Sanford drops out

In a surprise move, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford dropped out of the Republican primary on Tuesday afternoon. He made the announcement in a brief speech. Reading from an article in the Post and Courier by Caitlin Byrd:

“Standing outside the New Hampshire Statehouse surrounded by 15 members of the media and two staffers, the long-shot Republican closed down his campaign some 65 days after it began.
Holding an oversized trillion-dollar check to represent the national debt, Sanford said his singular focus in his 2020 bid had been to advance the debate on mounting government spending and addressing the deficit.
“But you’ve got to be a realist,” said Sanford, who spoke for just shy of 16 minutes.
Sanford had originally planned to be inside a Statehouse office on Friday, to have his name added to the ballot in the first-in-the-nation primary. Instead, it is where his run ended days after he vowed to spend all of November campaigning here.”

As always, when a candidate drops out, I play clips and recount highlights from the campaign. But Sanford wasn’t in the campaign long enough to gather a whole lot of options. There’s one clip that’s particularly relevant, though. Sanford is, as I said, former Governor of South Carolina—and that’s one of the states where Republicans have cancelled their primaries. There’s a lawsuit underway to undo that. But without the ability to run in that state, Sanford lost the key state he would rely on for support.

Here’s a clip of Sanford speaking to Fox News reporter Paul Steinhauser in late September about canceling Republican primaries. They’re speaking in a diner, so it’s noisy. Steinhauser speaks first. Listen in:

[CLIP-SANFORD-PRIMARIES]

Reading once more from the Post and Courier:

“In a recent social media post, [Sanford] lamented being refused the opportunity to speak at a GOP candidate spaghetti dinner in Londonderry [, New Hampshire]. The reason? Fear of offending Trump supporters.
“The party is populated by some really great people, but it’s underserved or misled by too many in leadership positions — and I think President Trump and his approach has exacerbated this,” Sanford wrote, speaking mainly to supporters back in South Carolina.
“Are you kidding me? In a state where the motto is ‘Live Free or Die?’ Being scared of someone being offended because someone else had a different viewpoint at a small local county event? It mirrors the canceling of primaries, and it makes me ask what has come of the Republican Party?””

A new poll shows Buttigieg doing great in Iowa

A poll released yesterday gave a very promising result for Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. The poll is by Monmouth University, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent. The pollsters surveyed likely Democratic caucusgoers.

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Well, the number one candidate is Buttigieg, with 22% of the vote. Behind him, but within the margin, are Biden at 19 and Warren at 18. Outside the margin, Sanders got 13, and nobody else broke into the double digits.

So this poll result has had a lot of folks saying, basically, how did this happen? We’ve seen Buttigieg do reasonably well in Iowa polls before, but this is the first time we’ve seen him in the top spot. Well, there are a lot of ways to explain this. One of them was pointed out by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight on Twitter. He pointed at the net favorability ratings of the candidates over time. There’s a table with those numbers in the poll results, and it shows that Buttigieg has an overall favorability rating of +63. That’s steady with the last time this poll was run, back in August, and up quite a bit from the previous poll in April.

Okay, so why does favorability matter? Well, in part because other top candidates have been losing ground in that department. In the trend from August, Warren and Biden are both down by double digits in their net favorability. Sanders is UP by double digits, but still, nobody comes close to Buttigieg, and nobody is AS STABLE as Buttigieg in that top ranking, at least compared to the previous poll in August. Oh, and for kicks, Michael Bloomberg has a net -31 favorability rating, which is…pretty rough.

All right, so are there any grains of salt to take with this poll? Well, the big one, aside from the margin, which is not unusual in any way, is the fact that Iowa voters seem not to be super-set on their first choice. Reading from the first paragraph of the Monmouth release, which does not carry a byline:

“Buttigieg’s gains since the summer have been across the board, with increasing support coming from nearly every demographic group. Regardless, less than one-third of likely caucusgoers say that they are firmly set on their choice of candidate and most would not be too disappointed if they had to switch their support.”

So, this matches up with polling I talked about last week. What it means for candidates in Iowa is that the field is still pretty much open, with the majority of voters still saying they are persuadable.

That may be part of what is driving these last-minute entrants, AND the folks who are sticking around in the field even though their polling is so minimal right now. Maybe lightning will strike and some super-low-polling candidate will get 15% in Iowa. You just never know.

The Trump impeachment stuff in three minutes or less

And now, the impeachment news somehow presented in three minutes or less

Today, televised hearings began with testimony by George Kent and Bill Taylor, who appeared together sitting side by side. Kent gave his prepared statement first, then Taylor gave his, then they got down to the Q&A.

Incidentally, we also saw Representative Eric Swalwell, former candidate in the Democratic primary, on the House Intelligence Committee during these hearings. Seated next to him was Joaquin Castro, who is current candidate Julián Castro’s twin brother. You can tell them apart because Joaquin is in Congress and has a beard. Okay, end of tangent.

I’m going to read here from Joanie Greve writing for The Guardian.:

“George Kent acknowledged that, in 2015, he raised concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest in Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian company Burisma.
However, the longtime diplomat pushed back against Republicans’ suggestion that there may have been corruption involved in Biden’s work with the company.
“In February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kent said. “Let me be clear; however, I did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny.””

