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At the Races: Run the World (Older Women)

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Women age 50 and older are a key component of the electorate — and they are barreling toward the 2024 elections with a bleak outlook on the nation’s future.

These voters are deeply divided on their preferred presidential candidate, with 46 percent favoring Joe Biden and 43 percent choosing Donald Trump, according to a new poll by AARP released Thursday morning. The group was evenly split in their preference for Republicans or Democrats controlling Congress.  

“They’re a key swing voting block,” Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, told reporters at a briefing on the poll. “These women are fairly evenly divided by party and ideology, and they fall more in the center … than their male counterparts.”

The survey, conducted from Jan. 10 to 21, paints a collective portrait of a restive group of voters weighed down by economic concerns and fears that the U.S. is on the wrong track. Just 27 percent of respondents said the nation’s best days are ahead, and 42 percent said they expect the economy to decline within the next year.

Economic security topped the list of voters’ concerns, followed by immigration, threats to democracy and political division. Abortion access, notably, ranked far lower on the list, although the poll found broad support in general for abortion rights.

Biden’s strongest numbers were among women 65 and older; he won this group over Trump by a 7-point margin, while women ages 50-64 were more likely to say they are undecided. But taken as a whole, these voters were dissatisfied with the country’s political leaders and worried about the upcoming election. 

Yet they remain persuadable, said pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson of Echelon Insights. “They are truly, in my view, up for grabs by any candidates who decide to prioritize this group,” she said.

The numbers take on heightened importance because women 50 and older are among the most dependable voting blocs: In the 2022 midterm elections, they cast a third of all ballots despite making up about a quarter of the voting-age population, according to the Pew Research Center.

Starting gate

McConnell’s good week: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a survivor who has weathered his share of political headaches. But last week was filled with wins for the Kentucky Republican, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on Tuesday. First he helped shepherd a $95 billion bipartisan foreign aid package through a thicket of GOP opposition fomented by former President Donald Trump. Then his preferred candidate jumped into the Wisconsin Senate race and Rep. Matt Rosendale dropped his bid for Montana Senate.

Manchin out: Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., ruled out a run for president last week during a speech in Morgantown. “I will not be seeking a third-party run. I will not be involved in a presidential run. I will be involved in making sure that we secure a president who has the knowledge and has the passion and has the ability to bring this country together,” Manchin said.

IVF questions: The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling last week considering frozen embryos as children is raising concern that in vitro fertilization, or IVF access, could face new restrictions, colleague Sandhya Raman reports.

ICYMI

#WISSEN: Eric Hovde launched his long-awaited Senate campaign Tuesday, finally giving Republicans a top recruit to take on Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is supporting Hovde and released a new ad criticizing Baldwin, while Democrats have criticized him as a carpetbagger who’s spent most of his time outside the state.

Big backer: Trump endorsed Illinois Rep. Mike Bost, who faces a primary challenge in the 12th District; North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, who is running for Congress in the 14th District; and Vince Fong, who is running to replace former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California’s 20th District. 

#MTSEN: Our friend Kate Ackley at Bloomberg looks at how Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s ties to lobbyists could be a Republican attack line in his reelection race this year. 

Endorsement watch: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund endorsed five House candidates: Ashley Ehasz in Pennsylvania’s 1st District and Janelle Stelson in the 10th District; Sarah McBride for Delaware’s at-large seat; Kristen McDonald Rivet in Michigan’s 8th District; and Joanna Weiss in California’s 47th District. 

Homefront: Colleague Jim Saksa reports on “an underground group of Hill aides advocating a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas” who held a fundraiser recently. 

He’s running: Former CNN anchor John Avlon joined the field of Democrats seeking to challenge GOP Rep. Nick LaLota in New York’s 1st District.

What we’re reading

Scott speaks: Since ending his own presidential campaign, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has joined Trump on the campaign trail, emphasizing the stylistic differences between the two Republicans. Scott, a potential Trump VP pick, tells The Wall Street Journal that he had “hoped that the country was ready for a faith in America experience” but that he learned “they really want a bull in a china shop for a little while first.” 

