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At the Races: SOTU Thursday follows Super Tuesday

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As Super Tuesday results continue to roll in, the campaign trail comes to the Capitol on Thursday night for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. 

Biden is expected to address how his administration has tried to lower costs for Americans and to discuss how he would continue to do so in a second term, Niels and John T. Bennett report. Daniel Hornung, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said Biden is also expected to go after Republican plans on the economy, saying they would prioritize tax cuts for corporations. 

But the delivery of the speech, which is likely to be one of the most closely watched events of the election year, in and of itself will be a major test for Biden, the oldest person to serve as president, who needs to show voters he has what it takes for a second term in the White House.

It’s also a big night for Speaker Mike Johnson, who will sit with Vice President Kamala Harris behind Biden for the first time. Johnson has invited guests to help draw attention to top Republican priorities, CQ Roll Call’s Justin Papp reports. One of those guests is Tammy Nobles, whose daughter was killed allegedly by a member of MS-13 and who testified before the House Homeland Security Committee about her death. 

Democrats have also invited guests who would draw attention to issues they think play to their strengths on the campaign trail. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine is bringing Elizabeth Carr, the first person born via in-vitro fertilization.

Starting gate

Tuesday recap: The team’s takeaways from this week’s primaries focused on MAGA might, happy leaders and more after Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee didn’t get one of the two ballot positions in the California Senate race and Republican Rep. Jerry Carl lost the member vs. member primary in Alabama’s 1st District. Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips also accepted he’d lost the Democratic presidential primary battle and endorsed Biden. Facing a runoff is Texas GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales.

Sinema out: Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Tuesday she will not seek reelection this year, setting up a traditional two-party Senate contest in the Grand Canyon State. “Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year,” Sinema said in a statement. Democrats rushed to endorse Rep. Ruben Gallego after the announcement, while Republican front-runner Kari Lake was on Capitol Hill this week and raising money in D.C.

McConnell backs Trump: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that “it should come as no surprise” that he will be supporting former President Donald Trump as the GOP nominee for president, now that primary season’s effectively over with former Ambassador Nikki Haley having suspended her campaign following Super Tuesday.

Back on the ballot: The Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Colorado decision that said Trump was ineligible to appear on the state’s primary ballot and wasn’t eligible for the White House under the so-called Insurrection Clause, Ryan Tarinelli writes. The justices said in a ruling that didn’t identify its author that only Congress, not the states, has the power to disqualify people from holding federal office.

Talking Senate races: On this week’s Political Theater podcast, Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick talks with Jacob Rubashkin, deputy editor of Inside Elections, about the Senate primaries that just ended and the year to come.

ICYMI

#MISEN: A poll of likely primary voters from Great Lakes Conservatives Fund, a super PAC supporting former Rep. Mike Rogers’ Senate bid in Michigan, found Rogers led his GOP rivals with 32 percent. The poll follows a roughly $2 million ad campaign introducing Rogers statewide. Rogers also picked up an endorsement from former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who dropped his own bid for the seat last month. 

Never mind: House Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, who earlier this month announced his plan to retire from Congress, has changed his mind. The Republican from Tennessee said he decided to reverse course after receiving calls asking him to reconsider from constituents, colleagues and Trump.   

#NJSEN: Not many politicians have enough experience being under indictment that you can compare public opinion about them on a nine-year timeline, but Monmouth University reports that 75 percent of New Jersey voters think Sen. Bob Menendez is “probably guilty” of the current charges he faces, versus 47 percent who said the same when he was indicted in 2015. Menendez was hit with new charges this week, after one of his co-defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate, CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette reports. CNN’s Manu Raju reports that Menendez continued to say he won’t resign, but when asked if he’ll run again this year, replied, “That’s another question.”

AI ad transparency: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have new legislation that would require disclosure of the use of artificial intelligence in political ads. “As we work to ban deceptive deepfakes of candidates, we also need disclaimers to improve transparency in our elections so that whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, voters will know if the political ads they see are made using this technology,” Klobuchar, who chairs the Rules and Administration Committee, said in a statement.

Endorsement watch: End Citizens United, EMILY’s List and Reproductive Freedom for All endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks for Maryland’s open Senate seat. 

Wisconsin map remains: The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit brought by Democrats seeking to redraw the state’s congressional maps, leaving the state’s current congressional districts in place for the 2024 elections. 

New Dems hire: Jon Gonin, who managed New York Rep. Tom Suozzi’s special election campaign, will be political director for the New Democrat Action Fund. Gonin also managed New Dem Chair Annie Kuster’s 2022 campaign in New Hampshire. 

Ad watch: Senate Majority PAC launched a seven-figure ad buy in Wisconsin that highlights Senate candidate Eric Hovde’s ties to California. The ad is running on TV and online. 

Dropping out: Democrat Joel Rubin dropped out of the race to succeed Rep. David Trone, who is running for Senate, in Maryland’s 6th District. Rubin endorsed April McClain Delaney, whose husband previously held the seat. 

Biden and young voters: A new poll by Voters of Tomorrow, a nonpartisan group that seeks to harness the political power of Gen Z voters, and Generation Lab found that young voters strongly prefer Biden over Trump. The survey put Biden at 42 percent to Trump’s 29 percent. Democrats topped the generic congressional ballot by 22 points. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they agree or strongly agree that a cease-fire is needed in Gaza, but the war was listed as a top-three concern by just 16 percent.

