Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.
The House vote Wednesday night in favor of creating a bipartisan commission to probe the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection at the Capitol meant another week of public divisions among Republicans, as they seek to reclaim the chamber in 2022.
The 35 Republicans who joined Democrats in voting “aye” included a collection of usual suspects — some, like Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger and Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, who have made holding former President Donald Trump responsible for inciting the Jan. 6 violence a signature point, despite potential political costs. Others hail from perennially competitive districts that may be even further complicated by redistricting in their states: Illinois’ Rodney Davis and New York’s John Katko, a lead negotiator in crafting the legislation, for example. Those members likely want to depoliticize the investigation, which otherwise could become a partisan Benghazi-esque probe, as our colleague Jim Saksa noted.
Trump blasted the GOP for not sticking together on Thursday and several Democrats quickly used the vote to try to raise money, including Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Adam B. Schiff of California and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s Senate campaign.
Yet it’s like a tale of two House GOPs. The NRCC disclosed this morning that it had a banner April in fundraising, hauling in more than $11.2 million with some $34 million in the bank (what the campaign arm said represents a 70 percent increase from this time in 2019). The DCCC said it will also report its best April haul to date with $12.2 million and $32.1 million in cash on hand, almost three times what it had in 2019.
Voters, meanwhile, are keeping election integrity and a political money overhaul top of mind, according to a new poll by campaign finance reform group Issue One and shared first with ATR. “Recent bipartisan polling in Arizona finds that reducing political corruption and protecting voting rights are high priorities to swing state voters,” the poll, conducted by ALG Research/The Tyson Group, found.
Of the surveyed voters in the battleground state, 97 percent said that reducing political corruption was at least somewhat important. Arizonans would rather see Congress focus on corruption than on creating jobs or rebuilding infrastructure. Protecting the freedom to vote is “extremely important” for President Joe Biden’s voters (75 percent) as well as Trump’s voters (63 percent).
Swing district? Florida Democrat Charlie Crist’s decision to run for governor next year rather than seek reelection to his Gulf Coast district is one of many reasons the both parties will be watching the Sunshine State in 2022.
The parents are alright: A small but growing number of House and Senate candidates from both sides of the aisle has taken advantage of a 2018 change in federal rules that allows them to use campaign money to pay for child care, helping to destigmatize the request and increase the number of women with young children in Congress, a study found this week.
Covering the spread: Reapportioning the seats in the House also means changing how many electoral votes some states get, but CQ Roll Call’s Jason Dick points out that if the change had happened last year, Joe Biden would still have beaten Trump by 62 electors.
The case of the disappearing districts: CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales explores the decision to spend in special elections for seats that will soon be redrawn as part of redistricting.
A new PAC in town: A new group known as Democrats Serve launched Wednesday to recruit and support Democratic candidates with “civil and public service backgrounds … including police officers, firefighters, first responders, social workers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, educators, and more,” according to a news release. The group will be a hybrid PAC, meaning it will include a traditional PAC and a super PAC. Achim Bergmann, a Democratic consultant and DCCC alum, is “founding senior advisor.”
#MOSEN: Republican Mark McCloskey, who made national headlines with his wife last summer for waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home in St. Louis, announced Tuesday that he’s running for Missouri’s open Senate seat. “Missourians want a fighter who will stand up against cancel culture, the poison of critical race theory, the violent mobs and rising crime, and the spread of socialism,” the attorney said in a statement announcing his campaign.
#NCSEN: The Senate Conservatives Fund threw its support behind North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd in the state’s GOP Senate primary. Other Republicans seeking the nomination include former North Carolina Gov. Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-Rep. Mark Walker. The group, which has also endorsed Senate contenders Josh Mandel in Ohio and Mo Brooks in Alabama, praised Budd as a “conservative outsider” with “a record of standing up to the liberals in both parties.”
