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Happy Monday morning. Election Day is tomorrow.
Our own Max Cohen has been criss-crossing Virginia in recent days, keeping an eye on three competitive House races in our backyard: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) versus state Sen. Jen Kiggans, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) versus Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) versus Navy veteran Hung Cao.
Take it away Max:
Last fall, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin shocked Democrats and won in Virginia on a platform of railing against inflation, parents’ rights and public safety. A year later, Republican challengers running in Virginia’s three battleground House seats are rallying alongside Youngkin, seeking to replicate the governor’s winning playbook.
If you want an early look at how the midterms will unfold on Tuesday night – including signs of a red wave – keep an eye on Virginia’s 2nd, 7th and 10th districts. Some of the earliest results will come in the reelection races of Luria, Spanberger and Wexton. And everyone we’ve talked to on the Hill has told us they’ll be watching Virginia closely to see how the night shapes up. Republicans are heavily favored to win a majority, ending four-years of Democratic control.
In the battle for the House, these three seats will offer key insights. At a minimum, Republicans are expected to flip Luria’s seat. The defeat of both Luria and Spanberger would likely mean a significant GOP cushion. But losses by all three incumbents could mark a wave election. President Joe Biden won all three districts in 2020. That they are competitive is a sign of the Democrats’ political position this cycle.
On the ground, Youngkin’s presence — and constant reminders of the suburban red shift during his 2021 gubernatorial campaign — is revving up Republicans across the commonwealth.
Youngkin has held boisterous rallies for Kiggans in the 2nd, Vega in the 7th and Cao in the 10th, in contrast to more subdued, smaller Democratic events. And beyond disparities in crowd size, the Virginia campaigns are simply running on different issues.
While Republicans largely hammer home Youngkin’s 2021 message, Democrats are running on their legislative accomplishments during this Congress and warning of GOP threats to abortion rights, entitlement programs and democracy.
Nowhere is the gap in message between Republicans and Democrats more acutely felt than in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District. Luria, who sits on the Jan. 6 select committee, released a closing ad declaring she’s “not your candidate” if you support former President Donald Trump and insurrectionists.
Kiggans has countered that voters care about rising prices and said she’s never knocked on a door and heard anyone bring up the attack on the Capitol.
“Protecting our democracy and January 6th is the number one issue that Coastal Virginians come up and speak to me about,” Luria said in a statement. The two-term lawmaker and Navy veteran held no public events the day we were in Virginia Beach and declined a request for an interview. Luria acknowledged inflation is a big problem, but she added “the erosion of our democratic foundations and political institutions will last forever.”
Republicans feel most confident about flipping Luria’s seat, which shifted right after redistricting. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will be rallying with Kiggans tonight.
In the 7th and 10th districts, the candidates are also talking past each other. During Cao and Vega’s events with Youngkin, Republicans slammed Democrats for Covid restrictions and accused them of ignoring parents of school-age children.
“Last year, Virginia spoke with a loud voice, right?” Cao told us after a rally with Youngkin in Warrenton, Va. “They said, ‘Stay away from our kids and make sure our schools are in order.’”
The themes of parental rights and Covid angst — in many ways the story of Youngkin’s victory — are absent from Spanberger and Wexton’s campaigns.
Wexton, who’s facing a stiff challenge from Cao in a double-digit Biden seat, told us she saw the race centering on “protecting our democracy, making sure we have an economy that works for everyone and women’s healthcare.” Spanberger is running on her legislative record in Congress, touting the infrastructure, health care and manufacturing provisions passed by Democrats.
Democrats also were largely dismissive of Youngkin’s presence. Wexton said the governor appears to be “beta-testing” a 2024 presidential run.
“He’s spent an awful lot of time outside of Virginia — would it have been better to spend more time with the Virginia candidates?” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told us at a Wexton canvass launch.
— Max Cohen
NEW: Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 9 a.m. ET for a one-on-one virtual conversation with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). We’ll be talking to him about the future of democracy, voting rights reforms, and more! Presented by The Business & Democracy Initiative with support from Public Private Strategies. RSVP here.
