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At the Races: New skirmish, same war

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After a federal judge suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, a common abortion medication, it’s clear that Democrats see keeping the focus on Republicans’ opposition to abortion as a winning campaign issue, even as they try to fight the ruling.

Many Democrats have sent fundraising emails about last week’s ruling. In her announcement Wednesday that she will run for a third term, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she would fight against a ban on reproductive freedom.

But most Republicans haven’t weighed in on the ruling, which a federal appeals court partially put on hold in a complicated ruling late Wednesday. Republicans are sure to be asked about the ruling when Congress returns to session next week. In recent months, many Republicans have argued that Democrats support late-term abortions. 

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, one of the most outspoken Republicans on abortion, is one of the few GOP elected officials to weigh in, saying she disagreed with the ruling and that a majority of Americans likely oppose it. 

“This is an issue that Republicans have been largely on the wrong side of,” she said Monday on CNN. “We have, over the last nine months, not shown compassion towards women. And this is one of those issues that I’ve tried to lead on as someone who’s pro-life and just have some common sense.”

Some 69 Republican House and Senate members filed a brief at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals defending last week’s decision. Meanwhile, 240 congressional Democrats filed a separate brief asking the appeals court to halt the ruling. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, who hasn’t yet said if he’ll seek reelection next year, was the only Senate Democrat not to sign on to the brief.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who also announced this week that he’ll seek reelection, did sign on to the brief. Casey, who has supported abortion limits in the past, last year supported advancing a bill to codify Roe v. Wade and has called the Supreme Court ruling to overturn that precedent “dangerous.”

Starting gate

Eyes on the White House: South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire this week after announcing a presidential exploratory committee. He could be the sole member of the Senate to enter the presidential race if he ultimately moves forward with a campaign. 

California Love: House Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Democratic House leadership, says it will pour $35 million into California in the run-up to the 2024 elections. The group will focus on five Republican-held districts that would have been won by President Joe Biden in 2020 had the current district maps been in place.

Dianne Feinstein status: California’s senior Democratic senator is facing new calls for her resignation as she continues to recover from a case of shingles at home. Her absence is complicating the math for Senate Democrats, particularly at the Judiciary Committee. CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson reports that in a statement Wednesday, Feinstein said she wanted to step aside from the panel until her doctors say it is safe for her to travel east from San Francisco.

Making it official: Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin both announced reelection bids this week. While expected, the news gives Democrats two battle-tested candidates in swing states ahead of a year when they will be on defense in the most competitive states. 

He loves a parade: Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal underwent surgery Sunday after breaking his leg during a parade in Hartford celebrating the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team. The 77-year-old Democrat said he fractured his femur after a staffer for another politician tripped and fell on him during a victory celebration for the NCAA champions. Democrat Christopher S. Murphy, Connecticut’s other senator, tweeted that Blumenthal “got back up, dusted himself off and FINISHED THE PARADE” after his injury. “Most Dick Blumenthal thing ever.” 

#WhereNewsHappens: For this week’s Political Theater podcast, host and CQ Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick continues his periodic series looking at this town’s longtime institutions with a discussion about the National Press Club with Politics Editor Herb Jackson, aka the vice chairman of the club’s board of governors.

ICYMI

Staying in the House: Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell said she will not run for Senate, further clearing the Democratic field for Rep. Elissa Slotkin. Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton also said she’ll stay in office but may miss votes after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Sheriff for Senate: Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb formally announced this week that he is running for the Arizona Senate seat currently held by independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Lamb, a Republican who is already a celebrity among conservative audiences, will likely not be the only Republican candidate in the field. Rep. Ruben Gallego has already entered the race as a Democrat.

More Senate bids: GOP attorney Keith Gross said he will challenge Florida Sen. Rick Scott in the state’s primary. And GOP attorney Eric Early, who lost to Rep. Adam B. Schiff by 45 points in 2020, announced he is running for Senate in California, where the top two candidates regardless of party go to the November ballot.

DCCC celebrates 100 days: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Julie Merz wrote in a memo marking 100 days of the Republican House majority that the session “started with a chaotic and embarrassing speakership battle, and every day since has been filled with inaction, party dysfunction and extreme, out-of-touch priorities.” She said the DCCC would hold Republicans accountable. 

Stefanik gears up: A new battleground fund being started by House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik will focus on seats in her home state of New York, sources tell the New York Post. Wins in the Empire State helped give the GOP the majority, and Democrats have announced their own plan to try to win them back. 

Dropping out: Former Rep. Harley Rouda ended his comeback bid, saying he needed to focus on recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury he suffered in a fall last month. The Democrat was seeking the open seat vacated by Rep. Katie Porter’s Senate bid.

Endorsed: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund backed former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in his bid to challenge GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in California’s 27th District.

Hey, baby, don’t you want to go: The Democratic National Convention next year will be in Chicago from Aug. 19 to 22. Republicans previously chose Milwaukee — which had been the chosen site for Democrats’ 2020 convention before the pandemic scrubbed that idea — and will hold their convention July 15-18.

McCarthy visits New Mexico: Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s first campaign stop of the 2024 cycle brought him to the Land of Enchantment, where he attended a rally and fundraiser for former Rep. Yvette Herrell on Monday. Herrell is running to retake the 2nd District seat, which she lost in November to Democrat Gabe Vasquez. Republicans consider the race, which Inside Elections rates a Toss-up, a prime pick-up opportunity.

