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At the Races: Expect Trump on Colorado ballot

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here. Editor’s note: At the Races will be on hiatus for the next two weeks and return on Jan. 11.

Colorado’s state Supreme Court packed a lot into its ruling this week on former President Donald Trump and the 14th Amendment. Along with finding that Trump was not protected by the First Amendment when he “incited and encouraged the use of violence and lawless action to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power” on Jan. 6, 2021, the 4-3 majority ruled he “engaged in insurrection” and was covered by a post-Civil War amendment that bars insurrectionists who previously pledged to uphold the Constitution from holding federal office.

Despite that ruling, it’s very likely that Trump still will be on Colorado’s March 5 Republican primary ballot. The state court did order Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold not to put Trump’s name on the ballots, but the same ruling immediately postponed, or stayed, that order.

The stay runs until Jan. 4, a date chosen because Griswold faces a Jan. 5 deadline to certify the names on the ballots that must go out on Jan. 20 to overseas and military voters and on Feb. 12 to the rest of the state, which primarily votes by mail. And the stay’s Jan. 4 expiration date isn’t even that — it is automatically extended if Trump merely asks the federal court to intervene.

So the only way Trump won’t be on the primary ballot is if the U.S. Supreme Court decides not to hear an expected Trump appeal, or if the justices take the case and then uphold Colorado’s decision before Jan 4. Otherwise, Griswold will put Trump’s name on the ballot on Jan. 5, or two weeks from Friday.

Nevertheless, Trump and his supporters were effective within minutes of the ruling at decrying the disenfranchisement of Colorado Republicans. 

Rival presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy pledged to pull out of the state and challenged Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Chris Christie to do the same. The state GOP replied that it would pull itself out of its own primary and award delegates through a caucus if necessary.

And Trump — who was already using the mugshot from his Atlanta arraignment to raise money, including on Christmas wrapping paper — sent out numerous emails pleading for contributions to fight the case.

“All of these witch hunts – the ELECTION INTERFERENCE – are nothing more than the ruling party and sitting president attempting to stay in power against the will of voters like YOU,” read one email with the subject line “BALLOT REMOVAL.”

President Joe Biden, as he has on all of the criminal cases facing Trump, did not comment directly on the Colorado ruling.

“Whether the 14th Amendment applies, I’ll let the court make that decision,” he told pool reporters on Wednesday. “But he certainly supported an insurrection. No question about it. None. Zero. And he seems to be doubling down on [just] about everything.”

If a court does keep Trump off the ballot, that will be a big deal. That has not quite happened yet, however.

Starting gate

Getting paid: A new rule approved by the FEC will make it easier for candidates running for Congress to draw salaries from their campaign accounts. Advocates for working-class candidates are hailing the rule, which they say more accurately reflects the fact that running for federal office is a full-time job that usually begins a year or more before the election. 

‘Overrun’: Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville criticized Trump’s comments about immigrants “poisoning the blood” of our country, but that was because he thought the former president was too tame, colleague Mark Satter reports.

What he really thinks: Biden may not mention Trump’s name often at public events, but Editor-at-Large John T. Bennett notes it’s a different story when he’s in front of donors or guests at elite White House gatherings.

Rural health: A boom in the deployment of mobile health care across the country has slowed, including in the more rural parts of key electoral states like Pennsylvania. Lauren Clason reports for CQ Roll Call that there are some familiar culprits, including supply chain woes.


Grand Old Party: The conclusion of last week’s House session also meant Rep. Kevin McCarthy cast his final votes before his Dec. 31 resignation. Colleagues used floor time before they scattered from Washington to praise him and bemoan his rise and fall. Fellow California Republican Tom McClintock spoke of how McCarthy’s reign as speaker came to an end, “not because of the Republican conference but because of the eight sad and pathetic mediocrities nursing petty personal grudges,” colleague Justin Papp reports.

