Can Trump be on ballot? It hinges on one word

Lawsuits over former president’s run raise the question of what is an ‘insurrection.’

DENVER — Can former President Trump run for his old job again after his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol? The answer may depend on the definition of insurrection.

Liberal groups have filed lawsuits in ColoradoMinnesota and other states to bar Trump from the ballot, citing a rarely used constitutional prohibition against holding office for those who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “engaged in insurrection” against it. The two-sentence clause in the 14th Amendment has been used only a handful of times since the years after the Civil War.

Because of that, there’s almost no case law defining its terms, including what would constitute an “insurrection.”

Although people have argued about whether to call Jan. 6 an insurrection ever since the days after the attack, the debate in court this week has been different — whether those who ratified the amendment in 1868 would call it one.

“There’s this very public fight, in all these colloquial terms, about whether it’s an insurrection, but it really comes down to brass tacks defining what this constitutional term means,” said Derek Muller, a Notre Dame law professor who’s followed the litigation closely.

There are myriad legal reasons why the long-shot bids to bar the former president and current Republican primary front-runner from the ballot could fail, from limits on the role of state courts to whether Section 3 applies to the president. But perhaps none resonate like the debate over whether the Jan. 6 attack should be considered an insurrection in the first place.

In a hearing Thursday before the Minnesota Supreme Court, the question was part of the reason the justices seemed skeptical that states have the authority to throw Trump off the ballot.

“What does it mean in your estimation to have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution?” Justice Gordon Moore asked the lawyers for each side.

Nicholas Nelson, representing Trump, defined an insurrection as “some sort of organized form of warfare or violence … that is oriented toward breaking away from or overthrowing the United States government.” He added that nothing in the last 50 years met that criteria.

Ronald Fein, an attorney for the group Free Speech for People, which is representing the petitioners, said an insurrection against the Constitution is “a concerted, forcible effort to prevent or obstruct execution of a central constitutional function,” which he said closely describes Trump’s actions surrounding the January 2021 assault on the Capitol, an attack that was intended to halt certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election win.

“Insurrection might be in the eye of the beholder,” Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Natalie Hudson concluded after statements from both sides.

day earlier, an Indiana University law professor, Gerard Magliocca, sat in a Denver courtroom and described his research into Section 3, a subject few had delved into before he started looking into it in late 2020.

Magliocca dug into dictionary definitions of insurrection from 150 years ago — one was “the rising of people in arms against their government, or against a portion of it, or against a portion or one of its laws.”

He found an opinion from the U.S. attorney general in 1867 that former Confederates should be barred from certain offices even if they simply bought bonds in the rebel government. He also found instances where Congress refused to seat elected representatives whose only violation was writing a letter to the editor backing the Confederate cause or paying a son $100 to help cover his costs to join the Confederate army.

Congress also passed a law in 1862 making insurrection a crime that used different language. Some critics of the Section 3 lawsuits have noted that out of the thousands of charges filed by the federal government related to Jan. 6, no one has been charged with the crime of insurrection — though several far-right extremists have been convicted of seditious conspiracy.

Magliocca noted that constitutional language is different from far more technical and detailed criminal statutes, and Section 3 says nothing about the person barred from office having to be first convicted of a crime. Indeed, Magliocca testified it was understood the goal of the provision was to keep a wide range of former Confederates out of public office in the years after the war.

In 1872, Congress lifted the ban for most former Confederates, something it’s explicitly able to do under the terms of Section 3.

On Friday in the Colorado hearing, Trump’s lawyers put on their own constitutional expert, Robert Delahunty, to note that some of Magliocca’s definitions were contradictory. Some required the use of “arms” in insurrection while others did not.

Delahunty, a retired law professor who is a fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute, said the more important question is the unique requirement in Section 3 that it be an insurrection against the Constitution.

“What really needs to be explicated is not the plain vanilla meaning of insurrection but the whole phrase — insurrection against the United States Constitution,” Delahunty testified on Friday.

The lawyers seeking to disqualify Trump in Colorado noted that even the former president’s own attorney in his impeachment trial for the Jan. 6 attack described it as an insurrection.

“The question before us is not whether there was a violent insurrection of the Capitol — on that point everyone agrees,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said during the impeachment proceedings in the Senate.

Legal scholars were able to find just one example of the amendment being used in the last century, when it was cited to deny a seat in the House of Representatives to an antiwar socialist elected after World War I.

After the Jan. 6 attack, however, it’s become more common. Free Speech for People unsuccessfully tried to use it to block Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Green from the ballot last year and also targeted former Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, though the issue became moot when he lost his GOP primary.

Another liberal group, Citizens for Reforming Ethics in Washington, successfully used Section 3 to block from office a rural New Mexico county commissioner after he was convicted in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering the Capitol grounds during the attack.

During a hearing in that case Thursday, Trump’s lawyers tried to show that many who attended the Jan. 6 protests were law-abiding, peaceful people.

Tom Bjorklund, treasurer of the Colorado Republican Party, wandered the National Mall that day and approached the Capitol, but said he turned back after seeing tear gas and vandalism.

Bjorklund contended that “antifa” was likely to blame for the violence — a false narrative that has been debunked by research showing the crowd was composed overwhelmingly of Trump supporters. He said he spotted people who seemed like agent provocateurs in the crowd and said he wanted to testify to make a statement.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Porter, Schiff lead in poll for SenatePorter, Schiff

They appear headed to a runoff if rivals for Feinstein’s seat don’t gain traction soon.

Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Katie Porter are in nearly a dead heat in California’s U.S. Senate race, well-positioned to move ahead to a runoff, a new poll shows.

The two well-funded House Democrats have been pacing the field since the beginning of the year. Other candidates, including fellow Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee and Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey, have so far not shown an ability to make the race more broadly competitive.

Porter, of Irvine, holds 17% support among voters likely to cast ballots in the March primary, and Schiff, of Burbank, is at 16%, in the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times. Garvey comes in at 10% and Lee, of Oakland, has 9%, the poll found.

The poll standings represent a slight improvement for Lee and Garvey since the last Berkeley IGS poll, in August, while support for Schiff has declined slightly. But the shifts are all close to the poll’s margin of error, and none have changed the overall shape of the race. About 3 in 10 likely voters remain undecided.

