The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:
Ohio GOP Rep. eyeing Senate bid raps potential primary foes for courting Trump's support
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who on Monday took a step toward a possible Senate bid in 2022, thinks little of would-be GOP primary rivals who’ve been auditioning for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
“I think this race should be about Ohio, and I think their focus certainly communicates to the state that Ohio voters come second,” Turner told NBC News when asked about reports that four Republicans running or preparing to run for the seat soon-to-be-vacated by Sen. Rob Portman traveled to Florida last week to have an audience with Trump.
The side meeting during a Trump-hosted fundraiser for a House candidate in Ohio — described to Politico as a “Hunger Games”-like exercise in political survival — included former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Each had a chance to talk up his or her campaign and field questions from Trump, who has not endorsed in the race. Mandel and Timken are the only announced candidates, and both have been strenuously courting Trump and his supporters.
“I think Ohio voters are what's important in this race,” Turner said. “I have a record, and I can understand if people who have no record have to seek other people to validate them.”
A 10-term congressman from Dayton, Turner will launch a listening tour of Ohio that he said will help him decide whether to launch a full-fledged Senate campaign. He would run as a Trump ally. (He earned a Twitter attaboy from Trump after defending the then-president during the first impeachment hearings.) But fealty to Trump would not be his core argument to win. He said he’s received “pressure” to join the race from other Republicans unhappy with the developing field.
“Obviously my communications with people about this race are very different than the others running, because I actually can talk about what I've done,” said Turner, who plans to emphasize his service on the House Armed Services Committee.
In announcing the tour listening tour Monday, Turner released a 3-minute video with flourishes of the Trump era sprinkled in. One 25-second montage is nothing but footage of cable news hosts and talking heads introducing Turner to their viewers or mentioning him in coverage. Another clip shows Trump praising Turner. And Turner himself, in straight-to-camera remarks, asserts himself as an “America First” lawmaker.
There also are moments that seem designed to neutralize potential rivals. The video opens with Turner touting his Appalachia and Rust Belt roots, reminiscent of the personal story J.D. Vance — whom GOP mega-donors, including Peter Thiel and the Mercer family, are attempting to lure into the race with more than $10 million in donations to a super PAC — wrote in his bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” And there are choices that present Turner as an original: a Republican who can win in Democratic Dayton and also has a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.
Turner won re-election last year by nearly 17 points against an upstart candidate with a national fundraising profile. But Democrats have long seen his district as one that could flip under the right circumstances. This year’s redistricting could change the boundaries.
“My congressional district is a swing district,” Turner said. “In order for us to have anybody who wins in November, they have to win all of Ohio, and that means bringing people together and being able to support issues and communicate across the state.”
No Democrat has announced a candidacy for the Senate seat. Rep. Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area, former Ohio health director Amy Acton, and Danny O’Connor, the elected recorder of property deeds in Franklin County, are among those considering the race.
Colorful GOP ad maker signs on with Josh Mandel's Senate campaign in Ohio
Fred Davis, a Hollywood-based ad maker who specializes in attention-grabbing political commercials, said Friday that he is working with Senate hopeful Josh Mandel in Ohio.
It’s a pairing of two in-your-face Republicans.
Davis is known for the 2008 “Celeb” ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, the bizarre “Demon Sheep” web video on behalf of Carly Fiorina’s California Senate bid in 2010, and Christine O’Donnell’s “not-a-witch” spot from that same year. (O’Donnell, a Senate candidate in Delaware at the time, was trying to walk back past comments that she had dabbled in witchcraft.)
A Marine Corps veteran and former state treasurer now running as a devotee to former President Donald Trump, Mandel is known for his combative presence on Twitter.
He frequently trolls one of his GOP rivals, Jane Timken, and Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, whom Mandel has branded as a Joe Biden Democrat. Twitter briefly restricted Mandel’s account last week after he violated the social media site’s rules against hateful conduct. Mandel had posted a poll asking which type of undocumented immigrants — “Muslim terrorists” or “Mexican gangbangers” — will commit more crimes.
Mandel also has criticized Timken for her past support of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vocal Trump critic. Davis produced ads for Kasich’s super PAC during the 2016 presidential primaries. One memorable spot depicted other Republican candidates, including a mean-mugging Trump and a water-chugging Marco Rubio, covered in mud.
