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At the Races: Let the voting begin

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A belated happy election year to you all, At The Races readers. It’s hard to believe the Iowa caucuses are already upon us. 

But on Monday night, Republicans across Iowa will head to caucus in the first presidential contest of the year. Democrats, of course, have reshuffled their early voting states, and Iowa Democrats will participate in a mail-in caucus with preference cards being mailed out to people who request them beginning on Friday, with results set to be announced in March. 

Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley predicted that former President Donald Trump will win the night but said he wasn’t sure which of his opponents would take second place. Grassley said he expected Trump’s support to be in the mid-40s and predicted that former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would likely have support in the high teens or low 20s.

“I’m a believer in polls, like you’d expect me to be. But I think that Trump’s going to win big, but maybe not as big as the polls show today,” Grassley said Wednesday. “DeSantis and Haley are going to do better, but I don’t know who’s going to come in second.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican who represents Iowa’s 4th District, said people were starting to be more engaged with the candidates in the final days leading up to the caucus. The state was hit with a foot of snow this week, but candidates are still attracting a few hundred people at their events, he said. Feenstra said he’ll be caucusing at the gym in his hometown of Hull on Monday night. 

Feenstra, like the other members of Iowa’s all-Republican congressional delegation, hasn’t offered an endorsement of any candidate this cycle. 

“It disenfranchises everybody if I did that, and I just want to make sure that I’m an ambassador to everybody,” Feenstra said. “It’s been so much fun over the last year showing them around, showing what Iowa has to offer, and that should be my role.”

Starting gate

Capitol comeback: Harry Dunn, a former Capitol Police officer who defended the building on Jan. 6, 2021, and later testified about his experience that day, is running for Congress in Maryland’s 3rd District, CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette reports. Dunn is seeking to succeed retiring Rep. John Sarbanes in a blue district where several other candidates are already running. 

Why-owa? On this week’s Political Theater podcast, CQ Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick and political analyst Nathan L. Gonzales discuss why Iowa caucuses that Trump is heavily favored to win matter, plus a whole lot more, including sports teams of the Northwest and Southwest and how House retirements and a Trump-Biden faceoff affect House and Senate races.

Saying no to pork: Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat running for California’s open Senate seat, is calling for an end to earmarks, saying they reinforce inequities and drain resources from poor communities. The proposal is part of her “shake up the Senate plan,” which also includes her call to abolish the filibuster and ban senators from trading stocks or accepting contributions from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs. She highlighted the plan in her first TV ad, which began airing this week.

POTUS on the road: Biden has traveled to Pennsylvania and South Carolina in the past week, making his reelection pitch and warning of the threat to democracy he sees from the potential return of Trump. He will be back in Pennsylvania on Friday, this time in the Allentown area for another Bidenomics event. The At the Races team and our colleague John T. Bennett are following the president’s moves. 

Emphasizing abortion access: Several Latinas running for Congress this year are making abortion rights a key focus of their campaigns. “We know what it’s like to live under a government that tries to control every aspect of our life, and we’re not going to tolerate that here in Florida,” said former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is running against Republican Sen. Rick Scott. “This is the kind of control and extremism that we see in Latin American regimes, not here in the United States of America.”

Jersey guys: Before he quit the presidential race, former Gov. Chris Christie had some things to say about GOP leaders in Congress kowtowing to Trump, Bennett reports. Refusing to quit, meanwhile, is Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who took to the Senate floor to explain why. 

ICYMI

Ground game: The National Republican Congressional Committee announced a multimillion-dollar investment in a “battle station program,” meant to contact swing voters in battleground seats, including in states that aren’t competitive on the presidential level. The NRCC has already opened offices in 21 districts held by Republicans and hopes to open more in districts with Republican challengers.

California battleground: Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican from Southern California, vanquished the same Democratic opponent three times in four years. But this year, he faces a new challenger in Democrat George Whitesides. 

Ethics probe: The House Ethics Committee created a special subcommittee to investigate whether Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fla., violated House rules or campaign finance laws in a 2022 special election.

Hoyer runs again: Former House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., will seek a 23rd term in Congress, he announced this week, as The Washington Post reported. “I believe I have more work to complete on behalf of my district, my state, and my country. I am blessed to have the good health, strength, and enduring passion necessary to continue serving my constituents at this decisive moment for Maryland and America,” he said in a statement. Andrea Crooms, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, officially launched her campaign to challenge Hoyer on Thursday.

Calling it quits: A quartet of GOP House members, all facing races in November rated Solid Republican, announced they would not run: Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, and Larry Bucshon and Greg Pence of Indiana.