‘Silver lining’: McCarthy’s drawn-out pursuit of the speaker’s gavel in January had an upside for freshman Democratic member Jonathan L. Jackson of Illinois, Papp also reports. Unlike normal weeks during which members fly in, hold a bunch of hearings and votes, go to receptions and then fly out, Jackson said that as the House spent days on end trying to pick a speaker, “I actually met a lot of people.”

#CASEN: A new Politico Morning Consult poll shows retired baseball star Steve Garvey making serious inroads in the California Senate race. Garvey, a Republican, netted 19 percent among likely and undecided voters in the survey, putting him second to Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, who received 28 percent. Two other Democrats, Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, were at 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively. All the candidates will compete in California’s nonpartisan March 5 primary, and the top two finishers will compete in the general election in November.

Logan’s second run: Republican George Logan, who is seeking a rematch against Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th District after losing by less than 1 percentage point in 2022, has picked up the support of Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. Logan “won’t be another rubber stamp on the failed Biden agenda,’’ Stefanik said in a statement. Biden won the district by more than 10 points in 2020.

Trump endorsement watch: The former president is throwing his support behind Bernie Moreno in the Ohio Senate race. Trump called the GOP to unite behind the “MAGA fighter” over fellow Republicans Frank LaRose and Matt Dolan. All three men are vying to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in a contest that could determine which party controls the chamber. Watching from the sidelines, Ohio Democrats predicted Trump’s endorsement will only make the GOP slugfest nastier and more expensive.

Trump nonendorsement watch: Trump also issued a call Monday for someone to take on Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who has endorsed DeSantis, in the state’s GOP primary on March 5. The only problem is the deadline to run in Texas was Dec. 11, and Roy will be unopposed for the nomination.

Another nonendorsement: McCarthy’s resignation announcement just before the deadline to get on California’s ballot probably means the member of the state Assembly he wanted as his replacement, Vince Fong, cannot run for the seat because Fong had already filed to run for reelection and the state doesn’t allow someone to run for two offices at once. Litigation is expected.

Ex-endorsement: Kate Gallego, Phoenix’s Democratic mayor, has endorsed Rep. Ruben Gallego in Arizona’s must-watch Senate race. The endorsement is notable, in part, because the congressman is also the mayor’s ex-husband. “I’m proud to endorse Ruben because I know first-hand his commitment to building a brighter future for Arizona,” the mayor said in a statement.

Coal in their stockings: The NRCC released its own version of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which places Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Mary Peltola, Jared Golden and other vulnerable House Democrats on the “naughty list.”

Mailing it in: The Feb. 13 special election on Long Island and in Queens to fill the seat of the expelled former Rep. George Santos will offer a look at New York’s new early voting-by-mail law, Gothamist reports. The Empire State law takes effect in January.

Bookmark it: The 19th has a helpful guide to abortion-related ballot measures that could be a key driver of voter engagement in 2024 in states across the country.

Related: The White House said Tuesday that Vice President Kamala Harris would be hitting the road starting on the 51st anniversary of the now-nullified Roe v. Wade decision in January with events to highlight the Biden administration’s efforts to protect abortion access.

Not coordinating: The DeSantis campaign is once again facing a challenge alleging it has improperly coordinated with the Never Back Down super PAC that is providing much of the infrastructure to support the Florida governor’s White House bid. The Campaign Legal Center contends in an FEC complaint that the DeSantis campaign has done too much to influence the messaging of the supposedly outside group.

Christmas comes early: West Virginia GOP Gov. (and Senate front-runner) Jim Justice issued a proclamation Wednesday that makes Friday a full-day holiday for state government workers.

Brew news: The members-only contest to name a new microbrew on tap at the National Press Club has a winner, with “First Draft” getting more than twice as many votes as runner-up “Thirst Amendment.” And once again proving that in politics if you have to explain you’re losing, an At the Races team member’s suggestion of “License One” — since the club has the first liquor license issued by Washington, D.C., after Prohibition ended — was far behind.

