President – 2/27/23
National Polling: Biden Weak Among Dem Voters: While First Lady Jill Biden was questioning over the weekend why people are not fully believing that President Biden is running for re-election when he has repeatedly said that he is, national Democratic primary voter polling since the 2022 election suggests internal weakness for the party’s incumbent. Though Democrats generally rate his job performance as very positive, a large percentage would also prefer another candidate run in 2024.
For example, the new California Field Poll conducted at the University of California at Berkeley (2/14-20; 7,512 CA registered voters; online) finds 86% of the state’s Democrats approving of President Biden’s job performance, but only 57% of this same segment favor him running for re-election.
Four national Democratic primary polls have been conducted since the 2022 election from Emerson College, YouGov, Reuters/Ipsos, and Harvard University/Harris and just among Democrats, President Biden only scores between 35-42% preference within a hypothetical field of notable Democratic potential candidates. Though this suggests weakness for renomination, it doesn’t appear that the President will face major intra-party competition as he begins his 2024 campaign.
California: DeSantis Leads Trump: The California Field Poll conducted at the University of California at Berkeley (2/14-20; 7,512 CA registered voters; 1,755 CA self-identified Republican voters; online) also looked at the Republican presidential field. The statewide totals find Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an unannounced candidate for president, topping former President Donald Trump, 37-29%, with former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recording 7% preference. All other potential Republican candidates score support figures of 4% or less.
The important point to remember about the California Republican nomination system is that the state selects delegates through its 52 congressional districts. Therefore, though DeSantis may be leading in the statewide count, the nomination battle is determined through the votes tabulated in the individual congressional districts. This system could make the California primary a wild card state on Super Tuesday.
Senate – 2/27/23
Michigan: Two Say No: Two-time GOP US Senate nominee John James, who won the 10th District US House race last November, says he will not compete for Michigan’s open Senate seat next year and will instead defend his political marginal congressional district in a bid for re-election. Mr. James was one of the national Republicans’ top Senate prospects, but his decision is good news for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
For the Democrats, state Senate Majority Whip Mallory McMorrow (D-Oakland and Wayne Counties) also said she will not enter the US Senate race. Though candidate speculation has been heavy, only Michigan School Board member Nikki Snyder (R) has announced her Senate candidacy among current elected officials. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) is expected to enter the Senate race, but so far, she has not yet made such a declaration. In December, four-term incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she would not seek a fifth term.
Localities – 2/27/23
Chicago: Closing Mayoral Poll Suggests Defeat for Incumbent Lori Lightfoot: The Chicago non-partisan mayoral primary is tomorrow, and a closing poll from M3 Strategies (2/20-21; 450 Chicago likely voters) gives former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas a substantial lead with 32% of the vote. Mr. Vallas is a Democrat but widely seen as the most conservative candidate in the nine-person field.
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who Reps. Jonathan Jackson (D-Chicago) and Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) support, is second with an 18% support factor. Mayor Lightfoot now trails with only 14% backing, and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago), who once led the race, drops all the way back to fourth position at 12% preference. Though all the candidates are relatively close, the poll shows the real possibility that Mayor Lightfoot would fail to qualify for the runoff election.
The city is reporting that over 210,000 mail ballots have been requested. Since the ballots may be postmarked on election day, February 28th, it could be several days before final tallies are reported. Under Chicago election law, however, mail ballots received before election may be counted early and added to the initial public reports on election night. If no candidate receives majority support in tomorrow’s election, which is a virtual certainty, the top two finishers will advance to an April 4th runoff contest.
California: Flawed Poll Posts Rep. Schiff to Lead: The University of California at Berkeley conducted a statewide survey of some California voters, but their results don’t provide an accurate picture of the upcoming US Senate race. The survey only tested Democrats and those identifying with the “No Party Preference” option. No Republicans were included.
The results find Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) leading Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), 23-23-8%, but without the Republicans, the data is not particularly useful. In a previous poll, most Republicans were headed toward Rep. Porter’s direction since they have no candidate of their own and Rep. Schiff’s national publicity during the Trump impeachment hearings has made him a highly negative figure with conservative voters.
Since the California system features an all-party qualifying election, not including Republicans in the polling universe, since they certainly can vote in the jungle primary, fails to provide a salient snapshot of how the race would unfold if the election were today. More inclusive polling is needed to develop better insight into this developing campaign.
CA-27: New Contender Emerges: California Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) is one of the few House members who has won multiple terms in a district that favors the opposite political party. One reason is because he has defeated the same opponent, former state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D), in three consecutive elections. Now, another contender has emerged. Former NASA chief of staff and ex-Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides (D) has announced that he will run for the seat in 2024. For Democrats to have a chance to capture this D+8 seat (FiveThirtyEight data organization projection), they will need to field a candidate other than Ms. Smith.
CA-30: Yet Another: Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Burbank) open seat has been the most popular California early congressional race. Now, a tenth candidate has announced. West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne (D) confirmed that he will join the open seat contest.
The major candidates, all Democrats, are state Sen. Anthony Portatino (D-La Canada), state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, Los Angeles Unified School District Board member Nick Melvoin, and actor Ben Savage. Two from this group advancing to a double-Democrat general election is a likelihood.
RI-1: Special Election Complications: The Daily Kos Elections site is featuring a story that indicates the special election to replace resigning Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) is complicated. Rhode Island has not seen a congressional special election since 1967, and the Federal MOVE Act, which requires states to provide 45 days notice to overseas and military voters before an election, is in conflict with the state’s election calendar governing such vacancies. Rep. Cicilline announced earlier in the week that he will resign June 1st to accept the position of president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, a well established charitable nonprofit organization.
