At the Races: The other deadline today

Posted September 30, 2021 at 2:30pm, Updated at 4:02pm

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By Kate Ackley, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin

Rep. Brad Schneider dispatched an email this morning with a foreboding subject line that accurately sums up the state of affairs on Capitol Hill: “critical deadline today.” 

Only the Illinois Democrat wasn’t referring to today’s cutoff for lawmakers to extend funding to keep the federal government operating past midnight — which both chambers passed this afternoon. Nor did he mention this week’s crush of other legislative crises: partisan brinkmanship over raising the nation’s debt limit to avoid potentially catastrophic economic consequences or the Democratic infighting over a bipartisan infrastructure deal and a massive reconciliation package that has further exposed a rift between progressives and moderate-leaning members.  

No, the deadline in Schneider’s email was today’s third-quarter fundraising endpoint. It’s a reminder that with all that’s happening on Capitol Hill, next year’s midterm elections remain top of mind.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the NRSC, managed to combine an ominous end-of-quarter fundraising appeal with a nod to Democrats’ legislative agenda, writing that “if we allow Democrats to UNDO President Trump’s accomplishments and take us down this dark path, the American people, like YOU, will suffer.”

And a joint solicitation from California Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Josh Harder, a top target of Republicans in 2022, appealed to would-be donors with this opening: “preventing a nightmare.” The nightmare, Schiff said, would be a GOP-controlled House; and he added that “the decline in our democracy that began under Trump will only accelerate” in that case. 

The fix, of course, is a donation to Harder’s campaign, according to the appeal. The takeaway? Perhaps it’s that, for lawmakers, campaign money solves everything. 

Starting gate

Air cover: Democratic outside groups are investing big money, including $1.6 million from House Majority Forward, on advertising aimed at potentially vulnerable House members as the party tries to rescue its $3.5 trillion reconciliation package in the face of internal divisions and multimillion-dollar attacks from Republican groups.

Staying neutral: Retiring GOP senators have mostly avoided picking favorites in the primaries to replace them, but some are considering weighing in, with the Senate majority on the line.

He’s running: Longtime Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley announced late last week that he is running for an eighth term. The 88-year-old Republican said in a statement, “In a time of crisis and polarization, Iowa needs strong, effective leadership.”

She will: After weeks of will-she-or-won’t-she speculation, California Democrat Karen Bass officially announced that she will give up her influential position in the House Democratic Caucus at the end of the term to run for Los Angeles mayor 

On the docket: The Supreme Court will hear Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to a limitation on when candidates can repay themselves money they loaned their campaigns.

Friend or foe:  Business lobbies, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, blasted House Republicans for their opposition to a bipartisan-in-the-Senate infrastructure bill. But House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy questioned whether the chamber really is a political ally anymore, saying: “I think they probably changed.”  

ICYMI

Democratic networking: The Democratic National Committee is hosting a symposium this week aimed at connecting party organizations with campaign vendors run by people of color, as part of an effort to diversify the ranks of staffers who work on campaigns. The committee is partnering with the DCCC, the DSCC and the Democratic Governors Association for the event, and more than 100 people registered to attend. “It’s not enough for our staff to be diverse, but our vendors and partners must be too,” Tamara Chrisler, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the DNC, said in a statement to At the Races. “This is a responsibility that the entire Democratic family shares, but the DNC recognizes and accepts the important role we must play.”

Ad checkup: A nonprofit flooding TV airwaves with ads against negotiating drug prices has extensive ties to the drug industry’s main lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, CQ Roll Call’s Emily Kopp reports.

On your left: Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but two different groups said today that they are seeking to oust her in a primary. Progressives see Sinema as a roadblock to President Joe Biden’s agenda. Nuestro PAC announced an effort to draft Rep. Ruben Gallego to take on Sinema. And the Primary Sinema PAC launched today, seeking to “fund grassroots efforts in Arizona to hold U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema accountable and prepare to mount a viable primary challenge against her,” according to a press release.

GOP Senate news: In Pennsylvania, Craig Snyder, an anti-Trump lobbyist and political consultant, ended his bid for the GOP Senate nomination. Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told Politico he isn’t interested in running for Senate next year. And in Oklahoma, GOP Sen. James Lankford drew another primary challenger with state Sen. Nathan Dahm launching a run.

California votin’: Pandemic-driven changes, including mailing ballots to every voter, will become permanent in California under a package of measures signed this week by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. And Sen. Alex Padilla will appear on the California ballot twice next year, thanks to a new law that changed how the state addresses Senate vacancies. Newsom appointed Padilla to the Senate after Kamala Harris became vice president. Under the new law, Padilla now has to run in a special election to serve out the final few months of Harris’ term, while also running for a full term in 2022.

Don’t we know you? Former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, is “preparing for” a rematch against GOP Rep. Scott Perry but will wait to see the state’s new congressional map, The Patriot-News reports. Perry, a DCCC target, beat DePasquale by 7 points last fall. DePesquale told the paper that he thinks voters will penalize Perry for leading the call against certifying the state’s Electoral College votes in January. President Donald Trump carried the district by 3 points in 2020, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. Perry also faces a primary challenge from Brian Allen, an associate professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, who says he wants to move the GOP past the Trump era.