Head start: Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill, who are each said to be considering a run for governor, first would face reelection to their current jobs before New Jersey’s June 2025 gubernatorial primary. That’s not a problem for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who launched his campaign 26 months out with this video

Seeking rematches: Air Force veteran J.R. Majewski, a Republican who lost in November to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur by 13 points in an Ohio district that backed Trump by 3 points, filed to run again; former state Sen. Kirsten Engel, a Democrat who lost by 1 point to GOP Rep. Juan Ciscomani in an Arizona district that backed Biden by 0.1 points, is also trying again. 

What we’re reading

Capturing Kaptur: Spectrum News 1 toured Toledo, Ohio, with Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in Congress. The 76-year-old Democrat, who was first elected in 1982, says she still loves the job. “I feel I was called to this. I don’t know why. But I know I’m doing the job I was meant to do,” Kaptur said.  

‘We’ve been ghosted’: Student journalists at the University of Florida say they are having a hard time reaching Ben Sasse, the former Nebraska senator who became the school’s president in February. “Last semester, Sasse couldn’t escape our paper’s front page,” wrote the editors of The Independent Florida Alligator. “But now, it’s difficult to incorporate Sasse into our coverage when he and his office refuses to communicate with us in any way. This makes it difficult to report on the university as accurately as our readers expect.”

Chirp, chirp: Some members of Congress seem to live on Twitter, but what about those who seldom tweet? Axios looked at the least prolific users of the controversial social media platform. Topping the list was Rep. Earl Blumenauer — who, as of April 5, has tweeted just once in the 118th Congress. “After years on social media, I ultimately came to the decision that Twitter in particular has become so toxic that it is a danger to our political discourse,” Blumenauer told Axios.

The count: 10 percent

That’s the share of Americans who say the middle class benefited a lot from President Joe Biden’s policies so far, while 51 percent said the middle class has not benefited at all, according to a Monmouth University poll. The poll was released Tuesday, a day after Biden told Al Roker on NBC’s “Today” show, “I plan on running,” and the data come as his administration this week was finishing an “invest in America” roadshow highlighting benefits from legislation he signed.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan L. Gonzales is out this week, so At the Races dipped into the video archives for his 2019 explainer on the “vote above replacement” metric he developed to measure a candidate’s strength versus a generic candidate from the same party. Here’s how he applied that stat in February to some of the Senate incumbents up next year.

Shop talk: Charly Norton

Norton is a Michigan-based Democratic campaign strategist and vice president of Bergmann Zwerdling Direct, a Democratic direct mail firm. 

Starting out: Norton grew up in the Detroit area, in a household where politics and current events were part of the nightly conversation around the dinner table. Her mother volunteered for local campaigns and took Norton to her first presidential rally (it was 1996 and she was 8; Bill Clinton was the headliner.) Before graduating from high school, she had volunteered for local campaigns and John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run. “I was that person, eager to debate the Iraq War and abortion access with classmates,” she said. At George Washington University, she interned for her home-state senator, Debbie Stabenow, and landed part-time gigs for the Democratic National Committee and the National Women’s Law Center. After graduating, she worked for Rahm Emanuel’s first run for Chicago mayor as well as ballot measures in California, a Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky and Democrats running in swing legislative districts in Florida, among other campaigns.

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Norton took a leave from school in 2008 to work on then-Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign in North Carolina. “That was a moment to savor as a young politico,” she said. “I still remember the incredible people I was meeting [at] the doors … including many who were then in their 80s and 90s who recognized the historic nature of the election and also, on the flip side of that, first-time voters who couldn’t wait to cast their ballot for a young, up-and-coming senator from Illinois. The work that fall also helped elect Sen. Kay Hagan and Bev Perdue, the first female governor of North Carolina, so it was incredibly exciting.”

Biggest campaign regret: “As is the case for a lot of people in politics, I had a not-so-great campaign manager, and that led to a pretty toxic work environment,” she said. “Our office was often home to a lot of internal psychological warfare, never mind the incomings from the opposing campaign. There were a lot of passive-aggressive comments, gaslighting, manipulation … that eventually led to an environment of mistrust. I was relatively young, concerned about optics, concerned about job security, and I hadn’t really found my voice as a woman in this field,” she said. “In retrospect, I wish I had been more proactive, more confident about some of these issues sooner.”

Unconventional wisdom: “A lot of operatives and consultants love to overanalyze,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, analysis can be really valuable. However, there’s also something to be said for common sense. … More often than not, that intuition is popping its head up for a reason, so I encourage people to listen to their gut and trust it.” She also encourages people to leave Washington. In politics, “people are oftentimes so D.C.-centric, but there are so many important races at every level of the ballot, even in places that aren’t traditional swing states,” she said.

Coming up

The deadline for filing 2022 tax returns to the IRS is moved to Tuesday since April 15 falls on a weekend and Monday is Emancipation Day. But the Federal Election Commission doesn’t show any flexibility about its deadlines, so campaigns must disclose their receipts and spending for the first three months of this year by Saturday night. 

Photo finish

They’re walking here, but they’ll be running in 2024: Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey walk together on the first floor of the Senate on Feb. 12, 2021, during a break in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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