Stability or chaos: The turnover rate in the Biden vs. Trump Cabinets speaks for itself

The success or failure of a presidency can often depend on the people chosen for Cabinet-level posts. President Joe Biden has just passed the three-year mark of his first term. His administration has been a model of stability and competence. This follows the four years of chaos and incompetence that marked Donald Trump’s miserable administration.

And that point is clear when you look at the turnover rate in both administrations among the 15 Cabinet members in the line of succession for the presidency as well as the nine additional Cabinet-level positions.

RELATED STORY: Republicans actually published a blueprint for dismantling our democracy. It's called Project 2025

Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a visiting fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, has written detailed analyses on overall staff turnover in the Trump administration and the Biden administration. There’s Biden, who kept his promise to make his Cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history with more women and members of color, all of whom had considerable political experience. His Cabinet includes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to be a Cabinet-level secretary, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a president’s Cabinet.

And so far only one Cabinet member has resignedLabor Secretary Marty Walsh, the former Boston mayor, who stepped down in March 2023. A longtime Boston Bruins fan, Walsh accepted an offer to become executive director of the NHL Players’ Association. Julie Su is serving as acting labor secretary because the Senate has yet to confirm her nomination.

And just two of the nine additional Cabinet-level positions have seen change. Longtime Biden aide Ron Klain stepped down as White House chief of staff at the mid-point of Biden’s term, and was immediately replaced by Jeff Zients, who effectively ran Biden’s COVID-19 response operation. He remains in the post.

The second is Cecilia Rouse, the first Black woman to serve as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, resigned in March 2023 to return to Princeton University and resume her work as a professor of economics and public affairs. She was replaced by longtime Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein.

That means that 21 of 24 of Biden’s original appointees remain in their positions heading into the fourth year of his term. National Journal White House correspondent George E. Condon Jr. wrote:

In his three years in office, the president has been determined to keep his top team mostly intact, and that team in turn has been determined to avoid the leaks, backstabbing, and controversy that have led to purges and makeovers in almost all the nine presidencies Biden has witnessed in his half century in Washington.

National Journal review of past administrations found that one has to go back 171 years to find a more stable first-term administration.”

Condon wrote that Biden’s 87.5% retention rate in these top positions is topped in U.S. presidential history only by Franklin Pierce, elected in 1852, whose seven-member Cabinet remained intact during his four-year term. Condon added:

The contrast is particularly sharp compared with Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, whose Cabinet chaos was matched by no president in almost two centuries. By the end of his term in office, only four of Trump’s original 15 Cabinet members remained and only one of nine Cabinet-level appointees had survived. His retention rate of 20.8 percent exceeded only the president whose picture he brought to the Oval Office—Andrew Jackson, who had only one of six Cabinet members remaining at the end of his first term.

In January 2023, midway through Biden’s term. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told NBC News, “Not one single member of the Cabinet has left in disgrace, is writing a tell-all book or has bad-mouthed the president. There are no leaks, no backbiting, nothing.”

Only recently has there been a major controversy surrounding a member of Biden’s Cabinet which is under investigationDefense Secretary Lloyd Austin was criticized for his failure to notify the White House, Congress, and the media about his hospitalization resulting from complications related to a procedure to treat prostate cancer.

And House Republicans have scheduled a Homeland Security Committee meeting for Jan. 30 to mark up articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of border policy. Democrats have accused House Republicans of launching a “baseless political attack” instead of focusing on a bipartisan solution to the immigration crisis, Axios reported.

Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution,” told National Journal:

“Trump’s Cabinet chaos reflected the broader chaos in government. It’s a reason why most people elected Biden. It was because they felt like he would bring calmness and stability back to government and back to the nation.”

She added that this stability is one of the reasons why Biden “has been able to be effective.”

“Up to now, he’s not spending political capital or time on having to get new candidates appointed or finding replacements. It frees up mental space and bandwidth and political capital to get things done,” she said.