Seat switchers: Court-ordered redistricting in Georgia led Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath and Republican Rep. Rich McCormick to decide to run in new districts. In Colorado, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is leaving her 3rd District in the western part of the state for the eastern 4th District, where GOP Rep. Ken Buck is retiring. She faces competition in the primary there, however.

Chamber changer: Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, is running for the Senate seat that 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is giving up at the end of the year.

Dates set: Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio — whose decision to stay in Congress for several months after accepting a job as a university president in November stirred some ethics concerns advocates, as Justin Papp reports — made his resignation effective Jan. 21, and the state ordered a special primary for March 19 and a special election for June 11. California will also have a special primary on March 19 to pick nominees for the seat that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy left vacant when he resigned on Dec. 31. That special election will be May 21. 

Congratulations and welcome: Nathan has promoted Jacob Rubashkin to be deputy editor of Inside Elections. And CQ Roll Call alum Benjamin J. Hulac has opened the Washington bureau of njspotlightnews.org.

What we’re reading

Stu says: Stu Rothenberg writes about how a Senate class that includes many more vulnerable Democratic than Republican seats and a Democratic electorate that stays home because of unhappiness with President Joe Biden could produce a Republican sweep in November. 

Granite vs. Hawkeye: Columnist David Winston looks at whether New Hampshire or Iowa is a better predictor in presidential politics.

Civil War revisionism: On the Republican primary campaign trail, “it seems each day’s headlines include at least one fractured history lesson” writes columnist Mary C. Curtis, highlighting the sheer number of falsehoods about the Civil War, with Trump saying that the war could’ve been “negotiated” and Nikki Haley, who was governor of South Carolina, neglecting to mention slavery when asked about the war.

Sup, bro? Vivek Ramaswamy has made capturing the youth vote a key part of his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination, wooing college students with the promise of free beer. NBC News caught up with the multimillionaire candidate in the basement of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Iowa State University, where Ramaswamy presented his platform to a mostly male crowd. 

Deep ties: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, is home to the nation’s highest concentration of Ukrainian Americans, a group that includes the region’s congressman. But Republican Rep. Dan Meuser has grown increasingly reluctant to support aid to Ukraine, a stance that could have political implications for him in a place where ties to the embattled Eastern European nation run deep, NOTUS reports.

The count: 3 points

That was the drop in support for Democrats from 2020 to 2022 among Black voters, according to the Democratic data firm Catalist. While Black voters remain the most consistently Democratic-leaning constituency in the electorate by race, the DCCC is looking to shore up that support: It recently expanded its effort to reach voters of color, who are seen as key to the party’s hopes of retaking the House. 

Nathan’s notes

Along with chatting with Jason for the podcast noted above, Nathan examines whether the disarray in Congress and seemingly daily announcements from House members that they don’t want to run again really is a mass exodus. And if you missed it since our last newsletter, Inside Elections updated race ratings for Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska and GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. 

Key race: #CA16

An open House seat in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley has drawn 11 candidates vying to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, who has held the seat since 1993.

Eshoo is backing Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, one of nine Democrats running in the March 5 all-party primary, from which two candidates will advance to the November ballot.

“I don’t think there is anyone in the entire field that has the experience that Joe has at the very local level, and I know first hand what local level experience means,” Eshoo told the San José Spotlight

The field also includes Evan Low, a member of the state Assembly; former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Peter Dixon, the co-founder of a cybersecurity company; and Julie Lythcott-Haims, a member of the Palo Alto City Council. 

Low has the endorsement of several members of the California delegation, including Reps. Ro Khanna, Judy Chu and Mark Takano. He is seeking to become the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from the Bay Area. Lythcott-Haims, the only woman in the race, was endorsed by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Simian reported $681,000 in his campaign account at the end of September. Another Democrat, former local official Rishi Kumar, reported about $21,000 on hand. Low, Liccardo and Lythcott-Haims entered the race after the filing deadline, although Liccardo’s campaign said it will report raising $1.65 million in fourth-quarter reports that are due at the FEC by Monday night. Liccardo’s campaign conducted an internal poll that put him ahead, with 25 percent of the vote.

Inside Elections rates the race for the seat Solid Democratic.

Coming up

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III, who may or may not be running for something, will be in New Hampshire on Friday for the New England Council’s “Politics and Eggs” speaker series. He’s also scheduled to stop at MaryAnn’s Diner in Derry. We recommend the pancakes and the home fries.

Photo finish

Then-New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, right, and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez walk between meetings in the Capitol in December 2012 as they work to build support for disaster relief funding after the Northeast was hit by Hurricane Sandy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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