Cameron Joseph

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.

Articles by Cameron

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) holds a narrow lead over Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in a new poll, the latest good poll number for Democrats in recent days as the election’s homestretch begins.

Bredesen leads Blackburn by 48 percent to 46 percent among likely voters, according to a new live-caller survey released by NBC News and conducted by Marist College.

Those numbers show Bredesen has maintained his personal popularity from his time as governor in the heavily Republican state, which backed President Trump by 25 percentage points last election. And they are the latest sign that in spite of a horrible Senate map, Democrats may still be able to play offense this fall.

The poll found that 61 percent of voters viewed Bredesen positively, with only 22 percent viewing him negatively. Blackburn’s splits were much closer: 46 percent positive, 36 percent negative. President Trump has retained a slight net positive rating in the poll, with a plurality of voters supporting him.

When the poll is expanded to all registered voters, Bredesen’s lead grows to 48 to 44 percent.

Marist’s polling has been a bit more favorable to Democrats than other public surveys this election cycle, though the pollster has a good historic track record, and Trump’s middling numbers in the survey suggest that it might skew slightly too Democratic. But the toplines match private Democratic polling of the race that has found him slightly ahead, though Republicans believe she has a slight lead currently.

The survey is the latest sign that Tennessee’s Senate race will be a barn-burner. If Democrats can pull off a huge upset in the state, it greatly increases their odds of gaining rather than losing Senate seats this cycle — and boosts their outside chances at regaining Senate control.

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Montana’s GOP Senate nominee used to routinely, if inaccurately, brag that he was a “rancher.” But he seems to have backed away from the term in recent months following questions about his experience.

Matt Rosendale is the state’s auditor and the Republican nominee challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). In the past months, his campaign has moved slowly and steadily to deemphasize his ranching claims.

The most recent, and boldest, example: He removed the term from his twitter bio in recent weeks.

Rosendale, through at least mid-August, described himself as a “conservative rancher, real estate developer, businessman” in his short twitter bio.

Now, he’s simply a “Trump conservative, fighter for Montana.”

That’s not the only place that Rosendale’s campaign has sought to rebrand.

His campaign website once used the same “rancher, real estate developer, businessman” construction in the opening line of its biographical section. It’s now gone, replaced by the description ” Trump conservative, straight shooter, and a fighter for Montana.”

As TPM reported back in May, Rosendale had been leaning more and more heavily into his rancher persona as a candidate throughout the GOP primary, using it in ads and on the campaign trail. But the real estate broker had previously publicly admitted that he leased out his land rather than ranched it himself, and documents obtained then by TPM showed he’d never actually owned any cattle.

In June, shortly after TPM reported about his seeming exaggerations, his campaign’s  press releases stopped including their once-regular references to Rosendale as a “Glendive rancher,” referring to his adopted hometown. The campaign also removed the “rancher” description from his website’s tagline that month, according to cached versions of the site.

In July, “rancher” came out of his site’s bio page. In August, it came completely off the website’s homepage.

The twitter bio tweak seems to be the latest step in the slow scrubbing process, and came shortly before President Trump’s Thursday rally in the state for Rosendale.

For what it’s worth, as of this article’s publication Rosendale’s campaign website still described him as a “rancher” on his Facebook and instagram bios. His other campaign materials still often refer to Rosendale’s “family ranch” in Glendive, which he bought in 2002 after a successful career in Maryland real estate.

Strategists in both parties say Rosendale trails Tester by a margin in the single digits heading into the campaign’s homestretch.

Rosendale’s campaign didn’t respond to questions on why they’d shifted from using the term.


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Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is hanging onto a small but significant lead against former state Rep. Mike Braun (R), according to a new poll, good news for Democrats in a top GOP Senate target.

Donnelly leads Braun by 44 percent to 41 percent with 8 percent of voters backing Libertarian Lucy Brenton, according to a new poll of likely voters conducted by Marist University for NBC news.

In a head-to-head matchup, Donnelly’s lead grows to 49 percent to 43 percent over Braun.

The poll is the first reliable public one in months, partly because Indiana has banned automated polling. It shows Donnelly in better shape than many GOP strategists had hoped he’d be in at this point in the election. The numbers also closely track where Democrats believe the race currently stands, with Donnelly holding a small but real lead in private numbers.

Donnelly is one of four Democrats running for reelection in states Trump won that Democrats have been deeply concerned about this election cycle, and Republicans have been confident they can beat, along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Democrats concede that Heitkamp has an uphill battle for reelection, but have insisted that Donnelly is ahead, McCaskill is neck-and-neck with her GOP opponent and Nelson actually has a slight lead over Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). Polls in recent days show have found both McCaskill and Nelson tied with their opponents.

If three of these four Democrats win, their party has a serious shot at winning Senate control, a scenario that was almost unthinkable a year ago since there are ten Democrats running for reelection in states Trump one and just one Republican running in a state he lost. If they lose only one incumbent and win Nevada and Arizona, where they’re viewed as slight favorites, that gets them to within one seat. Both sides also see a tied race in Tennessee, which could put them over the top.

Marist’s polling has been a bit more favorable to Democrats than some other public pollsters, and Donnelly’s lead is well within the poll’s five-point margin of error. But this is the latest public post-Labor Day poll that has some real good news for Democrats as they head into the campaign’s home stretch.

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Boston City Council member Ayana Pressley (D) has knocked off 10-term Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), becoming the latest progressive insurgent to topple an establishment favorite in a primary this election cycle.

