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At the Races: Mideast tensions

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Israel’s war against Hamas has scrambled Democratic politics, exposing deep divisions within the party that are likely to reverberate in 2024.

Support for President Joe Biden, who has been a steadfast supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of attacks by Hamas, has fallen sharply among Arab Americans. A new Arab American Institute poll marks the first time in its 26-year history that a majority of Arab American voters did not prefer the Democratic Party. 

Young voters are equally skeptical of the president’s policies: A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that just 21 percent of voters ages 18-34 backed Biden’s approach to Israel.

As anger and grief mount over Palestinian casualties, Democrats who have expressed strong pro-Israel views, such as Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, have felt the wrath of the progressives who helped propel them into office. 

Yet, within the Democratic Party, voices critical of Israel remain in the minority. Mark Mellman, who leads Democratic Majority for Israel, notes that “the vast majority of elected officials,” including Biden and 90 percent of Democrats in Congress, “support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The group unveiled a new ad targeting Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib as being “on the wrong side of history and humanity.” The six-figure ad buy launched Thursday in the Detroit television market, which includes Tlaib’s district.

Other Democrats who have expressed support for Palestinian civilians or called for a cease-fire could face primary challenges next year. In Missouri, St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell has already launched a bid to unseat Rep. Cori Bush, and in New York, a group of Jewish leaders is pressing Westchester County Executive George Latimer to run against Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Starting gate

Biking into the sunset: Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the bow tie-wearing bike enthusiast who has served in the House since 1996, won’t run for reelection. The Oregon Democrat says he plans to continue to fight for progressive causes “without the burden of day-to-day politics.” 

Ken says Buck this: Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck is also out after this term, and he announced with harsh criticism that his party was “lying to America” about the 2020 presidential election and the riot at the Capitol that followed, our colleague Jim Saksa writes.

Home for the Granger: Also heading for the exit is House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, who was facing blowback in her home of Tarrant County for voting to raise the debt ceiling even before she opposed Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan for speaker, colleague Aidan Quigley writes.

It ain’t he: And in the week’s final departure (at least we think so; it’s only Thursday afternoon), Marylanders will soon not have a Sarbanes in Congress for the first time since 1971 after Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, a senator’s son, said he won’t seek a 10th term.

Progressive sisters: Democrat Susheela Jayapal, a former Multnomah County commissioner and the older sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, is running for the safe blue House seat that will be vacated by Blumenauer. If elected, they would be the second set of sisters to serve together in the House; Loretta and Linda T. Sánchez of California made history in 2003 when they became the first. But the race to succeed Blumenauer could get crowded: Oregon state Rep. Travis E. Nelson is among the Democrats considering a run.

Joe show: Biden may not be on the New Hampshire ballot because of the Democrats’ new calendar, but his supporters there want to write in his name for the state’s first-in-the-nation primary. The effort sure looks like it was timed to counter Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips’ long-shot challenge to Biden.

Down but not out: Rep. George Santos survived an expulsion vote Wednesday, when a 179-213 tally fell well short of the two-thirds majority his fellow New York freshman Republicans needed to oust him from office, colleague Chris Marquette reports. In addition to remaining in office, Santos remains eligible for the forthcoming update of our list of most vulnerable incumbents, which he topped in May.


Nevada complaint: Nevada Senate GOP front-runner Sam Brown is facing a new FEC complaint from the group End Citizens United over questions about how he may have used a political action committee called Duty First to help retire campaign debt from his ill-fated 2022 Senate run. “Duty First appears to be raising funds without disclosing that the donor’s funds will go towards debt retirement,” the complaint, shared first with At the Races, says.

Docket watch: In the branch of government that doesn’t face the voters but still plays a big role in elections, colleague Michael Macagnone reports the Supreme Court sounded skeptical about letting people get trademarks tied to political figures, while Ryan Tarinelli looked at legal efforts to use the 14th Amendment to keep Donald Trump off 2024 ballots.

