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At the Races: Don’t call him the next Mitch

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Already running for a second term in the Senate, Florida’s Rick Scott launched a second campaign this week to be the chamber’s next Republican leader. 

His announcement makes it a three-way race for Republican leader that includes two deputies of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, and John Cornyn of Texas, a former whip. 

Scott’s pitch to his colleagues leans more MAGA than the Senate currently does under McConnell. Scott highlighted his relationship with former President Donald Trump, who he predicted will win the White House in November, and said that Senate Republicans’ leadership needs to “represent our voters and fight on the issues that matter to them.”

The Florida Republican challenged McConnell for chamber leadership in late 2022, after his term as chair of the NRSC ended. He got 10 votes in that election, showing there was a group of senators looking to move on from McConnell, the longest-serving party leader in Senate history. 

Democrats are already using Scott’s run for leader as a cudgel against him as they try to oust him in November. “The stakes of this race just got so much higher,” former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Scott’s likely Democratic opponent, said in a statement Wednesday. 

Time will tell if they could also try to point to his run in other key races. Since Scott released a proposal to sunset all federal legislation after five years, meaning programs would go away if they were not renewed, he came under fire from many quarters, including President Joe Biden. Scott later revised that plan, saying Medicare and Social Security would be spared elimination if Congress does nothing. Nevertheless, he’s been a favorite punching bag of Democrats. 

“Scott’s run for GOP Senate Leader shines a spotlight on what Republicans would do if they gain control of the Senate: sunsetting Medicare and Social Security, raising taxes on working families, and passing a national ban on abortion,” DSCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia said in a statement. “This deeply unpopular agenda reinforces why voters will fire Scott and protect Democrats’ Senate majority in November.” 

Starting gate

#OR-GA-ID-KY: Our roundup from Tuesday had Democrats in two Oregon primaries rejecting a 2022 nominee hoping for a rematch and the sister of the Congressional Progressive Caucus chair, while a Georgia open seat is headed to a runoff and challengers in Idaho and Kentucky really stood no chance against Republican incumbents.

Not taken for Granite: True, he was headed to Boston to raise money, but President Joe Biden also made a stop this week to tout a veterans program in New Hampshire, a state he can’t afford to lose.

New guy’s an old hand: The newest House member, California Rep.-elect Vince Fong, worked for both of his predecessors, CQ Roll Call’s Paul V. Fontelo reports.  

Afterward: The Gaza protests that have greeted him at other events were largely silent when President Joe Biden spoke at graduation ceremonies at Morehouse College last week, but John T. Bennett reports that Biden had a message about the conflict focused on what might come after the shooting stops.

#SC01: A divided Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that found South Carolina’s House map discriminated against Black voters, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Magagnone reports.

ICYMI

New front, old war: With the Louisiana State Legislature poised to pass legislation that would classify two drugs used in medication abortion and miscarriage management as “controlled dangerous substances,” CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman examines how the measure could provide a blueprint for other Republican-controlled states. The action also didn’t take long to join the campaign conversation, with the Biden-Harris campaign doing a conference call about it and issuing an email blasting Trump for “enabling Louisiana” by appointing Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Road trips: Heading into the summer travel season, Democrats are asking for a Justice Department investigation of oil companies’ role in climate change, David Jordan reports. Electric vehicle makers, meanwhile, are concerned about how election-year politics will affect the industry, colleagues Mike Magner and Valerie Yurk report

CLF reservations: The House GOP leadership-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund rolled out $141 million in fall ad reservations Wednesday in what the group is describing as the “first wave.” The biggest dollar amounts are focused in markets where airtime is most expensive, including New York City ($20.7 million) and Los Angeles ($18.2 million), but there are also several battleground races there. At the other end of the spectrum is the tiny Presque Isle, Maine, market ($95,000), where CLF may again target Democratic Rep. Jared Golden.

#VA05: A poll taken by GOP challenger John McGuire, a state senator, found him with a 45 percent to 31 percent lead over House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good in a June 18 primary that has divided House Republicans. Good’s campaign spokeswoman told Cardinal News that “the only poll that matters is the final count on Election Day,” a phrase we’ve heard before.

#CA41: Democratic challenger Will Rollins, meanwhile, released an internal poll showing him leading incumbent GOP Rep. Ken Calvert 45 percent to 44 percent. Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, has outraised Calvert so far and had almost $3.2 million to the incumbent’s $2.6 million in the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission through March 31.

