BREAKING: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Announces His Retirement

Hugely consequential development four months out from Election Day.

UPDATE: Statement from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

“If there was ever any question whether the November elections would be the most important of our lifetime, Justice Kennedy’s retirement should remove all doubt. Democrats and Republicans should reject any nominee who won’t uphold our constitution and our basic human rights, and who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. We must make our voices heard at the ballot box for the millions of American families who are counting on us.

“So if you believe immigrant families belong together, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe in a woman’s right to choose and a worker’s right to bargain, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe health care is a right for all, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe a Muslim ban is fundamentally un-American, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe in full equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of our society, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe Dreamers should be able to stay and contribute to the only country they call home, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe climate change is an urgent threat to our economy, our environment, and our children’s future, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe our leaders should put people before corporations, vote for Democrats in November.

“If you believe we should make ​it easier for people to vote, not harder, vote for Democrats in November.

“Elections have consequences. The last Supreme Court vacancy was brazenly stolen by shameless Republican leaders with no respect for American democracy. We cannot let that happen again. In November, you won’t just be deciding the next Congress, you will be deciding the direction America goes in for the next half-century. If the last year and a half has made you angry, organize for Democrats, vote for Democrats, and elect Democrats up and down the ballot – from the school board to the Senate.”

UPDATE II: He’s not a flaming ideologue or alarmist, but CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin really puts the enormity of the stakes of this upcoming Supreme Court fight into perspective:

 

McConnell-Aligned Super PAC Makes $25 Million Ad Buy for the Fall

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC run by political allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have made an initial TV advertising reservation for the fall worth $25 million, according to the Washington Examiner.

The ads will run in Missouri ($10.5 million), Nevada ($11.2 million) and North Dakota ($2.3 million).  Missouri and North Dakota represent pickup opportunities for Senate Republicans to add to their slim 51-49 majority. Republicans are playing defense in Nevada, where incumbent Dean Heller is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans. The organization is holding off on buying more advertising time until later to keep its strategy for November under wraps.

In contrast, the organization’s Democratic counterpart Senate Majority PAC has announced a “first wave” of buys worth $80 million targeting Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia. With the exceptions of Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee, Senate Democrats are playing defense in the other states.

The report also notes, “The Republican super PAC is already active in West Virginia and Indiana, where Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is in trouble against Republican businessman and former state legislator Mike Braun. The Democratic super PAC has been spending on advertising in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson; in Montana, where state Auditor Matt Rosendale is challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester; and in Indiana and North Dakota.”

Biden Endorses Four Secretary of State Candidates

Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed four down ballot candidates running for Secretary of State in key states for the midterm and presidential election cycles. He made the announcement in an email sent out to supporters of American Possibilities, his political action committee. He cited protection of voting rights as his reason for the endorsements, writing that one of the best ways to accomplish this goal was “by electing strong Secretaries of State, the folks responsible for overseeing elections, all across the country.”

Biden has maintained his public profile by endorsing several state and congressional candidates across the country in the past several months, fueling speculation about whether he is considering another White House run. Biden told the Washington Post that he did not know what he was going to do.

The four candidates to receive Biden’s endorsement were attorney Jena Griswold in Colorado, former Wayne State University Law School dean Jocelyn Benson in Michigan, Assemblyman Nelson Araujo in Nevada, and State Rep. Kathleen Clyde in Ohio.  All four states have open races for governor because of term-limited incumbents. Only Colorado does not have a Senate race in the current cycle. All four are competitive swing states in presidential elections.

The significance of the secretaries of state who are elected in this cycle is that they will become the top elections officials in their respective states for the 2020 presidential cycle, which will make them responsible for managing primaries, protecting the integrity of the election systems and process, and certifying the results.

Griswold won her party’s nomination in the Colorado primary this evening.

