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Then-U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) speaks at the podium standing with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in 2020. PHOTO: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Centrist congressional Democrats who were defeated in the 2020 election have banded together to create a political action committee to defend U.S. House moderates in the 2022 midterms.

Why it matters: A first-term president’s party historically has lost seats in Congress in the midterm elections, and the GOP just needs to flip a handful of seats in 2022 to regain control. Ousted centrist Democrats believe that they were defeated in 2020 by Republican challengers who distorted their records, and the unseated lawmakers need to defend their former colleagues.

The details: Former U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) is joining former Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) to launch Shield PAC to defended endangered Democrats.

  • All three were defeated by Republican challengers who ran ads that falsely claimed they supported Medicare-for-all. the Green New Deal, defund the police, and socialism.
  • "I'm a capitalist. I'll always be a capitalist. They just said things about my record that weren't true," Torres Small told Axios. She lost her southern New Mexico seat to Republican Yvette Herrell.
  • Torres Small, who entered Congress with the same freshmen class as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), openly worked with Republicans on rural and poverty issues and shunned Twitter fights and media attention.

What they're saying: “In every single ad that was put up, they would distort my record,” Cunningham told The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty. He lost his re-election bid by a single percentage point.

The intrigue: Shield PAC hopes to raise $26 million to defend moderate Democrats in swing districts that will likely determine which party controls the U.S. House.

  • Among those the PAC seeks to defend are U.S. Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), and Cindy Axne (D-Iowa).

Third Way, a national think tank that champions modern center-left ideas, founded Shield PAC after seeing moderate Democrats fall to misinformation campaigns in 2020. 

  • "We realized we needed to do more to protect moderate Democrats," Matt Bennett of Third Way told Axios.
  • The former U.S. House members serve as advisory members of the new PAC.

Between the lines: U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is already signaling that the GOP will use the 2020 playbook to target vulnerable Democrats.

  • "We will relentlessly hold House Democrats accountable for their socialist agenda and ensure voters understand the damaging impact (of) policies like defunding the police," Emmer said two months ago.

Don't forget: Torres Small in 2018 flipped a traditionally Republican district in the heart of the state's oil and gas country by running ads of herself shooting a rifle and emphasizing the need to protect the energy industry.

  • Two years later, more liberal, white New Mexico Democrats worked to oust moderate Hispanic state lawmakers in the state's rural areas while Torres Small faced unfounded attacks from Republicans for allegedly supporting the Green New Deal.
  • This week, a predominately white New Mexico Democratic committee chose a progressive white woman as the party's nominee in the June 1 special election to fill Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's former U.S. House seat in a heavily Latino district.
    • Republicans have proposed a Hispanic state lawmaker.

Go deeper

Dems pick white woman over Latinas, Native American for Haaland seat

New Mexico state lawmaker Melanie Stansbury. Campaign photo.

New Mexico Democratic officials on Wednesday nominated a white state lawmaker over Latina and Native American candidates for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's former U.S. House seat.

Why it matters: The selection of state Rep. Melanie Stansbury to replace one of the nation's first Native American female U.S. House members could put a relatively safe Democratic seat in play for a special election in the heavily Latino central New Mexico district.

D.C.'s tech money shame game

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big Tech dollars may be becoming toxic in Washington.

What's happening: The once lionized industry finds itself more and more cast as a pariah, with lawmakers comparing Big Tech to Big Tobacco during a hearing with tech CEOs last week and a key House Republican forswearing industry donations.

Scoop: Biden doesn't plan to revive SALT deduction, possibly losing key moderates

President Biden. Photo: Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

President Biden is unlikely to propose reinstating state and local tax deductions in his second tax-and-spending package despite pressure from several fellow Democrats, according to people with direct knowledge of the planning.

Why it matters: That stance could complicate his goals of passing a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal.

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