Every issue of the Punchbowl News newsletter, including our special editions, right here at your fingertips.
Join the community, and get the morning edition delivered straight to your inbox.
Happy Friday morning.
Senate Republicans blew their shot to flip the chamber last cycle because of poor candidate quality. While the 2024 map is even more favorable for Republicans, the issue of selecting the best candidates to win in competitive states isn’t going away any time soon. And neither is former President Donald Trump, who played a big role in pushing those sub-par candidates.
Tons of ink has been spilled focusing on vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents in deep-red West Virginia, Ohio and Montana — all states Trump won handily in 2016 and 2020. But in the more marginal swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — which Trump won in 2016 but lost four years later — the issue of candidate quality is rearing its head for Republicans once again.
Wisconsin: It’s obvious that Republicans were dismayed when a highly thought-of potential recruit — Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) — passed on a Senate run this spring.
We asked Gallagher if he was worried about the state of the race now that he’s not running. Exhibit A: a poll recently showed controversial former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a Trump ally, leading a GOP primary.
“It’s going to be tough no matter what. So we’ll see who gets into the race. I’m not endorsing anytime soon. I want to see a variety of candidates get in,” Gallagher said, before setting expectations.
“A presidential year in Wisconsin is always tough,” Gallagher added. “Republicans would need a candidate who not only has conservative bona fides but can also reach independents in the purple state.”
With Gallagher out, Wisconsin Republicans may be looking at Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Tiffany is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, but he isn’t as much of a rabble-rouser as some other colleagues on the right.
For example, he was one of the few members of the House Judiciary Committee who raised hesitations about pursuing an impeachment inquiry into Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Tiffany said he’s set to make a decision on running next month and still in the “evaluation process.”
“We’re just really assessing whether I can run a competitive race,” Tiffany told us. “I always say that I want to go to the best place where I can help the people of the state of Wisconsin, so that’ll be a big part of it.”
Keep in mind that Baldwin remains pretty popular in the state. Having been elected to the Senate in 2012, the Wisconsin Democrat has already won two tough statewide races. And without a strong recruit, Republicans will likely face an uphill battle against her.
House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) told us he wasn’t running. Yet Steil also wasn’t concerned about the current state of the GOP primary.
“I think we’ll end up with a good recruit,” Steil said. “We can’t allow our senator to continue to be a rubber stamp for the president of the United States.”
Michigan: The Wolverine State may be among Senate Republicans’ biggest question marks this cycle. After Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s (D-Mich.) retirement, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) has cleared the field on the Democratic side. But for the GOP, chaos reigns.
Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) noted to us that it was still early in the cycle and said he expects more candidates to jump in.
“There are people looking at it right now. Ultimately, who will make that decision, I don’t know,” Moolenaar said. “We have a Mackinac Republican conference in September and my assumption is that anyone who’s interested will be declared by then to be a full-blown candidate.”
Other rumored candidates include former Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and John Tuttle, the vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange.
Slotkin told us she’s taking nothing for granted despite the uncertainty on the other side.
“There’s definitely people interested in [running],” Slotkin said. “It’s going to be a tough race no matter what.”
Pennsylvania: In Pennsylvania, there’s slightly more GOP unity surrounding the expected entrance of hedge fund executive and unsuccessful 2022 candidate David McCormick into the Senate race.
A number of Hill Republicans we spoke to were very high on McCormick’s chances and viewed him as the party’s best shot at unseating Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
“We’re going to do everything we can in Pennsylvania to make sure that he is our sole serious candidate,” Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) said of McCormick. “Everybody is getting behind him. We just hope he decides to do it. He’s a great American, he’s talented, he’s got it all.”
“David is a great candidate. Got a great background,” House Agriculture Committee Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) said of McCormick, whom he endorsed in 2022.
But while some Hill Republicans seem optimistic about McCormick, Democrats see a candidate with significant vulnerabilities that were exposed during his primary loss to Trump-backed Mehmet Oz in 2022. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party, for instance, has already begun running ads hitting McCormick on his abortion rights position.
And although failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano passed up a run for Senate this cycle, some Republicans fear his looming presence could pose issues during a contested primary.
We asked House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) if he thought McCormick is the right person to flip the Senate seat red.
“I’m focused on what I’m doing here and what’s happening to the Senate race is quite honestly not my main focus,” Perry replied.
— Max Cohen and Mica Soellner
PRESENTED BY META
Augmented reality glasses will give you new ways to experience history.
People will be able to use augmented reality to explore Viking era settlements–helping them see, feel and fully experience what life was like.
The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.
Markets eye key inflation gauge as U.S. economy remains strong
Washington and Wall Street will be watching a key inflation gauge today as the U.S. economy continues to surprise experts with its resiliency.
The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index data for May will be released at 8:30 a.m. this morning. This is the Federal Reserve’s favored inflation metric, and analysts will be tracking this data closely following April’s unwelcome increase.
While the Fed paused its record run of interest rate boosts at the last FOMC meeting, Thursday’s upward GDP revision coupled with continued strong jobs growth has many investors convinced that the U.S. central bank will return to its anti-inflation ways in late July.