Trump promised to bring “the best and the brightest” to his administration. He also said he would run his administration like his business. Unfortunately, as shown in a New York civil lawsuit in which Trump faces up to $370 million in penalties, there was persistent fraud in his business dealings.

And, as The New York Times noted, Trump “created a  cabinet of mostly wealthy, white men with limited experience in government, mirroring himself.”

Vox wrote in May 2017:

CEOs don’t persuade people; they dictate. And they fire those who refuse to carry out their demands. Even more importantly, a CEO of a privately held company (like the Trump organization) operates like a king over his personal fiefdom. His employees work for him; they have no higher obligation to shareholders.

And three years later, during the 2020 campaign, The Hill wrote about just how tumultuous the Trump administration had been:

Trump operates like the federal government is just a backdrop for a never-ending episode of “The Apprentice,” except that he dominates every scene. And, just like “The Apprentice,” Trump is constantly trying to make every scene more outrageous than the one before. After all, dull is death in the TV business.

Trump fired some Cabinet members he considered disloyal or incompetent by his standards. Others resigned because of differences over policy issues.

The turnover in the Trump administration began less than a month after his inauguration when national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign following claims he misled the administration over his communications with Russia’s ambassador. In December 2020, Trump pardoned Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Trump then ran through three more national security advisers—H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, and Robert O’ Brien. Bolton, who was fired over policy differences, has warned that Trump could do  “irreparable” damage to the country if elected president again.

There were four White House chiefs of staff under Trump: Reince Priebus, John Kelly, Mick Mulvaney, and Mark Meadows.    

Meadows was among the 19 people indicted with Trump in the criminal racketeering case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for allegedly conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. 

Kelly became an outspoken critic of Trump. CNN reported that Kelly told friends this about Trump:

“The depths of his (Trump’s) dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it’s more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life,” the retired Marine general has told friends, CNN has learned.

Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon CEO, after he called the president “a moron.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called Trump “an idiot,” while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the president had “the understanding of a fifth or six grader,” according to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Mnuchin was one of the few Cabinet members to survive four years in the Trump administration.  

Three of Trump’s Cabinet members left after being linked to scandals involving misuse of government funds for personal purposes: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceSecretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Zinke, of Montana, is now a member of the House GOP caucus.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced out in November 2018, because he recused himself and appointed a special counsel, Robert  Mueller, to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. His successor, William Barr, resigned in December 2020 after debunking Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential  election.

And then, with just weeks left in Trump’s term, two more Cabinet members—Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—were among the administration officials who resigned after the mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump has since derisively referred to Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in social media posts as “Coco Chow,” which she criticized as an anti-Asian slur.

In July 2023, NBC News reached out to 44 of the dozens of people who served in Cabinet-level positions during Trump’s term, not all of whom responded. A total of four publicly said they support his reelection bid. Several were coy about where they stood. And there were some who “outright oppose his bid for the GOP nomination or are adamant that they don’t want him back in power.”

“I have made clear that I strongly oppose Trump for the nomination and will not endorse Trump,” former Attorney General Bill Barr told NBC News. Asked how he would vote if the general election pits Trump against President Joe Biden, a Democrat, Barr said: “I’ll jump off that bridge when I get to it.”

At the time, some former Cabinet members told NBC that they were supporting other candidates in the Republican primary. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, challenged Trump for the nomination. Haley is hanging on in the primary race by a thread.

It’s not clear how many of these former Cabinet members will join the stampede within the GOP to endorse Trump now that he’s won the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially since he’s been acting like a Mafia don in threatening Republicans who oppose him.

But on the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump on Nov. 9, 2020, issued this warning about the former president in an interview on CNN.

“I do regard him as a threat to democracy, democracy as we know it, our institutions, our political culture, all those things that make America great and have defined us as, you know, the oldest democracy on this planet,” Esper said.

