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At the Races: Senate may be Scott-free for a while

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Sen. Tim Scott is the only member of either chamber currently running for president (though that may change Friday when Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips is expected to launch a quixotic primary challenge to President Joe Biden).

But Scott, who picked up several early endorsements from Senate colleagues like Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., has failed to really gain traction on the campaign trail. In fact, he is now running second among candidates from South Carolina, behind former Gov. Nikki Haley.

So Scott’s campaign announced this week that it was essentially packing up and moving to Iowa, with the senator putting all the remaining eggs in the Hawkeye State.

Scott plans to campaign regularly in Iowa after the Nov. 8 Republican debate, for which he has not yet qualified to appear. The Des Moines Register reported that the all-out blitz will also include bringing staff to Iowa and shifting television resources from New Hampshire.

“I think he is fabulous. And I’m glad that he’s going to be spending a lot of time in Iowa,” Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst told us Wednesday when asked about Scott’s approach. “I hope he spends as much time as possible.”

Ernst, who hasn’t made a presidential endorsement, said Scott should try to do a significant number of town halls to make the retail pitch to her constituents.

Scott has been able to raise money to bolster his campaign coffers, which were flush with cash thanks to leftover funds from his Senate campaign account. But, as Axios reported earlier this week, the Scott presidential campaign strategy has led to a significant burn rate.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina senator’s official office keeps working even as Scott has regularly missed votes to be on the campaign trail. Jim Saksa reported Thursday for Roll Call on who you might see if you visit that office: a group of identical triplets who are working as interns.

Starting gate

Speaker elected: The big news on Capitol Hill this week was that, at long last, House Republicans elected a new speaker Wednesday, with Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson uniting Republicans and winning the gavel after several other candidates flamed out. Aidan Quigley and Laura Weiss covered how the divided GOP came together, and Saksa offered a view from inside the chamber for Roll Call. Our team coverage includes looks at the new speaker’s past views on defense policy from Caroline Coudriet and on health policy from Ariel Cohen.

New map: Republicans in the North Carolina legislature passed a new congressional map that could favor the party in as many as 11 of the state’s 14 districts, Michael Macagnone reports. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper doesn’t have veto power over the state’s map, but Democrats could try to bring a legal challenge against it. 

That was fast: Within 24 hours, North Carolina Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson, whose district would be favored for Republicans under the new map, said he would run for state attorney general next year, joining GOP Rep. Dan Bishop in the race for that office.

Not so fast: As a federal appeals court hears an appeal of a district court decision that said Louisiana’s district map discriminates against Black voters, the U.S. Supreme Court kept in place an order blocking the district court from holding a hearing on redrawing the map, Macagnone reports.

New map II: In Georgia, meanwhile, a federal judge on Thursday said the state’s congressional and legislative maps also discriminate against Black voters and ordered new maps drawn before the 2024 elections. More on this case from Macagnone here.

Caregiver clout: The nation’s cadre of weary caregivers could become an important voting bloc in next year’s elections, Roll Call’s Jessie Hellmann reports. More than 53 million Americans care for a parent, spouse, friend or child with a disability, and groups such as Caring Across Generations and AARP are hoping to galvanize their political power to push for federal solutions to the caregiving crisis.

ICYMI

Mark your calendar: The At the Races team will run down how the battle for House and Senate control looks one year out from the election. Sign up for the Nov. 8 webinar here.

Not running: Laphonza Butler, appointed earlier this month to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said she won’t seek the seat next year. She told The New York Times that serving a full term in the Senate is “not the greatest use of my voice.”

Masters for Congress: Blake Masters, who was the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona last cycle, announced Thursday that he was running for the open seat in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., announced last week that she would not seek reelection. Inside Elections’ Jacob Rubashkin was quick to note that Masters does not reside in the district.

#MDSEN: Montgomery County Commissioner Will Jawando dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination to succeed Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, saying he no longer saw a path to victory in a primary against self-funding Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Jawando joined Gov. Wes Moore in endorsing Alsobrooks this week.

Endorsement watch: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund endorsed former Rep. Tom Suozzi in his comeback bid for New York’s 3rd District. The group also endorsed Christina Bohannan in Iowa’s 1st District, Monica Tranel in Montana’s 1st and Adam Gray in California’s 13th. VoteVets endorsed Adam Hollier in his primary challenge to Michigan Rep. Shri Thanedar. California Rep. Eric Swalwell backed Democrat Liz Whitmer Gereghty in her bid for New York’s 17th District. 

Senate Democrats on offense: The DSCC is staffing up on communications and research in Texas and Florida, two states where it intends to be on offense against incumbent Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Rick Scott, respectively.

Messaging memo: Democrats are signaling how they will seek to tie vulnerable Republicans to Johnson, the new speaker. The DCCC shared a memo after his election on Wednesday saying that “so-called ‘moderate’ House Republicans have chosen to elect an anti-abortion extremist and top election denier to lead their conference.” The group Courage for America launched an ad campaign in districts held by New York Republicans urging them not to support Johnson’s agenda. The ads will run through the end of the month.

