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The Republican National Committee’s requirement that candidates for president have at least 40,000 unique donors to qualify for the debate stage in Milwaukee next month has sure led to some odd incentives.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s presidential campaign said this week it will mail $20 Visa or Mastercard gift cards to the first 50,000 people who donate just $1 to his campaign in the billionaire’s bid to make the Aug. 23 Republican presidential debate. As of Wednesday, Burgum was “on pace” to give away more than 20,000 of the gift cards.

As NPR noted Wednesday, spending a million dollars to get to take part in the Fox News-hosted debate may well be worth the investment, but the gambit does raise questions about whether it is tantamount to a straw donor scheme.

But in straw donor cases, the goal is for the candidate to get more money, so parties reimburse fellow contributors to evade contribution limits. Since he is spending his own money, Burgum has no such limit for his own campaign.

In addition to the front-runners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, other GOP presidential candidates have hit the donor threshold, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who told CNN he hit the mark Tuesday night. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., also recently reported getting past the 40,000-contributor line.

Burgum’s calling the $20 cards “Biden Economic Relief Cards,” and his campaign said Wednesday that “relief from disastrous Bidenflation can’t come fast enough for American families.”

This week’s inflation data actually did show relief, however, something Democrats were more than happy to tout.

“Annual CPI inflation is 3.0 percent — close to the 2.9 percent average level that prevailed in the nearly two decades leading up to the financial crisis. Annual inflation has now declined every month for 12 months in a row,” Lael Brainard, the director of the National Economic Council, said Wednesday at the Economic Club of New York. “And inflation in the United States is now the lowest among G-7 nations, for both headline and core inflation, even as our economic recovery from the pandemic has been the strongest.”

Starting gate

Unretired: Former Rep. Dave Reichert is making a bid to be governor of Washington, and the ex-sheriff is focusing on crime, an issue Republicans believe will boost their chances up and down the ballot in 2024. 

Retiring: Democratic Rep. Grace F. Napolitano of California — who, at 86, is the oldest member of the House — announced she’s retiring when her term ends. While the open seat likely won’t shift the balance of power in the House, it already has sparked the interest of a number of Democrats, including state Sens. Bob Archuleta and Susan Rubio. 

Mountaineering: As No Labels continues its effort to put a still-unnamed presidential ticket on the ballot in all 50 states, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III will headline the group’s town hall on “commonsense solutions” in New Hampshire next week.

To deep-six deepfakes: The advocacy group Public Citizen is once again seeking Federal Election Commission action to curb false campaign communications generated through artificial intelligence.

Rematch on deck: Former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, who won a 2022 special election in Texas but lost a member-on-member race to Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzales last year, is seeking a rematch in the 34th District. 


The enemy of my enemy…: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched a new website attacking West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and Republican Rep. Alex Mooney’s tweets are playing a starring role. The site, which launched this week, aims to shed light on Justice’s “complicated finances,” an issue Mooney has also focused on. Mooney and Justice are vying for the Republican nomination to take on Manchin.   

Field set: A third Republican in Utah’s 2nd District has met the threshold to qualify for the Sept. 5 primary to replace Rep. Chris Stewart, who is resigning because of his wife’s health. Republican National Committee member Bruce Hough, father of “Dancing with the Stars” siblings Derek and Julianne Hough, will appear on the ballot, along with former state Rep. Becky Edwards and former Stewart aide Celeste Maloy, who won last month’s GOP nominating convention.

Air support: With Congress set to take up the annual defense authorization bill, the CEO of predator drone maker General Atomics donated $250,000 on June 30 to Team McConnell, a joint fundraising committee that can now split up that check as hard-dollar donations to the campaign accounts of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 10 other GOP senators who are up in 2024 and the NRSC.

United they stand: Every Republican House member from Michigan is backing Trump for president. The endorsements, which the Trump campaign rolled out Tuesday, will provide the former president with an important boost in a key state.

Empire mapping: A New York state court ordered the state’s congressional redistricting commission to draw a new state map before the 2024 election Thursday. The years-long court battle over the Empire State’s congressional map will continue though, as the NRCC said it would appeal.

Spending spree skeptic: New York Rep. Marc Molinaro said he doesn’t think Democrats’ efforts to spend $45 million in his state during the 2024 cycle will help them win back voters. “I just will tell you, the voters that I interact with are tired of that crap. This isn’t a game to them. They’re willing to give a Republican the benefit of the doubt, as long as I reflect their interests,” he said in a Q&A with Roll Call’s Jim Saksa. 