The first spots from Mandel are set to debut next week, over Easter weekend. A Mandel representative did not disclose how much the campaign is spending on the opening salvo. But Davis’s more memorable ads have a way of earning free media coverage beyond what campaigns pay for on TV.
Bipartisan group of 16 senators meets to discuss immigration
A bipartisan group of 16 senators – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats – met Wednesday to discuss prospects for immigration legislation, according to two Senate aides.
The meeting was convened by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and comes as challenges mount for the Biden administration and prospects for passing immigration legislation in the Senate have diminished.
Durbin has been speaking with senators individually for a couple of months. The in-person meeting inside the Capitol had no specific policies on the agenda but was an initial discussion to determine whether consensus on any immigration sub-issue exists.
One Democratic aide described the meeting as a test to determine whether Republicans are serious about wanting to find a solution to immigration problems.
In addition to Durbin, the Democratic senators in the group are Alex Padilla of California, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. The Republicans invited were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
Murkowski and Crapo were unable to attend but sent staff instead, signaling that they want to be part of the conversation.
The group agreed to meet again, most likely after the two-week recess that starts Friday.
A group of 19 Republican senators are traveling to the border on Friday, including Graham, Tillis and Collins, who attended the Durbin meeting.
Republicans have been slamming the Biden administration for the influx of immigrants, including thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
“It’s a crisis. It is a crisis that was created by the Biden administration by their own policies as soon as Joe Biden was sworn in as president,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday. Cruz was not in the Durbin meeting.
Graham has introduced legislation addressing the asylum system. It would require immigrants to apply for asylum in their country of origin.
Republican faith in elections dropped quickly as Trump spread unfounded claims of fraud
The debate over voting access and election integrity continued Wednesday, as a key Senate committee debated Democrats’ sweeping legislation to set federal standards for early and mail-in voting.
Democrats describe the bill as a much-needed bulwark against efforts — many coming from GOP-led state legislatures nationwide — to roll back expanded ballot access. Republicans say the legislation is a major federal overreach that would further erode faith in elections and invite fraud.
With that backdrop, it’s worth taking a look back at what faith in America’s elections looked like leading into the 2020 presidential election — and how it eroded after former President Trump’s loss and subsequent unfounded claims of fraud.
According to the national exit polls for the general election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in November, few American voters were actually worried that their own vote wouldn’t be counted fairly.
An overwhelming 86 percent of voters said at the time they were polled that they were very or somewhat confident that the votes in their state would be counted accurately.
It’s true that Biden voters were somewhat more confident than their Trump-backing counterparts nationwide; of the 18% of all voters who said they were NOT confident, two-thirds backed Trump.
But big majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters did NOT have significant qualms about the count in their state as of November, despite the then-president’s warnings that the vote could be “rigged.”
How did the election results, and Trump’s loss, change those attitudes? Georgia offers an interesting test case.
As of exit polling up to Election Day in November, 84 percent of Georgia voters said they were confident that votes in the state would be counted accurately. In fact, more Georgia Trump voters were confident (89 percent) than Georgia Biden voters (79 percent).
But the exit polls from the January 5 special runoff election in Georgia showed a different story.
While overall faith in the vote count remained high, it fell by 10 percentage points — down to 74 percent.
And while just 10 percent of Trump voters in Georgia in November said they did NOT have faith in the vote count, that was up to 47 percent for backers of Republican Senate candidate Kelly Loeffler and 46 percent for those backing Republican Senate incumbent David Perdue in January.
Missouri AG jumps into race for Senate while Alabama Dem will skip her state's Senate contest
Two high-profile, potential Senate candidates are making moves in Alabama and Missouri, with one jumping into a marquee Senate race and one deciding to sit one out.
Missouri Republican Attorney Gen. Eric Schmitt announced his bid for Senate Wednesday morning on Fox News.
"You look around and increasingly it feels like our culture and our country is slipping away. And all the levels of power right now in Washington D.C. are tilted toward the Democrats," he said.
He went on to frame his role as attorney general as "defending President Trump and the America First agenda and all the prosperity that came with that," saying now he's "spending my time pushing back against Joe Biden as he tries to dismantle that."
"Washington D.C. needs more fighters, needs more reinforcements to save America. So after a lot of reflection, support from folks back home and on behalf of the people of the great state of Missouri, I'm announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate," he added.