What we’re reading

Second look: An editorial this week by The Star-Ledger questioning first lady/Senate candidate Tammy Murphy’s success at reducing infant mortality in New Jersey led to her spokesman retweeting a July editorial from the same paper praising her for it, and an exchange of tweets between the spokesman and editorial page editor. Elsewhere in the Garden State, has a look at the 18 times Sen. Bob Menendez’s wife and co-defendant, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, has called the police for problems such as someone running over a flowerpot.

Rags to riches to memes: HuffPost takes a deep look at Democratic Rep. Shri Thanedar, a freshman from Michigan whose journey to Congress was powered by his rags-to-riches story, his personal wealth and his practice of posting memes. But HuffPost reports that Thanedar has swiftly burned through staff, alienated his fellow members and spent “taxpayer funds on what some people with knowledge of his office view as naked self-promotion.”

Misinfo debunked: The BBC unravels the false claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy purchased two luxury yachts with American aid and traces its spread from a pro-Russian website to members of Congress.

Slavery’s legacy: The latest installment of Reuters’ multipart series on the lasting imprint of slavery on today’s political elite examines how the forebears of three members of Congress — Reps. French Hill of Arkansas and Dina Titus of Nevada, and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana — regained the wealth and power their families lost after the Civil War.

Hall of shame? The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame honors the achievements of Ocean State denizens who have made significant contributions. But the group’s decision to induct Trump’s disgraced national security director, Michael Flynn, was blasted by Boston Globe columnist Dan McGowan, who noted that state political leaders, “including the governor and members of the congressional delegation, are refusing to attend the induction ceremony.”

The count: 34 percent

It’s been out there since Monday, so it’s hardly news, but it’s hard to come up with a number that better illustrates the year-end election environment and steep climb ahead for Biden and Democrats than the record-low 34 percent national job approval rating he got in a Monmouth University Poll taken Nov. 3 to Dec. 4. True, there were some better numbers for Democrats reported this week, including a New York Times/Siena poll that found Biden leading Trump by 2 percentage points among likely voters. And the drop in Biden’s numbers in the Monmouth poll came largely from Democrats and independents, voters he could still win back in a one-on-one race. But the data shows how badly the administration did in gauging what the public wanted to hear this year: “The Biden administration keeps touting their infrastructure investments and a host of positive economic indicators. Those data points may be factual, but most Americans are still smarting from higher prices caused by post-pandemic inflation,” Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said. “There is political danger in pushing a message that basically tells people their take on their own situation is wrong.”

Nathan’s notes

Nathan tells us that America’s little towns of Bethlehem might well help decide a number of key congressional contests on the ballot in 2024. The list includes Bethlehem, Pa., in Rep. Susan Wild’s district, and Bethlehem, Conn., in  Hayes’ district (which is one of the places with a long tradition of holiday postmarks at the local post office).

Key race: #MDSEN

The Democratic primary for the seat opening with the retirement of Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has attracted no shortage of high-profile endorsements for both Rep. David Trone and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks.

Trone, a self-funder, is already hard to miss on the local TV airwaves in the Washington, D.C., media market. And a Dec. 1 polling memo released by his campaign pointed to a name ID advantage over Alsobrooks, with 86 percent of respondents in a likely voter survey knowing his name, compared with 75 percent for Alsobrooks. The same poll found Trone ahead but with an abundance of undecided voters.

The three top Democrats in the House — Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar of California — are backing Trone. Alsobrooks has headline endorsements from Gov. Wes Moore, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.

Trone secured his first endorsement from the “Team Maryland” delegation in November, with the backing of Baltimore-based C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. With both candidates hailing from the national capital region, picking up the support in Baltimore City and Baltimore County could be among the keys to success in the May 14 primary.

Coming up

Ho-ho-holidays. At the Races will be on hiatus for two weeks and returns on Jan. 11. Watch for campaign news in the meantime, and enjoy some time with family and friends. After Appalachian State held on to win its sloppy bowl game last week over Miami of Ohio, the At the Races team will be rooting for Rutgers against the other Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl next week.

Photo finish

It was a year full of historic moments, and Roll Call’s photojournalists were there to capture all of the action. (Bill Clark and Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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