The Sweep: Red Meat and Baseball
Plus: A look at VA GOP gubernatorial hopeful Pete Snyder.
Campaign Quick Hits
A Paid Press Release: On Monday, the Democratic National Committee announced that it has leased billboards for one month in 20 states “to thank Biden and Democratic senators for approving $1,400 stimulus checks” and “remind motorists that their GOP senators opposed the payments to 127 million Americans.”
Billboards don’t cost a lot of money and I’ll bet they sent that press release to every local newspaper, television, and radio station in each of those states. Technically, earned media is what you get for free—your candidate says something crazy to get attention. A paid press release is when you spend a little bit of money—a clever ad that only runs on television one time, for example—and try to make news out of it.
This, my friends, is a great example of a paid press release.
Check Your 6: Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper belongs to a dying breed of dog—the Blue Dog. Justice Democrats, a group devoted to electing candidates with a “bold, progressive” worldview, has announced that Cooper is the next incumbent in their sights to primary with a more progressive left-winger. And they have quite a few high-profile notches on their belts: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Marie Newman and Ayanna Pressley were all Justice Democrat-backed and all took down sitting Democratic members.
Primary challenges scare incumbents in purple districts for a reason. They are costly affairs and every dollar (ok, nearly every dollar) comes out of your general election fund. This means that if you want to keep your seat through a bruising primary and a tough general, you’ve got to think about the marginal value of every dollar and whether to spend it on this fight or wait for the next fight. The national committees will kick in some if you can keep it close, but if you get too far underwater, they sometimes leave you for dead. (Not that they’re always perfect judges of who the lost causes are—just ask Sen. Ron Johnson.)
General elections by and large aren’t preventable, but primaries are. And that’s why pressure from the flank can be so successful at pushing politicians out toward the extremes. “If I just vote this way a few times or sound a little more aggressive about this, I can avoid a primary fight and focus on the general.” Except—as so many former members of congress can tell you—it’s rarely enough. And that’s why we may be putting Blue Dogs next to the Dodo Birds in our kids’ textbooks.
Speaking of Primaries: Do you know who benefits the most from an, umm, distracted Matt Gaetz? Liz Cheney. Remember it was just a couple months ago that Gaetz spoke at a rally in her home state of Wyoming saying, “How can you call yourself a representative when you don't represent the will of the people? That's what all the neocons ask about the Arab dictators. I figure maybe we ought to ask the same question of a beltway bureaucrat turned fake cowgirl that supported an impeachment that is deeply unpopular in the state of Wyoming.”
In addition to having one of her loudest enemies busy with an FBI investigation, the Wyoming legislature also rejected a proposal to adopt runoff primary elections a couple weeks ago, which may even be a bigger win for her. She is facing a crowded field in the primary, which is a good thing for her: It means her opponents split the “not Liz Cheney” vote. The bill, which was endorsed by Donald Trump, Jr., would have required Cheney to get above 50 percent or face the second-highest vote-getter one-on-one. That’s when challengers are most likely to take out the incumbent—when the anti-status quo folks unite behind a single choice.
Indeed, that’s how Ted Cruz became a senator despite initially getting 150,000 votes (10 points) fewer than David Dewhurst.
2024 Watch, Continued: Mike Pompeo got all the headlines last week for his trip to Iowa for “Midwest comfort food.” But he also did an interview with one of New Hampshire’s most highly regarded political shows. Add in a healthy dose of Fox News and a tweet that just said “1,327”—the number of days until the 2024 election—and I think it’s fair to say: He’s running. But he’s not the only one testing the waters. Former Vice President Mike Pence is “joining conservative organizations, writing op-eds, delivering speeches and launching an advocacy group that will focus on promoting the Trump administration’s accomplishments.”
So how will that work for the guy whom Donald Trump now pretends doesn’t exist? Friend of The Sweep Alice Stewart summed it up nicely: “Anybody who can pull off an endorsement of Ted Cruz and become Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee should not be counted out. He has a way of splitting hairs and threading the needle that has paid off in the past.”
