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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.

A lot happened this week — elections in Wisconsin, Chicago and Denver, plus a historic indictment of a former president — and just about every candidate, outside group and pundit wants to figure out what it means. We’re not convinced that any of this week’s results actually can foretell the outcomes of next year’s elections. But here’s a roundup of some larger themes. 

As much as Democrats decry money in politics, it’s worth noting that the party’s allies outspent the GOP side in the highly watched Wisconsin Supreme Court election (where liberal Janet Protasiewicz won by double digits). 

Republican operatives have taken notice. “We lost on money and message, it’s that simple,” was one of the conclusions in a Twitter thread by Michael Duncan, a founding partner at Cavalry LLC whose campaign work has included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. With Protasiewicz’s win, the University of Virginia’s Sabato Crystal Ball shifted its rating in Wisconsin’s 1st District (from safe Republican to likely Republican).   

Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin told us the Wisconsin election indicates that abortion rights and pro-democracy messaging “remain highly potent for Democrats.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called the Badger State’s result “a warning for 2024.” 

With up- and down-ballot Republican candidates focusing a lot of attention on transgender policies, Geoff Wetrosky of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said in a news release that Protasiewicz’s victory “should be a clear message to candidates everywhere: Extremist, anti-equality messages may resonate with a vocal minority of far-right radicals, but they don’t win elections — especially in battleground states.”

Not that we’re actually counting, but there are 579 days before Election Day 2024. These themes may be top of mind for voters, or not, by then.

Starting gate

DCCC targets: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified 33 seats as initial targets for next year’s elections, including several swing seats in states like New York and California, as well as members who are Trump allies, like Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Anna Paulina Luna of Florida. 

Florida man charged: Trump’s indictment drew a few House members to Lower Manhattan to voice their views, but ahead of the charges being unsealed, many members in battleground seats stayed away from the issue or found a way to criticize the prosecutor while not defending the ex-president. Friction over the case was already growing in the Capitol and could spill into the process of setting appropriations for the Justice Department, CQ Roll Call’s Ryan Tarinelli and Michael Macagnone write. Meanwhile, CQ Roll Call columnist John T. Bennett compares the Trump case to President Richard Nixon’s.

Biden’s business as usual: The White House tried to carry on with its regular agenda even as the bulk of media attention was in New York and at Mar-a-Lago. And CQ Roll Call’s report on the current president’s day Tuesday gained some international interest, getting picked up as far away as Ghana.

Backlash?: The Republican Party’s preoccupation with transgender individuals may galvanize its evangelical base. But our colleague Jim Saksa interviewed analysts who said the enthusiasm for restricting the rights and health care of about 0.6 percent of the American population risks putting off swing voters.

Moran in the middle: As he prepared to launch Moran Global Strategies, a new lobbying firm, former Virginia Rep. Jim Moran pondered the increased polarization of politics, Virginia’s shift from red to purple and the rise of a new generation of leaders. “I myself would probably have had a tough time in a Democratic primary these days,” said Moran, a moderate Democrat who helped found the New Democrat Coalition.

Reaching rural: Vermont Sen. Peter Welch tells Saksa that his home state’s “small and intimate” size means that he spends a lot of time in rural areas. “I get an opportunity to reach out and show my profound respect for our rural communities. I think the Democrats have to pay much more attention to rural America, to connect,” Welch said


Hard-boiled: Rejecting suggestions that inflation and avian flu would make potatoes or even rocks a better choice, the Biden White House will stick with tradition and use 30,000 eggs at its post-Easter celebration with children and their families Monday, CQ Roll Call’s Ellyn Ferguson reports.

Dropped out: Following Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s decision to enter the race for mayor of Houston, former Harris County elections chief Chris Hollins ended his bid for mayor and said he will run for city controller instead.

Rosen’s running: Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen formally launched her reelection campaign Wednesday. Rosen, a first-term senator, previously served in the House. Her decision to run for a second term was expected.

Endorsement watch: Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president, becoming the second House Republican to back DeSantis, who is not yet an official candidate. EMILY’s List endorsed Rep. Elissa Slotkin for Michigan’s open Senate seat. New York Rep. Dan Goldman endorsed fellow Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego’s bid for Senate in Arizona. The Club for Growth backed GOP Rep. Alex Mooney’s bid for Senate in West Virginia.

In the race: Democrat Diane Young said she is running for Congress in Michigan’s 10th District, hoping to oust freshman GOP Rep. John James. Kellen Curry, an Air Force veteran, announced a Republican primary challenge to embattled Rep. George Santos in New York’s 3rd District. Republican Rep. David Schweikert, who narrowly won reelection last year in Arizona’s 1st District, drew another challenger — Andrei Cherny, a former state party chair — in what looks to be a crowded Democratic primary. And Arizona state Sen. Raquel Teran said she’s running for Gallego’s seat in Arizona’s 3rd District.

Big sky jungle primary: Montana Republicans are trying to set up a jungle primary for next year’s Senate election — but only for next year’s Senate election. The bill, which the Daily Montanan reports has passed the state Senate, would advance the top two in the 2024 Senate primary to the general election and then sunset right after that. The move appears to be a brazen effort to ensure that no third-party candidates take away votes from the Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

Clyburn’s blessing: South Carolina Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn is backing his former staffer, Christale Spain, in her effort to lead the state party with the presidential nominating process a top issue. Clyburn told The Associated Press that she “represents the battle-tested, steady leadership the South Carolina Democratic Party needs as the national party turns to us to kick-off the nomination process.”

