At the Races: Pick your ‘R’ word

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At the Races: Pick your ‘R’ word

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we 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.

Republican operatives, blindsided by Wednesday’s news that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III had thrown his support behind a new reconciliation deal that includes climate and tax measures, jumped on troubling economic reports — and wasted no time in attacking Democrats’ latest compromise. Though the revamped measure, once known as “Build Back Better,” has assumed an anti-inflation moniker, Republicans said the new bill would hurt the economy, which they argued was already in recession. 

“Families need relief, but Democrats’ only solution is doubling down on the same failed policies that got us here in the first place,” Calvin Moore, communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, House Republicans’ chief super PAC, said in a morning email missive. 

The conservative Club for Growth launched a new ad this morning attacking President Joe Biden and Democrats’ policies for causing a recession, even as policymakers argued about the definition of a recession. Data released Thursday showed the nation’s economy did contract for the second quarter in a row, but Democrats point to low unemployment to combat the use of the word “recession.” The club said its six-figure digital and TV ad would run in pivotal battleground states: Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina. 

GOP candidates seized on the economic news. Joe O’Dea, the Republican challenging Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, issued a statement saying the contracting economy was “what happens when politicians like Michael Bennet and Joe Biden engage in reckless government spending.”

For their part, Democrats said Manchin’s turnaround, giving new hope to a slimmed-down but still sweeping bill, would buoy their party’s candidates on the campaign trail. “The Inflation Reduction Act will improve the lives of working Americans — full stop,” Danielle Melfi, executive director of the outside group Building Back Together, said in a news release. Democrats will need to smooth out internal disagreements over such matters as a current cap on state and local tax deductions. New York and New Jersey lawmakers have threatened to oppose any bill that adjusts the tax code but doesn’t offer SALT relief, reports CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson. Manchin opposes lifting the SALT cap, she notes. 

Senate Democrats plan to take up the measure in earnest next week, even as the chamber seems to be experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. Manchin himself has COVID-19. And Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said he tested positive, the latest in a string of infections — including Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski — that could disrupt the schedule.

Starting gate

Family ties: Principled Leadership for Michigan, one of several super PACs supporting Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, appears to have received $500,000 from Meijer’s father, as of July 13. The group’s spending has spiked ahead of next Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Big spenders: The midterm elections are fueling work on K Street, as lobbyists prepare for divided government in the next Congress, with Republicans favored to win control of the House. 

Talk the talk: House Democrats courting Latinos in the midterm elections announced a seven-figure ad campaign Thursday that uses regional dialects, accents and themes to connect to voters in battleground districts.  

Coming up: Details will come in September, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the Donald Trump-headlined America First Agenda summit that his conference would unveil an agenda of what it would do if given control, and it includes defunding “any prosecutor who doesn’t uphold the law,” CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski reports.

They’re out: Some of the standout players in the annual Republicans vs. Democrats Congressional Baseball Game, which is happening tonight, won’t be able to play next year because of retirements and the midterm elections, analyst Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

ICYMI

Fund the police: In an exclusive to At the Races, Democrats Serve PAC, which backs Democrats with public service backgrounds, announced 10 new House endorsements. Nine are incumbents who recently signed on to a letter urging House leadership to boost police funding. Robert Asencio, the one candidate who is not an incumbent, is a retired police captain running in Florida’s 28th District. The rest are Reps Kim Schrier, in Washington’s 8th District, a former EPA staffer;  Ro Khanna, in California’s 17th, a former professor and White House staffer; Sylvia R. Garcia, in Texas’ 29th, a former social worker and judge; André Carson, in Indiana’s 7th, a former law enforcement official; Chrissy Houlahan, in Pennsylvania’s 6th, a former educator; Josh Gottheimer, in New Jersey’s 5th, a former White House speechwriter; Dan Kildee, in Michigan’s 8th, a former county treasurer; Jimmy Panetta, in California’s 19th, a former deputy district attorney; and Ed Case, in Hawaii’s 1st, a former Capitol Hill staffer.