RELATED STORY: Loyal, angry, and ready to break the law: How Trump plans to staff his Cabinet

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3 fake electors want Georgia election subversion charges against them to be moved to federal court

Lawyers for three Georgia Republicans, who falsely claimed that Donald Trump won the state and they were “duly elected and qualified” electors, are set to argue Wednesday that criminal charges against them should be moved from state to federal court.

David Shafer, Shawn Still and Cathy Latham were among the 18 people indicted last month along with Trump on charges they participated in a wide-ranging scheme to keep the Republican president in power after his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. All 19 defendants have pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is set to hear arguments Wednesday on why Shafer, Still and Latham believe the case against them should be tried in federal court rather than in Fulton County Superior Court. Jones already rejected a similar effort from Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has appealed that ruling. He held a hearing Monday on a similar bid by former U.S. Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and has yet to rule.

Shafer, Still and Latham have all indicated in court filings that they will not be present in court for the hearing.

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If their cases are moved to federal court, a jury would be drawn from a broader and potentially less Democratic pool than in Fulton County alone. And any trial would not be photographed or televised, as cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms. But it would not open the door for Trump, if he’s elected again in 2024, or another president to issue pardons because any conviction would still happen under state law.

Part of the overarching illegal scheme, the indictment alleges, was the casting of false Electoral College votes at the Georgia Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, and the transfer of documentation of those votes to the president of the U.S. Senate, the National Archives, the Georgia secretary of state and the chief judge of the federal court in Atlanta. Those documents were meant to “disrupt and delay” the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in order to “unlawfully change the outcome” of the election, the indictment says.

Prosecutors allege that Shafer, Still, Latham — and the other Georgia Republicans who participated in that plan — “falsely impersonated” electors. The related charges against them include impersonating a public officer, forgery, false statements and writings, and attempting to file false documents.

Republicans in six other battleground states that Trump lost also met and signed fake elector certificates. Michigan's attorney general in July brought criminal charges against the fake electors there.

Lawyers for the three contend that a legal challenge to the state's election results was pending and that lawyers told them it was necessary to have an alternate slate of Republican electors in case the challenge was successful.

They cite the example of the 1960 presidential election when Republican Richard Nixon was initially certified as the winner in Hawaii. Supporters of Democrat John F. Kennedy filed a legal challenge that was still pending on the day the state's presidential electors were to meet. That day, the certified electors for Nixon and uncertified elector nominees for Kennedy met at the state Capitol to cast votes for their candidates and sent them to Congress as required by the Electoral Count Act. Kennedy ultimately won the election challenge and was certified the winner, and Congress counted the votes of the Kennedy electors.

At the time of the actions alleged in the indictment, Shafer was the chair of the Georgia Republican Party, Latham was the chair of the Coffee County Republican Party and Still was the finance chair for the state Republican Party. Still was elected to the state Senate last year and represents a district in Atlanta’s suburbs.

Their lawyers say their clients were acting as contingent U.S. presidential electors and in that role were or were acting at the direction of federal officers. Their actions outlined in the indictment stem directly from that service, and they were performing duties laid out in the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, their lawyers argue. As a result, they assert defenses under several different federal laws.

The prosecution team led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argues that they were not federal officers and were not acting at the direction of a federal official carrying out a federal function. Instead, they were impersonating genuine electors at the direction of Trump's campaign with the goal of illegally keeping him in power, they said.

They argued in court filings that “contingent electors” are not presidential electors — either the contingency is met and they become presidential electors or it is not met and the losing candidate's electors have no role. Even if the Trump campaign's legal challenge to the election results had been successful, they wrote, the only solution a court could impose is a new election, not a substitution by the Republican slate of electors.

In addition to the charges related to the fake elector plan, Shafer is also accused of lying to investigators for the Fulton County district attorney's office. Latham is accused of participating in a breach of election equipment in Coffee County by a computer forensics team hired by Trump allies.

Asked whether Trump wants election delayed, will accept foreign help, Trump team refuses to say

It was another typical day on the Sunday shows, the place where America's most powerful people congregate to, for the most part, brazenly lie to us. Today's version came with one thing that the Trump team Very Much wants to talk about—banning social media app TikTok—and several they very much did not.