Border bill ramifications: Democrats believe border security will remain a potent political issue for the party in Senate battlegrounds and are pointing to new polling to prove it. The Public Policy Polling survey released by the DSCC found 80 percent of voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin supported a bipartisan bill to secure the border, with only 8 percent opposing it. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer made one of the highlights of this week’s action — or inaction — a motion to get debate started on a bipartisan agreement that was scuttled in February.   

What we’re reading

Ogles financials: Tennessee GOP Rep. Andy Ogles filed a bunch of amendments to his campaign finance reports on Wednesday after NewsChannel5 in Nashville questioned whether he had actually loaned his campaign $320,000 — since there was no evidence he had the financial resources to make the loan. The amendments show the loan was actually for $20,000.

Kamala from Washington, you’re on the air: The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., catches up with Victor Martinez, who owns a popular Spanish-language radio station in the Lehigh Valley. Martinez has become an outspoken advocate for the region’s growing Latino population, which might explain why Vice President Kamala Harris recently called in to discuss the economy, abortion and immigration.

Rescue mission in the Lone Star State: The Texas Tribune reports on a mobilization effort by the GOP’s old guard to save the political career of Texas Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan, who’s locked in a runoff with an activist from the party’s far right. 

A new GOP: ProPublica takes a detailed look at the Republican Party in Michigan, where the biggest divide isn’t over Trump or any particular policy position. Rather, the “most important fault line in the party now is democracy itself.” Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune dives into the “civil war” tearing apart the Texas Republican Party. 

Not a recession: The Guardian has a Harris poll on the economy that underscores how perceptions and reality differ (in what seems to be bad news for Biden). Perhaps most telling of all, 49 percent of respondents claim to believe the S&P 500 is down for the year. It’s not. It closed Wednesday up almost 12 percent on the year. 

What’s next for Norman? South Carolina Republican Rep. Ralph Norman is pondering his political future. He tells The Post and Courier that he’s considering a run for governor or possibly a primary challenge against Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2026. 

The count: 863

That’s the number of valid signatures — and fewer than the 1,000 needed to get on the ballot — turned in by former Michigan state Sen. Adam Hollier, who was seen as the biggest threat to 13th District Rep. Shri Thanedar in the Aug. 6 Democratic primary. According to The Detroit News, Hollier could appeal the Wayne County Clerk’s decision to knock him off the ballot, but the statement he issued didn’t sound like it. Hollier called the ruling a disappointment and added, “While I put my trust in someone who let us down in the collection of signatures, ultimately the leadership of the campaign falls on me and I must hold myself to a higher standard.” Through March 31, Hollier had raised $791,000 for the race.

Nathan’s notes

Not surprisingly, former Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader tells Nathan that the defeat on Tuesday of the woman who beat him in the 2022 primary gives Democrats a better chance of winning back his old seat.

Key race: #NV04

Candidates: David Flippo, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, and former North Las Vegas Mayor (and former Democrat) John Lee are the two leading Republican candidates seeking the nomination to challenge Rep. Steven Horsford in Nevada’s 4th District.

Why it matters: While the 4th District became less competitive in the most recent redistricting cycle, all three of the state’s Las Vegas-area seats are potentially on the battlefield, with Inside Elections putting them all in the Likely Democratic column.

Cash dash: Flippo had brought in $871,000 as of the end of March, while Lee raised $738,000, of which $500,000 came from a personal loan to his campaign. Bruce Frazey, the third Republican on the ballot, did not report any fundraising to the FEC. Horsford, the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has raised almost $3 million.

Backers: Gov. Joe Lombardo and former Rep. Cresent Hardy are among those who have backed Lee. Good (see #VA05 above) is among Flippo’s key supporters, as is the GOP nominee for this seat last cycle, Sam Peters.

What they’re saying: This primary has featured a classic debate about debates, with Flippo regularly criticizing Lee for not doing one. 

Terrain: Clark County — and in particular North Las Vegas, where Lee used to be the mayor — is the district’s population center, but its territory also covers a huge swath of rural Nevada.

Wild card: Among the waypoints in the more rural parts of the district is the Clown Motel. We’ve actually been there.

Coming up

After we honor the nation’s war dead on Memorial Day, Republicans in Texas on Tuesday will decide whether Rep. Tony Gonzales can compete for another term and will pick an opponent for indicted Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar as a half-dozen House districts have runoff elections.

Photo finish

Oregon held its primaries this week, and the University of Oregon mascot is the duck — as Democratic Rep. Val Hoyle knows. But CQ Roll Call photojournalist Bill Clark said he’s spent years stopping by the Capitol Reflecting Pool trying to get a picture of ducklings using this ramp installed in 2017 to help them get over the pond’s barrier. On Monday, persistence paid off.

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