Mike Pence wants to be the guy to “merge the traditional conservative movement with Trumpism,” but right now it doesn’t seem like either side is interested in merging. And that leaves Mike Pence like the farmer’s cheese: standing alone.
Chris has thoughts about primaries. Well, one primary in particular: Mike Lee’s Utah Senate race. Let’s see what he’s got to say about that ...
Mike Lee, Blooper Enthusiast
What the heck is Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, doing sticking his fungo bat into the fight over the location of this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game? Maybe he just was dying to see some low-stakes, no-hustle baseball played in a stadium named for a regional bank. Maybe he loves the Braves mascot, Blooper, a disturbingly pallid flesh-colored version of the Phillie Phanatic.
Or maybe it has a lot more to do with a different contest altogether: Next year’s Utah Senate primary.
First, let’s set the roster. Georgia Republicans this month pushed through an elections law that is purportedly aimed at preventing voter fraud. Maybe so, but it seems more like a vehicle for Gov. Brian Kemp and others who got into trouble with the GOP base for not helping Donald Trump steal the 2020 election to show their MAGA bona fides.
On the other side, Democrats’ reaction to a bill that most notably shortens the absentee voting period and further empowers state officials to intervene in local counting issues was to liken the legislation to Jim Crow. There’s not much Democrats can actually do in answer to the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. But Democrats can use a bill aimed at pandering to the Republican base to pander to their own. Plus, it’s a ready-made registration and turnout engine for the already revved up Stacey Abrams.
But the political addicts in the rest of the country were feeling left out of the shabby show in Atlanta. They too wanted the tingle of sweet outrage on their lips. And who should want a taste but big-league baseball, which was set to hold its all-star game at Atlanta’s Truist Park this July? More specifically, the league was concerned about giving the honor of hosting four hours of the worst baseball this side of little league to a state that President Biden said was ushering in the return of Jim Crow. The demographics of baseball are changing and there is increasing pressure on the teams to embrace the kinds of social justice programs already common in the NFL and pro basketball. Shunning Georgia is an easy way to score some woke points. Plus, with the danger of pressures on sponsors, etc., skipping out on Atlanta looked like a good move.
And that brings us back to the senior senator from Utah. Lee is running for a third term next year and has already drawn plenty of potential primary opponents, most of whom are hitting Lee for being too partisan and too divisive. Utah is as far from Georgia politically as it is geographically. Utahans, driven by their large, observant population of Mormons, tend to shun the kind of political bloodsport that voters in states like Georgia demand. It is the land of the Romney Republicans. Lee is certainly embracing victim status for his fundraising appeals, though the idea that former Republican Steve Schmidt could do any better for himself than he did for the Lincoln Project in his adopted home state is pretty funny. If Utah Republicans need someone who can burn through cash like the Hindenburg ablaze and still lose, they already have former Gov. Jon Huntsman.
But it doesn’t seem like that’s the side of the party that Lee is really concerned about. At least that’s what I can surmise based on his apoplectic response to MLB’s decision. He and the fastest clickbait clicker this side of Brazos, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have vowed to punish baseball for its insult to Georgia Republicans’ honor by seeking to bring the league under antitrust laws. The dispute here doesn’t have anything to do with baseball’s exemption from antitrust provisions, and certainly antitrust law doesn’t have anything to do with punishing organizations for partisan behavior, things he already knows as a former Supreme Court clerk and son of the former solicitor general of the United States.
Lee won his Senate seat in 2010 by beating longtime incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in the state’s convoluted hybrid convention-primary system. Back then, Lee said the problem was that government was getting involved in things it had no business doing. Lee said he was “committed to the daunting but essential task of returning the federal government to its proper, limited role" as laid out in the Constitution. Of course, Lee also said back then that senators should only serve two terms, so, whatevs...