In memoriam: Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson and Tim Walberg mourned the death of their longtime political consultant, Nathan Wurtzel, who they said was “known for his wry sense of humor, encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, loyal Twitter following, and above all else, his love for his family and his Jewish faith.”

What we’re reading

Gun control politics: Wednesday’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, is likely to bring a new push for stricter federal gun laws and renewed focus on where members of the state’s congressional delegation stand on the issue. Back in May, the Portland Press Herald found that most of the delegation wouldn’t even talk about an assault weapons ban. 

The politician and the reporter: A New York Times journalist who wrote the initial story chronicling Rep. George Santos’ elaborate falsehoods recounts a series of far-ranging and surprisingly intimate phone conversations she had with the disgraced Republican from New York. 

Sounding the alarm: A Republican election lawyer who tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan is poised to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Several party insiders have tried to stop Tim Griffin’s candidacy, according to an account in Politico, including two conservative women who have spent the last seven months raising concerns within the party, but “they’ve heard little in response.”

Food labeling and abortion access: The 19th provides a peek into Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s playbook for winning reelection in closely divided Wisconsin. In addition to core Democratic issues such as marriage equality and access to abortion, Baldwin has been emphasizing infrastructure spending, food labeling legislation and efforts to address chemicals in drinking water, issues that have bipartisan appeal. 

Upstate fallout: How’s the chaos in the House playing out in New York swing districts? The Times Union of Albany spoke with some of the Biden-district Republicans from the Empire State about the prolonged battles over the speaker and how it could impact 2024.

The count: $76,357

That’s the average amount Speaker Mike Johnson donated to the NRCC in his first six full years in office from his principal campaign committee and the joint fundraising committee Johnson Leadership Fund, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. In the majority and with more seniority this year, he’s already given $101,562. It’s pretty likely that will go up now, and no one will accuse him of having bought his way into the job.

Nathan’s notes

With the House GOP’s speaker battle over, Nathan looks at whether it will have any lasting effect on next year’s fight for House control.

Shop talk: Nu Wexler

Wexler is a partner at Four Corners Public Affairs. He previously worked for Google, Facebook and Twitter and as Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s communications director.

Starting out: Born in Vietnam and adopted by American parents, Wexler grew up in western North Carolina. He got his first glimpse of how Washington works when he bought a copy of “The Almanac of American Politics,” a 600-page guide to every congressional district that also contains profiles of every member of Congress and governor. Later, while attending the University of South Carolina, Wexler waited tables and one of his regular customers was Don Fowler, a former DNC chairman and a longtime political science professor. “He encouraged me to look at going to Washington, and he is as responsible as probably anyone for the path that I chose,” Wexler said. His first campaign job was with former South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings.

“I wore a few hats, but most of the time I was his campaign driver, and that was an education in itself,” Wexler said, citing conversations they had about South Carolina politics and overhearing Hollings talk to President Bill Clinton, Sen. Joe Biden and Vice President Al Gore.

Most unforgettable campaign moment: The night when his wife, Christina Henderson, won a seat as an at-large member of the D.C. Council in November 2020. “I’ve worked on campaigns at every level, but none of them compared to having a family member on the ballot,” he said. “2020 was a long grueling year for our family, and her win was a proverbial light at the end of the dark tunnel, a reminder that life would eventually return to normal after COVID.” 

Biggest campaign regret: “Not spending more time in Washington during college,” Wexler said. “I didn’t intern on Capitol Hill, or do the things that my peers experienced, so I felt a little overwhelmed when I first arrived in D.C. Ultimately you learn your way around, and you take a crash course in politics in D.C., but I felt like I was a little [behind] the curve compared to the people who had done multiple internships, the people who grew up in D.C. or came from politically wired families. They were all things that I eventually had to figure out on my own.”

Unconventional wisdom: “Capitol Hill is a pressure cooker, and you need to have relationships with people who don’t want to talk to you about politics,” Wexler said. Volunteering for D.C.-based organizations “got me out of the Capitol Hill bubble, and [I] made friendships with people who cared about politics and public affairs, but it wasn’t the only thing in their lives,” he said. He also encourages experienced Hill staffers to reach out to newbies. “Look for opportunities to mentor them and prioritize the people who may not have another way in,” he said. “Look for somebody who either comes from an underrepresented background or somebody who needs advice getting started. That’s where you can make the most difference.”

Coming up

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership summit kicks off Friday afternoon in Las Vegas and runs throughout the weekend. Most GOP presidential candidates are scheduled to attend, including the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, as well as a number of House members and senators, including NRSC Chairman Steve Daines of Montana.

Photo finish

South Dakota Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson blows a party horn on the House floor before Mike Johnson of Louisiana was voted speaker on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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