Surly surveys: On this week’s Political Theater podcast, Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick talks with our campaign analyst and Inside Elections publisher Nathan L. Gonzales about why polling shows a remarkably wide swath of Americans with historically poor views of politics and politicians.

Trent Franks’ return: In 2017, Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks resigned from the House as the Ethics Committee was reviewing allegations about conversations Franks had with female staffers about carrying his children as surrogates, including allegedly offering a $5 million payout. Now he wants a comeback, announcing plans to run in the already crowded open-seat race in the 8th District. “Now that my family has matured and circumstances have developed as they have, I hope I can move forward for those I love and for the country I love in a wiser, more dedicated way than ever before,” Franks said in a statement published by the Arizona Republic.

Menendez talks: Facing bribery and other charges, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez railed against prosecutors again during a lengthy interview with NJ Spotlight News. “I’m innocent and I’m going to prove it,” he said, rejecting the idea of resigning or not seeking reelection next year. He said New Jersey voters would come back to him “when they see me exonerated and see what the government did here.” He called the charge that he was an unregistered agent for Egypt “outrageous” and said cash found in his home was the result of weekly $400 withdrawals from personal accounts. Menendez did not address gold bars that also were seized. “If I put out my whole defense now, then the government would try to alter their positions in order to meet their goal,” Menendez said. 

#NJSEN: New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy is taking steps toward a Senate run, which would make her the state’s first female senator if elected. Rep. Andy Kim is also running for the Democratic nomination for Menendez’s seat.

Staffing up: Speaker Mike Johnson has been busy filling out his team in his first full week as speaker. That included naming Billy Constangy as executive director of Team Johnson, his political operation. Constangy has been serving as leadership chief of staff to NRCC Chair Richard Hudson. 

Cash flow: The NRCC, meanwhile, touted that it raised $1 million in the first week of Johnson’s speakership.

Campaign launch: Dan Cox, a Republican who lost last year’s race for Maryland governor by 32 points, is running in the 6th District, which is open because Democratic Rep. David Trone is running for Senate. Inside Elections rates the seat as Likely Democratic. 

RIP: Ady Barkan, who became one of the nation’s most prominent advocates for Medicare for All while struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, died Wednesday. He was hailed as a hero by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and a host of other prominent Democrats. He was 39.

Primary overturned: Allegations of unprecedented absentee ballot fraud led a Connecticut judge to take the rare step of ordering a new Democratic mayoral primary in Bridgeport, the state’s largest city.

Endorsed: California Gov. Gavin Newsom is backing Lateefah Simon, an elected member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit board, in California’s 12th District, Politico’s California Playbook reports. The seat is currently held by Rep. Barbara Lee, who is running for Senate. 

Unendorsed: Konstantine Anthony, the Democratic mayor of Burbank, Calif., was an early backer of Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s Senate campaign. But he withdrew that endorsement this week, citing Schiff’s stance on Israel. “Until my congressman joins the peace movement, I can no longer, in good conscience, maintain my endorsement of his candidacy for the United States Senate,” Anthony wrote.

Scott with Trump: Ahead of a GOP presidential primary debate in South Florida that will feature the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rick Scott is calling on Republicans to rally behind Trump. In a Newsweek opinion piece, Scott writes that he isn’t calling on anyone in particular to drop out, but “I know most of the candidates running for president, and I respect their decision to put themselves through this very difficult process. They’ve made their case to voters, laid out their agendas and their plans, and told their stories. Make no mistake: every single one of them would be a better president than Joe Biden. But Republican voters are making their voices heard loud and clear. They want to return to the leadership of Donald Trump.”

What we’re reading

Sizing up the new guy: Roll Call columnists weighed in on Speaker Johnson, with Stu Rothenberg declaring the House under control of the religious right, Walter Shapiro concluding that Democrats gain little by demonizing Johnson and Mary C. Curtis advising the speaker to look to his Black constituents in Louisiana to frame his views on racial issues. 

