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Good Morning from New York City…

Elections continue to be center stage. In New York, the debate about debates continued. Governor Kathy Hochul agreed to a debate hosted by Spectrum News, but her challenger, Member of Congress Lee Zeldin (who has been demanding debates) declined to participate, saying he would not debate unless Hochul committed to additional debates. Some believe Hochul owes it to the voters to appear in more than one forum, but the reality is incumbents with a lead often limit their debate time to one appearance, including former Governor Cuomo multiple times. 

Hochul maintains a solid lead over her GOP challenger while Zeldin is stepping up his outreach to nontraditional Republican voting blocs in the hope it will give him a fighting chance. Zeldin is one of two Republican Jewish members of Congress and has parlayed his record defending Israel in Washington into support for his gubernatorial campaign from Jewish enclaves throughout New York, primarily in Hasidic Brooklyn. A campaign event there generated more enthusiasm than might be expected for the GOP in Brooklyn. Whether that support puts a dent in Hochul’s NYC margins remains to be seen. 

Nationally, the focus is also on elections and a new NBC poll released this week provided some insights into how voters are feeling just under 50 days out from the midterm elections. 

President Biden’s approval rating has climbed back to 45%, an eleven month high, while the poll found voters remain split 46-46 on which party should control Congress. Both of those numbers are up for Democrats and the main driver, according to the poll, is the Dobbs decision. 61% of respondents said they viewed the ruling unfavorably and the most important issue reported among voters was “threats to democracy.” Inflation and the economy continues to be an important factor with 63% of voters agreeing that their income is falling behind their cost of living, and 58% disapproving of Biden’s handling of the economy. 

Political consultants and pollsters are backing away from predictions of an electoral “wave” one way or the other. Democratic strategist Jeff Horwitt offered that 2022 may be a “waves’ election where unprecedentedly strong crosscurrents push voters in different directions, with an end result that may not be what we expected.”

According to GOP pollster Bill McInturff, “There is a campaign about the economy, cost of living, crime, and border security, and Republicans are winning this campaign, but there is a second campaign on abortion, democracy and climate change, and Democrats are winning that campaign.” 

Under that line of thinking, you can see why the GOP is eager to keep the media focus on those issues (hence, the shipping of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard). Democrats, also eager to focus on a winning issue, have turned their messaging towards how reproductive rights will be further restricted should Republicans gain control of Congress. Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire has made this a centerpiece of her race, frustrating her GOP challenger Don Bolduc who told her “Get over it. [This election] is about the economy.” Hassan promptly turned the quip into a campaign ad

The New York Times and Siena College also released a poll this week that found Latino voters, as a demographic, would vote for a Democrat over a Republican by a margin of 56-32. Following marginal gains among Latinos in 2020, some predicted that voting bloc was on its way to the GOP column. Fernand Amandi, a Democratic strategist and Obama campaign veteran said, “The idea that the Republicans were ever going to win the Hispanic vote was always a farce and a pipe dream at best.” 

Those numbers are not to say “demography is destiny” or that Latino voters are a monolith. Amandi pointed to complacency among Democrats as a potential problem as well, saying, “They don’t seem to be hustling the vote quite as much as we see the Republicans do.” The poll showed that younger male Latino voters, fueled by economic concerns, are turning away from Democrats and if he were to run in 2024, Latino men would vote for Donald Trump over a Democrat with a 5 point margin. In the South, Republicans fare better with Latinos, only trailing Democrats 45-46. Outside of the South, Democrats have an advantage 62-24. 

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report updated their predictions this week and now consider 31 races as a “toss-up.” This comes after three adjustments to their House ratings, all in the Southwest and all beneficial to Democrats: Scottsdale GOP Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-01) moves from Lean Republican to Toss-Up and Northern Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-02) moves from Likely to Lean Republican. Additionally, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28) moves from Toss-Up to Lean Democrat.

In New York, Cook Political report considers two races to be toss-ups: the Hudson Valley/Southern Tier 19th Congressional District race between Republican Dutchess County Executive and one-time candidate for Governor Marc Molinaro and Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney from the Southern Tier (though former Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan defeated Molinaro in the Special Election to replace Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado in the 19th District, Ryan will be running in the 18th District); and Central New York 22nd Congressional District race between Democrat Francis Console, a naval intelligence officer, and Republican Brandon Williams, a business owner. Rep. Claudia Tenney, who currently represents the 22nd District, will be running in the newly drawn 24th District.

On the Senate side, not much has changed from one month ago even though a lot has happened politically in that time including student loan forgiveness, migrants being shipped to Martha’s Vineyard, and increased military aid to Ukraine, among other things.  On August 22nd, Democrats running for the Senate led by an average of 4.7% and on September 22nd, the average was 3.8%. That difference is within the margin of error and no one individual race has moved significantly. According to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have a 71% chance to keep the Senate. 

  • In Ohio, frustrations continue to mount for JD Vance’s campaign against Congressman Tim Ryan. Vance was pressed by a rally-goer to explain why he is seemingly absent from the airwaves while his opponent is running TV ads all over the state. The Washington Post also reported that large donors have privately expressed concern about his chances with one donor calling his campaign “lazy” and another going as far as to say he would not give any money to the Vance campaign.  
  • In Arizona, a new poll shows Senator Mark Kelly up 8 points over Blake Masters. While Mitch McConnell has personally fundraised for Masters, his Senate leadership PAC has pulled down ads in Arizona and redirected those funds to other, more competitive races.  
  • In Georgia, Herschel Walker is struggling to keep pace with incumbent Raphael Warnock who currently holds a slight lead. Walker is relying on his name recognition and celebrity status to get him over the finish line, but his campaign continues to be hampered by gaffes, a lackluster policy understanding, and concerning revelations about his personal life

The issues Walker is facing in Georgia are emblematic of a larger GOP problem when it comes to winning over minority voters in urban centers, according to the Washington Post. The rest of the country, like Georgia, is becoming increasingly diverse and urban-centered and the GOP, or Walker, have not found a way to connect to that demographic. Former Georgia GOP state Chairman Ralph Reed offered “The Republican Party has not historically done a very good job of building bridges to minority communities. That has to change, or we face permanent minority status.” 

In Washington, D.C….

Senators continue to negotiate on the Continuing Resolution to fund the government which is required by October 1st to avoid a government shutdown. Military aid to Ukraine will be included in the package while additional COVID relief funds will not be. Some Republicans have suggested extending the CR beyond 10 weeks and into the next Congress in the hope that they will control one or both chambers. 

The biggest fight continues to be over the proposal to reform the permitting process for energy projects, authored by Senator Manchin. Between progressive Democrats who believe the bill does not go far enough in standing up to the fossil fuel industry and Republicans who believe it goes too far, it does not appear that Schumer has the votes to pass the provision. Nonetheless, Schumer took steps to set up a procedural vote on the CR with Manchin’s proposal included this Tuesday.  A group of progressive Senators, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, sent a letter to Schumer urging him to make the permitting proposal a stand-alone vote, allowing them to vote against the plan without having to vote to shut down the government. 

And finally…. If you are considering becoming the next James Bond, clear your schedule. Producers are expecting a 10 year commitment from the next 007.  

-Jack O’Donnell




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