Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Rep. Elise Stefanik. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik has opposed President Trump on Vladimir Putin, women, tariffs, the travel ban and the border wall — and then impeachment made her a star Trump defender and unlikely fundraising juggernaut.

Why it matters: Stefanik has become the youngest, most moderate example of voter-driven Trumpification of the GOP.

The big picture: Trump is highly popular in New York's 21st district. He won it by 14 points in 2016, though Barack Obama carried it in 2008 and 2012.

  • Stefanik won her first term in 2014, then the youngest woman to be elected to Congress, and built a reputation as a moderate.
  • But her fierce defense of Trump during the impeachment hearings — along with her attacks on House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff — has made her a champion among the pro-Trump community.
  • "She needs to be better aligned with [Trump] and the admin to stay on track," said one Republican aide working on impeachment. "She did a good job of framing centrist for 2018 during a Democrat year — and now the goal changes."

Stefanik pushed back against the notion that this is strategic. In an interview Tuesday night, she told Axios that "impeachment is a constitutional matter, and this is an important precedent for future Congresses."

  • "We have an overwhelming amount of support in the district. The calls are three-to-one from constituents supporting, and I'm focused on the facts and the truth and I work every day very hard for my district and I think that's why you see such large margins consistently," Stefanik said.

The political reality she faces, however, is clear. Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman says the GOP is "increasingly synonymous with Donald Trump — and the reality is his approval rating among Republican voters is higher than that of other Republicans in Congress."

  • "The closer Republicans in Congress get to Trump, the more popular they are with the base."
  • Meanwhile, many moderate Republicans who push back on Trump have retired or lost re-election.

Between the lines: Republican leaders believe Stefanik, the only GOP woman on the Intelligence Committee, provides a fresh, female voice for the party.

  • Trump on Tuesday afternoon retweeted House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who gave a shout-out to Stefanik for making the point that the president ultimately sets foreign policy, not his staff.
  • "It's pretty powerful for Republicans to have a split screen of a young woman going after Schiff — this older white man," said one GOP official working on impeachment.
  • Some Republicans are comparing Stefanik to star Democratic freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "She’s an attractive, young, woman, that can contrast perfectly against Adam Schiff," a second Republican aide working on impeachment texted. "That’s what the Dems do with us. Say we’re a party of old white guys, while they trot out AOC as the young face of the party.”
  • Ocasio-Cortez told Axios this shows Republicans weaponizing identity: “The fact that they have to invoke me to define her tells you everything about that."

By the numbers: Stefanik is spurring fundraising — by Democrats as well as in her own party.

  • Her Democratic challenger, Tedra Cobb, has received a surge in fundraising and social media interactions over the past week — a direct response to Stefanik's meteoric rise during the impeachment hearings. Her campaign brought in more than $1 million last weekend alone.
  • In just the past week, Stefanik campaign ads have been shown in California, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania, as Roll Call reporter Simone Pathe first noted.
  • "Join me in my fight to protect our Republic and save America from socialism!" Stefanik said in a tweet seeking donations.
  • She also tweeted a statement of support from the chairman of the Independence Party of New York.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).