Morning Digest: Liz Cheney goes down in defeat, but Sarah Palin’s comeback campaign is unresolved

Gun Rights

The Last Frontier allows mail-in ballots postmarked by election day to be counted if they’re received through the end of the month, so these margins may shift: State election officials say they plan to have updated results on Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, with final numbers on Aug. 31. After all the votes are tabulated, officials will conduct an instant runoff to reallocate the third-place finisher’s votes to the two remaining candidates.

No matter what, though, Peltola, Palin, and Begich will all be on the ballot again in the November instant-runoff election for a full two-year term along with one other competitor. (This special election only had three candidates because independent Al Gross dropped out shortly after taking third in the June special top-four primary.)

Tuesday was also the day that Alaska held its top-four primaries for statewide and legislative offices, and the results of the House race so far closely resemble the special tallies: Peltola is in first with 35%, Palin second with 31%, and Begich third at 27%. Another Republican, former state Interior Department official Tara Sweeney, leads Libertarian Chris Bye 4-1 for fourth, but the AP has not called the final spot in the general.

While it will take some time to know the winner in Alaska, though, there was no suspense about what would happen with Cheney in dark-red Wyoming. The congresswoman just two years ago was the third-ranking member of the House GOP leadership and a strong contender to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker, but she instantly became a national party pariah when she voted to impeach Trump; Cheney went on to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack along with just one other Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

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Trump and his allies made defeating Cheney a top priority, and his “Bachelor” style endorsement process eventually resulted in him supporting Hageman, who had placed third in the 2018 primary for governor. (Politico relays that Trump’s team originally considered backing her in a prospective rematch against Gov. Mark Gordon.) House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Club for Growth went on to fall in line behind Hageman, a one-time Trump skeptic who now embraces the Big Lie.

Cheney’s defeat makes her the eighth House Republican to lose renomination this year compared to four Democrats so far. The Wyoming result also means that at least eight of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment will not be going back to Congress next year because of primary losses and retirements: Only California Rep. David Valadao and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse advanced through their respective top-two primaries, though Valadao still has to win his competitive general election against Democrat Rudy Salas.

But Cheney didn’t show any regret about what happened to her once promising career in Republican politics. She proclaimed in her concession speech that “now, the real work begins” and pledged she “will do whatever it takes to ensure Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”

election recaps

 AK-Sen: Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her fellow Republican, former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka, advanced through the top-four primary as expected, though the AP has not yet called the other two spots for the November instant-runoff general election. Murkowski holds a 44-40 edge over her Trump-backed foe as of Wednesday morning, while Democrat ​​Pat Chesbro, who is a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, is well behind with 6%. A pair of little-known Republicans, Buzz Kelley and Pat Nolin, are taking 2% and 1%, respectively.

 AK-Gov: Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy will face former Democratic state Rep. Les Gara and independent former Gov. Bill Walker in the fall, but it remains to be seen who will be the fourth general election candidate. Dunleavy is in first with 42%, while Gara and Walker are grabbing 22% each. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce holds a 7-4 edge for fourth over state Rep. Christopher Kurka in a race where both Republicans are each positioning themselves to the right of the ardently conservative governor.

 WY-Gov: Gov. Mark Gordon didn’t come close to losing his Republican primary, but he still scored an unimpressive 62-30 victory over Brent Bien, a retired Marine colonel who campaigned against the incumbent’s pandemic health measures. Gordon should have no trouble in the fall against the Democratic nominee, retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Theresa Livingston.

 WY-SoS: State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Trump-endorsed election conspiracy theorist who has insisted the 2020 vote was “clearly rigged,” beat state Sen. Tara Nethercott 50-41 in the Republican primary to serve as secretary of state. Wyoming Democrats did not field a candidate here.

Senate

FL-Sen: The University of North Florida’s newest survey finds Democratic Rep. Val Demings leading Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-44, which is actually better for Team Blue than the tie that two different pro-Demings polls recently showed. This is the first independent survey we’ve seen since winter, and quite a departure from the 46-34 Rubio advantage UNF had in February. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn notes that the school obtained its sample by emailing a list of registered voters, which he calls a “​​pretty unusual design.”