Under California’s system, the top two finishers in March, regardless of party, will move forward to the general election runoff in November. The poll suggests that runoff will feature two Democrats, which was the case in the last election for this Senate seat, in 2018, when Sen. Dianne Feinsteindefeated fellow Democrat Kevin de León. The seat is currently held by Sen. Laphonza Butler, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom after Feinstein’s Sept. 29 death but is not running for election to a full term.

“I think Lee and Garvey are the ones to watch in the second tier. Are any of them going to be able to get a little higher breakthrough to be the third possible candidate?” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley poll and a longtime California pollster. “Lee’s problem is she’s just not very well-known outside the Bay Area,” he said, noting that she faces the challenge of “broadening her appeal” to a statewide constituency.

The coalitions supporting each candidate have stayed roughly constant in recent months: Porter garners more support from younger voters and those who identify as strongly liberal. Voters under 50 favor her over Schiff by more than a dozen percentage points, and she leads among people who identify as strongly liberal by 15 percentage points.

Schiff is ahead with voters 65 and older and those who identify as somewhat liberal. The two are essentially tied among voters who identify as Democrats.

Lee, one of three Black members of Congress from California, now leads among Black voters statewide, which was not the case earlier in the campaign.

Porter, Schiff and Lee have been crisscrossing the state, attending forums hosted by unions and advocacy groups, holding fundraisers and doing small town hall meetings with voters. But the near-even division between the two parties in the House has often kept all three in Washington so as not to miss votes. Consequently, most campaigning occurs when the chamber is in recess.

Geographically, Porter leads in Orange County, with 21% support from likely voters, while Garvey gets 15% support and Schiff 14%. Porter also leads Schiff by 6 points in voter-rich Los Angeles County (22% to 18%), and the two are essentially tied in the Central Valley and San Diego County.

Lee polls better among voters in the Bay Area than elsewhere. The three Democrats are closely bunched together there — Schiff with 19% support, Lee with 18% and Porter with 16%.

Garvey’s poor performance in the Bay Area is likely due to the region’s deeply liberal identity, but his 4% support there could also indicate that his main draw as a candidate — his years of playing for the Dodgers — doesn’t help him in Northern California, DiCamillo said.

Statewide, however, one possible hope for Garvey is that the undecided voters in the race tend to be more conservative and more likely to be Republicans than the overall electorate, suggesting that he may have some room to expand his support.

To get into the runoff, however, Garvey would have to consolidate most of the vote from the state’s Republican minority. That’s difficult with two other Republicans in the race — attorney Eric Early and businessman James Bradley.

Garvey, who twice voted for former President Trump, has told supporters he will focus his campaign on quality-of-life issues such as education, the cost of living, housing affordability, crime and homelessness. He leads the poll among voters who identify as conservative.

The poll shows that the Senate race is not yet top of mind for many voters. Nearly half of likely voters have no opinion of Porter, for example. Similarly, about half don’t know enough about Lee to render an opinion, and 58% said they don’t know enough about Garvey.

Likely owing to his prominent role in the Trump impeachments, Schiff is better-known, with just 31% of voters saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. But Schiff is also more polarizing: 40% of likely voters said they had a favorable view of him, and 29% had an unfavorable view. In Porter’s case, 38% had a favorable view and 17% had an unfavorable view.

Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said that as primary grows closer, Schiff’s monumental fundraising advantage will likely begin to have an impact on polls.

Schiff has about $32 million in cash on hand, according to his latest financial disclosure report. That will translate into far more television and radio advertising than his rivals can afford. Porter reported the second-most cash on hand, with $12 million at the last fundraising deadline. The other candidates lag far behind in the money race.

California is famously difficult to campaign in, owing to the size of its media markets and the huge cost of buying airtime. Schiff launched a digital advertisement this week, but none of the candidates have advertised on television yet.

The Berkeley-Times poll surveyed likely voters about which outlets they rely on for news and how that may relate to their candidate preferences. Local television and radio news remains far and away the most common way voters learn about the candidates, with 85% reporting they use them. Among likely voters, 58% said they turn to CNN and MSNBC to get up to speed on the race. The majority of the voters who rely on those two outlets identify as Democrats.

The next three most popular sources were Google and other internet search engines, 43%; local or regional newspapers, online or in print, 38%; and government voter guides, 37%. The three sources were also favored more by Democrats than Republicans in the poll.

About a fifth of likely voters said they received information on the race from Fox News. The vast majority of them identified as Republicans.

Still, the primacy of television and radio made Carrick believe Schiff might have an advantage.

“I think the rubber meets the road when he starts buying broadcast and cable,” Carrick said, adding: “That may be an advantage that he has much earlier.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Critics Blast Newsom’s China Trip as Publicity Stunt, to ‘Burnish International Experience’

‘This trip proves that Newsom doesn’t care about technology espionage, human rights

The Governor’s office released Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Chinese trip itenerary on Wednesday, showing that Newsom will take a climate-focused tour of the Country less than a month before the APEC Conference in San Francisco .

According to a press release by the Governor’s office, the seven-day trip will include stops in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the province of Jiangsu. Newsom’s tour will begin in Hong Kong, where he is set to give a speech at Hong Kong University over combatting climate change and the economy. Following a quick stop in Guangdong where he will meet with local leaders over electric vehicles and electric public transit, Newsom will go to Beijing. There, he will be joined by his wife and will meet meet with several high-level national and local officials on the climate crisis and clean energy, tour the Great Wall, meet with U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, and meet with leaders of five Chinese provinces.

After Beijing, Newsom will go south to Jiangsu, where he will visit an off-shore wind farm and a wetlands preserve before leaving for Shanghai via a high speed train. Finally, at his last shop in Shanghai, Newsom will tour the Shanghai Tesla gigafactory. In addition, Newsom is set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at every stop besides Hong Kong with both national and local officials over climate issues.

“California and China hold the keys to solving the climate crisis,” said Newsom on his trip Wednesday. “As two of the world’s largest economies, our partnership is essential to delivering climate action for our communities and beyond.

“Our decades-long work together proves what we can accomplish together – cleaning the air, accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, protecting people from extreme weather and conserving lands and oceans.”

Newsom’s office added that “The trip is wholly focused on climate, and we are obviously a state, so I think we look to our federal partners on federal issues.

