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At the Races: Rankings revealed

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If you haven’t been counting down, Friday marks a year and a half until the 2024 elections. 

So for the first time this cycle, your At The Races team has ranked Capitol Hill’s most vulnerable incumbents, with the Senate list out today and the House list coming Monday. 

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, who hasn’t said yet whether he’ll run for reelection, leads off the Senate list. If he runs again, he will do so in a state that President Joe Biden lost by 39 points. Filling out the next seven spots on the list are independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and other Democrats. GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rick Scott, two of Democrats’ favorite foils, round out the list, as does Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who may face a primary challenge from the right. 

To compile these rankings, we speak with political operatives and analysts to consider how the most competitive races of the year compare to each other. We also rely on fundraising reports, our reporting on the political dynamics at play in the state or district and the insights of our friends at Inside Elections to determine who makes the list.

We’ll reconsider the list over the next year and a half, and several factors could change over that time. Some senators on the list could decide not to seek reelection, which would open spots for any races that get more competitive in the months ahead. Next week’s House list won’t include Democrats in North Carolina and Ohio, who may find themselves on a future version when we know how the district lines will be drawn. 

This time next year, voters will be choosing nominees to challenge the incumbents on the list and the strength of those challengers will influence how vulnerable incumbents are. The presidential election, and the eventual Republican nominee, could have influence in some swing states. New issues could also emerge over the next 18 months that shake up the race. Remember, it was only at this time last year that we began to see abortion emerge as a top issue in the midterms.

Starting gate

Back to the drawing board: A decision by the Republican-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court has empowered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw district boundaries for both Congress and the General Assembly to favor GOP candidates. The ruling could place several of the Democrats in North Carolina’s congressional delegation in political jeopardy.

Allred in: Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, a former Baylor University football standout and civil rights lawyer serving his third term in the House, is jumping into the Texas Senate race. He’s hoping to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz and become the first Democratic senator from Texas in more than 30 years. 

#MDSEN: Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin announced he won’t run for reelection next year, highlighting accomplishments such as efforts to clean up Chesapeake Bay in a video conversation with his wife. Already, a competitive Democratic primary to fill the seat is forming. Rep. David Trone launched his campaign on Thursday, two days after Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando announced a run. After Trone’s announcement, the NRCC said in a statement that open seats like his could be the path to growing their majority. 

Smith Q&A: Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a vice chair of the DSCC, tells CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa that “there’s clearly a path for keeping the Senate,” despite the long odds that Democrats face on the surface. She’s working with Chairman Gary Peters and Vice Chair Alex Padilla, and all three are “helping with everything,” she said. 

ICYMI

#WHCA: Continuing his series on the Political Theater podcast examining this town’s institutions, Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick discusses the history of the White House Correspondents’ Association and its recent gala dinner with George Condon of National Journal, the WHCA’s historian.

More calls for Feinstein’s resignation: Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib became the latest Democrat to call for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign, CQ Roll Call’s John T. Bennett reports. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Democrats are “hopeful that she can come back next week.”

AOC’s plans: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “not planning to primary” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is up for reelection next year, her spokesperson told Politico.  

Endorsed: South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsed fellow Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee in the California Senate race. One of her rivals, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, was endorsed by the Amalgamated Transit Union, a group whose PAC had donated to Schiff, Lee and Rep. Katie Porter in recent cycles.

Here comes the sun: Wednesday evening’s Senate vote on ending a waiver of Chinese solar gear tariffs passed with 56 votes in support (well short of a veto-proof margin), but it split senators in key 2024 races along regional lines, with Democrats like Manchin, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown among the supporters and Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen and independent Sinema among the opponents.

DWI charge: California state Sen. David Min, a Democrat running for the hotly contested 47th District seat that Porter is leaving to run for Senate, was charged this week with drunken driving. “My decision to drive last night was irresponsible. I accept full responsibility and there is no excuse for my actions,” the Democratic candidate posted Wednesday on Facebook. “To my family, constituents and supporters, I am so deeply sorry. I know I need to do better. I will not let this personal failure distract from our work in California and in Washington.” 

Donald who? How much is former President Donald Trump’s endorsement worth to a candidate seeking a Republican nomination? Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a potential Republican Senate candidate, puts it at 20 percent. “There is another 20 percent that care about who he endorses but that’s not going to be the decision maker. And then there’s probably another 60 percent of the party that doesn’t care who he endorses,” said LaRose, according to a recording of his remarks to Ohio Republicans at a private event that was obtained by Politico.

Caucus strategies: The Associated Press has the latest on machinations by Iowa Democrats to maintain the state’s prime position in the party’s presidential nominating process: hold the caucuses as usual but wait to disclose the results until other states have voted.