Gubernatorial sisterhood: Elle looks at the tight bond that has developed between eight Democratic women governors. “They might not know exactly how old everyone is or how old their kids are — the details you could easily rattle off about your best friends — but they know the most important thing: what it’s like to carry the weight of a state on your shoulders.” 

Misleading on crime: Politicians running for offices ranging from city council to Congress often cite crime data to bolster their campaigns. But those numbers are often incomplete or wrong, according to a review by Stateline.

Underwater Sinema: Senate Republicans heard this week from NRSC Chairman Steve Daines that their polling of a three-way contest in Arizona with both Republican Kari Lake and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego on the ballot alongside independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema shows Sinema well behind and pulling more support from the GOP side. As Punchbowl News reports, Gallego was shown ahead at 41 percent, with Sinema well back at 17 percent.

Microsoft news mess: CNN has a new report about how Microsoft’s use of AI for its MSN and Microsoft Start websites has led to issues with actual fake news reaching the much-visited homepages. That includes a story alleging the Democratic Party was behind a surge in cases of COVID-19. Roll Call stories, including sometimes this newsletter, also appear on Microsoft Start.

California GOP: Kevin McCarthy’s ouster from the speakership could add to the challenges for other California Republicans, the Los Angeles Times reports. McCarthy, a prolific fundraiser, had helped keep the money flowing for the state party in a reliably blue state. McCarthy faces a new primary challenger in David Giglio, a business owner who said in a statement that Central Valley voters “deserve an America First Republican fighting for them in Washington and working alongside President Donald Trump to WAGE WAR against the corrupt uniparty!”

The count: 11 percent

That’s the share of the world’s billionaires who have held or sought political office, according to a Northwestern University study. The rate is higher in autocracies, at 29 percent, than in democracies, which came in at 5 percent.

Nathan’s notes

After avoiding it for most of the year because a new map was coming, Inside Elections has released ratings for North Carolina — and the picture for Democrats is dismal. In fact, Nathan reports that potential flips in the Tar Heel State mean the GOP could hold its majority next year even if Democrats win 11 of the 12 races nationwide now rated as Toss-ups.

Key race: AL-01

Redistricting in Alabama has led to the first member-on-member race of the 2024 cycle.

Rep. Barry Moore said this week he will run in the 1st District next year, setting up a challenge to fellow Republican Rep. Jerry Carl after a federal court ordered the state to use new district lines after the Supreme Court found the current map likely violated the Voting Rights Act.

Moore currently represents the 2nd District, which under the new map became a likely pickup for Democrats. Biden would have won the redrawn 2nd District by 13 percentage points in 2020, whereas he would have lost the district by 29 points under the lines used in 2022. 

So Moore and Carl, both in their second terms, will face off in a March 5 primary. Carl had a cash advantage at the end of the third quarter, reporting that he had $869,000 on hand as of Sept. 30 to Moore’s $647,000.

Moore signaled in an interview with local news organization 1819 News that he would run as the more conservative choice, noting his membership with the House Freedom Caucus. Moore has been backed by the Club for Growth PAC in previous campaigns.

Carl, who welcomed the challenge in a statement on Monday, represents a greater part of the redrawn district than Moore.

Coming up

What isn’t? Along with legislative elections on Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey that will be read like tea leaves for 2024, as well as a special House election in Rhode Island to fill ex-Rep. David Cicilline’s seat, there’s a Republican presidential debate the night of Nov. 8. But what you really want to put on your calendar is a webinar at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8 featuring At the Races all-stars talking about how 2024 looks a year out, including our latest updates to the House and Senate most vulnerable lists. Sign up here.

Photo finish

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer wears a matching green bow tie and bicycle pin at a 2019 news conference with ranchers supporting the Green New Deal and farm policy overhaul. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

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