“A lot of what China has done in the EV space is actually borne out of California’s innovation on ZEV mandates from the ‘90s. But clearly, they have kind of jumped ahead in terms of adoption of electric vehicles both by individuals as well as the government.”

While Newsom has pushed California heavily towards clean energy and electric cars as Governor, such as signing laws that will have California use 100% green energy by 2045 and only sell zero emissions vehicles statewide by 2035, his trip to China has been called out by many as little more than a publicity stunt. Others, including many supporters, have also said that the trip ignores China’s many human rights issues and that the trip will include many places that have recently been a part of trade conflicts between the U.S. and China.

“This trip proves that Newsom doesn’t care about technology espionage, human rights issues, and so many other issues near and dear to Californians. Republican or Democrat, there is something that you will not like about this trip,” explained James Francis, an East Asian economic analyst, to the Globe. “China really is growing leaps and bounds over electric cars and clean energy. They are focusing heavily on that, and Newsom wants to work closely with them and follow where they have gone on the same path. That’s why the focus is heavily on clean energy and the environment. Getting closer with them there would help California reach his goals faster.”

“But he could have easily chosen another country to work closer with who has advanced as much, like maybe an ally like Japan or South Korea. But no, he is choosing China and is really showing it. Granted, California has had close deals and MOUs with China in the past through the past few Governors and Senator Dianne Feinstein. But things are a bit more dicey with China than they were 10 or 20 years ago, especially with the Taiwan situation becoming more relevant. And he just moved forward.”

“Proving he can work cordially with an economic rival to the United States and get deals done with them? That’s bona fide international experience, something which Newsom has been sorely lacking of which lately. For, say, a run for higher office, that sort of thing looks good and quells fears that he doesn’t have the needed international experience.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Schiff and Porter Increasingly Dominate Race for Senate, Poll Shows

California has more registered Republicans than any state in the union, but that doesn’t mean one of them will make it to the runoff for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

Six months ahead of the March 5 primary, two Democrats appear likely to face off next year to decide who will replace longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times.

The prospect of Steve Garvey, the former Dodger and Padres legend, entering the race as a high-profile Republican hasn’t scrambled that dynamic, the poll found.

Reps. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine are neck and neck, with support from 20% and 17% of likely voters, respectively, the poll found. The two have opened up sizable leads over their other prominent Democratic opponent, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, who sits at 7%.

Garvey, who has not announced whether he will run, and Republican businessman James Bradley each also had 7% support in the poll. Attorney Eric Early, a perennial GOP candidate, sits at 5%. Roughly a third of likely voters surveyed said they were undecided.

Under California’s top-two system, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

“The more Republicans there are [in the race], the lower their chances are of getting somebody in the top two, just because they divide each other’s support up,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Times-Berkeley poll and a longtime California pollster.

“You can change that with a lot of campaigning, but they don’t appear to be that competitive right now for the top two positions,” he added.

The GOP’s Early was favored by 18% of likely voters in a Times-Berkeley poll in May but saw his support plummet through the summer. In that survey, Porter was close behind him with 17% support, followed by Schiff with 14% and Lee at 9%.

Garvey was not included in the previous poll but has been weighing entering the race all summer, his advisor Andy Gharakhani said. “Steve is seriously considering entering this race and speaking directly with voters on the issues they care most about,” Gharakhani said.

Despite several months of campaigning, Lee remains less well-known than Schiff and Porter, with half of likely voters having no opinion of her. Although she is the only Black candidate in the race, she trails among likely Black voters with 16% support, behind Schiff’s 30% and Porter’s 21%.

One factor that has the potential to shake up the race is whether Feinstein will be able to finish her term in office. She was hospitalized with shingles for a week starting in late February. The illness kept her in San Francisco for months. The dozens of Senate votes she missed, including several on judges, led some in her party, including Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, to call on her to step aside.

Last month, she was hospitalized again after falling in her San Francisco home.

If Feinstein were to leave before the end of her term, Gov. Gavin Newsom would need to appoint a temporary replacement. After he appointed a man to fill the former Senate seat of Vice President Kamala Harris, the governor committed to picking a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat were to become vacant.

Newsom hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Senate race, but some supporters of Lee have said he should appoint her if the seat opens up.

Asked what Newsom should do if Feinstein steps down, 51% of likely voters said the governor should appoint someone who is prepared to run for a full Senate term in the 2024 election.

A quarter of likely voters said he should appoint someone who is willing to serve as an interim appointee and not run for a full term. The rest had no opinion.

Schiff and Porter have remained mum on that issue, simply wishing Feinstein the best in her recovery.

The race between Schiff, a former prosecutor who was first elected to the House in 2000, and Porter, a UC Irvine law professor who was first elected in 2018, is shaping up to be a generational clash.

Likely voters older than 65 favor Schiff over Porter, 29% to 12%, the poll found. Those younger than 50 tend to favor Porter: She leads Schiff 23% to 14% among likely voters 30-39 and 27% to 6% among those 18-29.

That could pose a problem for Porter: She does best among those who, while considered likely to submit a ballot, often don’t show up at election time. A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies analysis of voting in the state found that habitual voters tend to be white and older than the average Californian. Frequent voters were also disproportionately over the age of 50.

But the fact that the election is taking place in a presidential year could mitigate that disadvantage, said Sara Sadhwani, a professor of politics at Pomona College.

“One of the things about younger voters … that we tend to see is an increase in turnout in a presidential election year,” she said.

Porter has done an excellent job during committee hearings of creating viral moments that appeal to younger voters on social media, Sadhwani said. The question, though, is whether those voters will show up for the primary in March.

Schiff has leveraged his prominent role as a top antagonist of former President Trump to boost his Senate run. That appears to be paying off with some Democratic voters. He won additional attention when GOP House Republicans voted to censure Schiff for, in their view, going to too far in his efforts against Trump — a reprimand that Schiff has described as a badge of honor.

“It was an opportunity for Schiff again to remind voters in California about the important role that he has played in attempting to save our democracy,” Sadhwani said, adding that Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had only “helped amplify that profile” with the censure vote.

Schiff is by far the best-known candidate in the field, with only 24% of likely voters not having an opinion of him. He got favorable views from 43% of likely voters polled, while 32% had an unfavorable view.

