Campaign

Campaign Report — Republicans’ Trump problem

Donald Trump grins in front of an American flag.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox each week leading up to November’s election. 

Email us tips and feedback: Max GreenwoodJulia Manchester and Caroline Vakil. Someone forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Trump complicates GOP hopes for November

As Republicans gear up for the last seven weeks of the midterm cycle, there are emerging signs that former President Trump could be complicating their prospects in key congressional races. Recent polling has shown that he’s struggling with voters, including the key demographic of independents. 

As our Brett Samuels writes, more than two-thirds of independents surveyed in a NPR-Marist poll out on Sept. 7 said they did not want Trump to seek reelection. And when it comes to the issue of how he handled classified White House documents after leaving office, 52 percent of independent voters alone believe he should be prosecuted. Meanwhile, an NBC News poll out earlier this week showed that only 34 percent say they have a positive view of the former president. 

At the same time, Trump is in the midst of several investigations, including the FBI’s search into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. 

The FBI probe: The Justice Department has sought to gain access to the documents taken out of Mar-a-Lago, arguing that it could jeopardize national security if their investigation is delayed. The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch reported today that the former president’s lawyers are seeking to stop a special master review from being bypassed by federal prosecutors as they seek to recover those documents. 

The Georgia DA probe: The former president is also mired by a probe in Georgia by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over whether he and his allies attempted to overturn the election results in the state. Part of the investigation encompasses a call that Trump held with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (R), in which he asked the Georgia official to “find” more than 11,000 votes to change the outcome of the election.

Trump rages: In response to a recent interview the Georgia prosecutor gave suggesting that people could face prison time, Trump reiterated his position that his call with Raffensberger was “PERFECT” and that those on the call “had no problems with the call, and didn’t voice any objections or complaints about anything that I said on the call which could be construed as inappropriate.”

But taken together, the polling and multiple probes threaten to make Trump more a drag than an assist for Republicans in competitive midterm races. 

“These candidates have to fight kind of two-fold battles,” GOP strategist John Thomas told Brett. “Can you move your base turnout margin ever so slightly? I think Trump has utility there. And can you win with independent swing voters on issues that aren’t Trump-related?”

Meanwhile, the former president sees himself as an asset to candidates.

What Trump’s saying: “ALL Republican candidates want Rallies. Without the Rallies and, even more importantly, the Endorsements, most would lose. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!” 

Walker tamps down expectations for debate

Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker (R) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) are gearing up to debate each other next month. Candidates throughout this election cycle, including Walker and Warnock, have haggled over whether to participate in debates, and if so, where and when.

But the Georgia Senate debate scheduled for Oct. 14 was also in the news this week following comments Walker made to reporters when he was asked what he was doing to prepare for the face-off with Warnock.

A record-scratch moment: “Talking to the voters, talking to you. You told me I gotta prepare, so I’m preparin’,” he said to the reporters. “I’m this country boy, you know, I’m not that smart. And he’s that preacher. He’s a smart man, wears these nice suits. So he going to show up there, embarrass me at the debate, October the 14th. And I’m just waiting, you know, I’ll show up and I’m [going to] do my best.”

A spokesperson for Walker’s campaign, Will Kiley, argued that the former football star’s comments, which initially suggested he was downplaying the debate, were sarcasm and noted that “Herschel is going to be ready on October 14 in Savannah to debate Raphael Warnock, who has to stand there and explain his horrendous voting record to the people.” 

Polls show tightening race: The midterms are roughly seven weeks away and the Georgia Senate race is considered one of the most critical for determining which party controls the upper chamber next year. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, which was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Policy and International Affairs and released on Tuesday, showed Walker leading Warnock by 2 percentage points at 46 percent and 44 percent respectively. It falls within the poll’s margin of error, effectively tying the two. 

POLL WATCH

In Georgia: A poll out from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Policy and International Affairs. on Tuesday shows Gov. Brian Kemp (R) holding an 8-percentage point lead over Democratic contender Stacey Abrams (D) with 50 percent of likely voters in the state supporting the incumbent compared to 42 percent for Abrams. 

In Wisconsin: A Spectrum News-Siena College poll out on Tuesday shows Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) receiving support from 49 percent of likely Wisconsin voters compared to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) with 48 percent. The polling falls within the margin of error, effectively tying the two. 

POLL WATCH

SCOOP: The Hill has obtained a new ad from Washington Sen. Patty Murray’s reelection campaign which targets Murray’s challenger Tiffany Smiley over abortion. The 30-second television spot features a woman who said she had to travel fourteen hours to receive an abortion after Texas enacted its abortion ban earlier this year. 

“I’m from Texas,” a young woman, Madi, says in the ad. “Because abortion is illegal in my state, I had to travel fourteen hours for reproductive health care. I have never been more terrified in my life. MAGA Republican Tiffany Smiley agrees with Texas law. Republicans are already trying to ban abortion nationwide — even here in Washington. They need Tiffany Smiley in the Senate to do it. Oppose Tiffany Smiley so Washington women don’t suffer like I have.”

The ad is the latest instance in which Democrats have worked to put Republican Senate candidates on defense over the issue. Smiley has said she is against abortion, but not in favor of a federal ban on the procedure. 

Murray’s ad comes hours after Smiley rolled out her own ad tying Murray to rising crime rates in Seattle. Like Democrats have zeroed in on abortion as a key issue, Republicans have looked to elevate combatting crime as a major issue on the campaign trail. 

Could these women make history?

A number of women could make history in November if they win their races, including possibly the first Black woman to serve as governor in the country, the first woman to serve Arkansas as governor, the first woman to represent Vermont in Congress and some of the first Latinas to represent their states on Capitol Hill.

As our Caroline Vakil notes, these firsts represent the inroads women are making in their states to seek higher-level offices while also indicating some of the barriers that still exist for female candidates in achieving those aspirations.

Some of the women to watch for:

  • Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D): She ran against Gov. Brian Kemp (R ) in 2018 and lost by a percentage point, and now she’s taking him on in a rematch this November. She’s among a handful of Black women running for the governorship this cycle, but her race is considered the most competitive. But if she won, she’d be the first Black woman in the U.S. to serve as governor in their state.
  • New Hampshire House candidate Karoline Leavitt (R): She could be possibly the first Gen Z female candidate to win election. She turned 25 years old last month, the minimum age required to serve in the House. She takes on Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) in November, which has been rated a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
  • Vermont House candidate Becca Balint (D): Balint is likely to become the first female representative from the state of Vermont after she notched the Democratic nod in her primary in August. She would also be the first openly gay lawmaker from Vermont if she wins in November. She currently serves as state Senate pro tempore.
  • Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R): The former White House press secretary is poised to become the first female governor from Arkansas, serving in the seat that her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), once held. Cook Political Report rates the seat “solid Republican,” making her the heavy favorite in November.
Tags Fani Willis Herschel Walker Raphael Warnock
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