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At the Races: Drip, drip, drip

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Michigan Rep. Hillary Scholten’s call for President Joe Biden to “pass the torch” to a new candidate made her the third Democratic “Frontliner” to do so this week and continued the slow drip of elected Democrats calling on Biden to step aside. That also helped keep the debate over his candidacy the center of attention even as Biden hosts a gathering of NATO leaders and maintains he’s staying in the race. 

The debate seems unlikely to go away quickly, even as Republicans prepare to head to Milwaukee next week for their convention and await Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick. 

The NRCC is trying to make Biden a liability for battleground members, unveiling a digital ad campaign accusing 10 House Democrats of having met privately with Biden and covering up his “mental failures.”

The ads target Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola, Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes, Illinois Rep. Eric Sorensen, North Carolina Rep. Don Davis, New Mexico Rep. Gabe Vasquez, Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild, Maine Rep. Jared Golden and Colorado Rep. Yadira Caraveo. 

Amid the hand-wringing, however, House hopeful Colin Van Ostern, one of the Democrats vying to replace retiring Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, didn’t face any questions from potential voters about Biden’s candidacy at a house party in Munsonville, N.H., on Wednesday night. Van Ostern, a former member of the state’s executive council who ran for governor in 2016, is locked in a September primary battle against Maggie Goodlander, a former Biden administration official. 

“Most of us, when we talk to our friends and neighbors, if politics or our government come up, most of us feel a lot of anxiety right now. Maybe some fear, maybe some anger, maybe some frustration,” he said to the assembled group. “Those are actually feelings that all of us — Democrats, independents, Republicans — are feeling at this moment in our history.”

He told CQ Roll Call that Biden needs to “win back the confidence that was shaken in that debate performance.”

“Given the choice between him and Donald Trump, it’s very clear to me. There’s no question he’s the one who’s going to fight for reproductive rights and middle-class families and everything I talked about here,” Van Ostern said.

Starting gate

Instant attack fodder: It didn’t take long for a House vote to impose new requirements for registering to vote in federal elections — Republicans say the move targets voting by people not legally in the United States — to become an issue on the campaign trail, including in the key open-seat Senate race in Arizona.

Overtime: There’s still no resolution to Republican primaries held June 18 in Virginia’s 5th District and June 25 in Utah’s 2nd District. 

Timing is everything: Colleague John T. Bennett looks at how the calendar could be Biden’s friend as he rebuffs calls to get out of the race.

In memoriam: Former Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe, who served in the chamber for nearly 30 years before resigning early last year, died at age 89. Inhofe was one of the most conservative members of Congress but maintained close friendships with Democrats, including Sen. Jack Reed and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, which helped him pass certain bills.

ICYMI

Not so fast: Utah’s top court appears to have decided — the ruling leaked — to let a lawsuit challenging the Legislature’s power to draw districts go ahead after a key part of the suit had been thrown out by a lower court.

Heading to the jury: The bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is wrapping up, and CQ Roll Call’s Ryan Tarinelli recaps the closing arguments by prosecutors and the defense

Positioning: The platform for the Republican Party that will convene next week is shorter than such documents used to be and does not shy from using ALL CAPS, but as CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman points out, it no longer calls for federal limits on abortion.

GOP super PAC dollars: The House GOP leadership-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund and the American Action Network combined to raise $58 million in the second quarter, the groups said this week. “Resources are key to ensuring Republicans retain control of the House this fall, and this is a significant downpayment,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.

Leader money: Meanwhile, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, the Minnesota Republican who used to run the campaign committee, announced raising more than $5 million in the quarter. Speaker Mike Johnson announced that he raised $23.5 million in the second quarter. 

Break out the barn jacket: Former Sen. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts tells WBUR radio that he’s contemplating a comeback. “I believe I have one more run,” the Republican said. Brown, who won a special election after Edward M. Kennedy’s death but lost his bid for a full term to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, and then lost to Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, didn’t set a timetable for his plans.

Garcia under fire: The DCCC launched a digital ad this week hitting Republican Rep. Mike Garcia for selling stock in Boeing just before the committee he served on released a report into deadly crashes involving the aerospace company’s 737 Max airliner. The Daily Beast, which first reported the stock sale, also reported that Garcia missed the deadline to disclose the transaction. Garcia, who represents a battleground district in Southern California, faces a strong challenge from Democrat George Whitesides.

Arizona accusation: CHC BOLD PAC, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is accusing Democrat Amish Shah, who is running in Arizona’s 1st District, of cultural insensitivity after a photo of him wearing traditional clothing surfaced online. “At best, misappropriating traditional clothing to use as a prop mocks our culture and heritage and at worst, it serves to perpetuate harmful stereotypes,’’ said Chairwoman Linda T. Sánchez. Shah is one of six Democrats seeking to become the party’s nominee to take on Republican Rep. David Schweikert. BOLD PAC is backing rival Marlene Galán-Woods.  

