McDaniel Reported Out at RNC; Trump Way Ahead in New Poll; Schiff Helps Garvey; Another Close Ohio Poll; Utah’s Tight Senate Race; House News

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024


Ronna McDaniel / Photo by Gage Skidmore

Republican National Committee: Trump Recommends New Chairman — As reports intensify that RNC chair Ronna McDaniel will be leaving the committee after the South Carolina primary, former President Donald Trump has made a replacement recommendation.

The news media is reporting that North Carolina Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley is Trump’s choice largely because he was “so powerful on election fraud” in 2020, according to the ex-president’s statement. It is a virtual certainty that the committee members will adopt Trump’s recommendation, but the question to be asked is how strong a fundraiser is Whatley? While Trump may be most concerned with his election fraud narrative, the RNC is under-performing in the campaign resource battle and must quickly upgrade their efforts.

South Carolina: Trump Way Ahead in New Poll — A new Monmouth University poll for the Washington Post (Jan. 26-30; 815 registered South Carolina voters; live interview & online) sees former President Donald Trump posting a significant 58-32 percent lead over former Gov. Nikki Haley in her home state of South Carolina leading to the Feb. 24 Republican primary election.

Trump holds an advantage among both men and women in the statewide voter sample, and within all age groups. He trails Haley only among college-educated voters, but by only two points, and certain non-evangelical voter groups. Additionally, 90 percent of the respondents saying they would vote for Trump in the primary election would do so in the general election even if he is convicted of some of the many legal charges he faces.


California: Schiff Helps Garvey — Confident he will finish first in the March 5 open California US Senate primary, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is running ads “against” Republican baseball great Steve Garvey claiming he is too conservative for California in that he twice voted for Donald Trump. In reality, Schiff is attempting to help Garvey finish second in the top two jungle primary, thus eliminating Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), which would allow him to escape having to run a double-Democratic general election.

Having Garvey, or any Republican as an opponent, would virtually guarantee that Schiff would win the seat in November. The ads’ actual purpose is to move more Republicans to Garvey, and thus edge him into second place.

A new University of Southern California for the Center for Urban Politics and Policy at California State University at Long Beach (Jan. 21-29; 1,416 likely Califoria jungle primary voters) survey sees Rep. Schiff holding a 25-15-15-7 percent lead over Garvey and Rep. Porter (D-Irvine). Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) trailed the other major candidates in fourth position. Therefore, a small push from Schiff might just help Garvey succeed.

Ohio: Another Close Poll — The March 19 Ohio Republican primary will be a hugely important election. Among other races, it will decide which GOP candidate will challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in one of the country’s most compelling statewide campaigns. The Emerson College poll (Jan. 23-25; 1,844 registered Ohio voters; multiple sampling techniques) sees all three Republican candidates coming to within one or two points of Sen. Brown with the incumbent failing to reach 40 percent support in all iterations.

In the Republican primary, the battle is equally close. Businessman Bernie Moreno, who former President Trump and Sen. J.D. Vance support, nips Secretary of State Frank LaRose, 22-21 percent, with state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) trailing with 15 percent. In 2022, Sen. Dolan came on strong at the end, failing to reach second place by one percentage point after lagging during the early part of the campaign. Therefore, the Republican nomination is still very much in doubt.

Ohio features a modified primary system that allows voters to change their registration on the day of the election in order to choose a selected primary.

Utah: Rep. Curtis Begins with Small Lead — Dan Jones & Associates, Utah’s top media polling firm, released a new US Senate Republican primary survey, the first since US Rep. John Curtis (R-Provo) joined the field. The survey (Jan. 16-21; 428 registered Utah Republican voters) finds Rep. Curtis posting a tepid 18-14 percent lead over attorney Brent Orrin Hatch, the son of the late seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R). Following at eight percent is former state House Speaker Brad Wilson. With a majority of the Republican voters still undecided, this contest is wide open.

The state’s April Republican nominating convention will send two candidates to the primary ballot. The others will have to petition for a ballot line. The Utah primary is scheduled for June 25. Sen. Mitt Romney (R) is retiring after one term.


AZ-8: New Poll Projects Tie — Former Republican US Senate nominee Blake Masters, now running to replace retiring Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, released the results of his internal Fabrizio Lee & Associates poll Jan. 25-28; 400 likely AZ-8 Republican primary voters; live interview). The ballot test finds Masters, who lost 51-46 percent to Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in the last election, tied with 2022 attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh (R), who lost his own statewide race by a razor thin 280 votes. Both attract a 24 percent support figure.

Also, this week, Waseem Hamadeh announced that he is contributing $1 million to a Super PAC to help his brother’s campaign. The poll and financial activity suggest that this primary contest will be hard fought all the way through the Aug. 6 primary election.

A dozen Republicans have announced their candidacies, including former US Rep. Trent Franks, but Masters and Hamadeh are jumping out to the fastest starts. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates AZ-8 as R+22, so the eventual Republican nominee will become a heavy favorite in the general election.

MT-2: Former Congressman May Launch Comeback Campaign — While speculation continues that US Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) will soon announce his US Senate candidacy, activity continues among the GOP prospects who are vying to replace him in Montana’s eastern House district. In addition to State Auditor Troy Downing, state Senate President Pro Tempore Ken Bogner (R-Miles City), and three former state legislators all indicating they will run if the congressman vacates, we also see a man who held a Big Sky congressional post for 12 years contemplating running. Former US representative and Lt. Gov. Denny Rehberg may soon again become a congressional candidate.

Rehberg was elected to the House in 2000, serving six terms before running unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2012. Prior to winning the federal post, he served six years as lieutenant governor and three terms in the Montana House of Representatives.

Some reports suggest that Rep. Rosendale will soon announce his Senate plans, while others believe we may have to wait until just before the March 11 candidate filing deadline to know for sure. The Republican leadership is united behind aerospace company CEO and retired Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy. The eventual Republican nominee will challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D) in one of the most crucial of 2024 US Senate races.

NJ-7: Another Dem Withdraws — Former State Department official Jason Blazakis (D) became the latest 7th District Democratic candidate to end his campaign against freshman Rep. Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) even before it officially started. In October, Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello (D) ended his congressional quest. In late January, Summit Councilman Greg Vartan (D) also suspended his campaign.

The withdrawals leave former Working Families Party state executive director Sue Altman as the lone Democratic candidate. Expect Democratic Party leaders to make another push to recruit former Congressman Tom Malinowski into the race. Rep. Kean unseated Malinowski in 2022, after the incumbent barely survived a close call against him in 2020. Malinowski, a former State Department and National Security Council official, had been considering entering the US Senate race, but ultimately decided not to run.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates New Jersey’s 7th District as R+3, while the Dave’s Redistricting App statisticians calculate a 51R – 46.5D partisan lean. President Joe Biden, however, defied the district’s Republican leaning voter history in logging a 51.1 – 47.3 percent victory here against then-President Trump in 2020.

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