The two things they didn't want to talk about: Whether Donald Trump has asked his staff about delaying the November elections, and whether Trump's White House and/or campaign will accept foreign "assistance" in defeating former Vice President Joe Biden.

WATCH: Trump adviser Jason Miller is asked three (3) times whether the Trump administration or campaign would accept foreign assistance in this election. Three (3) times, he refuses to say no.

— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) August 2, 2020

That Trump campaign creature and deadbeat dad Jason Miller was so aggressively unwilling to answer straight-up whether the Trump team would be willing to accept foreign election assistance to beat Biden, on Fox News Sunday, is probably not surprising. Miller instead called it a "silly question," which to his credit is true: Trump himself faced impeachment for extorting a foreign government to provide such help, using the tools of his office, so pretending there is some remaining doubt about whether Trump and his team of people who did such a thing would do such a thing is indeed "silly."

This one is on Fox host Chris Wallace. If you book the oozing gastropod Miller on your show, you know what you're going to get: Lying. Gaslighting. Dear Leader-isms a-plenty. And you would still talk to him ... why? The point of bringing on a spokesperson who you can be absolutely sure will lie about anything and everything pertinent is what, exactly?

Newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, plucked from his House seat after a campaign of vigorously defending Trump from both the thing Trump was impeached over and every last thing he wasn't, had his own moment of not-gonna-answer-that when asked on Face the Nation whether Trump, after suggesting in a tweet that the presidential election be delayed, asked "you or anybody else in the administration to look into" delaying it.

Meadows couldn't answer that one. Or rather, wouldn't answer that one, instead swerving to attacks on pandemic vote-by-mail efforts with the usual aplomb of a treasonous dirtbag man with no particular attachment to seeing those elections happen. He can't answer whether Trump administration members were specifically asked, by Trump, if there was a way to delay the elections? Really now?

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't answer John Dickerson's question about "did the president ask you or anybody else in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the election day?"

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020

If you can't give an emphatic no to that one, we can all read between the lines. All right then, so it's come up.

None of this bodes very well for the elections, of course. Meadows was among the House Republicans most willing to be crooked on Trump's behalf back in Congress; presumed foreign agent Rep. Devin Nunes has been getting anti-Biden packets from pro-Russian Ukrainians while ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo, of the same vintage, uses his State Department perch to distribute anti-Biden materials to House Republicans while hiding it from Democrats.

There's a coordinated Republican strategy to manufacture foreign dirt, using pro-Russian foreign forces, to attack Biden with conspiracy theories in the final months of the election so that the best American pal foreign autocrats ever had can cling to power for another four years. From Pompeo to Barr, from Nunes to Meadows to Giuliani to Miller, they're sifting through disinformation to see what they can plausibly use before the press, the American people, intelligence services and federal investigators catch wind of it.

It'll probably be very stupid things, given what Giuliani has presented so far, but that doesn't mean they won't go all-in on the effort. If Trump and his team cannot be bothered to form even a mediocre plan for combatting the pandemic that has now killed 150,000 Americans and which may kill 250,000 before November—and they clearly can’t—then arguing that whoever Trump’s running against would be even worse is the only remaining play.

Stephanie Grisham out as White House press secretary. Don’t feel bad if you’re asking ‘who?’

Consider it the political version of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound?” If a White House press secretary never gives a press briefing, did she really do the job? Yes, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is on her way out—or anyway, she’s headed back to the East Wing to serve as Melania Trump’s chief of staff.

As White House press secretary, Grisham spent her time going on Fox News or media outlets to the right of Fox. She put her name on statements claiming that impeachment was derailing legislative progress (when really Mitch McConnell’s Senate was derailing legislative progress) and calling for "retribution" against Rep. Adam Schiff. She was forced to backtrack after claiming that Obama aides left mean notes for the incoming Trump administration. She claimed that Donald Trump doesn't tell lies.