Paging Match.com: We’ve all seen them. The “TRIPLE MATCH UNLOCKED” fundraising emails promising donors that if they DONATE BEFORE MIDNIGHT someone else will match their donation — or triple it. The Justice Department zeroed in on the popular fundraising gimmick in a recent criminal filing, Axios reports, raising questions about whether it will face wider scrutiny. If you want to learn more about this dramatic fundraising practice, here’s a throwback to an explainer that broke down how matching promises work given limits on contributions.
The Sunu-woo: NRSC Chairman Rick Scott traveled to New Hampshire and has been calling Republican Gov. Chris Sununu “constantly,” urging him to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, Politico reports. Other party leaders are also engaging in an “all out effort” to woo the governor.
Political money push: End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund dropped a $1 million digital ad buy this week in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia to urge senators to pass a big-scale voting and campaign finance overhaul known as S 1 (the companion to HR 1). It’s part of a $30 million campaign that has recently included TV ads. Another group, Accountable.US, which is also pushing for the legislation, launched a separate campaign urging members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to leave the nation’s biggest business lobby over its opposition to the bill, according to The Hill.
Thanks for the support: House Majority Forward, an outside group that supports Democratic candidates, launched a $1.2 million television ad campaign in nine competitive districts, thanking members for their votes for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and calling for more action to support middle-class families.
How the Midwest is won? Democrat Kara Eastman, who came up short in her attempt to flip Nebraska’s 2nd District in 2018 and 2020, is forming a political action committee to support progressive Democratic candidates in the Midwest.
Back to the future? The conservative Club for Growth is out with a new ad drawing parallels between the Biden and Carter presidencies, saying that the current administration is bringing the 1970s back “with oil shortages and gas lines, inflation and unemployment.” Biden, of course, won’t be on the ballot in 2022, but we expect to see similar messaging from Republican-aligned groups heading into the midterms, as Democrats, meanwhile, tout rising vaccination rates and the country’s return to some pre-pandemic normalcy.
What we’re reading
Stu says: While it’s understandable to focus on next year, when the fate of the 50-50 Senate is up, Stu Rothenberg says the Democrats’ real problem is coming in 2024.
Bad night, revisited: The DCCC looked into whether Democratic candidates were weakened by bad polling or bad messaging during the 2020 elections that saw Republicans chip away at their House majority. The conclusion in the committee’s postelection autopsy? It was both, The Washington Post reports.
Two Democrats diverged: NPR explores the divergent paths Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Warnock have taken in the Senate, which are emblematic of two different strategies for Democrats looking to win competitive states.
A pal Peter who pays: PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s profile in GOP politics is rising after a pair of investments in super PACs backing potential Senate candidates in Ohio and Arizona, Politico reports.
#PASEN: The Philadelphia Inquirer delves into Trump’s influence over the Senate and governor’s races in Pennsylvania in 2022, with the GOP Senate primary heating up.
Stone cold: Republicans in control of the New Hampshire legislature are “experimenting” with new district maps that would draw more GOP voters into Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas’ district, Politico reports. The Granite State drama is the latest example of how Democrats’ recent down-ballot losses are plaguing the party as it tries to keep its House majority during a cycle in which Republican lawmakers across the country will be drawing new district lines.
The count: 14
That’s the crowd — 12 Republicans and two Democrats — that has filed to run in the Aug. 3 primary in Ohio’s 15th District to replace former Rep. Steve Stivers, who resigned earlier this week to lead the state’s Chamber of Commerce. A Republican whose partisan bona fides included a stint as NRCC chairman, Stivers nevertheless won praise from colleagues in both parties as a nice guy, CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa reports.
The Supreme Court’s decision to take up a Mississippi abortion case “has the potential to supercharge the fight for the House and Senate,” Nathan writes in his latest column. But, he cautions, “it’s best to suspend judgment on the ultimate impact in 2022, considering voters’ opinions on abortion have been more nuanced, historically, than the two parties are willing to admit.” (For more on abortion politics, host Jason Dick spoke during this week’s Political Theater podcast with gender studies professor Jennifer Holland of the University of Oklahoma.)
