Skip to content

At the Races: Trumping incumbency

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Whether or not GOP Rep. Bob Good becomes the first incumbent beaten by a nonincumbent this cycle — challenger John McGuire declared victory Tuesday night, but the race had not been called by The Associated Press as of midday Thursday, when Good was trailing by 319 votes — the primary in Virginia’s 5th District may be the best example of the value of being endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Conservative credentials and track records — Good is literally the chair of the House Freedom Caucus — may matter less to Republican voters than the blessing of the once-again presumed presidential nominee.

Incumbents are usually favored because running for reelection has obvious advantages, but McGuire, a state senator who won Trump’s endorsement and took to wearing T-shirts touting that support, was never exactly an underdog.

Trump’s not a factor in Democratic primaries, but the power of incumbency will also be tested in New York, where Democratic voters in the 16th District are already voting in a primary contest between Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Westchester County Executive George Latimer. A well-known local politician, Latimer has the backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose aligned super PAC had already reported at the beginning of this week spending nearly $12 million.

Bowman may get a boost this weekend when Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is due in the state, with events on Friday in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County and Saturday in the Bronx. The second of those events will be with New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Latimer’s endorsements are an establishment who’s who, from former first lady, secretary of State, New York senator and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to former Reps. Nita M. Lowey and Eliot L. Engel (Engel was ousted by Bowman in the 2020 primary).

Starting gate

Results in Oklahoma, elsewhere: When the votes were counted, House Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole didn’t have much of a fight in his Oklahoma Republican primary, ahead with 68 percent of the vote when the AP called the race Tuesday evening. That was one of several results from Tuesday that came in much more quickly than that 5th District contest in Virginia.

Lines drawn: A Supreme Court decision last month — which reversed a lower court finding that South Carolina had unconstitutionally relied on race when it moved 30,000 Black voters out of the 1st District — could make it harder to win challenges to other states’ maps in the future, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone reports.

Graves out: Rep. Garret Graves has decided not to run for reelection in any of the reconfigured congressional districts in Louisiana, although another set of new district lines could give the Republican a better place to run in the future. “A run in a temporary district will cause actual permanent damage to Louisiana’s great representation in Congress,” Graves said.

ICYMI

Ad watch: One Nation, the policy arm of the Senate GOP-aligned super PAC, has been on quite the ad blitz over the past week, with spots on immigration in Ohio, Montana and Nevada.

Money and more money: After the DCCC said it had set a new May fundraising record, pulling in almost $11.9 million last month, the NRCC said it had outraised the Democrats at $12.6 million, which was an election-year record for the month for the House GOP.

Age and party: A new AARP poll found voters 50 and older favored Republicans by 4 points, but older voters weren’t monolithic. The survey, of likely voters from the 44 most competitive congressional districts, found that those 65 and older give a generic Democratic candidate a 5-point edge. The numbers are important because older voters could determine who wins in November. In the 2022 midterms, they made up 64 percent of the country’s voters. And 84 percent of voters age 50 and older said they are “extremely motivated” to vote in this election, compared with 63 percent of voters under 50.

Frisch meddling: Democrat Adam Frisch, who is seeking an open seat in Colorado’s Republican-leaning 3rd District, is running ads encouraging GOP voters to reject Jeff Hurd, who many observers believe is the strongest Republican in the field. A spokeswoman for the NRCC denounced Frisch’s move as “gutter politics,” but Frisch’s campaign told The Colorado Sun that the “general election has started.” A Democratic super PAC is also running ads attacking Hurd and promoting another Republican, former state Rep. Ron Hanks, an election denier who has the endorsement of the state Republican Party.

Ad reservations: The DCCC made $28 million worth of ad reservations ahead of the November elections, including $16 million for broadcast television in eight states and $12 million in digital ads in 21 states. The NRSC announced its own ad blitz that would exceed $100 million and includes TV and digital reservations in Ohio, Nevada, Michigan and Arizona. The NRSC has already begun coordinated ad campaigns with candidates in Montana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nevada and Arizona and plans to launch them with candidates in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in the coming months. 

#FL01: Rep. Matt Gaetz seems to be going on offense against the House Ethics Committee, calling a probe against him “Soviet.” CQ Roll Call’s Justin Papp reports that the panel said it is looking into allegations that Gaetz violated gift rules and “engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use.”

Not a winning message: The Biden campaign’s decision to highlight Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts could backfire, according to a new poll by a group that fights mass incarceration and advocates on behalf of people behind bars. The survey suggests that Democratic candidates who focus their messaging on Trump’s criminal conviction lose to GOP opponents by 3 points. The same poll, conducted by YouGov Blue on behalf of Vera Action, found that a Democratic candidate who emphasized “safety, accountability, and justice” outperforms a Republican running on a “tough on crime” platform by 8 points.

Endorsed: Democratic Majority for Israel PAC announced endorsements of John Avlon in New York’s 1st District, Yassamin Ansari in Arizona’s 3rd District and Rebecca Cooke in Wisconsin’s 3rd District. 

Color coding: Joining ActBlue and WinRed as online fundraising platforms for Democrats and Republicans is a new online platform for environmentally minded donors, GiveGreen, which was announced Thursday by the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council Action Votes. 