Key to this will be the May PCE data. If inflation remains “sticky” as feared, then Fed Chair Jay Powell has signaled he’s ready to go back to jacking up rates again. Powell indicated during an appearance on Thursday that one to two more rate hikes are possible.
“Inflation pressures continue to run high, and the process of getting inflation back down to 2% has a long way to go,” Powell said at a conference in Madrid.
The White House and Hill Democrats — who’ve been touting the success of “Bidenomics” as President Joe Biden ramps up his bid for a second term — don’t want the Fed to move too quickly or too far, especially if it could tip the United States into a recession during an election year.
But as we noted, the economy shows no signs of slowing, so the Fed has some room to maneuver here.
In Europe, core inflation rose in June, according to data released this morning, which may push the European Central Bank to raise interest rates again.
— John Bresnahan
5 Freedom Caucus members to watch
It’s no secret the House Freedom Caucus has prompted a lot of drama this Congress.
From the floor fight over Kevin McCarthy becoming speaker to the debt-limit debacle, the conservative hardliners have thrown the House into chaos to ensure the GOP leadership gives them expanded say in the party’s agenda.
We took a look at some of HFC’s key players. Here’s who to watch.
Scott Perry: Perry is the leader of the pack and has served as HFC chair since January 2022. The Pennsylvania Republican was elected to succeed the term-limited but still very active Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in late 2021.
Despite leading the House’s most conservative caucus, Perry represents a purple district and is listed as a vulnerable Republican target by the DCCC. He’s also a U.S. Army combat veteran.
Notably, Perry raised some eyebrows when he initially voted in support of the Democratic-led “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would require all states to recognize interracial and same-sex marriages lawfully performed in other states. Perry later reversed his vote from “yes” to “no,” citing that he had rushed to the floor to vote on the legislation and had made the “wrong choice.”
Chip Roy: Roy is the HFC’s policy chair and is the fiscal hawk of the group. He often rails against the $31 trillion national debt and congressional spending.
The Texas Republican was one of the chief negotiators during the speaker’s fight. He helped foster what the HFC describes as a “power sharing” agreement between McCarthy and the conference’s right flank in January, including allowing just one lawmaker to push to remove the speaker.
Roy also sits on the Rules Committee, a position he got as part of his negotiations with McCarthy. Alongside him are other fellow conservative Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)
The GOP leadership considers Roy among the more serious and trustworthy HFC leaders. He will be a key conduit between McCarthy and the right going forward.
Dan Bishop: Bishop has made a lot of noise this year. He was the first House Republican to come out with a motion-to-vacate threat against McCarthy after the debt-limit compromise.
The North Carolina Republican has been front and center on many of the HFC’s press conferences and was one of a handful of conservatives in and out of McCarthy’s office during debt limit negotiations.
Bishop served in the North Carolina state Senate before being elected to the House in 2018. He spearheaded the controversial “bathroom bill,” which asserted that people could only use bathrooms in government facilities that matched their assigned sex at birth. Portions of the bill were later repealed.
It’s rumored Bishop has ambitions to run for North Carolina attorney general.
Anna Paulina Luna: This Florida freshman is one of the handful of congressional newcomers who voted against McCarthy in the speaker’s fight. But, she’s made even more headlines as of late over a push to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
Luna was able to strike deals with about two dozen of her Republican colleagues who originally voted against the censure due to what they said was constitutional issues related to a $16 million fine that would’ve been imposed on Schiff.
The Air Force veteran represents Florida’s 13th District on the state’s Gulf Coast.
Andy Ogles: Ogles introduced articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris over accusations that the office of the presidency has been “weaponized.”
The Tennessee Republican faced some controversy over embellishing parts of his resume, including claiming he was an economist. He later apologized for “misstating” elements of his college history.
— Mica Soellner
PRESENTED BY META
Texas GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales transferred $100,000 to the Hispanic Leadership Trust, which benefits 12 Republicans. Each lawmaker is getting roughly $10,000 for their reelection.
— Jake Sherman
Project AI has hired Forbes-Tate to lobby on “[i]ssues related to FY24 CJS Appropriations, funding for Chips and Science Act.”
— Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY META
11 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
3:15 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
4 p.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Camp David.
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Los Angeles this weekend.
“Man Accused in Jan. 6 Riot Is Arrested With Weapons Near Obama’s Home,” by Luke Broadwater and Aishvarya Kavi
Congressional Memo: “The Senate’s Feinstein Question,” by Carl Hulse
“Trump, DeSantis among 2024 GOP hopefuls set to appear at Moms for Liberty gathering,” by Ali Swenson in Philadelphia
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY META
With the metaverse, you will be able to visit grandma’s past.
Grandchildren will be able to walk through grandma’s 1950s childhood alongside her. Using the metaverse will help new generations better understand their family’s history.
The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.
Crucial Capitol Hill news AM, Midday, and PM—5 times a week
Join a community of some of the most powerful people in Washington and beyond. Exclusive newsmaker events, parties, in-person and virtual briefings and more.Subscribe to Premium
The Canvass Year-End Report
And what senior aides and downtown figures believe will happen in 2023.Check it out