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THE MONEY GAME
The McCarthy Machine’s 2022 total: $500 million
One of the big stories of the 2022 midterm elections is House Republicans’ staggering cash advantage over Democrats. We got a sneak peek into just how much money House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s political operation raised this cycle.
McCarthy raised north of $150 million in hard dollars through a variety of political entities, including Take Back the House, McCarthy Victory Fund and McCarthy for Congress. He transferred $53.5 million to the NRCC, $12 million to incumbent Republicans and $6.5 million to candidates.
News: The Congressional Leadership Fund and the related American Action Network – allied with the House GOP leadership, meaning McCarthy – raked in $342 million. The two groups shattered their previous fundraising records. In 2020, CLF and AAN raised a combined $215 million.
CLF on its own raised $260.3 million in disclosed contributions this cycle.
McCarthy can only ask for donations up to the legal limit of $5,800, so CLF and AAN have key lieutenants who ask for the large checks the organization can accept.
McCarthy was on the road 172 days during 2022, a grueling pace. Since August, McCarthy has been in 39 states.
Jeff Miller, one of McCarthy’s oldest friends from California, is now a lobbyist representing corporate giants such as Altria, Anheuser-Busch, Blackstone, GE and Apple. Miller has helped raise tens of millions of dollars for CLF and AAN.
Dan Conston runs CLF and AAN. He and Miller frequently travel with McCarthy. Conston is responsible for keeping tabs on the sprawling donor network and running the pair of organizations. Together they make up the nucleus of McCarthy’s political operation.
Lauren Bryan, McCarthy’s national finance director, manages the entire operation – including a large network of consultants – and determines where the California Republican should travel.
McCarthy favors CLF over the NRCC, and frankly, there’s some good reasons for that. Super PACs can accept much larger donations and are more nimble than their campaign committee counterparts. Expect Miller, Conston and Bryan to remain key figures in the House Republican leadership orbit after Election Day.
– Jake Sherman
DJT Jr. whipping Republicans to back Banks
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, is calling House Republicans asking them to support Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) for majority whip.
The younger Trump has reached out to top Republicans such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, sources told us.
This is the Trump family’s first foray into House GOP leadership politics. Trump Jr. has a significant distaste for NRCC Chair Tom Emmer, who is one of Banks’ opponents in the race for the No. 3 slot in a potential GOP majority. The other lawmaker in the race is Georgia Rep. Drew Ferguson, the current chief deputy whip.
At the core of Trump’s argument for Banks is that the Indiana Republican has been a close ally of the 45th president. But Trump Jr. also disagreed with Emmer’s decision not to endorse Harriet Hageman over Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The NRCC doesn’t involve itself in primaries, especially against an incumbent. Even Cheney.
Trump Jr. has also come to believe that Emmer tried to get one of his top political advisers fired. Emmer’s team vehemently denies this.
Trump has told associates that he holds Emmer in the same regard he holds Cheney – not a good sign for Emmer.
The majority whip race – if it happens – is a secret-ballot contest. And as we’ve mentioned multiple times, it’s going to be very difficult to beat Emmer if House Republicans win big on Election Day. But this is an interesting test of the Trumps’ sway in the House Republican Conference. We know from the last six years that Republicans are hell bent on keeping the family happy. But will top Republicans vote for Donald Trump Jr’s candidate for whip?
– Jake Sherman
ET TU, SCOTT?
Scott leaves door open to McConnell challenge
What a world! Two days before Election Day, NRSC Chair Rick Scott went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and left the door open to challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for GOP leader.
Here’s MTP host Chuck Todd’s exchange with Scott:
Todd: “A couple of quick questions about your future. If Republicans gain the Senate majority, do you plan to run for leader?”
Scott: “I am not focused on anything except getting the majority Tuesday night. Everybody wants to ask me about a bunch of things [that would happen after]. My whole focus is Tuesday night. … I’m focused on what I get done Tuesday night.”
Elections for Senate party leaders are secret-ballot contests in which the winner needs to garner a simple majority. McConnell would be overwhelmingly favored in any contest. McConnell hasn’t had any significant opposition since taking over the Senate Republican Conference following the 2006 elections. That doesn’t mean that Scott can’t or won’t challenge him. It may suit Scott’s own long-term ambitions.