When Patty Murray first ran for Senate in 1992, there were only two elected women serving in the chamber. “I had people telling me to call myself ‘Pat’ rather than ‘Patty’ so people might think I was a man. That’s how bad it was,” the Washington Democrat recalled at a virtual EMILY’s List conference this week.
“Here I am today, not just a mom in tennis shoes, but also a Nana in tennis shoes,” added Murray, who is running for a sixth term next year. The quip was a nod to the mantra that defined her first race, when she often noted on the campaign trail that a state legislator once dismissed her by saying, “You can’t do anything; you’re just a mom in tennis shoes.”
Shop talk: David Jolly
Jolly, who represented Florida’s 13th District as a Republican from 2014 to 2017, split with the GOP over money in politics and Trump’s nomination and became an independent shortly after leaving the House. He is now an NBC News and MSNBC contributor and in May was named executive chairman of the Serve America Movement, which is working to create a viable third political party.
Starting out: Jolly has been interested in civics, history and politics as long as he can remember. “I was in middle school, early high school, and when other kids would come home from school and go out and play, I would come home and watch CNN,” he said. “I joke I’ve tried to quit politics two or three times — legitimately tried to leave politics altogether. And it drags me back in. And so we’re going to have, or are given, the desires of our hearts. Mine happens to be politics and public affairs. And I don’t imagine I’ll ever be able to quit it.”
Most unforgettable campaign moment: Jolly had worked in and around the Hill for 20 years when his boss, Republican Rep. Bill Young, died and Jolly was tapped to run in a 2014 special election to replace him. The abbreviated race for Florida’s 13th District attracted millions of dollars and intense interest from both parties’ campaign committees and outside groups. The week before the election, the NRCC’s communications director, who was working from Jolly’s office, stepped outside to take a call. “I saw her step outside, and she got in this fairly intense, long conversation for about 20 minutes,” Jolly recalled, noting that he was immediately suspicious in part because she was standing on the lawn of the office park, where people didn’t generally linger. The next day, Politico published a story, sourced to “a half-dozen Washington Republicans,” calling Jolly’s campaign team “inept” and “Keystone Kops” and predicting his defeat. “What had been a brokered peace between our campaign and the NRCC for months just broke apart that weekend before the election,” he said. “And ultimately, we proved the NRCC wrong, and we won the race. That relationship never healed.”
Biggest campaign regret: In the primary for his special election, Jolly allowed his advisers to convince him to run negative ads against his opponent. “It didn’t reflect the goodwill I had built in the community,” he said. With the election date in early January, the first mailers slamming his opponent hit mailboxes as voters were getting Christmas cards, he said. Jolly’s flyers were Christmas-themed, a detail he now finds especially embarrassing. “Immediately, the people I knew and trusted the most, they were the ones who said, ‘Hey, David, this isn’t you. Why’d you do this?’” he said.
Unconventional wisdom: Jolly described himself as a “Pollyanna,” for still believing in the type of in-person campaigning often referred to as retail politics, contrary to data that shows the value is marginal, he said. “The realization that virtually all of politics is decided in a low- to medium-information space is very difficult for me to accept,” he said. “That’s not the voters’ fault. The voters should have a certain level of trust in their government, and in their candidates, to not have to study it every day. And nobody should have that expectation that voters do so. But what’s disappointing is to see the vast majority of candidates, the successful candidates, who then are happy to work within that low- to medium-information space and never step outside of it.”
Do you know someone who works in campaigns whom we should feature for Shop Talk? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of 5 a.m. Friday, many pandemic-related restrictions that Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed on restaurants, gyms, churches and schools will be lifted. The mask mandate for the House floor remains in place, however.
Subscribe now using this link so you don’t miss out on the best news and analysis from our team.