Welcome: The entrance of Republican Jim Marchant into the field seeking to take on Rosen in Nevada is generating more enthusiasm among Democrats than Republicans. Marchant, who did not prevail in campaigns for either secretary of state or the U.S. House, has denied the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The Nevada Independent has a report from his Tuesday campaign launch.

Flamingo man for Congress: Drew Johnson, a former Clark County Commission candidate and conservative commentator who has been affiliated with anti-government waste organizations such as the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, announced Thursday that he was seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Susie Lee in Nevada’s 3rd District. Johnson may be best known locally in Las Vegas as the flamingo man. Johnson and his wife started a tradition of throwing plastic flamingos onto the ice at T-Mobile Arena after the Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL team won games — as highlighted in this NBC Sports feature.

Boring wins: A Michigan county clerk who was adamant that the 2020 election was tainted by fraud, and had her ability to oversee elections stripped by the state, was recalled this week after a petition drive with the slogan “Make Adams Township Boring Again.” The race wasn’t close.

What we’re reading

Meh factor: Editor-at-large Bennett looks at Biden’s official entry into the presidential race and the lack of enthusiasm Democrats have voiced to pollsters.

But Stu says: Long shots for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations may get attention, but the accurate term for them should be “no shots,” Stu Rothenberg writes.

Sinema in profile: The past week has brought a couple of new interviews with Sinema, whose intentions for 2024 remain a bit of a mystery. “You can make a poster and stand out on the street, but at the end of the day all you have is a sunburn,” she told The Atlantic in explaining her transformation from a more activist youth. The New York Times Magazine also has a fresh look at the Arizona independent.

Frequent flier: Less than a week after accompanying House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on a trip to Israel to mark the nation’s independence day, Rep. Josh Gottheimer was back in the country, this time as part of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s delegation. The Forward details the New Jersey Democrat’s two trips and his “extremely optimistic” view of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Local angle: After every Illinois-based candidate to whom Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein gave money in 2022 lost, the Chicago-area megadonors essentially pulled out of their home state, giving to just one Prairie State politician in 2023. The wealthy couple, who founded a shipping supply company, made almost all of their $6.9 million in donations to out-of-state candidates and groups, a review by the Daily Herald found. 

Blame the small donors: They were supposed to fuel a movement that would undercut the pernicious influence of big money in politics. But The Washington Post’s data columnist says grassroots contributors have actually made politics worse by funding Republican demagogues and showering dollars on long-shot Democrats who have no chance of winning. 

College crackdown?: States Newsroom looks at efforts by Republican state legislators to make it harder for college students to vote.

The count: $1.5 million

That’s at least how much Republican candidates and committees received during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles from James Herbert, founder and executive chairman of First Republic Bank, which federal regulators seized and sold off on Monday, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission. Top recipients include the NRSC, which got more than $600,000, and the NRSC-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, which got $350,000. Funds also went to leadership PACS, state party PACS and campaign accounts tied to Senate races in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and more. One $200,000 contribution by Herbert to online payment portal WinRed was reported as earmarked for 1820 PAC, a single-candidate super PAC that helped GOP Sen. Susan Collins get reelected in Maine in 2020. However, 1820 PAC only reported getting $25,000 from Herbert.

Nathan’s notes

Races for governors aren’t our usual Capitol Hill-focused schtick, but Nathan L. Gonzales points out that many of the key races coming up feature people with Hill experience either running for governor or leaving vacancies in governor’s offices.

Key race: Arizona’s 1st District

Republican Rep. David Schweikert’s 3,000-vote win over Democrat Jevin Hodge last year ended one of the nation’s closest congressional races, and both parties are looking at the district again in 2024.

Schweikert has yet to formally announce whether he’ll seek another term, but four Democrats are already vying for the seat. This week, Kurt Kroemer, a former regional CEO of the American Red Cross, jumped into the race. He joins retired naval reserve officer and former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny, orthodontist Andrew Horne and state Rep. Amish Shah.

The 1st District is a battleground that Biden would have carried by less than 2 percentage points in 2020. It includes the wealthy Phoenix suburbs of Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Tilt Republican.

Schweikert, a businessman and financial consultant who was first elected in 2010, brought in $275,863 in the first three months of 2023, according to FEC filings. That’s far less than the $1.02 million haul raised by Rep. Juan Ciscomani, another Biden-district Republican from Arizona.

Schweikert ended the quarter with $354,000 in his campaign account and listed $188,000 in debts. 

His fundraising has been hampered by ethical issues: He was formally reprimanded by his House colleagues in 2020 for violating ethics rules and misusing campaign funds.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has included Schweikert on its target list of 32 Republicans in competitive districts.

Coming up

Trump is poised to make his first appearance at a CNN-hosted event since his 2016 campaign when he appears Wednesday at a New Hampshire town hall-style meeting. 

Photo finish

Then-Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin poses with friend and fellow Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume in September 1990. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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