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At the Races: Vulnerable in GOP split on Jordan

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House Republicans facing the toughest races next year split this week on who should be the next speaker, as the conference now may try to temporarily empower an acting speaker. 

Eight of the 33 Republicans in races rated Toss-up, Tilt, Lean or Likely Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales voted for someone other than Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan for speaker in Wednesday’s vote on the House floor. Every incumbent in a race rated Likely Republican, which means they’re on the battlefield but not as vulnerable, voted for Jordan.

Opponents offered different reasons for not supporting Jordan, including concerns that he wouldn’t prevent a partial government shutdown and that he cannot unite the Republican conference, among others. Three Republicans from Long Island, including freshman Reps. Anthony D’Esposito and Nick LaLota, have said they want a speaker who understands their region and have made certain policy requests that have not been met. 

Some vulnerable members who voted for Jordan said they did so to keep the government functioning, as some also called for Speaker Pro Tem Patrick T. McHenry to take on expanded powers, which appeared more likely on Thursday, although doing so would almost certainly require Democratic votes as well, and many Republicans said they weren’t on board.

“My votes are to keep the lights on. It’s not for any person or against any person,” Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said Wednesday after voting for Jordan. Fitzpatrick represents a Likely Republican district that would have voted for Joe Biden by 4.6 percentage points in 2020. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he would throw his support to McHenry in a third vote for speaker before the plan to try to elevate McHenry became more clear.

“Time is a luxury we do not have and this will allow us to get back to governing,” New York Rep. Marc Molinaro said

Democrats sought to tie some of those Republicans to Jordan, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. But Republicans argue the speaker fight won’t be a resonant issue in the 2024 elections a year from now.

“When the dust settles, not a single competitive House race has changed. Our targeted incumbents are strong and have cultivated individual brands, our recruits are far superior to theirs, and Democrats continue to embrace toxic policies far from the mainstream,” Congressional Leadership Fund President Dan Conston said in a statement. 

A handful of Republicans in competitive races opposed expanding McHenry’s powers, including Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert and Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus who said that voting for a temporary speaker “is a vote to keep you broke and Washington broken.”

Starting gate

Outta here: Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko announced after the first inconclusive vote for speaker Tuesday that she’d rather spend time with her family than keep flying back and forth to a “broken” Washington. Abe Hamadeh, who lost the race for state attorney general last year, quickly said he’ll run for her seat in a race rated Solid Republican. Another possible contender, the Arizona Republic reports, is unsuccessful 2022 GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters.

Money matters: Lots of stories in the latest Federal Election Commission reports. Senate filings included Sherrod Brown of Ohio winning bragging rights among vulnerable Democrats, while GOP Sen. Ted Cruz was outraised by Rep. Colin Allred in Texas. In the House, battleground Republicans on average did better than Democrats, but that advantage did not cover everyone looking at a tough race. And in the defendant caucus, Rep. George Santos posted negative numbers in receipts while Sen. Bob Menendez was outraised by Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Separately, Menendez disclosed who’s given to his legal defense fund, and our colleague Chris Marquette has the details.

Seeing an upside: Colleague Justin Papp talked to lots of Democrats at the beginning of the week who see the House speaker turmoil working in their favor in 2024, while candidates challenging vulnerable incumbents were gobbling up the DCCC’s talking points and firing them out on the campaign trail. 

Split on Israel: As Democrats revel in the dysfunction, however, the growing crisis in the Middle East is exposing long-simmering tensions within the party. While the majority of Democrats issued statements denouncing Hamas and saying they “stand by Israel,” some progressive members have been critical of Israel’s response and are urging the Biden administration to call on its ally to exercise restraint.

ICYMI

Primary challenge I: Michigan Democrat Adam Hollier launched a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Shri Thanedar. Hollier placed second to Thanedar in an 11-way Democratic primary for the 13th District last year in a race that left the state without a Black Democrat in its congressional delegation. Thanedar recently faced criticism from fellow Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib. 

Primary challenge II: Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who has spoken out against Biden running again next year and flirted with seeking the Democratic nomination himself, faces a primary challenge from Ron Harris, a former DNC executive committee member and Minneapolis city official.

Primary challenge III: Former federal prosecutor Joe Teirab, a Republican, launched a campaign seeking to challenge Rep. Angie Craig in Minnesota’s 2nd District. 

Another contender in California: Former KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci is running for Senate. She joins a field that includes Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam B. Schiff and former major league baseball player Steve Garvey. 

Deepfake fake-out: Republicans praising collective bargaining? Democrats denouncing green jobs? A new ad by Voters Not Politicians, a pro-democracy advocacy group in Michigan, seems to depict this, but don’t believe it — the parody ad was generated with artificial intelligence to showcase the dangers of political deepfakes. The group is advocating for a bill in the Michigan Legislature that will require political ads to provide a disclaimer when generated by AI.    