The point here is that while the anti-Trump right is salivating over the chance to take on Lee, Lee apparently thinks his problem is on the nationalist right. Otherwise, why this pointless pandering? If Lee can keep the populist culture warriors who are more interested in winning the umbrage Olympics than the goodie-goodie talk about limited government, he can then let the anti-Trump right split up the vote against him and safely win another term. Plus, he can dish out red meat on this subject without any fear of actual results and still have plenty of time to tack toward the Utah establishment before next year.
With five weeks until the Virginia GOP convention that will decide who gets the nod for the race against presumed Democrat nominee Terry McAuliffe, Audrey is coming in hot this week with a dive into the campaign of gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder. Like so many non-politician candidates these days, it’s hard to sum up who Pete Snyder is in a quick and tidy bullet point. He’s the guy who worked for former Rudy Giuliani’s 1997 New York City mayoral campaign. He’s also the guy who founded a social media agency that he sold for $30 million before his 40th birthday.
I’m including some of Audrey’s profile here, but to get all the flavor, sights, and smells—read the full piece here.
The Snyder Cut
No Republican has won a statewide race since former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 2009 victory. What was once a reliable GOP state has since flipped blue, in part due to the rise of college educated voters, increasingly wealthy and diverse Northern Virginia suburbs, and thriving metropolitan cities across the state. Snyder is hopeful he can change that.
“I've had a pretty successful business career,” Snyder, 48, told The Dispatch last month. “I rang the bell on Wall Street, I've been able to negotiate eight or nine figure deals, but I've also been able to make the time to care ... to show up to my local unit meeting, to participate in helping get conservatives elected for the past 25 years because it matters. What we do in the movement matters, and anyone that says that you can't do both is wrong.”
And so Snyder is optimistic about Republicans’ chances in 2021. “I think that while this is going to be a horrible, horrible year for America and for Virginia, it will be an amazing political year for conservatives,” he said, later adding that Democrats in both in Washington and Richmond have been focused on “getting rid of balloons and Styrofoam and legalizing pot and making it a misdemeanor to assault the police officer, not on opening up our schools and helping to save small business in our economy or really protecting the rights of law abiding citizens.”
“I truly believe we have the tremors of an earthquake starting, and it’s starting in Northern Virginia and sweeping all across Virginia.” He mentioned Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Arlington, and even Alexandria as possible bright spots for GOP candidates this election cycle. “We have an opportunity as Republicans to talk to people who haven't given us the time of day in 10 years—and that’s independents and lean Democrat.”
Sitting Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won’t be seeking reelection given the state’s prohibition on consecutive terms, a rule that paved the way for former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to run the closest thing Virginia has to an incumbency bid for governor. McAuliffe remains the clear frontrunner leading up to the Democratic Party’s June primary, although he faces challenges from state Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy and Lee Carter, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
To defeat McAuliffe, Snyder would first have to fend off a crowded field of GOP candidates at the state Republican Party’s nominating convention, which is slated to take place on May 8. Only voters who have pre-registered as delegates can vote in the convention, where they will cast their votes in a ranked choice voting system.
The GOP race includes investment executive Glenn Youngkin, former state House speaker Kirk Cox, retired Army officer Sergio de la Peña, former president of the Center for European Policy Analysis Peter Doran, and Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, who decided to register as an independent. A self-proclaimed “Trump in heels,” Chase has continued to dominate media coverage for repeatedly calling for martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and for recently being censured by a bipartisan coalition of state senators for her “pattern of unacceptable conduct,” including calling those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 “patriots.”
Snyder bills himself as a Trump-aligned candidate, and spoke to The Dispatch about his financial contributions to former President Trump both election cycles. “I was a delegate in 2020 and I’m the only one who who is running who actually supported him in ‘16 and ‘20,” he said.
Even though Virginia is now widely recognized as a blue state, Snyder is convinced that his Trump alignment won’t alienate moderate Republicans, independents or disaffected Democrats from supporting him in the race. “Not when your schools are closed, you’re paying taxes, have to hover over a computer with three kids. Absolutely not. I think people want change,” he said. “I am focused on three things. I talk about, open the schools, open the economy, restoring people's rights. Those are nonpartisan things.”