Schmitt's announcement came two days after former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced his own bid on the same channel. The two men are the only high-profile Republicans in the race right now, but the field remains fluid.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, there was another development in Alabama's 2022 Senate race. Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, who had been actively considering a bid for Senate in the heavy Republican-leaning state, said Wednesday she would not run because she wanted to focus on her work in the House.
"The unfinished business of my home district, Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, is far too important for me to seek higher office at this time," she said, pointing to her push to get voting rights reforms enacted in Congress and to "expand economic opportunities for my constituents."
Sewell is the only Democrat representing Alabama in Congress, and had been among the highest-profile Democrats considering a bid. But winning the seat would be difficult for any Democrat, as both former President Donald Trump and future Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville won their November elections by more than 20 points.
On the GOP side, former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard and Rep. Mo Brooks are running, Brooks having announced his campaign this week.
Slim majority of GOP backs gay marriage, highest mark in the poll's history
For the first time, a new annual survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a slim majority of Republicans now support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.
Data from the sweeping American Values Atlas survey, which was conducted between February and November of 2020, finds that 51 percent of Republicans back legal gay marriage, up from 47 percent support in 2019.
Overall, about two-thirds of Americans — 67 percent — say that gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry legally, also an all-time high for the poll. The two-thirds majority represents nearly a doubling of support since the late 2000s, when similar studies found only a third of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage.
Support for same-sex marriage is also at an all-time high for independents, with backing from 72 percent; among Democrats, support stands at 76 percent.
Majorities among various religious groups also back legal marriage for gay and lesbian couples, a finding that may be particularly notable among Catholics.
Last week, the Vatican said that the Roman Catholic Church “does not have and cannot have” the power to bless nuptials between same-sex couples. But the poll finds that 75 percent of white Catholics and 71 percent of Hispanic Catholics support such marriages.
In fact, support for same-sex marriage is the minority position only in one major American faith group: White evangelical Protestants. Just 43 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The poll also finds that, overall, 76 percent of Americans back laws to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination. That’s a slight uptick from previous years, when support for such measures clocked in closer to 70 percent. Just one in five Americans — 19 percent — oppose such nondiscrimination protections.
While 85 percent of Democrats back those anti-discrimination measures, it’s 79 percent for independents and 62 percent of Republicans, although younger Republicans remain notably more supportive of LGBT protections than their older counterparts.
Six-in-ten Americans — 61 percent — also oppose allowing a small business to refuse service to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons, including 73 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans. White evangelical Protestants are split, with 49 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.
Who are the House Democrats representing Trump country?
Last week, we took a look at the House Republicans representing districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020. Now, we'll look at the other side of that coin: Who are the House Democrats representing districts that former President Donald Trump won?
The number of these "crossover districts" continues to dwindle, and there are just seven currently represented by Democrats, according to the data folks at The Daily Kos. Here's a look at those seven:
Iowa 3: Rep. Cindy Axne
Just two years after Democrats held three of the four Iowa congressional seats, Axne is the lone Democrat remaining. Her district narrowly backed Trump by 0.2 percentage points in 2020, down from 3.5 percentage points in 2016, but backed Obama by just under 4 percent in 2012. In recent months, she's sought to play up the Covid relief legislation's effect on her district, as well as other legislation on issues like flood insurance.
Illinois 17: Rep. Cheri Bustos
After going 17 percentage points for Obama in 2012, Trump won the district narrowly each of the past two presidential elections. But Bustos, who took office after the 2012 election, has bucked the trends. During her tenure in the House, she also ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and been a member of Democratic leadership.
Maine 2: Rep. Jared Golden
Representing another district that went for Trump twice after going for Obama in 2012, Golden, a former staffer for Republican Sen. Susan Collins, has repeatedly bucked his party on high-profile votes. He voted against the recent Democratic Covid-relief package (he said it wasn't targeted enough); he voted against gun background-check expansions passed by Democrats earlier this month (he said existing laws need to be enforced more strongly; and he voted against the Democrats' police reform bill (he had concerns with how it handles protections for officers and wanted a bipartisan agreement).
Michigan 8: Rep. Elissa Slotkin
Slotkin's district backed Trump by less than 1 point in 2020, after backing him by almost 7 points in 2016 (and Mitt Romney by 2 points in 2012), making her the only one on this list whose district went for the GOP in the three presidential elections over the last decade. Slotkin has leaned into her past experience in the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency and is vocal on foreign policy issues.