According to the RI Secretary of State, it appears Gov. Dan McKee (D) would only have two options to be in compliance with both Rhode Island and federal election law. Therefore, the special primary election could be no earlier than August 8th, with the special general on October 3rd. He could also call a primary on September 5th and make the special general concurrent with municipal elections on November 7th. Therefore, we can expect the RI-1 seat to remain vacant for a relatively long period once Congressman Cicilline resigns.
Sen. Joe Manchin: Will Not Run for President: Yesterday, Sen. Manchin (D-WV) made it clear that he would not run for President. Rumors had abounded that the West Virginia Senator might run for Governor or President, both of which have now been dispelled. Previously, on national television, the Senator said he will not again run for Governor. With Gov. Jim Justice (R) ineligible to seek a third term in the Mountain State and broadly hinting that he will run for the Senate, the door would have opened for Manchin to again run for Governor, a position he held from 2005-2010.
The seriously discussed option was Mr. Manchin running for President on a No Labels ticket, possibly even with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) as his running mate. Now that both running for President and Governor are eliminated options, Sen. Manchin will soon opt for re-election or outright retirement from politics. The early tea leaves suggest he will seek a third full term.
Vivek Ramaswamy: Announces for President: Venture capitalist Vivek Ramaswamy announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in a move that was anticipated. Mr. Ramaswamy, whose personal wealth is estimated to exceed $500 million, is basing his campaign on promoting the free enterprise system and opposing corporate “wokeism.”
While Mr. Ramaswamy’s wealth will certainly allow him to run extensive electronic advertising, he is a very long shot to become a top tier candidate. Still, he is someone worthy of attention.
Montana: Sen. Jon Tester (D) to Seek Re-Election: Through a Twitter announcement yesterday, Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) announced that he will seek a fourth term next year. Speculation about his potential retirement had become relatively intense.
The Democratic leadership needs Sen. Tester to run again in order to increase hope of holding the party’s tenuous Senate majority. The Democrats face a 2024 election map that forces them to defend 23 of 34 in-cycle seats and keeping the Montana seat is no sure thing even with their best candidate.
While the media, and the Senator himself, will continue to use a “moderate,” label to describe Mr. Tester, his voting record has moved decidedly to the left during this term and is now a solid leadership vote. Regardless of who ultimately becomes the Montana Republican Senate nominee, we can count on seeing an ideological contrast race being run with the GOP accusing Tester of being out of step with the state’s electorate, and the Senator firing back with extremist claims about his Republican opponent.
CA-16 & 18: Ex-San Jose Mayor to Challenge a Democratic Incumbent: Yesterday, former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D), who was ineligible to seek a third term in 2021, is saying he has informed both Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Atherton; Palo Alto), and Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) that he plans to challenge one of the two veteran Democratic incumbents next year. Mr. Liccardo says he has polled both Rep. Eshoo’s 16th CD and Rep. Lofgren’s 18th District to assess his chances in what would likely transition into a double Democratic general election.
The 18th CD contains most of the city of San Jose, but Rep. Lofgren responded to Mr. Liccardo with a statement that she plans on seeking re-election in 2024. Ms. Lofgren, who was first elected in 1994, has been re-elected against light challenges with over 65% of the vote ever since. In the 2022 jungle primary, Rep. Eshoo dropped below the 50% mark suggesting some vulnerability to a future Democratic challenge.
California: Rep. Barbara Lee (D) Declares for Senate: In an expected move, twelve-term California US Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) announced that she will officially join the open US Senate campaign to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). Rep. Lee had already filed a Senate committee with the Federal Election Commission, and had been making it clear she would announce once Sen. Feinstein made her retirement plans public.
Already declared are fellow Reps. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). The latter man has recruited endorsements from 15 members from the California Democratic delegation, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). At this point, however, no statewide elected office holders are making a move to run for the Senate. California features an all-party jungle primary system, so it is likely that two Democrats will advance to the general election. In 2024, because it is a presidential election year, the California primary moves to Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024.
While Rep. Lee is the only major candidate at this point hailing from northern California, she will be a severe underdog on the fundraising circuit. Both Reps. Porter and Schiff are two of the most prolific House fundraisers in the country. Though the seat will remain in Democratic hands, this race will continue to feature a highly competitive cycle-long open seat campaign.
RI-1: Rep. David Cicilline (D) to Resign: Yesterday, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) announced that he will resign from the House on May 31st to accept a new position as president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. The Cicilline move will require Gov. Dan McKee (D) to schedule a special election later in the year to fill the congressional post.
The Rhode Island Foundation is a 100+ year-old donating nonprofit entity with an endowment of more than $1.3 billion according to their latest public financial statement. The organization specializes in providing financial grants and scholarships particularly in the areas of community development and education.
The FiveThirtyEight organization rates RI-1 as D+32. The neighboring 2nd District has a D+17 rating, but hosted a competitive 2022 open seat race after veteran Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) decided to retire. State Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) recorded a 50-47% win over former Cranston Mayor and two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung in a race the national GOP had high hopes of winning.
VA-4: Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) Wins Special Election: Virginia state Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) easily won the state’s 4th District special election last night, earning the right to replace the late Congressman Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) who passed away at the end of November.
Ms. McClellan was the clear favorite going into the election after winning the Democratic nomination process in December. She easily defeated Republican Leon Benjamin, a frequent candidate, with 74% of the vote. The 4th District, which stretches from Richmond to the North Carolina border, is heavily Democratic. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the district D+30, while Dave’s Redistricting App scores the seat’s partisan lean at 66.8D – 31.6R.
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