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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats and Republicans in purple states are already leaning into U.S. competition with China as a key issue in the fight to control the Senate in 2022.

Why it matters: American voters hold increasingly negative feelings toward the Chinese government, particularly around bilateral economic relations and following the nation’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • President Biden also has made it clear that confronting China remains a foreign policy priority.

Possibly vulnerable Democratic senators are capitalizing on the passage of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a sweeping global competition bill focused on China that recently passed by a rare bipartisan vote.

  • Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) visited Kia’s West Point factory in Georgia to address how the bill could address the recent semiconductor shortage and avoid future plant shutdowns, like one the factory experienced.
  • Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) wrote op-eds in their local news outlets highlighting the bill's benefits.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and state Democratic parties are calling out Republicans like Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both of whom voted against the bill.

  • They’ve also targeted Republicans running in open Senate seats who have expressed opposition to the bill.

Meanwhile, Rubio has been making a play for China hawks in Florida, Axios’ Lachlan Markay reported last week.

  • Rubio, who is up for re-election next year, has been sending campaign emails with subject lines such as, "Dems <3 China," and, "Is it time to stand up to Communist China?" to a list maintained by a nonprofit group called Stand Up to China.

In Arizona, Republicans latched onto Kelly's ties to a Chinese tech firm last year, and it's likely they'll continue to use that strategy.

  • The senator's team has argued he isn't beholden to Chinese authorities.

Republicans have long branded Democrats as "weak" on China as a line of attack. Expect that to continue through the campaign cycle, as Democratic candidates tout the passage of the U.S. Innovation Act and reframe the narrative.

  • They plan to focus on increasing the United States' competitive edge with China as a policy priority.

What they’re saying: David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC, said the campaign committee will be “reminding voters that any Republican who refused to back this critical bill was too weak to stand up to China in order to protect and grow good-paying jobs.”

  • Chris Hartline, spokesman for the NRSC, said in a statement that "no one believes that Joe Biden and Senate Democrats will do what it takes to confront the geopolitical and economic threat posed by (President) Xi (Jinping) and the Chinese Communist Party."

Go deeper

Jun 22, 2021 - World

Scoop: After U.S. pressure, Israel joins statement criticizing China

The Israeli and Chinese flags displayed during a visit to Beijing by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty

Israel supported a statement criticizing China at the UN Human Rights Council after being pressured to do so by the Biden administration, U.S. and Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is a significant policy change from Israel's newly inaugurated government. Under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel refrained from voicing any criticism about human rights violations in China — pushing for closer ties with Beijing and resisting pressure from the Trump administration to limit Chinese investments in Israel.

Jun 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Group of 20 bipartisan senators back $1.2T infrastructure framework

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) arrives for a meeting with Senate Budget Committee Democrats in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol building on June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Majority Leader and Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee are meeting to discuss how to move forward with the Biden Administrations budget proposal. Photo: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

A group of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican senators (the "G20") tasked with negotiating an infrastructure deal with the White House has released a statement in support of a $1.2 trillion framework.

Why it matters: Details regarding the plan have not yet been released, but getting 10 Republicans on board means the bill could get the necessary 60 votes to pass.

Senate Republicans block Democrats' sweeping voting rights bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walking through the U.S. Capitol on June 21. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Republicans filibustered Democrats' signature voting rights bill on Tuesday, denying it the 60 votes needed to advance the bill and start debate.

Why it matters: It's an expected-but-significant blow to Democrats' hopes of passing a sweeping federal elections overhaul to combat a wave of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states.