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In Senate Battle, Democrats Defy Biden’s Low Standing (for Now)

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PHOENIX — In a Senate split 50-50, Democrats on the campaign trail and in Congress have zero margin for error as the party tries to navigate a hostile political environment defined chiefly by President Biden’s albatross-like approval ratings.

But with the Senate battlefield map mostly set after primaries in Arizona and Missouri this past week, Democratic candidates are outperforming Mr. Biden — locked in tight races or ahead in almost every key contest.

In Washington, Senate Democrats are racing to bolster their position, pressing for a vote as soon as Monday on a sweeping legislative package that represents their last, best sales pitch before the midterms to stay in power.

The history of midterms and unpopular presidents, however, is working against them. With the fall election less than 100 days away, the defining question of the struggle for the Senate is how long Democrats in crucial races can continue to outpace Mr. Biden’s unpopularity — and by how much.

“That’s the billion-dollar question,” said Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster who has studied the pattern of how a president’s support has affected Senate races over the last decade. His findings: Precious few candidates can outrun the president by more than a half-dozen percentage points — a worrisome fact for Democrats when Mr. Biden’s approval has fallen below 40 percent nationally.

“The president’s approval rating acts as a weight on their party’s nominee,” Mr. Blizzard said. “Gravity is going to apply at some point.”

So far, Senate Democrats have been buoyed by a cash edge, some strong candidates and the fact that Republicans have nominated a series of first-time candidates — Herschel Walker in Georgia, Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona — who have struggled to find their footing, have faced questions about their past and have generally been unable to keep the 2022 campaign focused on unhappiness with Democratic rule in Washington.

Republican strategists involved in Senate races, granted anonymity to speak candidly, say that those three candidates — all of whom were endorsed by Donald J. Trump in the primaries — are falling short of expectations.

Democratic strategists hope the domestic package of climate and tax policies they are aiming to push through Congress, along with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, could reinvigorate a demoralized party base that is particularly displeased with Mr. Biden. But Republicans insist that passage of major legislation, as happened with the 2010 Affordable Care Act, could galvanize their side as well and could further intertwine Democratic senators with Mr. Biden in the minds of voters.

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The race for control of the Senate is occurring chiefly in more than a half-dozen presidential swing states, making Mr. Biden’s approval ratings all the more relevant. Republicans need to pick up only a single seat to take control, and four incumbent Democrats face tough races. Three Republican retirements have created opportunities for Democrats, and one Republican senator is running for re-election in Wisconsin, a state that Mr. Biden won narrowly.

On Tuesday, Republicans scored one success, averting disaster in Missouri when voters rejected the comeback Senate bid of Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former governor, in favor of Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general, who is now considered the heavy favorite.

In the best-case scenario for Democrats, they maintain control or even net a couple of seats if the environment shifts; in the worst case, support for Mr. Biden collapses, and Democrats lose roughly half a dozen seats, including some in bluer states like Colorado and Washington.

For now, Republicans see Mr. Biden as their not-so-secret weapon. Some ads are literally morphing Senate Democrats’ faces into his, part of a brutal planned blitz of ads to yoke incumbents to their pro-Biden voting records.

“What we call the 97 percent club — that they voted for this 97 percent of the time,” said Steven Law, who leads the main Senate Republican super PAC, which has $141 million in television ads reserved this fall.

With a strong job report on Friday, long-stalled legislation moving and gas prices on the decline — albeit from record highs — it is possible that Mr. Biden’s support could tick upward.

In contrast to the House, where Republicans have gleefully been talking up a coming red wave, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has sounded more like a trench warfare general, lowering expectations Wednesday on Fox News.

“When the Senate race smoke clears, we’re likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with either us up slightly or the Democrats up slightly,” he said.

In the four states with the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire — survey data from Morning Consult shows a breathtaking decline in Mr. Biden’s approval ratings since early 2021. His net approval ratings in those states have plunged by 27, 20, 27 and 24 percentage points. Yet all four Democratic senators maintain their own favorable ratings.

“Voters are dealing with the Democratic candidates separately from President Biden,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “We see the incumbents’ ratings going up even in places where the president’s numbers are going down, which is a very unusual midterm dynamic.”

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Some Democrats in the most competitive races have also developed unique brands that could protect them.

