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At the Races: Contours of post-Roe battleground

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Friday’s March for Life marks the first time that members of the anti-abortion rights movement will journey to the nation’s capital for the annual event since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The Dobbs decision in June pushed abortion to the top tier of issues in last year’s elections, helping Democrats to a better-than-expected midterm elections showing. And it appears that the party will try to keep the focus on abortion rights moving forward.

Democrat Aaron Rouse won a high-profile special election for the Virginia Senate last week, flipping a seat previously held by Republican Jen Kiggans, who is now in Congress. Rouse focused on abortion throughout the campaign, as the seat firms up the state Senate Democrats’ ability to block a 15-week abortion ban sought by GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

Vice President Kamala Harris will speak in Florida on Sunday, on the 50th anniversary of the Roe decision, about the administration’s “continued focus on the fight for reproductive health care and abortion access at the state level,” according to a White House official. 

But if Democrats think new limits on abortion boomeranged on Republicans, the House under its new GOP management doesn’t see it that way. Last week, the House passed on largely party-line votes a resolution that would condemn attacks on anti-abortion advocates and facilities and a bill that would increase protections for babies born after an attempted abortion. The Democrat-led Senate isn’t expected to take up either measure. Republicans have historically taken abortion-related votes around the time of the March for Life when they have been in control of the House. 

Still, it’s notable what House Republicans haven’t yet brought to the floor: a bill that would ban federal funding for abortion, codifying a regular appropriations rider known as the Hyde Amendment.

CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman and Daniela Altimari report today on what moves states could make this year on abortion and the ways Republicans, in particular, are debating how to approach the issue.

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican who flipped a seat in 2020 but faces uncertainty after a court said her district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, initially had questioned the GOP putting such a focus on the issue. But Mace voted for both measures last week and said abortion was the second most important issue in her district last cycle, Raman reports

“I know you can protect women’s rights and the right to life at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive,” she said.

Others are pushing for more aggressive action. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said on a call this week that Republican candidates shouldn’t shy away from the issue.

“If that’s what happens in the coming federal elections, we’ll see the same result,” she said.

Starting gate

A tale of two Senate candidates: They are both Republicans from neighboring red states in the Midwest seeking seats in the Senate. But Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana and state Sen. Matt Dolan of Ohio offer up different visions for 2024.

Bipartisan appeals: Amid friction with some House Republican leaders over endorsements of Democratic candidates, executives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently urged the divided Congress to work across the political aisle on a slate of issues including immigration overhaul and the debt limit increase.

Man in the middle: CQ Roll Call’s Justin Papp sat down with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, the new chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and the  only member of the party’s House leadership team who doesn’t hail from a coastal state. “[T]he issues that we grapple with in the Rocky Mountain West are different from the issues that might be percolating on the Eastern seaboard,’’ Neguse said. “We think about drought, wildfires, public lands protections and preservation, and a myriad of other things. So yeah, I’m excited to be able to speak up for the middle of the country.” 


In the race: California Democratic state Sen. Dave Min has jumped into the race for the 47th Congressional District, which Rep. Katie Porter holds but will vacate to run for Senate in 2024. Former Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda had already said he plans to run for the seat, and GOP candidate Scott Baugh, who lost to Porter in 2022, said he’s going to try again. Porter is taking sides, throwing her support behind Min, NBC News reports.  

New ActBlue CEO: ActBlue said tech executive Regina Wallace-Jones will be its next CEO and president, replacing Erin Hill, who led the contribution-processing organization favored by Democratic candidates for 14 years. Wallace-Jones previously worked at Lendstreet, Mindbody, eBay, Facebook and Yahoo.

#WVSen: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said he’s “seriously considering” running for Senate next year. GOP Rep. Alex X. Mooney has already said he will seek the party’s nomination to face Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III

Illegal coordination?: A series of emails obtained by The Boston Globe appear to suggest that Jim Lyons, the head of the Massachusetts Republican Party, communicated directly with an outside political action committee about opposition research on Democrat Maura T. Healey, who was elected governor in November. Such coordination would violate state election law. 

