Monday, September 25

‘Fluid’ and ‘uncertain’ primaries are coming up in Ohio and Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON — If it’s Friday… A Russian missile strike hits residential high-rise in Kyiv. … President Biden phones Mexico’s president to discuss immigration and other regional issues. … Sen. Ted Cruz stumps for Josh Mandel in Ohio Senate. … Rep. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, as well as Sen. Josh Hawley, campaign for JD Vance over the weekend. … And what ever happened to those Biden-Harris lunches?

But first: Two words help sum up next week’s GOP Senate primary in Ohio.

Fluid and uncertain.

This Republican race is fluid, because after Donald Trump’s endorsement of JD Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author shot up double digits to first place, per this week’s Fox News poll, while businessman Mike Gibbons fell by almost double digits. (There was margin-of-error movement with the other GOP candidates.)

And it’s uncertain, because Vance’s level of support in the poll (23 percent among GOP primary voters) is lower than the share of voters who say they’re still undecided after Trump’s endorsement (25 percent).

The Fox News poll’s Ohio Senate numbers:

  • Vance 23 percent (was 11 percent in March)
  • Josh Mandel 18 percent (was 20 percent)
  • Mike Gibbons 13 percent (was 22 percent)
  • Matt Dolan 11 percent (was 7 percent)
  • Jane Timken 6 percent (was 9 percent)
  • Undecided 25 percent (was 24 percent)

What’s more, Politico reports that Dolan, who has tried to distance himself from Trump and his 2020 election lies, has enjoyed a bit of a surge.

The same fluid and uncertain dynamic also is playing out in the GOP’s Pennsylvania Senate race, where Trump has endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, but polling suggests warning signs for him in the crowded primary on May 17.

Why are these races so fluid and uncertain? Well, Trump and his endorsement of him are one reason.

Another is that so many of these candidates — from Vance and Oz to David McCormick — are first-time candidates, so they didn’t enter with established bases of support.

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In other words, they’re renting Trump’s supporters. Until Primary Day arrives.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 2

That’s how many times President Biden and Vice President Harris have had private lunches this year, according to NBC’s Mike Memoli.

That’s a significant decrease from the 21 times the two lunches in 2021, after Biden said he wanted to forge a similar relationship with his second-in-command as then-President Obama forged with him over regular, private lunches.

When asked about the infrequency of their lunches, Deputy White House Press Secretary Chris Meagher said: “The president and vice president are in constant touch with each other, and he relies on her counsel, partnership, and friendship as they work together to continue to grow the economy, cut costs for working families, rally the world in the face of Russia’s aggression, and make historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure.”

Other numbers you need to know today:

$33 million: The price tag of President Biden’s proposed Ukraine aid.

$13.6 billion: The amount of money Congress has already approved in aid for Ukraine.

twenty-one: The number of days until New York’s special master has to submit the state’s new congressional and Senate maps, per an order from the judge who scrapped the Democratic-led legislature’s plan this week.

41: The number of days until the next Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 9.

$33 million: How much the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is spending on its initial ad buy for the fall, per Politico. The DSCC is spending $8.4 million in Nevada, $7.5 million in Arizona, $7 million in Georgia, $4 million in New Hampshire, and $3 million apiece in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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Midterm roundup: Down to the wire

With the Ohio primary just four days away, outside groups are hitting the airwaves in the competitive GOP Senate contest. Protect Ohio Values, the Peter Thiel-backed super PAC supporting author JD Vance, is running a new spot attacking former Treasurer Josh Mandel as a “moderate,” noting his endorsement of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, Drain the DC Swamp PAC has a new ad supporting Mandel, spanning a range of issues including Mandel’s support for the controversial Arizona audit of the 2020 election. Ohio Leads, a super PAC backing former state GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, is up with a new spot highlighting Vance’s anti-Trump comments.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., will hit the campaign trail for Vance on Sunday and Monday, along with Turning Point Action founder Charlie Kirk. And investment banker Mike Gibbons is hosting a tele-town hall on Monday with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla.

Georgia Senate: Republican Kelvin King is running his first television ad, a bio spot that criticizes incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock on inflation.

Oklahoma Senate: GOP Sen. James Lankford is putting $312,000 behind a new ad buy that spans virtually all of June ahead of the state’s June 28 primary, per AdImpact.

Arizona Governor: Democrat Aaron Lieberman’s first TV ad takes aim not just at GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, but also Democratic frontrunner Katie Hobbs, criticizing her over an employment discrimination case.

Hawaii Governor: Punchbowl is reporting that Hawaii Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele is leaving Congress to run for governor.

Georgia Governor: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a handful of controversial education bills into law Thursday.

Maryland Governor: Fox 45 in Baltimore has a new story noting other times when Democrat Wes Moore did not correct interviewers who misrepresented his biography. The good news for Moore: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is endorsing him.

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Illinois 05: Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley says he won’t run for major of Chicago.

Ad watch: Rand Paul needs backup

At least that’s what the Republican senator from Kentucky has been saying on the airwaves. In a new ad out yesterday, Paul makes a direct appeal to Oklahoma voters to support state Sen. Nathan Dahm in his bid for Sen. Jim Inhofe’s, R-Okla., US Senate seat. Inhofe announced he would resign in January 2023.

“Our freedoms are under constant attack from Washington. I’m Rand Paul and I’ve led the fight against Biden and Fauci’s Covid mandates, but I need backup,” Paul says in the ad. “That’s why I’m endorsing my fellow constitutional conservative, Nathan Dahm,” he adds.

Dahm is running against US Rep. Markwayne Mullin, former Oklahoma House Speaker TW Shannon, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and former Inhofe aide Luke Holland in the GOP primary. The primary election is set for June 28.

This is Paul’s second ad making a direct to camera appeal for a candidate. He endorsed and appeared in an ad for Ohio Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons in February.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to sign a new bill into law that seriously restricts abortion access.

In a new excerpt from the forthcoming book “This Will Not Pass,” The Hill describes former President Trump as appearing like “a mafia don, demanding loyalty from supplicants and political opponents alike.”

NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald explores Elon Musk’s relationship with the left, and why it led him to want to buy Twitter.

Kansas legislators failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.

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