In Arizona, Senator Mark Kelly is a former astronaut and the husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, who survived a shooting in 2011. In Georgia, Senator Raphael Warnock, who utilized an affable beagle in his last race, is well known as the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. In Pennsylvania, the Democratic nominee is John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8, tattooed lieutenant governor, who has leaned into his not-your-typical-politician look.

“The Democrats do have some good candidates,” conceded Corry Bliss, a veteran Republican strategist. “But the key point is very simple: If Joe Biden has an approval rating in the 30s, what Raphael Warnock says or does is irrelevant. Because he’s going to lose. Period.”

Republicans, Mr. Bliss said, were suffering through a cyclical “summer of bed-wetting” before a fall landslide.

But some Republicans worry that their party has picked some worse-than-generic nominees in important states.

Mr. Walker, a former football star who avoided primary debates, has been dogged in Georgia by his past exaggerations and falsehoods about his background, as well as the emergence of children he fathered with whom he is not in regular contact. A team of national operatives has been dispatched to steady his campaign.

Dr. Oz, the television personality, has struggled to consolidate Republican support after a bruising primary as Democrats hammer his recent New Jersey residency. Polls show Mr. Fetterman ahead, even though he has not held a public event since a stroke in mid-May.

Mr. Fetterman’s campaign has shifted its efforts almost entirely online, where Dr. Oz’s campaign has ceded the digital terrain when it comes to paid ads. Since May 1, Dr. Oz has spent $0 on Facebook and about $22,000 on Google; Mr. Fetterman has spent roughly $1 million in that time, company records show.

Still, the political environment has Republicans bullish on holding Senate seats in North Carolina and Florida. And in Wisconsin, where Senator Ron Johnson is up for re-election, the party sees Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, for whom Democrats just cleared their primary field, as overly liberal for the state.

Some are even hopeful that Washington and Colorado could emerge as competitive. In the latter state, Democrats spent millions of dollars unsuccessfully trying to prevent Joe O’Dea, a moderate businessman, from becoming the Republican nominee.

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“I appreciate the advertising,” Mr. O’Dea said in an interview. “It got my name recognition up.”

Nowhere are the Senate dynamics clearer than in Arizona, a state Mr. Biden flipped in 2020 but where polls show he is now unpopular.

Even before Mr. Masters won the Republican nomination on Tuesday, he had set out to tie Mr. Kelly to Mr. Biden. In a speech to a pro-Trump gathering in downtown Phoenix on Monday, Mr. Masters slashed at Mr. Kelly’s moderate reputation and blamed him for approving spending that “caused this inflation.”

“What Biden and Harris and Mark Kelly are doing to this country — it makes me sick,” Mr. Masters said.

Mr. Kelly, though, has used his financial advantage — he had $24.8 million in the bank as of mid-July compared with $1.5 million for Mr. Masters — to run television ads for months positioning himself as a get-things-done centrist who whacks oil companies and his own party alike.

And in Mr. Masters, Republicans have a 36-year-old nominee who faces questions about his past comments and positions, including calling a notorious domestic terrorist, the Unabomber, an underrated thinker; questioning the United States’ involvement in World War II; and expressing openness to privatizing Social Security in a retiree-filled state.

A recent poll for the super PAC supporting Mr. Masters showed that a majority of voters strongly disapproved of Mr. Biden; Mr. Masters trailed by five percentage points.

The survey suggested that Mr. Kelly’s chief vulnerability was his perceived proximity to Mr. Biden’s agenda, though the Masters campaign will most likely need outside groups to pay to make that case.

“I’ve got to raise money,” Mr. Masters said in a brief interview this week. “But what I’ve really got to just do is tell the truth. Tell the truth about his far-left voting record.”

Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist advising a super PAC supporting Mr. Masters, suggested that focusing on Democrats was going to be critical for all Republicans. “You’re going to see all the incumbent Democrat senators who vote with Biden nearly 100 percent of the time get ruthlessly tied to those votes,” he said.

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But Christina Freundlich, a Democratic consultant, said the “messier” slate of Republicans like Mr. Masters was making the 2022 campaign about both parties.

Ms. Freundlich, who worked on Terry McAuliffe’s unsuccessful bid for Virginia governor last year against Glenn Youngkin, a vest-clad Republican businessman, said the newly elevated Senate G.O.P. candidates were no Glenn Youngkins: “They have a lot more fringe views.”