Speaking of endorsements: Ahead of Wyoming’s Aug. 16 primary, GOP Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Harriet Hageman, the Trump-backed primary opponent of Rep. Liz Cheney. The gun-control group Brady PAC endorsed Michael Franken, the Democrat challenging Iowa GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley. The conservative group FreedomWorks for America endorsed Republican Sandy Smith in North Carolina’s 1st District, while the moderate NewDem Action fund endorsed Wiley Nickel in North Carolina’s 13th and Jared Moskowitz in Florida’s 23rd. The pro-Israel DFMI PAC, which has played big in Democratic primaries, included vulnerable Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Reps. Cindy Axne of Iowa and Jared Golden of Maine in its first round of general election endorsements. The group also backed Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman, while Fetterman endorsed Democrat Lucas Kunce in next week’s Missouri Senate primary.   

Hawlin: After the Jan. 6 committee released footage of GOP Sen. Josh Hawley fleeing the Senate chamber hours after he had riled up the crowd outside the Capitol earlier that day, the Missouri Democratic Party announced a “Hawlin’ Hawley 5k run.” Kunce, who is vying for the state’s other Senate seat, also trolled Hawley, tweeting a picture of himself running cross country while a student at Yale University with the caption, “Josh Hawley and I both know how to run.”

Then there were two: The once-crowded Democratic primary to take on Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson narrowed to two major candidates this week after Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson dropped out and endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Barnes, a progressive, has consistently polled at the top of the pack. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, meanwhile, who had been absent from the airwaves for weeks, released a TV ad calling out Democrats she said had not prioritized reproductive rights in time to protect the federal right to an abortion.  

Dueling polls: Polling shows New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is leading his primary challenger, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, Politico reports. While the DCCC chair’s polling shows he has maintained a sizable lead against Biaggi, her team’s internal polling shows a tightening race ahead of an Aug. 23 primary.

Hulu gets political: The Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday that its Hulu service would start taking political ads. “Disney is now aligning Hulu’s political advertising policies to be consistent with the Company’s general entertainment and sports cable networks and ESPN+. Hulu will now accept candidate and issue advertisements covering a wide spectrum of policy positions, but reserves the right to request edits or alternative creative, in alignment with industry standards,” the company said in a statement. Axios has more on that development.

Abortion on the ballot: Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn, a former House member, focused on Oklahoma’s abortion ban in the first ad of her Senate campaign in the deeply conservative state. “Her ad is an important indicator of how far this extremism on abortion has gone that now conservative statewide races are running on the issue because it is so dangerous,” a campaign spokesman said in a statement. “Even in a state like Oklahoma, Republican and Independent women are being moved on the issue.” In neighboring Kansas, Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids released a digital ad highlighting her GOP opponent Amanda Adkins’ support of a ballot referendum before voters next week that would strip abortion rights from the state constitution. 

Ad buy: The conservative advocacy group American Action Network announced a $2 million ad buy across five House districts urging Democratic Reps. Frank J. Mrvan, in Indiana’s 1st District, Chris Pappas, in New Hampshire’s 1st, Ann McLane Kuster, in New Hampshire’s 2nd, Marcy Kaptur, in Ohio’s 9th, and Cindy Axne, in Iowa’s 3rd, to support a Republican-offered energy bill.

Money talks: AdImpact analyzes pre-booked spending on the midterm elections. 

A way back?: The Kansas City Star takes a close look at the 18 months between the time Eric Greitens resigned as governor in disgrace and when he announced his GOP Senate bid. “Now, Greitens is attempting to push his way to the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, as old scandals resurface and new ones unfold. While late polls show Greitens may be fading, his effort could serve as a test for whether scandals still matter in American politics — and whether there’s a path to victory for a scandal-plagued and unapologetic former president in 2024.”

Showing up? When J.D. Vance took the stage at a conservative conference recently, it should have prompted sighs of relief from Republicans hoping to see the Ohio GOP Senate candidate hit the campaign trail harder, the Daily Beast reports in a deep dive on criticism of Vance’s campaign. There was just one problem: the stage Vance took was in Israel, 6,000 miles away from the Buckeye State. 

Deal or no deal: Election law professor Richard L. Hasen writes in Slate that Democrats should “jump at” a deal with Republicans to revamp the Electoral Count Act. 

On the trail: Bloomberg Government looks at how Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee faces a more difficult reelection this cycle in a district that became more Republican after redistricting.

Extreme: Republican Joe Kent, who is challenging Washington GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in an all-party primary in the 3rd District, is one of a handful of GOP challengers who could be seen as “too extreme,” even in a favorable political environment for Republicans, The Associated Press writes. 