Porter is less known, with 43% of likely voters saying they had no opinion of her, 38% saying they liked her and 19% saying they had an unfavorable view of her.

She leads among voters in Orange County, where she lives, but Schiff leads in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two are neck and neck in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state.

The fact that both leading Democrats are from Southern California is a shift from the state’s previous pattern, noted Chris Lehane, chief strategy officer at Haun Ventures, who previously was an advisor to Gov. Gray Davis and Vice President Al Gore.

“Historically, Democratic primaries were won by a Democrat in the north over the Democrats in the south,” Lehane said. “I think it’s a real question of whether that’s still the case.”

“When you think about 30 years ago when Feinstein first ran, it was a purple state. Now it’s a deep-blue state. Everything has become nationalized,” he added. “It looks like there no longer is the Giants vs. Dodgers dynamic.”

Schiff leads Porter 31% to 26% among registered Democrats surveyed. Among likely voters who identify as strong Democrats, he leads her 35% to 27%.

The two are essentially tied among voters who are registered without a party preference or as members of a smaller party.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Trump poised to sweep state’s delegates in GOP primary

But California voters worry about his and Biden’s vulnerabilities,  a UC Berkeley/Times poll finds.

Former President Trump dominates his rivals so heavily that he’s on track to win all of California’s delegates for next year’s Republican convention — a haul that would give him a major chunk of the votes needed to secure his third presidential nomination.

The finding from a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times highlights a turnabout from earlier this year. In February, Trump faced a serious challenge from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis among California Republicans.

The potential for Trump to win all of the state’s delegates also reflects his campaign’s work to change the rules of the contest to his advantage.

In late July, the California Republican Party changed its rules so that if a candidate wins more than 50% of the statewide vote in the state’s March 5 primary, he or she will claim all 169 GOP delegates — the most of any state in the nation. Previously, the rules allocated delegates by congressional district. A candidate needs just over 1,200 convention delegates to win the nomination.

Trump’s campaign team pushed for the rule change, one of a series of such shifts it has backed in states across the nation. All of the changes supported by his campaign have the effect of helping a front-runner quickly nail down the Republican nomination.

The new poll shows about 55% of likely Republican voters plan to cast their primary ballots for Trump.

DeSantis’ support has plummeted to 16% — less than half of what he had earlier this year.

“Californians have turned away, by and large, from DeSantis,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the UC Berkeley institute’s poll. “The biggest beneficiary of DeSantis’ decline is the former president. There’s no question he’s well-liked by the Republican base.

“It’s a startling development given the fact that over the past year, there appeared to be sentiment among Republicans looking for an alternative to Trump,” DiCamillo added. “That has changed, and Trump is now the odds-on favorite.

“Capturing all of California’s delegates would give Trump a huge advantage over the rest of the field,” he said.

The state party’s rule changes were one factor in the recent decision by a super PAC backing DeSantis to stop major campaign operations in California and several other states, NBC News reported last week.

On the Democratic side, the poll indicated President Biden holds a big lead ahead of California’s primary, with 66% of party voters supporting him, compared with 9% for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and 3% for Marianne Williamson. About 1 in 6 likely Democratic voters said they were undecided.

Biden gets less support from young, Latino and Asian American voters than from white and Black voters. That difference in enthusiasm is unlikely to hurt his chances in California, given his wide lead, but it reflects a problem for the president that could be serious elsewhere in the nation.

Biden also holds a big lead over Trump in a prospective general election matchup in the state, not surprising given California’s cobalt-blue tilt.

Of the state’s 22 million registered voters, 46.9% identify as Democrats, 23.8% as Republicans, 22.5% as no party preference and 6.8% with other parties, according to the California secretary of state’s most recent statistics.

The poll also looked at some important vulnerabilities for each of the two leading candidates.

Among the state’s likely voters, 42% said they believe Biden’s age — he turns 82 shortly after election day — will hurt him a lot in his reelection bid, compared with 32% who think Trump’s legal woes will hurt him a lot in his effort to win back the White House.

Those legal difficulties may be on display just before the state’s primary. On March 4, the former president is scheduled to go on trial in Washington on federal charges that he illegally sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.

California shares its primary date with Texas, North Carolina and about a dozen other states, which together will allocate more than a third of Republican delegates.

The poll was conducted in late August, shortly after Trump was indicted in Georgia over alleged efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results.

It was the fourth indictment for the former president. In addition to the Georgia and federal cases alleging efforts to overturn the election, he also faces federal charges over his handling of confidential government documents after leaving the White House, and New York state charges over payments to a porn actor during the 2016 campaign in an attempt to conceal an alleged affair.

The polling began one day after the first GOP presidential primary debate, which Trump skipped.

The survey’s results affirm the dwindling popularity of DeSantis, who shares many of the same beliefs as Trump, but without the former president’s legal and temperamental baggage. The Florida governor has drawn praise from many on the right for his opposition to lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as for his vocal advocacy of the conservative side in the nation’s culture wars.

In February, when many Republicans were focused on Trump-endorsed candidates’ losses in last year’s midterm election, DeSantis had the support of 37% of likely California GOP voters, while Trump was backed by 29%, according to a Berkeley institute poll.

Three months later, a Berkeley survey indicated the former president had rebounded with the support of 44% of the state’s likely GOP voters and DeSantis trailing at 26%.

Former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s performance in the first GOP debate appears to have bumped up her support in the latest poll, though she remains mired in the single digits among likely Republican voters in California.

Haley now has the backing of 7% of the state’s likely GOP voters surveyed, double her support in the February poll. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and conservative talk radio host Larry Elder all trailed behind her. About 9% of the poll’s Republican participants said they supported someone else or were undecided.

Looking ahead at the general election, 51% of the state’s likely voters polled said they would support Biden, the incumbent president, while 31% said they would back Trump. About 13% said they planned to cast ballots for an unnamed third-party candidate, and 5% were undecided.

While California’s general election is unlikely to be competitive — it hasn’t been in the last three decades — voters’ attitudes about each candidate’s potential vulnerabilities provide insight into the overall state of the race.

Neither Trump nor Biden received stellar ratings from voters on their ethical behavior, though the current president outpaced the former; 71% faulted Trump’s personal ethics, compared with 43% who faulted Biden’s.