Jay Inslee Headlining Florida Democratic Party Gala

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) has been announced as the keynote speaker for the Florida Democratic Party’s annual Leadership Blue Gala, scheduled for this weekend in Hollywood, Fla.  Also scheduled to speak at the event are House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and incumbent senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is running for re-election this fall.

The event is scheduled one week after Inslee traveled to Iowa to campaign on behalf of Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell, who is running for governor.  As was the case in Iowa last week, Inslee is attending the event in Florida in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, although it will also raise eyebrows about his possible 2020 presidential ambitions.

Also scheduled to speak at the event are Democratic state legislators and candidates, including the five candidates running for the party’s nomination in the governor’s race this fall: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine, as well as Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Kat Posada. Democrats are trying to win the state’s chief executive position for the first time in 24 years.

Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both project the Florida governor’s race as a toss-up. The state’s primary is scheduled for August 28.

Sinema Leads in Arizona Senate Race Polls

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema leads in hypothetical matchups for Arizona’s Senate race against all three potential Republican opponents, according to two new polls which illustrate the challenge that state and national Republicans will have in holding this Senate seat in the November general election.

According to a CBS News/YouGov poll, Sinema leads former State Sen. Kelli Ward 43-35, Rep. Martha McSally 41-34, and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio 45-28.  The same poll gives President Donald Trump a 47-53 approval rating

A second poll by Emerson College has Sinema leading Ward 43-26, McSally 40-32, and Arpaio 54-30. Sinema has a commanding 51 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, with no other candidate getting more than 8 percent. Republican primary voters are more divided, with McSally leading with 32 percent, Ward in second with 19 percent, Arpaio close behind with 18 percent, and 23 percent of voters still undecided.

The Emerson poll also has incumbent Republican governor Doug Ducey with a 31 percent approval rating, lower than President Trump’s 43 percent approval rating in the state.  Ducey leads his opponent, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett 44-22 in the Republican gubernatorial primary, with 35 percent of voters undecided. Former college professor David Garcia leads among Democratic primary voters, with 30 percent of the vote. State Sen. Steve Farley is in second place with 13 percent, and Kelly Fryer in third with 9 percent of the vote.  However, 48 percent of voters are undecided.

Defending the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake is one of Republicans’ biggest challenges in an otherwise mostly favorable 2018 Senate cycle. According to the Prew Research Center, Arizona has the sixth highest Hispanic population in the country – roughly 2.1 million Hispanics who account for 31 percent of the state population, and approximately 3.7 percent of all Hispanics in the United States. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton overperformed in Arizona in 2016 compared to previous Democratic presidential candidates, losing the state by only 3.5 percent of the vote. State Democrats may be even more energized to turn out and vote because of President Trump’s decision to pardon Sheriff Arpaio in August of 2017. There has been no polling of Arizona voters about the Trump administration’s family separation policy, but a recent Battleground Tracker poll by CBS News and YouGov found that the policy only has 27 percent support.

The primary election is scheduled for August 28. Both Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report project the Arizona Senate race as a tossup.

UPDATE: NBC News released the results of its Arizona Senate race poll this afternoon. Sinema leads all three Republican candidates by double digits: Ward 48-38, McSally 49-38, Arpaio 57-32.

DNC Chairman Heading to Texas Border

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez is heading to Brownsville, Texas to participate in a rally protesting against the Trump administration’s family separation policy.  The rally will take place on Thursday, June 28 outside of a federal courthouse where many of the separated immigrants were prosecuted.

Update: The DNC announced this morning that Perez and Vice Chair Michael Blake will be visiting a school in the Bronx where migrant children are being held on Tuesday, June 26. Perez and Blake will then join with the National Action Network and local organizations in a protest against the administration’s family separation policy.

The Next Potential Democratic Litmus Test: Abolishing ICE

In light of the national uproar over President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, at least two incumbent House Democrats (Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Rep.  Jim McGovern of Massachusetts) a gubernatorial candidate (Cynthia Nixon in New York) and one possible presidential contender (Kamala Harris in California) has floated the idea of reforming, de-funding or shutting down Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Even the libertarian publication Reason has gotten behind this idea. The most serious move on this issue so far has come from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), who announced this morning that he would be introducing legislation in the House to abolish ICE.