And you: Retired Army pilot Wesley Hunt, a top GOP recruit in 2020, announced he would run in a new Houston-area district instead of seeking a rematch against Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher after seeing the draft map released by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. The proposed 38th District would take in pieces of neighboring GOP-held districts while Fletcher’s competitive 7th District would become more solidly Democratic. 

And you: Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner has filed paperwork with the FEC for a 2022 primary rematch against Democrat Shontel Brown, who beat her in a special election primary this summer that pitted the national Democratic Party’s progressive and establishment wings against each other. The state’s legislature hasn’t approved its new congressional map, but the new 11th District is expected to take in the entire city of Cleveland, where Turner, a progressive, outperformed Brown, Cleveland.com reports.  

RIP: The Sept. 21 death of former 12-term New York GOP Rep. Sherwood Boehlert inspired a tribute from the editorial board of syracuse.com, which lauded his “ spirit of centrism, compromise and service to others” and called him “one of the last of New York’s Rockefeller Republicans.”

A new Law & Order (campaign) season? The FBI released data earlier this week showing that the murder rate between 2019 and 2020 increased more than it had previously from one year to the next. Though criminologists, cops and advocates for criminal justice overhauls haven’t come to a consensus as to what drove that uptick, Republican political groups wasted no time in blasting out their theory. “Democrats across the country defunded the police and caused a massive spike in violent crime,” NRCC spokesman Mike Berg said in one representative missive. “Unfortunately, Democrats in Congress still support this radical policy.” Given that murders this year also appear to be on the increase, we expect to hear more of such messaging when it comes to the midterm campaigns.

Out of ‘Trump World’: The Trump-aligned super PAC Make America Great Again Action has cut ties with Corey Lewandowski following a Politico report on sexual misconduct allegations from a donor. Lewandowski “will no longer be associated with Trump World,” said spokesman Taylor Budowich, according to The New York Times

In Memoriam: Burdett “Bird” Loomis, a longtime political science professor at the University of Kansas and author of several books on politics, Congress and interest groups, died recently at the age of 76. Loomis, who dropped in on the nation’s capital periodically to connect with political insiders, understood politics and lobbying like few others in academia. Lawmakers who attack lobbyists on the campaign trail are most often being disingenuous, he once told Roll Call: They “rely upon the information from lobbyists, and there are no virgins here at all.”

What we’re reading

‘Complete and total’ control: Stu Rothenberg looks at how Trump’s endorsements in Senate races are part of his effort to control the GOP, since he prioritizes candidates “who reflect his style and agenda, and who place loyalty to Trump above all else.” But, Stu writes, Trump’s endorsement can also be a “double-edged sword.”

An elegy for bipartisanship: With Congress in chaos mode, and major legislative priorities hanging in the balance, Lee Drutman asks in FiveThirtyEight, is bipartisanship dead

Personal priority: New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, a top Republican target in 2022, tells The 19th* that she is pushing for more Medicaid funding in Democrats’ reconciliation bill to support home care for seniors and people with disabilities. For Hassan, the issue is personal

Proxy primary war no more? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw some cold water on speculation that GOP Senate primaries could become proxy wars between him and Trump, telling Politico of the former president’s preferred Senate candidates, “I don’t believe they’re troubling.” McConnell, for example, said he believes Herschel Walker could be a good candidate in Georgia, despite some Republicans voicing concerns about Walker’s troubled past. 

About-face: The New York Times traces the political transformation of Harriet Hageman, who was among Trump’s final and fiercest GOP critics in 2016 but now has his backing in her primary challenge to Republican Liz Cheney in Wyoming’s at-large district.  

No working class heroes? Democrats hoping to win back white, non-college-educated voters by focusing on how the Biden agenda — if they can get it enacted — improves their economic status won’t find a lot to like in Emory professor Alan Abramowitz’s analysis of data from the 2020 American National Election Study. Writing in Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Abramowitz concludes that white, working-class voters’ rejection of the Democratic Party is “fundamentally ideological” and that “makes it very unlikely that Democrats will be able to win back large numbers of white working class voters by appealing to their economic self-interest.”

The count: 4

That’s the number of new House seats whose boundaries are coming into focus as states finish drawing districts. Oregon, the first state to finalize its maps, put its new 6th District in an area that backed Biden over Trump by 13 points. The Texas map released last week is a first draft, but with Republicans in control of the process, there isn’t much that Democrats can do to force revisions beyond challenging it in court — as they are likely to do. Under the current iteration, the state’s new 37th and 38th districts would be in the Austin and Houston areas, with one favoring Democrats and the other Republicans — while shoring up Republican-held districts in other parts of the state. And Colorado’s independent redistricting commission agreed on a map Tuesday that puts the state’s new 8th District, which Biden would have narrowly carried, in an area that spreads north from Denver to Greeley. That map still must go to the state Supreme Court for final approval.