New Jersey 3: Rep. Andy Kim
While Obama won this seat by about 3.5 points in 2012, Trump won the seat by about 6 points, before Biden narrowed Trump's victory to just 0.2 percentage points. Hes recently promoted a fix for prescription drug costs and has been outspoken about racism against Asian Americans.
Pennsylvania 8: Rep. Matt Cartwright
Like many of these members, Cartwright has faced repeated, well-funded attempts to wrest him from his seat, which backed Trump twice after going for Obama in 2012. As Republicans have criticized Democrats over the politics of school reopenings, Cartwright has pointed to the latest round of Covid relief as a way to get kids back into school.
Wisconsin 3: Rep. Ron Kind
Kind's district also went from supporting Obama to backing Trump twice. He was one of the only Democrats who didn't back Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for Minority Leader in 2017. Kind joined Golden in voting against a measure to extend the length of time needed for gun background checks in a vote this month.
White House misses its own 60-day review deadline for border wall construction
President Joe Biden's administration has missed its own, self-imposed, 60-day review into whether border-wall construction projects should be resumed, modified or terminated.
Biden issued a pause on all current border-wall construction on the day he took office, a timeout meant to allow the review to make recommendations for next steps. But the White House says the assessment has not been completed or presented to the president.
“When the Administration took office, funds had been diverted from military construction and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall, and wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits by plaintiffs who alleged that the construction was creating serious environmental and safety issues,” a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget said. “Under those circumstances, Federal agencies are continuing to develop a plan to submit to the President soon.”
Biden’s Inauguration Day proclamation stipulated that the review should be completed within 60 days, which was this past Sunday.
That order — among the first signed by Biden — also made it U.S. policy that no more taxpayer dollars would be diverted to build the border wall and it revoked the national emergency that former President Trump had declared in order to access funds for construction.
It's unclear how much longer the White House is taking to complete the review, as officials did not provide a detailed explanation for the delay.
Once the proposal is complete, Defense Sec. Austin and Homeland Security Sec. Mayorkas are expected to deliver it to the president and then “take all appropriate steps to resume, modify, or terminate projects and to otherwise implement the plan.”
Fudge's move to HUD will leave House seat vacated until November
Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the state will hold the special election to replace newly-minted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in November, leaving the seat empty for eight months in the process.
The primary will be on Aug. 3, with the general election to follow on Nov. 2.
Under state law, special elections are only allowed to be held "on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, August, or November," and Ohio can't have May special elections except during a presidential primary year, per the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
The seat is overwhelmingly favored to be retained by Democrats, as Fudge never won the seat with fewer than three-quarters of the vote.
That's why it's attracted a large group of Democratic congressional hopefuls, including Nina Sanders, the former co-chair for Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bid, who is backed by a bevy of progressive members of Congress and figures, Cuyahoga County Councilor Shontel Brown, who has the backing of Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and a host of other candidates, including a handful of state lawmakers.
While the seat will remain empty for a significant amount of time, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office pointed out the length of time the seat will remain vacant is similar to the schedule after two republicans, former Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Pat Tiberi, resigned from Congress in the last few years.
Who are the House Republicans representing Biden country?
Just 17 members of Congress represent districts that supported the 2020 presidential nominee from the opposing party, according to recent, district-level analysis by the Daily Kos, the liberal-leaning blog that sports a robust data program.
The number of these "crossover districts" is the lowest in recent memory — there were 35 of those kinds of districts after the 2016 election and 83 after the 2008 election.
The slim majority (nine) of these districts are currently represented by Republicans, including a majority who won their seats in 2020 (and one who first won in an early 2020 special election).
Here's a look at those Republican members, and how they've been able to buck their districts' presidential voting trends:
California 21: Rep. David Valadao
Valadao is a familiar face in this district, first winning the seat in 2012 before a loss to Democratic former Rep. TJ Cox in 2018. Valadao regained the seat — which backed President Joe Biden in 2020, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and former President Barack Obama in 2012 — after defeating Cox in a 2020 rematch. Valadao was one of the 10 House Republicans who backed impeaching then-President Donald Trump, and said at the time that Trump was "without question, a driving force in the catastrophic events that took place on January 6."
California 25: Rep. Mike Garcia
Garcia had a busy 2020, defeating Democrat Christy Smith in a March special election to replace former Rep. Katie Hill and again in November's general election in a district that went for both Biden and Clinton (but narrowly backed 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney). Garcia is one of the two "crossover district" members of Congress who voted to object to Biden's Electoral College certification and so far has focused on issues like school reopening and criticized the Democrats' Covid-19 relief plan as too broad.
