can be sure end times are coming. Put differently, Cochran won the seat four years ago by more than 20 point.

It shouldn’t be this close.

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*The poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted by Triumph Campaigns for Y’all Politics on April 10-11. It shows the following results. The poll’s partisan split was 44.6 percent Republican, 44.6 percent Democrat and 10.8 percent independent. Respondents to the automated phone poll were heavily female, 66.5 percent to 33.5 percent, and were 61 percent white, 39 percent nonwhite.
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Campaign News

New York Times: No one’s talking about the new tax law

Washington Post: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

CNBC: Pro-Trump fundraising group refuses to give back $500,000 contribution from Steve Wynn

Roll Call: Rating changes: Duking it out in six gubernatorial races

Los Angeles Times: Eric Garcetti, presidential long shot, journeys to Iowa, the land of dreams

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How close will the margin be in the Arizona 8th special?

Yeah. No. A new poll by Emerson College finds that physician Hiral Tipirneni (D) is in a dead heat with former state Sen. Debbie Lesko for the Arizona 8th Congressional District in a special election that will take place on April 24th.

That poll is, my friends, what we call an outlier. Nothing else suggests anything this tight.

Most commentary is about how close the Democrats might get in this reddest of red districts, not that they might actually win. If the Democrats did pull this one out, panic among Republcans would be widespread.

You may recall that this seat opened up when Republican Rep. Trent Franks stepped down after it became known he had offered a female staffer $5 million to be his baby surrogate.

It was not contemplated that the Democrats could put up much of a fight here, and then Democrat Conor Lamb won the Pennylvania 17th, another supposedly safe red seat,  and everything changed. The Republican apparatus geared up to pour lots of money into Arizona 8th, which they have done.

There are many reasons the Arizona 8th should be a safe GOP seat: deep Republican/conservative roots (Trent Franks was one of the most conservative members of the House), an advantage in registered voters, and a mostly white demographic with many older voters.

Also important is that Republican Lesko is a better fit than was the GOP candidate in the Pennsylvania special.

As you might expect, Republican Lesko is painting Democrat Tipirneni as tied to Nancy Pelosi, out of touch with the values of the district,  and another vote for an attempted impeachment of the president.

Democrat Tipirneni has focused on criticizing Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and concerns about cuts to Medicare and Social Security. She supports a public option for healthcare which would run alongside the private sector.

“I’m a physician; I understand health care policy very well,” Tipirneni said in a debate against Lesko. “Basically, my plan focuses on expanding Medicare so it turns into that public option. We enhance competition. We encourage free market competition.”

Again, this should be a Republican hold, but the margin will be fascinating.

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House Republicans in New Jersey might get wiped out

The Hill is reporting that Republicans could lose all of the five House seats they currently hold in New Jersey if results from a new Monmouth University survey* hold.

The survey released on Monday finds Democrats with a 19-point advantage statewide on the generic ballot, with 54 percent of respondents saying they plan to or are leaning toward voting for Democrats, compared to only 34 percent for Republicans.

According to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, most interesting is that “not only are New Jersey Democrats doing better on the generic House ballot statewide, but the shift is coming almost entirely from districts currently held by the GOP.“

The Hill notes the following findings from the poll:

  • In five districts currently represented by Republicans, 46 percent of voters back the Republican candidate while 44 percent back the Democratic one.
  • However, in the past two elections, these districts averaged a 22-point advantage for Republicans.
  • In contrast, 59 percent voters in the seven districts currently represented by Democrats support Democratic candidates. Only 28 percent back GOP ones.

The main factors driving vote away from Republicans is New Jersey residents’ negative perception of President Trump and the GOP tax law.

Only 35 percent of New Jersey residents approve of the law and 46 percent disapprove, according to Monmouth University. Nearly half of New Jersey residents believe their taxes will go up because of the law and only 19 percent think they will go down.

Advice to the unitiated: Don’t screw people on taxes in Jersey.

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*The poll was conducted from April 6 to 10 among 632 voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
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GOP-backed super PAC attacks West Virginia GOP Senate candidate

Politico is reporting the Republican establishment has launched an effort to stop Don Blankenship from securing the GOP nomination in the West Virginia Senate primary. What you need to know is that Blankenship spent a year in jail after a deadly explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010. If he were to secure the nomination, you can be sure Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin will have no trouble holding the set, which would otherwise likely be a close race.