What we’re reading 

Meme wars: From Dark Brandon to Trump’s mugshot, the AP examines how both presidential campaigns have used memes to galvanize their supporters.

RIP to the father of microtargeting: Alexander “Pat” Gage, who pioneered a technique that Karl Rove credits with helping George W. Bush win the White House in 2004, died last week at 74, according to The Detroit News. Gage was a Michigan data scientist who revolutionized campaigns by deploying microtargeting, a practice that relies on data to identify specific segments of the electorate. 

Sunak to SoCal? Politico takes a look at the life in sunny Santa Monica, Calif., that might await British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak if his conservatives are wiped out in the snap elections that have been called for July 4.

IVF journey: With access to in vitro fertilization emerging as a 2024 campaign issue, former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords reveals that she had a scheduled appointment to have embryos implanted two days after she was shot at a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson. The shooting in 2011 ended a hope by Giffords and her husband, Sen. Mark Kelly, to grow their family, she writes in People.

Weird story of the week: A state lawmaker from Vermont has apologized after she was caught on video repeatedly pouring water into a colleague’s tote bag. Seven Days has all the bizarre details.

The count: $8 million

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe hosted what was called the highest-grossing backyard fundraiser in the history of the Democratic Party at his McLean, Va., home Tuesday night, bringing in $8 million, according to Biden campaign officials. The current president and first lady headlined the event along with the Clintons.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan’s hard at work on a series of stories we’re eager to roll out soon, so this week this space features a dip into the CQ Roll Call video archive for an explainer that has held up well, about how race ratings happen.

Key race: #MO01

Candidates: In 2020, activist Cori Bush upset longtime Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay in what was widely heralded as a significant win for the party’s left flank. This year, Bush faces a challenge from St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell. The Aug. 6 primary pits the two progressive Democrats against each other, with the war in Gaza as a major dividing point. 

Why it matters: Bush, a nurse and pastor, jumped into electoral politics after spending time on the front lines of the racial justice movement in Ferguson, Mo., following the killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown Jr. by a police officer in 2014. Bell has worked to reform the criminal justice system and overturn wrongful convictions. On issues ranging from climate change to abortion rights, the candidates have much in common. 

But the primary in the dark-blue district has been largely shaped by the split over Israel. Bell has received support from pro-Israel groups, while Bush has emerged as one of the most prominent critics of Israel in Congress. Bush’s outspoken advocacy for Palestinians likely won’t hurt her in the primary, said Daniel M. Butler, a professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis. “Had this primary taken place several months ago, then maybe it would have been an issue that could have threatened her,” he said. “But at this point, given the current state of the conflict, I don’t think she’s out of step with Democratic voters in the district.”

Cash dash: Bell outraised Bush in the first quarter of the year. Bell had $1.1 million in his campaign account as of March 31 to Bush’s $528,000.

Backers: Bell has received a boost from the United Democracy Project, an affiliate of AIPAC. The group has spent $1.46 million so far on ads promoting Bell’s candidacy. Bell also has the backing of the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Missouri-Kansas Laborers’ District Council. Bush is supported by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and many of her House colleagues. Last week, she picked up the endorsement of the Communications Workers of America.

What they’re saying: While national observers have viewed the race through the prism of the war in Gaza, the candidates have also sparred over other matters. Bell has highlighted his support for Biden’s agenda, including the 2021 infrastructure law (Bush was one of six House Democrats who broke with the party and voted against the measure.) He’s sought to portray Bush as an attention-seeking bomb thrower who has failed to deliver for the district. Bush has touted her support for progressive policies such as “Medicare for All” and says she is the target of an attack funded by “far-right Republican mega donors.”

Terrain: The district, which includes St. Louis and its northern suburbs, including Ferguson, is Missouri’s bluest: Biden won there with nearly 60 percent of the vote in 2020. About half the population is Black. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.

Wild card: Bush’s use of campaign funds to pay for private security, including the hiring of her now-husband, has sparked a federal investigation. She denies wrongdoing. Butler said he doesn’t think the investigation will be enough to unravel her campaign. “It was in the news cycle for a week. Given the other scandals we hear about, this just seems so mundane. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but I think that’s how voters perceive it,” he said.

Coming up

Voters in Colorado’s 4th District on Tuesday will fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Republican Rep. Ken Buck. It’s a mail-in state, so many of the ballots have probably largely been cast. There are also congressional primaries in Colorado, New York and Utah and a Republican runoff in South Carolina’s 3rd District.

Photo finish

A man attending a Bob Good campaign rally in Goochland, Va., on June 14 shows off a ring bearing the face of former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Good’s opponent. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Subscribe now using this link so you don’t miss out on the best news and analysis from our team.

Recent Stories

Amid tense election, Secret Service working with already boosted budget

Biden condemns attempted Trump assassination, calls for ‘unity’

Trump rushed from stage after gunshots fired at rally

These Democrats have called on Biden to quit the race

Gaffe track — Congressional Hits and Misses

Trump’s presidential office hours were the shortest since FDR, Biden’s not far behind him