Primary posturing: Pennsylvania Republican Doug Mastriano, who lost a bid for governor last year, said in a video posted to his Facebook page that he would win a Republican primary if he decides to run for Senate while criticizing “RINOs” for not supporting his last campaign. “You guys can’t win any primary without the grassroots. We are the grassroots. We remember how you treated us last year. We’re not going to forget. We might not unite behind your candidate,” Mastriano said. Several Republicans hope Dave McCormick, who lost a primary bid for Senate last year to Dr. Mehmet Oz, will run again against Sen. Bob Casey

What we’re reading

Stu says: Looking back at the last time a Republican-led House was demanding spending cuts before joining a Democratic president and Senate on increasing the debt limit, Stu Rothenberg predicts there won’t be any action soon to end the current standoff.

Inouye’s legacy: The Honolulu Civil Beat looks back at Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s control of Hawaii state politics for decades before his death more than 10 years ago, whether Inouye would similarly thrive in today’s Senate and whether anyone else in the state holds the same control over state politics today. 

‘Chaos and divisiveness:’ A senior editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette laments what he calls the “petty, ham-handed” style of governing practiced by Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 

Katie-isms: California Rep. Katie Porter has made a name for herself by using a white board during House oversight hearings. Now, as she’s running for Senate, Porter is trying to transfer her swing-district campaign style statewide as she faces two fellow House Democrats, the New Republic writes in a recent profile

The count: 1 point

That’s the net favorability rating for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in an Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 adults nationally taken April 1 to 4. Some 42 percent of people don’t know enough about the New York Democrat to have an opinion, so his net plus 1 comes from 29 percent with a favorable opinion and 28 percent with an unfavorable view. But Jeffries was the only leader on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue with a net positive rating. President Joe Biden’s rating was minus 4; Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s was minus 5; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s was minus 6; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s was minus 24, likely a function of both Democrats and Republicans attuned to the criticism leveled at him by Trump. Trump’s net rating was a minus 7, but it’s interesting that his unfavorable rating of 51 percent was just a hair below McConnell’s 52 percent. The difference in their net scores was Trump had a 44 percent favorable score while McConnell’s was 28 percent. 

Nathan’s notes

Getting attention is one of the big challenges candidates face, so that’s one area where Republicans running in 2024 may suffer as a result of former President Donald Trump’s legal problems, especially if there are multiple indictments, Nathan L. Gonzales writes.

Candidate confessions

As if to prove Nathan’s point, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who announced his run for president over the weekend, said in a Fox News interview that Trump’s indictment and arraignment is a “distraction” for the country. The Republican has said that Trump should not run for president now that he’s been indicted. “This is not healthy,” Hutchinson said. “This is not where we can focus on the fentanyl crisis or rising inflation and interest rates and the economy. We’re going to be responding to the media requests on this. And it’s disappointing, but it’s where we are and we will just have to deal with it.

Shop talk: Courtney Parella

A regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2022 cycle, Parella is now communications director for the leading House GOP super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and its affiliated nonprofit American Action Network. A former congressional aide, she served as deputy national press secretary for the Trump 2020 presidential campaign.

Starting out: Parella began her career in 2014 with an internship in the office of then-Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican from her home state of Mississippi. “At my small Christian university, Mississippi College, the communications department was starting an internship program in D.C. They sent me to be the guinea pig for the program, to be the first intern in D.C.,” she recalled. “I didn’t know I had an interest in politics, really. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or if I would like D.C. or I would get totally lost in the shuffle. But I came up and did the internship with Sen. Cochran’s office, and I loved it and got that Potomac fever and never left.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: “The president’s campaign because it was so memorable and actually getting to brief President Trump at one point, which was one of the coolest and most terrifying moments ever,” Parella said. “As a deputy national press secretary getting to be in front of the president and really feeling the gravitas of, ‘This is the president of the United States.’ It was insane. But I was pleasantly surprised at how inclusive he was and listening to advice and things like that. It was a really memorable experience. I’ll never forget it.”

Biggest campaign regret: “I really try to not look back and regret former decisions,” she said. “I think every decision and every choice that we make is a learning moment and it all leads us to where we are today. I might regret a certain dress choice I chose to wear for an 18-hour day on the Women for Trump bus or the heels that I wore, but I wouldn’t say that I regret the decisions that I’ve made. Everything has led me here, and I’m grateful for all of the experiences, especially the bad ones.”

Unconventional wisdom: “When I used to train interns back on the Hill and then working with younger staff, I always give the same two pieces of advice, which is, No. 1, no task is too small,” Parella said. “I feel like people say that, but you don’t really think about it, especially when you’re starting in politics. And you may start on the ground level where you’re answering phones and getting coffee and knocking doors and you’re exhausted and your feet hurt and you feel like there’s so much more that you have to offer, but I always tell people that the smallest tasks, if you do them really well and they give you more tasks and you do those well, then you get more and more responsibility, and that’s how it works. People want to see that you’re willing to work hard and you’re willing to hustle. Then, No. 2 is I always tell everyone: You want to treat everyone that you meet with respect. You never know, the intern you’re training one day may be someone who’s working with you again down the line, or maybe you’re working for them.”

Coming up

Amid speculation he’s weighing a run for president, South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott has events in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 12; Manchester, N.H., on April 13; and Charleston, S.C., on April 14. The schedule was announced Tuesday as Trump was headed to his arraignment.

Photo finish

Republican presidential contender and former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, left, rides the Metro with his brother, Sen. Tim Hutchinson, on March 13, 1997, when they were in Congress together and shared an apartment in Arlington, Va. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call)

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