Cooper running again: Republican Kelly Cooper announced he is running again for the House seat occupied by Arizona Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton, the Arizona Republic reported. Unresolved questions about Cooper’s finances and financial disclosures remain.

McCormick may run again: Former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick may be laying the groundwork to seek to challenge Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2024, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. McCormick lost a bitterly contested GOP primary for the nomination for the commonwealth’s open seat last year to Mehmet Oz, who ultimately lost to now-Sen. John Fetterman. 

Spiked: The Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint by the Republican Party committees that Google’s spam filter was an illegal campaign contribution to Democrats because — a study cited by the GOP said — Gmail sent more Republican emails to the spam folder, The Wall Street Journal reports

Debate season: Republican National Committee officials asked major television networks if they would be interested in hosting presidential debates ahead of the Republican primaries, beginning as soon as this summer, according to The New York Times. 

Fighting for first: A group of New Hampshire Democrats, including former Gov. John Lynch and former Reps. Paul Hodes and Carol Shea Porter, made an appeal to President Joe Biden in a letter not to move the state out of the early primary lineup if it doesn’t meet certain requirements, which they say is unlikely. The 22 Democrats write in a letter that they are “especially concerned about how this will impact your re-election.” They warn that Republicans could weaponize any changes to the schedule.

New fundraising firm: Kenneth Mika, a former director of email marketing for the Republican National Committee who worked on President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, launched a new digital political fundraising outfit called Politicoin, according to a news release.

What we’re reading

Stu says: Control of the House and Senate has never flipped in opposite directions in the same election before, but it could happen next year, Stuart Rothenberg notes. Along with highlighting Democrats’ precarious position in the Senate (see also “Nathan’s notes” below), Stu points out that House Republicans will be defending more districts Biden won in 2020 than Democrats will be defending districts Trump won.

Political money man: The collapse of FTX and arrest of its CEO and mega political donor Sam Bankman-Fried on fraud finance charges may spur big changes in the cryptocurrency industry, but the scandal isn’t likely to lead to an overhaul of campaign finance laws, NBC News reports

Internal affairs: Semafor looks at the contenders vying for the Republican National Committee’s top slot, asking sources “why does anyone want to reelect” Ronna McDaniel? 

Far-right friends: The New York Times reports that embattled Rep. George Santos has aligned himself with the House Freedom Caucus, sitting with some of the group’s members on the House floor and appearing on Steve Bannon’s podcast when it was guest hosted by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz

Santos speaks out: In the days since he was sworn in as a member of Congress, Santos has remained largely silent about allegations that he fabricated his résumé and personal narrative. But on Thursday, he responded to a report by a freelance reporter that the Republican used to dress in drag. “The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,’’ Santos tweeted. “I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.” 

Working class rep: Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, the auto repair shop owner who narrowly flipped a Republican-leaning district in Washington state, tells Politico that Democrats have forgotten the middle class. “It feels like the Democratic Party, especially wealthy leadership in the Democratic Party, has taken it upon themselves to be champions of the poorest of the poor,’’ Gluesenkamp Pérez said. “And I think that’s great, but I think that it has left a lot of people in the middle class feeling like people don’t understand the issues we’re facing.” 

The count: $1.4 million

That’s how much Indiana Rep. Jim Banks had in his campaign account after winning reelection to a fourth term by 35 points in November. He’ll be able to use all of it for the Senate campaign he announced on Tuesday, but he might spend it differently. His disclosures to the Federal Election Commission show Banks raised $2.6 million for the cycle and spent $1.7 million, with $426,000 going for direct mail, his biggest expense. There was another $276,000 for printing and $77,000 for “caging and escrow,” which we learned this week is having someone open the mail, deposit the checks and update the mailing list. He also spent $228,000 for fundraising consulting, about $68,000 each for compliance consulting and campaign consulting. His total advertising outlay was $45,000, and $28,000 was spent on polling.