Grisham’s qualifications for the job included a history of retaliating against reporters for negative coverage and having lost previous jobs for plagiarism and cheating on expense reports.

Grisham is reportedly leaving the job as part of a shake-up by new White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Names being floated to replace her include campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany; Defense Department spokeswoman Alyssa Farah may also be in line for a communications role. Except it’s not clear if the White House communications department will regain any relevance with Trump still taking the role of head spokesman and changing message on a whim.

Trump replaces acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with Rep. Mark Meadows

Back in mid-June, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney dared to cough during a press event, causing Donald Trump to fly into a rage and expel him from the room. Since then, Mulvaney did a ton of heavy-lifting in terms of using the Office of Management and Budget to direct his whole extortion of Ukraine for political dirt against Joe Biden scheme. Of course, Mulvaney also went live on national TV to tell Americans all about how Trump had … extorted Ukraine for political gain and, you know, “get over it.”

Now that impeachment is in the rear view, it’s unclear whether Trump is tossing Mulvaney for confessing to his crimes, or the coughing. Probably the coughing. In either case, Mulvaney is out as the White House chief of staff, and Republican Rep. Mark Meadows is coming in.

Trump made a point of using “acting” in describing Mulvaney’s position as he was tweeting him buh-bye, and he pointedly did not use that term in describing Meadows new role. So it seems likely that Trump is going to plunk Meadows in front of the Senate for an actual vote. Which is fine. Not only would Republicans give their blessing to a rock, or a rock with a Hitler mustache, the odds of Capitol Hill voting down one of their own is always remote.

Meadows has always earned high praise from Trump for the same reason that anyone does—he spends an inordinate amount of time praising Trump first. Not only was Meadows keep to repeating Republican talking points during the impeachment proceedings, he’s been right there for Trump on everything — including explaining how Trump’s response to the coronavirus is just so, so perfect.

It’s clear this switch has been in the works for at least a few weeks, as Meadows recently announced his mid-term retirement from the House at just the right moment to block out other candidates from filing and making it possible to fill his seat with a hand-picked successor. In the meantime, Mulvaney has been appointed as special envoy to Northern Ireland, which is … a nice distance to keep him from appearing on U.S. television. Presumably Mulvaney is also surrendering his role at the OMB, but whether Trump plans to fill that slot, or just reach into the national till with his own hands from now on, is unclear.

What is clear is that this is the absolutely perfect time to be making major changes to the top White House staff, because absolutely nothing important is happening. Oh, and as always, there is a tweet for this…

3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't manage to pass his agenda.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2012

Morning Digest: GOP House candidate welcomes Trump endorsement. His district’s voters probably won’t

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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TX-07: On Wednesday, Donald Trump endorsed Army veteran Westley Hunt, who is one of the national GOP’s favorite candidates, in the March 3 GOP primary to face freshman Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher. Hunt had already been running ads tying himself to Trump as well as Sen. Ted Cruz, who had already endorsed him, so he’ll certainly welcome this development.

However, Hunt is taking a big risk in the general election by embracing both the White House and Cruz in a West Houston seat that has been moving hard to the left in the Trump era. This seat swung from 60-39 Romney to 48.5-47.1 Clinton, and Beto O'Rourke beat Cruz here 53-46 last cycle. Fletcher also unseated longtime GOP incumbent John Culberson 52.5-47.5 in their very expensive 2018 race.

Hunt has been one of the GOP’s stronger House fundraisers this cycle, but he still faces a big cash disadvantage against Fletcher. The incumbent outraised him $545,000 to $343,000 during the final quarter of 2019, and she ended 2019 with a $1.8 million to $808,000 cash-on-hand lead.


AL-Sen: Mason-Dixon is out with a survey for the Alabama Daily News that finds Democratic Sen. Doug Jones trailing each of the three main GOP candidates in hypothetical general election matchups:

41-54 vs. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

42-51 vs. Rep. Bradley Byrne

42-50 vs. former college football coach Tommy Tuberville

The only other general election poll we've seen was a late December survey from the GOP firm JMC Analytics. That poll, which JMC said they conducted independent of any client, found Jones in better shape in this very red state but still trailing each of these Republicans by 4-7 points.