NY state of mind: Worries about rising crime helped push New York Republicans to victory last year, and a new poll suggests the issue may be just as potent in 2024. A survey by the Siena College Research Institute found that 61 percent of New Yorkers are either very or somewhat concerned about being a victim of crime and 36 percent of state residents said they have felt threatened by a stranger’s behavior in a public place.  

One more rematch: Alaska Republican Nick Begich, who finished third in his bid for the state’s at-large House seat behind Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola and former Gov. Sarah Palin last year, on Thursday became the latest veteran of the midterms to launch another run.

Survey says: Tucked into a Public Policy Institute of California survey about environmental and other issues was a question about next year’s all-party primary for the open Senate seat, in which the top two vote-getters will advance to the November election. With 19 percent, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter finished first on a list of 20 candidates, followed by fellow Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff with 16 percent and Barbara Lee with 13 percent. The poll of 1,724 adults was taken June 7-29 by phone and online and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

What we’re reading

Stu says: From the more-is-not-necessarily-better category, Stu Rothenberg looks at the most recent entrants in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Cartoon cutbacks: Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonists at McClatchy-owned major newspapers in Charlotte, N.C., Lexington, Ky., and Sacramento, Calif., have been let go, The Washington Post reported.

What makes Christie run? The Washington Post examines the former New Jersey governor’s dream of breaking Trump’s hold on the GOP. Spoiler alert: Political insiders tell the Post that Christie doesn’t stand a chance.

Why they play to the base: A Pew Research Center analysis of who voted and who didn’t in the 2022 midterms found Republicans turned their voters out better than Democrats, and there was little party-switching.

The count: 11

That’s how many House and Senate members, after the announced retirement of 86-year-old Napolitano, are older than Biden and (as of now) running for reelection next year. New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., now 86, will be the oldest House member if he runs and wins, although Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is only about five months younger. Pascrell is six years older than Biden but three years younger than GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who won another six-year term in Iowa last year.

Others in the House who are older than Biden who are running next year, and their ages: Kentucky Republican Harold Rogers, 85; Democrats Maxine Waters of California and former Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 85; Democratic former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, 83; Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, 82 (although his birthday is coming up July 21); Democrat Danny K. Davis of Illinois and Republican John Carter of Texas, 81; and Democrat Frederica S. Wilson of Florida, who is 80 and about two weeks older than Biden. The only senator older than Biden whose term is up next year is Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, who is 81 and about seven months older than McConnell, R-Ky., whose term is up in 2026. The oldest member of Congress, 90-year-old California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, not only is not running next year but has faced calls to resign early.

Nathan’s notes

Seems a lot of would-be candidates had Monday’s date circled on their calendars to take the plunge. Nathan explains some of the possible reasons why at least 11 announced they were running on the same day.

Key race: MI-07

Five months after Rep. Elissa Slotkin launched a Senate campaign, this week marked the start of a competitive race to fill her seat in the 7th District.

Former state Sen. Tom Barrett, Slotkin’s 2022 opponent, announced Sunday that he would run again for the House. His announcement was followed Monday by his ex-colleague, former Democratic state Sen. Curtis Hertel, who also said he was entering the race. Both parties are targeting this seat, which Biden would have won in 2020 by 0.5 points, in the close contest to win control of the House. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the seat as a Toss-up. 

Barrett lost his 2022 race to Slotkin by 5 points. He was outspent $11 million to $3 million, a sign of Slotkin’s fundraising prowess, but spending this cycle could be more even between the parties without an incumbent in office. Barrett could also benefit from greater name ID after his previous run. 

Before he was a member of the Michigan Legislature, Barrett served in the Army for more than two decades. Hertel most recently was the legislative director for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Slotkin endorsed Hertel and has said she’s focused on keeping the seat blue next year. 

Republicans are hoping for better outcomes in Michigan next year than the party had last cycle. Democrats were bolstered by Whitmer’s strong gubernatorial campaign in 2022 and an abortion referendum that voters approved to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. But a competitive presidential election in the swing state, as well as a high-profile Senate race, could also have down-ballot effects on a competitive House race.

Coming up

Show-and-tell time for candidates: Fundraising and spending disclosures for the three months ending June 30 are due to the FEC by the end of the day Saturday.

Photo finish

A 2003 flashback to then-Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introducing Rear Adm. Barry Black as the the new Senate chaplain. Black began his 21st year on the job this month, and after spending all that time around senators, he tells Niels Lesniewski that people need to “stop demonizing government and governmental workers.” (Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call)

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