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Mike Garcia

Vulnerable California Republican laments Johnson’s political chops

Scoop: Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), a vulnerable Republican facing a tough reelection contest, acknowledged on a private campaign call that Speaker Mike Johnson doesn’t have the same political chops as former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Endangered California Republicans were McCarthy’s closest allies, so this isn’t a huge shock. The former speaker showered the incumbents with cash and he was one of the foremost supporters of their reelection efforts. But it’s instructive to hear the candid thoughts on the effects of the speaker switch from a Republican incumbent running in a tough House seat.

Garcia told supporters and volunteers on an early January Zoom call that he thinks Johnson is “the right guy for the moment.”

“But politically he’s not the strong political campaigner and fundraiser that Kevin McCarthy was,” Garcia added. “And it was obviously an advantage to have the speaker of the House be your neighbor to the north.”

For what it’s worth, Johnson has exceeded expectations on the money front. The Louisiana Republican raised an impressive $10.6 million in the last quarter of 2023 and has been hitting the fundraising circuit hard.

But it’s true that McCarthy’s political instincts and knowledge of each battleground district were unparalleled. Undoubtedly, California members lost a major beneficiary with McCarthy’s ouster and subsequent retirement.

Garcia represents a district that President Joe Biden won by double digits in 2020. Garcia, however, has consistently beaten Democrats by highlighting his military background as an Air Force veteran.

This cycle, Garcia is facing a new Democratic challenger in the form of aerospace entrepreneur George Whitesides. California Democrats hope Whitesides will fare better than Christy Smith, who lost three straight elections to Garcia.

— Max Cohen

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