Abortion politics continued: Larry Hogan’s entry into Maryland’s Senate race this month was a big recruiting win for Republicans, but whether the popular two-term governor can win a Senate seat in a blue state could come down to abortion, which will also be on the ballot in November, The Associated Press writes

Talking about it: Amy Brown, the wife of Republican Senate hopeful Sam Brown, is speaking publicly about her own abortion story. Nevada is a purple state, but abortion rights have been broadly affirmed by Nevada voters going back to 1990. NBC News has the interview.

Up next: Ahead of the Senate taking up the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Congressional Research Service freshened up its 28-page report on how the impeachment process works in the chamber. An NRSC memo recommended that candidates demand Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer hold a trial, Axios reports

#NC10: Immigration is taking on a central role in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s open 10th District, according to this McClatchy report. Pat Harrigan, one of the leading candidates in a five-way race, said he was open to a pathway to citizenship while running in a different district in 2022, a stance state Rep. Grey Mills’ campaign has criticized. 

Battling disinfo: Capital B looks at efforts to fight disinformation aimed at Black voters across the South. Advocates have created toolkits and guides to educate voters on how to spot ads meant to deceive and mislead.

Loyalty over party: The Texas GOP is grappling with internal turmoil, and some longtime members told KERA News that the party now prizes allegiance to Trump and state Attorney General Ken Paxton over policy positions and conservative beliefs. 

Avoiding each other: Trump and David McCormick, who is running to challenge Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, haven’t spoken since 2022, when the former president backed Mehmet Oz in the state’s Senate race over McCormick. The AP looks at the awkward relationship between the two, who look likely to share a ballot in a key swing state this year. 

The count: $2.75 million

That’s how much former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn — described as a “gentle, thoughtful giant” by those who know him in a story by Saksa — raised in January through the platform ActBlue for his run for the seat that Rep. John Sarbanes is giving up in Maryland’s 3rd District, our colleague Jacob Rubashkin at Inside Elections alertly noticed. Dunn on Thursday also rolled out endorsements from Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Jasmine Crockett of Texas, and Eric Swalwell and Adam B. Schiff of California.

Nathan’s notes

Departures by relatively younger members of Congress have fueled the narrative that this town’s not a place people want to work in, but Nathan points out some veteran former members are trying to get back in this year’s elections.

Key race: #GA13

Candidates: Incumbent Democratic Rep. David Scott, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, faces a primary challenge from Marcus Flowers, who ran against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in 2022. 

Why it matters: Flowers was able to raise boatloads of money last cycle running against MTG in a ruby red district based in northwest Georgia. He received and disbursed more than $16 million, and his boosted name ID could require Scott to put up a fight for renomination for a 12th term.

Cash dash: Flowers just jumped into the race this week, but he had $72,000 in Mission Democracy PAC, the successor to his 2022 campaign account, at the end of last year. Scott’s year-end report showed just $654,000 raised this cycle, including a small candidate loan. The incumbent had $747,000 cash on hand as of the end of last year.

Backers: Scott has the advantage of incumbency and the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC.

Terrain: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that neither Scott nor Flowers resides within the new boundaries of the 13th District, which now incorporates parts of the east edge of metro Atlanta after redistricting approved by a federal judge in December 2023.

Wild card: Some Democrats have questioned whether Scott, 78, is the right man for the job of leading the Agriculture Committee, with Politico quoting one Democratic lawmaker this week describing the 11-term Scott as “Exhibit A for term limits.”

Coming up

Michigan Democrats hold their presidential primary on Tuesday. Biden isn’t expected to have much trouble with the other names on the ballot: Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who was laying off staff this week, and author Marianne Williamson, who suspended her campaign on Feb. 7. But there is a move led by critics of his support for Israel, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, to get Democrats to vote for the “Uncommitted” option.

Photo finish

Our photojournalist Bill Clark’s shot of Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a news conference in Statuary Hall on Feb. 3, 2023, won first place this week in the “On Capitol Hill” category of the annual “Eyes of History” contest run by the White House News Photographers Association.

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