The count: 136%

That’s the increase in contributions from the financial services industry to Rep. Patrick T. McHenry in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. The North Carolina Republican announced in April he would seek the Financial Services Committee’s gavel if the GOP takes House control in November, and in the second quarter he raised $366,000 from the financial sector, compared with $155,000 in the first quarter, CQ Roll Call’s Caitlin Reilly reports. 

Nathan’s notes

Just because Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence have been on opposite sides in some GOP primaries and Pence’s favorite won, that doesn’t mean Pence has a shot at being the presidential nominee in 2024, Nathan writes.

Candidate confessions

New York Democrat Pat Ryan, the Ulster County executive who is running in a special election next month to complete the rest of Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado’s term in the 19th District, says the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Dobbs case overturning Roe v. Wade has energized voters in his district. It’s also led to some emotional moments while campaigning, he said, including meeting a man named Darrell, who owns a clothing store in the district. 

“I told him I was running and the local official I was with introduced me, and he almost immediately started crying and thanked me for running and said he and his partner have been struggling for basically their whole lives being openly gay and how the discrimination they’ve experienced, especially in that community, and how scared they were after the Dobbs decision and reading Justice [Clarence] Thomas’ clear signaling that they were going to come after LGBTQ rights and others next,” Ryan recalled. “He was, like, in the middle of his own store, with customers in there, just completely lost it. But also was like, genuinely, like, in the fight.”

Shop talk: Evan Berryhill

Berryhill was deputy communications director for GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign before joining the Firehouse Strategies public affairs firm this month as vice president of its Florida team. He has also worked in political communications for the Republican political training organization GOPAC and as a communications consultant for West Virginia GOP Rep. David B. McKinley.

Starting out: McKinley was Berryhill’s local congressman, so he applied for an internship thinking he could commute five minutes to the regional office and eventually go to law school. “The guy who was hiring was — and he’s a good friend of mine now — it’s kind of a funny story. But he was like, ‘Oh, we only do D.C. internships,’ because they needed interns in their D.C. office.” Berryhill had some money saved and said he was fortunate enough to have some help from his parents, so he moved to D.C. to work in the office, only to find out later that he could have worked in the district office. “It was the best lie I think anybody’s ever told. It kind of resulted in making some great connections, and some really great friends and mentors, and it kind of set me on the career path.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Berryhill was one of the first people hired for DeSantis’ reelection bid, and he had been working on it for months  before the news release officially launching the campaign went out. “I remember the anticipation that day, you had been up all night … when the press release went out early in the morning, and you’re just kind of like, ‘OK, this is a thing now, you know, this is up and running. And this machine is now moving,’” he said. “We were just in our office. And it was one of those things where we get it queued up. And everybody’s separately in their own offices. … And it goes out. And then, of course, as a comms person, your first reaction is, I need to immediately open it up and make sure that there’s not a typo or a comma or something that I’m gonna look back on and just have nightmares about … even though I’ve looked at it 500 times, to make sure that I just didn’t screw anything up.” 

Biggest campaign regret: “I received advice at one time about working in a presidential administration, and they said, if the opportunity should ever present itself to work in an administration, and especially if you haven’t done it before, you really should take it because you don’t know when that opportunity is ever going to come again. It could be four years, eight years, 12 years, you don’t know when your party is going to have control of the White House again. And when they do get control of the White House again, where are you in life, are you going to be in a place where you can go back and do that. … I look back sometimes and think, you know, I wish I maybe would have made more of an effort to get into the administration.”

Unconventional wisdom: “I tend to subscribe to the idea that you’re an average of your five best friends,” Berryhill said. “Especially in the political field, who you choose to associate with is just an exceedingly important thing. And it’s something that I try to be very cognizant of, whether that’s who you’re associated with from a personal perspective, or a professional perspective, where you choose to work, the people that you’re friends with, in a professional setting, whatever it may be. Even in a broader sense, look at a company culture or a campaign or whatever it may be. If you’re surrounding yourself with people who work hard, or good people who do the right things, or carry themselves the right way and are high achievers … people who make life fun … if you do that, then things are going to work out for you.”

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

Coming up

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will hold a rally Friday night in Pontiac, Mich., to support Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin, who are on the ballot Tuesday. Voters in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and Washington will also head to the polls Tuesday. 

Photo finish

A woman carries a purse depicting Donald Trump after the former president addressed the America First Policy Institute’s America First Agenda summit at the Marriott Marquis on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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