Red to Blue: The DCCC added John Mannion, the Democratic nominee to challenge Rep. Brandon Williams in New York’s 22nd District, and Eugene Vindman, the party’s nominee for an open seat in Virginia’s 7th District, to its Red to Blue program, which offers fundraising and organizing assistance to the party’s top candidates in battleground districts. 

What we’re reading 

From Roll Call columnists: Stu Rothenberg can’t believe Biden has made the race more about himself than about Trump. Walter Shapiro says Biden has done little to reassure voters opposed to Trump since “the most disastrous debate in American history.”

About that debate: Our sister company Factba.se analyzed how often Biden and Trump showed signs of stress during their face-off.

AOC A-OK: Politico New York assesses how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is navigating the turmoil within the Democratic Party and finds that the Empire State’s most prominent progressive has become a stabilizing influence at a time of crisis. But Ocasio-Cortez has lost the support of the Democratic Socialists of America, a key early backer, over her statements about Israel and antisemitism.

‘What can be, unburdened by what has been’: Vox takes a look at some of Vice President Kamala Harris’ stock phrases, verbal quirks and that meme-able anecdote involving a coconut tree.

Rising profile: Our former colleague Kate Ackley, now of Bloomberg Government, is also on the Harris beat, examining the vice president’s ties to lobbyists, donors and advocates.

The count: 19 points

That was the spread between registered voters who think Trump is going to win, 48 percent, and who think Biden is going to win, 29 percent, in an Economist/YouGov Poll taken July 7-9 and released Wednesday. That spread is 10 points higher than it was in a survey completed June 22, before the presidential debate, when it broke 41-32 for Trump. Just shy of a year ago, voters expecting Biden to win outnumbered those expecting Trump to win, 41 percent to 37 percent, in a survey completed July 22, 2023.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan’s series on the highways and byways that will decide control of the House continues, following both I-80 across the country and I-95 up and down the East Coast.

Key race: #NJ10

Candidates: Eleven Democrats are running in the July 16 special primary to succeed Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., who died April 24. They are Linden Mayor Derek Armstead; former East Orange Councilwoman Brittany Claybrooks; John Flora, a teacher; small-business owners Darryl Godfrey and Alberta Gordon; law professor Eugene Mazo; Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver; former Payne staffer Shana Melius; Sheila Montague, an adjunct professor; activist Debra Salters; and Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker. One Republican, Carmen Bucco, is running. Bucco will also be the Republican nominee in the November election. 

Why it matters: The winner of Tuesday’s primary will likely win the Sept. 18 special election to serve the remainder of Payne’s term because the 10th District is heavily Democratic. The nominee could also become the front-runner to run for a full term, as Payne posthumously won the Democratic nomination in the June 4 regular primary and will be replaced by party leaders on the November ballot. 

Cash dash: Only about half the Democratic candidates filed preelection reports with the Federal Election Commission, a requirement if they raised or spent $5,000 for the race. McIver raised the most and had $57,000 on hand as of June 26. Armstead had $32,000 on hand, while Gordon had $13,000. Godfrey had $8,000 and Claybrooks had $2,000. 

Backers: McIver appears to have the most momentum. She was endorsed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker, as well as the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

What they’re saying: Nearly all the candidates participated in a forum earlier this month in which they highlighted the issues they said they hoped to champion if elected. Godfrey emphasized economic development, affordable housing and health care as his main platform. Gordon said she would focus on helping people get jobs. Walker said academics would be his top priority, as well as public safety and community policing. Flora said his top issues would be affordable housing and the climate crisis. Montague said her platform would focus on women’s maternal health, protecting the right to vote and fighting book bans. Melius said affordability and the protection of rights would be her top priorities. McIver also said affordability would be a top priority. Mazo said democracy and economic and educational opportunities. Claybrooks focused on affordability and specifically mentioned the federal deduction for state and local taxes, known as SALT, as well as advocating for caretakers. Armstead cited student loan forgiveness and supporting the local economy. 

Terrain: The North Jersey district includes parts of Essex, Union and Hudson counties. Biden would have won the seat by 56 percentage points, according to Inside Elections, which rates the race as Solid Democratic. 

Wild card: Payne, whose campaign account held $84,000 as of May 15, won the seat in 2012 after the death of his father, who was New Jersey’s first Black member of Congress. Donald M. Payne Sr.’s campaign account posthumously spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help his son win the nomination and then continued to make contributions to Payne Jr., to other candidates and to charities — including the Donald M. Payne Sr. Global Foundation — until the account was terminated at the end of 2017.

Coming up

Republicans convene in Milwaukee on Monday, the same day Biden is supposed to have another network TV interview, which NBC is planning to air during prime time. Tuesday is also the deadline for Federal Election Commission filings for the second quarter, and (see above) the day of the special primary in New Jersey’s 10th District.

Photo finish

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