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Mason-Dixon is also the first independent pollster to take a look at the March 3 GOP primary since Sessions entered the race in November to reclaim his old Senate seat. They find Sessions at 31%, which is well below the majority of the vote he'd need to avoid a March 31 runoff, while Tuberville leads Byrne 29-17 for the second place spot.

Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in 2017, is a distant fourth with just 5%. The release didn't name state Rep. Arnold Mooney, though his support may have been included in the 2% that backed Other.

The firm also tested Sessions in potential primary runoff marches and finds him beating Tuberville and Byrne 49-42 and 48-35, respectively. Those are hardly secure leads, though, especially since Sessions' intra-party rivals haven't spent many resources yet attacking him over his terrible time as Trump's attorney general. If Sessions does get forced into a runoff, though, his opponent will only have four weeks to win over the defeated candidates' supporters.

Byrne also dropped his own primary survey from Harper Polling a day before the Mason-Dixon numbers were released that shows him in better shape to advance to a runoff with Sessions. Harper finds Sessions ahead with the same 31% of the vote, but they show Byrne narrowly leading Tuberville 26-24 for second place. Moore is again far behind with 5%, while Mooney also went unmentioned.

The memo also includes the numbers for a previously unreleased mid-December poll to argue that Byrne has picked up support over the last two months. Sessions led that survey with 36%, while Tuberville outpaced the congressman 29-16. The memo did not include runoff numbers.

The only other GOP primary we've seen this year was a late January poll for Sessions from On Message, and it also showed Byrne and Tuberville locked in a close race for second place. It gave Sessions the lead with 43% as Byrne edged the former coach 22-21.

AZ-Sen: GOP Sen. Martha McSally made plenty of headlines last month when she dismissed longtime CNN reporter Manu Raju as "a liberal hack," and she continues her trip through MAGA Land in her first TV spot of the race. The narrator declares, "The Washington liberals are obsessed with President Trump. They wasted three years and millions of dollars trying to overturn the last election and steal the next one." The commercial then says that Democrat Mark Kelly "supported their impeachment sham."

ME-Sen: The outside group Maine Momentum has launched another ad that features several people taking GOP Sen. Susan Collins to task for voting for a massive tax break that's "hurting everyday Mainers."

NC-Sen, NC-Gov: High Point University is out with a survey of North Carolina's March 3 primaries which includes questions about the Democratic Senate primary and the GOP gubernatorial contest.

High Point finds former state Sen. Cal Cunningham leading state Sen. Erica Smith 29-10 among registered voters in the race to take on GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, while none of the other contenders break 5%. A recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling also found Cunningham ahead by that exact 29-10 spread, while no one else has released numbers here this year.

In the GOP primary to face Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, High Point finds Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leading state Rep. Holly Grange by a massive 54-10 margin. This is the first poll we've seen of this contest in 2020, but the results are quite plausible. Grange, who has never run statewide before, almost certainly started the campaign with low name recognition over the summer, and she hasn't raised much money to get her message out since then.

P.S. High Point also included versions of these matchups using likely voters instead of registered voters. However, both likely voter questions sampled fewer than 300 people, which is the minimum that Daily Kos Elections requires in order to write up a poll.


WA-Gov: On behalf of KING-TV, SurveyUSA is out with a poll of the August top-two primary. It gives Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee the lead with 39%, while conservative independent Tim Eyman leads Republic police chief Loren Culp 11-5 for the second place spot. Two other Republicans, state Sen. Phil Fortunato and developer Joshua Freed, are each at 4%.

SurveyUSA also takes a look at Inslee's approval rating and gives him a narrow 41-39 score, while another 20% say they aren't sure how they feel about the incumbent after seven years in office. This isn't the only poll that's given Inslee only a slightly positive rating, though. A January survey from the local firm Elway Research found that 40% of registered voters gave Inslee an excellent or good score while 34% rated him as poor and another 22% ranked him as "only fair." Morning Consult also found him with a 44-38 job approval for the final quarter of 2019.