Politico reports that though the super PAC involved has the generic name “Mountain Families PAC,” and the national Republican Party “isn’t promoting the role, it has its fingerprints all over it.”

The assault comes amid rising fears from national Republicans that Blankenship is gaining traction ahead of the May 8 primary. The Republican hopeful has spent his own money to fund a $1.3 million TV ad blitz in which he portrays himself as the casualty of an Obama-era Justice Department bent on locking him up. He has far outspent his primary opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whom he castigates as pawns of the GOP establishment

The 30-second commercials, which the group is spending nearly $700,000 to air, accuse Blankenship’s company of contaminating drinking water by pumping “toxic coal slurry,” even as the multimillionaire installed a piping system that pumped clean water to his mansion.

Perhaps Blankenship should take the hint, but he won’t.

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James Comey’s attempt to rehabilitate his reputation hits some rocks

Well, this is amazing. In James Comey’s interview with George Stephanopolous, Comey says that his sense Hillary Clinton would win the presidency influenced his decision to  release information about investigations into Clinton’s private email server a week before the election, an action many think cost her the election.

“It must have been. I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I’m sure that it was a factor,” he said.

“I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she’s going to be elected president and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he added.

Let’s understand this. Comey is saying that part of the reason he released information about an ongoing probe of Clinton’s emails a week before the election we that he was concerned about the legitimacy of her potential presidency.

No words.

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The RNC in full panic mode to protect House majority

The Associated Press is reporting that the Republican National Committee has committed $250 million to a midterm election strategy that will focus on preserving the GOP House majority for the remainder of President Donald Trump’s first term.

Facing the prospect of a blue wave this fall, the White House’s political arm is devoting unprecedented resources to building an army of paid staff and trained volunteers across more than two dozen states. The RNC is taking the fight to Senate Democrats in Republican-leaning states, but much of the national GOP’s resources are focused on protecting Republican-held House seats in states including Florida, California and New York.

It wasn’t long ago that any thought of the Democrats realistically challenging the Republican House majority would have been thought absurd.

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Will Republican candidates need to moderate support for Trump?

An analysis about upcoming gubernatorial races in Governing magazine notes that President Trump remains popular among Republican voters, leading most GOP candidates to pledge their allegiance to him. But, they argue, they may shift that strategy after the primaries.

It’s an interesting and somewhat obvious observation that securing a nomination requires appealing to the party faithful, but winning a general election typically means broadening one’s appeal and potentially, in this case,  needing to create some distance from such a polarizing president.

It will be interesting to see if or how this dynamic potentially plays itself out in a range of races.

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Racial resentment key to Trump’s election

It’s always useful to have research to back up impressions. It is, however, hardly surprising that racial resentment was key to the political success of a man who defined his campaign by questioning the actual legitimacy of America’s first African-American president.

Alan I. Abramowitz, senior columnist at Sabato’s Political Ball, uses research by the Pew Reserch Center to argue that racial resentment and not economic concerns drove Trumps support in 2016.

    • Data from the Pew Research Center show that six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the gap between whites with and without college degrees in opinions of the president was enormous. Non-college whites were far more likely to approve of Trump’s performance than white college graduates.
    • This gap appears to have little or nothing to do with differences between the economic circumstances of these two groups. While whites without college degrees did experience far more economic distress than those with college degrees, economic distress itself appeared to have little relationship with opinions of Trump.
    • The main explanation for the class divide in opinions of Trump among whites appeared to be differing views on race relations. White college graduates were much more likely than whites without college degrees to hold liberal views on the significance of racial discrimination, and opinions on the significance of racial discrimination were strongly related to opinions of Trump’s performance. Racial attitudes, not economics, appears to be the main factor producing strong support for Trump among members of the white working class.
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Campaign News

Washington Post: Ryan backs McCarthy for top House GOP leader as Freedom Caucus co-founder also explores run

Monmouth University: Menendez in strong position despite trial baggage (New Jersey, U.S. Senate)

The Hill: Clinton to fundraise alongside possible 2020 contenders

Roll Call: Toast the Vote? Steyer Group hosts first Democratic forum in PA

Daily KosPennsylvania GOP replaces bipartisan redistricting reform bill with plot to gerrymander after 2020

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Could the Democrats really flip the Senate?