Nathan’s notes

A competitive race for governor in a state Biden carried by 10 points will drive the narrative in the 2022 midterms, Nathan L. Gonzales says in changing the Inside Elections rating of the Terry McAuliffe-Glenn Youngkin race in Virginia from Likely to Lean Democratic..

Candidate confessions

The long wait for many states still working on their congressional district lines, following delays in the 2020 census, means some lawmakers are waiting to make big decisions about their political futures. Take Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican who hasn’t ruled out a gubernatorial bid, depending on how his new district shakes out. “We’ll see what the Dems are doing,” he told our colleague Jim Saksa, who caught up with the congressman during a practice session for Wednesday’s Congressional Baseball Game. “I can’t believe we’re still waiting on maps.” But, Davis confided, “The more they wait, the better it is for us because we’re going to start raising money.” In Illinois, Democrats, who control the state legislature, rule the redistricting process.

Shop talk: Marjorie Dannenfelser

Dannenfelser is the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, which raised more than $61 million in the 2020 cycle along with its super PAC, Women Speak Out. She also served as national co-chair of the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition during the 2020 and 2016 campaigns. 

Starting out: Dannenfelser was a high school senior in Greenville, N.C., in 1984 when she became an ardent supporter of “dark horse” GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Martin, a Davidson College chemistry professor turned state legislator. “They couldn’t really find anybody to drive them around. … And so I was tapped,” she recalled. Dannenfelser said she spent entire days with Martin in her “completely destroyed” Mazda GLC, with all her college books in the back seat, listening to “Dream Weaver” on the eight-track player. “ I just found him engaging and thought, ‘Wow. This is a really smart, engaging person that I wish had a shot at winning,’” she said. “And as it turns out, he did win. It totally shocked everyone.” Dannenfelser had never known anyone else who ran for public office, she said. “And I thought, well, if this is politics, I’m all for it. Now, of course, he was not necessarily the model that I saw in subsequent years every single time.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: “Hands down, it was the night Trump won,” she said. “It was an evolving unforgettableness because it was, of course, all through the night. … And we worked very hard for him, going door to door in our biggest turnout operation ever, which has since grown, but then it was our biggest. We put all the chips on the table, every single thing we could do, even though no one thought that he would prevail. And he did. We were at my office. On election night, we always have all these computer screens up. There’s a war room, there’s a bar, there’s food. … People would just keep coming back from the war room to the bar saying, ‘You’ve got to come in here and look at what’s happening.’ And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the most rewarding parts of the night was seeing the very sad faces on the White House porch when it looked like he was going to win.”

Biggest campaign regret: SBA List endorsed North Carolina Republican Renee Ellmers in her 2010 race against Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge. “For the Susan B. Anthony List, what she was, was the ideal,” Dannenfelser said. “A nurse, a really strong pro-life woman who knew how to campaign. … And in the beginning, it was great news. She promised, ‘I’m so courageous that I don’t care what anybody thinks. I’m going to lead from my heart and mind, no fear.’ And then, not long after, she completely threw the pro-life movement under the bus.” Ellmers infuriated some anti-abortion activists in 2015 when she helped stall a House bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks over concerns about exceptions for rape victims. “You couldn’t have betrayed the pro-life movement more than that,” Dannenfelser said. Ellmers ended up running against fellow GOP Rep. George Holding in 2016, when a redrawn congressional map put them in the same district. SBA List endorsed Holding, the first time that the group had ever backed a man over a woman opposed to abortion rights. 

Unconventional wisdom: The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Dec. 1 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a potential challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. “There is a potential revolution coming that’s going to upset politics in a foundational way,” Dannenfelser said. “If we win the Dobbs decision and Roe is overturned, or even just crippled, that means that there’s going to be a springtime of legislation passed all over the country and new priorities on a federal level that are ambitious, and that actually could go into law. … You’re going to have to figure out what you think, figure out if you think, ‘is it all abortions that should be allowed or that should be prevented? Or is it just after the first trimester.’ Whatever it is, candidates are going to have to really figure out, if they haven’t already, what they’re willing to go to the mat on, what they’re going to defend. I would not have said that any time other than now.”

Do you know someone who works in campaigns whom we should feature for Shop Talk? Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com.

Coming up

As we noted, today is the last day of the third fundraising quarter. House and Senate campaigns are due to file their third-quarter reports, which covers July through September, to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15.

Photo finish

Texas Rep. Roger Williams, who manages the Republican baseball team, said ahead of last night’s game that if Republicans broke their losing streak, “We’ll send a message for November.” The game may turn out to be a metaphor for the midterms come 2022: Biden loomed large, Democrats put up a spirited fight, some new stars emerged, both sides made plenty of unforced errors, and Republicans ultimately emerged victorious. In the meantime, Republican players such as Utah Rep. Blake Moore, seen celebrating after an inside-the-park home run as Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, the Democratic catcher, looks down, can bask in the glory of their win. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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