Pressley easily bested Capuano, who conceded not long after polls closed Tuesday evening.

Pressley is the first woman of color ever to serve on Boston’s City Council, and is set to break another barrier, becoming the first woman of color to serve in its congressional delegation.

Her victory marks the latest win for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party this election cycle, and the latest win for a minority and female candidate over an incumbent or establishment favorite, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking win over Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) earlier this summer and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s (D) recent gubernatorial primary upset of former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL).

Her background is more similar to Gillum’s than to Ocasio-Cortez’s: She has a long career in Boston politics. And while national progressives including Ocasio-Cortez rallied to her side, she had some strong local institutional support as well, including an endorsement from the Boston Globe.

Pressley conceded throughout the race that there was little policy daylight between her and Capuano, though she did go further than him by calling for the abolishment of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency. But she made her background a major part of the race, highlighting the importance of boosting diversity in the Democratic Party, talking about her own experience with sexual assault, and regularly calling for more “bold, activist leadership.”

Her campaign refrain: “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”

Pressley will now represent the seat that in earlier forms was held by John F. Kennedy and Tip O’Neill.

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but this is life and this is okay. America is going to be okay,” Capuano said in his concession speech. “Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman and Massachusetts will be well served.”

Republicans didn’t run a candidate in the heavily Democratic Boston-based district, and Pressley is all but guaranteed to join the next Congress.

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) holds a narrow lead over Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in the first reputable poll of the race since they won their respective primaries last week.

Gillum has a 50 percent to 47 percent edge over DeSantis in a new live-caller poll of likely voters released by Quinnipiac University Tuesday,

That’s a narrow margin, within the poll’s 4.3 percentage point margin of error, but a sign that the staunchly progressive Gillum starts off the race in the large swing state in good shape against DeSantis, a hardline conservative and close ally of President Trump.

The race has already taken a nasty turn, with DeSantis beginning the general election by warning Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum — a comment many took as being racist.

Quinnipiac is the most reputable pollster to have surveyed the race since Gillum pulled off a surprise primary win over centrist former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL). But Gravis, a decent robo-pollster, also found Gillum with a narrow lead to begin the race. Their poll, released Tuesday, found Gillum with 47 percent support to 45 percent for DeSantis.

The race will be one of the most consequential gubernatorial battles of the election cycle given Florida’s national importance, its large population and the ideological chasm that separates the two candidates.

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will appoint Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) seat, he announced Tuesday.

“There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Sen. Jon Kyl. He is a man without comparable peer,” Ducey said. “Sen. Kyl is prepared to hit the ground running.”

The decision will put a reliable conservative and former member of Senate GOP leadership in the seat temporarily — though it’s unclear whether it will be just through the end of the year or through 2020.

“People automatically assume that this appointment will serve through 2020 … What I have gotten [from Kyl] is a commitment to serve Arizona through at least this session of Congress, and I hope he serves longer,” Ducey said.

“I’m willing to serve certainly through the end of this session at least in order to make sure the business that is currently ongoing is taken care of but I don’t want to make a commitment beyond that,” Kyl said, before calling McCain his “dear friend.”

Whether Kyl serves for just months or through 2020 he will almost certainly serve as a placeholder, setting up what will likely be a contested race in 2020 in the GOP-leaning but purple-trending state.

If Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) doesn’t win her Senate election this fall against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), that leaves the door open for Ducey to then appoint her for the next two years. An election will be held to fill the final two years of McCain’s term in 2020.

Kyl retired in 2012 after a lengthy career in the Senate. But he didn’t go far — he’s worked as a lobbyist since then. He’s currently working as a top adviser to Judge Brett Kavanaugh as Republicans try to get him confirmed to the Supreme Court, and now will soon get to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Ducey touted this in his announcement, making it the first policy-related point he mentioned in his announcement.

“Now, Sen. Kyl can cast a vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” Ducey said.

Cindy McCain, the senator’s widow, tweeted congratulations to Kyl, a longtime friend of McCain’s, before the announcement was official.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) won’t run for reelection, he announced in a surprise press conference Tuesday morning.

“This has been the job of a lifetime but it is not a job for a lifetime,” he said.

The decision comes after a tumultuous two terms as mayor for the former Democratic congressman and powerhouse operative in which he drew sharp criticism for his handling of race relations, education and policing.

Emanuel faced especially pointed criticism from all sides for his handling of the fatal 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald and the subsequent attempt at a cover-up by the department.

The killing enraged many in the city’s black community who had already been furious over Emanuel’s handling of other police violence in the city as well as his decision to shutter schools in a number of black-majority neighborhoods earlier in his tenure.

His subsequent decision to fire Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after the attempted cover-up was revealed had subsequently enraged the city’s police union.

A number of recent polls had suggested Emanuel was in for a tough reelection fight next year. McCarthy had already announced he would challenge Emanuel from the right. Lori Lightfoot, who had been appointed by Emanuel to an independent board to review the McDonald shooting, former Chicago Public Schools head Paul Vallas and wealthy businessman Willie Wilson were also already in the race, as are eight other candidates. A number of other politicians were seriously weighing bids against him from the left, and his retirement may further open the floodgates for more candidates ahead of the 2019 election.

Emanuel’s decision to retire may mark the end of a decades-long political career in which he served as a top adviser for President Clinton and later, as a congressman, helped engineer Democrats’ 2006 House takeover, before becoming President Obama’s chief of staff. Emanuel long fought for a pro-business, more moderate Democratic Party that welcomed pro-life and pro-gun candidates — the opposite direction from where the party is headed now.

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