The folks at FiveThirtyEight have an interesting analysis about why the Democrats might be able to flip the Senate, noting interesting developments in places like Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas. As they write, “If you’ve only been paying attention to the House, it’s time to check back in on the upper chamber.”

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Democratic challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen is out with her first digital ad in the Nevada Senate race

Nevada Senator Dean Heller is the only incumbent Republican representing a state won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, which is enough for all credible rating operations to call this 2018 midterm contest a toss-up.

U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) is his likely opponent, as she has the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which clearly sees this as a great pickup opportunity.

Rosen is out with her first digital ad buy, with spots in both English and Spanish directed to Latino voters, and showcasing Rosen’s background and support for Dreamers.

In the leadup to the 2016 general election, the Pew Reserch Center noted that Nevada’s population is 28% Hispanic, the fifth largest Hispanic statewide population share nationally.

According to Roll Call:

[The ads] highlight the importance of Latino voters as part of Rosen’s coalition for November. According to her campaign, the effort is part of a “substantial six-figure investment” in digital ads, and will run on Hispanic-focused local websites such as El Tiempo and El Mundo, and websites like YouTube and Hulu Latino. The language of the ad will be based on a the user’s browser language settings.

Rosen supports the DREAM Act, which would provide Dreamers a path to permanent legal status, and although Heller is not mentioned in the ad, he is on team Trump on immigration issues.

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How bad could it get for Republicans this midterm cycle?

It could get pretty bad according to one insider:

In a year like this, every Republican is vulnerable. If you don’t take your race seriously, you’ll probably lose,” said Robert Blizzard, a veteran Republican pollster who’s working on a number of congressional races. “The Democratic enthusiasm is no joke. They’re coming to the polls in November no matter what. Don’t run a strong campaign at your own potential peril.

Exciting words for Team Blue.

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This Day in American History: April 13, 1919 – Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned for speaking out against the draft during WWI

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New poll in the Missouri senate race

A new Mason-Dixon poll* puts incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (45 percent) in a statistical tie with Attorney General Josh Hawley (44 percent) in their 2018 Senate race.

Significantly, Hawley is unknown to more than a sixth of the state’s voters and has to first secure the GOP nomination, which will be contested by a field that includes Austin Petersen, Tony Monetti, and Courtland Sykes.

Hawley is strong in rural Missouri, as well as with men, whites, those over the age of 50 and Republicans,” Mason-Dixon pollsters said, in an accompanying analysis. “On the flip side, McCaskill leads in the two major metropolitan areas, along with women, blacks, those under the age of 50 and Democrats. Independent voters are equally divided between the two candidates.

Given that Hawley, the likely nominee, is not well known, how he is defined for the electorate will be key.

His 33-23 favorable-vs.-unfavorable ratio is better than McCaskill’s at the moment, according to the poll, meaning that a key to a potential matchup between the two politicians will be how that 17 percent views him by the Nov. 6 election.

And Trump’s popularity isn’t what it once was in Missouri, which means that Hawley may not get a sufficient bump from a supportive sitting president to overcome an incumbent.

Then the issues of potentially increased Democratic enthusiasm comes into play as well as the troubles governing parties usually have in midterms.

It may not be much to say, but if the country is in the mood to send Trump a message, this seat should be safe for McCaskill.

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*The poll was conducted from April 4-6 and involved interviews of 625 registered voters, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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Cuomo leads Nixon in NY State Democratic primary for governor

To no one’s surprise, a new Marist Poll shows that “in the Democratic primary for New York State governor, incumbent Andrew Cuomo (68%) leads challenger Cynthia Nixon (21%) by more than three to one among registered Democrats in New York State.”

The question has never been whether Nixon can win but whether she could sufficiently embarrass Cuomo with a strong showing and therefore hurt his chances in a potential Democratic presidential primary run.