What we’re reading

How Haley did it: Nikki Haley won her first (and last) state Tuesday when she emerged victorious in Vermont’s Republican presidential primary. VT Digger found that Haley’s success in the Green Mountain State was largely due to crossover voters such as Marley Beers, a political independent who typically votes Democratic but requested a Republican ballot this time because she doesn’t want Trump to “have a very easy path” to the GOP nomination.

Abbott’s victory: He wasn’t on the ballot, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had a very good election night. The Texas Tribune looked at the legislative candidates Abbott and Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, went after, including Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and others they accused of disloyalty. Seven of the challengers Abbott backed won their primaries and another four qualified for a runoff.

Rising power: The Atlantic sheds light on a “rapidly growing charismatic Christian movement … of megachurches, modern-day apostles and prophets, media empires, worship bands and millions of followers.” Known as the New Apostolic Reformation, the movement has become “a gathering force in American politics.”

Rodimer arrest: Former pro wrestler Dan Rodimer, a former GOP congressional nominee in Nevada who had previously been arrested for alleged battery at a Waffle House, surrendered to authorities in connection with an alleged murder, The Associated Press reports.

AIPAC scorecard: The Jewish Telegraphic Agency assessed how the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s affiliated political action committee, AIPAC PAC, performed in two key California primaries. The pro-Israel group got its preferred candidate in the California Senate race but scored a loss in a battleground district in Orange County.

The count: $509.1 million

That’s the total value of 271 earmarks in the $476.5 billion six-bill appropriation package the House passed on Wednesday that were sponsored or co-sponsored by Democrats in districts that Trump won and Republicans in districts that Biden won. One member, Arizona Republican David Schweikert, didn’t request anything, and he was the only one in the group who voted against the package. The others got between 10 and 15 line items each. The GOP controls the chamber, and 23 of the 24 most expensive items were sponsored by Republicans, topped by $9 million that California’s David Valadao got for a homeless shelter in Bakersfield and $8 million that New York’s Mike Lawler got (with Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as co-sponsors) for streetscape improvements in the Town of Ramapo. Valadao also had the biggest total, $55 million. Top Democrat on the list was Maine’s Jared Golden, with $26 million sponsored.

Nathan’s notes

Oregon Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer’s seat is one Democrats hope to take back after she flipped it in 2022 against Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a progressive who had ousted Rep. Kurt Schrader in the 2022 primary. McLeod-Skinner is running again this year, but the candidate who has been given “Red to Blue” status by the DCCC is state Rep. Janelle Bynum, and Nathan looks at how she stacks up.

Key race: #OH09

Candidates: In the 1982 midterms, Democrat Marcy Kaptur rode a wave of anti-Reagan sentiment to win a House seat in northwest Ohio, and she’s hung on ever since, even as the district and the state have turned increasingly red. The Republican field of candidates vying to replace her consists of former three-term state Rep. Craig Riedel, state Rep. Derek Merrin and former Napoleon Mayor Steve Lankenau. J.R. Majewski, a controversial conservative who lost to Kaptur by 13 points in 2022, dropped his bid for the seat last week after a backlash over comments he made on a podcast that disparaged people with mental disabilities, although he will remain on the March 19 primary ballot.

Why it matters: The district is one of just five held by a Democrat that Trump would have won in 2020 had the current district lines been in place. Republicans view the seat as a top pickup opportunity, especially with Trump at the top of the ticket. But many in the GOP viewed Majewski, a Trump supporter who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, as a risky choice: Revelations that he misrepresented his military record helped doom his 2022 run, and they feared a rematch with Kaptur would lead to a similar outcome. But the primary field is fractured, with top Republicans all backing different candidates, and that could help the Democrats, who are united behind Kaptur.

Backers: Riedel has the support of Rep. Jim Jordan, the influential Ohio Republican who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Majority Whip Tom Emmer. He initially had the backing of Rep. Elise Stefanik, but she withdrew her endorsement after audio surfaced of Riedel critiquing Trump. Merrin was endorsed by Speaker Mike Johnson and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

What they’re saying: No matter which Republican emerges from the primary later this month, Ohio’s political shift will help determine who wins in November, said Sam Nelson, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toledo. “In 2020, Republicans won Ohio by a bigger margin than they won Texas, so that’s how red the state has become,” he said. “I think this is going to be a really tough race for Kaptur.”

However, Nelson isn’t counting Kaptur out: She’s emphasized blue-collar interests that are important to the district, and she’s been vocal in pressing Democrats to pay more attention to voters in the middle of the country. “You don’t stay in Congress for over 40 years without being good at politics. And so she’s got a lot that she can draw on in a race,” Nelson said.

Terrain: The district stretches along Lake Erie and includes Toledo and Sandusky. In 2022, the lines were redrawn to exclude the blue-leaning Cleveland suburbs in exchange for more Republican communities along the Indiana border. Inside Elections rates the race as Lean Democratic.

Wild card: Kaptur last year became the longest-serving woman in Congress. She was the first member of her family to attend college and worked as a city planner for 15 years before serving as an urban policy adviser in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Coming up

Mississippi holds congressional primaries on Tuesday, but incumbents with no opponents in their party are Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republicans Trent Kelly and Michael Guest. There’s also no Democrat running in the party primary in Guest’s district.

Photo finish

Arizona GOP Senate candidate Lake leaves the Capitol after a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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