NH-Sen, NH-01, NH-02: Saint Anselm College gives us a rare look at the Sept. 13 Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, which is the last competitive Senate primary in the nation, as well as Team Red’s nomination contests for New Hampshire’s two Democratic-held congressional districts. Before we get into the results, though, we need to note that the school asked several issue questions about abortion before it got to the horserace: We always encourage pollsters to ask these sorts of questions after the horserace to avoid “priming” voters to lean one way or the other.

We’ll begin with the Senate question, where Donald Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who lost the 2020 nomination for New Hampshire’s other Senate seat, posts a 32-16 advantage against state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith are far back with just 4% each, while author Vikram Mansharamani notches 2%; a 39% plurality remains undecided with less than a month to go.

This is the first poll we’ve seen here since April, when the University of New Hampshire had Bolduc beating Smith 33-4. Prominent national groups haven’t taken sides here, but Bolduc so far has not run a particularly impressive campaign two years after his 50-42 loss. The frontrunner had a mere $70,000 in the bank at the end of June, and he spent last year accusing Gov. GOP Chris Sununu of being a “Chinese communist sympathizer” with a family business that “supports terrorism.”

Bolduc also has ardently embraced the Big Lie, saying at a recent debate, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it].” He has plenty of company, though, as Morse is the one GOP candidate who acknowledged that Joe Biden is the president when asked Tuesday if the 2020 election was stolen. Bolduc would also prefer this be the last New Hampshire Senate election in history: Both he and Fenton have called for repealing the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the right to elect their senators in 1913.

Bolduc’s many rivals, though, have considerably more resources available as they try to get their names out in the final weeks of the campaign. Fenton finished the second quarter with a $1.63 million war chest, though almost all of that was self-funded. Morse and Mansharamani had $980,000 and $790,000, respectively, with Smith holding $350,000.

Turning to the 1st District, Saint Anselm College shows 2020 nominee Matt Mowers edging out former White House staffer Karoline Leavitt 25-21 in his bid for a rematch against Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas. Former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown and state Rep. Tim Baxter are well behind with 9% and 8%, respectively, with former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott clocking in at 2%. The lead still goes to unsure, though, as 33% did not select a candidate.

Mowers has the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and he finished June with a modest $820,000 to $670,000 cash-on-hand edge over Leavitt. Biden carried both the old and new version of this eastern New Hampshire constituency 52-46 (the court-drawn congressional map made only tiny changes to both of the state’s districts after Sununu thwarted efforts by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to make the 1st considerably redder), while Pappas defeated Mowers 51-46 last time.

Finally in the 2nd District, the school finds a hefty 65% undecided in the GOP primary to go up against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns leads Keene Mayor George Hansel just 12-10 while another 8% goes to Lily Tang Williams, who was the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for Senate in Colorado. (She earned 4% against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.)

Hansel has the backing of Sununu, and he ended the last quarter with a $300,000 to $130,000 cash-on-hand edge over Williams, with Burns holding $100,000. Biden would have prevailed 54-45 here.

Governors

FL-Gov: The University of North Florida finds Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried beating Rep. Charlie Crist 47-43 in next week’s Democratic primary, which makes this the first poll to give her the edge all year. Crist quickly responded by releasing a Change Research survey that gave him a 47-37 advantage, which is only a little larger than the 42-35 Crist lead that Fried’s own internal from Public Policy Polling showed just last week. An early August St. Pete Polls survey for Florida Politics had Crist up 56-24.

UNF also takes a look at the general election and has Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis outpacing Crist and Fried 52-40 and 50-43, respectively.

NH-Gov: Saint Anselm College also surveyed the general election for governor, and it finds Republican incumbent Chris Sununu beating Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman 48-29. An early July Sherman internal from Public Policy Polling put the governor’s lead at a smaller, though still wide, 43-33. The school looks at the Sept. 13 GOP primary as well, but it shows Sununu with a huge 68-6 lead over perennial candidate Karen Testerman.

