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At the Races: Split takes

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To hold on to the Senate next year, Democrats may need voters to embrace ticket-splitting in key states come November or change their picks in the presidential race.

A pair of Marist polls released this week in Pennsylvania and Ohio found that Donald Trump was leading Joe Biden in both states and their incumbent Democratic senators are leading their Republican challengers. 

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was leading Bernie Moreno, his Republican challenger, 50 percent to 45 percent, the poll of registered voters statewide found. In a similar survey in Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey led Republican David McCormick by 6 points, 52 percent to 46 percent. 

Those numbers include registered voters who are undecided but leaning toward one candidate. The surveys also found that Republican candidates aren’t as well known, meaning they have room to grow in the coming months as more voters start tuning into the elections. 

In 2022, all incumbent senators who sought reelection won their races and Democrats flipped just one seat, which was open in Pennsylvania. But in 2020, Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the only senator to win in a state where the opposite party’s presidential candidate won the state’s electoral votes. 

With West Virginia’s open Senate seat likely to flip, Republicans need to win just one other Senate seat to take control of the chamber. Montana and Ohio are both likely to vote for Trump, so Democrats are hopeful that Sen. Jon Tester and Brown will outperform Biden. 

Starting gate

Recap: In Tuesday’s primaries, a former NASCAR driver won but two former actors and a former Miss America didn’t. Also, two South Carolina Republicans who were supposedly vulnerable won their races, and Nevada’s 3rd District GOP voters backed the candidate who talked to CQ Roll Call when we were out there. Coincidence? Those races were also fodder for this week’s Political Theater podcast, with editor-in-chief Jason Dick chatting with politics editor Herb Jackson.

New guy: The newest House member-elect is a state legislator and third-generation grocer who once played in a Boston grunge band, colleague Jackie Wang reports.

Crime beat: Policing professionals launched a new group, Police Leaders for Community Safety, that will endorse candidates for federal office and advocate stricter gun laws. The announcement came the day after the FBI announced a decrease in reported violent crime in the first quarter of this year compared with the same time period in 2023. 

ICYMI

Ex-Democrat picked by GOP: In a contest that The Associated Press couldn’t call on primary night, Republicans nominated a Trump-backed former Democrat as their challenger to incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford in Nevada’s 4th District. John Lee, a former mayor of North Las Vegas, was ahead with 48 percent of the vote when the AP called the three-candidate race at 12:08 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday. Lee beat retired Air Force Lt. Col. David Flippo, who touted conservative endorsements. Horsford was well ahead of both Lee and Flippo in fundraising, with $1.9 million on hand on May 22 while Lee had $100,000. Inside Elections rates the contest Likely Democratic.

Book your flights: United announced it was adding 200 new flights to Milwaukee and Chicago this summer to help attendees travel to the political conventions. The airline will add 72 flights to and from Milwaukee in July and 118 flights to and from Chicago in August.

Age limits: Voters in North Dakota have backed an effort to impose an age limit on members of the House and Senate from their state. The AP takes a look at the legal challenge ahead. Term limits have previously been held to be unconstitutional.

Endorsements: Hillary Clinton endorsed Democrat George Latimer, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th District. EMILY’s List endorsed Maggie Goodlander in New Hampshire’s 2nd District. 

Grayson move: Former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is looking at running for the state Senate rather than the U.S. Senate, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Grayson dropped out of the Senate contest Friday. Senate Democratic leaders have long loathed Grayson, dating back at least as far as 2016.

Out of the race: Eugene Young, the former Delaware state housing authority director, suspended his campaign for Delaware’s at-large House seat. The move makes state Sen. Sarah McBride the leading candidate in the Democratic primary on Sept. 10. If elected, McBride would become the first transgender member of Congress. 