The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has come under new scrutiny for its role and actions in implementing President Trump’s policy, as have its architects.  Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and senior White House adviser Stephen Miller were heckled by protesters while eating out in Washington DC restaurants last week.

The Republican National Committee hasn’t made much of an issue out of it yet beyond a blog post, although expect that to change if President Trump enters the fray, particularly in close House and Senate races which could make or break the Republican majorities for next year.

The Barack Obama Post-White House Era: Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

One of the best looks at Barack Obama’s post-presidency so far was published over the weekend courtesy of New York’s Gabriel Debenedetti.  The story touches on everything from Obama’s decision to largely stay out of the political fray, his lucrative post-presidential business opportunities, writing his presidential memoir, and his behind-the-scenes efforts to save Obamacare. The whole thing is well worth reading.

Democrats Ahead in New West Virginia Poll, as Blankenship Tries to Get on the Ballot

Democratic senator Joe Manchin is ahead of Republican attorney general Patrick Morrisey by 9 points in the West Virginia Senate race, according to a new poll by Monmouth University.  This poll also shows former mining executive Don Blankenship receiving four percent of the vote as a third party candidate.  In a head-to-head matchup, Manchin still leads Morrisey 49-42.  In the race for the Third Congressional District, Democratic candidate Richard Ojeda is slightly ahead of Republican State Representative Carol Miller 43-41. The fact that this race is close in a district that Donald Trump won by 50 points should alarm Republicans, even though the underlying political demographics favor Democrats.

A possible wildcard to keep an eye on in the Senate race is Don Blankenship, who lost the Republican primary and is trying to run on the Constitution Party ticket or as a write-in candidate. However, in order to get on the ballot he would have to go to court to challenge the state’s “sore loser” election law which prevents a losing primary candidate from running in the general election. If Blankenship qualifies for the ballot and the spread between Manchin and Morrisey tightens, Blankenship could potentially play a spoiler role on Election Day.

Manchin and Ojeda are leading in this poll despite President Donald Trump’s 67 percent approval rating in the state, one of his highest of anywhere in the country. Larry Sabato and the Cook Political Report both project the Senate race as a tossup, and the Third Congressional District race as Leans Republican.

Reading the 2020 Tea Leaves

A look at what prospective Democratic presidential candidates are up to:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Ohio at the end of June for fundraising events in Cincinatti for Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate in the Ohio governor’s race; and another event in Cleveland for Democratic senator Sherrod Brown.
  • Biden also endorsed Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in her campaign to become the first Democratic governor of Georgia in 15 years, and the first African American woman to ever be elected governor. Abrams has also been endorsed by other 2020 contenders Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
  • Biden also endorsed Jena Griswold, the Democratic nominee running for Colorado Secretary of State.
  • Governor Jay Inslee traveled to Iowa in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, where he joined the Iowa Democratic ticket Fred Hubbell and Rita Hart at a campaign event. He recorded an interview with Iowa Public Television in which he praised Hubbell as “the perfect candidate.” He will also be the featured speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration in Des Moines on Saturday night.  He will also be meeting with Democratic activists in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
  • Senator Jeff Merkley did not rule out a possible presidential run during an interview with The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser: “I’m exploring the possibility.”
  • Senator Cory Booker was the headliner at the Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond, Virginia, an annual event organized by the Democratic Party of Virginia. In addition to Booker, all Virginia Democratic statewide elected officials and former governor Terry McAuliffe – another possible 2020 contender – spoke at the event.
  • Senator Kamala Harris sent out a fundraising email on behalf of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, according to Kansas City Star reporter Lindsay Wise. Harris also praised McCaskill during her keynote address before the St. Louis County NAACP, which both senators attended. McCaskill is considered one of the most endangered Democratic senators of the current election cycle.