Democrats have controlled the governor's office since 1985, and it's possible that a strong opponent could make the argument that it's time for a change and give Inslee a serious challenge. However, it remains to be seen if any of Inslee's opponents will have the resources to get their name out and put a serious fight this fall, especially with Donald Trump likely to drag down the ticket in this blue state.

The GOP candidate with the most money at the end of January was Freed, who had just $62,000 on-hand; Freed had previously loaned his campaign $500,000 only to repay it in January. The candidate texted the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner this week that he "decided recently that I didn't need that liability on my campaign books" and would "put that amount… or more.. in as a direct contribution." Washington candidates regularly file campaign finance reports, so we'll see soon if Freed self-funds again. For his part, Inslee ended last month with $1.7 million in the bank.


CA-53: On behalf of KGTV-TV and the San Diego Union Tribune, SurveyUSA is out with the first poll we've seen of the March 3 top-two primary for this safely blue open seat.

Former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign policy adviser Sara Jacobs, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran in the nearby 49th District last cycle, leads with 23% as one of the Republicans, pilot Chris Stoddard, takes the second place general election spot with 10%. Republican Famela Ramos and Democrat Georgette Gómez, who is president of the San Diego City Council, are at 5% each, while no one else breaks 4%.

Gómez, who is the only local elected official in the race, has the support of the state Democratic Party, but she ended December with a bit less money than Jacobs. Gómez actually outraised Jacobs $263,000 to $141,000, but Jacobs self-funded an additional $530,000 and held a $471,000 to $349,000 cash-on-hand lead. Two other Democrats, Marine veteran Janessa Goldbeck and UC San Diego professor Tom Wong, had just over $100,000 to spend.

GA-09: State Rep. Matt Gurtler announced this week that he was joining the GOP primary for this safely red open seat.

Gurtler was elected to the legislature in 2016 at the age of 27, and he quickly made a name for himself by opposing GOP Speaker David Ralston. Gurtler, who describes himself as an advocate for limited government, also developed a habit of voting against all manner of bills that came before him, and by May of 2018 he had racked up more "no" votes than anyone else in the 236-person legislature.

Ralston responded by backing a 2018 primary challenge to Gurtler, but the incumbent won 60-40. Gurtler was already facing another primary opponent when he decided to call off his re-election bid and run for Congress.

NC-11: On Wednesday, retiring Rep. Mark Meadows endorsed businesswoman and party activist Lynda Bennett in the crowded March 3 GOP primary to succeed him. However, there are plenty of reasons to think that Meadows was pulling for Bennett before this week.

Meadows announced his departure in December one day before the filing deadline and after it was too late for anyone running for another office to switch to this race. Meadows' decision came as a shock to everyone except for maybe Bennett, who set up a Facebook campaign page five hours before the congressman broke his own news. Meadows, though, insisted to Roll Call this week, "It was my original intent to stay neutral in the race. However my silence in the primary was being misused by some candidates to present [an] inaccurate picture for political gain."

Meadows' endorsement did seem to take one of the contenders off guard. Wayne King, who resigned as Meadows' deputy chief of staff to run here, said, "Meadows told me he was not endorsing anybody in the race" when they spoke just a few weeks ago.

NY-16: Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman received an endorsement this week from the Working Families Party, a small but influential party with ties to labor groups, in his June Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Eliot Engel. Engel has consistently received the WFP’s support in past contests.

Bowman is one of a few candidates challenging Engel for renomination in this safely blue seat, a diverse district that includes southern Westchester County and the northern Bronx, and he was already looking like the congressman’s main opponent before this week. Bowman raised $162,000 during the fourth quarter of 2019 and had $186,000 in the bank, while none of the other candidates had more than $25,000 to spend. Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought in $630,000 during this time, and he had $806,000 on-hand.

