McConnell’s light-headedness raises the stakes of the Nov. 7 election in Kentucky

Sept. 5, 2023

This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 35

  • Biden impeachment inquiry increasingly likely
  • Two Montana Republicans each have an early lead over Tester
  • Another poll, and Joe Manchin looks even more like a goner


Impeachment inquiry: There are no signs yet that the Congress is ready to impeach President Joe Biden. However, it is gearing up for an impeachment investigation, and that may be justified. The White House is already nervously setting up a war room, although each partisan impeachment is probably engendering additional cynicism in the public.

Democrats impeached former President Donald Trump twice on what seemed like dubious grounds, and they are now prosecuting Trump in four separate trials. The backfire based on Trump’s mugshot in Atlanta speaks for itself.

Thus, by the same token, any Republican effort will seem a little bit more like reprisal, regardless of merit.

Still, there is a genuine case to be made that Biden family venality is genuine and substantial. House Oversight Chairman James Comer has successfully demonstrated the amount of money that has been secretly transferred to Biden family members. The fact that no money has been directly proven as transferred to Biden himself is immaterial, as payments to family are one of the most common forms of bribery in politics.

An impeachment inquiry allows Republicans to issue subpoenas that are highly likely (given the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop and where they have led so far) to come up with more and more information that makes an already unpopular president look worse and worse.

This is why it is almost certain to happen – it is in the Republicans’ advantage, particularly with Trump facing his own legal problems. Every political arrow points in the direction of what has to be called an unprecedented subcampaign of lawfare taking place throughout the 2024 presidential election season.

Governor 2023

Kentucky: It is unlikely to affect the outcome directly, but it raises the stakes considerably. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R) had a second episode of freezing up in front of reporters at a public event, which he blamed on lightheadedness.

In this context, Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) determination to ignore a new law that passed over his veto and appoint a Democratic senator in the event of McConnell’s early resignation or death takes on additional significance. The law says he must appoint one of three nominees approved by the party of the incumbent.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) is challenging Beshear. Election Day is Nov. 7.

Mississippi: In spite of a Democratic poll last week showing a tied race, a new poll from Siena shows Democratic Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) trailing Gov. Tate Reeves (R) by 11 points.

Reeves leads despite having slightly upside-down approval numbers at 46 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable.

Senate 2024

Arizona: Blake Masters (R), who underperformed Kari Lake (R) in his 2022 statewide loss, is reportedly running again for Senate in Arizona. He will announce in the coming weeks. Lake may run herself, and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb (R) is already officially in the race.

Between Lake and Masters, Republicans have two very high profile candidates who have proven they could not win very winnable races — especially Lake, who was heavily favored to defeat now-Gov. Katie Hobbs (D).

Even though Democrats should theoretically have a harder time winning a three-way race between a Democrat, a Republican, and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), Republican polling in such a matchup has been exceptionally weak. 

Democrats are very likely to nominate left-wing Rep. Ruben Gallego (D).

Michigan: Anti-Trump former Rep. Pete Meijer (R-Mich.) is now looking into running for Senate. Democrats are expected to nominate Elissa Slotkin (D), but there are at least two other viable potential Republican candidates, including Lansing-area former Rep. Mike Rogers and former Detroit police chief James Craig.

Montana: Both leading Republican challengers to Sen. Jon Tester (D) enjoy modest leads over him in a new poll — a very good sign for Republicans at such an early date.

Tim Sheehy, the establishment favorite who may also get backing from former President Trump, leads Tester 46 to 42 percent, according to a new poll by JLPartners first reported by Semafor.

The other potential Republican Challenger, U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, leads Tester in the same poll 46 to 43 percent.

Rosendale, who lost to Tester in 2018, leads in the primary ballot matchup by a wide margin, 55 to 19 percent, and that finding may be enough to push him into the race. However, he has been slow in making his decision over whether to enter the race or run for reelection in his safe House district.

An endorsement by Trump of Sheehy could easily change the calculus. Rosendale, although he has courted Trump assiduously and always supported Trump as a congressman, is closely associated with the anti-Trump Club for Growth, which has promised to spend big on him if he runs. Many observers believe this will prompt Trump to weigh in and side with Sheehy.

In the background, the NRSC chairman is the other senator from Montana, Steve Daines (R), who attempted (and perhaps succeeded) to make peace with Trump early this cycle, endorsing him early and begging him at the same time to let the NRSC handle its primaries this time around.

West Virginia: It’s been a long time since this race was polled, and now the second poll of the race since May shows Gov. Jim Justice (R) crushing both Rep. Alex Mooney (R) in the Republican primary and Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the general election. Manchin has not decided whether he will run for re-election.

Justice’s lead over Mooney clocked in at 32 percent. That is better for Mooney than the 41-point lead Justice held in an East Carolina University poll in May, but not much of an improvement, given that Justice’s level of support increased from 53 to 58 percent between the two polls. This is an even more dominant lead than President Trump is enjoying nationally in the presidential primary.

With regard to the matchup with Manchin, this poll shows a 13-point lead for Justice – enormous against a sitting incumbent – and, more importantly, Manchin lingering at just 38 percent support. He has not polled above 40 percent against Justice since the cycle began.

In contrast, Manchin does lead Mooney in a tight race, as he did in May. His four-point lead (45 to 41 percent ) is better than that previous poll, but still not promising for an incumbent senator in a state likely to vote Trump by 30 points or more in 2024.

Will Manchin choose to run? He keeps insisting that he will win in whatever race he enters, whether that means re-election or an independent bid for president. But the truth is, the man is 76 years old and polling in the 30s against his most likely opponent.