California 39: Rep. Young Kim
Kim's district backed Biden, Clinton and Romney in the last three elections, and has been represented by a Republican since 2012 (except for a two-year gap when Democrat Gil Cisneros served one term). Kim has crossed the aisle in support of a program to help DACA recipients (those brought to America as children illegally), voted with Democrats to strip Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of her committee positions (along with three other "crossover" members) and criticized Trump in 2020 for referring to coronavirus with "hurtful" language that associates it with Asians. Along with California's Michelle Steel, Kim is one of the three women elected in 2020 who became the first Korean-American women in Congress.
California 48: Rep. Michelle Steel
Steel's district also backed the same three presidential candidates as Kim's — Biden, Clinton and Romney — but tilts a bit more Republican. She's recently led efforts in the House to condemn hate crimes against Asians, and has spoken about giving DACA recipients "a break," while also coming out against sanctuary cities and for a "physical barrier" on the border.
Florida 27: Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar
Salazar represents a district that went for Democrats in each of the last three presidential elections, but has been represented by a Republican in the House for most of the last decade. She's expressed openness to a carbon tax and backs a more moderate immigration plan than most Republicans — on Wednesday, she released a draft of her "Dignity Plan" which increases border security, gives DACA recipients "immediate legal status" with a permanent pathway to legalization, and creates pathways to legal status for many undocumented immigrants.
Nebraska 2: Rep. Don Bacon
Bacon's district had leaned Republican at the presidential level, backing Trump in 2016 and Romney in 2012, before swinging narrowly to Biden and delivering him its Electoral College vote in 2020. Last cycle, Bacon won the endorsement of former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who Bacon beat to win the seat back for the GOP in 2016. Bacon's opponent the last two cycles, Democrat Kara Eastman, was from the party's more progressive wing.The Republican has supported protections for DACA recipients and bucked Trump by working to rename bases named after Confederate leaders.
New York 24: Rep. John Katko
Katko is another Republican in a district that backed Democrats in the past three presidential races. He, too, voted to impeach Trump in 2021 (the first GOP member to signal support for doing so), and has led the moderate Republican Tuesday Group in the House.
Pennsylvania 1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick
Also representing a district that went for Biden, Clinton and Obama, Fitzpatrick has crossed the aisle on a variety of issues in his career. He's won the backing of the League of Conservation Voters for his climate record, supports DACA protections, defended the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and voted with Democrats to expand background checks for firearms (along with Salazar).
Texas 24: Rep. Beth Van Duyne
Van Duyne represents one of the two districts on this list that went for Romney and Trump before switching to Biden (Bacon's district is the other). She won her bid after the retirement of longtime former GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant. She's just the second Republican woman to represent Texas in the Senate, and comes from a stint serving as the mayor of Irving, and then working in the Trump administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development. She's been a vocal critic of the Biden administration's border policy and criticized the Covid-19 relief package as not targeted enough.
New Mexico sets date for House special election to replace Interior Sec. Haaland
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has set the special House election to replace Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's former seat in the First Congressional District for June 1.
The major parties will choose their own candidates, instead of holding a more traditional primary. By state law, the parties must declare their nominees by 56 days before the election (in this case, by April 6) — Democrats have already announced their plans to do so on March 30.
Parties will have to choose from a large list of potential nominees, including a handful of state lawmakers, businesspeople and a former top aide to New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Aubrey Dunn Jr. the state's former Public Lands Commissioner, is also running as a Libertarian.
Democrats have represented the seat for more than a decade, and the district historically backs Democrats at the presidential too, most recently picking President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent, according to data crunched by the Daily Kos.
The New Mexico race is the latest election aimed at replacing a Biden administration official. On Saturday, New Orleans-area voters will decide who will replace former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left to be one of Biden's senior advisers.
Lousiana's special elections put every candidate on the same ballot, regardless of party, and if no candidate wins the majority, the top-two vote-getters move onto a runoff. The top two Democrats in the race are state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson.
And Ohio is poised to announce the date for the election aimed at replacing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, who previously represented Ohio's Eleventh Congressional District. The seat is overwhelmingly Democratic, making it likely the party retains the seat.
Current candidates there include Nina Turner, the former co-chair of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns, as well as a handful of state lawmakers.