Mr. Law, the Republican super PAC leader, said his group would re-evaluate the Senate landscape throughout August, looking for candidates with “enough money to connect directly with voters — and message discipline to focus on the issues that resonate.”

“Not every candidate can do that,” he said pointedly.

His group has booked $51.5 million in Arizona and Georgia television ads starting in September, though Mr. Law did not commit to those full reservations. “We have more time to assess both of those,” he said, raising questions about the Masters campaign by dint of omission. “In Georgia, in particular, I’m seeing very positive signs of developments in the Walker camp.”

As in Georgia, national operatives are now reinforcing the Masters team, including a new general consultant as well as polling and media teams.

Shane Goldmacher reported from Phoenix, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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A journalist since 1994, he also founded DMGlobal Marketing & Public Relations. Glover has an extensive list of clients including corporations, non-profits, government agencies, politics, business owners, PR firms, and attorneys.

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MAN ON A MISSION: Jackson State Football Coach Deion Sanders

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(JACKSON, MS) – His name is being heard all over the football world. This time, he’s not the star player. This time, Deion Sanders is the coach. And he is the coach at an HBCU, Jackson State. The school’s history goes back to 1877 in Natchez, Mississippi.

Natchez has a wicked history. Thousands of Blacks were buried there in a mass grave now covered by peaches.

Nonetheless, it is simply wonderful that Coach Sanders has lent himself to such a worthy effort. His sharing of his expertise with the young people in the football program speaks volumes.

According to the Tigers’ website: “Deion Sanders has always been a game-changer. In his tenure as Head Football Coach of Jackson State University, Sanders has again changed the game for Tiger Football, the Department of Athletics, the University as a whole, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, College Football, and the Nation.

An unprecedented calendar year of 2021 showed the power of the influence of Sanders and the brand of Jackson State University coming together as one, seemingly in perfect alignment.

As the Southwestern Athletic Conference played a spring 2021 football season due to the coronavirus, the number 21 Sanders donned on his way to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career became immersed at JSU.

Sanders, named as the 21st head coach in the proud history of JSU football on September 21, 2020, led the Tigers in his first game as head coach on February 21, 2021. A 53-0 win began the Coach Prime era that was a touch point of the elevation of JSU football and the University into becoming one of the most impactful and recognizable brands nationwide.” READ MORE

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Team Dream: 82 AND 77-YEAR OLD BLACK FEMALE SWIMMERS MAKE HISTORY AFTER COMPETING IN NATIONAL SENIOR GAMES

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(PLANTATION, FL) – Ann Smith (age 82) and Madeline Murphy Rabb (age 77) are two African American swimmers who recently competed in the 2022 National Senior Games and were the only Black women to compete in their age group.

Their love for swimming is deep and is a part of a documentary film profiling their passion for swimming as girls who didn’t let barriers to swimming stop them from seeking their sports dreams. Their story is a reminder of the days of segregation where Blacks often could not swim in pools saved for whites.

A documentary short called Team Dream from award-winning filmmaker Luchina Fisher follows their story and will debut at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in August (and then on BET in the fall) thanks to Procter & Gamble’s initiative Widen the Screen and Queen Collective.

Despite being omitted from the history books, Africans and African Americans have a long history of swimming. Team Dream sheds light on the lack of access to pools for Blacks during segregation that resulted in fewer Blacks learning how to swim.

About the Director
Luchina Fisher is an award-winning writer, director, and producer whose work is at the intersection of race, gender, and identity. She can discuss why this film is important to her, how she found Ann and Madeline, and the importance of breaking down the stereotype that “Blacks can’t swim.”

About Widen The Screen
Widen The Screen is an expansive content creation, talent development, and partnership platform that celebrates creativity and enables Black creators to share the full richness of the Black experience. “Only when we Widen The Screen to Widen Our Views can we all broaden the spectrum of images we see, the voices we hear, the stories we tell, and the people we understand.”

About Queen Collective
In 2018, P&G, Queen Latifah, Flavor Unit Entertainment, and Tribeca Studios launched the Queen Collective, a mentoring and talent development program designed to give women filmmakers of color a platform to share important stories from their unique perspectives. Now in its fourth year, the Queen Collective is enabling a record number of female directors and other creatives to produce their original documentaries and scripted pieces to share their perspectives through film.

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Liz Cheney Is Ready to Lose. But She’s Not Ready to Quit.