Nathan’s notes

The 2024 Senate map tilts so far against the Democrats that former NRSC Chairman Rick Scott of Florida might actually be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent, which is saying something, since, as Nathan L. Gonzales writes, Florida is no longer really a swing state. Democrats will be on defense all over the country.

Candidate confessions

Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce, who logged on for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce discussion last week, offered some real talk during a conversation with former West Virginia GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins, who now serves as the chamber’s senior vice president of government affairs. Joyce filled in Jenkins on the Republican Governance Group — formerly the Tuesday Group — which Joyce described as “comprised of pragmatic members, and we like to call ourselves the majority makers.” He said his fellow governance group members look at policy stances that are more “about making a difference than making a statement.” 

On the debt ceiling, Joyce, an appropriator, told Jenkins that it’s “disconcerting, in that folks think that somehow this is going to be a magic ball and how we change all of government. You know, these are debts that are due. … And we need to honor those debts. And so I agree that the national debt is out of control. It’s time we certainly take it seriously. But we need to start negotiating in good faith with members on both sides of the aisle to talk about what we’re going to do to start getting on the ramp towards getting this good ship America back out towards sea. Right now, we’re unfortunately looking at the iceberg that’s in front of us, but we must stop worrying about the money that was already spent and figure out how we’re going to fix these problems going forward,” he said. He added that lawmakers should use the budget and appropriations process to work out the nation’s fiscal problems “and then start to work on those solutions to that and not coming up and using this as a last minute dodge to actually doing our work over the course of the year.”

Shop talk: Marilyn Musgrave

Musgrave is vice president of government affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the anti-abortion rights group. A Republican, she served three terms in the House and, before that, was a member of the Colorado Senate and House. She has been involved in local, state and federal campaigns for decades. 

Starting out: She traces her interest in politics to her ninth grade government teacher, Mr. O’Brien. “I learned early on that what our elected officials did affected our daily lives and our future,” Musgrave said. “He was a liberal, by the way, but what an incredible teacher.” Later, as a married mother of four, she worked on several campaigns and got involved in local politics. Her first run for public office was for a seat on the local school board. She lost by 10 votes but won on her second try. 

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Musgrave was running for reelection in 2008 when she encountered a stranger on an airplane. “I was coming out of the restroom, and this lady sees me and she just lights up,” Musgrave recalled. “She’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m standing right next to you’ and ‘I’m so glad you’re running.’ She was effusive in her praise.”

After a few moments, Musgrave realized her fellow passenger had mixed her up with her Democratic opponent, Betsy Markey. “At first, I was just aghast, and then I thought, ‘Oh, let’s just go with this,’ so I thanked her profusely and sat down,” Musgrave said. She wound up losing the election to Markey but the experience served as a reminder that “you don’t want to take yourself too seriously” in politics.

Biggest campaign regret: “There have been many disappointments along the way,” she said, citing her own electoral losses as well as those of fellow Colorado Republicans. But her big-picture regret is Colorado’s overall shift from a Republican-leaning state to one where Democrats hold all statewide offices and control both legislative chambers. “Seeing my state go blue with all these liberal policies [is] my biggest regret,” she said. “I want my state back.”

Unconventional wisdom: Stand by your principles, take the tough votes and hold your head high, she said. “Baptisms by fire are good for you,” she said. “Get a thick skin and, no matter how discouraged you get, realize with a heart of gratitude that this is the best thing going in the whole world. What a blessing.”

Coming up

The first March for Life since the Supreme Court struck down the Roe v. Wade decision happens on Friday afternoon, while VP Harris speaks in Florida Sunday to mark the Roe ruling’s 50th anniversary.

Photo finish

Senate candidate and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., stands between someone in a pig costume and then-Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., as then-Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina speaks at a news conference held by Citizens Against Government Waste in 2017. The event marked the release of the 2017 Congressional Pig Book, which identified pork-barrel spending. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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