As well, as Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, says:  “The more Cuomo needs to attack Nixon during the primary, the more he will have to pivot later to appeal to progressive Democrats nationally if he wants to run for president in 2020.”

As for Nixon running, it’s a democracy. She can do whatever she wants. But I am a little tired of people running because they are famous. Call me old fashioned, but politics is a serious pursuit and requires relevant training and eperience, as we are learning every day.

For the general election, Cook, Rothenberg, and Sabato all call this one solid Democratic.

Other bits from the poll include:

  • Among voters who are highly enthusiastic to participate in the Democratic primary, Nixon receives 32% to Cuomo’s 60%.
  • Voters statewide though express dissatisfaction with the status quo. A majority of New York State registered voters (54%), including 39% of Democrats, say it is time to elect someone else. Only 39% think Cuomo deserves to be reelected, and 7% are unsure.
  • By party identification, 56% of Democrats say Cuomo deserves another term while 75% of Republicans and 63% of independents disagree. Regionally, a majority of voters in New York City (51%) say Cuomo deserves four more years in office, but Upstate voters (64%) and those in the suburbs (52%) say it’s time to elect someone else.
  • Governor Cuomo’s job approval rating is little changed. 42% of registered voters statewide say Cuomo is doing either an excellent (7%) or good (35%) job as governor. Cuomo’s approval rating is similar to when the NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll last asked this question in June 2017 with the exception that the proportion of voters who say Cuomo is performing poorly is 24%, up from 18% in that previous poll.
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How did Democrat Joe Manchin ever get to be a senator from West Virginia?

A new Morning Consult poll shows West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin with an almost equal approval/disapproval rating (43 percent approval,  44 percent disapproval rating with a 2 percent margin of error).

According to West Virginia Metro News:

This is the first time Manchin’s numbers have been underwater since President Donald Trump took office. Manchin had a 57 percent approval rating and 33 percent disapproval rating in Morning Consult’s April 2017 rankings, the first of the Trump presidency. The senior senator had a 52 percent approval rating among West Virginia voters earlier this year in January, compared to 36 percent disapproval.

That’s a huge drop in favourability and perhaps a little hard to understand, though we have always known Donald Trump is wildly popular in West Virginia. A possible explanation is that “the survey was conducted between Jan. 1 and March 31, a period in which Trump and Vice President Mike Pence criticized Manchin for voting against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December.”

“Two-Faced Joe has made a habit of regularly obstructing the President’s agenda in a state that overwhelmingly supports the President and his policies,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement. “Two-Faced Joe is no longer able to hide from his votes in Washington. The President and his Administration have repeatedly highlighted his votes and cheap talk.”

Not surprisingly, Manchin’s team says they have polls that show them winning in November, which is what you would expect them to say.

Manchin votes in line with the Trump agenda very often, but he’s still a Democrat in a very red state, which puts a big bullseye on his back. The fact that he has survived at all may mean that he is unbeatable despite the fact that any reasonable analysis would have him on his way out.

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The accuracy of polling in the midterms as a function of Democratic enthusiasm

A new survey from Public Policy Polling* shows Republican Gov. Rick Scott trailing Democratic U.S. incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by six points, just a few days after Scott announced his intention to challenge for the seat. Fifty percent supported Nelson with 44 percent for Scott.

Nelson also had a plus-10 in the favorability poll, with 47 percent favourable and 37 unfavourable. Scott’s favourability rating was 46-47, favourable to unfavourable.

The same poll showed a so-so opinion about Trump in the state with 46 favourable and 48 unfavourable.

Floridapolitics.com notes that a recent survey done by Clearview Research showed Scott with a 2-point led over Nelson, 43-41. They say that the 8-point swing in the two results is due to different turnout models used, with PPP projecting that more Democrats will vote in November than is typical due to the “expected enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans this cycle.”

The projected composition of turnout in the November midterms will be a key factor in the accuracy of polls, as pollsters try to figure out just how enthusiastic Democrats will be to oppose Trump’s agenda, and how many of them will actually show up.

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*The PPP poll was conducted April 10 and 11 and took responses from 661 Florida voters. Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert of EDGE Communications paid for the poll. He is currently serving as a senior adviser to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign.
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