Nearly half, 47%, of likely California voters surveyed said they would be open to supporting a third-party candidate if the 2024 presidential campaign is a rematch of Biden and Trump’s contest three years ago, with 24% saying they would be “very open” to the idea.

While a candidate not affiliated with either of the nation’s two main political parties has practically zero chance of winning the White House, DiCamillo said those numbers reflect voter frustration, particularly among those who are less ideologically inclined.

“There’s dissatisfaction. We’ve seen that in other polls,” he said. “It appears to be the most moderate voters, not those on the extremes. Strong liberals and strong conservatives are less open to [a third-party candidate] than those in the middle.”

The Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies’ poll surveyed 6,030 registered California voters online in English and Spanish, Aug. 24-29, with weighted samples of 1,175 likely GOP primary voters and 2,833 likely Democratic primary voters.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Trump Reportedly Getting Ready to Throw Giuliani and John Eastman Under the Bus

It’s possible that a third indictment is coming for former President Donald Trump for his involvement in January 6, and one legal strategy being hinted at is blaming the lawyers who advised him at the time.

Trump has claimed in his Truth Social posts that he “did nothing wrong” when the January 6 insurrection happened and he allegedly tried to steal the 2020 election, and that he was “advised by many lawyers” at the time. In a new Rolling Stone report by Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley those lawyers could very well turn out to be the scapegoats, specifically John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani:

The attorneys were acting on Trump’s behalf. But in this legal strategy, Team Trump would argue it was the lawyers leading Trump, rather than the other way around.

“It is an argument the [former] president likes, and the team is on board with it,” one Trump adviser bluntly says, then somewhat ominously adding: “John [Eastman] and Rudy [Giuliani] gave a lot of counsel … Other people can decide how sound it was.”

Judging by the testimony given by both Giuliani and Eastman, they knew that the advice they were giving was short of “sound.” In late July, Giuliani admitted in a court filing that statements he made publicly and repeatedly about Georgia election workers allegedly committing fraud were false. And when Eastman testified before the January 6 Committee in June 2022, he admitted that despite knowing that using former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election was illegal, he pushed for it anyway. Eastman even emailed Giuliani requesting that he “should be on the [presidential] pardon list, if that is still in the works.”

But placing blame on “advice of counsel” might not be enough because Trump listens to many other people besides his lawyers, including people who aren’t lawyers at allTim Parlatore, one of Trump’s former lawyers who quit this past May, told Rolling Stone how weak that defense could be:

“To my mind, ‘advice of counsel’ is a much more narrow defense, whereas a more comprehensive view of everything that went into Trump’s state of mind, and would affect the mens rea element of it, is more effective. This would include all of the advice and the information that he received and was basing his decision on — not just the advice from the attorneys who were formally representing him.”

But even with Trump placing the blame on others, that defense could backfire if he’s found to have committed a crime:

“[The ‘advice of counsel’ argument] has its limits. As a lawyer, I can’t tell my client: Look, there’s this obscure, ancient law that I found that says you can kill your wife. If the client goes out and kills his wife, it doesn’t really work if the client turns around and says, ‘Well, wait, my lawyer told me I could do that,’” says Steven Groves, who used to work as an attorney and then as a spokesman in the Trump White House.

Click here to read the full article

Schiff Leads Race in Raising Money

Burbank Democrat is far ahead of Porter and Lee in funding campaign for Senate.

In an early test of strength in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Adam B. Schiff has a notable financial edge over Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, according to federal campaign documents released Saturday.

While Schiff was widely expected to have a large war chest because he had a relatively easy reelection campaign last year, he also raised millions of dollars more than Porter, who also is known as a prodigious fundraiser.

“Schiff is in a better position than expected. Porter ended up coming shorter than expectations — she’s going to have to demonstrate that she has more fundraising depth than it appears right now. And Lee’s going to have to find another way of doing it other than lots of money, but we knew that from beginning,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine University. “Schiff has a very strong advantage but it’s not prohibitive. He’s clearly the front-runner, but he shouldn’t be taking anything for granted.”

It’s early — the primary is nearly one year away and the general election isn’t until November 2024.

Schiff, Porter and Lee are the most prominent Democrats among the 18 candidates who have thus far filed to run for the seat. Attorney Eric Early is the best-known Republican, but he entered the race last week, so isn’t required to file fundraising disclosures until July.

While Schiff and Porter both raised millions of dollars in the first three months of the year, Schiff ended the first quarter of 2023 with $24.7 million cash on hand, while Porter had $9.5 million, according to fundraising disclosures posted on the Federal Election Commission’s website Saturday.

The two members of Congress are among the body’s most effective fundraisers, with Porter ranking No. 2 in the last electoral cycle, behind only now-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Schiff ranked fourth, according to federal election records.

But Porter, a former UC Irvine law professor, had a tight reelection contest in her Orange County district last year and spent heavily to narrowly win reelection.

Schiff’s district, which includes Burbank, Glendale and West Hollywood, is heavily Democratic, allowing him to sail to reelection and bank millions of dollars more than Porter. Under federal elections law, both are allowed to transfer money raised for their House elections to their newly formed Senate campaigns.

Schiff raised $6.5 million and spent $2.8 million in the first three months of 2023, while Porter raised $4.5 million and spent $2.5 million, according to federal elections records.

The gap between the amount they could roll over into their Senate campaigns was widely expected. However, the difference between their fundraising was not, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.

“Katie Porter needed to show the ability to catch up,” he said. “She needed to make up ground, and the fact he’s moving further ahead is an important signal.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Battle for Congress? Not here. Bay Area Democrats on Average Serve Even Longer Than Supreme Court Justices

The Bay Area has changed radically in the last few decades — new companies, new residents, new energy. But the people we send to Congress? They’ve stayed — remarkably — the same.

As Democrats and Republicans mount a pitched battle across the nation for control of the House and Senate, a Bay Area News Group analysis shows why our political inertia is all but certain to survive election day: Our region is by far the least competitive major metro area in the country for congressional races.

No Bay Area House race outcome is likely to cross the lips of cable news pundits on Tuesday night. Amid nail-biting across the nation, our cluster of the political map will fill in with the deepest blue — once again.

