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At the Races: Bandwidth on the run

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Radio broadcasters are launching an all-out lobbying effort after some carmakers began phasing out AM radio.

The hosts of the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a syndicated program that airs on 400 stations and is considered the successor to The Rush Limbaugh Show, urged listeners to call their members of Congress and express support for AM radio. “We need it for safety and we need it for free speech,” they said. “We need it so there’s actually a place where we can continue to do the conversations we’re having here.”

Some see a hidden agenda. “They finally figured out how to attack conservative talk radio,” host Mark Levin said on his talk show last month. Levin blamed “Democratic executive orders,” pushing for “more electric cars, trying to get rid of high-end gas stoves, light bulbs, toilet paper and now AM radio. Pushing changes and the silencing of the conservative media through vehicle manufacturers. This is all about control.”

The lobbying push comes as carmakers such as Tesla, Mazda and BMW are eliminating the bandwidth from radios in new electric vehicles, citing interference with the cars’ electric operating systems. Ford said it is scrapping AM radio in new cars, whether electric or gas-powered.

The National Association of Broadcasters says 82 million Americans listen to AM radio each month, and they include Black, Asian and Hispanic communities, immigrants and rural listeners who depend on it for local news, religious programming, entertainment and sports as well as vital information during emergencies.

The cause to save AM is not limited to conservatives, either, with complaints coming from members of the House and Senate spanning the ideological spectrum. Conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and liberal Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey are among the sponsors of a bill that would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require automakers to install AM radio in vehicles at no additional cost to the buyer.

“We cannot allow this resilient and popular communication tool to become a relic of the past,” Markey said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Rep. Thomas H. Kean Jr., R-N.J., added, “We need to safeguard this essential tool that for decades has allowed our citizens to stay informed, connected and safe.”

Starting gate

Still front burner: Democrats say abortion remains a top issue for voters as more states make changes to their laws as part of the fallout of last year’s Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. “The conversation is nonstop now,” Oregon Democratic Rep. Andrea Salinas said during an interview this week at the EMILY’s List gala, which included a surprise appearance from President Joe Biden. 

Donor protection: Concerned that donors’ “beliefs will be weaponized against them,” House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil’s committee is drafting a campaign finance and elections overhaul that will include shielding tax-exempt organizations from having to disclose where they get their money, CQ Roll Call’s Justin Papp reports.

Déjà vu all over again: If you didn’t get a chance to read our stories about the 10 most vulnerable senators and House members, you can listen to a Political Theater podcast about it with Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick and Politics Editor Herb Jackson. 

Santos special: The House voted along party lines to send an attempt to expel New York Rep. George Santos to the Ethics Committee, which already has a special subcommittee empaneled to look into allegations against him. Santos has been indicted, and members of both parties have called for him to resign, but as CQ Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson notes, the House has never expelled someone based on an indictment alone.

ICYMI

Cornyn trashes Trump ’24: Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is telling home-state reporters that Republicans should pick someone besides former President Donald Trump to be the party standard-bearer in 2024. “I don’t think President Trump understands that when you run in a general election, you have to appeal to voters beyond your base,” Cornyn said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Don’t go there: The Justice Department and most of the parties in a dispute about North Carolina congressional maps urged the Supreme Court last week not to decide the case, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone reports.

Biden 2024 strategy: President Joe Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, circulated a strategy memo Thursday providing the broad strokes of the reelection plan. It highlights several Senate and gubernatorial races that the Democrats won in 2022 thanks in part to Republican candidates seen by the voters as “too extreme for their states and district.” The Biden operation plans to function as a coordinated Democratic campaign. “Democrats are most successful when we run together. Working collaboratively with candidates and state parties, we’ll build a diverse campaign that’s focused on a unified message, tailored to the communities we need to register, persuade and turn out to vote,” Chavez Rodriguez said.

Securing the calendar: The DSCC sent a letter to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s office, saying they plan to sue to obtain the now-Senate candidate’s official calendar from January 2017 until the present, NBC News’ Bridget Bowman reports. “Jim Justice cannot hide his work schedule — or lack thereof — from West Virginians, and this is an area which is sure to receive further scrutiny in his nasty primary,” DSCC spokesperson David Bergstein said in a statement.

Newbies like pork too: Despite the retirement of some of the most prolific earmarkers, the number of Senate Republicans seeking to sponsor “congressionally directed spending” in 2024 appropriations bills has gone up, CQ Roll Call’s Aidan Quigley and Jackson report.

Endorsement watch: End Citizens United/Let America Vote endorsed Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego for Arizona’s Senate race after backing now-independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema during her 2018 run. Speaker Kevin McCarthy endorsed Republican Scott Baugh in California’s open 47th District. 

Gold medal recruit: Olympic figure skating champion Sarah Hughes is running for Congress in New York’s 4th District. She joins former Democratic nominee Laura Gillen in seeking to take on freshman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito. 