Next up was Bill Taylor. I’m just going to let him speak for himself. Here’s a clip in which he puts Ukraine in the context of its ongoing war with Russia, which explains the importance of that military aid. Listen in:

[CLIP-TAYLOR-UKRAINE]

More highlights from today’s testimony will be on tomorrow’s show.

Also, the schedule for NEXT week’s public appearances is out. Rather than read you a huge list of names, I’ll just say there are EIGHT people scheduled to testify in public next week, running from Tuesday through Thursday. And there MIGHT be even more.

Cotton’s Democratic opponent drops out hours after the filing period ends

We had a surprise in Arkansas yesterday afternoon. Two hours after the end of the filing period for the Arkansas primary, Democrat Josh Mahoney dropped out of the Senate race. He had been the only Democrat to file, so he was the only major-party competitor to incumbent Republican Tom Cotton. And by the way, thanks to listener Maddie for sending me this tip—I probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise with, you know, some other big-ish news today.

Mahoney cited an unspecified “family health concern” as his reason for dropping out. In a statement, he wrote:

“I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to all of those who have supported me during this race. It has been the honor of my life to be able to meet and visit with so many Arkansans over the last six month[s] and hear their voices. It was my sincere hope to be their advocate in Washington D.C. However, in this moment right now, I need to focus on my family and place their interests first.”

According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Hunter Field and John Moritz, this came as a surprise even to local Democrats. Reading from their article:

“Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said he was informed of Mahony's exit from the race when "someone saw the post" on Twitter. He said he had subsequently spoken briefly with Mahony.
"Josh is a friend and I hope everything is okay," Gray said.
Gray added that DPA staff and legal advisors were having conversations with the secretary of state's office over the possibility of finding a replacement for the race.”

Digging into the data on that Arkansas Senate race, there are a few notable factors. There are technically two challengers remaining—a Libertarian candidate and an Independent. I don’t have any polling data, but no media I’ve seen has mentioned them as major factors in the race. There is one item that does jump out at me, though. Reading from the very last sentence of an Associated Press story by Andrew DeMillo:

“Before he dropped out of the race, the state GOP said Tuesday it planned to file a complaint with the FEC against Mahony that accused him of falsely listing himself as a small business owner on contribution records.”

They did in fact do that, and the text of the complaint is linked in the show notes.

The other noteworthy item about this race is that, according to FEC records, Cotton had more than $4 million dollars in cash on hand at the end of Q3. Mahoney had $25,000 dollars. So. Just saying, that would have been an uphill climb anyway.

Who did and did NOT file for the Arkansas primary

Next up, as I mentioned, the deadline to file for the Arkansas primary was midday on Tuesday. Candidates who want to be on the primary ballot needed to file by that deadline. So, okay, who did and DID NOT actually get it done?

Well, MOST of the Democrats remaining on my list of major candidates got it done. Plus, of course, Michael Bloomberg jumped in there too, and an Arkansas lawyer named Mosie Boyd got on the ballot as well. But the notable Democrat who did NOT file was Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida.

You may remember Messam for the recent mixup in Q3 fundraising filings, where his campaign accidentally reported that he raised just $5 dollars and spent zero dollars. His name has also been simply left off of many recent polls, so rather than getting zero percent, he just wasn’t even there at all.

Well, now that Messam has not filed in Arkansas, that’s a signal that he may be ready to drop out. The other obvious possibilities for him not filing in the state are that he doesn’t think he needs it to win, or that he simply doesn’t have the ground operation to get the necessary signatures, and pay the fee, and show up to sign the paperwork. While this is speculation, I’m going to guess it’s the latter, and at some point, Messam will make it official.

One more note while we’re on this topic, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick DID NOT FILE in Arkansas. So that means if he does jump into the race, he has already missed two state primaries: Alabama and Arkansas. And while, yes, you can win the primary without those states, the longer you go without registering for the primaries at all, the harder it gets to win the primary.

The big event we’re watching for is the deadline in New Hampshire at the end this week. If a candidate does not make that one, it’s pretty unlikely they will have a candidacy at all, though, again, stranger things have happened. There’s a link in the show notes that lists all the filing deadlines, in case you’re curious. And, in case you don’t want to click on that, long story short, a whole bunch of them are coming up in December.

The tentative schedule for the Senate impeachment trial is out

And last up today, a quick item on the Senate impeachment trial. According to a tweet by CNN correspondent Jeff Zeleney:

“Impeachment scheduling alert: Senate Intel[ligence] Chairman Richard Burr says [the] trial will last for "6 to 8 weeks." It will run for 6 days a week, from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m., a big chunk of time for senators also running for president hoping to be in I[owa], N[ew] H[ampshire] or anywhere but DC in Dec[ember]/Jan[uary]/Feb[ruary].”

So you can imagine how complex this might become. And you can certainly begin your Fantasy Football predictions about which candidates this might hurt (or maybe HELP) in those early voting states.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, it’s been a busy day at Election HQ over here. My first day with a window open playing live testimony on C-SPAN, plus another window with written coverage of it, plus all the other news. I guess this is the new normal, at least for the next couple of months. On the bright side, I am watching this stuff so you don’t have to. I’ll keep you bringing you highlights, and you keep hanging in there. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.