RFK gains: In a head-to-head matchup with Trump, Biden remains the clear favorite among Latino voters. But a new poll shows surprising support for independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Voto Latino, an advocacy group that supports Biden, surveyed 2,000 Latino voters across five battleground states and found 18 percent leaning toward a third-party candidate, namely Kennedy.  

Ad watch: Janelle Bynum beat progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner in last month’s Democratic primary in Oregon’s 5th District, but a new digital ad produced by the NRCC paints Bynum as a soft-on-crime liberal who praised defund-the-police protesters. Bynum is running against freshman Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. 

What we’re reading 

Utah debate: Republicans vying for the nomination to succeed the retiring Sen. Mitt Romney met for a debate Monday that the Deseret News says was “mostly civil” until an exchange toward the end in which Rep. John Curtis faced an accusation of insider trading. “You’ve accused me of a felony here tonight. You better have very good evidence. And I’d like to challenge you to produce that evidence,” Curtis said to Trent Staggs, the mayor of Riverton, Utah.

A different focus: The Washington State Standard caught up with Joe Kent, the conservative Republican hoping to unseat Democratic freshman Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez in Washington state. Kent narrowly lost to Gluesenkamp Pérez in 2022, when he focused on election conspiracies and called for a national abortion ban. This time around, Kent is campaigning on the economy and the need for tighter border security.

Sleeper race? USA Today looks at first-time candidate Derek Tran’s quest to become the first Vietnamese American to represent Southern California’s Little Saigon in Congress. Democrats are touting an internal poll that shows Tran within range of unseating Republican Rep. Michelle Steel.  

Bundling: Writing for MSNBC, Ryan Beckwith takes a look at the emergence of collectives of small-dollar donors trying to bundle their campaign cash to affect races that may be overlooked down the ballot.

The count: 9 points

That’s Republican Michael Rulli’s winning margin over Democrat Michael Kripchak in the special election Tuesday to fill the vacant seat in Ohio’s 6th District. Despite the loss, Democrats were excited because Rulli was trailing early in the evening, and in 2020 the district backed Trump over Biden by almost 29 points. It follows the special election in February in New York’s 3rd District, where Democrat Tom Suozzi won by 8 points to take back a seat his party lost by almost 8 points in 2022.

Nathan’s notes

In the latest webinar in our election series, Nathan L. Gonzales joined White House correspondent John T. Bennett to discuss the presidential race.

Key race: #AZ08

Candidates: There are a half-dozen candidates in the Republican primary field, including 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters, former attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh and former Rep. Trent Franks, who previously represented a version of the district.

Why it matters: It’s a Solid Republican seat opened by the retirement of Rep. Debbie Lesko, so the primary on July 30 will likely pick who serves in the next Congress.

Cash dash: Masters has the biggest war chest by far, with $2.7 million on March 31. He told the Federal Election Commission he loaned his campaign $6 million, but he also paid himself back $1.6 million in February. Hamadeh had brought in about $600,000, but a super PAC largely funded by his brother called ABE PAC has already spent another $243,000 on his behalf.

Backers: Hamadeh has the backing of both Trump and Kari Lake, the front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination. Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar is among those supporting Masters.

What they’re saying: It’s been a nasty campaign, with Masters and his supporters highlighting Hamadeh’s background (as NOTUS reported, he’s of Druze and Muslim heritage). Masters’ latest ad, which AdImpact says is the first on broadcast TV, features a photo of Hamadeh at Mecca.

Terrain: The population of the Maricopa County-based district is largely suburban, with plenty of conservative retirees, running both north and west of downtown Phoenix.

Wild card: Lesko won the seat in a special election after Franks resigned amid one of the more bizarre congressional scandals. Franks allegedly “repeatedly” sought to have female staffers serve as surrogates, as Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathe wrote here in At the Races at the time.

Coming up

The primary parade continues with races on Tuesday in Virginia and Oklahoma and runoffs in Georgia.

Photo finish

Former Major League Baseball player Steve Garvey, now a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in California, talks with California Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragán during the Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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