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — It was just over a month before her primary, but Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming was nowhere near the voters weighing her future.

Ms. Cheney was instead huddled with fellow lawmakers and aides in the Capitol complex, bucking up her allies in a cause she believes is more important than her House seat: Ridding American politics of former President Donald J Trump and his influence.

“The nine of us have done more to prevent Trump from ever regaining power than any group to date,” she said to fellow members of the panel investigating Mr. Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. “We can’t let up.”

The most closely-watched primary of 2022 has not become much of a race at all. Polls show Ms. Cheney losing badly to her rival, Harriet Hageman, Mr. Trump’s vehicle for revenge, and the congresswoman has been all but driven out of her Trump-loving state, in part because of death threats, her office says.

Yet for Ms. Cheney, the race stopped being about political survival months ago. Instead, she’s used the Aug. 16 contest as a sort of a high-profile stage for her martyrdom — and a proving ground for her new crusade. She used the only debate to tell voters to “vote for somebody else” if they wanted a politician who would violate their oath of office. Last week, she enlisted her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, to cut an ad calling Mr. Trump a “coward” who represents the greatest threat to America in the history of the republic.

In a state where Mr. Trump won 70 percent of the vote two years ago, Ms. Cheney might as well be asking ranchers to go vegan.

“If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay,” she said in an interview this week in the conference room of a Cheyenne bank.

The 56-year-old daughter of a politician who once had visions of rising to the top of the House leadership — but landed as vice president instead — has become arguably the most consequential rank-and-file member of Congress in modern times. Few others have so aggressively used the levers of the office to attempt to reroute the course of American politics — but, in doing so, she has effectively sacrificed her own future in the institution she grew up to revere.

Ms. Cheney’s relentless focus on Mr. Trump has driven speculation — even among longtime family friends — that she is preparing to run for president. She has done little to dissuade such talk.

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At a house party Thursday night in Cheyenne, with former Vice President Dick Cheney happily looking on under a pair of mounted leather chaps, the host introduced Ms. Cheney by recalling how another Republican woman, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, confronted Senator Joseph McCarthy when doing so was unpopular — and went on to become the first female candidate for president from a major party.

The attendees applauded at the parallel, as Ms. Cheney smiled.

In the interview, she said she was focused on her primary — and her work on the committee. But it’s far from clear that she could be a viable candidate in the current Republican Party, or whether she has interest in the donor-class schemes about a third-party bid, in part because she knows it may just siphon votes from a Democrat opposing Mr. Trump.

Ms. Cheney said she had no interest in changing parties: “I’m a Republican.” But when asked if the G.O.P. she was raised in was even salvageable in the short term, she said: “It may not be” and called her party “very sick.”

The party, she said, “is continuing to drive itself in a ditch and I think it’s going to take several cycles if it can be healed.”

Ms. Cheney suggested she was animated as much by Trumpism as Mr. Trump himself. She could support a Republican for president in 2024, she said, but her redline is a refusal to state clearly that Mr. Trump lost a legitimate election in 2020.

Asked if the ranks of off-limits candidates included Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, whom many Republicans have latched onto as a Trump alternative, she said she “would find it very difficult” to support Mr. DeSantis in a general election.

“I think that Ron DeSantis has lined himself up almost entirely with Donald Trump, and I think that’s very dangerous,” Ms. Cheney said.

It’s easy to hear other soundings of a White House bid in Ms. Cheney’s rhetoric.

In Cheyenne, she channeled the worries of “moms” and what she described as their hunger for “somebody’s who’s competent.” Having once largely scorned identity politics — Ms. Cheney was only the female lawmaker who wouldn’t pose for a picture of the women of Congress after 2018 — she now freely discusses gender and her perspective as a mother.

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“These days, for the most part, men are running the world, and it is really not going that well,” she said in June when she spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

In a sign that Ms. Cheney’s political awakening goes beyond her contempt for Mr. Trump, she said she prefers the ranks of Democratic women with national security backgrounds to her party’s right flank.

“I would much rather serve with Mikie Sherrill and Chrissy Houlahan and Elissa Slotkin than Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, even though on substance certainly I have big disagreements with the Democratic women I just mentioned,” Ms. Cheney said in the interview. “But they love this country, they do their homework and they are people that are trying to do the right thing for the country.”