The current slate of 12 Bay Area House members — all Democrats — won their 2020 races by an average of 47 points. In the runner up region of Boston, victors in House races had an average 40-point margin.

And when it comes to job security, our members also come out on top, serving an average of 9 terms, or about 18 years, in office. Lifetime appointment? Well, no. But it’s even two years longer than the average time on the bench for every justice who ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is extraordinary,” said Dan Schnur, a UC Berkeley politics professor. “If California is a blue state, then the Bay Area is down right indigo.”

Five of the Bay Area’s 12 representatives have each spent more than two decades on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, long villainized by Republicans as an enduring symbol of Democratic control, is the longest-serving member of the Bay Area delegation: She won re-election in 2020 by 55 points and is running for her 19th term. Barbara Lee, the Bay Area’s maverick progressive, captured 92.6% of the vote in 2020 and routinely beats her challengers by about 80 points. The Oakland Democrat is running for her 14th term on Tuesday.

No other major metropolitan area in the country comes close to the Bay Area’s longevity. Six terms, or about 12 years in office, is the average for House members in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Seattle and Southern California’s Inland Empire, the news organization’s analysis found.

But it’s not just our House members who have record-long stays in DC. On Friday, Dianne Feinstein became the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history after crossing the 30-year milestone. At 89, Feinstein has stayed in office so long that even the Bay Area is now wondering whether it’s a good thing, with calls for her to retire over concerns her mental faculties have deteriorated.

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, who shocked local Democrats by ousting eight-term Bay Area incumbent Mike Honda back in 2016, experienced full force what it’s like to fight against the Bay Area political establishment.

“Every endorsement was against me, from now-President Biden, to Speaker Pelosi, to every member of Congress,” said Khanna, who is facing a perennial Republican candidate — computer engineer Ritesh Tandon — whom he beat by 43 points in 2020.  “A lot of people were saying don’t run, it was disrespectful to run…. there was a sense that this was somehow not being a team player.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, stayed out of it at the time. But she pointed out that Khanna would now rely on the very same political establishment that attacked him in 2016 to defend him from a future challenger.

“Frankly, he would do the same thing [as Honda] and ask the party to defend him,” said Eshoo, who with 15 terms under her belt is the second-longest serving Bay Area representative. “When you are challenging an incumbent, you have to expect that, otherwise you are a political novice.”

While the challenge to find viable challengers exists in many parts of the country, the Bay Area has a particular issue: the Republican party poses virtually no threat to Democratic incumbents. Only 14% of voters are registered Republicans in our seven counties. In fact, there is no Republican challenger in three of the 12 Bay Area races this year. Republicans have not held a congressional seat in the Bay Area since Tom Campbell left the House in 2000 to launch an unsuccessful Senate challenge against Feinstein.

Campbell, a law and economics professor at Chapman University in Orange County, says that Republicans began to lose control in the region after the national party pivoted in the 1990s to emphasize conservative positions on social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, which were anathema to the region’s socially liberal identity.

“Many times, I would begin a [debate] answer by saying ‘Well, that’s the national party, not me,’” he said.

What’s just as rare in the Bay Area as an upstart like Khanna upsetting a same-party incumbent like Honda, is when incumbents say they are ready to retire. This year, incredibly, there are two: San Mateo Rep. Jackie Speier and Stockton Rep. Jerry McNerney are both retiring after eight terms. They are the first vacancies in the Bay Area delegation in six years, when Sam Farr gave up his Central Coast seat after more than 20 years, making way for Jimmy Panetta whose father Leon Panetta held the seat for 18 years before Farr.

So, here, longevity begets even longer tenures.

“All the things that were supposed to cure all this, we did them,” said veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, referring to how the state tasked a panel of citizens, not politicians, with the job of drawing congressional districts and created the state’s open primary system that sends the top two vote-getters regardless of party to the general election.

And yet, the trend persists.

In many parts of the country, politicians complain of having to perpetually run for office. While that can force them to spend more time in their districts, tending to the needs of constituents, in today’s political climate it also can drive candidates to feel beholden to party bosses, especially as the GOP fractures.

So does it matter if our incumbent representatives can sit comfortably in office, sailing to easy 50-point wins year after year without even needing to campaign?

Khanna says it matters a lot — and it needs to change. Young challengers often have a better grounding in issues of particular interest to young voters, he argues, ranging from student loan forgiveness to tech reform to tackling climate change.

“Democracy depends on renewal,” said Khanna, who was co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Eshoo sees it differently. She says that constituents benefit from having long-serving members, who have the experience, expertise, and power to get things done in Congress.

“Someone is half my age, so they’re twice as capable?” she asked rhetorically. “In the Congress, seniority is empowering. The manifestations of that power, together with the experience, really cannot be diminished.”

That experience in crisis was on display in the January 6 hearings with behind-the-scenes footage of Pelosi front and center calling the governor of Virginia to send in the National Guard to quash the rioters overtaking the Capitol. And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat first elected in 1994, has played a key role in some of the U.S. government’s most critical moments of the last half century, from her work as a law student helping the House Judiciary Committee draft impeachment charges of President Richard Nixon to her service as a manager in President Trump’s first impeachment trial and as a member of the House’s Jan. 6 committee.

How exactly the Bay Area has become so immune from competition is a matter of debate.

UC Merced political science professor Jessica Trounstine, whose work focuses on the impact of incumbency in large American cities, said that the lack of competitiveness in the Bay Area is explainable in part by the unparalleled exodus of lower-income people from the region.

Though gentrification has impacted major metros throughout the country, none have been as heavily impacted as the Bay Area.

That means that incumbent House members have an easier time crafting popular economic policies, since they don’t have to appeal to voters across a wide range of incomes, and thus have an easier time winning re-election.

“It’s not just abortion,” she said. “Anytime a politician can create even a small coalition, it amplifies their presence.”

Campbell says that another reason that California House members generally fail to leave office is that there is no room for advancement. California has 52 House members, but, like other states, just 2 senators. That imbalance leaves House members with few options but to seek re-election until retirement or launch long-shot presidential runs, as Dublin Rep. Eric Swalwell attempted in 2020. This year, Khanna has sparked rumors he’s testing the presidential waters by employing consultants in early primary states.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Mayoral Contest Tightens

Bass holds slim edge, and negative ads put Caruso within striking distance, poll shows.