Rollins in: California, Democrat Will Rollins is seeking a rematch with Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, who narrowly won in 2022. Hours after announcing, Rollins rolled out endorsements from 30 Democratic members of California’s congressional delegation, including all three Senate candidates and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rollins’ campaign said he raised $350,000 in his first 24 hours.  

Another Santos challenger: Zak Malamad, a co-founder of The Next 50, a group that works to elect young Democrats, announced a run in New York’s 3rd District, represented by Santos. 

Not listening: Naysa Woomer, the communications director for Santos, has resigned, Scripps New Service reports. Woomer, who previously worked for former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as well as Reps. Ryan Costello, Thomas Massie and Tim Huelskamp, said the embattled Republican from New York “never took one point of professional advice given.”

Ad watch: Outside groups continue to release a slew of ads related to the economy as negotiators attempt to hash out a debt limit deal. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity launched an eight-figure ad campaign in Senate battleground states Wisconsin, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. House Majority Forward, a Democratic nonprofit allied with the House leadership, launched digital ads in several districts as part of a previously announced $1 million campaign. 

What we’re reading

Stu says: This week, Stu Rothenberg had some advice for those saying that since Trump needs to win back independents and he’s still driving them away, he can never win in 2024: Never say never.

Smoother primary path: Changes that increased the number of states awarding their Republican convention delegates through a winner-take-all system instead of proportionally could make it easier for Trump to take the nomination next year, Bloomberg reports. 

Emerging questions: Emerge Oregon nurtured the political careers of hundreds of Democratic women, from mayors to members of Congress. But the powerful organization is now facing criticism over its ties to one of its star alums, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who resigned earlier this month following revelations that she signed a $10,000-per-month contract as a cannabis consultant. The Oregonian/Oregon Live looked at the questions swirling around the organization and how they might shape its future. 

America Decides: Last week’s harrowing episode of “Succession” turned on an Election Day nightmare: 100,000 ballots in Milwaukee were destroyed by a fire, creating chaos and throwing the results in doubt. It made for riveting TV, but how realistic was it? Politico spoke with election officials who said the show captured some of their biggest fears.

The count: 40.7

That’s the average number of percentage points by which Biden won the districts of 112 House members who this week signed on as sponsors of a new “Medicare for all” bill. Just one sponsor, Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright, represents a district Biden lost to Trump in 2020. And only one other, Pennsylvania’s Susan Wild, is in a district Biden won by less than 5 points. At the same time, 90 of the sponsors are from districts Biden won by more than 25 points, led by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, which Biden won by 87 points.

Nathan’s notes

Cruz’s race for another term in Texas is no longer rated Solid Republican now that Democratic Rep. Colin Allred is running, Nathan L. Gonzales writes. But Democrats can temper their excitement: The party’s candidates have lost 100 straight statewide races over the past 30 years in the Lone Star State.

Key race: Michigan 10

The third time was the charm for John James, who was elected to the House last year after two unsuccessful Senate bids. But the Michigan Republican’s 0.5-point victory over Democrat Carl Marlinga, a former Macomb County judge and prosecutor, was tighter than had been expected. 

The race could be heading toward a rematch next year. Marlinga filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission this week, although he told the Detroit Free Press that he hasn’t made a final decision to run. He told the newspaper that he filed because he has raised more than $5,000 so far this year but that he doesn’t have a timeline for making a final decision. Marlinga has high name ID in the district, but Republicans have criticized him for being indicted on corruption charges in the early 2000s. He was later acquitted. 

Marlinga’s potential candidacy hasn’t stopped other Democrats from getting into the race. Diane Young, a financial planner, is running and has announced several local endorsements. Emily Busch, a gun safety advocate whose son survived a school shooting at Oxford High School, announced her campaign last month. 

While Republicans greatly outspent Democrats in the 10th District last cycle, Democrats have already signaled they view this race as competitive. The DCCC included it in their initial list of 33 target seats. House Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of House Democrats’ leading super PAC, launched a digital ad opposing House Republicans’ recently passed debt limit measure, as well as robocalls urging recipients to call James’ office and urge him to vote to expel Santos, the indicted New York Republican. 

For his part, James appears to be preparing for another competitive race. He reported raising $753,000 in the first three months of this year and had $1.2 million on hand as of May 1, according to FEC filings. Republicans hope the environment in Michigan will be more beneficial to them next year than it was in 2022, when voters considered a ballot referendum on abortion and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, who lost her race by nearly 11 points, was at the top of the ticket. Inside Elections rates the race as Tilt Republican.

Coming up

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has a “major announcement” set for Monday in North Charleston. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may also have something to say next week about the presidential race. 

Photo finish

The two most vulnerable senators whose terms are up next year have not said yet whether they’re running for reelection. But Arizona independent Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III were running on Wednesday in the ACLI Capital Challenge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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