Bowman has been arguing that voters should oust Engel because he’s too moderate and too close to special interests. The challenger used his kickoff to go after Engel for taking donations from lobbyists and voting for the Iraq War.

TX-12: Veteran Rep. Kay Granger is up with her first negative TV spot against businessman Chris Putnam ahead of their March 3 GOP primary. The narrator begins by describing Granger’s conservative record and reminds the audience that she has Donald Trump’s endorsement. The narrator then calls Putnam “a millionaire who moved here four months ago” and says that “[i]nvestors sued his company for fraud. And he voted to raise property taxes twice.”

The primary for this safely red Fort Worth seat has attracted heavy spending in recent weeks, with the anti-tax Club for Growth and their allies airing ads against Granger while the establishment-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund is supporting her. However, Putnam himself didn’t bring in much money during the final months of 2019. Granger outraised him $414,000 to $71,000 during the fourth quarter, and she ended the year with a $774,000 to $407,000 cash-on-hand lead.

TX-22: A recently formed super PAC called Texans Coming Together has launched an ad campaign in support of nonprofit CEO Pierce Bush in next month’s GOP primary, though there’s no word on the size of the buy. The group’s spot, it won’t shock you to learn, refers to Donald Trump four times while not mentioning anyone from the candidate’s famous family once.

TX-28: Conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar has launched a TV ad against immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros ahead of their March 3 Democratic primary showdown that could easily pass for a Republican campaign commercial.

The narrator begins by declaring, “Two candidates for Congress. One stands with families. One supports allowing minors to have an abortion without parents' knowledge.” The GOP frequently uses this line of attack against pro-choice candidates, and Cisneros responded to it in her fact-check of the spot by writing, “Jessica Cisneros supports allowing women to make their own healthcare decisions, not the government or politicians like Henry Cuellar.”

The commercial goes on to say that Cisneros is someone “who gets her money from outsiders, and who just moved here six months ago.” Cisneros, though, grew up in the Laredo area and even interned for none other than local congressman Henry Cuellar in 2014. The Cisneros camp also notes that, while Cuellar’s ad makes it sound like he’s being supported by local donors, he’s received more than half of his money from PACs and committees.

The commercial then takes one more page from the GOP playbook and insists that Cisneros, who backs the Green New Deal, wants to “shut down the oil and gas industry.”

WI-07: The special GOP primary is on Tuesday, and Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman reports that there’s been plenty of outside spending on behalf of both veteran Jason Church and state Sen. Tom Tiffany.

Church has received a total of about $1 million in support mostly from two groups, With Honor Fund and the newly formed Americans 4 Security PAC. Tiffany, meanwhile, has benefited from a total of $789,000 in spending largely from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth, two groups that are often on opposite sides in Republican primaries.

Both Church’s and Tiffany’s campaigns have spent comparable amounts, and since we haven’t seen any polls, there’s no indication which candidate is favored next week.

Days after ‘head on a pike’ outrage, Republican warns of ‘repercussions’ for defying Trump

Republican senators were outraged when Rep. Adam Schiff mentioned the report that the White House was threatening Republicans with their “head on a pike” if they voted for witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Outraged! Sen. Susan Collins violated the decorum of the Senate chamber by bursting out with “That's not true.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski claimed that “That’s where he lost me.”

So: no threats to Republicans over their votes on impeachment witnesses, huh? Someone should tell Trump's House allies that.

Rep. Mark Meadows told Norah O’Donnell that “I don't want to speak for my Senate colleagues. But there are always political repercussions for every vote you take.” Yeah, like the kind of political repercussions that Team Trump specializes in dealing out. The kind you might metaphorically call “head on a pike.”

But we’re not exactly dealing with the brain trust here. Rep. Doug Collins had a challenge for Democrats: “The question needs to be flipped. Where is a courageous Democrat who will actually look at the facts and vote in favor of not impeaching this president? ” (Uhh, Doug, he was already impeached.)