House

NY-10: Rep. Mondaire Jones has launched the first negative TV spot of next week’s Democratic primary against attorney Dan Goldman, a self-funder who is the only other candidate with the resources to air television ads; Jones’ team tells Politico that he’s putting $500,000 into this late effort.

The commercial frames the crowded contest as a straight-up choice between “conservative Dan Goldman” or “progressive Mondaire Jones.” The narrator goes on to contrast the two, saying, “Dan Goldman has dangerous views on abortion; Mondaire Jones is 100% pro-choice, the best record in Congress.” She goes on to argue that Goldman “profited off gun manufacturers” and “made money off FOX News,” while the 17th District congressman stood up to the NRA and Republicans.

The spot doesn’t go into detail about its charges against Goldman, but Politico provides some background. The candidate last month sat down for an interview with Hamodia’s Reuvain Borchardt and was asked, “Should there be any limitation whatsoever on the right to terminate a pregnancy at any point in the pregnancy?” Goldman responded, “I do think, generally speaking, I agree with the break-point of viability, subject to exceptions.”

Goldman later said he “would not object” when Borchardt inquired if he’d be alright with a state law that would ban abortion if “there is a perfectly healthy fetus, and the mother just decides after viability that she wants to terminate the pregnancy.” However, the candidate then had a conversation with an aide who was also present at the interview, and Borchardt writes that “from that point forward Goldman’s responses switched from a post-viability limitation to no limitations at all.”

Jones and Goldman’s other rivals were quick to go on the attack after the article was published, while Goldman himself insisted he’d “misspoke” and “unequivocally support[s] a woman’s right to choose.”

As for this ad’s charges that Goldman “profited off gun manufacturers” and “made money off FOX News,” the New York Daily News recently explained that he has stock in, among many other companies, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, and News Corp. A spokesperson said, “Dan does not manage his money … It is handled by a broker, and is designed to mirror the S&P 500.”

NY-19 (special): DCCC Analytics has dropped an internal showing Republican Marc Molinaro edging out Democrat Pat Ryan 46-43 in next week’s special election. The last poll we saw was a late July Triton Polling & Research survey for Molinaro’s allies at the right-wing Freedom Council USA, and it gave their man a larger 50-40 advantage.

PA-08: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright is out with an internal from GQR Research that shows him defeating Republican Jim Bognet 52-46 in their rematch for a northeastern Pennsylvania constituency that would have supported Trump 51-48. The only other poll we’ve seen here was a late June survey for Bognet and the NRCC that put the Republican ahead 46-45.

Cartwright held off Bognet 52-48 last cycle as Trump was prevailing in the old 8th District 52-47, a win that made him one of just seven House Democrats to hold a Trump district. The congressman has taken to the airwaves early for 2022, and Politico’s Ally Mutnick relays that he’s already spent $415,000 on TV for the general election. Bognet, by contrast, on Tuesday began running his first spot since he won the May primary, a joint ad with the NRCC that ties Cartwright to Scranton native Joe Biden.

Secretaries of State

MA-SoS: MassInc has surveyed the Sept. 6 Democratic statewide primaries for Responsible Development Coalition, and it finds longtime Secretary of State Bill Galvin leading Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan 43-15, which is larger than the 38-25 advantage he posted in a late June poll from YouGov for UMass Amherst. Responsible Development Coalition is funded in part by the Carpenters Union, which backs Galvin.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The FBI on Tuesday arrested former Rep. TJ Cox, a California Democrat who won his sole term in a huge 2018 upset, for “15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud.” Politico says that these charges carry a combined 20-year maximum prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 through 2018 Cox “​​illicitly obtained over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments he solicited and then stole.” They also say that he broke campaign finance laws by funneling money to friends and family and having them contribute it to his campaign as “part of a scheme and plan to demonstrate individual campaign donations as preferred over the candidate’s personal loans or donations to his campaign.”

Cox narrowly unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao in 2018 in the 21st Congressional District in the Central Valley, but he lost their tight rematch two years later. Cox initially announced in December of 2020 that he’d run again, but, in a development that now comes as a massive relief for his party, he ultimately decided not to go for it.

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