The race for mayor of Los Angeles was tightening rapidly as it entered its final week, with Rick Caruso cutting deeply into Rep. Karen Bass’ lead, putting him within striking distance in the contest to run the nation’s second-largest city.

Bass continues to hold an edge, 45% to 41% among likely voters, with 13% saying they remain undecided, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times. But Bass’ advantageis within the poll’s margin of error and strikingly smaller than the 15-point margin she held a month ago.

Support for Bass, a longtime elected official, has not significantly declined — she maintains strong backing among key groups of voters, including women, liberals and registered Democrats.

But Caruso, a billionaire businessman and developer, has steadily gained ground as previously undecided voters have made up their minds. His push has been powered by tens of millions of dollars spent on attack ads that appear to have succeeded in raising doubts about Bass in many voters’ minds.

He has maintained big advantages among the relatively few conservative and Republican voters in Los Angeles while also opening up sizable leads among Latinos, moderates and people living in the San Fernando Valley.

Bass leads across the rest of the city, relying on the electorate’s polarized view of Caruso, the backing of the state’s Democratic establishment and the liberal tilt of the city’s electorate. She leads among both white and Black likely voters, the poll found.

The survey comes on the heels of several other public and private polls that have shown significant tightening in the contest.

“This race could go either way,” said Tommy Newman, senior director at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, who is working with a coalition to pass a housing tax measure on the November ballot and is a close watcher of local politics.

“Nobody has this in the bag. There has been tremendous movement with Latino voters. The question is, will that correlate into votes?” Newman said. “[Caruso] is probably running the most robust field campaign we have ever seen in a mayor’s race. In a tight race, that’s when field campaigns matter.”

The tightening of the race has come during a period when the mayoral campaign has been somewhat overshadowed by the scandal that began with a leaked audio recording of three City Council members and a labor leader making racist remarks during a discussion last year about drawing new city council district boundaries.

The resulting furor has focused attention on racial and ethnic tensions in the city. The poll found that 69% of registered voters said relations among various racial and ethnic groups were just fair or poor, while just 23% said they were excellent or good.

The survey doesn’t, however, show a clear impact from the scandal on the mayoral race.

Bass and Caruso called for everyone involved in making racist comments to resign. They also each used the moment to make points they’d been pushing throughout the campaign.

For Caruso the scandal reflected a continuation of what he sees as the corruption that’s run rampant at City Hall and spoke to the need for an outsider to clean up city government. Bass said the scandal offered a moment for the city to come together and talk about its divisions while finding avenues to bridge them.

The poll found that voters who put a high priority on building coalitions among racial and ethnic groups favor Bass.

What clearly has had an effect is Caruso’s money.

With both campaigns now turning to get-out-the-vote efforts, Caruso has spent about $13 million mustering about 300 to 400 door knockers who have fanned out across the city to remind voters about the election. The field operation is designed to spur turnout among people — especially Latino voters — who have shown an interest in Caruso but won’t necessarily cast a ballot unless pushed.

That effort has been aided by the onslaught of advertising. Since the primary, Caruso is slated to spend $26 million on TV, radio and digital ads in the general election through Tuesday. That’s eight times the $3.3 million Bass is scheduled to spend, according to data from media tracking firm AdImpact.

Bass will also be boosted by a number of independent supporters on the airwaves, including unions representing carpenters and electrical workers and a pro-Bass political action committee funded by labor and Hollywood money. Those groups, which can’t legally coordinate with the Bass campaign, plan to spend several million on ads supporting the congresswoman.

A good deal of Caruso’s advertising is in Spanish. Together with the canvassing aimed at Latino voters, that pitch appears to be paying off. In the last Berkeley IGS poll just over a month ago, Bass led among Latino likely voters by 6 points, 35% to 29%; she now trails by 17 percentage points in that group, 48% to 31%. Many of Caruso’s Latino supporters, however, don’t routinely vote in every election, making turnout a challenge for him.

“You got to give Caruso a lot of credit. He’s making big inroads into this segment, but they’re not regular voters,” said Mark DiCamillo, who directed the poll and has been surveying California voters for decades.

“He’s making inroads where he didn’t have those inroads in June” in the primary, DiCamillo said. “The whole question is, will it be enough? It’s definitely going to be close.”

Bass’ biggest advantage remains her overwhelming support among liberals — the voters who define the shape of Los Angeles’ electorate.

In recent elections, liberal voters powered Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned with Bass last week, to victory in Los Angeles during the Democratic primary in 2020 and propelled progressive candidates to the fore in this year’s primary.

If their sway holds, Bass will likely win.

Bass leads by 40 percentage points among likely voters who identify as somewhat liberal (64% to 22%) and about 60 percentage points among those who are strongly liberal (74% to 12%).

Those liberal voters are the bulwark that could block further growth of Caruso’s support in the San Fernando Valley, where he now leads by 9 points (45% to 36%). Bass remains ahead in every other part of the city by nearly 20-point margins. The one exception is the South L.A. and Harbor region, where Bass leads 48% to 43%.

“It’s problematic for Caruso,” said Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, political science professor at USC. Bass “has her base of support. We’ll see if the structural advantage for Bass holds.”

In the last several weeks, the campaign has featured a volley of attacks on issues including each candidate’s ties to USC. Caruso has lambasted Bass for taking a $95,000 scholarship to attend a graduate program, while Bass has attacked him for his involvement in the response to a sexual misconduct scandal.

But Caruso’s ads have been far more frequent. Their effect can be seen in the rise in the share of voters who have an unfavorable view of Bass and in an erosion of her standing among registered Democrats.

About half the electorate still has a favorable view of Bass, but the share of likely voters who see her unfavorably is up 10 points since September to 35%.

Among Latino voters, one-third now have an unfavorable view of Bass, compared with one-sixth in September.

Bass continues to have a more favorable image than Caruso, however. In the current survey, 43% view him favorably and 42% unfavorably, compared with 38% to 40% last month.

Caruso has gained some support among Democrats, who make up the majority of Los Angeles voters. In September, just 19% of Democratic likely voters backed him. Now, 28% do. That’s still much less support than Bass, who is backed by 56% of Democrats, with 14% undecided, but it represents a significant inroad by the businessman, who was a Republican much of his life and only changed his party registration to Democrat in January.