“McConnell would win in a landslide,” one GOP senator predicted on Sunday. “I think Rick Scott is more interested in running for president.”
McConnell and Scott have publicly clashed over the Florida Republican’s election-year agenda, which President Joe Biden has cited repeatedly on the campaign trail this fall.
Scott was also criticized by some Republicans for his tenure at the NRSC, especially the committee’s lack of funds late in the cycle. Scott has repeatedly pointed out that the NRSC spent heavily in key early in the cycle versus late to boost candidates, as was the plan.
But the McConnell-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund has dumped tens of millions of dollars into swing races late in the cycle, and McConnell will get credit for that if the GOP wins.
Also: McConnell will pass the late Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield’s (D-Mont.) record as longest-serving party leader in Senate history at the start of the next Congress. McConnell is very aware of this date and his place in Senate history.
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
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News: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a leading candidate to be the next Senate GOP leader, announced in an email to donors that he has raised “just shy” of $20 million for Republicans and the NRSC.
Cornyn raised $11 million through his Cornyn Victory Committee and another $9 million directly to the NRSC.
Cornyn said in the email that he plans to build on this effort:
With the help of my team, to date we’ve been able to raise just shy of $20M for GOP Senate candidates and the NRSC.
Back to the gratitude: this would not have happened without you. Thank you for your support.
After the election I am going to sit down with my team and figure out how we can improve upon this inaugural effort. It is clear with friends like you, we can make this work again in 2024 when we will have even more on the line.
New: Take a look at how the campaign of North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley is viewing the closing stages of the race. Here’s a closing memo from Beasley’s team, which hails investments in Black and female turnout.
Some key stats: The campaign raised a staggering $41 million this cycle and spent $25.2 million on statewide television, digital and radio ads.
New: Rep. Jake Auchincloss’ (D-Mass.) team is touting that the Massachusetts Democrat has invested over $500,000 in Democrats this cycle. “At the last FEC filing, [Auchincloss] had given more in direct contributions to candidates than any other Freshman who will be returning to Congress,” a memo from his team reads. Check it out here.
Georgia Honor, a Democratic super PAC backing Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), has a tough ad up about Republican Herschel Walker’s checkered past. The spot is running statewide in the run-up to Election Day.
– Jake Sherman and Max Cohen
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9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
1:45 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
4 p.m.: Biden will participate in a virtual reception for the DNC.
5:45 p.m.: Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will leave the White House for Bowie, Md.
7 p.m.: The Bidens will participate in a rally for Wes Moore, the Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland.
8:25 p.m.: The Bidens will leave Bowie for the White House. They will arrive at 8:35 p.m.
The president’s week: Thursday: Biden will leave for Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the COP27 conference. Friday: Biden will speak at COP27 then fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit.
White House Memo: “As Midterms Near, Biden Faces a Nation as Polarized as Ever,” by Peter Baker in Albuquerque
“It Took Two Weeks to Call Every State in 2020. This Is When to Expect Results This Year,” by Alicia Parlapiano and Lazaro Gamio
“Democrats look to centrists in final hours while GOP amps up its base,” by Annie Linskey, Cara McGoogan and Colby Itkowitz
“Kathy Hochul’s campaign to prove her place in New York,” by Ruby Cramer in New York
“Senior White House Official Involved in Undisclosed Talks With Top Putin Aides,” by Vivian Salama and Michael R. Gordon
“Facebook Parent Meta Is Preparing to Notify Employees of Large-Scale Layoffs This Week,” by Jeff Horwitz and Salvador Rodriguez
“5 big congressional contests that won’t get settled on Election Day,” by Burgess Everett, Sarah Ferris and Olivia Beavers
“Cotton passes on 2024 presidential run after considering campaign,” by Alex Isenstadt
“Trump and DeSantis hold dueling events in Florida ahead of Election Day,” by Ana Ceballos and Alex Roarty
“Parades, pep rallies and pleading: Georgia candidates make final push for votes,” by Greg Bluestein and Shannon McCaffrey
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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