Age gap: Younger voters take a more critical view of Israel, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. The survey found that just 21 percent of voters ages 18-34 backed Biden’s policies toward Israel, compared with 37 percent of those ages 34-49 and 60 percent of those 65 and older. And more than half of voters under 35 were opposed to the U.S. sending military aid and weapons to Israel in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas from Gaza.

Musical congressional races: Florida Democrat Phil Ehr dropped his bid for Senate, endorsing former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to challenge Sen. Rick Scott next year. Ehr, who previously ran against GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, will instead try to run against GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez in Mucarsel-Powell’s old district next year. 

#VA10: Former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said she will run for the 10th District seat that will be open next year with the retirement of Rep. Jennifer Wexton. 

Teasing a run: Chef José Andrés, who owns several Washington, D.C., restaurants, said he will “one day” run to unseat GOP Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st District. Harris is the only Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation. 

Trump endorses Justice: “Big Jim Justice, the Governor of the Great State of West Virginia (I LOVE WEST VIRGINIA!), is BIG in every way, but especially in his wonderful HEART,” former President Donald Trump said in endorsing Justice for Senate, weighing in and picking the governor over Rep. Alex X. Mooney in the GOP primary. Last cycle, Trump backed Mooney when he and Rep. David B. McKinley were thrown into a GOP primary fight after reapportionment cost the Mountain State one of its districts.

New NC maps: North Carolina Republicans proposed new congressional maps for 2024 that would favor their party in 10 or 11 of the state’s 14 districts, depending on which plan advances. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias suggested he could eventually challenge whatever plan the state legislature adopts under the Voting Rights Act. 

What we’re reading

Influencing the influencers: Biden has granted just one sit-down interview to a daily newsprint journalist. But he’s made time for historian Heather Cox Richardson and TikTokker Daniel Mac. The Washington Post looks at Biden’s media strategy as he aims to reach a younger audience that largely ignores traditional news outlets. Critics say the approach lets Biden avoid scrutiny and dodge the type of substantive questions that a professional journalist would pose. 

Going mainstream: NBC News traces the evolution of The Epoch Times from a fringe publication funded by a religious group based in China to one of the nation’s most successful and influential conservative news organizations. While it has yet to settle on a presidential candidate for 2024, The Epoch Times “is moving into new and bigger office spaces and production studios in California, hiring mainstream news veterans … and revving up an ad-buying blitz” as it prepares for the upcoming elections.

Southern strategist: The architect of the Republicans’ Southern strategy, which relied on the racial resentments of white voters to flip the South from blue to red, died earlier this month. Kevin Phillips, who was 82, later became disillusioned with the GOP, citing rising income inequality in the Reagan and Bush years.

The count: 58%

That’s the share of voters in Ohio who said they would vote for a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights, according to a poll by Baldwin Wallace University reported by cleveland.com. Supporters totaled 34 percent, with 8 percent undecided. An attempt to make it harder to put such amendment proposals before the public was defeated by voters in August.

Nathan’s notes

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a former House member, got more than 51 percent of the vote for governor in Saturday’s all-party primary, meaning he won’t have to go to a November runoff and wins the race outright. That flips the governor’s office from Democratic to Republican, but before anyone sees signs of what that could mean for 2024, Nathan L. Gonzales says other races next month might be better bellwethers.

Key race: CA27

A costly battle that could determine which party controls the House is brewing in Southern California.

Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, a former naval aviator and first-generation Mexican American who was first elected in 2020, faces Democrat George Whitesides, the former CEO of Virgin Galactic.

The 27th District, which includes most of northern Los Angeles County, including a slice of the city itself, is one of 18 Republican-held districts that would have been won by Biden in 2020 had the current district lines been in place.

Garcia has been targeted by the DCCC and other groups, earning him a spot on Roll Call’s inaugural “most vulnerable incumbents list.”

Inside Elections rates the race as a Toss-up.

Garcia raised $764,000 in the third quarter and had about $1.6 million in his campaign account, according to campaign finance reports filed earlier this week. Whitesides raised $709,000 after putting $300,000 of his own money in and had $1.7 million on hand. A second Democrat, Franky Carrillo Jr., dropped out of the race earlier this month and endorsed Whitesides. Carrillo, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and released after spending two decades in prison, had hoped his personal story would boost his campaign, but he struggled to raise money.

Coming up

Days after Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said she received death threats for voting Wednesday to make House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger speaker instead of Jordan, the Iowa Republican is set to host at least a half-dozen Republican presidential candidates for the Miller-Meeks Annual Tailgate in Iowa City on Friday night.

Photo finish

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy sports a big smile after Wednesday’s roll call vote in which Rep. Jim Jordan, center, fell further behind in his bid to be McCarthy’s successor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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