Ms. Cheney is surer of her diagnosis for what ails the G.O.P. than she is of her prescription for reform.

She has no post-Congress political organization in waiting and has benefited from Democratic donors, whose affections may be fleeting. To the frustration of some allies, she has not expanded her inner circle beyond family and a handful of close advisers. Never much of a schmoozer, she said she longed for what she recalled as her father’s era of policy-centric politics.

“What the country needs are serious people who are willing to engage in debates about policy,” Ms. Cheney said.

It’s all a far cry from the Liz Cheney of a decade ago, who had a contract to appear regularly on Fox News and would use her perch as a guest host for Sean Hannity to present her unswerving conservative views and savage former President Barack Obama and Democrats.

Today, Ms. Cheney doesn’t concede specific regrets about helping to create the atmosphere that gave rise to Mr. Trump’s takeover of her party. She did, however, acknowledge a “reflexive partisanship that I have been guilty of” and noted Jan. 6 “demonstrated how dangerous that is.”

Few lawmakers today face those dangers as regularly as Ms. Cheney, who has had a full-time Capitol Police security detail for nearly a year because of the threats against her — protection few rank-and-file lawmakers are assigned. She no longer provides advance notice about her Wyoming travel and, not welcome at most county and state Republican events, has turned her campaign into a series of invite-only House parties.

What’s more puzzling than her schedule is why Ms. Cheney, who has raised over $13 million, has not poured more money into the race, especially early on when she had an opportunity to define Ms. Hageman. Ms. Cheney had spent roughly half her war chest as of the start of July, spurring speculation that she was saving money for future efforts against Mr. Trump.

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Ms. Cheney long ago stopped attending meetings of House Republicans. When at the Capitol, she spends much of her time with the Democrats on the Jan. 6 panel and often heads to the Lindy Boggs Room, the reception room for female lawmakers, rather than the House floor with the male-dominated House G.O.P. conference. Some members of the Jan. 6 panel have been struck by how often her Zoom background is her suburban Virginia home.

In Washington, even some Republicans who are also eager to move on from Mr. Trump question Ms. Cheney’s decision to wage open war against her own party. She’s limiting her future influence, they argue.

“It depends on if you want to go out in a blaze of glory and be ineffective or if you want to try to be effective,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who has his own future leadership aspirations. “I respect her but I wouldn’t have made the same choice.”

Ms. Cheney is mindful that the Jan. 6 inquiry, with its prime-time hearings, is viewed by critics as an attention-seeking opportunity. She has turned down some opportunities that could have been helpful to her ambitions, most notably proposals from documentary filmmakers.

Still, to her skeptics at home, Ms. Cheney’s attacks on Mr. Trump have resurrected dormant questions about her ties to the state and raised fears that she has gone Washington and taken up with the opposition, dismissing the political views of the voters who gave her and her father their starts in electoral politics.

At a parade in Casper last month, held while Ms. Cheney was in Washington preparing for a hearing, Ms. Hageman received frequent applause from voters who said the incumbent had lost her way.

“Her voting record is not bad,” said Julie Hitt, a Casper resident. “But so much of her focus is on Jan 6.”

“She’s so in bed with the Democrats, with Pelosi and with all them people,” Bruce Hitt, Ms. Hitt’s husband, interjected.

Notably, no voters interviewed at the parade brought up Ms. Cheney’s support for the gun control bill the House passed just weeks earlier — the sort of apostasy that would have infuriated Wyoming Republicans in an era more dominated by policy than one man’s persona.

“Her vote on the gun bill hardly got any publicity whatsoever,” Mike Sullivan, a former Democratic governor of Wyoming who intends to vote for Ms. Cheney in the primary, said, puzzled. (Ms. Cheney is pushing independents and Democrats to re-register as Republicans, as least long enough to vote for her in the primary.)

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For Ms. Cheney, any sense of bafflement about this moment — a Cheney, Republican royalty, being effectively read out of the party — has faded in the year and a half since the Capitol attack.

When she attended the funeral last year for Mike Enzi, the former Wyoming senator, Ms. Cheney welcomed a visiting delegation of G.O.P. senators. As she greeted them one by one, several praised her bravery and told her keep up the fight against Mr. Trump, she recalled.

She did not miss the opportunity to pointedly remind them: They, too, could join her.

“There have been so many moments like that,” she said at the bank, a touch of weariness in her voice.



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