About 20% of voters surveyed had already voted. Caruso had a slight lead among them — 49% to 46%. He also leads heavily among voters who said they planned to cast ballots in person on election day. Bass was doing much better with voters who plan to mail or drop off their ballots, leading 50% to 33% among them, the poll found.

Beyond the negative ads, the central policy arguments of the race have been over homelessness and public safety. These two issues along with the economy and education are what voters say the next mayor must prioritize.

Addressing climate change and coalition building between people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are seen as less important by most voters, although they are top priorities for Bass’ backers.

Even though Caruso is trailing, voters believe he would do a better job addressing crime, the economy and homelessness. They believe Bass would do a better job tackling education, climate change and coalition building.

The Berkeley IGS poll was conducted Oct. 25-31 among 1,437 Los Angeles registered voters, of whom 1,131 were deemed likely to vote in the November election. The sample was weighted to match census and voter registration benchmarks.

Click here to read the full article at the LA

Sharp Swing in Momentum Toward GOP Sparks Democratic Angst

Angst is growing among Democrats that the momentum they saw earlier this year in their bid to keep control of the Senate is beginning to wane as towering inflation and deepening economic unease supplant issues like abortion rights atop the list of voters’ concerns.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Democrats were bullish about their chances of defying harsh historical and political headwinds, believing that voter anger over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and lingering GOP concerns about the quality of Republican candidates might allow them to not only hold, but expand their paper-thin Senate majority.

But the political winds appear to be shifting once again in the GOP’s favor. Recent polling has found Republicans regaining an edge on the so-called generic ballot, a survey question that asks voters which party they plan to vote for in November. Meanwhile, the data website FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast shows Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate dropping by 11 percent over the past month.

“A month ago, it looked like not only were the Democrats poised to hold the Senate, the question was: were they going to be able to get, you know, two extra seats?” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster who worked on former President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “Now I think the hope is just to hang on.” 

With fewer than three weeks to go before Election Day and early voting already underway in key battleground states like Georgia and Arizona, the tightening contest for the Senate has some Democrats fearing that the party may have peaked too early.

“If you look at the Dobbs decision — that seems to have come a little too early for the Democrats,” Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said, referring to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court decision that overturned the constitutional right on abortion. 

“And I think there [are] other currents — inflation is probably the biggest one — that have kind of interfered with the singularity of that argument.”

Indeed, Republicans have hammered Democrats relentlessly on inflation, the economy and crime throughout the fall campaign season, betting that those issues would eventually outmuscle Democrats’ core themes: that abortion rights are at risk, the future of American democracy is in jeopardy and that they’re capable of governing in a volatile moment in the country’s history.

The New York Times-Siena College poll of 792 likely voters nationwide showed the economy and inflation topping the list of problems facing the country, while only 5 percent of voters said that abortion is the most pressing issue. Even among Democratic voters, economic challenges took precedence over reproductive rights. 

In one of the poll’s more alarming findings for Democrats, women who identified as independents said they preferred Republicans by an 18-point margin, a stark reversal from September, when those voters favored Democrats by a 14-point margin. Democrats have sought relentlessly to sway those voters by warning of threats to abortion rights.

“The voters who would be most susceptible to the Democrats’ messaging on abortion are shifting,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former congressional candidate.

“As long as the Republicans stay focused on two things — my money, my family — then they’ll win in 2022,” he added. “They’ll win in 2024. Because the Democrats aren’t showing any sign of changing their approach.”

To be sure, Democrats still stand a decent chance at holding their Senate majority in spite of the recent shifts. Their Senate candidates are outraising Republicans across the board, the GOP is seeking to wrangle a roster of untested candidates and, as of Thursday, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast still gives Democrats a 60 percent chance of winning the Senate.

At the same time, Democratic incumbents who were considered some of the most vulnerable have solidified their positions in key races. 

In Arizona, for example, Sen. Mark Kelly (D) has a distinct polling and financial lead over his Republican rival Blake Masters. Likewise, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) is leading her GOP challenger Don Bolduc by nearly 8 points in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. Both races lean in Democrats’ favor, according to The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper.

But with the Senate divided 50-50 between the two parties, Democrats have no room for error. If Republicans net even a single seat in the upper chamber next month, it would deliver them the majority.

In Nevada, the race between Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Republican Adam Laxalt remains in a dead heat. And despite facing a spate of scandals and questions about his personal history, Republican Herschel Walker has managed to stay within striking distance of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in Georgia. 

Democrats still stand a chance at flipping a GOP-held Senate seat in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz are vying to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), though polling has shown a tightening race in recent weeks following a barrage of attacks against Fetterman accusing him of being soft on crime.

“A lot of these races — they were always going to tighten,” one Democratic strategist said. “I think a lot of folks just got ahead of themselves over the summer, thinking they had some kind of silver bullet.”

“I still say advantage Democrats for now,” the strategist added. “But yeah, no doubt the Republicans are catching up a little bit.”

Some Democrats expressed frustration with the way key Senate races have tightened. Amandi, the pollster, said that Democrats need to focus their closing message on sharpening the contrast between themselves and “extreme, unhinged Republican candidates.”

“Perhaps Democratic messaging hasn’t been as strong as it could be,” Amandi said. “But we’re talking about things tightening when the choice is between chaos and competency. The Democrats have governed with a competent, steady hand in a very volatile environment. What we’ve seen from the Republican Party over the last six years has been wholesale unhinged chaos. And what they’re offering is more chaos.”

Others, however, said that the party simply hasn’t done enough to campaign on meaningful legislative accomplishments and the pocketbook issues that could ultimately decide the midterms.

“How is it possible that seniors don’t know about the reduction in drug prices because of the ability of Medicare to negotiate?” Jonathan Tasini, a former national surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential bid, said, referring to a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law this summer.

“It’s obviously going to be very close, but it shouldn’t be,” he added. “Control of the Senate will be decided by probably a seat or two. And it just shouldn’t.” 

Keith Naughton, a veteran Republican strategist with deep experience in Pennsylvania politics, said that the improving environment for the GOP isn’t necessarily surprising. Rather, it’s the result of more voters tuning into the political conversation as Election Day draws nearer.

Click here to read the full article in The Hill